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On this week's show... * we have a special Rustbelt Radio program: as the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq nears, we'll hear from US Military veterans testifying at the recent Winter Soldier hearings
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Welcome to this week's edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of the news from the grassroots, news overlooked by the corporate media.
On today's show...
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Today we present recordings from the Iraq Veterans Against the War's Winter Soldier hearings. The hearings took place this past weekend, March 13th through March 16th, in Silver Spring, Maryland at the National Labor College. The Winter Soldier event reprises similar hearings organized during the Vietnam War for veterans to give eye-witness testimony about what was happening on the ground in that war. The name references the "Crisis" pamphlet authored by Thomas Paine in the winter of 1776, where he wrote (quote) "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." (end quote). The four days of testimony were organized into subjects ranging from Rules of Engagment, the Crisis in Veterans' Healthcare, Racism and Dehumanization in War, and The Breakdown of the Military. The event also included the testimony of Iraqi civilians about the realities of the war.
People gathered around the United States to watch the hearings. At small events organized in hundreds of communities, people watched live video, via satellite or the internet. In Pittsburgh, Friday's testimony was shown at the Thomas Merton Center, and local veterans kicked the event off by addressing the audience there. Dave Thomas, a vietnam veteran and native of Pittsburgh, had these words to begin the event:
At the hearings in Silver Spring Maryland, just outside Washington D.C., a panel of Vietnam Veterans gave an introduction on Thursday the 13th. Ron Kovic, author of the memoir "Born on the 4th of July," sent a message that was read by another Vietnam veteran:
One of the Winter Soldier panels held on Friday the 14th was on the Crisis in Veterans' Healthcare. Kevin and Joyce Lucey told the sad tale of their son, Jeffrey, coming home from Iraq deeply wounded in spirit. He attempted repeatedly, without success, to get help from the Veterans Administration.
That was Kevin Lucey, father of Iraq war veteran Jeffrey Lucey.
Among the topics discussed during the Winter Soldier event was Corporate Pillaging and Military Contractors. Speakers on the panel examined the government’s use of private contractors to replace soldiers in U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Testimonies over the weekend touched on subjects including the role of corporations in the wars, and instances of waste, fraud and abuse involving these private corporations. The panel also examined the implications of U.S. tax dollars supporting private security forces, which are not bound by the rules of engagement.
One former soldier who spoke on this panel was Kelly Dougherty, the Executive Director of Iraq Veterans Against the War. An eight-year veteran of the Colorado National Guard, she served as both a medic and in the military police. She was deployed involuntarily to Kuwait in February of 2003, one month prior to the start of the war. In late March of 2003, she was transfered to Iraq. There she worked as a military police sergeant until February 2004. At the Winter Soldier panel, she spoke about her duties working convoy escorts for military contractors Kellogg Brown and Root.
That was Kelly Dogherty, Executive Director of Iraq Veterans Against the War who served in Iraq for 11 months.
Two panels were devoted to examining how the Rules of Engagement have been defined and implemented by the U.S. army and the Iraqi army during the war. Rules of engagement are the instructions soldiers receive about when they can use force, and what level of force. They are designed to prevent civilian casualties. The rules should provide protocols that will enable soldiers to determine with a reasonable certainty that their potential target is in fact an enemy combatant. They also provide protocols for initial communication with potentially threatening people, and step-wise escalation of force, so that a potential target is clear about what is being requested of them and has opportunity to respond before deadly force is used against them. Soldiers testified consistently during these panels that the Rules of Engagement in Iraq are defined too broadly, causing frequent deadly confusion of civilians with combatants. They testified that there is a culture of widespread disregard of rules of engagement by troops and officers. Their personal stories illustrated the often heart-wrenching difficulties in identifying the enemy that arise when broad rules of engagement are given to an army deployed in highly populated urban areas, fighting against a guerrilla force rather than a regular army.
Hart Viges joined the Army the day after September 11 in the hope that he could make the world a safer place. He was deployed to Kuwait during the 2003 invasion and then to Baghdad. He speaks about his experiences in Iraq.
Former Marine Corps Sergeant Adam Kokesh served in a Civil Affairs Group in Iraq’s Western Anbar Province from February to September of 2004. Since his return from Iraq, Kokesh has become a leading activist with Iraq Veterans Against the War. He was arrested for disrupting General Patreaus’ testimony before Congress last September. These are excerpts of his testimony on the rules of engagement:
On Sunday, the last day of the 3-day Winter Soldier event, the day began with a panel called "The Breakdown of the Military," where soldiers discussed how war policy in Iraq and Afghanistan has caused problems within the U.S. military.
Former Marine Lance Corporal Matt Howard served in Iraq in the 1st Tank Battallion.
That was former Marine Matt Howard, speaking on Sunday March 16th.
And now, with several ways to put an end to the war, here's the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
[ Outro Music ]
Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WPTS Pittsburgh, WNJR Washington, WVJW Benwood, WIUP Indiana and WKCO Gambier.
Our hosts this week are Carlin Christy and Matt Toups with additional contributions from Jessica McPherson, Jon Heiman and Juliana Stricklen. This week's show was produced by Phill Cresswell. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
This week we've featured segments created by other independent media sources. Next week we'll have stories produced by our own local volunteers. We are now temporarily alternating locally produced stories with pre-produced stories from elsewhere every other week, as our current volunteer pool cannot sustain the demands of producing original content every week. If you'd like to hear original, locally created news every week once again, consider volunteering for Rustbelt Radio. We offer training in all aspects of radio production. No prior experience is necessary, only a commitment to independent media in the Pittsburgh region. Whether you have a lot of time to give or just a little, every contribution is valuable.
Please contact us about volunteering. email: RADIO at I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot ORG or call 412-923-3000.
To listen to more from Rustbelt Radio, go our website at RADIO dot INDY-P-G-H dot ORG. Tune in next week at this time for another edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.