"We Blew Her to Pieces"
MARFA, Texas, Sep 16 (IPS) - Aside from the Iraqi people, nobody knows what the U.S. military is doing in Iraq better than the soldiers themselves. A new book gives readers vivid and detailed accounts of the devastation the
"Winter Soldier Iraq and Afghanistan: Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupation," published by Haymarket Books Tuesday, is a gut-wrenching, historic chronicle of what the U.S. military has done to Iraq, as well as its own soldiers.
Authored by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and journalist Aaron Glantz, the book is a reader for hearings that took place in
"I remember one woman walking by," said Jason Washburn, a corporal in the U.S. Marines who served three tours in
Washburn testified on a panel that discussed the rules of engagement in
"During the course of my three tours, the rules of engagement changed a lot," Washburn's testimony continues. "The higher the threat the more viciously we were permitted and expected to respond."
His emotionally charged testimony, like all of those in the book that covered panels addressing dehumanisation, civilian testimony, sexism in the military, veterans' health care, and the breakdown of the military, raised issues that were repeated again and again by other veterans.
"Something else we were encouraged to do, almost with a wink and nudge, was to carry 'drop weapons', or by my third tour, 'drop shovels'. We would carry these weapons or shovels with us because if we accidentally shot a civilian, we could just toss the weapon on the body, and make them look like an insurgent," Washburn said.
Four days of searing testimony, witnessed by this writer, is consolidated into the book, which makes for a difficult read. One page after another is filled with devastating stories from the soldiers about what is being done in
Everything from the taking of "trophy" photos of the dead, to torture and slaughtering of civilians is included.
"We're trying to build a historical record of what continues to happen in this war and what the war is really about," Glantz told IPS.
Hart Viges, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division of the Army who served one year in
"One time they said to ?re on all taxicabs because the enemy was using them for transportation...One of the snipers replied back, 'Excuse me? Did I hear that right? Fire on all taxicabs?' The lieutenant colonel responded, 'You heard me, trooper, ?re on all taxicabs.' After that, the town lit up, with all the units ?ring on cars. This was my ?rst experience with war, and that kind of set the tone for the rest of the deployment."
Vincent Emanuele, a Marine rifleman who spent a year in the al-Qaim area of
Kelly Dougherty, the executive director of IVAW, blames the behaviour of soldiers in
Knowing this, however, does little to soften the emotional and moral devastation of the accounts.
"You see an individual with a white ?ag and he does anything but approach you slowly and obey commands, assume it's a trick and kill him," Michael Leduc, a corporal in the Marines who was part of the
This is an important book for the public of the
The New York Times, CNN, and network news channels ABC, NBC and CBS ignored it completely.
This is particularly important in light of the fact that, as former Marine Jon Turner stated, "Anytime we did have embedded reporters with us, our actions changed drastically. We never acted the same. We were always on key with everything, did everything by the book."
"To me it's about giving a picture of what war is like," Glantz added, "Because here in the
Dehumanisation of the soldiers themselves is covered in the book, as it includes testimony of sexism, racism, and the plight of veterans upon their return home as they struggle to obtain care from the Veterans Administration.
There is much testimony on the dehumanisation of the Iraqi people as well. Brian Casler, a corporal in the Marines, spoke to some of this that he witnessed during the invasion of
"But on these convoys, I saw marines defecate into MRE bags or urinate in bottles and throw them at children on the side of the road," he stated.
Numerous accounts from soldiers include the prevalence of degrading terms for Iraqis, such as "hajis," "towel-heads" and "sand-niggers".
Scott Ewing, who served in
"There was also another motive,"
Glantz admits that it would be difficult for the average
"They could have been heroes, but what they are doing here is even more heroic -- which is telling the truth," Glantz told IPS. "They didn't have to come forward. They chose to come forward."