Volume 21, Number 5
March of the Dead
Direct Action Changes
Winter Soldier Rules of Engagement
Gabriel San román
If the Left Debated the Campaign Issues
Radar, Star Wars, & the Czech Republic
A Dutch Letterbox
"Good News," Iraq & Beyond, Part II
Roberto j. González
Karen Nadder Lago
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Winter Soldier Rules of Engagement
On March 14 President George W. Bush spoke from the White House to U.S. soldiers during a video conference about their deployment in Afghanistan. "I'm a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you...in some ways, romantic...you know, confronting danger."
Romantic was not the picture painted just a few miles away in Silver Spring, Maryland, during the second day of testimony by U.S. veterans during "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan," organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). "For those of you who don't know, those are brains," said Jon Turner, a former Marine, while showing a slide of the inside of a man's head who had been killed by one his friends in his platoon.
Turner and other soldiers on the "Rules of Engagement" panel depicted their tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan as horrifying events in which soldiers indiscriminately killed civilians, wantonly destroyed property, conducted house raids, planted weapons on civilians (in order to be able to classify their deaths as insurgents), and mutilated the dead.
"I want to apologize to all the people in Iraq," said Sergio Kochergin, abruptly breaking off the end of a story about a friend who had shot himself in the shower four days after arriving in Iraq. "I'm sorry and I hope this war is going to be over as soon as possible."
Kochergin's testimony helped establish how the rules of engagement used by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan lead to many of the atrocities described by the soldiers. The rules define when and how soldiers can fire their weapons or engage in combat. Kochergin described how initially his platoon, which patrolled an Iraqi town on the Syrian border, had to radio to the command post and "If they're doing some sort of illegal activity, we were allowed to take them out."
After a while, though, these rules were abandoned by commanders, who, at one point, told soldiers to fire at any Iraqis carrying bags and shovels, assuming that they were planting explosive devices. Finally, the soldiers were given no rules of engagement at all. "It was up to us to make the decision," said Korchergin, who called that policy "inappropriate."
For many soldiers, the rules of engagement in Iraq were "broadly defined and loosely enforced. Anyone who tells you different is a liar and a fool," said Jason Lemieux, who served three tours in the Marines. While he was initially given rules of engagement that corresponded to the Geneva Conventions, "By the time we got to Baghdad, I could shoot at anyone who came close enough to make me uncomfortable," said Lemieux, who described being so traumatized by the shooting of an unarmed Iraqi man, by a commanding officer shooting "two old ladies carrying groceries," and by fellow soldiers taking potshots at unarmed civilians, that he blocked it all out.
Garrett Reppenhagen, who served in Baquba, Iraq, described a firefight in which U.S. soldiers began spraying bullets into several vehicles of what they thought were armed insurgents. After killing seven Iraqis, the soldiers discovered, to their dismay, that the men were actually bodyguards to the deputy governor. "All these men were not only innocent, they were our allies," said Reppenhagen. "This is the kind of confusion that goes on every day in Iraq."
Jason Washburn described members of his unit shooting an Iraqi woman carrying a large shopping bag, only to find out that, "She had been trying to bring us food," said Washburn. "And we blew her to pieces for it."
Other soldiers emphasized that they were not reprimanded for shooting civilians. "One thing we were asked to do was carry draw-up weapons. In case we did shoot a civilian, we could toss it on a body and make it look like an insurgent," said Washburn. "If they were carrying a shovel, heavy bag, digging anywhere near a road, we could shoot them"—within the rules of engagement."
Soldiers also spoke about the callous attitude many soldiers had toward shooting Iraqis. After shooting a man who was being pursued for planting an IED, according to one testifier, the Marines "left his body to rot in the field—it was still there two weeks later," said Indiana resident Vincent Emanuele, who served in the Marine Corps in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. "His picture was on the backdrop of a laptop for a screen saver for one of our more motivated Marines."
Jon Turner, a machine gunner who served two deployments in Iraq, described intentionally killing civilians and mutilating the dead. He then ripped off the dog tags around his neck, declaring, "I don't work for you anymore."
"On April 18, 2006, I had my first confirmed kill," said Turner. "I shot him in front of his friend and his father." After the kill, "My company commander personally congratulated me," Turner said. "This is the same individual that stated that whoever gets his first kill by stabbing him to death would get a four day pass."
Turner presented a slideshow, which included close-up shots of Iraqis killed by his platoon, the inside of a young Iraqi's skull, and part of a blown off face, which soldiers had placed on the top of a Kevlar helmet. "It just goes to show you that...we had no respect for their bodies afterwards."
He also presented photos of Iraqis bound in their living rooms during a house raid and described beating and choking men "if they were giving us a problem." In a grisly admission, Turner revealed that he had tattooed the words symbolizing "fuck you" on his "choking" wrist and, "anytime I felt the need to take aggression, I would use it." Although he began his testimony in defiance, Turner ended with a plea. "I am sorry for the things that I did; I am no longer the monster that I once was," he said to a tearful audience.
James Gilligan, who did tours with the Marines in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantánamo Bay, told of participating in an operation to detain three Afghani herdsmen who were suspected of spotting rocket attacks for "insurgents" in Pakistan. Gilligan witnessed a Marine helicopter gunner open fire on the men while they were fleeing down a hillside.
He also described the looting of gold coins by soldiers at the Iraqi Atomic Energy Agency. The coins, which had the face of Saddam Hussein and the head of the Iraqi nuclear facility on them, were "liberated" by senior NCOs and officers, according to Gilligan, who was told about the incident by fellow Marines. "After we were leaving the country, a lot of these guys were talking about how they were bringing them home." Gilligan explained that the looting of the gold coins was just a small part of the looting he saw.
Gilligan also mentioned his experience as a security guard in Guantanamo Bay. While he wasn't actually involved in any interrogations, he interacted with MPs on the base and heard of stories about how sexual humiliation and waterboarding were used on detainees. In order to visit a "stress doctor" to treat his nightmares related to his PTSD from the Iraq invasion, Gilligan had to visit Camp X-ray, which housed detainees in metal cages "lying out in the open, 23 hours a day" in the extreme heat.
Vets marched from Philadelphia to Valley Forge in early March in the lead up to the Winter
Soldier hearings—photo by Susie Husted
Many of the former soldiers, who were clearly still traumatized by their experiences, challenged the audience of several hundred members of the media, friends, and family, as well as allies in the antiwar movement, to use their message as to end the war.
"They went to Iraq hoping to do good, hoping to do right. We found that we were killing Iraqi people in horrible ways," said Reppehagen. "And most soldiers are going through this—whether they've seen an atrocity or not, the truth of the matter is that the war is the atrocity."
Erin Thompson is on the staff of the NYC newspaper the Independent. This piece first appeared on Indyblog.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.