[Interview with Josh Simpson and Benji Lewis, two ex US soldiers who fought in combat in Iraq and now publicly oppose Washington’s Global War on Terror.]
Eva Golinger (EG): Why did you join the Armed Forces in the
Josh: I was really interested in history, in a patriotic sense,
EG: A romantic vision?
Josh: Yes, even
EG: What did you think?
Josh: I was nervous but excited. I happened to join the military when something big in history was happening. I didn’t understand why 9/11 happened, why we were attacked. I guess that people just hated us for being for Americans. If I had to go to war to defend my country I was totally prepared to do that. I didn’t end up going to Afganistan because I was in the second striker brigade, and so by the time I ended up going to Iraq I was already against the war. Today I believe they are all imperialist wars, but then I didn’t support the war, but figured I would still go because I had to go and I didn’t know people were resisting.
EG: Do you mean soldiers resisting or people against the war?
Josh: I didn’t know there was an anti-war movement. I was in the desert in
EG: Benji, why did you join the military?
Benji: I came from a military family. I was encouraged by my mother and father join. I joined the military to help people. I entered boot camp in the Marine Corp in March 2003. I was 17 ½ years old. Once I joined I realized it was a bad idea and thought, what did I do?
EG: When the war started?
Benji: As I was in bootcamp the invasion was happening and we would see video clips of it set to heavy metal music to get us riled up. It was disturbing. Before every class in bootcamp they would show videos of people getting shot, killed, set to heavy metal music, and then as we were invading Fallujah, the PSYOPS (psychological operations) units weren’t pointing the speakers at the people in Fallujah, they were pointing the speakers at us, playing the same music as they did in bootcamp. I distinctly remember being agitated and edgy before we invaded the city. It became clear to me that military indoctrination is much deeper than it appears to be on the surface.
EG: When did you go to
Josh: September 2004 to September 2005.
EG: What did you think when you were going there?
Josh: I was against the war but at the same time figured we already started the war and so should see it through and help the country rebuild. It was hard to think about. I was in charge of interrogations in
EG: But you knew torture took place?
Josh: I saw the victims of the torture. The bruises and lashes all over their bodies came from somewhere. We would send the detainees to the Iraqi Army and Kurdish Militia that were working with us and they would do the torture for us. I had concerns about that especially because torture doesn’t work well for getting information.
EG: Benji, you were in Fallujah during the Blackwater scandal?
Benji: Right after. I was sent to Fallujah and there was excitement because it was right after the Blackwater scandal and we were on a mission of revenge. No one told us what had really happened except that US citizens had been killed by the Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah. So I was excited because I was going to be in a mortar unit and would be able to do what I was trained to do, we were going to utilize our mortars. We thought we were going to Fallujah to neutralize an insurrection, but they didn’t tell us that the entire city had already been bombed by the
EG: The military wasn’t giving the soldiers any kind of information?
Benji: Hearts and Minds is double rhetoric. You have to first control the hearts and minds of the troops committing these atrocities before sending them to war. You have to lie to them otherwise you can’t fight these kinds of wars.
EG: How did you perceive the resistance of the Iraqi people?
Josh: They were terrorists, radical, islamic fundamentalists, not people fighting for their country, that’s what we were told.
Benji: The military indoctrination is so sophisticated – you are even cut off from members of your own batallion, you can’t ask questions, the only thing that matters is to protect yourself and your batallion. There are no politics. The first thing you learn is not to question, keep your thoughts to yourself.
EG: Didn’t you know it was a war for oil?
Benji: The only reason you are there is to protect the person to the left and right of you. Everyone knew about the oil but your only mission is staying alive and keeping your friends alive.
Josh: You think you’re helping the Iraqis. That’s what you’re told.
EG: Why did you leave the military?
Josh: I was active duty for 5 years then I signed up for another 3 years as a reservist. I didn’t want to go back to Irak. I was told that if you join the reserves you can get a nice bonus and you won’t be deployed for two years. I was naive thinking the war in Irak would be over in two years.
EG: Why would you join the reserves and train people to go to war in
Josh: I justified that by thinking I was keeping them safe by training them well. They had to go anyway. But it got to a point when I couldn’t look myself in the mirror anymore, I was disgusted with myself. I was basically stuck in a moral dilemna. I want to be proud of my actions, proud of what I am doing, but honestly, I wasn’t. I started college at the same time. I was studying political economy at
EG: Did people in your class know you were in the military? What did they say to you?
Josh: Yes, but people knew I was opposed to the war.
Benji: The “support the troops” campaign has altered everyone’s perception.
Josh: I’m actually opposed to that campaign. People should have been more confrontational with the troops.
EG: Like in
Benji: The “support the troops” campaign was engineered to allow for indirect acceptance of the war.
Josh: People are scared to criticize the troops, it’s considered the most blasphemous thing in the world. At the same time, if you are never criticized than you will never know that what you are doing is wrong.
Benji: You can’t criticize the troops. It’s a poverty draft, these kids just do it because they have no other way out of poverty.
Josh: But you have to criticize them, because they will say they are just following orders, but that’s bullshit, the Nazis were just following orders too. The military is fascist, it’s basically blind, unquestioning obedience. Then they try to tell you that the blind obedience is some form of courage and bravery. It’s much easier to go with the current than against it. While I was at Evergreen I was learning something different than what I was told in the military. I got to the point where morally I couldn’t just be opposed to the war, I also couldn’t even participate in the military or train other soldiers to go kill people in a racist war. I was told in January 2008 that I was going to be deployed to
Benji: Which is why you join the military, to fight for something you believe in!
Josh: The fact that I was finally fighting for something I believed in, against the war, was such a great feeling. I joined Iraq Veterans Against the War and other resistance groups against the war. I helped start the GI coffee house, Coffee Strong. The GI coffee house is right off the military base
EG: Benji, why did you leave the military?
Benji: After my first tour in
Benji: I moved to
EG: Why did you come to
Benji: South America is in a position to resist the economic collapse in the
EG: What would you say to the Venezuelan people about the
Josh: Be prepared. Neighborhood and popular militias are the most effective way to deter the
Benji: To me it’s obvious the
Josh: It’s the war that never ends.
• Josh Simpson, 27 years old, was a Sargeant in the US Army Counterintelligence Division. He was in charge of interrogations and source operations in
• Benji Lewis, 24 years old, is an ex Marine Infantry soldier who did two tours in
This interview was conducted during their first visit to