Winter Soldier – candid accounts of the U.S. involvment in Iraq

May 5, 2008 | By | 1 Reply More

DemocracyNow has reported on “Winter Soldier,” a March, 2008 gathering of US veterans in Maryland to testify regarding atrocities committed by US troops during the ongoing occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. These accounts were almost entirely ignored by the American corporate media.  Here are two excerpts:

Jason Hurd went on to describe his time in Iraq. In 2004, he was deployed to central Baghdad with Tennessee’s 278th Regimental Combat Team

We had our interpreter with us, and our interpreter threw up his hand and said “Salaam aleikum,” which is their greeting in Iraq. It means “Peace of God be with you.” And he translated back to us what she said. She said, “No. No peace of God be with you.” She was angry, and she was frustrated. And so, we stopped, and our interpreter said, “Well, what’s the matter? Why are you so angry? We’re here protecting you. We’re here to ensure your safety.”

And that woman began to tell us a story. Just a few months prior to this, her husband had been shot and killed by a United States convoy, because he got too close to their convoy. He was not an insurgent; he was not a terrorist. He was merely a working man trying to make a living for his family. To make matters worse, a few weeks later, there was a Special Forces team who operated in the Kindi area. And as you know, Special Forces do clandestine operations. And so, even though this was my unit’s area of operation, we didn’t know what the Special Forces teams were actually doing there. They holed up in a building there in the Kindi Street area and made a compound out of it. A few weeks after this man died, the Special Forces team got some intelligence that this woman was supporting the insurgency. And so, they conducted a raid on her home, zip-tied her and her two children, threw them on the floor. And I guess her son was old enough to be perceived as a possible threat, so they detained him and took him away. For the next two weeks, this woman had no idea whether her son was alive, dead or worse. At the end of that two weeks, the Special Forces team rolled up, dropped her son off and, without so much as an apology, drove off. It turns out they had found they had acted on bad intelligence. Ladies and gentleman, things like that happen every day in Iraq. We’re harassing these people, we’re disrupting their lives.

But as time went on and the absurdity of war set in, they started taking things too far. Individuals from my unit indiscriminately and unnecessarily opened fire on innocent civilians as they’re driving down the road on their own streets. My unit—individuals from my platoon would fire into the grills of these cars and then come back in the evenings after missions were done and brag about it. They would say, “Hey, did you guys see that car I shot at? It spewed radiator fluid all over the ground. Wasn’t that cool?” I remember thinking back on that and how appalled I was that we were bragging about these things, that we were laughing, but that’s what you do in a combat zone. That is your reality. That is how you deal with that predicament.

JON MICHAEL TURNER – former Marine with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines.

House raids—because we were a grunt battalion, we were responsible for going on several patrols. A lot of the raids and patrols we did were at night around 3:00 in the morning, around there. And what we would do is just kick in the doors and terrorize the families. That was an image taken around 3:00 in the morning through night vision goggles. And that is the segregation of the women and children and the men. If the men of the household were giving us problems, we’d go ahead and take care of them anyway we felt necessary, whether it be choking them or slamming their head against the walls. If you go back to that one picture, that was one man that wasn’t taking—that was taken care of in a very bad way, because of all the wiring that he had. We considered it IED-making material.

On my wrist, there’s Arabic for “F you.” I got that put on my wrist just two weeks before we went to Iraq, because that was my choking hand, and any time I felt the need to take out aggression, I would go ahead and use it.

Please go to the next picture. Next, there’s an instance of detainees and how they were treated in a nice manner.

Next, that is the Fatima Mosque minaret. As you can see, it is ridden with bullet holes and holes in the top of it. Those were from mortars. And the next video that I’m going to show you is a tank round that went into that minaret, where we weren’t sure if we were taking fire or not. Actually, I’ll talk about this one. This is after one of the guys in a weapons company had gotten shot. This is a way that we would take out our aggression. For those of you who don’t know, it is illegal to shoot into a mosque, unless you were taking fire from it. There was no fire that was taken from that mosque. It was shot into because we were angry.

This man right here was my third confirmed killed. As you can see, he was riding his bicycle. Later on in the day, we went ahead, and we had CBS’s Lara Logan with us, but she was with the other squad, and so she wasn’t with us. So, myself and two other people went ahead and took out some individuals, because we were excited about the firefight we had just gotten into, and we didn’t have a cameraman or woman with us. With that being said, any time we did have embedded reporters with us, our actions would change drastically. We never acted the same. We were always on key with everything, did everything by the books. The man on the bicycle, he was left in the street for about ten minutes until we realized that we needed to leave where we were. And his body was dragged about ten feet to the right of him, where his body was thrown behind a rock wall and his bicycle was thrown on top of him.

I just want to say that I am sorry for the hate and destruction that I have inflicted on innocent people, and I’m sorry for the hate and destruction that others have inflicted on innocent people. At one point, it was OK. But reality has shown that it’s not and that this is happening and that until people hear about what is going on with this war, it will continue to happen and people will continue to die. I am sorry for the things that I did. I am no longer the monster that I once was.

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Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    WASHINGTON – Antiwar veterans of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan took their case to Capitol Hill Thursday, baring their souls with stories of killings of innocent civilians, torture, and wrongful detentions.

    “On several occasions our convoys came upon bodies that had been lying on the road, sometimes for weeks,” said Marine Corps veteran Vincent Emanuele, who served in al-Qaim near the Syrian border in 2004 and 2005.

    “When encountering these bodies standard procedure was to run over the corpses, sometimes even stopping and taking pictures, which was also standard practice when encountering the dead in Iraq,” he told the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which organized the hearing.

    Emanuele also said that U.S. military personnel often took “pot shots” at cars passing by.

    “Our rules of engagement stated that we should first fire warning shots into the ground in front of the car, then the engine block, and the windshield. That is if the car was even moving in the first place,” he said. “Many times cars that actually had pulled off to the side of the road were also shot at.”

    http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/05/17/90

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