Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Winter Soldier and the Unconscionable War

It's been five years since the U.S. began its devastating invasion and occupation of Iraq, and from all indications, we shall be there for much longer. Judging from the way the media is handling, or failing to report on, the Iraq war is how I have come to this conclusion. As Noam Chomsky so precisely put it, "the opposition to the war today in elite sectors... is pure cynicism, completely unprincipled". Instead of talking about the morality of being an imperial power, or the dubious role the U.S. plays as an occupying power in Iraq, exerting brutal military force in someone else's homeland, we argue whether the surge is working (working for America that is) or say, as Nancy Pelosi said, that it isn't working, and that we ought to stop sacrificing "our security for the sake of an Iraqi government that is unwilling or unable to secure its own future". We don't get the fundamentals of why this war is wrong, and so cannot possibly do what is right.
This hollow and cynical foreign policy begets political discourse where the anti-war candidates promise a "strategic and phased" withdrawal, "directed by military commanders on the ground and done in consultation with the Iraqi government". Continuing: "under the Obama plan, American troops may remain in Iraq or the region". Clinton's position is not much better. Given the choice between a pro-war candidate with convictions - John McCain - and a Candidate without anti-war principles, and not opposed to this war or wars like it in the future - Obama and Hillary - voters will most likely choose the candidate who's certitude feigns prescience.
The same sort of baselessness is seen in the media, our source for the information necessary to understand this conflict, what's at stake, and what is actually happening. I was made painfully aware of how out-of-touch our news media is, today, on the fifth anniversary of the war. After watching Democracy Now and their special coverage of the Winter Soldier event - more on that below - I switched to the most recent Newshour with Jim Lehrer. The lead-off piece, on the 5th anniversary mind you, was on the falling stock market. Following this was a piece on the Iraq war, which first devoted a big portion of the time to a Bush speech that offered little more than his usual empty platitudes. This was followed by the quote from Nancy Pelosi I included above, along with a quick mention of the anti-war protests. Moving on...
A few days prior, and making it onto the esteemed Democracy Now news program, was the Winter Soldier event held at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland. The event was organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War. Coverage of this event would have been apt for fifth-anniversary tribute, not only to the fallen American soldiers , but also to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed. Unfortunately the event was not covered by PBS's news program, nor CNN or Fox News. Interestingly, I was able to find mention of the historic event on MSNBC, but I was informed that the story "was no longer available," having been up on MSNBC's website for a full four days.
The best way to understand how horrible this war really is, to truly comprehend why it must end today, and to fight our own urges to think abstractly about something that to millions of people in Iraq, and veterans over hear, still remains real and painful, is to hear about the war from those who lived it. I am including below parts of the testimonies of Iraq veterans from the Winter Soldier event. I hope that you will find the time to watch and possibly tell others to watch. It is a testament to our modern, willfully disconnected era that we can delude ourselves into thinking war is anything but inhumane. These videos explicitly tell of the real inhumanity of war, making it impossible to justify a continued occupation of Iraq and subjugation of the people who live there.

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