Winter soldiers and everyday patriots

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by Mary Turck, 3/18/08 • “This Marine … watched the commander, who had given us the order to shoot anyone on the street, shoot two old ladies that were walking and carrying vegetables. He said that the commander had told him to shoot the woman, and when he refused, because they were carrying vegetables, the commander shot them.” Winter Soldier testimony of Jason Wayne Lemieux, honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant in the Marine Corps after serving three deployments to Iraq, including the invasion, and four years and ten months in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Military veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan testified at Winter Soldier in mid-March, giving their eyewitness accounts of the war and of atrocities committed by U.S. troops. Winter Soldier 2008, organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, was modeled after the historic 1971 Winter Soldier hearings held during the Vietnam War.

Tom Paine said in 1776: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

The Winter Soldiers have risked their lives to serve and protect their country in a war that they found did neither. Instead, the conduct of the war disgraced the ideals they held and the war created more enemies for their—and our—country. Now back at home, they displayed their patriotism by testifying in the Winter Soldier hearings.

March 19 is the fifth anniversary of the U.S. war in Iraq. Nearly 4,000 U.S. soldiers and more than 4,000 coalition soldiers have died. More than a hundred thousand Iraqis have lost their lives. More than four million have lost their homes, their jobs or their schools.

Last week, the president who sent soldiers into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan talked to some of the troops in Afghanistan via video. He said that he was “a little envious” of them and, “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.” Bush continued, “It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger.”

Lemieux could tell him about the “fantastic experience.”

“I don’t have anywhere near enough time to tell you every related experience that I had in Iraq, but in general, the rules of engagement changed frequently, contradicted themselves, and when they were restrictive, they were either loosely enforced, or escalations of force, as shootings of civilians were known, were not reported because Marines did not want to send their brothers in arms to prison, when all they were trying to do was protect themselves in a situation they had been forced into, where there was a constant ambiguous and deadly threat, and any citizen of the country that they were supposedly liberating could have been wearing an explosive vest.

“With no way to identify their attackers and no clear mission worth dying for, Marines viewed the rules of engagement as either a joke or a technicality to be worked around so that they could bring each other home alive. Not only are the misuse of rules of engagement in Iraq indicative of supreme strategic incompetence, they are also a moral disgrace. The people who have set them should be ashamed of ourselves, and they are just one of the many reasons why the troops should be withdrawn immediately from Iraq.”

This week, people are mobilizing against the war, across the state, across the country, around the world. Some of the Minnesota observances and demonstrations are listed below.

Many people do not believe that demonstrating does any good. We could argue the question. But the least that we owe to the courageous Winter Soldiers is to listen to their words. You can hear them on Democracy Now. Here are the links:

March 14 Democracy Now
March 17 Democracy Now
March 18 Democracy Now

In the words of Thomas Paine: “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.”

Protest events in Twin Cities

March 19 Sick of It Day www.sickofitday.org or

March 19, noon – 4pm
MN State Capitol Rotunda
EYES WIDE OPEN Minnesota http://www.mppeace.org/march19/
Exhibit presents a memorial to those who have fallen and a witness to our belief that no war can justify its human cost. It includes a pair of boots for each MN soldier killed in Iraq, shoes representing Irawi civilian causalities, and a visual display showing the human costs of war to our communities.

March 19
Lake Street Bridge Vigil
Wednesday, March 19, 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. (Vigil) Lake Street/Marshall Avenue Bridge spanning the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Join us on March 19, the anniversary of the start of the U.S. war on Iraq by attending the weekly Peace Vigil over the Mississippi River.

6:30 p.m. (Potluck and Program) Macalester Plymouth United Church. 1658 Lincoln Avenue, (one block south of Grand Avenue and just west of the Macalester College campus), St. Paul. Public Talk: Winter Soldiers of Today: Wes Davies and Brandon Day, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Sami Rasouli, Muslim Peacemaker Teams, just returned from Iraq, speak on the 5th Anniversary of the War and Occupation

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