By Dahr Jamail | Inter-Press Service News
MARFA, Texas, Sep 16 (IPS) – Aside from the Iraqi people, nobody knows what the U.S. military is doing in Iraq better than the soldiers themselves. A new book gives readers vivid and detailed accounts of the devastation the U.S. occupation has brought to Iraq, in the soldiers’ own words.
“Winter Soldier Iraq and Afghanistan: Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupation,” published by Haymarket Books Tuesday, is a gut-wrenching, historic chronicle of what the U.S. military has done to Iraq, as well as its own soldiers.
Authored by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and journalist Aaron Glantz, the book is a reader for hearings that took place in Silver Spring, Maryland between Mar. 13-16, 2008 at the National Labour College.
“I remember one woman walking by,” said Jason Washburn, a corporal in the U.S. Marines who served three tours in Iraq. “She was carrying a huge bag, and she looked like she was heading toward us, so we lit her up with the Mark 19, which is an automatic grenade launcher, and when the dust settled, we realised that the bag was full of groceries. She had been trying to bring us food and we blew her to pieces.”
Washburn testified on a panel that discussed the rules of engagement in Iraq, and how lax they were, even to the point of being virtually non-existent.
“During the course of my three tours, the rules of engagement changed a lot,” Washburn’s testimony continues. “The higher the threat the more viciously we were permitted and expected to respond.”
His emotionally charged testimony, like all of those in the book that covered panels addressing dehumanisation, civilian testimony, sexism in the military, veterans’ health care, and the breakdown of the military, raised issues that were repeated again and again by other veterans.
“Something else we were encouraged to do, almost with a wink and nudge, was to carry ‘drop weapons’, or by my third tour, ‘drop shovels’. We would carry these weapons or shovels with us because if we accidentally shot a civilian, we could just toss the weapon on the body, and make them look like an insurgent,” Washburn said.
Four days of searing testimony, witnessed by this writer, is consolidated into the book, which makes for a difficult read. One page after another is filled with devastating stories from the soldiers about what is being done in Iraq.
Everything from the taking of “trophy” photos of the dead, to torture and slaughtering of civilians is included.