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Veterans have another fight - peace.

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Jack Dresser and Sergio Kochergin For The Register-Guard

A historic event - Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - took place March 13-16 in Silver Spring, Md. It was widely covered by the foreign press but ignored by the U.S. mainstream media for reasons well-known to observers who mourn the suffocation of honest American journalism by corporate media control.

Over three days at the National Labor College, 55 members of Iraq Veterans Against the War gave eyewitness accounts of the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations that were not flattering to the U.S. government.

One of us testified. The other traveled cross-country in our Veterans for Peace bus to raise public awareness and to attend and record the event.

But it was nearly spring. Why "Winter Soldier"? This harkens back to 1777-78. After suffering three terrible defeats by the much larger British force and marching hundreds of miles, the hungry, ragged, typhoid-infected, 11,000-man Continental Army retreated to a winter headquarters at Valley Forge, Pa. Entire militia companies had deserted to return home.

Of those men who remained and the 700 women who fed, nursed and warmed them through that winter, revolutionary firebrand and pamphleteer Thomas Paine wrote, "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 all men and women." Those who endure beyond their obligated duty have come to be called "winter soldiers."

Thirty-seven years ago the original "Winter Soldier" investigation was held by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, about which Lt. John Kerry was invited by Chairman William Fullbright to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Although discharged from service, these veterans maintained their oath to support and defend the Constitution. Their duty compelled them, in Kerry's words, "to undertake one last mission - to search out and destroy the last vestige of this barbaric war, to pacify our own hearts ... so when 30 years from now our brothers go down the street without a leg, without an arm, or a face, and small boys ask why, we will be able to say `Vietnam' and not mean a desert, not a filthy obscene memory, but mean instead where America finally turned and where soldiers like us helped it in the turning."

But America failed to turn, launching another equally brutal, equally fraudulent, equally unjustified attack upon the nation of Iraq, again in violation of international treaties and laws - the United Nations and Nuremberg charters that prohibit wars of aggression - and once more violating Article VI of our Constitution that declares our treaty obligations "the supreme law of the land." So once again winter soldiers are needed.

"Over 30 years later," Iraq Veterans Against the War stated, "we find ourselves faced with a new war, but the lies are the same. Once again, troops are sinking into an increasingly bloody occupation. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming `a few bad apples' instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan."

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan was a carefully conducted presentation by 13 panels of young veterans and expert witnesses addressing 12 areas of concern. These included war crimes routinely committed; violations of the "rules of engagement" to protect noncombatants; use of prohibited weapons such as depleted uranium; wanton and needless property destruction; racist dehumanization of Arabs; systematic desensitization of troops to the horror of killing; flagrant waste and war profiteering; sexual assault and harassment within the military; impacts upon the victim societies; costs to our society; inadequate veterans' benefits, and growing war resistance within the active duty military.

All testimony was carefully vetted in advance for accuracy through multiple witnesses, news accounts or other documentation, and can be viewed at the Iraq Veterans Against the War Web site, www.ivaw.org.

On Monday, we will present a public report on the Winter Soldier event and our participation in a large March 19 war protest in Washington, D.C., that was also broadcast internationally but little seen in the United States We will include a video overview, video segments of selected testimony, questions and answers with a Winter Soldier testifier from Eugene, and video clips of our citizens' arrest warrant for high government officers read at the National Archives, the U.S. Department of Justice and the White House. Video samples can be viewed on YouTube, posted by local Veterans for Peace videographer Gordon Sturrock.

The program will he held at 7 p.m. in Room 180 of Prince Lucien Campbell Hall at the University of Oregon.

Jack Dresser, a former Army psychologist, is co-founder of Veterans for Peace in Lane County. Sergio Kochergin, a University of Oregon student and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, testified at Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan.
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Title Annotation:Local Opinion
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 1, 2008
Words:820
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