Thursday, March 27, 2008

After Winter Soldier: War Anniversary in D.C.

Rituals of Protest
Original VVAW Winter Soldier testifier, and contributor at large. He and his wife Cathy spent their wedding anniversary at the 5th anniversary of the war demonstrations in Washington, D.C. this past March 19th,, as they traveled home from the Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan event held in Silver Springs Maryland, March 13th thru 19th.

Wednesdays usually don't allow much leeway for demonstrations. People have to get to work. Our vast war machine cannot stop dead over night...

That was the stupid part... kids on bicycles... at rush hour downtown.

Cathy and I stayed in Washington after the hearings against the Iraq War to join demonstrations downtown marking the fifth anniversary of our invasion. Shock and awe, remember that?

So let's stop traffic... about a dozen kids apparently thought they were making some kind of statement riding their mountain bikes into the middle of traffic. Why not do it at one of the busiest intersections on K Street, heart of the multinational lobby industry?

In downtown Washington last Wednesday, 19 March, most protesters against the Iraq war offered an amusing distraction from business as usual. The bikers were different. They got people mad and started fights. The action in the nation’s capitol against war on this business day were disappointing, but neither depressing nor futile.

One biker I saw almost got run over but for some guy in a pickup jamming on his brakes in the middle of K and 13th. The driver hopped out and started yelling at the kid who responded in kind... then shoving and pushing. Some of the motorcycle cops ran over to break it up. Lines of traffic waiting for the intersection to clear on a green light started honking. Marchers on the streets increased their chanting.

Cute secretaries and others all dressed up for another day at the office paused briefly to stare at the ruckus and have a sip of their steaming Starbucks.

This was about as much confrontation as we saw. It lasted only a few minutes. Exciting! Lots of aging counter-culture types were shooting video... at least they liked it.

Thank God there was more... lots more, not only in the Capitol but all over the nation.

Fortunately Cathy & I were able to visit Skip Roberts in D.C. for a couple of days after WSI 2. Skip served as VVAW national coordinator after John Kerry stepped down in '71, is still an engaged politico and advised us to visit a cafe near his place on 14th Street-- Poets and Busboys-- to find out what was planned for the 19th. Luckily this great politics-friendly bistro/bookstore had a copy of The Washington Peace Letter from the (For travelers, hard copy often is more helpful than the web.)

While the conservative-leaning Washington Post gave scant coverage to 5th anniversary protests, the Peace Letter showed an incredible array of public events planned for the Capitol for the whole week. We only saw the tail end. The best part of that seemed to be Rude Mechanical Orchestra, a marching band complete with drums, tuba and other brass which paraded around the business district, sites for civil disobedience such as the IRS and eventually over to the Mall to energize busloads of tourists.
Did this and the other diverse events make any difference? From my point of view, it was all entertaining but ultimately a distraction. Groups such as Code Pink wearing pink PJs can be clever pushing a pink four-poster bed around the Capitol with signs saying, "Wake up America!" and "Tired of War?" But sometimes creative protest becomes self-indulgent performance art best left to the pages of Art Forum.

One group wore green helmets and stopped passers-by to ask questions for a survey on Green Jobs, a seemingly useless exercise. Others carried gangly windmills that looked perfect for a grade school skit.

They reminded me of the so-called bad guys outside WSI 2, a group known as ‘The Gathering of Eagles’, a small bunch of super-patriots. They were said to be interested in messing up the hearings.

I felt sorry for them. They were sort of a pathetic bunch of old folks and perhaps a few disgruntled tourists who had brought along various family members or friends to counter protest the WSI.

They stood by New Hampshire Ave. outside the National Labor College and waved their flags and banners to passers-by. They were just enough of a presence to give the press and police an opportunity highlight this conflict of opinions in the grassroots.

Both protest groups showed how hard it is to inspire any anger or awareness of our public life. Just as the marchers downtown were mainly a silly sideshow so were the Gathering of Eagles. Both provided entertaining rituals in their own way.

During some of this protest for the 5th anniversary of this sickening war, I couldn't help but recall the more somber and serious testimony of the Winter Soldier Investigation we had just heard. This was truly the centerpiece of protest in D.C., but mainstream media has been distracted by the financial markets imploding. Soldiers testifying against a war they had fought is just too new and complex an angle for most editors. American media still follows pack journalism. They all tend to look over their shoulders at what the WSJ and NYT have to say and don't stray far.

Protest may be somewhat similar. It is tempting to follow the lead of the largest, loudest and best organized groups or candidates. Elective politics can often be tedious, so it's easier to follow the crowd.

But, like war itself, politics can be overwhelming and emotionally charged. Life-long commitments can be made and changed by the force of one experience.

WSI will be that way for all who testified and many who have listened to what these veterans had to say.

Innocent civilians have been targeted and died just as they were in Vietnam. We have not learned.

The only way that we can change this is by targeting Congress. Our elected officials need to know how this war has broken our military and foreign policy just as did the Vietnam War.

This time the war mongers have gone even further, their machine cannot be easily turned or stopped, a failure that is still unraveling...
And the beat goes on...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Action Alert: Why are Winter Soldiers Not News?

Editor Note: This piece came in via a supporting E-list as an Action Alert. It was first posted at Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. In light of the fact that there has been a shameful and almost total US media black-out on IVAW's Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan hearings, which were held March 13th thru 16th, in Silver Springs, Maryland; we are posting it here at, in it's unedited entirety in support of IVAW's Winter Soldier, America's right to know, and's call to action.


Dozens of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars gathered in Silver Spring, Maryland last weekend for the Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan hearings (3/13/08-3/16/08), where they offered harrowing testimony about atrocities they had witnessed or participated in directly. The BBC predicted that the event, organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, "could be dominating the headlines around the world this week" (3/7/08). The hearings were covered as far afield as the U.K. (Guardian, 3/17/08), Australia (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/14/08), Croatia (Javno, 3/16/08), and Iran (Press TV, 3/14/08). Yet there has been an almost complete media blackout on this historic news event in the U.S. corporate media.

Despite being noted in the New York Times' Paris-based International Herald Tribune (3/13/08), Winter Soldier has yet to be mentioned in the New York Times itself. No major U.S. newspaper has covered the hearings except as a story of local interest; the few stories major U.S. newspapers have published on the event have focused on the participation of local vets (Boston Globe, 3/16/08; Boston Herald, 3/16/08; Newsday, 3/16/08, Buffalo News, 3/16/08).

The Washington Post, too, published their account in the metro section (3/15/08). In contrast, the paper published an article about pro-war demonstrators protesting the Winter Soldier hearings in the A section (3/16/08), despite the fact that they were, according to the Post, "small in number."

None of the major broadcast TV networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) have mentioned the hearings in their newscasts. PBS has been silent as well.

But for a couple of exceptions (Time, 3/15/08; NPR, 3/16/08), the hearings have been virtually ignored by all but the independent media (Democracy Now!, 3/14/08; 3/17-19/08; In These Times, 3/17/08; Alternet, 3/14/08) and military publications (Stars and Stripes, 3/15/08 and the four Military Times newsweeklies, 3/15/08, 3/17/08), in a pattern reminiscent of the near complete corporate media blackout on the first Winter Soldier hearings. FAIR founder Jeff Cohen (Huffington Post, 3/16/08) traces the beginning of his career as a media critic back to his experience of watching as “one of the rare mainstream camera crews showed up at Winter Soldier... and then abruptly packed up to leave in the middle of particularly gripping testimony.”

While the testimony of soldiers who had served multiple tours of duty was broadcast on Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now!, Free Speech TV, and the Real News network, the major broadcast networks and PBS instead devoted airtime to the pro-war assessments of Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John McCain, both of whom have only made brief visits to Iraq (NBC Nightly News, ABC World News, CBS Evening News, PBS NewsHour, all 3/17/08).

Given the common media rhetoric of "supporting the troops" (FAIR Action Alert, 3/26/03), to ignore these same troops when they speak out about the horrors of the war is unconscionable. On the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War, it is particularly important that the media reverse this silence, and include the voices of the vets who are speaking out about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan in national news coverage.


  • Contact the broadcast networks and ask them why they decided to ignore the Winter Soldiers hearings while carrying the less-informed observations on Iraq of John McCain and Dick Cheney.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Winter Soldier Media Blackout: The public begins to respond...

Editors Note:
This letter to the Washington Post editor was forwarded out on the VVAW contact list for all to see, because the author believed that it would never make it into the Post Letter's to the Editor, due to their editorial stance of marginalizing the Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan hearings at the National labor College in Silver Springs, Maryland, this past week-end, March 13th thru 16th. WH

My letter to the Washington Post, 3/17/2008:
I don't know why I even bother to write this. For some reason I keep expecting more from the Post, even though I know you have been marginalizing opposition to the Iraq war since before it began.
I was grateful for Steve Vogel's Saturday coverage of the four-day Winter Soldier hearings, tucked into the Metro section as local news even although it is a national conference. Antiwar demonstrations are also relegated to the Metro section, even when hundreds of thousands of people have flocked to their nation's capitol from all over the country. (Are these articles only included in the District edition, or do Virginia and Maryland readers get them, too?
Opening the paper this morning, I had hoped to see some of the Winter Soldier testimony, which provides some of the starkest factual information and critical analysis of the situation in Iraq to date. (Fortunately I can listen to the proceedings on my computer because Pacifica Radio is covering the conference.) What I see instead is an article--in the front section of the paper--about the pro-war demonstration on the Mall. It will be interesting to see where coverage of this week's upcoming anti-war demonstrations end up.
Let me add this: You treat protest and demonstrations as news, which I suppose they are. But the Winter Soldier conference is not news--it is a source of information that the American people desperately need in order to have informed opinions and make informed judgments about their
government's illegal occupation of another country.
The Post has a responsibility to provide this information to its readership. Otherwise, you enable this administration to continue lying to Americans about the occupation of Iraq.
Helen Schietinger
Washington, DC 20011

Long Beach Veterans Day Parade: After Action Report

Anti-war marchers allowed in parade

L.B.: War protest groups banned from last year's Veterans Day event will be able to participate this year, organizers say.
By Kelly Puente
Staff Writer
LONG BEACH - Three anti-war groups who were banned from marching in the Long Beach Veterans Day Parade last year will be allowed to take part in this year's parade, organizers said Sunday.

Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Military Families Speak Out were prohibited from marching last November because organizers said they didn't fit the spirit of the parade. The act sparked an emotional city-wide debate.

But after careful consideration, parade coordinator Martha Thuente said organizers and the groups finally reached an agreement last month.

She said the groups will be allowed to hold one banner each, but cannot make any political statements or pass out pamphlets.

They can wear their T-shirts but are "encouraged to wear their uniforms, which makes more of a statement," Thuente said. The event takes place along Atlantic Avenue in North Long Beach.

They will also be required to submit their parade applications separately. Last year, the three groups submitted one application under the name "Military Patriots."

Councilman Val Lerch, a member of the parade committee, said the application was unanimously rejected because organizers feared the group wanted to raise political issues at a parade meant to honor veterans.

Since they've reached an agreement, Lerch on Sunday said the groups can even ride a vehicle in the 12th annual parade on Nov. 8

"If they come in a Humvee, they're more than welcome," he said. "Just as long as they agree not to make a political statement."

Pat Alviso of Military Families Speak Out, an organization of people opposed to the war in Iraq who have relatives or loved ones in the military, said group members are happy and relieved after putting in more than three months of work.
Alviso said they have always supported the troops. Her son, Beto Alviso, is a gunnery sergeant in the Marines and has served two tours of duty in Iraq. He may be deployed to Afghanistan by the end of this year, she said. "You can support the troops but not the war," Alviso said. "There's a few of the old-timers who still do not get that."

Although they were banned from marching, more than 25 members from all three groups attended the parade anyway, standing peacefully and cheering for the veterans.

Alviso thinks their positive behavior had an influence on the organizers' decision.

"We do not want to make this parade anything more than a parade to celebrate and honor those who have served this country," she said.

Jason Lemieux, a Marine who served three tours of duty in Iraq and is now a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, was one of several veterans who stood on the sidelines last year.

"It feels like I've been betrayed by the very people I fought to serve," he told the Press-Telegram in November.

Lemieux, an Anaheim resident, was one of hundreds of soldiers and Marines to testify in the "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan" anti-war conference that took place Thursday through Sunday at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Md.

There he said he testified on atrocities he witnessed in Iraq and called for an immediate withdrawal of troops.

Reached by phone on Sunday, Lemieux praised parade organizers for "making the right decision" and hopes to march this year.

"I think it's exactly what they should have done right from the beginning," he said., 562-499-1305

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Winter Soldiers Speaking Truth To Power

The Whole World Is Watching... Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan


Billy X. Curmano

Billy X. is a contributor who attended WS: Iraq & Afghanistan as part of our 12 person contingent of contributors and support personnel who attended this historically epic in order to cover it for VetSpeak, and also to serve as VVAW front gate security for the event.

I recently returned from the Iraq veterans Against the War (IVAW) Winter Soldier Iraq Afghanistan Testimonies (March 13-16) at the National Labor College near Washington D.C.

Because of my role on security, I could not attend all of the sessions. However, I was most impressed with the overall professionalism and dedication for the event. Our security team worked closely with the Labor College Security and Maryland Police to assure a safe and peaceful 4 days. Counter demonstrators and crazies were kept well away.

One disruptor with false credentials was able to utter only one sentence before being carried out and turned over to the police. Eyewitnesses said he was out in about 8 seconds. A couple of journalists with a disruptive style were escorted out. I personally was able to politely turn away a gentleman wanting to expose the KGB brain probes installed in Brittney Spears and George W. Bush. The more obnoxious and well financed Gathering of Eagles had made threats and promised hundreds of counter-demonstrators. In reality, they couldn't even fill their bus. Their SUV and a few of their bolder followers were turned away at the main gate.

Inside, veterans of the occupation testified to what they had witnessed. A special IVAW teamed screened all testifiers for authenticity and proof of service. Health care providers, counselors and lawyers were on hand to ease the testifiers through their often highly emotional state. Another level of bonding with peers, older combat vets, peace activists and, of course, Resistance the therapy dog also helped keep Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at bay. Unfortunately, as a Vietnam Veteran that has also testified to the barbaric culture of war, I know that their stress has not been exorcised.

As soldiers, we sign an oath to protect the constitution of the United States from all its enemies - not to follow blindly behind the president. The current administration has taken more liberties with this document than any in recent memory. Their policies have created a freshly disillusioned generation. Wars built on lies cause patriotic young people to question authority. Bonding together, they create their own new and vibrant culture with new music, art, films, books and poetry. Pay attention - Don't miss out.

My biggest regret while working the historic event was knowing much of the American media would ignore these brave young men and women. Film makers and news outlets from around the globe were there. The whole world was watching. The London Times covered it, but where was the New York Times? If you are a news outlet, please help America take our blinders off.

Supporting the troops is not driving around in an SUV with a magnetic yellow ribbon. It's listening to their concerns and acting upon them. It is still possible to view streamed video and hear testimonies on the web through Audio has been cataloged and archived by KPFA Radio at

Peace Out…

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Winter Soldier Reflections

Sitting in on the Winter Soldier Investigation
Alex Primm
Alex is contributor who testified at VVAW WSI, Detroit, 1971, and joined us at WS: Iraq & Afghanistan to observe and to write about the event from a Past Winter Soldier perspective, and to serve on our front gate security group at the site, the George Meany College of Labor, in Silver Springs, Maryland, with his wife Cathy at his side, and in the company of 10 other VetSpeak contributors and supporters who also attended.

Friday, 14.3.08 noon

I'm silent as an hoot owl on the roost in this ample auditorium with some 500+ other diverse citizens... young, old and not many in between... angry, freaked out... aging vets and peaceniks... my people... I feel more comfortable here than anywhere... no one passive, everyone silent and respectful.

We're listening to the Iraq war vets. I've been given a few minutes leave from guard duty by the front gate at the National Labor College where the Winter Soldier Hearings 2 are going on. I can't seem to leave... there is no break from the testimony where I can easily get up and get back to checking people, so I take notes on the Apple and let thoughts stream through me.

A couple is talking about their son... what they say reminds me of one of our foster daughters... not easy stuff to listen to... but riveting.

Nightmares. The son I knew fell apart. Panic attacks. Unable to focus. Balance is compromised. A tree picked from behind the house. PTSD. "Come in to see a therapist as soon as possible. He did. Six employees to get him down and hold him there." Hanging, suffocation or overdose. Should take away the knives and that hose. Or one of these, but outside the house. Three phone calls.

Why should I take the call? Why should I listen? How is it possible not to listen? A mother's words demand involuntarily commitment.

A song now makes sense... this testimony has become unquestionably powerful, so in some ways I'm just as glad the words are not coming thru... how much longer can I sit here... should be back by the gate soon to check out people who might be trying to disrupt these hearings.

I'm just as glad the lights are bright, and for the people who read from prepared texts to track an untimely death. Many deaths... mostly Iraqi, just like we did the Vietnamese... Haji... Gook...

This way hidden wounds can be seen. A suicide will not happen here now. Just grief. A woman leaves weeping. A sister, a mother? Why aren't we all weeping and storming the White House to bring that jerk to justice?

We find ourselves forced into ourselves, alone. But we are not left behind, just sickened... silent... weak... the frail spirit exhausted by this disease of death.

Even this hard chair feels good on my sore butt. It is something real and physical, it is mine and alive. I will not kill myself.

No pain could equal the lone tree and the names of so many more. We are not the only family, the only Gold War Family.

No funds, no staff, no support, so he is ignored. Each story worse than the last.

Even one from Missouri to end things... home from the war a few weeks... nothing helping... no doc can reach him... rampaged in the house last night so the sheriff had to come out... he's he jail now... they are going to charge him... that's all they know to do... keep him in jail... charge him... he's gone crazy.

It's over... time to go back and try to talk to my fellow vets about the past when we were young and crazy with our own senseless war. It still rots within so many souls... so many families... the sacrifice of youth for almost nothing.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Truckin' To Winter Soldier:

Truckin’ to D.C.
Alex Primm
Alex testified at VVAW Winter Soldier Investigation in 1971, and is a Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan on-site correspondent for

Tuesday, 11 March 3 p.m.

Finally we’re on the road, just when gas prices reach a new American record. I’m typing away on the Apple as Cathy drives. I have some things burning to be said.

Gas isn’t really a surprise to Jack, as I’ll call him, a young veteran I talked with yesterday. You’ll see Jack around the county. He’s got a cool new business…

A pushcart. Yes, chrome and everything, reportedly…

Jack’s selling hot dogs and related New York-style deli food. He takes the cart to a local factory then to Big Lots later in the day.

We talked in the Giddy Goat coffee-shop, it wasn’t a good time to meet. I was in the middle of getting ready for this trip and Jack was cooking up a business deal.

He was a student in the last Political Science class I had at East Central College, one of the better students.

“I did eight years active duty as a Marine,” Jack said. “I was seriously thinking about re-upping for another time. But my second tour in Iraq made me think twice,” he said or something to that effect… normally I show articles to people I interview before they are published – for accuracy. In this case, I won’t be able to do that. I don’t have Jack’s e-mail. But I trust myself and Jack enough to know that he will be comfortable with what’s written here.

Jack didn’t hold it over anyone that he was 10 years older and 100 times more experienced than most of the kids – and maybe his instructor too…

Wow, just passed a row of blooming jonquils in woods along U.S. 60 outside Paducah, the first we’ve seen this year. Cath says, “Let’s get out the veggies, I need a break….”

She’s listening to a Nero Wolff mystery… I don’t need a break…I’m glad to have this chance to write… we just passed the Paducah Information Age Industrial Park, which is right across the highway from the Blandville Executive Estates or something like that… America, where everything is possible.

Jack is like that. He did everything right... he went to Afghanistan right after 9.11... chased Bin Laden in the mountains… then later to two deployments in Iraq.

But first he was sent to New York, Ground Zero, a few hours after the towers came down. He was a trained Marine firefighter and spent weeks working cleaning debris that was still burning when he arrived.

"They told me not to wear a mask of any kind,” Jack said. “Don’t worry about the air quality. I know now that was wrong, totally wrong.”

VA doctors have told Jack he has boron-tungsten fibers in his lungs. Unlike other particles he may have inhaled, the boron-tungsten won’t ever come out and it cuts through his lung tissue slowly and steadily. He has lost roughly a third of his breathing capacity and loses a few percent more every year when he is tested. Partial payments for service-connected disabilities help , but it is not enough.

Jack worries whether he will be here to see his young son reach high school. He also wonders why he and all those he served with were sent to Iraq. In his gut he feels it was to keep gasoline prices high, and to enrich President George W. Bush and his corporate supporters.

“I put myself in harm’s way for a war I see as a lie. I also believe we haven’t been told the whole truth about what happened at the Twin Towers,” Jack said.

x x x

We finally reached D.C. about 9 a.m. on Wednesday, the 12th, after a great drive thru the Blue Ridge, stopping only briefly at Seneca Rocks where the10th Mountain Division trained before going overseas during World War Two... an awe-inspiring place as was the traffic on the I-495 beltway to Silver Springs where Winter Soldier 2 is to start tomorrow.

Already it is inspiring to see a few old veteran friends, esp. Willie Hager who we met at Lubbock when I presented a paper on the Winter Soldier 1. We had several presenters who there, at the Texas Tech Vietnam archive, showed how the whole process of soldiers speaking against the Vietnam War were patriotic and as accurate as humanly possible.

Some people consider both the original Winter Soldier in 1971 and the event to begin shortly in D.C. questionable on several levels… that war has always been hell and immoral… and that testimony against it in someway may affect the safety of American troops presently fighting overseas. Do people forget our President Harry S. Truman first rose to national attention when he conducted hearings on war profiteering during World War Two? That was not considered unpatriotic. Veterans who are working to expose the immoral and illegal practices in Iraq are not much different. The veterans will be speaking out on a variety of topics in our current war…

All I can do is urge you to check it out on the live feed the web, or get a copy of Iraq Veterans Against the War’s DVD of WSI 2 which should be available soon. It will shock you more than cost overruns or kickbacks, small potatoes comparatively. But maybe our financial system is falling apart even as we talk.

My student has managed to leave his anger and frustration behind. He won his Associate’s degree at the community college and has begun as business that is paying off. It was great to talk with him… I’d like to do a longer interview with him and other vets who have managed to survive and move on.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Winter Soldier Redux

Escaping Ice in Detroit
Alex Primm

Alex, who testified at the VVAW Winter Soldier Investigation in 1971, shares his thoughts with us as he and his wife Cathy prepare to depart for IVAW's Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan, to be held in Silver Springs, Maryland, March 13th thru 16th, 2008, at the George Meany College of Labor campus.

I can't quite recall how I ended up in my friend's old Mustang driving to Detroit all night one winter without a heater. I mainly remember the drive. Everything else deeply lodged back in dreamland... charged up veterans, Jane Fonda being beautiful and aloof, an angry mass meeting, the cold... all mostly a fog... though fragments now emerge.

Or maybe it wasn't all night because I remember staying at someone's apartment in Valparaiso. John went to college there. He too must have been drafted after graduating.

He was infantry. Me, an Army correspondent. We weren't kids. We knew we had seen some serious craziness. Nothing like what our fathers did.

This is all ancient history, 1971. Were you even alive then? Did Iraq exist then? The CIA?

Sure. Bad stuff was out there. That's why we were on the road with a can of Sterno.

No, no, no... We weren't drinking it... we hadn't sunk that low... we had the little can set in the console between the two bucket seats and kept the blue flame alive. More cornfields than billboards in those days. The tiny fire made it easy to light cigarettes. We were nervous. Might have even been drinking beers as we cruised through the Midwestern night. Crazy and uptight.

x x x

Where we would end up? Reassuringly our goal was Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge in downtown Detroit. Back then HoJos was near the pinnacle of respectability. Comfort and good taste reigned as it advertised something like 28 flavors of ice cream. No one was interested. We were revolutionaries.

The lobby was filled mostly with longhaired scruffy guys wearing cast-off pieces of uniform. Lots of milling around, waiting for the local radicals to find us a flop... or a party. This was the Vietnam Veterans Against the War's first national action, funded largely by Fonda, Graham Nash and others that we learned about later. John and I went, maybe after demonstrating in St. Louis. This was different... no marches... no angry or turgid speakers... no one trying to twist their ideology around your neck.

The actual Winter Soldier Investigation, Numero Uno, took place back in a small ballroom. You went in, registered, showed your paperwork, told your stories from Vietnam and someone would ask questions to make sure you got it right, that it wasn't fake. Some of it was filmed, all of it must have been recorded, transcribed then parts published by Beacon Press later.

x x x

I didn't have much to say as the former editor of the Army's newspaper for the First Logistics Command, a division-sized unit that ran resupply for the Army all over South Vietnam. The Army didn't lie much, we just left out stuff, especially any mention of American casualties or KIAs.

I forget what John testified to. It's probably in the book. When we got back we held a Veterans' Inquiry into the War in St. Louis, spring of '71.

People listened... a few... more and more over time... we had to say what we had seen. We about filled an auditorium at a Lutheran seminary.

We had to talk... we had seen so much waste and craziness.

Luckily we hadn't tried to take over the GM Building in downtown Detroit when WSI was finally over. Some wanted to do that. There was enough anger they almost got their way.

We ended up going by the Detroit Institute of Arts, a sane, peaceful place.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Going Broke... Going Bonkers... Going East...

Alex Primm
Alex testified at the original Winter Soldier Investigation in Detroit in 1971. He will be at Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan, to be held at the George Meany College of Labor in Silver Springs, Maryland. He will be there in support of the current ranks of Winter Soldiers as they Speak Truth To Power, and to the American People.

This March, 2008, marks our 5th anniversary in Iraq... we invaded on the 19th... shock and awe... the same day Cathy and I jumped the broomstick.

It's two days before the equinox... this can put people on edge... caught between two seasons... especially the season of cold and cabin fever.

Our Ozark college town had a demonstration the day before, more than a hundred showed up. Not me. Good luck, they were trying to stop the war even before it started.

I sort of believed President Bush, that Saddam Hussein was a bad guy who was going to blow up America with his secret weapons.

I believed in GWOT... briefly... the Global War on Terror. What happened to that? It seems to have had a short shelf life indeed...

I wanted Ahmad Chalabi to be right... the guy who was going to make Iraq a model democracy... whatever happened to him... another war criminal?

Has it all come down to Iraq? Who has benefited from the trillions of dollars... the thousands killed?

Iraq and the price of gas... and the price of bread... or heat... or life.

Everything going up... prices... casualties... confusion... frustration.

So why not go to D.C., the center of it all? That's where the Iraq Veterans Against the War are holding their investigation of this war... the Winter Soldier Investigation... numero dos.

Cathy's an intrepid traveler... let's go... it can't hurt. The same energetic attitude she had 25 years ago.

What finally made up my mind was talking with Willie Hager... a Vietnam vet like me... a smart dude with a good sense of balance who can laugh at this craziness because he saw beaucoup daily in Nam.

"You testified at the first WSI," Willie said. "You oughta think about coming to help these young vets now. Help get their stories out."
So, Cathy and I are going East; for memories, and for the future.

In from a friend...pass it on...

To Whom It Concerns:

I have to side with Willie and others as to the need for supporting the Winter Soldier movement when it comes forth. The American people want and deserve to hear the truth. The truth is not spoken any harsher than from those that served in the war in Iraq. This event will be an all out needed support from ALL VETERANS groups, pro and con against the war. Veterans have and need the support of one another, since the govt. seems to always deny what has happened to them in their effort to defend for America's Freedoms. As that old saying goes...."I don't agree with what you say...but I defend, to death, your right to say it..."

The last protest I attended was against the 1st Iraq invasion. As a combat veteran, I feel it is my duty to support and aid my fellow veterans in harms way. I also agree that some sort of new tactic be aligned to help in the anti-war movement. In today's arena, I don't think dissent among veterans is the way to proceed. I support total support for the Winter Soldier agenda.
Thanks for your ear. I usually don't say anything, anymore, but this is a time to stand together and aide our fellow veterans....

Vietnam 68-69