Why is that? Do soldiers telling the truth about Iraq pose a problem? Why yes, yes they do. Americans must not find out how some of our soldiers behave when the embedded journalists aren't around. They'd fall right onto the fainting couch. For the forces unleashed in 2003 by Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush, Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzalez have whipped through Iraq many times now, reverberating through each hollowed out human being forced by circumstances to survive there for a time.
Officially 4,000 soldiers have died, never to tell their stories. Many others survive as shadows of their former selves. But of those who come back more or less whole, a few seem really quite angry. Some of those angry soldiers spoke at the Winter Soldier hearings.
The so-called Winter Soldier gathering organised by Iraq Veterans Against the War was designed to demonstrate that well-publicised incidents of U.S. brutality, including the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the massacre of an entire family of Iraqis in the town of Haditha, are not isolated incidents perpetrated by "a few bad apples," as many politicians and military leaders have claimed. They are part of a pattern, the organisers said, of "an increasingly bloody occupation".These soldiers took to organizing themselves because they object to being used for corrupt purposes. Dick Cheney's assertion that "they volunteered" notwithstanding, a few of them intend to use their civil rights.
"We have the power to bring the troops home, when they throw down their weapons and refuse to fight," said Phil Aliff, a recently discharged combat veteran, who helped start the first active duty chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War at Fort Drum in upstate New York.
When you're in the military, you are a citizen soldier," Rappenhagen said. "You still retain your rights as a citizen and you're able to use those rights."But this attitude causes nothing but problems for those intent on Supporting the Troops. How can you support the troops if the troops tell you they've been allowed and even encouraged to commit war crimes? That won't do. Americans can only comfortably support the troops when they believe that all soldiers are clean-cut boyscout types who say Yes Sir and No Ma'am and help old ladies with their groceries and exhibit the best military values of duty, honor and sacrifice at all times, even under the tremendous duress of war. We are a proud people who like to hold our views in comfort.
To critics of his activities, Rappenhagen said: "It'll be a shame if the actual use of your first amendment right [to freedom of speech] becomes unpatriotic."
Winter Soldier testimony makes Americans uncomfortable - the cardinal sin. Cognitive dissonance reduces support for the war and generates inconvenient political turbulence. Therefore, no Winter Soldiers testimony shall be allowed on network TV.
And so it came to pass.
These increasing calls for GI resistance came amid an almost complete media blackout from the large U.S. news organisations.The corporate media puts forth a valiant effort to hide the truth, but it won't work. Too many people have burned with curiosity and interest about too many things, and now the answers they found lay strewn all over the internet in blogs, videos and alternative news sites. Some of the soldiers came back able to think and articulate what they saw, what they did and what it means.
Though the gathering was timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and was held in Silver Spring, Maryland less than 10 miles from the White House, the personal testimonies of hundreds of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans garnered only a small article in the metro section of the Washington Post. The New York Times¸ CNN, ABC, NBC, and CBS ignored it completely.
Five years into the war, the country appears to be back where it started in terms of media coverage. A study by the Pew Research Centre last week revealed only 28 percent of respondents correctly said about 4,000 U.S. citizens have died in the war. Most thought the number was closer to 2,000 or 3,000.
According to the same survey, overall media coverage of the war dropped from an average of 15 percent of stories in July 2007 to just 3 percent in February 2008.
Problematic? Only if you're still very comfortable.