The Winter Soldier, Iraq and Afghanistan hearings organized by the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will begin on March 13th. During the four day event, scholars and most importantly, veterans and civilians with personal experiences of war, will attempt to educate the American public about the nature and the reality of the Bush Administration's alleged war against terrorism. There will be those, no doubt, some veterans themselves, who will be offended by these hearings and will regard the testimony given by these courageous individuals as unpatriotic, un-American, unsupportive of the troops, perhaps even as treasonous. Such condemnation and opposition to Winter Soldier, Iraq and Afghanistan is unwarranted and misguided, perhaps, for some, a remnant of a deep seated resentment regarding earlier Winter Soldier hearings in which veterans testified regarding their experiences fighting the war in Vietnam.
It is not the purpose of Winter Soldier to malign or disparage America, but to begin a dialogue regarding the morality, legality, and necessity of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. To tell the truth about war does not diminish this nation. If anything, it affirms America's greatness, and the commitment of its citizens to truth and justice. With the war in Iraq entering it's sixth year with no end in sight, it is time, long past time, that all Americans at least become aware of the nature of war and of its cost in human lives and national treasure.
Neither is it the purpose of W inter Soldier to diminish the efforts and sacrifices of members of the military. To tell the truth about war, though difficult and disconcerting, will ultimately prove uplifting and curative as the legacy, dignity, self-respect, and integrity of our servicemen and women, rests not upon fantasy, lies, and fabrications but upon their commitment to America and to freedom. Though veterans must accept some personal responsibility for their actions, all who supported the war or did nothing to stop it must share culpability. Most blameworthy, of course, are those political leaders, whose misguided policies, incompetence, and paranoia ultimately makes killing, dying, and grieving inevitable.
Winter Soldier is a wakeup call to all Americans that our nation is in peril and that what threatens the fabric and foundations of our way of life in these dangerous times is not some amorphous, enigmatic horde of bloodthirsty terrorists. Rather it is the assault upon truth, individual freedom, and the values of justice and morality we hold sacred. Further, Winter Soldier is an admonition that to avoid hypocrisy, we must have the moral courage to look at and to judge our own behavior with at least as much honesty and scrutiny as we view and judge the behavior of others.
Unfortunately and tragically, perhaps war is a reality that will not soon go away and sacrifices on the field of battle will again be required. However, by demanding truth and recognizing war as it truly is, we will begin to resolve the divisiveness that plagues our nation, and provide veterans and devastated families the opportunity to heal and to achieve some semblance of normalcy in their lives. Further, we will ensure that war remains a means of last resort, that no other person will again have to kill, die, or grieve the loss of their son or daughter for a cause that is misguided, and, perhaps, most important, that those who dare to initiate such wars and connive to use deception and myth to encourage participation and support are held responsible for their crimes against humanity.
Is it truly support, therefore, to remain silent when our troops are placed in harm's way unnecessarily, to kill and be killed subject to the whims and ineptitudes of our political leaders? Who can dispute that sending inadequately prepared National Guard troops into combat and then failing to provide them with body and vehicle armor is unconscionable and criminally negligent. The fact that so many of our heroic sons and daughters are languishing abandoned, their emotional and psychological injuries untreated, and their needs ignored, is a national tragedy and disgrace. The fact that America has become isolated in the world, respected no longer for its ideals, but feared for its brutality, no longer admired for its values of justice and freedom, but hated for its hypocrisy and intolerance, should bring a tear to the eye and anger to the heart of anyone who truly loves America. Such outrage requires, no demands, the true patriot, the Winter Soldier, to embrace truth and to cry out in condemnation and protest against this corrupting and disgracing of America by those political leaders and their coconspirators who cherish not our values and way of life but only wealth and power.