"We are your new Winter Soldiers"
Camilo Mejia, chair of Iraq Vets Against War on GI resistance
Winter Soldier testimonials
CAMILO MEJIA, CHAIR, IVAW: My name is Camilo Mejia. I’m an Iraq War veteran and resister, and I chair the board of directors at Iraq Veterans Against the War. And I want to take this opportunity to say to the members that it’s been a true honor to be here with you and to meet many of you for the first time. Thank you all for coming. Thanks everyone for being here. This has been an immense success. We could not be happier than we are. I would like to start my remarks by saying that if you are a Vietnam veteran, a member of VVAW, and especially if you attended the first Winter Soldier investigation, please stand. Thank you. There’s a long history of resistance in our military, but it is because of your leadership and your strength and your resistance that we stand here today. Without your example, we would be pushing forward through darkness. It is with the torch that you passed on to us that we lead the way against an endless, illegitimate occupation that’s tearing apart our military and our country. Today is the last day of Winter Soldier Iraq and Afghanistan, but today also marks the birth of a new generation of Winter Soldiers. George Orwell once wrote, "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes an act of rebellion." We live today in times of universal deceit. But throughout the past four days, we have witnessed firsthand accounts that challenge that universal deceit. Iraq Veterans Against the War has become a source of stress to the military brass and to the government. We have members who have been interrogated by the FBI. We have members sitting in this room who have been incarcerated for being conscientious objectors. We have been incarcerated for standing up to and saying no to command rape and sexual discrimination. We have members in Iraq Veterans Against the War who have been prosecuted for being publicly critical of our government’s failed war policies. We have become a dangerous group of people not because of our military training, but because we have dared to challenge the official story, because of members of the military, we have dared to share our experiences, because we have dared to think for ourselves, because we have dared to analyze and be critical, because we have dared to follow our conscience, because we have dared to go beyond patriotism to embrace humanity. The servicemembers and veterans who have shared our experiences with you and with the entire world are committing an act of resistance by being here. We resist the notion of free speech and democracy when the voices of those who have been the most affected by the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are being silenced by the government and by the corporate media. We refuse the notion of nation building in Iraq when our levies are breaking at home and our people are drowning, and when our own bridges are falling down. We resist and reject the official government rhetoric of "support our troops" when we have a whole new military generation returning home to no care for posttraumatic stress disorder, to homelessness, to disturbingly high levels of suicide, homicide, and domestic violence. We have heard heartbreaking testimony. We who have been there have seen the horror in the eyes of children whose doors we kicked down at three in the morning. We have learned that to treat other people with humanity, we have to treat our own people with humanity. We cannot win the hearts and minds of any country until we win the hearts and minds of our own people, until we eradicate homophobia within our ranks, until we treat our own people as equals regardless of their gender or the color of their skin. You have heard our three points of unity: immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all occupying forces, full benefits to all military personnel, and reparations to the people of Iraq so they can rebuild their country on their own terms. We at IVAW are not going to rest until we achieve these three goals. As IVAW’s longtime friend and adviser Stan Goff once said, we are still soldiers, which is not their soldiers anymore. We are your new Winter Soldiers. Thank you.
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