Iraq war comes to Congress
Iraq Veterans Against the War was founded in 2004 to give those who have served in the military since September 11, 2001 a way to come together and speak out against an unjust, illegal and unwinnable occupation. Today, IVAW has over 1,000 members in 48 states, Washington, DC and Canada and on military bases overseas.
MATTHEW PALEVSKY, JOURNALIST, TRNN: Two months ago, The Real News covered a three-day symposium held by Iraq Veterans Against the War, where veterans from both Iraq and Afghanistan testified to their experience and why they believe the war should be ended. Today they were invited into the halls of Congress by the Progressive Caucus, on the same day that Congress is to vote on supplemental funding for the war on Iraq, funding Iraq into ’09.
VINCENT EMANUELE, FORMER US MARINE: My name is Vincent J. R. Emanuele. I am a resident of Indiana, and I served with the United States Marine Corps from September 2002 through January 2006 with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, Alpha Company, 3rd Platoon, as a rifleman and a squad automatic machine gunner. We would encounter mortar fire on a daily basis. Most of the time, we would return this fire with mortar fire of our own. Some of the time, counter-battery would call in a specific location for us to exchange fire. On occasion, when the counter-battery could not call in a specific location, our unit would fire upon the town anyway, sometimes in the hills off to the west of the town, where we thought the mortar fire was coming from, and other times straight into the town of Al Qaim itself, onto buildings, houses, and businesses. Another mission our platoon was tasked to take on was that of transporting prisoners from our detention facility on base back to the desert. The reason I say the desert and not their town is because that is exactly where we would drop them off—in the middle of nowhere. Now, most of these men had obviously been deemed innocent, or else they would have been moved to a more permanent detention facility and not released back into the local population. Our unit engaged in punching, kicking, butt stroking, or generally harassing and abusing these very prisoners, until the point at which our unit would take them in the middle of the desert, miles from their respective homes, and at times throw them out of the back of our Humvees, all the while continually punching, kicking, and at times even throwing softball-size rocks at their backs as they ran away.
ADAM KOKESH, SERVED WITH 3RD CIVIL AFFAIRS GROUP: In the two weeks between being activated and deploying to Iraq, I learned that what we were doing in civil affairs was going to be working with the Iraqi people on schools and mosques and clinics and water projects, and to me it sounded like exactly what the president was promising that we would be doing in Iraq. And I was very excited about that. I thought that we were going to be the tip of the spear. And I had to go to Iraq myself to find out that that was not the case, and that the greatest enemies of the Constitution are not to be found in the sands of Fallujah, but are right here in Washington, DC. At one point during the siege of Fallujah, we decided that we were going to allow women and children to leave the city. We thought this was the most magnanimous thing we could have done. However, it’s clear that we’re giving these families an impossible choice: whether they can stay together with their families intact, or split their families up and hope that half of them end up with something better. But all that we had to offer them was literally the mosque across the street—good luck. And what happened there can only be described as either the deliberate or careless creation of internally displaced refugees. I realize that we in civil affairs were a fig leaf. We were there to make the occupation look good. We even came up with a slogan to justify our existence to the infantry commanders that we had to beg to be able to get out and do our missions, and it was "We care so that you don’t have to."
PALEVSKY (VOICEOVER): An army weapons showcase took place simultaneously in a room directly below these hearings. Army personnel stood in front of nearly a dozen separate stations, each displaying newly developed weapon technology that was under consideration for further funding by Congress. One of these programs, titled the Future Combat System, was seeking nearly $200 billion, with a GI bill to increase veteran benefits also under consideration. I asked Adam Kokesh from Iraq Veterans Against the War about Congress’ allocation of funding to the military.
KOKESH: Well, when I got to Iraq, we had to sandbag our Humvees because we didn’t have armor for them, and, you know, that that was the case in February 2004; it was pretty pathetic. And some of those supply chain issues were simply that, and some of them have been addressed. But the larger issue of putting us in a situation where we are bleeding blood and treasure is still criminal. When an F16 crashes, they go and pick up every single piece of it with a pair of tweezers and send it to the lab, and they reexamine it, and they have a white board, and they try to figure out exactly what happened. But when a veteran commits suicide, it’s swept under the rug. And you can say that, well, you know, it’s just a veteran, he’s not under the purview of the DOD anymore, and so on and so forth; but when an active-duty member commits suicide, it’s the same story, and it just shows you where our priorities lie. And as I said in my testimony, I think that the policies of this administration really have poisoned not just the military and society, but our values, our core values as a country. And that idea that we’re going to look good before we’re going to do right is, I think, really responsible for a lot of this.
PALEVSKY (VO): IVAW ended these hearings with a specific request for Congress.
GEOFFREY MILLARD, IVAW: —and immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq. Congress can make this happen today by voting down continued funding for the occupation. We the troops are asking you not to fund the killing of more of our brothers and sisters in arms.
PALEVSKY (VO): Against all expectations, House Democrats answered this request by voting down the $163 billion supplemental by an eight-vote margin. After the hearings I spoke with Progressive Caucus co-chairs Lee and Woolsey.
REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA), CO-CHAIR, PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS: Well, I think this is a very powerful, historic moment. And I will discuss this with my colleagues, Congresswomen Waters and Woolsey. But I think our next step should be to go to the Armed Services Committee and to the Foreign Affairs Committee and try to request the committee chairs to have some formal hearings.
REP. LYNN WOOLSEY (D-CA), CO-CHAIR, PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS: The American people are losing domestically because of the costs of this Iraq occupation. The American people know it. They also know that we’re in a recession. It’s the George Bush-Iraq recession, and they know that also. And the people that work for them in the House of Representatives need to catch up with the American people and do the right thing and get us out of there.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.