This month from the 13th to the 16th hundreds of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will testify about what the war is really about.
This year, from March 13 to 16, about 300 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, gathering for a second Winter Soldier conference, in Silver Spring, Maryland. Organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) it will make up the largest gathering ever of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Their mission? To tell the story of the war in the terms of those who have actually lived it.
“This is a moment when veterans won’t let anyone else speak for us,” said Aaron Hughes, an Iraq veteran who initiated the new Winter Soldier effort. “We hear from the pundits, we hear from the politicians, we hear from the generals, but we don’t hear from the soldiers who’ve walked the streets, who’ve been there and know what it’s about. We’re the ones who can bring out the cruelties and dehumanization in US foreign policy.”
The event, which will accommodate about 700 veteran advocates, social workers, support staff and members of the media in addition to veterans, will combine soldier testimonies and expert panels. The panels are intended to provide a factual context for the personal stories, according to Perry O’Brien, one of Winter Soldier’s organizers. Panels and testimony will be grouped into 12 categories, including killing and wounding noncombatants, mishandling of dead, torture and abuse, sexual assault, discrimination in the military, destruction of civilian property, veterans’ benefits issues and GI resistance.