Iraq and the Return of the “Winter Soldier”
On Easter Sunday morning, I appeared on WJAR 10’s News Conference. The topic was the Iraq War after five years and I was paired with a nice young Iraq War veteran, now a Brown student, who opposes the war. I appreciated the work of Jim Taricani and Bill Rappley. The conversation was quite civil.
The other fellow identified himself as a member of an organization called “Iraq Veterans Against the War” (IVAW). Two weeks ago, IVAW convened a conference in Silver Spring, Maryland, entitled Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan — Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations. Modeling itself on the 1971 Winter Soldier Investigation (WSI), which of course provided the text for John Kerry’s infamous testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee later that year, the Silver Spring event claimed to “feature testimony from U.S. veterans who served in [the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan], giving an accurate account of what is really happening day in and day out, on the ground.” But as I argue in today’s National Review Online, the event was, in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, like déjà vu all over again.
The good news is that WSI II seems to have had the impact of a wet firecracker. Despite the predisposition on the part of many in the press and politics to believe the worst about U.S. troops in Iraq, viz. John Murtha and the Marines in Hadithah, this event has not garnered much press attention. I try to explain why in my NRO piece.
The biggest difference between now and 1971 is that today’s soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan can rely on those who suffered through the post-Vietnam War era—-assisted by the internet and the blogosphere—-to give them the benefit of the doubt and to hold accountable those who make outrageous claims about them. Thus anyone who is really interested will discover that IVAW has about 800 members, which represents a miniscule percentage of those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile reenlistment rates for the Army and the Marine Corps have been in excess of 100 percent for many months now.
Interested parties will also discover that despite the organization’s name, a large percentage of its members have not deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan. And finally they will discover that several prominent IVAW have severe credibility problems, including the infamous Jesse MacBeth. The lack of coverage of this event gives me hope that today’s reporters are less credulous than were there predecessors. We shall see.