It is being billed as the first full-scale testimony in Congress by anti-Iraq war veterans, and it's a shame it has taken this long. The statement by Matthis Chiroux, 24, who is now refusing to be deployed to Iraq -- after serving in Afghanistan and elsewhere -- will surely get the most attention, but don't miss the rest.
"I stand before you today with the strength and clarity and resolve to declare to the military, my government and the world that this soldier will not be deploying to Iraq," Chiroux said in a House rotunda today. "My decision is based on my desire to no longer continue violating my core values to support an illegal and unconstitutional occupation... I refuse to participate in the Iraq occupation," he said, as a dozen veterans of the war watched.
But there was so much more, following equally vivid testimony yesterday by antiwar vets to the Progressive Caucus in Congress. It may explain why I, and others, have been focusing on the surging vet suicide rate and the 300,000 suffering mental issues.
Former army sergeant Kristofer Goldsmith spoke today of "lawless murders, looting and the abuse of countless Iraqis." He said he had "self-medicated" for several months to treat the wounds of the war.
A terrific AFP report (see link) observed, "A group of veterans sitting in the hearing room gazed blankly as their comrades' testimonies shattered the official version that the US effort in Iraq is succeeding.
"Almost to a man, the soldiers who testified denounced serious flaws in the chain of command in Iraq."
Luis Montalvan, a former army captain, accused high-ranking US officers of numerous failures in Iraq, including turning a blind eye to massive fraud on the part of US contractors.
Ex-Marine Jason Lemieux told how a senior officer had altered a report he had written because it slammed US troops of using excessive force, firing off thousands of rounds of machine gun fire and hundreds of grenades in the face of a feeble four rounds of enemy fire.
Goldsmith accused US officials of censorship.
"Everyone who manages a blog, Facebook or My Space out of Iraq has to register every video, picture, document of any event they do on mission," Goldsmith told AFP after the hearing.
"You're almost always denied before you are allowed to send them home."
Officials take "hard facts and slice them into small pieces to make them presentable to the secretary of state or the president -- and all with the intent of furthering the occupation of Iraq," Goldsmith added.
This is far from the end of this, as you well know.
Greg Mitchell's new book features several chapters on vet suicides and related issues. It is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq.