On Monday, Inter Press Service reported on the Winter Soldier hearings last weekend at Seattle Town Hall.[1]  --  As his lead Dahr Jamail used testimony from Seth Manzel, a Pierce County IVAW member who has attended UFPPC meetings.  --  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer also published an account.[2]  --  The University of Washington’s daily paper also reported on the event.[3] ...



By Dahr Jamail

Inter Press Service
June 2, 2008


[PHOTO CAPTION: Iraq War veteran Seth Manzel testifies about the torture of Iraqi detainees during the Northwest Regional Winter Soldier Hearings.]

SEATTLE -- Dozens of veterans from the U.S. occupation of Iraq converged in this West Coast city over the weekend to share stories of atrocities being committed daily in Iraq, in a continuation of the "Winter Soldier" hearings held in Silver Spring, Maryland in March.

At the Seattle Town Hall, some 800 people gathered to hear the testimonies of veterans from Iraq. The event was sponsored by the Northwest Regional Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), and endorsed by dozens of local and regional anti-war groups like Veterans for Peace and Students for a Democratic Society.

"I watched Iraqi Police bring in someone to interrogate," Seth Manzel, a vehicle commander and machine gunner in the U.S. Army, told the audience. "There were four men on the prisoner . . . one was pummeling his kidneys with his fists, another was inserting a bottle up his rectum. It looked like a frat house gang-rape."

Manzel joined the army after 9/11 for economic reasons -- he'd just been laid off, and his wife had just had a baby. Manzel told another story of military medics he was with in Tal Afar who refused to treat an elderly man in their detention center. Manzel described the old man as being jaundiced and lying on the ground, writhing in pain.

"The medics said the old man was just being lazy and they were not authorized to treat detainees," Manzel said.

Jan Critchfield worked as an army journalist while attached to the 1st Cavalry in Baghdad during 2004. "I was with a unit that shot at a man and wife near a checkpoint," Critchfield said. "She had been shot through her shinbone, and that was the first story I covered in Iraq."

Critchfield told the audience that his unspoken job in Iraq was to "counter the liberal media bias" about the occupation.

"Our target audience was in the U.S., and the emphasis was reporting on humanitarian aid missions the military conducted," Critchfield said. "I don't know how many stories I reported on chicken drops (distributing frozen chickens in a community). I don't know what else you can call that, other than propaganda. I would find the highest ranking person I could get, and quote them verbatim without fact checking anything they said."

Other veterans told of lax rules of engagement that led to the slaughter of innocent civilians in Iraq.

"We were told we'd be deploying to Iraq and that we needed to get ready to have little kids and women shoot at us," Sergio Kochergin, a former Marine who served two deployments in Iraq, told the audience. "It was an attempt to portray Iraqis as animals. We were supposed to do humanitarian work, but all we did was harass people, drive like crazy on the streets, pretending it was our city and we could do whatever we wanted to do."

As the other veterans on the panel nodded in agreement, Kochergin continued, "We were constantly told everybody there wants to kill you, everybody wants to get you. In the military, we had racism within every rank and it was ridiculous. It seemed like a joke, but that joke turned into destroying peoples' lives in Iraq."

"I was in Husaiba with a sniper platoon right on the Syrian border and we would basically go out on the town and search for people to shoot," Kochergin said. "The rules of engagement (ROE) got more lenient the longer we were there. So if anyone had a bag and a shovel, we were to shoot them. We were allowed to take our shots at anything that looked suspicious. And at that point in time, everything looked suspicious."

Kochergin added, "Later on, we had no ROE at all. If you see something that doesn't seem right, take them out." He concluded by saying, "Enough is enough, it's time to get out of there."

Doug Connor was a first lieutenant in the army and worked as a surgical nurse in Iraq. While there he worked as part of a combat support unit, and said most of the patients he treated were Iraqi civilians.

"There were so many people that needed treatment we couldn't take all of them," he said. "When a bombing happened and 45 patients were brought to us, it was always Americans treated first, then Kurds, then the Arabs."

Connor added quietly, "It got to the point where we started calling the Iraqi patients 'range balls' because, just like on the driving range (in golf), you don't care about losing them."

Channan Suarez Diaz was a Navy hospital corpsman who returned from Iraq with a purple heart, among other medals. He served in Ramadi from September 2004 to February 2005 with a weapons company. He is now the Seattle Chapter president of IVAW.

"Our commanding officer wanted us to go through a route that another platoon did and was completely wiped out in an ambush," Diaz explained. "We refused. They canceled that mission and we didn't go. I don't think these are isolated incidents. I think this is happening every day in Iraq. The military doesn't want you to know about this, because it's kind of like lighting a fire in a prairie."

The first Winter Soldier event was organized in 1971 by Vietnam Veterans Against the War in response to a growing list of human rights violations occurring in Vietnam.

From Mar. 13-16, 2008, IVAW held a national conference titled "Winter Solider: Iraq and Afghanistan" outside Washington, D.C. The four-day event brought together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.


By Lisa Stiffler

** Stories recount experiences in Iraq **

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
June 1, 2008


One former soldier recounted an interrogation of an Iraqi by his fellow combatants so brutal he likened it to "a frat house gang rape."

Another was still troubled not by his close brushes with death, but by the times he nearly shot innocent Iraqi civilians.

And a third was exasperated and puzzled by being asked to fulfill what he called "ridiculous" orders to harass Iraqi residents and was discouraged from helping those in distress.

He called the war "immoral and absurd."

All came together Saturday afternoon at Seattle's Town Hall to share their troubling and sometimes graphic war stories in the hopes that they will inspire and motivate a largely silent public to call for an end to the military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a counterpoint to calls to continue the occupation, nearly a dozen U.S. soldiers, a military wife, the mother of a soldier and a doctor treating veterans with psychiatric problems told their anti-war stories to a respectful audience that filled the hall.

Former Army Sgt. Joshua Simpson served in Mosul with an intelligence team trying to get information about insurgent forces attacking Americans.

"Ninety-five percent of the people we arrested had nothing to do with the insurgency, but we were still told to interrogate them," Simpson told the crowd.

He'd scream and yell at the prisoners, sometimes reducing them to tears or self-abuse such as hitting their heads repeatedly against the wall. He saw prisoners horribly bruised and bloodied by Iraqi interrogators. He wants the war to end.

"We need to support the troops who refuse to fight," Simpson said.

The event was organized by the nonprofit Iraq Veterans Against the War, which is working for an immediate end to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the payment of reparations to the Iraqi and Afghan people for harm caused in the wars, and full funding for the Veterans Health Administration to better provide medical care for returning veterans.

There didn't appear to be any counterprotesters at Saturday's Town Hall event, which was called Northwest Winter Soldier. It was modeled on the first Winter Soldier protest held in 1971 in opposition to the Vietnam War and also organized by veterans.

After the speakers finished, a march was scheduled through downtown.

The soldiers called on U.S. lawmakers to cut funding and force the Bush administration to stop what they saw as an unjust, unwarranted war.

"The longer we're over there," said Joshua Farris, a former Army specialist in Iraq, "the more it will inflame the violence when we leave."

Many said they went to Iraq hoping to help civilians, but found that often wasn't the case. U.S. troops frequently referred to all Iraqis and Middle Easterners as "hajji," an ethnic slur. In medical units, they became "range balls," meaning they were like the golf balls hit on driving ranges that are of low value and that you don't mind losing.

The veterans called for better medical support for returning soldiers, saying they'd see friends suffering from untreated post-traumatic stress, leading to suicide, domestic violence and divorce.

"Where is our government when they need them the most?" asked Tracy Malzan, who spoke along with her husband, Seth, who served as an Army sergeant. "We must talk about these issues every day ... until every service member comes home."

To learn more about Iraq Veterans Against the War visit ivaw.org/chapter/seattle

Information about Northwest Winter Soldier can be found at givoice.org

P-I reporter Lisa Stiffler can be reached at 206-448-8042 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Read her blog on the environment at datelineearth.com.


By Aditya Ganapathiraju

Daily (University of Washington-Seattle)
June 2, 2008


They bear the constant and invisible reminders of war. But on Saturday, Iraq veterans had the opportunity to share what they have experienced at the Northwest Winter Soldier, hosted by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).

A dozen men and women, ranging from soldiers and Marines to spouses and parents, walked up to the lecturn in Seattle’s town hall and told stories that have rarely been reported in the mainstream media.

Speakers described the widespread dehumanization that occurred during their service. For instance, Iraqis are referred to by epithets like “raghead,” said the vets.

Navy corpsman Chanan Suarez Diaz was wounded by an rocket propelled grenade attack while he was attached to a Marine infantry unit. He recalled two Marines in another unit bragging about shooting a civilian in the stomach and later described the shooting of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl.

He asked the audience, If your country was occupied and someone in your family was shot, how would you feel afterward?

Twenty-three-year-old Sergio Kochergin, who served two tours with the 7th Marines as a scout and sniper, said that the dehumanization and racism was institutionalized even before they were in the country. He described how the rules of engagement deteriorated quickly, and eventually got “kicked out the window,” as his unit’s casualties mounted.

“We’re not trying to get anyone in trouble here; we are just trying to represent the reality on the ground,” said Jan Critchfield, who worked as an army journalist in Iraq attached to the 1st Calvary Division. “It’s not all roses over there, and we don’t want anyone to get that illusion.”

When asked what his feelings were of the event, Master Sgt. Corey Sanders, senior military science instructor at the UW’s ROTC, said he defended these former military members’ right to demonstrate against the war. He said he would continue to do so as long they told the truth and did not resort to violence or violate the law.

“Mistreating civilians serves no purpose, as it only makes an already tough job even harder,” Sanders, a soldier of 22 years and veteran of both the Iraq war and Desert Storm, wrote in an e-mail. Soldiers dislike war and have an obligation to report atrocities, he wrote.

Many speakers, including Col. Ann Wright, who resigned in protest on the eve of the war, talked about the GI resistance movement within the active duty military.

Independent journalist and author Dahr Jamail told the *Daily* that he spoke to veterans across the country who said it was “really, really common” to go on so-called “search and avoid” missions.

Jamail described disillusioned soldiers who wondered how they would prevent themselves, their comrades, or any Iraqis, from being killed. Jamail said that many would go on fake patrols in which a unit would drive to a parking lot or empty field and radio in bogus reports, as if they were searching for insurgents, meanwhile spending their time smoking cigarettes and drinking soda.

“Yeah, I saw a lot of good things over there,” said Jim Lundstrom, a sergeant with the 3rd Infantry Division. “But overall, it was destruction . . . and disruption of the Iraqi people and their country. We have to come together and speak out [about] why we believe this occupation is wrong, immoral, and unjust.”

The veterans directed their frustration at policymakers in Washington, especially at Democrats, whom they said have failed to live up to their promises to end the war.

They didn’t express much hope for the current candidates either, because their positions on Iraq do not include a full withdrawal, which is one of IVAW’s main principles.

Additionally, the group is pressing for reparations to the people of Iraq and full veterans benefits for returning GIs. Many of the soldiers at the rally lamented about the uphill battle in receiving proper care for their injuries when they returned home from the war.