US war veterans rebel at NATO Summit meetings

Tuesday 22 May 2012, 7:33PM
By Peter Drew

“The military hands out cheap tokens like this to soldiers in an attempt to fill the void where their conscience used to be once they indoctrinate it out of you." -- Iraq Veteran Against the War, May 21, 2012


“Winter Soldiers”, the Real American Heroes, Speaking Unwelcome Truth to NATO Power


by Gary G. Kohls, MD


"These are the times that try men's souls. The summertime soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." -- Thomas Paine


“US Soldiers take an oath to defend their country against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”-- A reminder from the testimony from many of the Winter Soldiers on the Hill who gave testimony exposing the atrocities committed in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and pointing to the domestic enemies, the warmongers that sent them overseas to make murder for the state, April, 2010 - http://www.ivaw.org/operation-recovery


“Our enemies are not 7,000 miles from home. They sit in boardrooms. They are CEOs. They are bankers. They are hedge fund managers. They do not live 7,000 miles from home. Our enemies are right here, and we look at them every day. They are not the men and women who are standing on this police line. They are the millionaires and billionaires who control this planet, and we’ve had enough of it. So they can take their medals back.”—statement  from a decorated Iraq War Veteran, about to throw his combat medals at the international war profiteers who were gathered at the NATO Summit in Chicago, May 20 – 21, 2012.


I just finished listening to this Monday’s edition of Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now: The War and Peace Report, the weekday hour-long morning news show that the wonderful University of Minnesota-Duluth’s campus radio station (KUMD 103.3 FM) broadcasts every weekday morning at 9 am.


Goodman’s May 21st show was broadcast live from Chicago this morning and featured coverage of many of the anti-war protesters at the NATO Summit meetings.


The continued existence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, begs the question, “so what is a military coalition of north Atlantic nations, having outlived their original and now obsolete post-WWII purpose (militant anti-communism) doing with their high-tech mass slaughter in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, nations that never had the resources to really fight back?”. Answer: Massive Mission Creep, costing unknown trillions of dollars, and keeping the war profiteers of the capitalist world’s military/industrial complex alive and well while simultaneously ruthlessly enforcing the not-so-hidden greedy agendas of the ruling elite.


The NATO Summit in Chicago has attracted large numbers of nonviolent national and international anti-war, pro-peace, pro-justice, anti-fascist, Occupy Wall Street groups that are protesting NATO warmongering elite, which has been accurately described as the “international police-state arm of the global 1%”.


During today’s opening Democracy Now segment I found myself actually choking up as I listened to the powerful statements of the dozens of courageous, truly patriotic members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (www.ivaw.org) who then threw their medals in the direction of the NATO Summit meetings.


”In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.“ -- George Orwell


The testimony of these disgruntled, traumatized and repentant veteran-victims of US militarism, who were credible witnesses (as well as sorrowful perpetrators) of both Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, reminded me of the powerful Winter Soldier testimony of the equally traumatized Vietnam War veterans in 1971 who gathered at various sites around the nation and told their sobering personal stories about the atrocities they had witnessed and/or committed during the horrendous misadventure in Vietnam, the “Land of the Burning Children” (ie napalm-burned children). Some of those brave Vietnam Veterans Against the War (www.vvaw.org) and members of my Veterans for Peace organization (http://www.veteransforpeace.org/) were also there in Chicago, in solidarity with the newest veterans who had also been duped into thinking that they should kill innocent humans when ordered to do so by the ruling elite.


What moved me the most about the 1971 Winter Soldier anti-war actions was the hurling of war medals at the US Congress building in Washington, DC. Those inspiring symbolic acts were repeated today in Chicago and I am not ashamed to say that it moved me.


George Orwell talks about the heroism of those who act on their consciences and disobey the orders of the tyrants. Orwell said, ”In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.“ Iraq war veterans throwing their war medals at the warmongers who put them at high risk of spiritual, mental and physical death, is doing something that is probably against the law, making it is a very courageous and revolutionary act.


These are not sunshine patriots who, when their war was over, shrank away from the service of their country; and, by speaking the unwelcome truths about their wars and the real enemies who were at home all the time, deserve the love and thanks of us all. May their heroic acts be instruments of their healing from their PTSD, sexual trauma, traumatic brain injuries, legal and illegal drug addictions and suicidality.


Here are some excerpts from the May 21st actions, starting with an introduction from one of IVAW organizers of the event. (The segment is 24 minutes long and can be viewed at: http://www.democracynow.org/2012/5/21/no_nato_no_war_us_veterans.)


“At this time, one by one, veterans of the wars of NATO will walk up on stage. They will tell us why they chose to return their medals to NATO. I urge you to honor them by listening to their stories. Nowhere else will you hear from so many who fought these wars about their journey from fighting a war to demanding peace. Some of us killed innocents. Some of us helped in continuing these wars from home. Some of us watched our friends die. Some of us are not here, because we took our own lives. We did not get the care promised to us by our government. All of us watched failed policies turn into bloodshed. Listen to us, hear us, and think: was any of this worth it? Do they mask lies, corruption, and abuse of young men and women who swore to defend their country? We tear off this mask. Hear us.”


Speaking the truth and unmasking the lies, corruption, and abuse of young men and women who swore to defend their country


I want to tell the folks behind us, in these enclosed walls, where they build more policies based on lies and fear, that we no longer stand for them. We no longer stand for their lies, their failed policies and these unjust wars. Bring our troops home and end the war now. They can have these (medals) back.”

“The military hands out cheap tokens like this to soldiers, service members, in an attempt to fill the void where their conscience used to be once they indoctrinate it out of you. But that didn’t work on me, so I’m here to return my Global War on Terrorism Medal and my National Defense Medal, because they’re both lies.”

I’m turning in these medals today for the people of Pakistan, Iraq, Palestine, and all victims of occupation across the world. And also, for all the service members and veterans who are against these wars, you are not alone!”

I left the Army as a conscientious objector. We were told that these medals represented democracy and justice and hope and change for the world. These medals represent a failure on behalf of the leaders of NATO to accurately represent the will of their own people. It represents a failure of the leaders of NATO to do what’s right by the disenfranchised people of this world. Instead of helping them, they take advantage of them, and they’re making things worse. I will not be a part of that anymore. These medals don’t mean anything to me, and they can have them back.”

I was a sergeant. I was in Iraq in '03, and what I saw there crushed me. I don't want us to suffer this again, and I don’t want our children to suffer this again, and so I’m giving these back!”

I did two tours in Iraq. No amount of medals, ribbons or flags can cover the amount of human suffering caused by these wars. We don’t want this garbage. We want our human rights. We want our right to heal.”

I went to Iraq and Afghanistan, and when they gave me these medals, I knew they were meaningless. I only regret not starting to speak up about how silly the war is sooner. I’m giving these back. Free Bradley Manning!”

“I spent 10 years in the United States Army as a combat medic. I’m here to return my Global War on Terrorism Service Medal in solidarity with the people of Iraq and the people of Afghanistan. I am deeply sorry for the destruction that we have caused in those countries and around the globe. I am proud to stand on this stage with my fellow veterans and my Afghan sisters. These were lies. I’m giving them back.”

I’m a two-time Iraq combat veteran. This medal I’m dedicating to the children of Iraq that no longer have fathers and mothers.”

“I was a nuclear biological chemical specialist for a war (against a country) that didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction. So I deserted. I’m one of 40,000 people that left the United States Armed Forces because this is a lie!”

I deployed to Sadr City, Iraq, in 2005. And I’m giving back my medals for the children of Iraq and Afghanistan. May they be able to forgive us for what we’ve done to them. May we begin to heal, and may we live in peace from here until eternity.”

I was a conscientious objector from the United States Air Force (loud applause). I’m returning my Global War on Terrorism Medal and my military coins on behalf of Private First Class Bradley Manning, who sacrificed everything to show us the truth about these wars.”

I served in the United States Marine Corps from 2001 to 2006 and in Iraq twice. I’m turning in my Iraq Campaign Service Medal and Global War on Terror Service and Expeditionary Medals for all my brothers and sisters affected with traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

I’m giving back my medals today because I feel like I was duped into an illegal war that was sold to me on the guise that I was going to be liberating the Iraqi people, when instead of liberating the people, I was liberating their oil fields.”

Today I have with me my Global War on Terror Medal, Operation Iraqi Freedom Medal, National Defense Medal and Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal. These medals, once upon a time, made me feel good about what I was doing. They made me feel like I was doing the right thing. And I came back to reality, and I don’t want them anymore.”

I served in the United States Navy. I have PTSD. I’m returning my Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal because it was given to me, according to my letter, because of hard work and dedication and setting the example. I was a hard worker because I buried my PTSD and overworked myself in the military. And I’m throwing this back and invoking my right to heal.”

I’m returning my medal today because I want to live by my conscience rather than being a prisoner of it.”

I participated in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. I was wrong to sign myself up for that. I apologize to the Iraqi and Afghani people for destroying your countries.”

I'm going to toss this medal today for the 33,000 civilians who have died in Afghanistan that won’t have a monument built for them. And this is for the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers.”

I served with the United States Marine Corps. First and foremost, this is for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Our enemies are not 7,000 miles from home. They sit in boardrooms. They are CEOs. They are bankers. They are hedge fund managers. They do not live 7,000 miles from home. Our enemies are right here, and we look at them every day. They are not the men and women who are standing on this police line. They are the millionaires and billionaires who control this planet, and we’ve had enough of it. So they can take their medals back.”

I’m here on behalf of six good Americans who really wanted to be here but they couldn’t be. They couldn’t be, because if they came to the U.S. border, they’d be immediately arrested. And the crime they’d be arrested for was refusing redeployment to Afghanistan. I have their awards in my pocket, and I’m throwing them back, mad as hell!”

This medal right here is for Anthony Wagner. He died last year. This medal right here is for the one-third of the women in the military that are sexually assaulted by their peers. We talk about standing up for our sisters in Afghanistan, and we can’t even take care of our sisters here. And this medal right here is because I’m sorry. I’m sorry to all of you. I’m sorry.”

Addendum: Past Democracy Now episodes are archived at www.democracynow.org.


In my opinion, Democracy Now should be mandatory listening for everybody in the lower 99 % who has been searching for confirmation of what they intuitively know to be painful truths about our dysfunctional militarized society, truths that have been censored out of our consciousness by the blatant 24/7 disinformation campaigns, propaganda, trivialities and other irrelevant blather dished out to us by the corporate-controlled news media and their addictive entertainment industry.


The headlines at the beginning of Democracy Now and the hour of in-depth interviews may be all the news one really needs to know for that day.
Gary G. Kohls, MD, Duluth, MN