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The Winter Soldier Investigation
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vvaw_at_wsiBy Joe Urgo

As we are right now at the 50th anniversaries of Tet and the beginning of the  whole year of 1968, I write this at a time of tremendous danger and great potential. For those who have lost faith in the power of the people to change the world, I say this.  In 1963 you could not imagine in your wildest dreams the years 1968 and 1969. It was certainly impossible to imagine that  America’s own killers for empire would turn against the empire and yet there was this:

THE WINTER SOLDIER INVESTIGATION

Vietnam Veterans Against the War

Detroit, Michigan – Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, 1971

PURPOSE: To prove that US military operations in Vietnam were war crimes and a matter of policy coming down from the highest levels of the government. That individual soldiers, while morally responsible for all of their actions, were not responsible for the daily, longstanding and continuous crimes against the Vietnamese people and the government of Vietnam.

METHOD: We prepared for the hearings like a prosecutor prepares an indictment. But how could we prove policy? We had panels on the history of US and French involvement; on the deliberate use of Agent Orange, Agent Blue, Agent White, white phosphorous and other chemicals, and the extensive damage to the people and land of Vietnam;; on the psychology and training of American GIs, on racism in the military and hatred against non-white people; on the actual military policies of free fire zones, pacification, H&I fire, chemical defoliants, and a hundred others that were developed in the Pentagon, the War College, the military-supported think tanks, the Rand Institute, and yes, even on US campuses like Columbia and Stanford. These were then taught and drilled into to the officer corps at West Point, Annapolis , the Air force Academy etc.

VVAW sent a special team of combat veterans to Detroit to draft a questionnaire, and they met with vets to go over their testimony and weed out braggarts, liars and any attempt to set us up to be attacked. You see John Kerry holding the questionnaire in the film.The veterans themselves were organized by unit to show that what happened in 1968 also happened in 1970, that officers were present and either gave the orders or consistently did nothing to stop the crimes. First Marine, Third Marine, Americal, 199th, 101st & 173rd Airborne and several others.

The Pentagon has never disproved the testimony. Only one vet has recanted and it was part of an attack on Kerry.

Finally this – Coming out of WW2 my generation grew up in an empire with strategic economic, political and military interests all over the globe. We were raised not only in schools, but also through the culture of war movies and the TV cowboy genocide of killing Native peoples, that Americans were the best people in the world and we were going to Vietnam to free the people and bring democracy.

We were teenagers, full of this bullshit propaganda, male supremacy and racist ideas – with guns in our hands, sent to kill for profit and empire. This betrayal of our youth and our ideals was deep and profound. We went up against a people who had fought invaders for thousands of years, determined to drive us out and liberate their country. AND THAT IS WHAT THEY DID.

And then for the first time in the history of imperialism on this planet the GIs resisted on every US military installation in the world, and in Vietnam the resistance was so deep that the US could no longer rely on its troops to go into battle. As veterans we self-organized into a mass movement with two purposes: to tell the people of the world the truth about what we did and call on the people of the United States to stop it.

That is the legacy of the Winter Soldier Investigation and one part of the legacy of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War

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