Here is another good reason we need a strong imperialist military… so that our soldiers can do things like this (from an article in The Nation magazine):
While on tank patrol through the narrow streets of Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad, Pfc. Clifton Hicks was given an order. Abu Ghraib had become a “free-fire zone,” Hicks was told, and no “friendlies” or civilians remained in the area. “Game on. All weapons free,” his captain said. Upon that command, Hicks’s unit opened a furious fusillade, firing wildly into cars, at people scurrying for cover, at anything that moved. Sent in to survey the damage, Hicks found the area littered with human and animal corpses, including women and children, but he saw no military gear or weapons of any kind near the bodies. In the aftermath of the massacre, Hicks was told that his unit had killed 700-800 “enemy combatants.” But he knew the dead were not terrorists or insurgents; they were innocent Iraqis. “I will agree to swear to that till the day I die,” he said. “I didn’t see one enemy on that operation.”
Hicks soberly recounted this bloody incident to a packed auditorium in Silver Spring, Maryland, as part of Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, a summit hosted March 13-16 by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). Modeled after the 1971 Winter Soldier Investigation–in which Vietnam veterans, including John Kerry, testified in Detroit about US atrocities in Vietnam–this incarnation featured more than fifty veterans and active-duty service members testifying about engaging in or witnessing atrocities and war crimes against Iraqi and Afghan civilians. As a precondition for participation, IVAW required veterans to provide corroborating evidence such as photographs, videos and additional witnesses. Former marine Scott Camil, 61, who spoke at the first Winter Soldier event, attended the conference along with seven fellow Vietnam-era witnesses. “When we came home, the World War II and Korean War veterans did not support our activities. I know how that feels,” Camil said quietly. “We’re not going to let it happen to these guys.”
Soldiers and marines at Winter Soldier described the frustration of routinely raiding the wrong homes and arresting the wrong people. It was common for unarmed Iraqis to be killed at US checkpoints or by US convoys, they said. Many said they were congratulated on their “first kill.” Some even desecrated Iraqi corpses. Spc. Hart Viges said he refused to pose in a photograph with a corpse when his fellow soldiers prodded him. “I said no–not in the context of, That’s really wrong on an ethical basis,” he said. “I said no because it wasn’t my kill. You shouldn’t take trophies for things you didn’t kill. That’s where my mind-set was back then.”
Several veterans said it was common to carry a stash of extra automatic weapons and shovels to plant near the bodies of unarmed civilians they had killed to make it look as if they were combatants. Others described the surreal sensation of committing cold-blooded murder without facing any consequences. Jon Michael Turner, who served as a machine gunner with Kilo Company, Third Battalion, Eighth Marines, said he shot an unarmed Iraqi in front of the man’s father and friend. “The first round didn’t kill him, after I had hit him up here in his neck area. And afterwards he started screaming and looked right into my eyes. So I looked at my friend…and I said, ‘Well, I can’t let that happen.’ So I took another shot and took him out. He was then carried away by the rest of his family.” Later, Turner pointed to a tattoo on his right wrist of the Arabic words for “**** you.” “That was my choking hand,” he explained. “And any time I felt the need to take out aggression, I would go ahead and use it.”
“This is not an isolated incident,” the testifiers uttered over and over, to the point of liturgy, insisting that the atrocities they committed or witnessed were common. The hearings were not organized to point fingers at “bad apples” or even particular squads, several testifiers said.