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The New Winter Soldiers Redux: The Patriotism of Antiwar GIs

  • Carl Mirra
Chapter
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Part of the Palgrave Studies in Oral History book series (PSOH)

Abstract

The army recruiter “only told me the great things” about the military, Michael Harmon says as he remembers enlisting in the service. Harmon, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, saw people “literally split open,” and no longer trusts the U.S. government because the “whole war was a lie.”

Keywords

Active Duty National Guard Vietnam Veteran Boot Camp Conscientious Objector 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Camilo Mejía, Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejía (New York: New Press, 2007), pp. 230–231.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Van Gosse, Rethinking the New Left: An Interpretative History (New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2005), pp. 99–100. For a full account, see Andrew Hunt, The Turning: A History of the Vietnam Veterans against the War (New York: New York University Press, 1999). I am grateful to Christian Appy for reminding me of the importance of O’Brien’s book.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Jerry Lembke, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam (New York: New York University Press, 1998). Lembke, “Erasing Resistance: Spat-on Soldiers and the Construction of ‘The Good Veteran,’” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association. Washington, DC, January 2008.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    U.S. Department of Defense, “What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder,” available at <http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/facts/general/fs_what_is_ptsd.html>, accessed September 5, 2007.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Charles W. Hoge, Jennifer L. Auchterlonie, and Charles S. Milliken, “Mental Health Problems, Use of Mental Health Services, and Attrition from Military Service after Returning from Deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan,” Journal of the American Medical Association (March 2006), v. 295, n. 9, pp. 1023–1032.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Mental Health Advisory Team (MHAT) IV, “Operation Iraqi Freedom Final Report” (Office of the Surgeon—Multinational Force Iraq and the Office of the Surgeon General, U.S. Army Medical Command), November 17, 2006, p. 25, available at <http://www.armymedicine.army.mil/news/mhat/mhat_iv_Report_17Nov06.pdf>, accessed September 5, 2007. I first learned of this report from former soldier Aidan Delgado.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Robert Jay Lifton, Home from the War: Vietnam Veterans—Neither Victims nor Executioners (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973), pp. 41, 99–133. Quotation in Lifton, Super Power Syndrome: Americas Apocalyptic Confrontation with the World (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2003), pp. 47–48. Sociologist Jerry Lembke has warned that Lifton’s work on guilt lent itself to a model of veterans as victims, and inadvertently fueled the image of the “bad” antiwar veteran as opposed to the “good” pro-war veteran. See Lembke, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam (New York: New York University Press, 1998), p. 108. Nevertheless, Lifton’s concept of animating guilt can lead to healthy, positive action.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Richard Moser, The New Winter Soldiers: GI and Veteran Dissent during the Vietnam Era (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1996), pp. 1, 7, 17–40.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    William F. Buckley, Jr., “The Nuremberg Doctrine Is Raised and It Was Just a Matter of Time,” The Atlanta Journal, September 25, 1965.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    Harvey J. Tharp, “Memorandum: Reasons for Submission of Resignation Request,” November 18, 2004, in author’s possession and used with permission.Google Scholar
  11. 16.
    William H. McMichael, “Service Members Rally against the War in Iraq,” Marine Corps Times, January 16, 2007. Again, we should not glorify these soldiers, but we should take seriously their thoughts on the war. See this volume’s introduction on this matter and Andrew Bacevich, “Warrior Politics,” Atlantic Monthly (May 2007). While I do not agree with all of Bacevich’s points, his warning that we should not succumb to blindly praising veterans as morally superior makes sense.Google Scholar
  12. 17.
    Don Van Natta, “Bush Was Set on Path to War, British Memo Says,” New York Times, March 27, 2006.Google Scholar
  13. 18.
    Lynndie England, an Army Reservist, was sentenced to three years in prison for detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib. Photographs of England holding a naked prisoner on a leash and others with her smiling alongside naked prisoners appeared in media outlets across the globe after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal was revealed. See Mark Danner, Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror (New York: New York Review of Books, 2004). The International Committee of the Red Cross described a “consistent pattern” of “brutal behavior,” and noted that “the methods of physical and psychological coercion were used by the military intelligence in a systematic way.” The Red Cross report is reprinted in Danner’s Torture and Truth, and the above quotations appear on pp. 253 and 262.Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    Rumsfeld told a soldier who questioned him about the lack of equipment that “You go to war with the Army you have.” See Robert Burns, “Facing Friendly Fire: Heat from the Troops,” Newsday, December 9, 2004, p. A5.Google Scholar
  15. 20.
    David Montgomery, “Far from Iraq, a Demonstration of a War Zone,” Washington Post, March 20, 2007, p. C01.Google Scholar
  16. 21.
    The British medical journal published articles that estimated Iraqi deaths at over 600,000. For example, see Gilbert Burnham, Ridyah Lafta, Shannon Dooley, and Les Roberts, “Mortality after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq: A Cross-sectional Cluster Sample,” Lancet, October 11, 2006. There has been considerable debate over the study. See “Lancet’s Political Hit,” Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2008. Two of the authors, Burnham and Roberts, wrote separate letters to the editor, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2008. Opinion Research Business, a British polling group, placed the number of Iraqis killed at over 1 million, see Peter Beaumont and Joanne Walters, “Greenspan Admits Iraq Was about Oil, as Deaths Put at 1.2m,” The Observer, September 16, 2007.Google Scholar
  17. 22.
    See Paul von Zielbauer, “Army Is Cracking Down on Deserters,” New York Times, April 9, 2007. Amnesty International, “Public Statement/USA: Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia Castillo Is a Prisoner of Conscience,” AI Index: AMR 51/094/2004 (Public), News Service No: 143 (June 4, 2004).Google Scholar
  18. 23.
    The School of Americas at Fort Benning is a controversial facility that is accused of training a host of human rights violators. Public scrutiny was aroused in the early 1990s. A secret memo to then Defense Secretary Cheney outlined training manuals used at the school that contained information on false arrests, beatings, and even murder. Thousands of Latin American military personnel trained at the school, including those sent by Nicaragua under Somoza’s dictatorship. Many “Contras,” those forces opposed to the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, are also linked to the school and human rights violations. Manuel Noriega is among the school’s graduates. Congress renamed the school after these revelations to the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation. See Lesley Gill, The School of Americas: Military Training and Political Violence in the Americas (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004).Google Scholar
  19. 25.
    Edward Wong, “Iraqi Widow Saves Her Home, but Victory Is Brief,” New York Times, March 30, 2007.Google Scholar

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© Carl Mirra 2008

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  • Carl Mirra

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