Iraq Veterans Attempt 'Winter Soldier' Reenactment

Lost in the shuffle of national politics, snuggled in the underbelly of the anti-war movement, a small group of disgruntled Iraq war veterans — who may or may not really be veterans — is attempting to recreate John Kerry’s most despicable betrayal of the Vietnam generation.

The group, Iraq Veterans Against the War, is imitating Kerry’s discredited Vietnam Veterans Against the War by planning a “Winter Soldier inquiry” in March, using a format that is similar to Kerry’s phony Winter Soldier inquiry a generation ago.

In the original Winter Soldier “investigation” on January 31, 1971, members of VVAW met in a Detroit hotel where, during the next three days, more than 100 people who claimed they were Vietnam combat veterans, “testified” to routinely, under orders and as a matter of policy, committing or witnessing atrocities in South Vietnam.

Partly as a result of media coverage of that travesty, Kerry’s group was successful (for a time) in branding Americans who served in Vietnam as war criminals, and tarnishing the image of the American military.

The imitation IVAW Winter Soldier event will be held March 13, 2008, at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland. This time however, the generic allegations of murder and other atrocities will not go challenged.

Veterans, both from the Vietnam and current eras, are understandably outraged that once again the American left is working to discredit the honorable service of our military with phony claims of atrocities willingly committed by troops who apparently are either mentally unstable or intellectually unable to differentiate between right and wrong.

Among the organizations working to oppose the IVAW is Eagles Up, headed by Col. Harry Riley, US Army (ret.), a decorated Vietnam veteran and organizer of the highly successful Gathering of Eagles counter-demonstration that opposed Cindy Sheehan and the ANSWER coalition in D.C., on March 17, 2007. Riley is now sponsoring Eagles Muster.

Riley states on his website “No one stood up when John Kerry and his lying malcontents dishonored America and our troops and we know what happened … lying Winter Soldiers and gutless politicians sold out America and millions in South East Asia.”

Yet, despite the anger of those who support the troops and plan to make a showing in Washington next month, Kerry’s spawn may be doing America a huge favor.

It was years after the false testimony alleging widespread war crimes in Vietnam before Americans learned the truth. By then, South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia had fallen to the communists with whom the VVAW was allied. Only after the damage had been done did the truth leak out, that the overwhelming majority of Kerry’s “winter soldiers” had either not been in the service, not in Vietnam or not in the capacity they claimed.

But this time, the truth will probably be proved and published immediately. Kerry’s clones are publicizing their efforts widely, and even providing the names of troops who say they committed war crimes while in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Suppose America takes their stories at face value? If we do, we have first-hand evidence of criminals who have infiltrated our military, committed crimes against the populaces of Afghanistan and Iraq in the name of America, and thus should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and international law.

Even before that, we need complete identity packages on all who testify. IVAW organizers say they are hoping 100 such criminals will participate. Rather than follow the John Kerry model of alleging very specific and horrific crimes, committed by vague individuals in uncertain times and places, this time there should be specifics.

We must demand that each “witness” who testifies to war crimes be identified by their full name, instant electronic fingerprint checks to corroborate identities, dates of service including time in Iraq or Afghanistan, the job they were assigned while in the military, their chain of command, including immediate supervisors both enlisted and officers, and the time, date, and location of the alleged atrocity.

Some material distributed by the IVAW or its supporting organizations says that lower ranking enlisted men and officers should not be identified to encourage them to testify. We cannot allow them to get away with that. This format flies in the face of each American’s constitutional right to face his or her accusers.

In this case, the IVAW is claiming President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other members of their administration also are war criminals. Thus members of the administration retain their basic constitutional right to face those who are making such claims, just as their accusers have an obligation to be very specific about their allegations.

In addition, the Nuremberg trials against Nazis who murdered millions in World War II established that “I was only following orders” is not an excuse for committing war crimes.

The Nuremberg Principles state in Principle IV, "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him." This also nullifies the claim that war crime participants are innocent because they view the Iraq War as an illegal War of Aggression, also defined in the principles.

America maintains volunteer armed forces, thus everyone has a moral choice to serve or not.

If the IVAW wants any credibility in this venture, it must specifically identify the people who are claiming they participated in war crimes. Those claiming they witnessed war crimes, and did nothing to stop these heinous crimes, should be prosecuted as accessories.

America cannot allow another generation of its honorable warriors to be falsely accused, nor for a small minority who may have committed crimes while on duty in the war zones to go unpunished. If they are posers they should be exposed under the Stolen Valor Act, and if they participated in crimes against humanity they should be prosecuted.

Winter Solider participants who testify to committing crimes against the civilian populace in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere should be referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to be charged with war crimes for their actions. In fact, since Kerry is their model and mentor, and he is such a strong proponent of International Law superseding American laws, it is feasible that members of this generation’s Winter Soldier investigation could opt to be referred to The Hague for prosecution.

Of course, in that case it would only appropriate to read such participants their rights under the Slobodan Milosevic Doctrine.