‘Horror tales’ deter scribe from duty

Aaron Glantz

A US Army soldier who served as a military journalist in Afghanistan, Japan, Europe and the Philippines announced Thursday his intent to refuse orders to deploy to Iraq. “As an Army journalist whose job it was to collect and filter service members’ stories, I heard many stomach-churning testimonies of the horrors of the crimes taking place in Iraq,” said Sergeant

Matthis Chiroux, 24, in an announcement under the rotunda of the House of Representative’s Cannon Office Building.

“For fear of retaliation from the military, I failed to report these crimes, but never again will I allow fear to silence me. Never again will I fail to stand,” he said. Chirioux said he’s aware he will likely face prosecution for refusing the deployment, but said, “I choose to remain in the US to defend myself from charges brought by the Army if they are willing to pursue them. I refuse to participate in the occupation of Iraq.”

One of Chiroux’s professors at Brooklyn College in New York suggested he listen to the Winter Soldier hearings. The hearings, which were organised by Iraq Veterans Against the War, took place in March in Washington, DC. Iraq Veterans Against the War argues that well-publicised incidents of US brutality like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the massacre of an entire family of Iraqis in the town of Haditha are not isolated incidents perpetrated by “a few bad apples”, but part of a pattern, the group says, of “an increasingly bloody occupation”.

Chirioux timed his announcement to coincide with a Congressional forum meant to highlight testimony offered at Winter Soldier within the halls of Congress. Nine veterans spoke at the hearing, which was organised by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. They talked about extremely lax rules of engagement handed down by commanding officers, which they said guaranteed atrocities would be committed — which in turn would create a violent backlash among Iraqis.

“On several occasions our convoys came upon bodies that been lying on the road, sometimes for weeks,” said Marine Corps veteran Vincent Emmanuele, who served in al-Qaim near the Syrian border. “When encountering these bodies standard procedure was to run over the corpses, sometimes even stopping and taking pictures, which was also standard practice when encountering the dead in Iraq,” he told the Progressive Caucus.

“After I had shot a man trying to flee while planting a roadside bomb, we dragged his body out of the ditch he was laying in and we subsequently left this man to rot in a field where we saw this man up to a week later,” he said.

Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War hope Thursday’s hearing will spark an investigation by a full Congressional committee. But with the House moving toward approving $186 billion in war funding, these former soldiers will have to satisfy themselves with the sentiments of liberal Congresspeople like Maxine Waters, who praised the veterans for speaking out.

“I want to thank you for having more courage than many members of Congress have for coming here in defiance of what you have been instructed and taught to do,” she said. “They attempted to tell you that you should be satisfied by everything that you saw and everything that you did and everything you witnessed, but you’re not. I praise and honour you for that.”