On 16 June, 24-year-old Matthis Chiroux, who joined the US army at 18, having been targeted by military recruiters since he was 16, and who served in Afghanistan among other places before being placed in the reserves, is due to be deployed to Iraq but is refusing to go.
“I stand before you today with the strength and clarity and resolve to declare to the military, my government and the world that this soldier will not be deploying to Iraq. My decision is based on my desire to no longer continue violating my core values to support an illegal and unconstitutional occupation,” he told anti-war Iraq veterans on 15 May.
Moments earlier, Matthis wept listening to the impassioned testimony of five members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), who were speaking to members of congress on their experiences on the ground in Iraq.
IVAW member Kristofer Goldsmith spoke of the “lawless murders, looting and the abuse of countless Iraqis” he had witnessed.
He accused US officials of censorship, commanders of issuing free-fire orders, and the army of providing miniscule and inappropriate humanitarian aid, and even then only for the purpose of “making the Iraqis believe that we were there to help them.… We never provided any real medical supplies, despite the fact that the hospitals and clinics in the area were in dire need of antibiotics and basic surgical equipment.”
He told his audience of the psychological trauma that US soldiers face when returning from Iraq, and the lack of care they receive – his own depression culminated in a suicide attempt. Kristofer also explained how the army continued to deploy soldiers, even after they had been diagnosed with a war-related mental illness.
“For the good of the souls of the American military, and the millions of Iraqi civilians who also suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, this fight must come to an end,” he concluded.
Kristofer was joined by Kelly Dougherty, Geoffrey Millard, Scott Ewing and Jason Lemieux, the first members of the Winter Soldier project to testify before congress (in this case the Congressional Progressive Caucus).
The original Winter Soldier testimonies (of anti-war veterans) were in 1971, at the height of the Vietnam war.
The Winter Soldier event this March, organised by IVAW, featured over 200 US Iraq war veterans, in addition to Afghani and Iraqi civilians.