Vietnam Redux:

21st Century Winter Soldiers Take the Heat As Did Their Precursors…

Back in 1972, when I was 17 years old and myself facing the draft (yep, I had a draft card — which I’ve kept — and watched the lottery on TV, hoping my number would not come up) — an experience my son and this generation has not endured, which has kept a lid on true protest against the wars Presidents Bush and now Obama wage in the Middle East — the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) raised their collective voices against the war.

They endured and still endure (under the shameful scorn of the Swiftboaters) heated, life-damaging backlash against their bravery. The Department of Defense (DOD) mounted withering lies against the VVAW, though in time is has been proven the DOD was, indeed, lying and slandering the VVAW — a process that continued in the 2004 election cycle, levelled against Senator John Kerry. That, too, remains a shameful chapter in our history, and it yielded us yet another cycle of war. We do not learn from our past.

  • Winter Soldier (1972) can be viewed online here; the 2006 DVD release is still readily available online from multiple venues, too, and is highly recommended.

    This past decade, filmmaker David Zeiger and his creative partners revisited the Vietnam War era and helmed the excellent retrospective documentary Sir! No Sir! (2005);

  • that film’s official website (with ample video clips, etc.) is here; the movie itself is still available on DVD, easily found at multiple online venues, and is most highly recommended.
  • And now, here we are, again waging unnecessary war — and harvesting a new generation of veterans who are speaking out.

    The IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War) are standing tall and working to have their voices heard above the din and clamor — and, as expected, getting the cold shoulder (and worse) from the corporate media who in part (and, in the case of the utterly reprehensible Fux News, in whole) actively foment, profit from and extend these wars.

    The Department of Defense has already launched its campaign against IVAW, and though its not yet as venomous or malignant as that of the Vietnam War era’s decades-long attacks on that era’s brave Winter Soldiers, it’s as expected. On March 15th, 2008, the Washington Post reported the DOD response to IVAW‘s March 2008 Winter Soldier testimony, in which the DOD spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros said he had “not seen the allegations raised… but added that such incidents are not representative of U.S. conduct,” stating:

    “When isolated allegations of misconduct have been reported, commanders have conducted comprehensive investigations to determine the facts and held individuals accountable when appropriate.”

    The IVAW — who individually and collectively served multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and know what went on over there — beg to differ. They demand to be heard.

    David Zeiger (director of Sir! No Sir!) provides fuller context in his online announcement of the 2009 six-part This is Where We Take Our Stand series about 2008’s Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan event (from which the testimonial videos posted below were — to use appropo Iraq War terminology — embedded):

    “Winter Soldier happened in the last year of the Bush administration, and it was the most powerful condemnation of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan that I have seen. Your testimony laid bare the insane, relentless brutality of those wars and the hypocrisy of Bush’s claims that you were there to bring “freedom and democracy” to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. You made it clear that it was the policy of the government and military that was criminal. And you brought into the open the courageous, profound opposition to the wars that exists within the military and veterans’ community.

    But what about now? Millions of people expected the Obama administration to change those policies and end the occupations. Well, where is that change? In Iraq, where we have been promised there might be a withdrawal by 2011 leaving 50,000 troops there to insure an “America friendly” government? Or how about Afghanistan, where a thoroughly corrupt, Bush-installed government is now being propped up with the additional 20,000 troops that were withdrawn from Iraq? What has changed?

    What’s most horrifying for me is seeing the slaughter continue today with hardly a peep from those who would have loudly objected when Bush was in charge. So, perhaps ironically, Winter Soldier is today more relevant and urgent than ever. This is not about the past, as Obama has often said, but about what is happening right now.”

  • This is Where We Stand can be viewed in full right here (click the link) — but first, read on.
  • Visit the IVAW website and make your donation (or purchases or both) and open your eyes to their accounts of the true face of war today.
  • Their online archive of vivid IVAW testimonials is essential viewing for any and every American citizen.
  • Here, in two parts, is IVAW ‘Winter Soldier’ Mike Prysner‘s testimony from the March 2008 — just one of the 250 veterans and active duty soldiers who ‘celebrated’ the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by gathering in Washington, DC, to testify about the true nature of the American occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.

    As with the VVAW, the past two years have proven their testimony fell on deaf ears. What kind of a people are we, addicted to war and yet unwilling to listen to those we send to fight our wars?

    Part 1 is close to what most ‘winter soldiers’ testimonials are, from the Vietnam era to today, sharing increasingly painful memories of his tours of duty in Iraq — but Part 2 is, simply, extraordinary, one of the most concise, articulate, direct and candid assessments of this tragic pair of wars and what they truly are and have been since their beginning in 2002.

    What has happened to the meat of Mike Prysner‘s final prepared talk is interesting, and unlike anything my generation ever saw during the Vietnam War or its bitter wake.

    Take a look at this ‘polished’ presentation of Prysner‘s core speech, gussied up with music and inserted imagery:

    To be continued…

    CCS Team Crime Rocks!

    Our Faux-’52 Four-Color Funnybook is a Reality!

    This morning at 10 AM, all four of the Center for Cartoon Studies freshman class teams creating faux-1952, 32-page, full-color completed-from-inception-to-publication-in-two-weeks-to-the-minute comicbooks are debuting the fruits of their Herculean labors.

    These four comicbooks will represent the concentrated boot camp effort of 24 dedicated young cartoonists working at their maximum possible application of skills, time, work ethic and teamwork capabilities as of this period in their creative lives, and it’s a hoot.

    They are all bone-tired at this point, having survived the weekend push to complete the final tasks –we’ll see what it all adds up to at 10 AM!

    Along with Jason Lutes (Berlin), Robyn Chapman (Hey, Four-Eyes!), Paul Karasik (RAW), and Paul‘s co-editor Alec Longstreth (Phase 7), I headed up one team’s efforts as their editor.

    My six-cartoonist team was assigned the crime comics genre, and the fruits of our labor was LADYKILLERS — and it was all printed and ready to read at about noontime yesterday.

    [The final printrun, collated, folded and stapled -- February 1st, 2010, photo ©2010 Naomi Kane, posted with permission!]

    More about LADYKILLERS — including sample art, cover, pages! — here tomorrow!


    Discussion (6) ¬

    1. Nomi

      24 hours later those books are still a gorgeous sight to behold!

    2. Roger Green

      I returned my draft card in May 1972. There’s a story there.

    3. baldemarbyars

      The Golden Age assignment at CCS sounds fascinating, and I’m wondering if it has replaced the team anthologies we did at the end of the Fall 2007 semester?

      Also, 24 students in 4 teams means 6 students per team per 32-page book. Is each student expected to write, draw, ink, scan, and color a story of their own? I’m thinking that the short deadline (for a *color* book, no less) provides some scope for inventive allocation of shared, simultaneous tasks—such as two people inking, two people scanning and doing digital clean-up, and two people coloring; then the two inkers doing imposition, etc.

      I suspect others may be curious about the mechanics of this amazing assignment which echoes (maybe) the assembly-line production of mainstream comics to a tight deadline. Hurrah for all involved!

    4. cat

      that LADYKILLERS is a mighty fine lookin’ book! the golden age project really sounds like a lot of fun. i’d love to be an editor for a group doing anthro comics or funny animals. i’ve really enjoyed watching the last two classes sweat their way through this annual assignment. can’t wait to sneak a peek at all of the students’ comics!

    5. Zatoichi

      Re: Iraq, Afghanistan, and other American Misadventures

      “Is the way we want to live worth someone else dying or suffering for?” – the Pinky Show

    6. James Robert Smith

      Here’s what can happen to former soldiers who dare to complain:

      They don’t care if you “served” or not. The armed forces will turn against its own citizens and kill the shit out of them. “Protect my rights”. Yeah. Right.

    Comment ¬

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