Kokesh is co-chair of Iraq Veterans Against the War; Dougherty is the group’s executive director; they can direct media to other veterans from around the country. IVAW released a statement: “Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan is a four-day summit that will bring more than 200 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans together … from March 13 to 16. Veterans will provide specific evidence related to everything from the killing and injuring of innocent civilians and unarmed combatants to the cost of the war at home.” Winter Soldier launches at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington at 1 p.m. on Thursday. Video of testimony will be webcast via IVAW’s webpage.
Kokesh said: “There are too many veterans returning from futile occupations with heads full of lies and hearts full of sorrow. Minds full of bad memories and bodies full of shrapnel. Fists full of anger and families full of confusion. It’s not a strong place from which to make yourself politically relevant. But out of a strong sense of duty, some of us are trying to put our experiences to use for a good cause. Some of us couldn’t live with ourselves if we weren’t doing everything we could to bring our brothers and sisters home as soon as possible.
“The environment may be unkind, but that is why I will be testifying and that is why it will be necessary. I will be testifying to shooting at civilians as a result of changing Rules Of Engagement, abuse of detainees, and desecration of Iraqi bodies. It won’t be easy but it must be done. Some of the stories are things that are difficult to admit that I was a part of, but if one more veteran realizes that they are not alone because of my testimony it will be worth it.”
A sergeant who has been stationed in Iraq for a total of 25 months beginning in 2004, Cantu was last in Iraq in January 2008. He is still on active duty. Cantu said today, “When you’re active duty, you don’t have the same First Amendment rights as everyone else. … In World War II, the harder you fought, the sooner you’d come home. But that’s not the case in Iraq. It’s hard to explain how frustrating that is. … When you’re in Iraq, you do what you need to do to survive and sometimes you don’t realize until after the fact and you’re back home and you’ve had time to think about it that some of the orders you obeyed may have been illegal. … I worked as an interrogator, asking the locals who specifically we should be focusing our attention on. I rationalize a lot of what we did. It seems all the intel we got was to save American lives — which wouldn’t be necessary if we weren’t there.”