Winter Soldiers Hit the Streets
By Dahr Jamail
Iraq War veteran Sergio Kochergin leads anti-war
demonstration through downtown Seattle after
testifying at Regional Winter Soldier hearings.
SEATTLE, Jun 3 (IPS) -
In a clear change of
strategy to energise public anti-war sentiment, Iraq
veterans led a determined demonstration of hundreds
through the streets of downtown Seattle last Saturday,
following regional Winter Soldier hearings at the
Seattle Town Hall.
A larger Winter Soldier event occurred at the National
Labour College in Silver Spring, Maryland from Mar. 13
to Mar. 16 earlier this year. But the strategy for those
hearings appeared to be based on keeping the event from
being directly affiliated with any demonstrations or
anti-war activities in an attempt to reach a broader
audience. Those hearings were closed to the public, and
no demonstrations or other overtly public actions were
tied to the event.
This tactic was apparently meant to draw in more
national mainstream media coverage of the event, which,
with few exceptions, did not materialise.
Diaz, the Seattle Chapter president of Iraq Veterans
Against the War (IVAW), which organised last weekend's
event, had told IPS that his chapter, along with others
in the northwest region, intended to make a major effort
to draw the public into both the testimonials and taking
The Seattle regional Winter Soldier event was open to
A late April poll conducted by CNN/Opinion Research
Corp. found that nearly three-quarters (68 percent) of
respondents opposed the Iraq war. The strategy of the
regional IVAW groups is clearly meant to capitalise on
the growing opposition to the occupation of Iraq among
the U.S. public.
Diggins, a psychotherapist who attended the
demonstration, reflected the feelings of many -- that
this strategy is important.
"This tactic is better because you have to get the
Diggins told IPS. "You have to have community awareness
"I want to show my solidarity for vets who are against
the war, because it is the only way this war is going to
stop," he added. "It's hard to have the war if nobody is
going to fight."
the Soldiers Project Northwest in Washington State (
www.soldiersproject.org). The project
is a group of therapists that volunteer to work one hour
per week each with soldiers and their families who need
Saturday's event found veterans leaving their testimony
to lead a crowd directly onto the streets to begin a
demonstration. Protestors chanting "U.S. out of the
Middle East, No Justice, No Peace," and carrying signs
such as "You Can't Be All You Can Be If You're Dead!"
stopped traffic for nearly an hour.
"I'm here to support the war resisters," Theresa
Mosqueda, a Seattle resident who works on health policy
advocacy for children and marched behind members of Iraq
Veterans Against the War (IVAW), told IPS, "They are the
core part of ending this war. This is an illegal and
immoral war, and the resisters have the power to stop
At least one Iraq war veteran joined IVAW as a result of
attending the hearings last weekend.
Several of the vets urged onlookers to join the march,
and many did as the demonstration passed by Seattle's
bustling Pike Place Market.
Nick Spring, a student from Western Washington
University in Bellingham, Washington, was one of the
marchers. "I came down today because it's a great way to
be informed by the vets, support GI resistance, and try
to end the war," Spring told IPS.
winter soldier hearings were a smaller event, and there
was no national mainstream media coverage. However,
there was heavy local and alternative media coverage. At
least one of the major Seattle television stations
covered the testimonials, as well as the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer, the largest paper in the region.
The group Just Foreign Policy estimates that over 1.2
million Iraqis have died since the U.S.-led invasion
began in March 2003. The Opinion Business Research group
in Britain estimates the same number.
According to the U.S. Department of Defence, at least
4,086 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq.
Many of the demonstrators were vets themselves who had
just given testimony about their time in Iraq. They
included Josh Simpson, Sergio Kochergin, Seth Manzel,
Mateo Rebecchi, Jan Critchfield, Doug Connor, and many
Children numbered among the demonstrators as well.
Nine-year-old Wes Cunningham, accompanied by his father,
was asked by IPS why he was in attendance.
"It's a cool march," he said. "And I think it's bad to
kill other human beings."
IVAW now boasts
over 1,200 members, a 50 percent increase since the
March Winter Soldier hearings in Maryland. The fastest
growing segment of their membership is active-duty