Winter Soldier 2008 Hearings

One of the many frustrating elements of the 2008 Presidential election has been the fact that pretty much every other news story has been pushed off the front page and, essentially, out of the consciousness of the American public. I’ve barely heard a mention on cable news of the fact that the war in Iraq reached its fifth anniversary this month, and while it’s difficult to view the Iraq War as “news” at this point, something is lost when we focus to intensely on the horse race between Obama and Clinton. With that in mind, I fear that the 2008 Winter Solider hearings, modeled on the 1971 hearings that called attention to the atrocities taking place in Vietnam, will not receive the attention they deserve. I’ve been watching an listening to the stream via The Real News Network (found via Brave New Films), which has also anthologized some of the more provocative testimony, including some powerful comments from Adam Kokesh.

While it’s difficult to get a full sense of the hearings from the brief section I’ve sampled, the testimonies remind me quite a bit of the 1971 Winter Soldier hearings, with many of the Iraq War veterans describing the ways in which the people of Iraq become dehumanized in the war and the everyday cruelties that such dehumanization allows, a point that Steven Mortillo’s halting testimony underscores, while Clifton Hicks and Steven Casey describe indiscriminate killings that took place in Iraq and the impossibility of differentiating between “civilian” and “enemy.”  But the phrases that keep coming back to me are the ones where soldiers describe doing or witnessing things they never imagined themselves doing, of being alienated from the actions they committed.  The Real News Network has anthologized quite a bit of this testimony, so do check it out.

The Winter Solider hearings also raise some important questions about the role of documentary in Iraq, something I’ve been thinking about for some time. As Jose Vasquez explains in this Washington Post article, “The ubiquitous nature of video, photo and technology really sets this apart.” And while many of the soldiers use video and photographs to illustrate the violence committed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Winter Soldier hearings are valuable in contextualizing what is happening in Iraq and why the war should end.  At the same time, I wonder how this archive of information–of documentaries, videos, news reports, and other material–will be used and even how much of it will be permanently stored, especially given the ephemerality and impermanence of digital media.  I’m not sure if I have a specific larger point here, but I do wonder how this tremendous archive will be incorporated into a larger narrative about the war in Iraq–and about war in general.

When I wrote about the re-release of the original Winter Soldier documentary in 2005, I mentioned the fact that the documentary was essentially buried in 1971, playing pretty much exclusively in a few museums and independent theaters despite strong opposition to the war. And I fear that something similar is happening here. There is a solid article in the Washington Post (which I mentioned earlier), but beyond that, there seems to be far too little discussion of the hearings as everyone seems far more concerned about what Obama’s pastor said in a sermon ten years ago or what Geraldine Ferraro thinks about Obama’s campaign.

2 Comments »

  1. The Chutry Experiment » Taxi to the Dark Side Said,

    March 23, 2008 @ 1:36 pm

    […] War exhaustion or due to other, external factors such as a crowded indie film marketplace. Just as the recent Winter Soldier hearings seem to have made barely a ripple in the mainstream media, Gibney’s provocative film may be […]

  2. newcritics - » Taxi to the Dark Side Said,

    March 24, 2008 @ 8:15 pm

    […] War exhaustion or due to other, external factors such as a crowded indie film marketplace. Just as the recent Winter Soldier hearings seem to have made barely a ripple in the mainstream media, Gibney’s provocative film may be […]

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Comment


Warning: Illegal string offset 'solo_subscribe' in /home/chutry/chutry.wordherders.net/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 304

Subscribe without commenting