As the first wave of American veterans returned from Iraq and began to speak out about their experiences and their opposition to the war, civilians gave support and in 2007, the Civilian Soldier Alliance was set up.
This organization of civilians working with veterans and active-duty service-members is building a movement towards a just foreign policy. It seeks withdrawal of military support from the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, empowering service members to have a voice and develop as leaders organizing for change.
In 2008, CSA members worked with Iraq Veterans Against the War [IVAW] to organize The Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigations, a historic national gathering of over 200 veterans and active duty service members coming together to give testimony about actions while participating in the occupations of Iraq & Afghanistan.
There was also a 10,000 person march and mass civil disobedience action organized by IVAW, CSA members and coalition organizations at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. The action was led by 100 veterans in uniform and formation following a Rage Against the Machine concert. The action was a success, with the Obama administration forced to concede IVAW’s three points of unity: immediate withdrawal from Iraq, reparations for the Iraqi people, and improving veteran’s healthcare.
An American soldier, Ethan McCord, who took part in an attack in which 12 people, including a Reuters journalist, were killed and two children injured has written an apology to the victims’ families in Iraq. He was seen carrying the children to safety in a Pentagon video of the attack which occurred three years ago in a suburb of Baghdad. The children’s father had been driving them home from school when he saw the injured Reuters driver crawling across the road and stopped to help. The helicopter then opened fire, killing them. Sajad Salah, the 12-year-old boy, and Duaa, his six-year-old sister, survived their injuries. The film was released on the internet earlier this month by WikiLeaks, the website dedicated to publishing secret documents.
The release of the 38-minute video embarrassed the Pentagon and prompted indignation at the spectacle of soldiers from Bravo Company 2-16 killing with the seeming detachment of video gamers.
McCord said that he felt “distraught” as he tried to wash the children’s blood out of his uniform, thinking of his own family: “So I went to a sergeant and asked to see the mental health person, because I was having a hard time dealing with it”. He was told by a superior: “Don’t be a pussy,” and warned that there would be “repercussions” if he insisted on counselling.
McCord left the army. Back home in Wichita, Kansas, his condition began to improve. Then, when he turned on his television one day earlier this month, he saw himself in the grainy, black-and-white video footage that had leaked onto the internet. “Knowing that I was part of the system that took their father away from them … it’s heartbreaking,” he said.
McCord has joined the Civilian-Soldier Alliance against America’s involvement in Iraq. “We are doing what we can to speak out against the wars and military policies responsible for what happened to you and your loved ones,” McCord says in his letter of apology to the victims’ families in Iraq.