To The Honorable Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus,
During the Democratic presidential debate between Senators Clinton and Obama televised on the evening of February 21st, Senator Obama spoke of information passed on to him by an officer in the United States Army about our forces in Afghanistan suffering from a shortage of equipment and weapons. The very next day, a member and former Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Warner, sent a letter to Senator Obama, asking for information about these charges. Senator Warner wrote:
"...I, and I believe other members of SASC, have a responsibility to establish where in the military chain of command rests the \'accountability,\' depending of course, on the accuracy of the facts...What I need from you are the essential facts of when- the dates- the unit was deployed, to which brigade combat team, or other unit it was assigned, the name and current location of the captain, or other military personnel who shared the alleged facts with you, so that committee staff can debrief them."
Senator Warner was, as should be the case, taking the oversight responsibility of the members of the SASC seriously.
In March 2008, the anti-war organization Iraq Veterans Against the War held an event entitled âï¿½ï¿½Winter Soldier-Iraq and Afghanistanâï¿½ï¿½ at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, MD. The event was self-consciously patterned after the 1971 Winter Soldier Investigation held in Detroit by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War(VVAW). During that event, over one hundred purported Vietnam veterans "testified" to widespread and horrific atrocities committed routinely by American forces in Vietnam.
In April of 1971, Senator Mark Hatfield moved that the entire WSI "testimony" be entered into the Congressional Record, while also calling for the relevant investigatory agencies in the military to investigate the charges made. None of that "testimony" had been given under oath or in legally binding depositions or affidavits. Later that same month, Senator William Fulbright\'s Foreign Relations Committee held hearings, well publicized on television, in which young war hero and VVAW leader John Kerry testified to the widespread atrocity "findings" of that WSI.
When military investigators for both the Army and Navy attempted to investigate the charges, those who had "testified" and could be located were almost universally uncooperative with those investigations. They would not give names, dates, units or details of events that would allow investigation to proceed. There is no record that the Foreign Relations Committee or any committee of the Senate ever held hearings to receive those follow-up reports. As such, the general theme of the 1971 WSI of widespread atrocities committed by American forces in Vietnam passed largely unchallenged into much of our culture. It has been a mainstay of the film industry for decades. It has harmed the image of American in general, and the honor of three million Vietnam Veterans in particular.
Various sources on the Internet and in print, including the IVAW, the VVAW and the Veterans for Peace as well as other organizations associated with them claimed that "testimony" given in March covered a variety of matters including widespread atrocities, indiscriminate and unwarranted killing of civilians and destruction of property and infrastructure, torture of detainees, mutilation of corpses and the illegal use of Afghan bodies for medical "practice", rampant sexual misconduct, racism and drug/alcohol use by American soldiers and on and on.
IVAW is now reporting that they will provide the results of their investigation to your caucus on May 15, 2008. We the undersigned request that the Congressional Progressive Caucus take the following steps:
* Make request of the Iraq Veterans Against the War that member(s) of the Caucus be provided video of the entire Winter Soldier Investigation "testimony" proceedings and be provided access to all those who testified,
*That the Caucus require any testimony given by IVAW be presented in the following format:
D: Date(s) - When did the incident occur
U: Unit(s) - What military units were involved
P: Personnel - What are the names of the participants and witnesses
E: Event(s) - What exactly happened exactly where
S: Signature(s) - Was this reported at the time or later and were reports, affidavits or depositions signed, or will they now be signed
* That in the event that staff determines that there has been testimony given that touches on areas where, in the words of Senator Warner, the members of the SASC "have a responsibility to establish where in the military chain of command rests the \'accountability,\' depending of course, on the accuracy of the facts...", the Caucus forward the information to the House Armed Services Committee (HASC),
* That the Caucus request and all documents and records, signed statements and recordings, audio, video or digital, that bear on the claims made and being investigated,
* That the Caucus demand that those making such claims or professing publicly to verify those claims be requested or subpoened to appear before the HASC under oath, to answer questions..
In 1971 the Senate of the United States was derelict in its duty of both oversight and follow-up and in the reasonable regard and respect it should have shown in consideration of the sacrifice and service of the American armed forces and veterans. We request that the members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus not allow what happened to a previous generation of veterans be allowed to happen to another.
Gathering of Eagles
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