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Uploaded on Oct 1, 2007
Our friends at Labor Beat in Chicago sent us this piece, about a street theater-style action where members of Iraq Vets Against the War, dressed in battle gear, did a mock patrol, sweeping up and mistreating Chicago civilians in the same style they did in Iraq. This action was modeled after a similar action by Vietnam Vets Against the War, done in the early 1970s, during the US invasion and occupation of Viet Nam, (the "RAW March," which we have archival footage of, and hope to put on a future "Indymedia Presents" episode, for its historical interest). Much like VVAW of yesteryear, IVAW has played an important role in opposing the US presence in Iraq, as well they should. Nobody knows the horror of the American presence better than its victims, the Iraqi people, but their voice is not at all present in the American discourse on the war. Next to the Iraqis, the American soldiers who have served in Iraq have the most to say and IVAW has been a strong voice, trying to alert the American public to the wrongfulness of US actions over there, using increasingly creative ways to get the word to the people here at home. Their efforts reflect a tremendous faith in Americans. The idea is that if Americans are confronted with the truth, they will not turn away, but will stop the war.
Although "Chicago Occupied" was made before the latest scandal developed, regarding the Blackwater mercenaries in Iraq, it sheds some light on that situation. Blackwater is accused of randomly shooting at civilians who have pulled over to allow the US convoys to go by. Apparently its not a few loose cannons, or an isolated incident, but done routinely, as policy. The world over people don't really mind pulling over when the the flashing blue lights race by, with nary a bad thought or negative attitude towards the authorities when we do so. But if the cops randomly shot as us as they careened by, we'd all get restive real quick. Putting aside for a moment the question of whether the US should be in Iraq, it is a legitimate question to ask "Are American soldiers and the US-hired mercenaries in Iraq there to pacify the Iraqis, or to bully and incite them?" Is this a new and very bad definition of "making war," where we keep the war going (and therefore profitable) by mistreating the Iraqis until they HAVE to resist? In "Chicago Occupied" we see American veterans, returned from Iraq, trying to bring a message to the American people about what they are actually doing to the Iraqis.
This short snippet is the first in an ambitious series the PepperSpray video collective is developing based on interviews conducted with veterans at the Veterans For Peace national convention. In this one Hart Viges, who served with the 82nd Infantry, tells the story of why the citizens of Falluja were angered at the US occupying forces, who had taken over a school in that city to use as their headquarters. When the Iraqis demonstrated out front, asking for their school back so the kids could return to classes, the American forces opened fire on the demonstrators, killing 15 and wounding many more. It was this incident, Viges feels, that turned the city of Falluja against the Americans, which resulted in the death of the four Blackwater mercenaries a short time later.