Saturday, November 26, 2005

Winter Soldier

Last night I had the opportunity to see Winter Soldier, the documentary about the three-day Winter Soldier Investigation held in Detroit in late January and early February 1971. The film, long unavailable for public viewing, is currently making the rounds of art houses and film societies throughout the country.

Filmed in stark black and white, the film contains snippets of the testimony given by some of the more than 100 participants and parts of interviews given by those men and others who talked of atrocities and war crimes they participated in or witnessed while they were in Vietnam.

Controversial since day one, both the Winter Soldier Investigation and the film made during it have come under fire over the years, most recently during the last presidential election when the rightwing attempted to use it as ammunition against John Kerry.

Occasional inserts of color photos taken of the participants while they were in country were added to the film later and serve to blunt some of the over-the-top criticism by many on the right that none of the participants were actually veterans who had served in Vietnam.

From my own time in Vietnam (1968-69), I can tell you that while I personally saw no atrocities of the kind described in the WSI testimony, it was "in the air" that they were taking place, and taking place on a regular basis.

One of the criticisms of the film (and the testimony itself) has been, basically, "yeah, so what -- shit happens in war". Well, yes it does. But does that make it right? If every invading army since the beginning of time has done these things, does that make them any the less war crimes?

Wikipedia (of course) has an excellent overview article on WSI, and be sure to read the companion talk section to get a feel for some of the flavor and the heat of the controversy surrounding the WSI.

The Sixties Project has the complete testimony of the participants -- read their statements for yourself and see if you think it's all lies.

In the meantime, if you get the chance to see this powerful film, be sure to take it. A Google search for "winter soldier film schedule" turns up over 14,000 hits. You ought to be able to find a showing near you.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

I worked with a Vietnam Vet that told me one way HE SAW people interogated was to take 3 or 4 up to around 1000 feet in a helicopter, then start asking the least important of the group questions, if he balked, you threw them from the copter. By the time you get to the last one, he said they sang like a bird...