"Today’s Winter Soldier testimony sets a new precedence for the legal records," proclaimed Mathis Chiroux, as he courageously began his testimony to a large crowd last night. Yesterday morning, Sgt. Chiroux had a hearing before a discharge board at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command in St. Louis, Missouri. Sgt. Chiroux was in the Army for five years, and when called up as an Individual Ready Reservist to go fight in Iraq, he actively refused to participate on the premise that "Operation Iraqi Freedom" was and is an illegal war of aggression, unconstitutional (quoting Section 6, paragraph 2), and testifying with his long experience in the military and its mistreatment of its soldiers and innocent civilians.
As should have probably been expected, the prosecution pulled a number of stunts, trying to portray him as selfishly seeking attention and fame. Chiroux appeared with his mother and girlfriend. President of the National Lawyers Guild, Majorie Cohn, even showed up to support him, quoting and citing countless court cases in his defense.[i]
Chiroux’s testimony did not attempt to deny the charges—that he refused to attend his deployment to Iraq—against him at all. Instead, he actively accepted the claims against him at every turn, stating that the illegality, grotesqueness, and dishonesty of the war was why could not participate in the military anymore. In the end, he received a "general discharge under honorable conditions". This sets an incredible marker for the anti-war movement, because Iraq Veterans Against the War has stated that they will use this case as precedence for future deflecting soldiers. Soldiers refusing to participate in the wars the U.S. engages are now faced with the possibility of receiving the basic equivalent of an "honorable discharge"!
Chiroux goes further, though. He, like most Winter Soldiers, was determined to tell his story about the crimes he witnessed in Afghanistan, to ones that he committed, and further.
In the Military
Originally from Auburn, Alabama, Chiroux left for Basic Training before the Iraq was a major topic of George W. Bush’s foreign policy discussion. "I had never even heard anything about Iraq until I left Basic Training and finally saw a television again," said Chiroux. He then went through the hoops of the military to be an Army Journalist, first training at Ft. Meade, Maryland, with the title of "Information Warrior". One of the most ironic aspects of Chiroux being a public figure today is that he is allowed to actively expose the outright lies he was told to promote. He now describes his military job as "supporting propaganda to promote U.S. imperialist wars." He gave the example of a lesson at Ft. Meade: Information Warriors supposedly interviewed a neighboring woman who had to endure loud aircrafts flying over her home into the middle of the night, to which she said she didn’t mind at all, because she knew that these loud planes were only "the sound of freedom".
Chiroux then, went on to a North Carolina base for schooling, and then to Tokyo, Japan for two years, where, he said, "We simply made up stories" to have positive information to say about the U.S. when there was none. After Japan, he was on to the Philippines to distribute medicine, and then Germany. In Germany, Chiroux witnessed some of the most horrific acts in his life—bureaucrats commonly smudged the death tolls of GI soldiers, the denying of soldiers’ their rights, and other crimes that should be punished.
Then, Chiroux was sent to Afghanistan, where he described what he watched as, "soldiers training to shoot at civilians". When asking why soldiers were training like this, he was told the civilian targets were supposed to be "insurgents". He would not be allowed to write about this though; nor would he be able to report the fact that some of the troops he interviewed in Afghanistan were "still technically in training," having no experience with how to engage in any sort of serious combat.
In Afghanistan, he was not allowed to write what he saw, unless it glorified the U.S. He witnessed the inadequacy of and dysfunctional weaponry soldiers were expected to use, and he had them report it to his superior, only to then witness the soldiers’ punishment from their Commander for "making him look bad in front of his superiors." In other words, "We don’t hear what’s going on in Afghanistan, because no one’s allowed to say anything negative," said Chiroux, "and that is most of what is happening." Commanders don’t want people to discover the awful conditions they are forcing privates to endure, so it goes further unknown and unmonitored. Privates do not want their troop to endure a full day of punishment drills, so, they keep their mouths shut.
This was accompanied by the incessant begging of impoverished, starving children in Afghanistan. Almost everyone has heard horror stories from veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan who were told to hit children on the road with their vehicle when driving; but Chiroux explained that those children are almost always in the road because they are begging for food from American soldiers, who are the only people these children find who are assured food in Afghanistan.
The most obvious example of silencing Chiroux occurred when he was sent to collect gratitude for the U.S. military forces from an Austrian soldier who had his legs blown off in Afghanistan. He said the assignment was insulting and degrading to the Austrian man, who was in solitary confinement—individually separated in an area with 65 other Austrian soldiers who were all suffering from a new bacteria (another silenced story; spreading rapidly among troops around the world) in Afghanistan.
The end of Chiroux’s story was a bit embarrassing for him, and hard to tell. But, he said, parts of it would probably be brought up as dirt against him later, so, it was important that he stated the story correctly and honestly for the public, before bits and pieces were manipulated by other media.
Chiroux was abused as a child and had a hostile relationship with his father, in Auburn, Alabama. As a teenager, he got into the same trouble as many young people, with petty crimes, like smoking weed. After being in and out of Juvy and numerous encounters with the police, his father kicked him out of the house, at age 17. Chiroux lived in the woods, still being arrested for possession of marijuana.
Reluctant to tell the next part, he then admitted that he "sold psychedelic mushrooms to [his] brother". His father found out and—instead of his usual parenting method of simply calling the police—had him brought to a meeting. At the meeting, Chiroux sat with his dad, a judge, his probation officer, and a military recruiter.[ii] At the meeting, he was told selling shrooms was a major crime and that he could be punished now with a possible 10 years in prison. Then, Sgt. Whitetree was introduced and Chiroux was told that his crimes would be ignored if he immediately enlisted in the military.
The crux of this meeting, though, was that Chiroux was still on probation. It was illegal for him to enlist, which everyone attending knew! This is why Judge Layne and Officer Ashearst intentionally came prepared to bump his probation dates up a month. In other words, they rewrote Chiroux’s records to allow his illegal enlistment into the military. "This is actually very common!" said Chiroux. "You would not believe how many people are in the military because they were manipulated or tricked into enlisting, which is why I refuse to call our military a voluntary force."
Chiroux did not seem proud, at all, of his teenage years, but he repeatedly said that was absolutely ashamed of his participation in the military, and one can see why would express more disgust at the crimes committed in the military. Although he wasted a lot of time in his youth with petty crimes, in the military, "I was ordered to solicit prostitutes, and we did it together, as a unit," and that he had to participate, "because we are men! And that is what men do!… Soliciting prostitutes is [another ignored fact that is] very normal in the military!" Chiroux said that the level of dehumanizing behavior he was forced to undergo produces the genocidal behavior that kills children regularly, which he witnessed. "My training consisted of stabbing a bayonet repeatedly [into a stuffed mannequin], while shouting, ‘KILL! KILL! KILL!’"
After reading Franz Jägerstätter’s autobiography, In Solitary Witness, Chiroux decided to actively refuse to attend his deployment to Iraq. Jägerstätter was an Austrian conscientious objector who refused to participate in any role for the Nazis. To clearly communicate that defiance would not be tolerated, the Nazis chopped his head off. Chiroux said that Jägerstätter had the conviction to get his head chopped off, but the worst that could happen to him (Chiroux) in the U.S. today is to be beaten, maybe tortured, chastised, and thrown in prison, which is puny compared to decapitation.
"Anyone of courage," said Chiroux, should refuse to participate in the illegal imperialist wars of aggression the U.S. engages. Today, U.S. soldiers have the legal precedence for a "general discharge under honorable conditions" for refusing to participate in these crimes against humanity. Iraq Veterans Against the War is available and offers legal protection to those veterans wanting to no longer participate in these illegal wars.
IVAW can be contacted at: IVAW, P.O. Box 8296, Philadelphia, PA 19101; Tel: 215.241.7123; Fax: 267.519.4593; General info/inquiries: [email protected]; Press requests: [email protected]; Speaker requests: Click here to fill out our speaker request form; Membership requests/questions: [email protected] Please, if you are in the military, contact IVAW as soon as you can to denounce the slaughtering of our innocent sisters and brothers around the world.
[i] The prosecution ended up trying to make the case that Iraq Veterans Against the War paid her to come, which was not, at all, true.
[ii] The spelling of these names may be incorrect, they are as respectively follows: Judge Layne, Probation Officer Angela Ashearst, and Sergeant (Robert?—Chiroux was unsure about his first name) Whitetree.