Two former US soldiers speak out for peace…in Venezuela


Meet Benji Lewis, 24–US army vet, and now, because of what he went through at Fallujah, a peace activist.

Eva Golinger has a knack for finding all sorts of interesting things that the government of the US would undoubtedly prefer that we not know. She’s found evidence that USAID–supposedly an agency to aid development in underdeveloped countries–has actually been financing coupmongers (some of them extremely violent) in Venezuela and Bolivia. She found enough material for two books–or was it three?–just on Venezuela alone. Now she’s branched out; she interviewed two soldiers-turned-peace-activists recently, and here are some of the highlights from the piece she wrote for her blog and Venezuelanalysis:

EG: When did you go to Iraq, Josh?

Josh: September 2004 to September 2005.

EG: What did you think when you were going there?

Josh: I was against the war but at the same time figured we already started the war and so should see it through and help the country rebuild. It was hard to think about. I was in charge of interrogations in Irak. And Source Operations, running sources to get information. I was in Mosul, Iraq. In Iraq, 95% of those detained and interrogated were innocent. The interrogations agitate the population against you. If they weren’t terrorists or insurgents when detained, they will be afterward! The reason why 95% are innocent and still detained is because the way to measure succes in Iraq, unlike in Vietnam where it was a body count, is based on the number of detainees. It doesn’t matter if they are women or children or innocent. I didn’t participate in physical torture and beat detainees. But I did participate in psychological torture.

EG: But you knew torture took place?

Josh: I saw the victims of the torture. The bruises and lashes all over their bodies came from somewhere. We would send the detainees to the Iraqi Army and Kurdish Militia that were working with us and they would do the torture for us. I had concerns about that especially because torture doesn’t work well for getting information.

EG: Benji, you were in Fallujah during the Blackwater scandal?

Benji: Right after. I was sent to Fallujah and there was excitement because it was right after the Blackwater scandal and we were on a mission of revenge. No one told us what had really happened except that US citizens had been killed by the Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah. So I was excited because I was going to be in a mortar unit and would be able to do what I was trained to do, we were going to utilize our mortars. We thought we were going to Fallujah to neutralize an insurrection, but they didn’t tell us that the entire city had already been bombed by the US for about a week and a third of the population was already displaced or dead. We were being told that this was a mission of revenge, we didn’t know they were Blackwater mercenaries that had been killed, we were told they were just US citizens. Several batallions of marines were unleashed on the city from every angle. It was a seige. There were thousands of us that assaulted Fallujah. We surrounded them and cut off their electricity and water, we bombed mosques.

EG: The military wasn’t giving the soldiers any kind of information?

Benji: Hearts and Minds is double rhetoric. You have to first control the hearts and minds of the troops committing these atrocities before sending them to war. You have to lie to them–otherwise you can’t fight these kinds of wars.

This interview also appears in Spanish in the Correo del Orinoco, and at YVKE Mundial.

Josh Simpson and Benji Lewis have also appeared on Venezuelan TV. Vanessa Davies, who hosts Contragolpe (“Counterpunch”, or in this case, “Counter-coup”) interviewed both of them. Josh’s interview can be seen here; Benji’s here. The videos are in Spanish and English. There’s some translation, but it’s not hard to get the gist of the questions being asked.

What they have to say is great, and we all need to hear it–over and over and over again. What bugs me is that there seems to be more interest in what they have to say in Venezuela than back where they come from. What’s that saying again, about a prophet in his own land…?

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2 Responses to Two former US soldiers speak out for peace…in Venezuela

  1. BillORightsMan says:

    Hiya Sabina! Long time no post! I’ve been scanning your posts looking for opinion in the Honduras-Zelaya coup and Obama’s slow response. I did find a screed from “Foreign Policy” a RW “think” tank: Chávez’s Covert War BY OTTO REICH | AUGUST 28, 2009

    Honduras has been the most recent target of Chávez’s subversion. There, he convinced a gullible follower, Manuel Zelaya, to retain his office through ALBA’s so-far successful modus operandi: After reaching power democratically, change the rules, neutralizing the legislative and judicial systems so that no opposition leader can ever rise democratically again. Chávez has guided this strategy in Bolivia and Ecuador, and ALBA member Daniel Ortega is attempting the same in Nicaragua. Thankfully, however, Honduras’s institutions of democracy — the justice system and legislature — proved too strong. The Supreme Court unanimously found Zelaya guilty of high crimes and ordered the military to remove him from office.
    Losing Zelaya — the first reversal in the drive to spread “21st Century Socialism” in the region — has driven Chávez to near hysteria. He has repeatedly promised to “overthrow” the new Honduran president, Roberto Micheletti, who was constitutionally appointed to office by an overwhelming congressional vote. (All but three members of Zelaya’s own party voted for Micheletti.) No Chávez soldiers have been spotted in Honduras, but there are reports that Venezuelan and Cuban intelligence operatives are fomenting violence in order to damage the government’s image, a common tactic in Latin America…
    The latest cause of Chávez’s bellicosity is the announcement that Colombia will host U.S. advisors at some of its army, navy, and air bases. Chávez and his leftist chorus, including Argentina and Brazil, immediately accused Uribe of providing “military bases” for “an aggression by the empire against our region” (in the words of Bolivian President Evo Morales)…

    Couple this with AP hanging with the biggest RW outfit in Caracas it makes one wonder how long before Venezuela becomes the target of the Capitalist-controlled corporomedia ire here in the U.S. to pump up the image of “evil” much like how they did in Chile back in the 70’s to the most recent Saddam “weapons of mass destruction” Hussein with his “yellowcake…from Africa”. I think it’s only a matter of time before the O! Administration starts saber-rattling or the CIA tries another COEHM-style overthrow, especially with the oil deals Chavez recently penned with China, especially since Ecuador kicked out the U.S. military (Ecuador Giving U.S. Air Base the Boot Wa Po September 4, 2008). Also the corpormedia conveniently forgets to mention Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras which has been historically used as a staging ground/launching pad for the “War on Drugs” in South America
    Hope your vacation was fun (comments were turned off here while you were gone!) and you’re doing well!

  2. Hey, BillO, glad to see you back!
    Actually, it wasn’t me on vacation, just my computers. Both were in the shop for repairs. Turns out only one of them was still fixable; I could have used the other while I was waiting, but I didn’t realize that they no longer made the keyboard OR the sound card for the 15″ G4 PowerBooks after a certain point. Grrr.
    And yeah, how ’bout that Otto Reich. A veritable Goebbels for BushCo. He belongs in jail, preferably incommunicado. Zelaya was not at all under the ‘Cito’s influence; he just knew a good economic deal for Honduras when he saw it, and he saw how ALBA was helping other poor countries hoist themselves out of poverty. He also happens to have had his people’s best interests at heart (as opposed to those of foreign capital.) Well, no wonder he had to go!
    That part about “driving Chávez to near hysteria” is a hoot. I never saw a LESS “near-hysterical” man. He’s indignant that Zelaya was bundled out of the country in his pajamas by the military and replaced by an unelected leader (NOBODY voted for Gorilletti–Reich lies again!), but that’s not “near hysteria”, and it’s certainly not limited to Chavecito, either. EVERY LatAm leader (except maybe those of Colombia, Panama and Mexico, who are all right-wing thugs) is indignant over this, and wants to see Zelaya put back behind his desk where he belongs. Which should surprise no one; everybody wonders who will be next if this is allowed to stand. It began in Chile in 1973 (36 years ago just yesterday!) Obama has the power to stop it all right now, and he’s not saying boo. NOT GOOD!
    And that part about “fomenting violence”? Surprise, ‘nother lie. The violence is all on the part of Gorilletti’s thugs, putting down dissent the good ol’-fashioned all-Amurrican way (see Battalion 316, etc.). The dissent is coming not from Venezuela or Cuba, but HONDURAS. Seems that an overwhelming majority of the population prefers democracy, not subversion thereof. Go figger…
    BTW, if Soto Cano was still operating as a US air base, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been used covertly in this coup. If there’s one thing I know about right-wing coups in LatAm, it’s that they never come off without a lot of help from their Yanqui “friends”. There’s a lot about the whole thing that smells hinky. (And it also smells like fast-food burgers. Ghah!)
    Good to have ya back–keep coming by, I got yer indignation for ya fresh daily!

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