At an event in Watertown, New York on Saturday, members of Iraq Veterans Against War charged that war crimes against civilians were encouraged by unit commanders.
"The killing of innocent civilians is policy," said veteran Mike Blake. "It's unit policy and it's Army policy. It's not official policy, but it's what's happens on the ground everyday. It's what unit commanders individually encourage."
Veteran Matt Howard concurred: "These decisions are coming from the top down," Howard said. "The tactics that we use, the policies that the military engages, will create situations, create dynamics, create -- ultimately -- atrocity."
Blake and Howard were among four veterans speaking at Watertown's Different Drummer Cafe, in a preliminary event to the 'Winter Soldier' gathering scheduled in Washington, D.C. in March. Named after the 1971 event in which John Kerry read testimony from soldiers on atrocities they had committed, this year's Winter Soldier will feature Iraq War veterans speaking about war crimes they committed or witnessed.