Veteran Speaks Out

Over a year ago President George Bush in a speech to the nation said the major attacks in Iraq were over.

Santa Monica College's Progressive Alliance sent an invitation to Serge Louchnikov, a member of the United States Marine Core since 1999, to speak as a follow-up to the week of resistance. He accepted and came to SMC to speak on Tuesday, May 5.

Louchnikov is just one of the many soldiers who was an eyewitness to the bloodshed in Iraq.

Louchnikov made the decision to become a marine when the U.S. wasn't at war. He went into the service because he thought it was patriotic and was something he wanted to do.

Being a member of the marines put him on the front line of battle during the initial invasion back into Iraq. Stationed in Kuwait for about five months before the war he saw a major buildup of forces three months. He now realized this was not a training mission anymore. They were here for the long run.

"Our mission was to take the southwestern part of Iraq where all of the oil fields were," Louchnikov said. "The government or the command, probably the government did not want to take the chance of the oil fields being blown up by the retreating Iraqi solders."

The turning point for Louchnikov came in March of 2004 when he realized that this war is more than what met the eye.

In March of 2004 four civilian contractors where killed by insurgents and their bodies were hung up for display on a bridge. Immediately after U.S. forces were ordered into Fullugia. The troops lost 20 men as they pushed about halfway into the city. The units were told to withdraw due to fatalities.

"Why were we told to withdraw (was) because the election was going on. As soon as the president got reelected he ordered the push for Fullugia to go on," he said. "I said this is nonsense. People are being manipulated like pawns, the election is over lets go."

Today, Louchnikov is now a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. At the moment he is on inactive ready reserve with the Marines. This means he is a civilian. Being a civilian allows him to speak out against the war with out repercussions from the military. Despite the fact that he is a civilian, he knows that he could be called back to duty at any moment.

"We were able to build up great momentum with the march that ended up with the rally in front of the recruiters office. We decided to bring in some one who experienced the war and talk to the students about his experience and why we shouldn't have recruiters on campus," said Richard Navarette member of the Progressive Alliance.

In room 240 of the liberal arts building Louchnikov stood before a room that was about three-quarters full. Once his mouth was opened came the stories about his experiences over in Iraq and how what he thinks about the U.S. government.

"I don't think the government is telling us the truth and I don't think they are telling us everything," Louchnikov said. "There are a lot of contradictions to what the government is saying and what I experienced."

SMC Republican Club President Tom Oster who was not at the meeting has a different view of what's going on.

"There is a new government in Iraq and they asked for our troops to stay," said Oster.

Ryan Duschek also a veteran and a student at SMC was part of the audience to hear Louchnikov speak. Like Oster, he too doesn't share the same views as Louchnikov

"I was there and I saw how bad off people were and how much they needed things," said Duschek "A lot of people say 'stop the war, stop the war'. Okay what's going to happen when we pull out no one has an answer for that."

Louchnikov wants to add more veterans his organization in the future, as he believes the voices of the veterans are the loudest.