by Plutonium Page
The second anniversary of the Iraq war is March 19, 2005, and there's a new group that will be participating in the protests. Here's their mission statement:
Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is a group of veterans who have served since September 11th, 2001 including Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. We are committed to saving lives and ending the violence in Iraq by an immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces. We also believe that the governments that sponsored these wars are indebted to the men and women who were forced to fight them and must give their Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen the benefits that are owed to them upon their return home.
Karen Houppert of The Nation has written an excellent article about IVAW. Some excerpts are below the fold.
The article begins with the story one of IVAW's co-founders, and a description of how they will interact with other anti-war activists:
Until the summer of 2003, Michael Hoffman was a US Marine with the Tenth Regiment. Hoffman, who says he believed from the beginning that this was a war for oil, had been slated to get out of the service before his unit shipped out to Kuwait in February 2003. But two days before Hoffman's time was up, his sergeant called him to let him know that the Secretary of the Navy had instituted "stop loss," which meant that those soldiers deemed necessary to the war could not get out of the service when promised; Hoffman would be going to Iraq instead of home to Allentown, Pennsylvania. What Hoffman saw when his unit went into Iraq on March 20 only hardened his opposition to the war. "Seeing the civilian casualties and the horrible things that were done and the destruction we laid on that country, it seemed pretty clear to me that we never had the Iraqis' best interests in mind," he says.
Today, Hoffman is a co-founder of the fledgling organization Iraq Veterans Against the War and also a centerpiece of the peace movement's emerging strategy. Antiwar activists are determined to make the military a major pillar of the movement, both by homing in on one of the war effort's weak spots - the military's faltering campaign to recruit new soldiers - and by embracing antiwar troops. Perhaps recalling the late but powerful entrance of the voices of Vietnam vets in the protests of that era - like, say, the youthful Lieut. John Kerry, who once spoke eloquently about what he saw in Vietnam - today's 1960s-activist-stacked peace movement hopes to be more strategic about the military's role.
How the various groups hope to convince everyone (up to members of Congress) to take a stand:
The effort dovetails nicely with the rest of the peace movement's counter-recruiting efforts, which are newly focused on the National Guard. "This is just one part of the larger struggle to deny the government the troops it needs to fight the war," explains MFSO's [Military Families Speak Out] Richardson. Banding together with the American Friends Service Committee, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and United for Peace and Justice, MFSO intends to bring the war home by exposing the local impact of the war on soldiers, families, communities and states through a focus on the National Guard. Because as many as 50 percent of some states' National Guard troops are deployed at any given time, residents are left without the state-based emergency response teams they may need. "This is an issue that state legislatures can and must take on," insists Richardson. Not only do antiwar activists hope to expose this vulnerability and propel more states to adopt resolutions like Vermont's; they are ultimately going for a trickle-up effect. If grassroots activists can persuade a city councilor to support their cause, and then a state legislator, eventually members of Congress might feel they have a supportive base for taking a stand. To that end, peace activists are tying the cost of the war to local issues. Libraries and schools are under-funded, the argument goes, because money is going instead to fund military adventures. "We have to say that Bush's budgets are immoral and we are looking for moral ways to use our money," says Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, an organization of women for peace.
How will the soldiers' involvement affect the progressive movement? One possibility:
Ultimately, there is a danger that the soldier's perspective, so crucial to the peace movement now, may prove problematic to the larger progressive movement that activists hope this will spawn. After all, for many soldiers this is a one-platform plank, making their immediate asset their long-term flaw. "So many of the other activists at this United for Peace and Justice convention can be written off by Americans as crazy pinko commie lefties," Hoffman told me privately, after he had addressed the larger assembly of peace activists in the St. Louis convention hall. "But we're the vets who've been there and fought, and it seems it's hard for us to be dismissed. We've been to Iraq. We've seen it. We know it's wrong. We have to end it." He shrugs and raises his hands, palms up, as if he holds a tidy package. "It's very simple. There's not a lot of other issues we're talking about."
Definitely check out the rest of the IVAW website. Lots of good stuff there. Their collection of links to external sites includes links to the stories/organizations about GI objectors. Kevin Benderman isn't the only one.