Iraq Vets Lead New Chapter in Anti-War Movement

Posted March 10, 2008

Watch it online here!

Last month, March 13-16, hundreds of soldiers gathered in DC to disclose the realities of U.S. war policy in a public investigation called Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans and civilian survivors of both conflicts gave public testimony and shared the eyewitness stories that have been censored from the American public about the true human cost of these occupations. The Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) are turning a page, and writing a new chapter in the struggle against the US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan–and civilians need to be there with them!

Where IVAW is going

The GI anti-war movement has come a long way from Camilo Mejia’s first publicized acts of resistance in the fall of 2003 and the founding of IVAW the following summer. While in the past IVAW spent much of its time speaking at civilian anti-war events, organizing among soldiers is now at the center of IVAW’s strategy to end the war – a strategy that also includes supporting members of the military who resist this war and spreading the truth about recruiting and military service. Over the past year, IVAW has intensified its organizing among active-duty GIs and vets, and the number of chapters increased from 8 to 37, including 4 active duty-chapters on bases (the latest is at Fort Hood, Tx); all the bus tours and concerts in base-towns, coffee-houses, active-duty chapters and plain old flyering are paying off: they now have over 800 members! On Jan. 10th, Kelly Dougherty, co-founder of IVAW, explained it in the context of the presidential elections:

“A year from now, will we have moved any closer to withdrawal? Or will our leaders continue to push such a decision off into the future, where, like so many decisions made by the powerful, the price to be paid rests squarely on the shoulders of the next generation?”

Kelly Dougherty

“We are at a crossroads: we can focus our energy exclusively on an election in which no viable candidate is committed to rapid withdrawal, or we can spend the next year ensuring that whoever takes office, Republican or Democrat, will face a country mobilized to the cause of bringing our troops home.”

“Our strategy is simple: organize the men and women of our armed forces to withdraw their support for the war. Our reason for choosing this strategy is also simple: without the active support of military service members, this war cannot continue. The government has shown that no matter which lever people pull on Election day, they can continue, and even escalate, the war. But without people to drive the trucks, to man the checkpoints, and to go out on nightly raids, no war is possible. Of course, we don’t expect to be able to convince the entirety of our armed forces to go on strike, but what percentage of soldiers would need to stand up against this war before our leaders decide that they cannot continue? One percent? Five? We aim to find out. We’re drawing the line, and we’re asking you to join us.”

The Winter Soldier Investigation fits into this strategy in a number of ways. First, it is all about organizing soldiers: the hundreds gathered in DC will spend Sunday strategizing, many more will be watching the live broadcast (click here for viewing info, and the testimony will continue to be distributed among soldiers afterwards. Second, revealing the details of war-crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan will help build support for those who resist participating in this war. Third, the documentary that will be made from the testimony will be shown in classrooms across the country, to counter the lies of the military recruiters who administer the poverty draft.

Crisis in the anti-war movement?

Over the past year, the street protests have sadly dwindled. IVAW is up-ing the anti: They have prioritized a strategy based on their best analysis of how they can develop the power to stop the war. Rather than sticking with tactics that aren’t delivering–at least on their own–the results this movement demands, they have looked to history (the Vietnam GI movement) and to their base (the soldiers themselves) and came up with a powerful strategy. Can the civilian anti-war movement follow suit? Can we develop tactics that go beyond the symbolic and reach the strategic?

IVAW is asking for the movement’s help. Are we ready to give it? It’s a good place to start, and the larger anti-war movement has a lot to learn from them.