Founded in July 2004, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) seeks “to give a voice to the large number of active duty service people and veterans who are against this war, but are under various pressures to remain silent.” The organization “supports all those resisting the war, including Conscientious Objectors and others facing military prosecution for their refusal to fight.” It calls for “immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces in Iraq”; “reparations for the pillaging and destruction of Iraq so that ordinary Iraqi people can control their own lives and future”; and “full benefits, adequate healthcare (including mental health), and other supports for returning servicemen and women.”
As a result of its invasion of Iraq, says IVAW, “The U.S. has lost credibility to much of the world as the defender of liberty and freedom, and our national identity is eroding. … We need to regain the respect and faith of the global community. This begins by withdrawing our troops from Iraq and helping the Iraqi people rebuild their country and society.”
IVAW membership is open only to men and women who have served in the U.S. Military since September 11, 2001. This includes all recent veterans and active-duty personnel from all branches of military service, National Guard members, and reservists. IVAW currently has members in 32 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and on numerous bases overseas, including Iraq. These members “educate the public about the realities of the Iraq war by speaking in communities and to the media about their experiences.” They also participate in IVAW’s anti-recruitment campaign in American high schools and colleges, where they seek to discourage young people from enlisting in the armed services.
IVAW spreads its anti-war, anti-military message via the following organizational projects:
(a) Project for New American Values: In conjunction with the UPRISE Counter-Recruitment tour, IVAW members traveled throughout the Northeast and Midwest in the Fall of 2006, sponsoring concerts with anti-war themes.
(b) Truth in Recruiting: “Veteran’s [sic] stories of conflict are a powerful tool that can be used to prevent others from entering into the military without a full understanding of their actions.” Activities in this program include: “Opt-out campaigns, organizing against JROTC programs, protesting at recruiting stations, and providing information about alternatives to the military.”
(c) Veteran Gulf Reconstruction Project: “As veterans, we saw first-hand how diverting billions [of dollars] for an endless occupation in Iraq is responsible for the shameful lack of aid for reconstruction in the communities that survived Hurricanes Katrina and Rita here at home. If we can build bases in the desert for war, we can rebuild cities in the U.S. for justice.”
(d) Coalitions and Movement Building: IVAW identifies its “most important partner” as Veterans for Peace. It also claims to have “very close relationships” with Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace, and Vietnam Veterans Against the War. “With these partners,” says IVAW, “we support the Bring Them Home Now! Campaign.” Moreover, IVAW is a steering committee member of the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition led by Leslie Cagan, a longtime committed socialist who aligns her politics with those of Fidel Castro’s Communist Cuba.
IVAW lists 10 major reasons why it opposes the war in Iraq:
1) The Iraq war is based on lies and deception: “The Bush Administration planned for an attack against Iraq before September 11th, 2001. They used the false pretense of an imminent nuclear, chemical and biological weapons threat to deceive Congress into rationalizing this unnecessary conflict.”
2) The Iraq war violates international law: “The United States assaulted and occupied Iraq without the consent of the UN Security Council. In doing so they violated the same body of laws they accused Iraq of breaching.”
3) Corporate profiteering is driving the war in Iraq: “From privately contracted soldiers and linguists to no-bid reconstruction contracts and multinational oil negotiations, those who benefit the most in this conflict are those who suffer the least.”
4) Overwhelming civilian casualties are a daily occurrence in Iraq: “[L]arge-scale civilian death is both a direct and indirect result of United States aggression in Iraq. Even the most conservative estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths number over 100,000. Currently over 100 civilians die every day in Baghdad alone.”
5) Soldiers have the right to refuse illegal war.
6) Service members are facing serious health consequences due to our Government’s negligence: “Combat stress, exhaustion, and bearing witness to the horrors of war contribute to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder … Additionally, depleted uranium, Lariam, insufficient body armor and infectious diseases are just a few of the health risks which accompany an immorally planned and incompetently executed war.”
7) The war in Iraq is tearing our families apart: “The use of stop-loss on active duty troops and the unnecessarily lengthy and repeat active tours by Guard and Reserve troops place enough strain on our military families, even without being forced to sacrifice their loved ones for this ongoing political experiment in the Middle East.”
The Iraq war is robbing us of funding [that is] sorely needed here at home: “$5.8 billion per month is spent on a war which could have aided the victims of Hurricane Katrina, [or] gone to impoverished schools, the construction of hospitals and health care systems, tax cut initiatives, and a host of domestic programs that have all been gutted in the wake of the war in Iraq.”
9) The military uses racism and discrimination as tools: “In order to recruit for the Iraq War, the most vulnerable minority and social groups in the United States are preyed upon to be used as cannon fodder. Once inside the military, they are subject to racism, sexism including harassment and assault, homophobia, and religious intolerance. When at war, the troops are taught to dehumanize the people of Iraq as an enemy with intolerance and racist epithets.”
10) Today’s youth face aggressive recruitment tactics that don’t tell the whole story: “Popular perception of the military as an ‘all-volunteer force’ hides the fact that our future troops are aggressively recruited from our lowest income neighborhoods. Economically conscripted, the poor and socially vulnerable young are bought with the lies of discipline, education and civilian job training to carry out the wishes of powerful political individuals who are far from war’s true horror.”
The co-founders of IVAW include Michael Hoffman (a former Lance Corporal with the Marines); Kelly Dougherty (who served as a Military Police Sergeant in Iraq); Alex Ryabov (a former Corporal with the Marines); Jimmy Massey (a career Staff Sergeant and Recruiter in the Marine Corps); Isaiah Pallos (a former Marine Sergeant); Diana Morrison (who served in Iraq as a Military Policewoman); and Tim Goodrich (whose military unit saw action in Afghanistan and Iraq).