[Marxism] Iraq War Resisters to Get Boost from Veterans Group

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Tue Aug 21 20:51:55 MDT 2007

Iraq War Resisters to Get Boost from Veterans Group

Aaron Glantz

SAINT LOUIS, Aug 20 (OneWorld) - Members of a leading Iraq war
veterans' organization voted this weekend to launch a campaign
encouraging U.S. troops to refuse to fight.
The decision was made at the group's annual membership meeting, held
this weekend in Saint Louis, Missouri alongside the annual convention
of the Veterans for Peace organization.

"Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) decided to make support of war
resisters a major part of what we do," said Garrett Rappenhagen, a
former U.S. Army sniper who served in Iraq from February 2004 to
February 2005.

"There's a misconception that they're cowards," Rappenhagen said.
"Most war resisters have already gone on a tour in Iraq. They've seen
the war firsthand and have come to the conclusion that it's morally
wrong. This is something we all should support. So to break that
timidness of how we view war resisters in America, IVAW decided to
embrace them."

To underscore that point, the veterans group elected Staff Sergeant
Camilo Mejia chair of its board of directors. In the winter of 2003,
Mejia was the first soldier to refuse to return to fight in Iraq after
an initial tour in the war zone.

When Mejia came home on leave after six months in Iraq, he went AWOL
rather than return. Ultimately, he served nine months in prison after
the military denied his demand to be discharged as a conscientious

"There's a sort of revolution taking place in the streets," Mejia
said. "It's not being reported by the mainstream media, but we in the
antiwar movement know what's going on. There is a rebellion going on
in the ranks of the military that is not being reported."

Mejia noted more than 10,000 soldiers have deserted since the Iraq war
began four years ago. According to the Army, the number of deserters
has increased every year of the war. 3,196 active-duty soldiers
deserted the Army last year, compared to 2,543 the year before.

Soldiers are also speaking up in other ways. Last October, antiwar
soldiers launched a legal petition to Congress called an Appeal for
Redress, which has garnered more than 2,000 signatures.

"As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I
respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the
prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from
Iraq," the Appeal says. "Staying in Iraq will not work and is not
worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home."

Iraq Veterans Against the War has also begun organizing among active
duty soldiers on military bases. Veterans have toured the country in
busses holding barbeques outside the base gates.

In Watertown, near Fort Drum, New York and close to the Canadian
border, veterans worked with the group Citizen Soldier to found a
soldiers' rights coffeehouse. The coffeehouse, called A Different
Drummer, has become a hub of antiwar organizing.

Twenty Fort Drum soldiers are now members of Iraq Veterans Against the

Historian David Cortright, who protested the Vietnam war from inside
the U.S. military and later authored the book "Soldiers in Revolt: GI
Resistance During the Vietnam War," told OneWorld that a chapter of 20
antiwar soldiers at a U.S. Army base is significant.

"They are the ones who are courageous enough to speak out but behind
them are many others who sympathize and agree," he said. "They might
support a petition and help out in some way but because of family
matters don't want to put themselves at risk. There's tremendous
pressure from the command to conform, to obey, to keep your mouth
shut. So the fact that there are a couple dozen who are willing to
speak out signifies that there is a base of sympathy and support and
opposition to this war."

Iraq Veterans Against the War also plans to step up efforts to
undermine military recruiting efforts in the coming year.

In September, the organization plans to launch a "truth in recruiting"
campaign. The campaign will include antiwar outreach into high schools
and community colleges, protests at recruiting stations, and efforts
to "make friends with a recruiter," whereby a person who is not
interested in military service contacts a recruiter in order to waste
his time and prevent him from encouraging others to join the ranks.

At least 3,707 U.S. soldiers have died since the Iraq war began four
years ago. Some 20 percent of soldiers have suffered brain trauma,
spinal injuries or amputations; another 20 percent have suffered other
major injuries such as blindness, partial blindness or deafness, and
serious burns.

Hundreds of thousands have already submitted disability claims with
the United States Veterans Administration.


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