Open Letters to the Antiwar Movement
To Allies of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and Winter Soldiers:
The United States has been occupying Iraq for nearly five years, and Afghanistan for over six. It often amazes us, as veterans and active duty troops, that we are engaged in two foreign occupations that continue to grind on with no end in sight.
Some of us were in junior high or high school when these wars began, and now we have to watch as our peers continue to fight and die overseas while our politicians continue to refuse to bring our troops home.
For many of us, the most frustrating, depressing thing is to see the level of detachment and apathy that is so common among the American people. The anti-war movement seems no closer to ending the occupation, and more and more people seem content to believe that things in Iraq are improving and they no longer need to bother themselves with worrying about it.
The voices of those who have been to war, have participated in occupation, and have been the victims and survivors of U.S. foreign aggression are not being heard.
Those of us who know, first hand, the brutal realities of war have been ignored and marginalized, and it is well past time that we are given the space and opportunity to tell our stories.
This is why Iraq Veterans Against the War is marking the fifth year of the Iraq invasion and occupation by holding Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, March 13-16 in Washington, DC.
We will offer first-hand, eyewitness accounts to tell the truth about these occupations; their impact on the troops, their families, our nation, and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Military resistance to the war in Iraq is just waiting to be organized and WS is an important action in IVAW’s overall strategy to end the war and bring our troops home now.
We hope that you share our vision of the importance and significance of this momentous event. Winter Soldier provides a unique opportunity to reveal the reality of U.S. occupation, and our success will depend upon the hard work of our members and the support of our allies.
In order to give our veterans the necessary space and attention we deserve to tell our stories, we are requesting that, during Winter Soldier, March 13-16, the larger anti-war movement calls no national mobilizations and that there are no local protests or civil disobedience actions in Washington DC. IVAW will not endorse any mass mobilizations or DC-based actions that conflict with Winter Soldier. We feel that large-scale activities will compete with Winter Soldier and dilute the voices of those testifying.
The success of Winter Soldier rests beyond IVAW and will ultimately depend on the support of our allies.
We realize that ending the war will take more than any one single event or mobilization. However, Winter Soldier provides a venue like no other for those who experienced war on the ground to expose the truth and consequences of the War on Terror to the nation and the world. We hope that you share our vision.
Executive Director, IVAW
. . .
Most of you don’t know this about me but; my father is a Vietnam Vet and a career military man, he retired when I was a senior in high school and I grew up on military bases around the world. My cousin died in the same battle as Casey in Iraq and I have spent most of my adult life working with homeless veterans in South Central Los Angeles until I dedicated myself to the peace movement, so I have every right to speak out about this total bullshit with IVAW. I’ve been silent out of respect to Cindy for the last few days, but there seems to be a lack of clarity to this conversation that I think is an important piece of what’s really going on.
Jethro Heiko who is a consultant (not a veteran) working with IVAW has suddenly come to the center of this and created this dissention. To my knowledge no one in the core of the peace movement has ever even heard of him prior to this and according to his blog his major objective is to tear down the peace movement and rebuild it from a military directed leadership. It sounds to me like his crack strategy of taking control of IVAW when there is a clear lack of intelligent leadership is either straight from the Bush administration or just a power grabeither way not a sincere motive for stopping the illegal occupation of Iraq.
Not to mention Direct quote from Perry O’Brien representing IVAW on the real reason that they don’t want an action on the 15th. “IVAW doesn’t want any association with a anti-war contingent lead by Cindy Sheehan, we don’t think it would have any credibility.” Given that Kelly Dougherty told me that the main purpose of the Winter Soldier was to raise the profile of IVAWNOT TO IMPACT THE WAR, I think what Perry was really saying is that any action lead by Cindy Sheehan on that weekend would take away attention from IVAW. Wow that is so selfless!
Perry was also clear that many of the veterans participating in the Winter Soldier were not anti-war and didn’t want to deal with the “peace movement.” So are we to assume that they just want to sit around and pat themselves on the back for committing war crimes to ease their conscience, not to make a difference. Just in case any of them are actually brave enough to accept the consequences of their crimeslet me be the first to volunteer to pay for a ticket to the Hague where a confession might actually mean something.
The Camp Casey Peace Institute has removed ourselves from the Year 5 Committee because we absolutely will not bow in any way to support the selfish and un-strategic plans of IVAW or anyone in support of them. We do intend to an action in DC before or on the 15th, but we have the vision to understand that it’s only one day in 1760 days of an ongoing illegal occupation and victimization of the Iraqi people.
Finally I would just ask you all to consider how disgusting it is that there has been no conversation around how to support the Iraqi people, who did not volunteer to be massacred and can’t refuse to return for another tour of duty or make immature demands to benefit their own need for glory.
Who really deserves our sympathy and voice?
Peace be with all of you,
. . .
Dear UFPJ Member Groups,
We hope you saw the notice that we sent out on Monday explaining the decisions made at the UFPJ National Steering Committee last weekend. Those decisions laid out a direction and a set of priorities for the coalition as we move into 2008. All of this was based on a review of our work in this past year as well as a look at some of the major challenges ahead.
While the direction and priorities have been articulated, there is still a great deal of work to do in putting together the details of this work. As one important part of this process, we hope the member groups of UFPJincluding yourswill give us input by responding to a survey we’ve put together. We know the holidays are upon us, but if you have any time to talk about these issues with your group that would be great. It would be helpful to have feedback from you all by the end of next week, but please send in any responses you might have later, if that works better for you. And, as always, you should feel free to call the office and talk to anyone of the staff about your ideas, suggestions, concerns, or other feedback and input (212-868-5545.)
You can get to the survey by clicking here: http://www.unitedforpeace.org/survey
We also want to let you know that we’ve recently been involved in two conference calls that were convened to discuss a proposal for a short-term coalition effort around the upcoming 5th anniversary of the war in Iraq. The steering committee has decided to not join this coalition. UFPJ’s priorities for the 5th anniversary are (1) support for Iraq Veterans Against the War and their Winter Soldier event, (2) help organize what we hope will be the largest nonviolent civil disobedience action in Washington, DC on March 19th, and (3) encourage local actions on that same day in all 435 Congressional districts around the country. It was not clear how being part of another coalitional structure would help move all of this work forward. And that’s what is most important...moving the work forward.
Again, we hope you will take some time in the next week to complete the survey. Thanks everyone.
Leslie Cagan National Coordinator