Tag Archives: Iraq Veterans Against the War

PLP Exposes Deadly Election Politics to Iraq Veterans

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA, August 30th—At this year’s Veterans for Peace (VFP)/Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) convention the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) met and worked with old friends to distribute Challenge and our “GI Notes” newsletter and  make new contacts.

IVAW’s actions at the Democratic and Republican national conventions drew the most excitement among the young vets. At the DNC (Democratic National Convention), IVAW led over 3,000 in an anti-war march and claimed victory when Barack Obama’s top veterans affairs advisor accepted a message against the Iraq war from IVAW on behalf of the presidential candidate. However, when the vets asked Obama’s representative for an expected time of reply, Obama’s reps refused to give one. While IVAW is currently eager to negotiate a meeting with Obama, the lesson we in PLP saw was that Obama and the Democrats are willing to pretend to listen while they plan expanded wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan (see article on page 4).

Many in IVAW are not fooled by Obama’s supposed “anti-war” stance—some in IVAW even pushed to officially oppose the US war in Afghanistan—but few see alternatives to pressuring politicians. We in PLP said that working class, lower enlisted troops, and students can end imperialism through generations of class struggle and armed revolution, not lobbying and elections. Imperialist wars continued after the US bosses defeat in Vietnam because of capitalism’s constant drive  for profit and power, not “greedy” corporations and “corrupt” presidents. The openness by some vets to PLPs line at the convention left us energized and eager to aid in active-duty and vets struggles.

The role of police was also a hot discussion. Some wanted to trust and work more with the police because at the DNC, a handful of police in riot gear refused to point their weapons at the IVAW contingent, left their posts, and were moved to tears by a powerful speech given by an IVAW member.

The police attacked the rest of the DNC anti-war marches. Also, the basis of IVAW’s appeal to police was individualist and patriotic, focusing on the psychological effects on the cops for attacking “American” veterans who were mostly white. Given racist police murders and anti-immigrant raids by ICE, law enforcement would probably treat black, latino, and immigrant troops differently.

Similar tactics of vets appealing to cops did not work at the RNC. Uniformed cops openly tried to sit in IVAW’s closed workshops in the IVAW convention room, they photographed vets walking to hotels, and attacked protestors during IVAW’s attempt to bring McCain’s campaign a veterans rights message.

Many at the convention were motivated to stop more troops from experiencing the guilt of killing for oil and greed, and to stop the killing of civilians. Many really believe politicians will listen to them or that enough troops and public will rise up so the anti-war movement will stop the bosses war in the next few months or years. But vets need a long term struggle against the profit system behind the wars. Many of the young vets we met are motivated to do more around Veterans issues and racism against Iraqis. PLP plans on working with and giving them communist leadership to oppose capitalism and all it’s imperialist wars, not just Iraq.

Send letters and articles to desafio.challenge@gmail.com subject GI Notes.

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In Opposing Imperialist War:GI’s Must Fight Racism, Sexism

In late August, Veterans for Peace (VFP) and Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will have their national conventions with military families participating. These groups’ leaders put their hopes on politicians to end the war in Iraq. But all politicians represent the interests of capitalism — profit wars, racism, and sexism. The Progressive Labor Party is organizing to fight the ruler’s agenda, not with false hopes of change from elections, but by building an international communist movement to smash imperialism and its racist, sexist warmakers.

While some activists honestly feel fighting racism is a distraction to the goal of ending the war, anti-racist unity helped anti-war troops contribute to the collapse of U.S. ground forces in Vietnam. A majority of Vietnam-era GI rebellions centered on fighting the racism against black and Latin soldiers along with fighting against the war. Fighting the military’s anti-Asian racism was also vital to building solidarity with “the enemy” which led to US troops fragging — killing — gung ho patriotic officers, rather than killing and dying for U.S. imperialism.

Today, fighting racism is still crucial to fighting imperialism.  Limiting the argument to the Iraqi War being bad because U.S. troops are being killed supports U.S. rulers’ racist agenda of having troops see Asian, Arab, and Muslim workers as subhuman. The wars, in both Afghanistan and Iraq, are wrong because they’re killing our class brothers and sisters, not just U.S. troops. Liberal “anti-war” politicians, like the 13 congressional democrats who wrote a support statement to anti-Iraq war troops, condone the racist anti-Muslim lies and support the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Even though many in the U.S. military honestly believe in the ideas of national honor and pride in the US constitution, the history of US ruler’s racist terror — from slavery and the Indian wars to recent police murders, raids against immigrant workers, and the murder of millions in Iraq and many thousands in Afghanistan—contradicts these “patriotic” ideals and proves they are a lie. But instead of winning and developing anti-racist activists through education and action, some IVAW leaders want to appeal to a patriotism that makes unity with the ruler’s politicians more important than unity with workers worldwide.

Many anti-racists aren’t duped.  Black youth are resisting enlistment and black troops are opting for support jobs in part because of the memory of Vietnam-era racism, which led to disproportionate higher casualties among black and Latin soldiers.

Within IVAW, members have raised and led fights against the racist nature of imperialism. But some IVAW leaders say they don’t want to alienate “middle America” by talking about racism.  The leadership dropped a planned panel on “racism within the military” during the group’s Winter Soldier testimonies. IVAW’s active membership, like other military peace groups, remains mostly white. This poses no problems, however, if you want to capture the spotlight of the racist media and reach racist politicians, instead of building a multi-racial movement to fight imperialism.

Like racism, sexism aids imperialism. Capitalists win male troops to kill and die for profits using a sexist macho warrior role. The U.S. military’s tolerance of sexism within the ranks leads male troops to direct anger and lack of control over deployments into seeing female troops as “walking mattresses” or sexually attacking fellow troops instead of the bosses. Sexism within IVAW led, in part, to the formation of the Service Women’s Action Network, a liberal feminist veterans organization. Uniting working-class men and women to fight sexism is among PLP goals.

The unity of multi-racial male and female working-class troops against the military’s racism and sexism will lead to a stronger movement that can land a powerful blow to imperialism and recruit to PLP.

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Marine Vet: U.S. Imperialists Are War Criminals

SOUTHWESTERN CAMPUS, April 3 — “War crimes? Heck, the whole war is a crime!” exclaimed a student and Marine veteran of the Iraq war, summing up his contempt for the U.S. imperialist agenda.
Over 175 students, teachers and campus staff applauded enthusiastically. Foregoing classes, many stayed over three hours to hear testimonials from four members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and one from Military Families Speak Out (MFSO).

One army veteran/student quoted from Nazi butcher Hermann Göring at the Nuremberg Trials, exposing how all the rulers think: “Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in England, nor America, nor in Germany….But…it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along….Tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

He should have said, “any capitalist country” because Soviet workers were won to fight the Nazis in their own class interests. This vet said Göring’s statement brought a “chilling familiarity to our experience since 9/11.”
This vet quoted Marine General Smedley Butler: “War is just a racket….It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.”

Urging soldiers to abandon blind pride, the vet noted the growth of anti-imperialist war activism, citing “the growing number of active-duty IVAW chapters.”

Vets revealed their painful understanding of war crimes and the contradictions that soldiers fighting an imperialist war face daily. One ex-Marine in charge of detainees explained how he attempted to protect them from casual abuse by other soldiers. Another witnessed a whole town storm his platoon’s position.
Current reports of corruption and of Iraqi recruits refusing to fight and turning over their weapons to Shiite insurgents mirrored one Marine’s description of outright corruption of Sunni commanders who sold weapons to insurgents. This Marine was disgusted with the “dog and pony show” of the Iraqi military, which is clearly not motivated to defend U.S. imperialism. These experiences provoked him to ask, “What the hell am I doing here [in Iraq].”

The MFSO parent noted how his son couldn’t make a decent living after high school and thus enlisted. This anti-racist MFSO member expressed dismay that after boot camp his son was trained to “hate people he never met.” He said 85% of those killed in Iraq are civilians. His son suffers from PTSD after one tour in Iraq where, on burial detail, he had to collect body parts of deceased soldiers with whom he had trained. This parent stressed the need for everyone to actively oppose the war by reaching out to active-duty soldiers.

The Q and A session revealed the uneven development among these vets. One panelist opposed the war in Iraq but not Afghanistan. Asked about the draft, one vet answered, “Draft all college-age Republicans,” which drew a laugh. Several vets supported a draft as a “wake-up call.” That position is based more on frustration than a real commitment to national service of any kind that’s promoted by the current presidential candidates. A few vets attacked imperialism as a system and opposed any wider wars or military call-up.

The potential for a revolutionary worker/soldier/student alliance was evident during these three brief hours. The panelists are part of the movement against imperialist war, which will ultimately require the fight for a world devoid of profiteers and exploitation. Such forums for political struggle are steps toward that goal.

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Ex-Marine Links U.S. Racism, Katrina and Iraq War

BOSTON, April 14 — Students, faculty and staff at Roxbury Community College (RCC), a mainly black and immigrant working-class school here, showed considerable interest in an anti-war event marking the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war. It highlighted the recent Winter Soldier testimony that publicized veterans’ criticisms of the war. (See CHALLENGE 3/12)
Thirty-five in attendance heard the stirring remarks of two veterans and a speech explaining that U.S. rulers went to war to control Mid-East oil. One ex-Marine said Hurricane Katrina exposed the true nature of U.S. imperialism, which allowed mostly black workers to die in New Orleans while it was killing working people in Iraq. As a black man of Haitian descent, he declared that the racism of Katrina punctured his belief in U.S. patriotism and his willingness to “serve my country.”

We watched some of the recorded testimony of other veterans who described the atrocities the U.S. committed in Iraq. It was inspiring to see how Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is helping to transform soldiers — damaged by their experiences — into anti-war organizers. However, although IVAW is introducing veterans to anti-war politics, the organization is also injecting patriotic content into those politics, undermining an understanding of imperialism, the real cause of the Middle-East wars. This builds a movement which the capitalist class can easily manipulate as they plan wider war to protect their strategic interests in the region.

Because PLP understands the crucial role of soldiers and students in the growth of a revolutionary communist movement, we played a pivotal role in this function. Some students who had attended our May Day dinner a week earlier helped to organize the event, distributing leaflets on campus.

The speech that presented a class analysis about the war helped people make more sense of the veterans’ testimony by putting their personal tragedies into a political context. Soldiers are being forced to kill and maim Iraqis in a genocidal war so that U.S. capitalism can maintain its control over oil.

This analysis inspired one veteran to expound on his previous talk. “It’s RCC students and Bunker Hill Community College students who are fighting this war,’ he said, “not students from Harvard and Milton Academy.” Then, he called for students and soldiers to “revolutionize” themselves as a necessary step in fighting back.

By understanding the class character of the war, working-class students can see the many ways imperialism is attacking them and their loved ones, and their role in organizing resistance. This event made it clear that PLP needs to sell CHALLENGE more consistently and expose students to a communist analysis about both world events and their own reality at RCC.

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