As we enter 2008, please stop for a moment and consider where we are now, and where we are going. In just over a year, America will have a new President. We will have endured a year of campaign commercials and attack ads. We'll have watched debates devoid of any real discussion of the withdrawal from Iraq that a growing number of Americans now call for. We'll have waited, for yet another year, for our leaders to find a way to say what we know in our hearts: we must leave Iraq.
But what will have changed in the next year that will make that happen?
We must face this fact: we run the serious risk that one year from today we'll be right where we are now, but with another year's worth of casualties, a year’s worth of grieving families, a year's worth of Iraqi anger and suffering built on our occupation of a country we now know was no threat to us. Ending this war in a year is different than ending it now, just as ending it now is different than ending it a year ago, or a year before that. There is a price to pay for every day that we wait.
As a veteran who served in Iraq as a military police sergeant, I see our continued occupation of that country as more than simply a list of numbers. On daily patrols through Baghdad and other cities, your glance darts from one window to the next and you look with suspicion at everyone you pass, waiting to be attacked. Every time you drive, you anxiously scan the roadways and gutters, anticipating the explosion of a roadside bomb that will send burning shards of metal through both vehicles and flesh. Indiscriminate home raids at all hours of the day and night become a common experience, as do the mass detentions of terrified and angry Iraqis. You spend hours at checkpoints, with your finger on the trigger, prepared to make life and death decisions in a country where the line between civilians and combatants is blurred and in constant motion. These things take a toll, on our soldiers, their families, and the Iraqi people.
As members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, we know these things and many of us still face them on a daily basis. Despite what you see on TV, or read in the paper, this is daily life in Iraq.
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?
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.
The veterans and active duty troops of Iraq Veterans Against the War represent the generation that is living with the pain and consequences of our leaders’ daily decision to continue this war. We have watched our closest friends be killed and injured, we’ve seen innocent people dehumanized and destroyed. We are first-hand witnesses and participants of an illegal war and occupation and we are here to tell you that we have had enough.
We have come together, as members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, with this message: It is time to put this awful chapter of our history behind us. It is time to do the right thing for the people of Iraq and the people of America. It is time.
We've been here before. In the aftermath of the 2006 elections, the analysts said it plainly: the issue that had brought the Democrats to power was opposition to the war. Hundreds of thousands of people worked phone banks, canvassed their neighbors, made signs, and raised money for that election cycle, but it was not enough to end the war. Why not? The political leadership and the pundits have settled on the excuse that the Democrats don't have enough power in Congress to get it done. But we think it is something else - we have failed to force our leaders into action.
This is not a unique situation in history. Looking back on successful movements, what is the common denominator? Has real change occurred when people relied on politicians to do the right thing, or when a movement of people used their strength to move this country forward?
We propose the second path - organizing Americans to move our leaders to do what must be done. Iraq Veterans Against the War has spent the last year devising a strategy and tactics to bring our troops home. Our plans are not contingent on a particular candidate, or a party, because we're not willing to roll the political dice on something as important as this.
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. All over the country, veterans and members of the military are organizing chapters of Iraq Veterans Against the War in cities, in rural areas, and on military bases. Last year at this time, we had eight chapters. Today, we have 37, with more forming all the time. We need your help to support those who are doing this important work on the ground.
We know what our brothers and sisters are going through in Iraq, and we're putting plans in motion to put an end to it. Not a year from now. Not next month. Today.
Former Sergeant, Army National Guard
Iraq Veterans Against the War
P.S. Our members are working hard organizing new chapters, recruiting new members, and preparing for Winter Soldier. We need your support to continue this work. Please make a donation today!
Saturday, January 12, 2008