Sunday, August 26, 2007

Editorial: IVAW supports war resisters, do you?

Last Sunday, Veterans for Peace concluded their 22nd annual conference (August 15th through August 19th) and this one was held in St. Louis. Among those participating in the conference were Iraq Veterans Against the War. Aaron Glantz (One World) reported that IVAW selected their new board members at the conference and chose war resister Camilo Mejia as chair for many reasons including the fact that, in the words of Garrett Reppenhagen (pictured below with Liam Madden and Adam Kokesh to his right), IVAW "decided to make support of war resisters a major part of what we do."


What they do includes the September 17th kick off of Truth in Recruiting. Mejia explained that campaign on Democracy Now! last week:

AMY GOODMAN: Now you have become chair of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and you are launching the organization Truth in Recruiting campaign in September. Can you explain what that is?
CAMILO MEJIA: Sure. Well, we are launching a number of actions that we had, and Truth in Recruiting is one of them. What we're basically going to do is we are going to continue doing what we have been doing, but we're going to up the tempo. We are going to increase the number of members who are going to go into high schools to inform young people about the reality of the military and about the reality of war. Far from telling them not to join the military, we are going to tell them, "You want to join the military, this is what could happen to you. This is what's happened to our members. This is what the contract means. This is what stop-loss is. This is what conscientious objection is," so to basically inform them and thus empower them to make an informed decision.
We are going to go into recruiters' offices, and we're going to talk to the recruiters. And this, in time, is going to -- in turn, is going to take up their time, so they're not, you know, out there basically lying to young people about, you know, the many wonderful benefits of the military, without talking about the realities of war.
And we're going to continue doing, you know, what we're doing. We're going to continue going out into recruiting events. And we just had one action, actually, at the St. Louis conference. Across the street, there was a convention, an African American expo, where they had the America's Army game, and they were basically targeting like, you know, kids as young as twelve years of age, you know, teaching them that the military is cool and the military is good for you. And, you know, about ninety of us went in there, and, you know, we had this very military-style formation. And, you know, we all sounded off, saying, you know, "War is not a game. War is not a game. War is not a game." And then we leafleted the families and the youth with our fliers, you know, that talk about the reality of being in the military, which talk about our position as veterans against the war. And this is basically what's behind this campaign and this effort, you know, to basically inform young people about the realities of the military.

IVAW has always included support for war resisters. However, IVAW has decided to make a very public statement at a time when so many are silent.

Mejia was selected for many reasons (including that he's wonderful at communicating and that he's been protesting the illegal war publicly for some time). But a clear message is sent at a time when so many play dumb and silent.

Mejia explained his decision not to continue fighting in the illegal war to Tony Pecinovsky (People's Weekly World) last week, "I couldn't return knowing that we are committing war crimes. This war is criminal. But I’m no longer a prisoner of fear. I have hope that we can end this war." And last Wednesday, he spoke with Deepa Fernades (WBAI's Wakeupcall Radio.) about the need for those being targeted by recruiters to know their options -- that other options exist. It's a point echoed in Aimee Allison and David Stout's Army of None, a new book from Seven Stories Press that is available online through Courage to Resist. Mejia tells his own story in the new book Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia.

Along with Mejia being selected as chair, Adam Kokesh (Sgt. Kokesh Goes To Washington) notes
the new board members of IVAW also include Margaret Stevens as treasurer, Phil Aliff as secretary and himself as co-chair.

Is it necessary for IVAW to go on the record supporting war resisters when they already publicly do?

Yes, it is. And that's not due to any inaction on the part of IVAW. It is due to the inaction on many in small media with The Nation, as usual these days, leading the way as worst example.
The Peace Resister's just not interested in war resisters. Give her a petition and she's happy to blog about that. Give her a courageous stand and she crumples. And prevents anyone else from covering it in the pages of the magazine which is how you with all of those 2006 "online exclusive" features on Ehren Watada whose name never makes it into print until a January 2007 issue where he's called a "coward" and then (for balance?) he's given a tiny sidebar to the main article (about the petition, by the way).

The Nation wants you to act . . . online! Step out of line -- pay attention Cindy Sheehan, Katha Pollitt's gunning for you -- and be slammed or ignored. It's all about what looks most 'respectable' for the Democratic Party which goes a long way towards explaining how a once vibrant magazine became the dreary, muddled mess it currently is.

They did a story that mentioned Camilo Mejia and Aiden Delgado, an over praised cover story (that alluded to 'dozens' of photos of abuse but figured 'We're not journalists so why print one!') and failed to mention either was a war resister. IVAW got included in the list of those interviewed. For 'balance,' they invited a Republican front group (a White House propaganda group as John Stauber has noted) to participate and they invited a neutral/fence-sitter group to participate. That's how they do it at the allegedly 'left' magazine these days. In one of the funnier moments following the publication of the article, the leader of the neutral/fence-sitter group (a group that showed no public support for Adam Kokesh, Liam Madden or Cloy Richards when the military was attacking them) wrote in to whine about the article. It was like watching two tabbeys swat at each other.

Last week (Friday in most PBS markets), NOW with David Brancaccio profiled war resisters Agustin Aguayo and James Burmeister in it's first segment. (Ava and C.I. note the program in this week's TV commentary.) While not a Green Light from the Democratic Party, the Peace Resister is interested in what PBS does (not as devoted to it as she was to The Apprentice or, more recently, American Idol) so possibly that will prompt some action on the part of The Nation? We won't hold our breaths.

IVAW made an important statement and if you support war resisters you grasp that. If you don't, you're probably scratching your head (or elsewhere).

IVAW's Jason Lemieux is pictured below speaking in Los Angeles for the January rallies to end the illegal war (this screen cap and the other above are from Democracy Now!'s January 29, 2007 broadcast). A question to ponder is why The Nation had one person present for the protest (in DC) since it's so fond of their once a year fiery editorial that they spend the rest of the time forgetting? Maybe they were all busy with e-activsm?

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