Veterans, active-duty troops take action against endless war

On March 19, the 8th anniversary of the unprovoked war of aggression against the people of Iraq, March Forward! members took action in the streets across the country.

With the war in Iraq still a reality—the latest U.S. soldier was killed there on March 20—and the war in Afghanistan in its bloodiest year yet, it is clear that the United States is in a state of permanent war. Neither conflict has a possible end in sight. The generals and politicians themselves admit that these are endless occupations, with endless bloodshed. Hopes that winning a Democratic majority, with an “anti-war” President, would somehow change the course of the U.S. war machine proved to be empty.

Even as the marches began around the country to mark the 8th year of war in Iraq, the United States government began bombing the people of Libya, the most oil-rich country in all of Africa, beginning a new U.S. war with no perceivable end.

There is a growing understanding among people in the U.S., including veterans and active duty troops, that no change will come from Washington. The actions of the White House and Congress, regardless of whatever “progressive” lip service they give, are firmly with the Oil Giants, the defense contractors, Wall Street and the banks. The politicians will do what they have always done: what is best for the super-rich. Unless, of course, they are forced to do otherwise; when a mass movement of people make it impossible to continue on the current course.

This is why, for the past several months, veterans in March Forward! who have fought in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, worked tirelessly to do the most important thing: build the anti-war movement. Members passed out thousands of flyers, put up hundreds of posters, and served as key march organizers from coast to coast.

In Los Angeles, a march of well over 4000 people was led by a strong contingent of March Forward! veterans, including active-duty soldiers and Marines who are refusing their orders to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. March Forward! supporter Ron Kovic, Vietnam veteran and author of Born on the Fourth of July, joined this new generation of veterans in the streets.

Kevin Baker, a recently discharged Army infantry sergeant who spent 28 months in Iraq, spoke to the crowd of thousands about a fellow soldier, Derrick Kirkland, who killed himself on March 19 2010. A year ago, he hanged himself in his barracks room after being neglected and abused by the Army mental health system. Baker said, “Those of us who mourned Kirkland’s death, those of us who were sent to die in these wars, we know that this government cares nothing about us. We’re just the cannon fodder in these wars for the rich. Those experiences have woken us up, and we are fighting back, and we will fight back until we stop these criminal wars!”

In Washington, D.C., several members of March Forward! were arrested along with over a hundred other veterans in a dramatic act of civil disobedience. This was the second mass veteran-led civil disobedience at the White House in just four months, spearheaded by Veterans for Peace, March Forward!, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, ANSWER Coalition and others. 

Ryan Endicott, a former Marine infantryman who did a tour in Ramadi, Iraq, was a featured speaker at the rally. Before he was arrested in the civil disobedience, he said to a crowd of over 1000: “We know firsthand that our enemy is not the people of Iraq, who for eight years have been struggling to survive a brutal occupation. It is not the people of Afghanistan who for over a decade have been struggling to survive a brutal occupation. The biggest threat to the people of the United States is not thousands of miles away, but hundreds of yards away, right here in the White House, in the Pentagon, on Wall Street. It’s the bankers that take our homes, the CEOs that lay off from our jobs only to take million dollar bonuses.”

Members also rallied on March 20 at Quantico Marine Base demanding freedom for Bradley Manning. Others help organize and took part in demonstrations in San Francisco, Seattle, New Haven, Tampa and other cities.

With the multitude of issues facing veterans and service members today—constant deployment to two ridiculous wars, criminally inadequate PTSD treatment, an unemployment rate of over 20 percent, and more—it is growing ever more essential for us to join together and build a movement for change. History teaches us that change never comes from above, it never comes from the politicians; it comes from a determined mass movement that operates outside of the political establishment, that doesn’t ask for change, but fights for change. This is what we did on March 19, and what we will continue to do, everyday, until we win. Join us!


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