They were founded in July 2004 at a convention of Veterans for Peace to give voice to recent veterans and active duty servicemen and women “under various pressures to remain silent.” Their aim was to “educate the public about the realties of the Iraq war.” Nonviolence was their chosen means of antiwar advocacy.
This and more we can learn on the IVAW website about Iraq Veterans Against the War. What can we learn from their direct experience and alternative standpoint if we choose to listen? What can they tell us about the negative impact of war?
Much of what IVAW has to say we have heard before, from other sources. Perhaps their special ethos—the experiential knowledge and moral authority of US veterans who “strive for a world free of unjust war”—increases the standing of such arguments.
What makes the Iraq (and Afghanistan) war unjust from the standpoint of IVAW? It is based on lies. It violates international law. It is sustained by corporate profiteering. It entails overwhelming civilian casualties. It dehumanizes Iraqis and denies them the right of self-determination. It exhausts America’s military, compromises US security, and undermines the nation’s moral authority. It motivates the insurgency. It has made the world more dangerous.
Moreover, the war harms US soldiers. Troops, deployed to the combat zone multiple times, suffer serious health consequences due to government negligence. In IVAW’s words:
Combat stress, exhaustion, and bearing witness to the horrors of war contribute to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a serious set of symptoms that can lead to depression, illness, violent behavior, and even suicide. Additionally, depleted uranium, Lariam, insufficient body armor, and infectious diseases are just a few of the health risks which accompany an immorally planned and incompetently executed war. Finally, upon a soldier’s release, the Veterans Administration is far too under-funded to fully deal with the magnitude of veterans in need.
What do these antiwar veterans envision as a more just society in place of the present war culture? A just society would care for its warrior’s needs better. It would hold political leaders, profiteers, and war criminals accountable. It would emphasize alternatives to militarism:
We strive for a political culture that prioritizes nonviolence, open communication, and democratic decision-making over militarism—a culture committed to building peace and preserving life, solving international conflicts through diplomacy and alternative conflict resolution; We strive for a political culture that acknowledges our nation’s moral responsibilities to the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, and all civilians adversely affected by U.S. military intervention. The United States must fully accept guidance from these affected peoples and provide support they find valuable; Finally, we endeavor for our movement to be an ally to the oppressed—a community connected in solidarity with war torn peoples, working across differences for reconciliation, mutual healing and collective liberation.
Their vision of a just society—a political culture of nonviolence, open communication, democratic decision-making, human solidarity, and working toward reconciliation of differences—transcends militarism. These veterans argue for peacemaking instead of more warfare as the best way to honor the warrior’s sacrifice.