Moving Forward Togetherby Liam Madden
IVAW faces a critical juncture. As we have witnessed the addition of numerous new, talented members and the development of an organically constructed strategy, we have failed to implement our strategy with goals and plans that facilitate the achievement of our objectives.
During the National Strategy sessions held earlier this year, members analyzed why the war in Iraq was being fought and the institutions that enabled the U.S. government to continue the illegal occupation of Iraq. Clearly, the U.S. military is the single most important entity to the U.S. government’s capacity to wage war and extend the occupation. We acknowledged that IVAW was in a unique position to remove the support of the military by utilizing three primary methods:
1. Organizing Active Duty resistance
2. Truth in Recruiting
Since the creation of this framework, our organization has been working to generate a unified effort among our members to implement this strategy. However, we didn’t set goals or make plans that would guide our actions to fit directly into this strategy.
Recently, our members, particularly those who dedicate time to our strategy team, have devised a plan that will drastically refocus our energy to making tangible inroads into the active duty. This plan, as all plans henceforth should, passes the litmus test of the following questions:
*Does this project make our organization stronger (ie, more members, stronger community, healthier chapters, better active duty outreach, developing leaders, etc)?
*Does this plan/action assist in removing military support for the war?
A serious political question arises from this plan; it is the question that necessitates this entire essay:
“Why are we devoting time to building a GI resisitance movement?”
This question can be expounded to say:
“Why build a GI movement if the next president or congress will end the war?”
It is vitally important to address this question so that we can move forward together as an organization with a common understanding of the significance and urgency of our work. Further, engaging in active duty outreach implies that we all know how to handle the inevitable questions that will eminate from the service members we encounter.
In order to explain why we want members and service members to organize with us, we must be able to analyze these pertinent issues
1. Why the U.S. is occupying Iraq
2. What it’s going to take to end the war
3. How the elections will affect our interactions
4. How U.S interests at stake in Iraq affect our actions
5. How this war is a symptom of a deeper problem
6. What are we asking service members to do
As we all know, the primary reasons given by the Bush administration for invading Iraq, WMDs that threatened the U.S. and its allies and terrorist links, were fraudulent. Thus the real reasons for invasion have been avoided by the government and media alike. This isn’t meant to be a lecture on points we’ve all heard before, but it is necessary to illustrate that if our members or potential members feel that the U.S. invaded Iraq simply because Bush is an idiot or that he wants to “export democracy,” we will fail to grasp why our strategy was devised.
The U.S. is perpetuating the occupation of Iraq to dominate world energy supplies and to project military power into the Middle East, ie, the war is being fought for neo-imperialism. It is important to note that this is not a problem that rests solely on the doorstep of the Bush administration, as we have seen from the prevailing position of ALL presidential front runners, no major candidate or party is calling for an end to the occupation. This is not because the democrats simply don’t have the votes; in fact, they are basing their presidential campaigns on the grounds of a continued, albeit modified, occupation that perpetuates the same policy of controlling oil and projecting power.
Even if they did promise to “Redeploy,” it would be foolish to disregard the lesson taught to the people of 1968 when Richard Nixon was elected on promises of “peace with honor.” As history reveals, politician’s empty promises often provide little more than broken hearts and shattered lives.
This is why our strategy is hinged to our ability to organize GI resistance. Such organizing will not only reduce the capacity of the government to execute its policies, it will develop our members organizing ability, strengthen our organization, and fill our ranks with new members. If we were to engage in any other strategy, we would be expending energy on endeavors that ultimately left us with nothing to show for our effort and frustrated that our organization wasted precious resources.
Obviously, it will take more than the efforts of IVAW to end this war. The Iraqi resistance will certainly continue to play a role, as well as the civilian anti-war movement. The Vietnam War was ended by a combination of all of these components. Many say that Vietnam was ended because “America lost the political will to fight,” the fact is that it was soldiers who lost the will to fight. Of course not every soldier did, but enough to make the government choose between the occupation of Vietnam and a functioning U.S. military.
As elections draw nearer, the conditions exist where members and potential members will be confused and attracted to the sheer magnitude of the mainstream dialogue about the war. No “serious” candidates will say anything remotely close to committing to the removal of troops from the occupation, however many will make it seem like they are advocating for a serious change, for example continuing the occupation with 90,000 troops and changing the nature of their mission.
Thus it is imperative that we predict these conditions and prepare our tactics to correspond with our goal. Meaning, we need to know what to say when troops/members doubt that a GI movement is necessary.
Where as I previously stated that the government was forced to reevaluate its policies during Vietnam in response to the staunch VC/ NLF resistance, the crippling decline in effectiveness and discipline of the military and tremendous, domestic unrest, the current scenario requires a qualitatively different level of all forms of resistance. More clearly, the U.S. has much more at stake in Iraq than it did in Vietnam; therefore the need for dedicated GI organizing is much more pressing. It is foolish to think that the war will peter out on its own. The U.S. will not give up its superpower status, which is entirely bound to its ability to dominate the Middle East, unless it is forced to by a conscience within its own ranks.
The war in Iraq is unique in its importance and scale, but it is entirely consistent with U.S. foreign policy for the last century. I believe that if we don’t end this war and simultaneously lead the way to a systemic change in the American power structure, the same pattern will reemerge. Given the near certainty of this, I believe it would be wise to put forth a strong argument for the drastically different method of change for which we stand and also the level of change I feel we should stand for as individuals.
What are we asking of our members and our new members?
Our new plan asks our members to develop tactics to conduct outreach to active duty service members with the express goal of developing chapters of IVAW on military installations. Our six month plan needs the organization to focus its efforts on carrying out this outreach. Chapters are being called upon to facilitate the organizing and training needed to successfully conduct this outreach.
Our new active duty members are being asked to organize a community of service members who can support and educate each other personally and politically. The ultimate goal is to empower members to stand on their principles in an organized and thoughtful manner that defies the mold of individualism that is unfairly projected on war resisters, and to foster the sense of solidarity needed to stand by each other while we act to bring peace and justice to our nation and the world.