Demonstrations against the Iraq War scheduled to occur in nearly 600 cities in all 50 states this weekend, kicked off this Thursday across the street from the White House in Washington, DC as representatives of veterans groups and others signed a document pledging to encourage and support soldiers who, of their own conscience, refuse orders to fight in the Iraq War. The declaration violates United States Code 18, Section 2387, which makes support and encouragement of soldiers resisting their orders illegal, and which carries a maximum penalty of $10,000 or ten years in prison.
In opening the signing of the declaration Gordon Clark of Iraq Pledge of Resistance quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said of another war, at another time “The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.” After we signed the Pledge of Resistance we attempted to deliver it to the president. An earlier attempt to have the press secretary accept the pledge was rejected. And, at the gate of the White House the guard joined in the denial refusing to deliver our signatures to the president.
Stephen Cleghorn, a member of Military Families Speak Out said before signing the Pledge: “My son joined the military to serve his country and go into harms way if necessary to defend our country. That was his conscientious choice. His choice has been abused by this president as our soldiers have been made into harm’s ministers in an unnecessary war. This war based on lies about an imminent threat to our country breaks faith with the courage and sacrifice that people such as my son are willing to make. Therefore I support and encourage any soldier who decides that he or she must in good conscience refuse orders to Iraq.”
The two year anniversary of the war sees veterans and their families taking the lead in speaking out against the Iraq War. They know from their own experience what is really going on in Iraq. As Iraq War veteran Jimmy Masey recently said in an interview: “I believed that we were going over there to help those people but when I started witnessing innocent civilians being killed and no humanitarian aid being provided, I started to see the evil doings.”
The opposition to the war then moved to an Army recruiting center in downtown Washington, DC on L Street NW between 13th and 14th streets. There we blocked the entrance to the recruiting center for an hour. Literature dispelling the myths of recruitment was handed out. Among the facts provided were:
- Once you sign up for military service and arrive at basic training, you are subject to call-up duty for eight years.
- Two-thirds of vets never receive any funding for college. Only 15% of recruits graduate from a four-year college.
- The Veterans Administration estimates that one-third of the homeless are veterans and vets earn 11% to 19% less than non-veterans of similar backgrounds.
The literature also highlighted the fine print on the recruiting forms: “Law and regulations that govern military personnel may change without notice to me. Such changes may affect my status, pay, allowances, benefits and responsibilities as a member of the Armed Forces regardless of the provisions of this enlistment/re-enlistment document.” This clause ensures the military is not bound by any promise made by the recruiter.
At the recruitment center Ellen Barfield, of Veterans for Peace, described the rapid growth of counter recruitment drives that are developing throughout the country. Already, recruiters are finding it difficult to draw people into the services, as counter recruitment expands and youth know the truth about the contract they are signing, recruitment will become even more difficult. In addition to discouraging recruitment, Barfield went further saying: “I honor and encourage my courageous brothers and sisters in uniform now, who are listening to their consciences and speaking out against the horrors of occupation in Iraq, at the risk of prison or fleeing the US. I give them my deepest respect and the assurance that there are many who agree with them and offer assistance and support.”
Preventing the U.S. military from having the bodies it needs to continue the Iraq War or even worse, to expand President Bushs military adventurism into other countries may be among the most effective steps the peace movement can take to end the war in Iraq, as U.S. troops are already spread thin. As we saw yesterday, with the lopsided vote in favor of the additional $83 billion for the continued occupation, we cannot trust elected officials in Washington, DC to stand up for peace and justice nor for obeying international law which sees the U.S. occupation of Iraq as illegal.
For further information on the Iraq Pledge of Resistance and how you can get involved visit: www.iraqpledge.org