By Joe Bindert
Since the Iraq War started in March of 2003, people throughout the world have been mounting resistance to both the invasion of Iraq and the continued war waged throughout the country. While most Americans are aware that there is a great deal of civilians against the war, many are unaware of the increasing opposition to the war amongst veterans that have returned home from overseas. For a variety of reasons, a group known as “Iraq Veterans Against the War” has formed and is actively opposing the combat operations it was part of.
The primary reason that the group opposes the war is due to the belief that the Iraq War was based on deception by the Bush administration. According to the group’s website, “[The Bush administration] used the false pretense of an imminent nuclear, chemical and biological weapons threat to deceive Congress into rationalizing this unnecessary conflict.” Other criticism listed on the website include the fact that the Iraq War violates international law, the war has cost the United States a great deal of money, the casualties on both sides of the war have been tremendous, and, interestingly enough, the idea that soldiers have the right to refuse to fight in an illegal war. While their website claims that soldiers will most likely be prosecuted if they attempt to refuse serving in what they see as an unjust war, the group stands behind the principle that, in theory, the soldiers should not have to “pay the price for political incompetence [and be] forced to fight in a war instead of having been sufficiently trained to carry out the task of nation-building.”
Since it was formed, the group has called for three major things to be accomplished: First, they call for the immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces in Iraq; Second, reparations for the human and structural damages that Iraq has endured, while also stopping the corporate profiteering in the expense of the war; and third, full benefits and healthcare, including mental health, and other support for returning servicemen and women.
The group boasts 57 chapters in 48 states across the United States, with over 1,500 members currently a part of the group. One of these members, Kris Goldsmith, spoke at Rutgers University on April 7 about his experiences leading up to his involvement in the Iraq War and his time after coming back. Goldsmith recalled the day after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, where he sat in a pizza restaurant after school and talked with locals about how they felt the Middle East needed to be bombed and all inhabitants needed to be killed. Today, after his experiences in Iraq, he reflects on that day and realizes the true severity of his and others statements, noting that advocating genocide was not the way to handle the situation.
Goldsmith joined the military shortly after graduating high school and was deployed to Iraq shortly after, claiming that joining the military had been his life’s dream, with the September 11 attacks providing even more incentives to join. Goldsmith notes on his blog on the Iraq Veterans Against the War website: “By the fall of 2004 I had pretty much figured out that my life's dream had become my biggest nightmare.”
During his presentation at Rutgers, Goldsmith recalled the horrors of the war, including the feeling of being shot at, having to investigate graves of tortured and murdered soldiers, and more. Goldsmith returned home in 2006, and became alcoholic and overly aggressive and violent with many of those around him. While he did not know it at the time, he was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which causes unusual and often unruly behavior in those who have lived through some terrible repeated event. The disorder is most common to veterans, and came to public attention after the end of the Vietnam War. While he was home, Goldsmith was ordered to return to combat near the end of 2007. The day before he was to be deployed, Goldsmith attempted suicide. After this, he was discharged from the military with no pension or benefits that veterans are intended to receive.
When asked how other soldiers feel about Goldsmith telling his story to college students in the area, he explained that while the number of veterans opposed to the Iraq War has been increasing for some time, there were many that were seriously opposed to the idea of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He noted that many veterans feel it undermines the work that was done in Iraq, and that a good portion of them believe that the Iraq War is worth fighting and, moreover, winning.
President Obama announced on February 29 of this year that combat operations in Iraq would end by August 2010. Ending the Iraq War was an essential point on which Obama focused during his presidential campaign last year.
Iraq Veterans Against the War was founded in July 2004 at the annual convention of Veterans for Peace in Boston, Massachusetts. For more information, visit http://ivaw.org/.
Joe Bindert is a Journalism and Media Studies and Political Science double major at Rutgers University. He plans to graduate in May 2010 and work in broadcasting.