"Power concedes nothing without demand... Those who want change without struggle want crops without plowing up the ground..." These are the powerful, relevant and resonant words of Frederick Douglas, one of history's most acclaimed and respected activists. As a leading abolitionist, Douglas knew how humanity progressed toward justice, how liberty was wrought from tyranny and how people must dare to stand courageously on principle.
Our project seeks to apply Douglas' wisdom to end the War in Iraq, the organization I help to lead is called Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).
Young people volunteer for military service with the implied trust that our government will risk their lives only when it is absolutely necessary and undeniably just. The returning veterans with whom we organize overwhelmingly agree that the war in Iraq is both unnecessary and unjust. Further, we believe that it is our responsibility to lead our generation toward a future free of illegal wars of aggression.
Many groups simply oppose the war in Iraq. Few, like IVAW, actively work to end it. Our project is premised on the fact that, as veterans, we are in a unique position to speak credibly to other military service members. As students of history, we know that when power seeks to use military force as an instrument of oppression, peace will only be delivered by soldiers who know their rights and follow their consciences.
Iraq Veterans Against the War is currently building a movement of conscience from within the ranks of the U.S. military. Soldiers fear to assert their right to refuse to serve in an illegal war. Our project provides the knowledge, support and community for service men and women to overcome the prevalent fear so service members can take collective action in the name of our constitutional and moral duty.
The project began in the summer of 2004 when 8 Iraq veterans founded IVAW. Over time the organization began to grow and become a home for courageous action and deep connections among members. Today we have over thirty chapters across the nation including three on active duty military posts. We train our members to organize, navigate the media, and become independent thinkers with initiative and integrity.
Schools do not teach young people how to fight injustice. All of our growth has come from relentless effort to mobilize our stagnant country.The organization has implemented several campaigns to help to further the project.
Our members educate young people via truth in recruiting activities, IVAW conducted "mock patrols" in several American cities as social commentary street theatre, and we are consistently lending our perspectives and experiences to audiences throughout the nation.
My contributions to the organization include co-founding a movement of over 2,000 service members to demand that congress end the war while I was still active in military service. Additionally, I helped to lead a bus tour to several military installations across the country. I have been elected by my peers to serve on the Board of Directors as well as the Chapter President of our Boston branch. Consequently I have acted as a media spokesman for the project in numerous venues including 60 Minutes, Al Jazeera, Good Morning America, BBC, NPR, and others.
Organizing in the military is an enormous endeavor with daunting risks and challenges and equally impressive rewards. Our project, Iraq Veterans Against the War, is the only organization qualified to undertake this challenge.
We are committed, professional, and talented young people, the future belongs to emerging leaders like Iraq Veterans Against the War.