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Iraq Veterans Against the War: New Board, New Projects
By Hannah Frisch
At the Veterans For Peace convention in August, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) replaced its temporary board (made up half of Iraq veterans and half of older vets) and elected a nine-member board, including Kelly Dougherty, president; Jose Vasquez, vice-president; Patrick Resta, secretary; Joe Hatcher, treasurer; and directors Joshua Castel, Tim Goodrich, Tomas Young, Charlie Anderson, and Garrett Reppenhagen. The board will have its first meeting on September 24 in Philadelphia. They plan to hire a full-time executive director from among the IVAW membership.
This August, IVAW again participated in Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas, outside Bush's ranch. They count it as a success that Camp Casey kept Bush from having his normal five-week vacation there. IVAW members also traveled to nearby Fort Hood, where they held antiwar demonstrations and reached out to the active-duty soldiers on the base. When they leafleted soldiers there, they got positive responses 80–90% of the time. They handed out hundreds of cards with the GI Rights Hotline number and did an intensive sticker campaign. It was impossible to buy gas, order food, or use a public washroom in the town without seeing the sticker with the GI Rights Hotline phone number. The hotline has reported an upsurge in calls from Fort Hood as a result. IVAW is making plans to do more long-term outreach at Fort Hood.
Outside Fort Hood, IVAW showed Sir! No Sir!, the new documentary about the GI resistance during the Vietnam War. The showing was attended by some active-duty personnel from the base. At Camp Casey, antiwar soldier Mark Wilkerson publicly turned himself in after being AWOL for eighteen months. IVAW is supporting Mark, Sgt. Rick Clousing, Lt. Ehren Watada, Spc. Agustin Aguayo (who refused to deploy to Iraq from Germany), and Susan Swift (who went AWOL as a result of sexual assault).
In August, six female IVAW members went to the Code Pink retreat in Austin, Texas. They were able to get to know the Code Pink members and discuss common issues.
As the Veteran goes to press, IVAW members are participating in Camp Democracy in Washington DC.
IVAW members participated in a team that went to New Orleans to help rebuild after the damage from Hurricane Katrina. More members will go throughout the fall, including a November group in which Iraq veterans will be paired with inner-city youth from Los Angeles. There are plans to hold a retreat that will include both veterans' peer counseling and work on rebuilding New Orleans. IVAW is seeking financial support to enable members to travel to New Orleans. (Send checks to IVAW, PO Box 8296, Philadelphia, PA 19101.)
Members have also started a political action committee, Iraq Veterans for Progress, that will support antiwar candidates in the November elections. Candidates must favor starting an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, to be completed within six months, and they must favor mandatory funding for the VA. The PAC will not send money directly to the candidates but will use money collected to send Iraq veterans to work on the campaigns. Races in California and Iowa are the first races that the PAC will support.
IVAW is supporting the "Appeal for Redress," a signature campaign for active-duty, reserve, and National Guard members calling on Congress to support a speedy withdrawal from Iraq. They are also planning a return of medals. Events may include returning one medal to congressional representatives and a medal-throwing like the one done by VVAW during the Vietnam War.
Board member Joe Hatcher is working on getting an IVAW bus or van to tour with different bands and do outreach to veterans. A counter-recruitment tour of several bands is already in progress (in addition to the summer tour of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young), and three bands have expressed interest in having IVAW tour with them, set up information tables, speak onstage, and sell merchandise.
Thanks to IVAW members Charlie Anderson and Kelly Dougherty for contributing information for this story.
Hannah Frisch has been an activist since the civil rights and Vietnam eras.
She began working with VVAW in 2001 and is now part of VVAW's national staff.
We have started placing ads for our military counseling program and for Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) into college and alternative press newspapers. We are starting with San Francisco and Colorado Springs, because these are cities with active IVAW chapters; this way the ads will be as useful as possible in connecting antiwar Iraq vets with IVAW. If the ads seem to be successful, we will expand to other cities.
The following is the text of the ads:
PROBLEMS WITH STRESS, VA BENEFITS, BAD DISCHARGE, ETC.?
Contact Vietnam Veterans Against the War Military Counseling Project
OPPOSE THE WAR?
Call Iraq Veterans Against the War
[local phone] or [local email]
GI Rights Hotline 800-394-9544
Military Law Task Force www.nlg.org/mltf