By MIKE PRYSNER and GERRY CONDON
Veterans For Peace has once again teamed up with March Forward to bring the Our Lives Our Rights campaign to active duty Gis facing deployment to Afghanistan. Since Monday, Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans—including active-duty soldiers—have been engaged in a daring outreach campaign on and around Fort Hood, TX, the biggest U.S. military base in the world.
Every morning, as soldiers flood onto Fort Hood, Our Lives Our Rights organizers have been holding a massive 50-foot banner at the base gates reading “You don’t have to go to Afghanistan.” This trip was timed ahead of the deployment of Fort Hood’s III Corps in May.
This message—and information about why and how soldiers can resist deployment to Afghanistan—is also on thousands of leaflets and educational pamphlets.
This week, our organizers are actually on base at Fort Hood, distributing all of this literature to soldiers in uniform. Soldiers are also finding this literature in waiting rooms and lobbies at the USO, mental health clinic, post hospital, art and recreation center, and more. Soldiers will also open the Fort Hood post newspaper to find our literature stashed inside.
The goal of this outreach is to let deploying soldiers—who by mainstream polls overwhelmingly oppose the continuation of the Afghanistan war—know that they have a variety of options to not have their life thrown away. Not just that, but that they would be morally right for doing so, and that they have the support of countless other soldiers, veterans and civilians who will stand beside them.
One of those options, seeking a discharge from the military as a Conscientious Objector, was the topic of the Thursday evening “Ribs and Rights” forum at Under The Hood Cafe and GI Outreach Center. Several active duty GI's participated, including a young soldier who has applied for a C.O. discharge and is “hopeful.”
March Forward organizer and VFP member Kevin Baker explained that the Our Rights Our Lives campaign. “Withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan immediately—as favored by a large majority of Americans and Afghans—would be the right thing to do,” said Baker, a former Army sergeant who spent 28 months in Iraq, but refused his third deployment. “If this government is not willing to withdraw the troops, then individual soldiers of conscience have the right to withdraw themselves from this illegal, immoral occupation.”
VFP board member Gerry Condon spoke of the many ways to resist illegal wars and occupations and called for support for GI whistleblower Bradley Manning. VFP members Helen Jaccard and Doug Zachary also participated in the lively discussion among active duty GI's, veterans and supporters.
A Fort Hood soldier and combat veteran had the following to say:“The work this campaign is doing is more effectively fulfilling my oath to this country and humanity. It is my responsibility to disobey an unlawful order, and these occupations are no exception. Simply by having these type of conversations, we are fostering independent thought, which is a form of resistance in itself.”
Iraq veteran Malachi Muncy, who coordinates Under the Hood and hosted the event, was a gracious host. The ribs were great.
So far, the Our Lives Our Rights campaign has received several phone calls and emails from soldiers and military families seeking more information about resisting deployment.
JOIN THE GI OUTREACH AT FORT HOOD
The Our Lives Our Rights efforts at Fort Hood will continue throughout April. A concentrated effort will take place from Wednesday, April 17 through Saturday, April 20, immediately before many veterans will be attending the Bush Liebury events in nearby Dallas, April 22-26.
Veterans and friends who would like to reach out to GI's at Fort Hood should get in touch with Gerry Condon at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 206-499-1220 or March Forward organizer Kevin Baker at 213-925-5506.