Iraq Veterans Against the War and Civilian Allies Come to Baltimore

Iraq Veterans Against the War and Civilian Allies Come to Baltimore

IVAW led NATO March in May 2012. Photo By: Poppy Kohnerova
IVAW led NATO March in May 2012. Photo By: Poppy Kohnerova

From November 2nd through 4th, Baltimore will play host to the national gathering of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and Civilian-Soldier Alliance (CivSol). This joint convention will take place at The 2640 Space with the support of the Red Emma’s Collective.  

Founded in Baltimore in 2010, CivSol is an all-volunteer national network of civilian activists committed to supporting resistance within the ranks through the leadership development of active duty soldiers, veterans, and civilians. Since its launch, CivSol has devoted its efforts to supporting the work of Iraq Veterans Against the War and similar organizations focused on building long-term, grassroots, and community-based challenges to militarism in our society and its consequences abroad.
 
This focus on meaningful grassroots organizing, in conjunction with mobilization and protest, has led IVAW and CivSol to the development of critical reflection on how to build meaningful change in opposition to the pervading effects of an enormously expensive and polluting military system. This system has not only wrought incomprehensible devastation and death for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and tens of thousands of Afghanis and over 50,000 American casualties of war, it has also devastated the finances of families, cities, and states throughout the nation. As a result, in 2010, on the ninth anniiversary of the war in Afghanistan, CivSol and  IVAW launched a joint campaign called Operation Recovery: Stop the Deployment of Traumatized Troops
 
The campaign, also known as OpRec, began in response to the military’s disregard for the well-being of its troops, as it has sent overwhelming numbers of troops back into combat after denying them adequate healthcare.  In response, veterans, active-duty troops and civilian allies are calling for the right to heal.  They demand that the recommendations of medical professionals take precedence over commanders’ orders, and that service members with posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, and combat stress have a right to exit the traumatic situation and receive immediate support and compensation. 
 
The Pentagon itself counts over 25% of the active military as currently dealing with trauma. CivSol and IVAW believe that if a movement is built to secure soldiers their most basic right to heal, it would also ensure that the military would be unable to continue its operations abroad while fulfilling its responsibility to the men and women who have served. Considering how we have squandered over a million lives and trillions of dollars in these illegal military pursuits, the need to end our government’s occupations abroad and direct those funds on our nation’s own needs and crumbling infrastructure is imperative.
 
To carry out OpRec, civilians and veterans have engaged in a sustained organizing drive in key military bases within the country.  In the summer of 2011, CivSol and IVAW volunteer organizers began going to Fort Hood, Texas, the largest military base in the country, in order to work alongside the anti-war community based at Under the Hood Café in Killeen, TX. Under the Hood Café is a coffee shop that has served for nearly four years as an essential part of the community and helped jump start anti-war activism in the area. Since that summer, military family members, activists, veterans, and active duty soldiers in Ft. Hood and the surrounding area have continued the work of supporting service members at Ft. Hood. They host workshops on how to obtain proper mental health care and familiarize soldiers with their own constitutionally protected rights, along with hosting weekly discussions on militarism, patriarchy, and the importance of protecting their right to heal.
 
This year, the campaign has expanded its base organizing to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State, partnering with Coffee Strong, a local anti-war coffee shop. In addition to daily outreach to service members on base, organizers at the café host workshops on GI rights and political organizing, support groups for those suffering from trauma, and offer advice sessions to assist in accessing VA benefits and other resources. GI’s at both bases are also participating in an interview project: sharing their stories of trauma and abuse by military authorities and providing information that will help shape the campaign.
  
As IVAW and CivSol members gather in Baltimore in November, allies from other organizations --  including fellow veterans, anti-war organizers, and groups, such as the United Workers -- will join them to participate in the convention, as well as hold discussions with their members about their own related work.  Convention organizers will also invite people, who can arrive a day early, to participate in an action to support Army Private First Class (PFC) Bradley Manning. 
 
Manning, a former Army intelligence agent, has been imprisoned at Ft. Meade for the past two years and is currently on trial for allegedly leaking classified documents to Wikileaks, which have revealed the US military’s unequivocal culpability in myriad human rights violations in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  The The Bradley Manning Support Network and IVAW understand the power of having veterans and the military community defend and publicly support the alleged actions named in Manning’s charges as their support actively challenges the myth that these leaks have been detrimental to the military community or national security, while demonstrating (along with dozens of actions nationwide), these leaks are not crimes, but critically necessary acts of moral courage.
 
To find out more about Iraq Veterans Against the War, Civilian-Soldier Alliance, Operation Recovery and the Convention, please visit ivaw.org and civsol.org.  To become involved in supporting the upcoming convention, feel free to email: CivSolBaltimore@gmail.com

Sergio España is a Baltimore resident and a member of the Civilian-Soldier Alliance, a national organization of civilian allies taking leadership from veteran and active duty service members  to help support the growing GI Resistance movement. 

For more information please visit www.civsol.org