Another of the big guns,one of the real veterans of the Iraq War has resigned from the Iraq Veterans Against the War citing many of the same reasons as others who have resigned before. Below is his resignation letter (Any emphasis is mine);
Kristofer Goldsmith Resigns from IVAW
To: The Board of Directors, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Herein lies my complete resignation and absolute disassociation from the organization, Iraq Veterans Against the War. In this document I will explain what has influenced my decision, and I hope that as a critic of IVAW and a Veteran that my suggestions will be taken seriously.
While my intent to resign came months ago, I have been holding on because of the protests of a few members and friends who still saw a sliver of chance to shape the organization into a more effective, more comfortable place for Iraq Veterans like myself. However, looking back over the majority of actions and conversations that I’ve been a part of or have seen since my last year of being involved in IVAW, it became overwhelmingly clear that there was no reason for hope. IVAW has proven to be more damaging than constructive to nearly everything that it touches, especially to some of it’s own Veteran Members.
Most of the problems that I see in IVAW existed far before the time I joined the organization, in the summer of 2007, while I was still on Active Duty. The first issue I saw, which I know makes a lot of active duty (especially combat) troops suspicious, is the fact that ANY service on or after September 11th 2001 makes you eligible for full membership. I know this suspicious feeling to be true because less than two years ago I was Active Duty, a full time Soldier, a Veteran of OIF (I spent about 60 times more than “6 days helping occupy a country”) and I remember what it feels like to be in uniform. Many of the guys I served with who are opposed to the war after 1-3 deployments to Iraq still feel the same way about IVAW because of it’s hardly-existent membership qualification standards. IVAW’s membership requirement and background checks were when I joined, and today remain, seriously flawed. When someone who’s never even showed up to Drill for National Guard or Reserve musters, let alone a single day on Active Duty, (Carl Webb, for example) is wearing a shirt that would lead most people who are able to read English to assume said person is an actual “Iraq Veteran” who is “Against the War” that they served in… That’s not only doing a disservice to the organization by presenting a face that isn’t true, but it’s also offensive to most people (I’m talking about the >1.3 million Veterans of OIF, not just IVAW members) who actually served in Iraq. Be it the feeling that Veterans volunteered and sacrificed for service in Iraq and are proud of it, or the feeling that they were duped and still sacrificed (their ability to sleep at night, at least) in Iraq, few Iraq Veterans in my experience, like the idea of poseurs wearing a shirt that says “Iraq Veteran” across the chest. My first recommendation as a new outsider from IVAW, is that you, the Board, seriously consider mandating uniform restrictions that prevent members from appearing as if they are something they’re clearly not. That means that non-Iraq Veterans would be required to wear shirts that read “I SUPPORT” before the words “Iraq Veterans”. I understand over 1000 black IVAW T-shirts have already been issued and thousands more have been sold to members, but it would be reasonable and simple to have non-Iraq-Veteran-members use the “stencil and spray paint” method that anyone who was really in the service should be familiar with.
Iraq Veterans Against the War currently claims 1,500 members. Lets say for a moment that only 1,000,000 service members have deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2003. That would mean that IVAW represents less than two Veterans out of every one thousand Veterans of OIF. Combining OIF and Operation Enduring Freedom Veterans means that pool expands to around 1.8 million, and that the 1,500 members of IVAW would represent less than one out of every 1,000 OIF-OEF Veterans. Yet membership requires only that you have served since 9-11-2001, so membership is open to many millions more. I’m clearly not a mathematician, and have no idea how many millions have served in the military and meet IVAW’s membership standards, but it seems pretty clear that IVAW as it stands today is not an organization that attracts every Veteran who’s against the war in Iraq. Yet it does attract sycophants and mentally deficient losers like the infamous Jesse MacBeth, and the hardly known James Morriss. MacBeth- I won’t go into, because that happened well before I was an active member, and I’ve never had the displeasure of meeting that scum. However, James Morriss, for those of you who don’t know, squatted in the DC IVAW house for a while before being discovered to be a fake and kicked out of the house and organization as a whole. He attended Winter Soldier on the Hill, and at least once, publicly told a story about being ordered by his commander to shoot an unarmed child in Afghanistan. While James Morriss claimed to have served in 101st Airborne, it was later discovered through record checks that he never made it out of Basic. I didn’t have to look up his record, let alone hear his “war-stories”, to figure out that this kid was a fraud. The day I met him, one thing flashed through my head- “CLASS-III DENTAL.” How anyone let him join IVAW when he claimed to have deployed to Afghanistan, and presented a laminated-green-newbie ID card as proof of service while he had teeth that looked like he’d been chewing gravel for sport… that just blows my mind. Anyone with dental problems as severe as him would be non-deployable until after some major surgery. Again, as a non-member, I would suggest that if IVAW seeks to retain any of it’s credibility at all, that the Board immediately file requests for the DD-214 of all “1,500+ current members” of IVAW using the Freedom of Information Act. Should a purge be necessary (as I imagine it probably will) for members having faked military service, make it public, so that the opposition has a little less to criticize you for and you may gain credibility in the eyes of anyone outside the most crazy of the moonbat crowd. (James Morriss can be found on facebook, in the Tampa Bay, FL network for those of you who may already be “friends” with this criminal.)
Since becoming involved in the online networks of IVAW I’ve heard rumors of people advocating sabotage against US Troops and equipment, and even support for the resistance fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Carl Webb, a member in Texas, has admitted on-line to recommending sabotage to Sergeant Casey Porter, a then Active Duty Soldier. Specifically, he mentions damaging or rewiring electrical systems in vehicles, thus making them unfit for service. Not only is he trying to get an Active Duty Soldier to commit a serious crime (as it would be to advocate people going AWOL), but it’s a crime that could immediately have deadly results for Americans Troops and Iraqis. It doesn’t take a genius or much experience in combat to know that if a vehicle or weapon system goes down, the mission still continues. Troops patrolling out of the bases of Iraq with fewer vehicles, less armor and weaponry, forces them to compensate through the use of force in order to keep themselves safe. The result of a higher chance of American Casualties is the greater possibility for Iraqi Causalities, which enhances sympathy, support and recruitment for insurgent fighters. That increases the justification for the need for more American forces and equipment, therefore extending the duration of and damage incurred on both sides due to combat in Iraq. It’s clear that allowing such an advocate for death and destruction is paradoxical to the founding principals of IVAW. My recommendation to the Board of IVAW is that it immediately revokes the membership of anyone who has publicly (or otherwise online) made comments advocating for criminal action which would directly result in the death of American Troops and Iraqis. (Webb’s comments can be found on facebook under Casey Porter’s note “I am done with IVAW” and here: http://thisainthell.us/blog/?p=10256).
One thing I’ve never been comfortable with is IVAW’s support for “Counter-Recruiting”. Something that seems to be done with the most noble of intentions, “saving the lives of American Youth,” also appears to have been initiated with little deep thought. While every potential recruit who’s convinced that the military is the devil is counted as a small success, and credited as possibly saving a life, not much rational thought is done beyond that. Few times have I seen “Counter-Recruiters” prepared to set up these potential recruits with a real job interview, training that could increase the likelihood of obtaining a job, or even help filling out school applications. Correction, it’d be more accurate to say I’ve never seen those constructive activities. The focus has remained on “don’t do that” instead of “you’d be better off doing this”. This is damaging to the individual potential recruit by further limiting their economic and educational opportunities- which is damaging to the nation as a whole. With the new Post-911 GI Bill, it’s clear that a full college education can be completely paid for and damn near profitable after just a short time in service, so half the argument I’ve seen “Counter-Recruiters” use is completely outdated. Another thing that seems to be lost on the mind of “Counter-Recruiters” is the fact that for every potential recruit that they steer away from the military, they’re locking some guy or gal who’s already done their time into Stop-Loss. While roughly only 16% of the Army’s Soldiers are in combat MOS’s, and the majority of the military (all branches) will never see a combat patrol, it’s clear that “Truth-In-Recruiting” would be a more constructive concept. For someone who’s decided that the military is right for them, it may be better for all parties to allow them to make their own choice after arming them with all the information they’ll need to have a comfortable career. Focus on information that can improve the lives of all in the Military, like “How to prevent military sexual assault” or “How to report Racism (File an Equal Opportunities Complaint)” and constructive education such as that. The problems that currently plague the Military would be lessened if activists worked to educate recruits on how to combat them as they’re enlisting.
The dream of “stopping the Military machine” from growing by preventing one 18 year old at a time from joining is clearly not working, because as the Army Times reported recently, the Army has been exceeding it’s recruitment goals- so they’re still getting the bodies. Taking qualified and competent potential recruits out of the pool is not damaging to this abstract thought- “the Machine”. What it is doing, however, is forcing the Army to lower it’s standards dramatically to allow the incompetent and criminally minded into it’s ranks. I’ve served with people with clear learning disabilities, which is a huge danger to anyone and everyone on or near a battlefield (this includes both American Troops and Iraqi Civilians). I’ve also witnessed gang-related shootouts between Active Duty troops in the barracks at Fort Stewart. Most disgusting is the fact that these were combat troops, and with over 150 expended rounds, there was not one casualty. At the very least these recent Basic Training graduates should have been skilled enough to hit their target at least 1% of the time. Anyone who’s been on Active Duty since 2003 could tell you how much the quality of the average Soldier has plummeted. The lowering standards, no-dropout-rule and lack of faith in the system is probably the leading cause of the recent spike in Drill Sergeant suicides, so, “Counter-Recruiters,” there’s blood on your hands too. And like I said before, for every potential recruit that is turned away from the military, the Army has put another troop under Stop-Loss orders, therefore increasing the likelihood that the Soldier will be injured, killed, contract PTSD, or have existing PTSD worsened. “Counter-Recruitment” is clearly part of the problem, making things far worse, and is far from a solution towards the goal of helping Veterans heal and get the treatment they deserve. It’s time for the Board of Directors to issue a clear statement disavowing such ignorant and destructive tactics as “Counter-Recruitment” and if anything- clearly express organization wide support, specifically for the more positive “Truth-in-Recruiting” which should have a goal of doing what’s best for each individual in each situation regarding enlistment in the military. IVAW as an organization which is supposedly concerned about the welfare of Active Duty troops, should educate civilian “Peace Organizations” about how to focus on participation in activities that while working against the Iraq Occupation are not damaging to the Troops.
Before any other loyalty, IVAW has an obligation to serve the best interests of Troops and Veterans. In theory, opposition to the war, serves the interest of Troops in that IVAW wants to keep Troops from getting hurt overseas. (While most people capable of critical thought understand the situation in Iraq is much too complex for an overnight withdrawal, in other words, “Immediate Withdrawal” taken literally is not a realistic solution). IVAW’s advocation for monetary and structural reparations to leave Iraq better than we found it is in following with basic human courtesy, fulfills America’s promise to the people who we invaded and is something that even the most young Boy Scouts could tell you is proper etiquette after you camp out on someone else’s land. Most conservatives could agree that it’s worth the investment to improve the country at the very least to lessen motivation for future acts of retaliatory terrorist attacks against America and her assets. Full benefits for all returning Veterans is obvious, although, there are Socialists who’ve loudly proclaimed their belief that Veterans are no more entitled to healthcare than the rest of the population, and that we shouldn’t get it until it’s available for all. These are the obligations of IVAW, and where loyalty to Troops and Veterans is rightly directed. However, what I find disturbing is when people on behalf of IVAW declare an action or an organizational vote to be done “in solidarity with the peace movement”. IVAW’s solidarity should remain with that of it’s members and focus on it’s founding points of unity before it reaches out to satisfy every moonbat organization such as Code Pink, the International Socialist Organization, Campus Anti-War Network, or any peace organization my morphing itself to look and function more like them. Such was done in the vote where a loud but small band of IVAW members tried to hurry a vote to declare an official Organization-wide stance against American Operations in Afghanistan without the entire membership being successfully notified or participating in the discussion or vote. This particular case is initially what made me realize that the rumors of an International Socialist Organization influence in IVAW was a real threat to the organization’s founding principles- focus on the Occupation of Iraq- the war that gave IVAW it’s name. The memberships’ lack of participation in this voting process should also indicate that only about 10-20% of IVAW’s membership is involved in the organization at all, therefore actions taken by the loudest minority shouldn’t be assumed to represent the beliefs of the entire membership.
Where I at most times admire IVAW’s general acceptance of people from all walks of life, it’s standards are sometimes clearly of the double-type. Where liberal views and lifestyle choices are obviously prominent and highly supported in IVAW, respect and tolerance simply does not exist for those who consider themselves Patriots, Conservatives, or otherwise anything right of left-center. I point to an issue the Board is already familiar with, an email from Camilo Mejia to Selena Coppa where he makes it clear that because of her love for things such as -The United States Constitution, The American Flag, and Patriotism- that she should consider leaving the organization because, in the words of Camilo, “IVAW is really not that place.” (http://activedutypatriot.blogspot.com/2009/04/newsflash-if-you-support-anti-iraq-war.html) If IVAW is not a place where Patriotism is welcome, I recommend that the Board makes sure that fact is clear on the front page of the website, all press releases and all membership materials. After deploying to Iraq for a year and seeing the immediate direct results of it with my own eyes, I formed a personal belief that America is less safe as a result of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It’s my love of Country and desire to continue my service to my Nation that led me to believe that IVAW was right for me to join. As Camilo has recently pointed out, I must have been mistaken to believe that IVAW is an organization of Veterans focused on what is best for the United States of America. If it’s not the case, there should be punitive actions taken against this type of rhetoric, and that action should be made public to clear up concerns that critics are having of the ISO taking control of IVAW (as Camilo is a member of the ISO and it seems he can get away with anything).
Any IVAW member who went to the Democratic or Republican National Conventions would probably know that I purchased about $200 worth of American Flags with my own money for use in the marches there. The symbolic nature of a national flag is clear to most five year olds, regardless of what country they may be from. From my experience, IVAW and most “Peace Groups” seem to lack the ability to understand that the presence of a few respectfully carried and displayed American Flags in a march or action can go a long way as to making said activist groups gain acceptance from the average American (the one’s you’re all trying to inspire and call to action). This is why the Gathering of Eagles was always a welcome addition to any event I ever attended, because they made IVAW look great with their flags, proper uniforms and “Support the Troops” signs (GOE NY realized this recently, and won’t be playing into IVAW’s hands any longer, as I’ve discovered on their forums). As an American, I’ve always respected the most recognizable symbol of my nation, and even with my membership with IVAW, I’ve paid the respect to the flag that I think most service members and Veterans would expect. I remember the night before the DNC, folding flags for the action and placing them carefully in a box, before being voted down “because people didn’t feel comfortable carrying the flag” and “it wasn’t democratic” for me to decide that it would improve our image without a 62 member debate. While I could accept that argument, I was upset the next day to find a large American Flag placed across the ground at the Denver house that some members made it a point to repeatedly walk over with boots. American, Iraqi, or anything else, that is conduct that is blatantly offensive to most people who’s home is represented by that particular flag, especially the overwhelming majority of Veterans. I admit to signing the flag with a permanent marker along with other members, but I did this the same spirit that many troops, who serve together in Iraq, sign a flag with the rest of their Company.
Fast forward a week or so to the RNC, after an action that did involve the American Flags. Having helped organize the march after three weeks of the Base Tour from which I was already exhausted, further draining myself from having called cadence for most of the action, I returned to the church where IVAW had set up a temporary “headquarters”. When I got there, one of the flags that I purchased was being used as a towel after a member took a shower. Although rather agitated by that, I only gave a slight verbal protest, but understood it was happening more out of necessity and without thought than for insult. While the flag was placed across a table to dry, members began talking about how they had lost all respect for the flag, and started making jokes about it. When someone (who’s name escapes me) started dry-humping the flag, I mumbled something to the extent of putting my boot through his face if he kept it up. At that time the apparently severely sensitive IVAW member approached me, teary eyed and with a “conflict mediator” in tow, and began to threaten to report me to the Board. Being quite surprised how a few days of RNC shenanigans had apparently softened this kid’s skin more than my weeks of working like crazy for IVAW 24/7, in combination with what the sleep deprivation and 400-miles-at-a-clip driving did to me, I assured him it was all in good fun and convinced him this incident wasn’t worth reporting to the Board.
Later in 2008 I received a series of emails from James Circello attempting to recruit me to his IVAW takeover on a “take back IVAW” crusade for the Socialist Agenda. From that point I started trying to get information from Circello’s plans and personality through his facebook profile and baited emails. I stumbled across a photo album titled something like “Sometimes hanging a flag upside down isn’t enough” that he had created showing an American Flag being tattered, torn, dragged on the street, and burned. When James M. Branum (a GI Rights Lawyer who’s traveled the country helping IVAW members) suggested that these pictures might be viewed as offensive, while Circello expressed he was simply observing and documenting, it was clear that Circello encouraged such activity. When I expressed the same concerns, I was told by Circello to “get over it” because the American Flag was just a symbol of tyranny or something to that extent.
What if someone, with the intent to be disrespectful, dry-humped a Gay Pride flag while representing IVAW? What if someone photographed and espoused support for the destruction and burning of religious symbols such as the Cross, Star of David, or Crescent? Anyone who made it through 6th grade history class could tell you those religions have caused some of the world’s most devistating wars, and resulted in the violent ending of countless human lives. While wars that activists call “a product of American empire” have ended countless lives, is there really that much of a difference? There’s certainly not a difference to me, as the closest thing I have to believing in a Bible/Torah/Kuran is my United States Constitution, and it’s symbol, as the Cross is to Christianity, is my American Flag, and that which embodies and represents my religion deserves respect. Flying a flag upside down has clear roots in the history, and is symbolic of a Nation in distress, so that is appropriate when calling on your Constitutional Right to display grievances to our government in protest. However the destruction of the American Flag is representative of the destruction of the Nation that I call home, and along with most Veterans, that is something I should not be expected to tolerate. The Board of IVAW should consider passing a protective order that prohibits members from publicly and/or while representing IVAW, including through public online profiles and blogs: the condoning of, advocation for, or participation in the vandalism and mistreatment of religious or other highly symbolic materials, effective immediately. Those who have already committed such an act clearly lack the the professionalism and level of respect for Veterans that should be expected from from a member of a Veterans Organization, and should have their membership revoked, immediately.
As a goal-specific oriented Veterans Organization, IVAW needs to remain autonomous from other groups. While providing speakers for debate and lectures to students and public forums is appropriate, “alliance” with organizations is not serving IVAW’s purpose. There is a specific niche that Iraq Veterans who are against the war fills, and that is the role of first-hand witnesses, reporting what we have seen in Iraq back to the people of the United States. Allowing favors and support from Peace Groups and Student Organizations to become debts which hold IVAW hostage to outside agendas weakens the credibility and effectiveness of it’s members. As a former member of IVAW, I never wished to be perceived as a “Peace Activist” or “Hippie”. Yet, to quote a man who shall forever hold my greatest respect, “in the eyes of the average crowd, if you can have twelve IVAW members on a stage, clean cut and wearing black Iraq Veterans Against the War t-shirts, and you’ve got a dozen Veterans… if you have twelve IVAW members on a stage, clean cut and wearing black Iraq Veterans Against the War t-shirts, and one guy wearing a tie-dye shirt, well, now you’ve got thirteen dirty hippies.”
I understand that IVAW was created through the direction of Veterans for Peace at their Convention in summer of 2004, and that VFP has donated tens of thousands (or more) of “Bail Out” dollars to help IVAW keep afloat. However, it was always my understanding that despite the financial and advisory assistance, IVAW was attempting to break away and obtain it’s own 501-c3 Non-Profit Status. My assumption was that this was so IVAW had the freedom to break away from outside influence to better maintain it’s course as focused solely on the Iraq War. Yet, as mentioned above, IVAW continues to perform activities in solidarity and in union with Peace Organizations, specifically VFP, violating and standing opposed to the beliefs of many current members, and many who were subsequently forced into resignation. Specifically, note the “Afhanistance” issue where ISO affiliated members of IVAW organized “debates” and “teach-ins” or as some might put it, more accurately, “indoctrination sessions” where a specific line of belief was pushed onto the membership to hurry a vote to further burden the organization with things to be against.
Counter-Culture may be the obsession of Progressive Activists, but toeing the line to that ideology does not serve IVAW’s purpose. The most obvious reason for this is the fact that the overwhelming majority of the United States Military is conservative, and for an organization to highlight the fact that it is -against- most conservative ideology, it destroys a huge portion of the organization’s Veteran and Active Duty sympathy and membership potential. While the decision to include the word “Against” in the name of the organization came for the obvious reason of mimicking the “Vietnam Veterans Against the War”, the name alone has forever condemned IVAW into a constant up-hill battle. The constant negativity and criticism of everything mainstream, which had been espoused through the organization throughout my entire membership, has further distanced it from it’s goals of gaining the support of mainstream America. The successes of other Veterans Organizations such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America should serve as an example to follow.
While the Point of Unity “full benefits, adequate healthcare (including mental health), and other supports for returning servicemen and women” is listed on the website, IVAW actions and words to support this have been few and far between. IVAW newsletters throughout my membership included information about various War-Resisters and peace rallies, but have not once included recommendations to urge members to rally local communities to support legislation which would benefit Veterans. While IVAW has joined IAVA in criticizing Members of Congress for their lack of support on specific votes, to my knowledge, never has there been a call to action initiated by IVAW to attempt to get Senators and Representatives to support specific legislation (see last year’s IAVA Congressional Report Card). An organization which is purely reactionary, and only participates in the debate when the wrong decision has already been made, is entirely counter productive. My recommendation to the Board is that they should seek to create a committee responsible for finding specific Pro-Veteran legislation, with which it will keep the membership informed of in order to maintain progress towards tangible, positive missions and goals.
—-DO NOT DELETE WHEN SHARING.– Due to the hospitalization of my father and a very serious condition stemming from liver cancer and his recent transplant operation, I must apologize because I will not be completing this letter. I hope that in the future I can lay out all my thoughts together, but at this time it’s impossible. I chose to send this e-mail out at this time, because I wish to end my affiliation with IVAW, effective immediately, and distance myself from it while I deal with more important and immediate issues in my life.–DO NOT DELETE WHEN SHARING.–
Kristofer S. Goldsmith
Former Army Sergeant
Operation Iraqi Freedom III
As long time readers of this blog may remember that Kris and I have had words here, but I admire him for making this statement and taking this stand.
As you can see, Bill Perry, the VFP/VVAW member is more focused on rescuing the party line from criticism than he is about rescuing Kris Goldsmith.
As I’ve written before, the REAL veterans of the war are leaving IVAW so that the only people left are the Matthis Chirouxs, the Carl Webbs and all of the other deserters and cowards who don’t have the gumption to do what they’re ordered to do. It’s probably time for them to change their name to Cowards Against the War since the only folks staying are the ones who never set foot outside of the States.
I’ll probably have more as the story develops further.
Added September 26th 2010 Sporkmaster: Here is a video of James Morriss making the claims that Goldsmith was talking about at 17:39. He starts talking at 8:12 and you can see a good view of what his teeth look like.