We haven’t paid much attention to the IVAW lately, mostly because they were behaving themselves. Their focus was on returning veterans and healthcare and most of their really dangerous members were gone. And that Abdo dude who was planning to blow up parts of Killeen, Texas had sent a bunch of them into hiding. Or at least chased them off the front pages of local rags across the country. I’m sure there’s still a link between IVAW, Under the Hood Cafe and Abdo, and I’m still looking.
But a few days ago, they decided to retool the IVAW. Here’s what they used to think they stood for;
Those were the things they thought were important. Until the other day when they took a vote to value these things instead;
Notice that their values have changed to exclude the word “veterans” anywhere. Well until the end of the document;
So they voted to become exactly what I’ve said they were all along – a bunch of people wearing T-shirts that proclaim them as “veterans” to march in front of the hippies to lend the Code Pink, MoveOn, ANSWER folks a measure of the moral authority that other veterans have earned since the Vietnam War. Mannequins would do an equally adequate job. From all reports, despite their claims of over a thousand members, they had 50 total votes for this march left. Not all of their membership is happy about the direction that the International Socialist Organization has taken them;
My warmest congratulations go out to Iraq Veterans Against the War on their recent passage of the new Values and Mission Statement. IVAW’s new mission, should this document continue to sweep through with less than 100 total votes, will be to “end militarism”. Although there are a handful of people celebrating this shift, there are many more of us who morn. The day we were told that this document had passed was the last page of the last chapter in IVAW’s transformation from a big tent, grass roots veteran movement into an activist led, niche, special interest group.
Over the last few years, a small group of narrow minded, revolutionary ideologues have fought long and hard to shift IVAW’s mission from three simple goals that were supported by veterans from all political parties (and no political party) to a mission that has defined the extreme left since the glory days of the anti-war movement during Vietnam. At first, the attacks were strong and pointed to drive out the most conservative of members. Rapid anti-war voices called for sabotage and endorsed the murder of soldiers. When veterans who, outside of their involvement with IVAW, would identify as conservative, tried to call for the leadership to step up and maintain a safe, big-tent organization, the leadership did nothing. These veterans, realizing they were clearly not welcome, resigned or simply walked away. Some of these people were highly involved members including chapter leaders, and voices from Winter Soldier. It was take months of pressure before the leadership took any action. When they did finally act, they took harsher action against those who are tried to stop the extremism than they did against those who had called for sabotage or defended murder.
The second wave of attacks came in a more subtle form. If I were to title this attack, it would be the attack of organizing process. While some organizing theory is important, for months it seemed like our purpose was to organize about organizing. Every meeting was a study in theory of organizing or about developing a model of organizing. This was a distinctly top-driven period. Chapters were calling for help – world events were ripe for the taking – yet we honed in on what model of organizing we would use to build up our membership, or devise a campaign. The leadership asked “what do the members want?” while ignoring the members who stood up begging for help. It was during this period that chapters just ceased to exist. The disgust in the membership was so clear that most people didn’t even consider IVAW worth resigning from. They just walked away.
The final step in IVAW’s transformation, now that the membership had been mostly tailored to fit the far left vision of radical anti-militarism, has been to isolate and shun members who dared to stand up against this anti-militarism campaign. We have been called obstructionists, passive aggressive, bitches and have been left hanging when we asked for support to help soldiers in real, immediate need of support.
Who was responsible for this shift? I don’t think it was one person – there were individuals who desired to change IVAW, yes, but others joined their movement because of fear – fear of irrelevancy. A few people had shifted their military identity to IVAW Military Identity – they had not healed: they had transferred. They feared the loss of their identity more than anything, so they worked, fought, and raised hell for an IVAW that would never die – one that they could cling to until the next war, when they could hop on the backs of that war’s veterans (like the Vietnam Veterans did who could not let go of their anti-war identity after VVAW grew irrelevant)
At our height, we boasted 1200 members and chapters all over the country and world. Today, we muster 50 people for an online vote – 50 members and a handful of chapters who actively support one ideology. The few more “conservative” veterans who have stuck around are now just a punch line to a bad anecdote. What remains of the leadership laughs at those who refuse to get in line with this new IVAW. Rest assured – we aren’t simpleminded idiots – we see what has become of IVAW – we see the obviously unanimous new vision. We were just trying to save IVAW from being relegated to the dusty halls of extremism, to be seated next to VFP, Code Pink, the ISO, Militias, the Tea Party and every black bloc anarchist that has ever existed. Oh well… guess the jokes on us.
Oh yeah… and before you get all excited… we’re not resigning. We’re not going to get rid of us that easy. We’ll be here to call you on your bullshit and be a general pain in your ass for years to come. So hears to you IVAW! Good luck with changing the world. No, seriously…good luck.
Jose Vasquez has resigned as the Executive Director of IVAW at this crucial moment in the organization’s history. He insists that he’s stepping down because of family issues, but I think its odd that the guy who resisted the last take over attempt by the ISO chooses this moment to resign. There are other resignations, too. Aaron Hughes, for example. But, no word yet on the one we’ve been waiting for most.