2009
05.19

Dear IVAW members and friends of IVAW,

I’m writing this as an interested outsider, in response to the recent number of IVAW members who have chosen to publicly leave the organisation and post their grievances online.

I’m not a veteran and hence not an IVAW member. I have though, done all I can to support IVAW and its members for some time in my work as a G.I. rights attorney (and before that as a paralegal g.i. rights counselor). I did legal support for the first IVAW Winter Soldier event and have traveled with IVAW members on one of the base tours. I’ve also helped out a little bit in local organizing in some pretty tough territory.

In this work, I’ve had the chance to get to know many IVAW members. They are an incredibly diverse group of folks — combat vets and non-combat vets, young and not so young, many different ethnicities, many different religious perspectives. And politically, the views are all over the map. I know gun-toting libertarians. I know black flag waving anarchists. I know pragmatic Obama-fans. I know old school constitutional conservatives. I know Socialists and Communists.

And the views on how to resist war are varied too. Many IVAW members are pacifists, others aren’t. Some think that they should work to end war but still stay in the military. Others refuse to serve at all and are willing to go to jail for it.

All of this is to say, that IVAW members are very diverse. I think this was a good thing. The points of unity were clear and serve as the unifying grounds to come together, but otherwise folks were pretty different.

Now, things are shifting. A lot of folks are leaving the organization. I’m sure they have good reasons for it. I’m friends with several of them.

I know lots of other folks who are staying, and I’m friends with many of them. And I know a few a-holes who are enjoying the disunity way too much. (and I got to admit, I keep wondering who the FBI moles are that is stirring this shit up in the first place)

I wish there was a way to recapture what I thought was the original vision of IVAW, that is that it was an ecunemical organization for vets committed to ending the war in Iraq. Other issues were relevant and open to discussion and action, but no one would be excluded because they didn’t toe the party line on issues beyond the points of unity.

Maybe this vision is impossible now. It certainly isn’t something that non-vets like myself can change. But, I still have my opinions and I’m going to share them. I hope I’m not intruding by stating them…

1. If possible, a strong commitment to unity needs to made within IVAW. The decision to decentralize the organization is a good start but it needs to be fleshed out more so that there is room in IVAW for all vets opposed to the Mideast wars. As for outside groups, they are welcome to work with IVAW, but IVAW should maintain its independence and autonomy.

2. If this isn’t possible, or for those individuals who are hurt to much to continue working within IVAW, then fine. But don’t just gripe and complain and certainly don’t quit the movement. Folks will die if we don’t keep fighting for peace. Keep agitating. Start your own organization. Publish your own newspaper. You don’t need permission from own high to do any of these things.

Whatever happens though, the work must continue! It’s time to disband the circular firing squad and get back to work.

Anyway I appreciate y’all hearing me out.

James M. Branum

P.S. #1 – And, please know that I’m in the corner of any veteran or servicemember who is working for peace, even if we don’t agree on other issues.

P.S. #2 – I’m speaking only for myself. My views don’t necessarily represent the views of any of the organizations I work with.