On Memorial Day, Vets Against War

I’m writing to you from About Face, the first national direct action training camp for veterans of the post 9/11 era against militarism. This is a powerful collaboration between two organizations we’ve worked with for years: The Ruckus Society provides direct action tools and training for grassroots people’s movements, and Iraq Veterans Against the War is building a service-member and veteran led movement that ends militarism by transforming ourselves, military culture and American society.

Catalyst is inspired to be on the training team for this critical gathering of 45 veterans and their closest allies as they work toward that transformation. As one vet says,

“I am participating [in the About Face Veteran’s Action Camp] because it has taken me years and is still taking time to de-indoctrinate and decolonize myself from the harmful impacts and conditioning the military had on me. I hope to support the healing and learning of fellow veterans in how to translate our unique skills sets into service to the movement and truly learn what it means to serve The People.” 
–Krystal Rain Two Bulls, veteran and Ruckus Trainer

Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, co-director of Highlander
leading a discussion with veterans against militarism

Today, on Memorial Day, as Trump is escalating war and military intervention, let us recommit ourselves to anti-war movements. We need to take a strong stance, not only to stop escalation, but also to stop waging the wars this country is currently in:

  • In the last year, the United States has bombed Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia.
  • We have 1.3 million troops in active deployment, and at least 800 military bases around the world.
  • US military spending accounts for more than a third of all military spending globally.
  • Trump’s budget adds $54 billion to military spending while drastically cutting human health services.
  • The U.S. exports more than 50% of the world’s weapons and training, including to many repressive governments that continuously brutalize political protesters.

There isn’t an issue we care about that this isn’t related to. At Catalyst’s recent convening, “Organizing to Win: Building Anti-Racism in Poor and Working Class White Communities,” Iraq Veterans Against the War’s co-Director Maggie Martin spoke on the current state of U.S. militarism and movements against it.  She said,

“Right now there are drone strikes almost daily in Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, with recent escalations in Syria and Afghanistan…In addition to military actions, there are tensions with North Korea, Russia, Iran, and folks trying to roll back the Iran Nuclear Deal. But we can also see rampant militarism on the border, which has had a wall and a militarized police force that see themselves and operate as a military unit…We’re also seeing militarism in our schools with officers in schools handling discipline, arresting kids of color and sending them to jail. We’re seeing it in our streets with military equipment and tactics passed down to local communities through police…Militarism is a value system that puts military strength over all else, including human needs…

My request in thinking about strategy is that we use an anti-militarism lens because not only is it killing people and destroying whole communities’ access to things like water, food, housing and hospital access, but it’s also robbing our U.S. communities of the resources we need for the things we’re fighting for. Over half of discretionary budget is military spending while healthcare has a tiny sliver. It doesn’t line up with our values as organizers or as a country. We need to weaken the power of the military-industrial complex and our normalized concepts of military defense so we can change things.”

As Maggie said, this work comes from an understanding that militarism touches every part of American society, and is deeply interwoven with white supremacy and patriarchy: from the idea that we should solve conflicts with force and violence to the belief that we should obey top-down leadership or submit to being disciplined and punished.  These ideas are carried out through armed state forces such as the military, police, ICE agents and prison guards, but they are also deeply present in our budgets and in current white supremacist and fascist movements.

Today, on Memorial Day, let us all recommit ourselves to organize against wars and the war economy, and against militarism everywhere. Millions of lives hang in the balance.

With Hope and Commitment,
Clare Bayard,
on behalf of Catalyst