Sunday, March 2, 2008

IVAW: Questions and Answers

Scroll down for answers.
  1. How large is the membership of Iraq Veterans Against the War?
  2. Is military service in Iraq or Afghanistan required for IVAW membership?
  3. Did Jesse MacBeth join the IVAW under false pretense?
  4. Have members of the IVAW experienced credibilty problems before WSI?
  5. Is there any validity to the charge that IVAW is providing propaganda and even recruiting incentive for those who are killing our troops?
  6. Is Winter Soldier Going to be about Widespread US Atrocities and War Crimes?
1. How large is the membership of Iraq Veterans Against the War?
  • IVAW claims over 800 members. If all were veterans of OIF (Iraq) and/or OEF (Afghanistan) they would represent one out of every 2,000 or so members of the military who have served or are serving in those theatres, or 1/20th of 1%. While IVAW members often speak of a widespread support for their oppostion to the war among service members, many tens of thousands of members of the military who had been deployed to Iraq or Afghansitan (or both) have reenlisted knowing they would be redeployed. The number of those who have done so are many multiples of the IVAW total membership. If the entire population of the United States (300 million) were made up of those who had served or were serving in OEF or OIF, the entire membership of IVAW could reside in Provo, Utah.
2. Is military service in Iraq or Afghanistan required for IVAW membership?
  • No. The IVAW only requires that a person served some time in the active duty military or Reserves or National Guard after September 11, 2001.
3. Did Jesse MacBeth join the IVAW under false pretense?
  • Yes and no. While MacBeth certainly mislead the IVAW about his actual military experience, his forty four days in the Army until he was released from service before completing boot camp did and still does qualify him for legitimate IVAW membership. MacBeth resigned from IVAW: he was not removed. If IVAW had removed MacBeth for lying it may have presented the organization with a problem. See next question.
4. Have members of the IVAW experienced credibilty problems before WSI?
  • Absolutely. The most notorious IVAW credibility disaster was Jesse MacBeth, who was a member for months, appearing and speaking at IVAW events and being interviewed by anti-war media which published his atrocity stories before he was exposed as a complete fraud as a result of the infamous video.
  • There is also Jimmy Massey, who served with the Marines in Iraq, and was a co-founder of IVAW. About Massey, IVAW says "After a hard fight he was discharged and has since been telling people the truth about the war in Iraq." Massey had told lurid atrocity stories to several media organs. However, after Ron Harris of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch exposed Massey's charges as false other news organs like the Modesto Bee and Sacramento Bee retracted the Massey claims they had published. Eventually the AP also did so, after using Massey as a source for several stories, and having to publicly admit that AP never even sought to verify Massey's claims with their own embedded reporter who was on the scene at the time the fabricated events supposedly took place. The career in atrocity stories that Massey began in the US, as Ron Harris called it, has moved offshore and continues.
Note: IVAW did a recent "scrub" on their site regarding Massey.
  • Stories and claims change. There is Camilo Mejia who was the first active duty U.S. soldier to refuse deployment to Iraq. He had returned from Iraq on leave and deserted, and was eventually convicted for that and served nine months in military prison. In an interview in March 2005 Mejia spoke about US soldiers engaging in what he believed was torture of Iraqi detainees. When asked if he had done those things himself, Mejia replied "Not really." By the following August, when interviewed by Dahr Jamail Mejia had changed that to "I tortured guys...". Even earlier at his court martial in 2004 Mejia only spoke of an "expectation" that he might be faced with illegal orders if he returned to Iraq, with no claims that he had "tortured guys" or had been required to engage in illegal activity while there.
  • In August 2005 IVAW member Harvey Tharp was interviewed along with several other group members by Dahr Jamail. Of that discussion, Jamail wrote "I type furiously for three hours, trying to keep up with the stories each of the men shared….about the atrocities of what they saw, and committed, while in Iraq." Tharp was quoted by Jamail as saying “Most of what we’re talking about is war crimes…war crimes because they are directed by our government for power projection.” Last month Tharp was quoted in the Yemen Times as saying he had never personally witnessed any American atrocities in Iraq, but he had come to “know about certain cases”.
  • Member Adam Kokesh was at one time a paid activist for IVAW and was part of a group of George Washington University students which had engaged in what has properly been called a "fake hate crime". Kokesh and the others fabricated and circulated a phony "Hate Muslims? So Do We" poster on campus with contact info on it pointing to the conservative Young Americans Foundation. The predictable ire of university administrators and others was, as intended by Kokesh et al, directed at the innocent party. The story was picked up by Islam Online (Cairo) and presented as an example of anti-Muslim hate in America without pointing out that the poster was a fraud.
5. Is there any validity to the charge that IVAW is providing propaganda and even recruiting incentive for those who are killing our troops?
  • The answer is an undeniable yes. This February Harvey Tharp was quoted in the Yemen Times saying this just before he admits that he had never seen such things himself while in Iraq:
"I’m going to Washington, D.C. for the winter soldier hearings from March 13-16. Fifty members from the Iraq Veterans Against the War will testify to war crimes they witnessed or even participated in and I’ll be there in support"
  • Truthout quoted the Guardian about a march that involved IVAW members to the effect that:
"Just outside New Orleans, the sudden appearance of a reporter from al-Jazeera's Washington office electrifies the former soldiers. It is a chance for the vets to turn confessional and the reporter is deluged with young former soldiers keen to be interviewed. 'We want the Iraqi people to know that we stand with them,' says Blake, 'and that we're sorry, so sorry. That's why it was so important for us to appear on al-Jazeera.'"
Blake was quoted at an IVAW fundraiser and in a video for their Winter Soldier Investigation saying:
"The killing of innocent civilians is policy…It's unit policy and it's Army policy. It's not official policy, but it's what's happens on the ground everyday. It's what unit commanders individually encourage."
6. Is Winter Soldier Going to be largely about Widespread US Atrocities and War Crimes?

Hard to say for sure. The initial IVAW statement from late last year about the upcoming Winter Soldier can still be found at Firedoglake, Polizeros, US Labor Against War, Courage to Resist, Common Ills, Ruth’s Report and on and on and on! That and later IVAW statements to the media were atrocity and war crime-centric, citing the 1971 WSI and My Lai and such and it was common to find the number 100 or so used for the number of testifiers making a clear linkage to the 1971 WSI atrocty fest. However, more recently the IVAW Winter Soldier site has changed its statement and played down the war crime-atrocity theme as well as the number expected to testify. That has more recently been estimated as about fifty. It may be that IVAW are not getting the numbers they thought and hoped for and specifically the number of "war crime" testimonies. It was also becoming clear to members of IVAW by January that there would be a lot of attention paid to the testimony as it was being given by bloggers and milbloggers, which debunked stories by Jesse MacBeth and Scott Thomas Beauchamp. Even so, however, one can still find IVAW members recently stating that WSI will be largely about atrocity and war crime testimony. And more of the same.

IVAW may have to deliver. They have been using the war crime and atrocity theme extensively at the fund raising events they have been holding for Winter Soldier, ginning up the expectation of that among their supporters.
"During the initial invasion we killed women. We killed children. We senselessly killed farm animals. We were the United States Marine Corps...and we left a swath of death and destruction in our wake all the way to Baghdad..."
Matt Howard, Iraq Veterans Against the War
"We would declare zones 'weapons-free'...and shoot everything that moved...weapons-free means you can shoot anyone and that's exactly what we did...tanks went in and shot everything that moved: men, women, children, donkeys—it was a turkey shoot."
Matt Howard, Iraq Veterans Against the War

"...the American G.I., they are taught from the day that they land in Kuwait and every moment that they move north into Iraq and every moment they’re in Iraq, they’re taught to dehumanize Iraqi people. This term “haji” is very prevalent...to the U.S. military, it’s a term of dehumanization, one that’s used so that the American G.I. can kill without question and who can follow an order to kill someone without question...”
Geoff Millar, Iraq Veterans Against the War
"The killing of innocent civilians is policy…It's unit policy and it's Army policy. It's not official policy, but it's what's happens on the ground everyday. It's what unit commanders individually encourage."
Mike Blake, Iraq Veterans Against the War

"...I’m going to Washington, D.C. for the winter soldier hearings from March 13-16. Fifty members from the Iraq Veterans Against the War will testify to war crimes they witnessed or even participated in and I’ll be there in support… No, I didn’t personally witness any [atrocities], but I came to know about certain cases."
Harvey Tharp, Iraq Veterans Against the War


Stand by for more. Post under construction. Last edited 03022008

7 comments:

Army Sergeant said...

#1: One can reenlist and still not support the war. We have IVAW active duty members who have reenlisted because they happen to love their service. Loving one's military service is not somehow contradictory to being a part of IVAW. We are not all opposed to the military-simply to the current war which is hurting America and our military.

#2: The President has deemed that all service after that period of time is worthy of the GWOT (Global War on Terrorism) ribbon. One of the reasons for the membership standards being as they are is the logistical nightmare qualifying people's service would entail. What about people who served in a hospital where casualties were initially flown? What about soldiers whose actions from afar directly helped save lives in the conflicts? What length of time would qualify? All members of IVAW have served in the conflicts, as judged by the Department of Defense and their Commander-in-Chief. If you have a problem with that classification, you might want to take it up with those bodies.

#3 As far as I am told, Macbeth was in fact removed.

#4 We are strongly against those who lie about service. As has been reported in multiple newspapers, IVAW will be submitting any veterans who lie about their service or decorations at Winter Soldier for prosecution under the Stolen Valor act. IVAW is committed to honest veteran's telling of their stories, but those who attempt to gain glory they did not earn will be referred to civilian law enforcement.

talon said...

A few observations from a critical perspective:

1) It would be interesting to compare the number of IVAW who are currently re-enlisted versus the number of IVAW who have either deserted or were dismissed from their units - after all, "GI Resistance" (desertion), not reenlistment, is considered a virtue at IVAW. It would be further interesting to note the status of IVAW's leadership, given the fact that IVAW is currently Chaired by a convicted deserter (Camilo Mejia).

2. Given that words mean things, it is reasonable to expect that an organization that represents itself as an Iraq veterans group would consist exclusively of Iraq veterans, as the term IRAQ, not GWOT, implies. If IVAW wanted to be honest about the composition of its organization, it would call itself GWOTVAW or WOTVAW, but it does not. This is a critical distinction that IVAW deliberately avoids for obvious reasons.

3. Defer to Denis.

4. Repeatedly.

5. Absolutely. The false and unsubstantiated claims of "war crimes" and "systematic brutality" emanating from the leaders and members of IVAW is similar, if not identical, to the same fabrications issuing from al-Qaeda's propaganda machinery. This is not suprising, given that the goals of both organizations is the abandonment of Iraq and its people (a la Indochina 1975)

6. Largely? It's hard to say to what extent IVAW will continue to sell its "systematic brutality" and "atrocity" narrative, but I certainly do not expect this leopard to change its spots.

Anonymous said...

Both Blake and Millard were REMFs who were exposed for being stolen valor violators and frauds. And that is what IVAW had for their board of directors?

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