Courage to Resist

One of the most powerful groups of voices in opposition to the occupation of Iraq is U.S. soldiers who come home and speak out. In particular, those who become so disillusioned and disgusted by the Iraq occupation that they refuse to return provide a special power that can help to end the nightmare of the Iraq quagmire. More and more soldiers are reaching that breaking point and saying they refuse to participate. As a result a support group has developed, Courage to Resist that is aiding those who refuse to participate. In the interview below with Max Diorio we examine why the war resisters are important in this debate and what people can do to help them.

Kevin Zeese: What is Courage to Resist?

Max Diorio: Courage to Resist describes itself as “a group of concerned community members, veterans and military families that supports military objectors to illegal war and occupation and the policies of empire. Our People Power strategy weakens the pillars that maintain war and occupation in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere by supporting GI resistance, counter-recruitment and draft resistance, which cuts off the supply of troops.”

KZ: What got you involved? What is your history related to this?

MD: I got involved in anti-war activism in 2003 a few months before the most recent U.S. invasion of Iraq. At the outbreak of the war and around the Republican National Convention in NYC in 2004, I was involved in direct action campaigns, broader public-opinion work, mass demonstrations, and more. When soldiers and families started to speak out against the war, I was immediately drawn to the power of what they were saying. In the current campaign to support Lt. Watada, I often find myself brought to tears by Ehren’s words, and also by the outpouring of support that I have seen flood in from people around the country who have such gratitude for what he is doing. There is something so moving and true about the words of Camilo Mejia, Aidan Delgado, Fernando Suarez del Solar, Katherine Jashinski, and all the other public resisters that I believe their message has the ability to reach out of the confines of the anti-war movement and into the minds and hearts of everyone in this country.

KZ: How do you support resisters? What kind of impact do you hope resistance by military officers will have?

MD: Courage to Resist as a group has the capacity to support resisters in many ways. On a large scale, we are cultivating a National GI Resistance Alert Network, which aims to have groups and individuals around the country “on alert” ready to support those from within the military who step forward to publicly resist war, occupation, and empire. For those who do not wish to be public, we can also offer “lower profile” support, which may come from the local area where the person lives or is stationed.

In this way, much of the strength of Courage to Resist is drawn from its desire to make support of Military Resistance an integral part of all the work that is being done against the illegal war and occupation in Iraq, and against war in general. We encourage groups and individuals around the nation (and the world!) to take up this support work as a part of the great work they already do.

On a more individual level, we have many ways to support those from within the military who resist. We can offer help in the form of “expert advice” to a man or woman who may be considering speaking out. I say “expert advice” because among our ranks are former GI resisters, Vets of many wars who have since spoken out against them, and folks highly educated in the nuances and possibilities that crop up when a person takes such a strong stand within the context of the US military. Also, we can offer help to the individual resister in the form of fundraising and political pressure campaigns intended to minimize negative consequences to the person taking a brave stand against the war.

KZ: Is there a historical precedent for soldiers resisting service? What has been the impact in previous wars?

MD: There is a large historical precedent for soldiers resisting service. The height of this of course came during the Vietnam Era, when the outright refusal by so many from within the military and those who were being drafted was a major factor in ending the war in Southeast Asia. An incredible film about the power of the GI Resistance movement in Vietnam has been released and is being shown around the country called Sir No Sir. We believe that GI resistance can actually stop the war, not only by denying “warm bodies” the war effort, but by turning the tide of public opinion.

KZ: What do you say to those who say what you are doing is treason?

MD: I think anyone who accuses me or anyone who is publicly critical of the war and occupation in Iraq of treason is truly delusional. Personally, I don’t have an “us vs. them” sense of the world, so being accused of treason doesn’t make me question my actions. However, even for those who would consider themselves patriotic and loyal to America, the war and occupation in Iraq is undeniably illegal. The irony is that the actions of the Bush government are making the world less secure and they are by definition war crimes.

KZ: Describe some of the resisters you are assisting and how you are doing so?

MD: Right now our focus is on Ehren Watada, who is an Army officer stationed in Fort Lewis, WA. More can be found on Ehren at http://www.thankyoult.org/ Courage to Resist in conjunction with many many groups and individuals around the country have formed a working group which operates on two levels. One is the important work of giving Ehren, his family, and community material support in terms of fundraising, advice, media liasoning, and technical support. The other is preparing to mount an unprecedented political and social campaign which will demand that the military not criminalize Ehren’s act, not court martial him, and give him an honorable discharge from the military. We will accomplish this by doing press work, holding rallies and support actions, and generally making the case that Ehren is a hero, and is doing the right thing by the standards of the Constitution, US Law, and International Law. Courage to Resist along with others have done similar support (though perhaps on a somewhat smaller scale), for resisters like Kevin Benderman and Pablo Paredes.

KZ: What kinds of resources do resisters and their families need? How can people get them those resources?

A: Some of the support needed and given was outlined in previous questions, but again, like anyone, resisters need to feel that they are being upheld and supported by people in their communities. To take such a large step into the unknown, it is invaluable for resisters to feel that they’ll have people to rely on when they are being persecuted by the US military.

This support can take the forms of material support and political/social support as I outlined above. These resources can be garnered as long as groups like Courage to Resist know there is a need. I have personally seen amazing and touching outpourings of support for those who refuse to fight in Iraq, or who stand up to the military in resisting war in general.

KZ: What is the national day of action on June 27th? How can people get involved? Are there events all over the country?

MD: June 27th is a date which will likely be very close to the time that Ehren Watada’s unit will be ordered to ship to Iraq. At this point, Ehren will officially refuse orders. Courage to Resist and others are calling for actions around the country to stand with Lt. Watada and his conviction that this war is illegal and must end. The Courage to Resist website is the best place to find updates on actions on the 27th. We will have national actions listed, as well as downloadable materials that organizers can use in their efforts. If Ehren is court-martialed by the military, which is likely, we will build on the actions of June 27th to create an even bigger national outcry around his court martial.

For more information on Courage to Resist visit: www.CourageToResist.org.

Kevin Zeese is director of DemocracyRising.US and a candidate for US Senator in Maryland (see www.ZeeseForSenate.org).