As a former US Marine, I am disgusted to learn about the killing of Filipina transgender woman Jennifer Laude in Olongapo City, with USMC Private Joseph Scott Pemberton as the prime suspect. I am saddened and disgusted about the very real possibility that another citizen has lost their life to a fellow Marine and that justice and accountability will be just words and not actions.
I will forever be haunted by my participation in committing gross human rights violations against the Iraqi people in 2003. It caused me post-traumatic distress that I am still healing from. As a result, I have committed the rest of my life to working for peace for all peoples facing US military intervention.
News of Jennifer’s killing comes just a few months after my return from the Philippines, where I participated in a peace mission looking into the impact of US military intervention in the country.
We lost an important member of our community with Jacob George's passing last week. His contribution to both our movement and to the many people that he shared his experiences, music and unbridled spirit with is impossible to measure. We at Iraq Veterans Against the War are supporting each other in this difficult time and will be remembering Jacob's legacy in many ways. One way we wanted to honor Jacob's memory is to share the stories of those closest to him. Jacob's close friend and fellow IVAW and Afghanistan Veterans Against the War (AVAW) Committee member Brock McIntosh reflects below on Jacob's life. Please take a moment and read it:
A line has been drawn in Ferguson, Missouri. A line that separates a community collectively grieving for their lost son, and on the other side, a police force that is sworn to serve and protect but instead has brought nothing but fear and violence. A line that separates the institutionalized racism of city, state and federal government decisions and the people across the country who want to see justice for Michael Brown and the many other victims of police violence. This line didn’t begin and doesn’t end in Ferguson. It has its roots in a long history of police violence against Black and Brown communities in the U.S.
Over the last three weeks, we at Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) have watched with dread the endless bombing of Gaza, leading to the senseless killing of now more than 1,300 Palestinians and the destruction of their homes, lives and livelihoods.
In the past we have announced our support of the right to self-determination for Palestinians, alongside our firm conviction of the illegality and dehumanizing nature of the blockade of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank. This moment is no different.
The US government has continually provided arms and money to Israel to the tune of $3.1 billion per year. It is our own country’s weaponry that is causing the deaths of entire families in Gaza. We see it as our duty to resist the steady grinding militarization of our foreign and domestic policies and we stand in solidarity with those resisting the same efforts overseas, both the Palestinian people and the Israeli reservists who have refused to serve in this conflict.
The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 incited a previously unimaginable deepening of sectarian divisions among the people of Iraq following the overthrow of the repressive Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hussein. The US government and its occupation forces set in place the most serious sectarian and ethnic tensions in Iraq’s modern history and have yet to address the humanitarian catastrophe set in motion by the war. On the 10-year commemoration of the US invasion in March 2013, the Right to Heal initiative brought together Iraqi social justice organizers and unionists with US military veterans opposed to the war and our group of politically-aligned organizations to call for reparations for the people of Iraq for the disastrous legacy US forces left behind.
Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) – an organization comprised of individuals who served or continue to serve in the US Military following September 11, 2001 – calls on Congress, the President, and his administration to reject the use of violence and militarism in response to the current outbreak of violence in Iraq.
Many of our members deployed to Iraq during the recent US occupation. Those of us who were there know first hand that US military solutions in Iraq do not serve the interests of the Iraqi people. We advocate for the self-determination of all people, in this case the people of Iraq. Any solution to this crisis must come from them.
When the United States invaded and occupied Iraq, the formerly secular country was destabilized. The United States and the Department of Defense intentionally created and agitated sectarian divisions that would not have otherwise existed. The result of this is what we see today, and Iraqi civilians are paying for it.