Preparing to give a talk to the Stop the War coalition in the UK, I’ve reflected on 15 years of war. I spent the first five years in the military and most of the time since then working to transform our militaristic society with Iraq Veterans Against the War. These are my reflections from the decade and a half Global War on Terror.
2001: I joined the Army and through basic training I learned the violence of war is made possible in part by demonizing and dehumanizing the people on the other end of US military actions and by desensitizing warfighters to the human cost of war.
2002: I saw that the Global War on Terror has many fronts. Drill Sergeants told us to prepare for war, I expected to deploy to Afghanistan. Instead I was deployed to Kuwait, and a year before the invasion of Iraq we were holding training exercises on the border in the same location we would cross in the invasion. Congress approved the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, solidifying the sense that we are in a constant state of danger and building the public fear necessary for war.
We grieve for those who lost their lives Sunday morning in a bigoted, hate-fueled attack in Orlando, Florida. People - mainly Latinx and Black people - were targeted and killed simply because they were members of the LGBTQ+ community celebrating at a gay club in Orlando. It is a terrible tragedy to lose them, and we send our deepest condolences to their families, including chosen families, and the community of Orlando. Our profound grief, however, must not be fuel for more war.
We refuse to let the answer to homophobia be Islamophobia, hate, and further erosion of our civil liberties. To truly honor those lost, we must remember that our country’s recent mechanisms for securing “safety” in times of attack have meant an escalation of state violence and unjust treatment of LGBTQ+ communities and communities of color. To echo the eloquent words of a fellow veteran, Chelsea Manning, "We are not safe and secure when the government uses us as pawns to perpetrate violence against others. Our safety and security will come when we organize, love and resist together."