Statement Condemning the US backed Military Coup in Bolivia

Declaración en español aquí

The Veterans of About Face vehemently and unequivocally condemn the U.S. role in facilitating and supporting the coup d’état of the democratically elected Bolivian Socialist President Evo Morales. President Morales was ousted on November 11 by the Bolivian military and its right-wing mob of reactionaries and Christian fascist paramilitaries who terrorized supporters, government ministers, and elected officials.  We support the self-determination of the Bolivian people who are filling the streets to demand the restoration of the constitutional order and to return democratically elected President Evo Morales to office. 

As of this statement, Morales’ supporters — who are coming from the rural areas to the cities to protest and show their support — are being met with military and police repression, as well as with right-wing violence.  Long considered the poorest country in South America, Bolivia is an indigenous majority country with a minority European descendant population who control most of the country’s wealth. Evo Morales is the country’s first Indigenous president in 480 years.  While in the past, Bolivia’s government has marginalized poor and Indigenous peoples and ruled on behalf of the wealthier white elites and foreign corporate interests, Morales’ strong support base lies with the Indigenous communities who for the first time have a leader who looks like them and truly represents their concerns. Under Morales’s leadership, the country recovered its sovereignty from corporate entities, experienced an upsurge in economic growth and equity, and saw social and ecological advances. As a result, Bolivians have seen a higher standard of living- lifting 40 percent out of poverty, and 60 percent out of extreme poverty. We have no doubt that it is for exactly these reasons that the United States government, heavily influenced by corporate influence, is comfortable with, if not supportive of, this gross violation of democratic values.

We call on the global community to reject this affront to democracy and the farcical “interim presidency” of Jeanine Añez who proclaimed herself president.  It is shameful that the White House so quickly legitimized the coup and recognized the coup government. Meanwhile, Democrats continue to give their consent by remaining silent. This is completely unacceptable.

Furthermore, we demand that U.S. elected officials, particularly Senator  Marco Rubio (R- FL), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Congressman Robert “Bob” Menendez (D- NJ), come clean about any participation in the removal of Morales. Coup plotters themselves claim in leaked audio to have had conversations with these three U.S. officials and to have gotten their support.  

This is not the first time that Sen. Marco Rubio has involved himself in the destabilization of a Latin American country. The Senator has made several attempts to help push forward the overthrow of the government in Caracas, and at each failure, he continues to push for harsher US sanctions intended to cause economic collapse. He also pushes for crushing sanctions against Cuba and Nicaragua, which cause undue harm to everyday people rather than those in power. We urge the constituents of these three elected officials to demand answers and hold them accountable. 

As Veterans who have witnessed the fallouts of U.S. policies abroad personally, we know that this support for violent coups comes with no regard for the consequences — often leading to wars, atrocities, unnecessary deaths, and mass migrations. Despite what Trump and other politicians may claim, we understand that they have no true concern for the people or for any of the people’s grievances against the leaders the US targets — instead, this moment fits into a long US history of overthrowing democracies in favor of right-wing regimes willing to align themselves to the US government and corporate interests. We believe in the self-determination of the people, free from US interference that will serve only to make violence and tensions worse.

Call to action

Call, write or visit Senator Cruz, Senator Rubio, and Representative Menendez.
  • Demand that they actively work to stop US interventionism 
  • Demand their vocal condemnation of this coup and support for reinstating Evo Morales 
  • Respect international law and the self-determination of the people of Bolivia to choose their own government. 

Contact your Congressperson now!
  • Demand an investigation into the role that the US played in the Bolivian coup, specifically Senator  Marco Rubio (R- FL), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Congressman Robert “Bob” Menendez (D- NJ)  
  • Demand that the constitutional order be restored.  
  • Demand that the Democratic candidates denounce the coup and call out President Trump’s overreach in international affairs and the affairs of Bolivia.

Learn More

The demonization of Ilhan Omar and fascism red flags in the United States

By Amanda Madison

U.S. Army combat veteran warns: “stoking fear of the ‘other’ is the president’s best weapon, and Congresswoman Omar is the perfect villain in his story.”

On April 15, 2019 I attended a rally in support of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar held during President Donald Trump’s visit to Nuss Truck and Equipment in Burnsville, Minnesota. The previous Friday, I found myself in shock and outrage over a video tweeted out by the President of the United States that invoked the tragedy of September 11, 2001 to attack my member of Congress.

I am a Minneapolis-based organizer, U.S. Army combat veteran, and mother to two young children. I am writing this piece as someone who knows my Congresswoman Ilhan Omar very well.

It began with a speech Congresswoman Omar gave to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on March 23rd. She referenced the collective punishment of Muslims in the United States and around the world after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Her message was one of human rights and the need for Muslims to live their truth in dignity and assert themselves as a community to live and worship free from bigotry and persecution.

The video tweeted out by President Trump sends a very different message. It is a classic example of fear-based authoritarian propaganda that incites hatred and violence against Congresswoman Omar, CAIR, and the wider Muslim community. It included a single line from Congresswoman Omar’s speech cut out of context and repeated over and over again against a backdrop of the horrifying footage of hijacked airplanes crashing into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the buildings collapsing, and a final line of text “September 11, 2001. We remember.”

The power of the president’s video chilled me to the bone. I fundamentally object to his message and recognize it for the outright nonsense that it is, but in that moment I also recognized the tremendous impact it would have on people who overindulge patriotism and feel threatened by the “other” they do not know and do not understand. I fear for my Congresswoman’s life, I fear for the Muslim community, and I fear for the future of our world if we do not change course.

President Trump’s targeting of Congresswoman Omar should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention. She is the embodiment of everything the president and his base stand against. She leans into her own identity as a Black woman, Muslim, immigrant, refugee, and American. She is unapologetic. While the arc of the history of the United States is tragic, the fabric of this nation is filled with the stories of powerful and resilient people overcoming hardship against all odds. And across each of these stories, there is a common thread: they did it with others. Congresswoman Omar understands the importance of moving together towards our collective liberation, and that’s why she’s dangerous to President Trump, his base, and everything they stand for.

When I was in the U.S. Army, I saw the power of what can be achieved when people of all faiths, colors, and creeds come together to support one another in experiences of individual and collective struggle. It’s become common knowledge that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 was wrong. As soldiers, we felt the moral injury on the ground together, long before it was okay to say so. I left the military in 2008 saying so, just as the country was collectively beginning to rethink our presence in the Middle East, especially Iraq. During my darkest days in Iraq in 2006, I found strength in community and connection with my fellow soldiers. We understood how much we needed each other in our shared-struggle, and that’s how we got through it together.

I’ve found similar community organizing in Minneapolis. My friends and colleagues are Black, brown, white, indigenous and immigrant, rural and urban, Muslim, Christian. I’ve learned that we have far more in common than we have differences. When we lock arms together, fearless and clear about who we are and the values we share, we’re unstoppable.

The truth is President Trump knows this. The entrenched leaders of both political parties know this. The truth is that there are far more of us than there are of them. The only way to keep control is to divide us up by the way we look, the gods we worship, or the places we come from. Stoking fear of the “other” is the president’s best weapon, and Congresswoman Omar is the perfect villain in his story. She holds and owns multiple identities that quickly and easily spark a range of negative emotions, from subtle unease to blatant, rageful hate.

The invocation of the tragedy of September 11, 2001 is an incredibly powerful one. That day we lost nearly 3,000 of our people at the hands of just nineteen terrorist hijackers. Our reaction to that horrible day resulted in forceful occupation of two countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, and rapidly destabilized an entire region of the world. Since then many, many human lives have been lost. At home, we saw an increase in profiling, harassment, and violence against Muslim-Americans at airports, grocery stores, and schools all across the United States. Things got a little better, or so it seemed, but then Donald Trump won the presidency…

We’re at a crossroads and we each have a choice to make. One side want us to fear, distrust, and hate one another, so a wealthy few maintain control and keep taking money out of all of our pockets. The other side wants us to care for and have faith in one another. At the end of the day, we all want similar things: happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives for ourselves and our families.

I won’t be afraid. I refuse to stand by and let fascism take hold in the United States. I’m with Congresswoman Omar because she stands boldly in the face of fear. Like so many of the incredible women leaders of color recently elected to public office, her bravery and resiliency are awe-inspiring. I’m going to stand arm and arm with my Black, brown, indigenous and immigrant friends and neighbors. I’m going to be on the right side of history.

Will you look back and remember that you were too?

Statement on Attempted Coup in Venezuela

Uniformed soldiers and police have blocked off the streets. People are fleeing the city center, and gunfire sounds. The now-infamous coup is underway. While jets come screeching down and bombs drop, rebel soldiers take control of what remains of the presidential palace. The coup has succeeded. The president is dead. A general has taken power and declared martial law. Now soldiers patrol the streets, rounding up hundreds of citizens they see as loyal to the fallen government and to its party. People are forced in masses to the nearest football stadium for an unspecified time of confinement.  

This is not Venezuela. This is Chile on September 11, 1973, but the path the US government is now on feels far too similar to what happened then. We’ve been down this road countless times before, and the consequences have always been devastating.  

Chile’s violent coup came with the encouragement and endorsement of the Nixon Administration, who opposed the popularly elected and socialist government of Salvador Allende. In the lead-up to the overthrow, the U.S. funded a vicious media campaign meant to sow division and paint the Allende government as incompetent, corrupt, and irresponsible. The U.S. also imposed brutal sanctions, contributing to skyrocket inflation, fallen markets, food shortages, fear, and discontent. After the coup, Washington and London directly supported a fascist dictatorship responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and disappearances, the liberalization of the Chilean economy that brought huge profits to Western companies and their local acolytes, and brutal austerity for the poor, which helped cause the great income gap that plagues Chile to this day.

Today Venezuela finds itself in a similar situation. The nation is deeply polarized, divided along racial and socioeconomic lines, and falling global oil prices have spelled further disaster for a country whose main economic driver is oil. An already challenging dynamic has been exacerbated by US-imposed sanctions, a negative international media campaign, a virulent right-wing insurgency committed to overthrowing the governing party, and the threat of a military intervention from Washington. If Chile’s history has taught us anything, it’s hard to deny the likelihood of CIA involvement in the conservative opposition to Venezuela’s current government.

Recently, members of the Trump Administration including John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and Mike Pence, along with legislators like Senator Marco Rubio, have implicitly called for the violent overthrow of the Maduro government and recognized, as president of Venezuela, a relatively unknown and unelected politician named Juan Guaidó.

As post-9/11 veterans, this isn’t the first time we’re seeing the parallels between past and present US policies. It’s not lost on us that sanctions preceded US military occupation in Iraq or that oil was a resource in question. Washington, Ottawa and European partners have aligned with local elites, a fragmented opposition, and regional right-wing governments to do everything in their power to oust the current government in favor of one that will serve their interests. And as it has before, we know this policy of US-backed regime change — rather than self-determination — could help lead to the destabilization of an entire country, if not the entire region, with grave consequences to the people of Venezuela for generations to come.

Through our military experience, we’ve witnessed firsthand the impacts of foreign interventions undertaken with little consideration for the civilians being affected. We’ve seen the chaos and destabilization that reverberates. Knowing that the people of Venezuela will continue to organize for their rights and for self-determination — whether or not they support Maduro — we oppose a US intervention that history proves would only serve to worsen, rather than advance, that cause.

We know unequivocally that the interests of the Trump administration do not align with the well-being of the majority of Venezuelans. As they do domestically, Trump’s interests instead lie with a wealthy minority and with international investors and corporations, eager to extract and exploit the region’s natural resources. If the Trump Administration is truly concerned with the plight of the Venezuelan people, we call on them to lift US-imposed sanctions on Venezuela, allow the opportunity for economic recovery without foreign manipulation, and to encourage a diplomatic — not military — solution to the ongoing situation.

Statement on Government Shutdown and the Border

As an organization made up of post-9/11 veterans, the events over the last month are all-too familiar to us. We remember a time when another president sold the American public on a lie that our national security was under threat. That make-believe crisis resulted in a number of devastating wars — some of which continue, beyond any reason, to this day. Decades later, President Trump is equally determined to sell his unpopular wall at any cost, and not surprisingly, he’s invoked another threat devoid of any real facts and loaded with scapegoating and bigotry.

The simple truth is that our southern border is in a state of crisis only because of the chaos and militarization that our government has brought to it, in the form of blocking access to the asylum application process, criminally irresponsible troop deployment, continued violence by Border Patrol and Homeland Security, and the failure to address a growing presence of unchecked vigilante militias. We believe that migration and seeking asylum are a right, especially because we’ve seen firsthand just how  many lives have been uprooted by the US violent, exploitative economic and military policies worldwide (including in the home countries of those at the border).

Moreover, with the advent of the government shutdown, Trump’s decisions are not solely hurting migrants and asylum seekers, but hundreds of thousands of working families across the country. This includes countless veterans, who make up 30%  of the federal workforce. Members of the Coast Guard are being advised by their command to hold garage sales to put food on their tables, and many thousands of workers have done their jobs for weeks with no pay and no assurance that a paycheck is on the way. We see how the GOP is using this as a chance to rally their supporters against a supposed enemy who has done nothing to them, deflecting attention from the people actually responsible for bankrolling and continuing this crisis.

What’s also familiar to us is that as the President threatens to declare a National Emergency to secure funding for his wall, he’s completely bypassing the legislative branch and any clear checks-and-balances. If his efforts succeed, we will see an expansion of Executive authority like nothing that has existed in modern history. Cynically enshrined by the Bush administration and continued by the Obama administration, unchecked Executive power explains in part how we have come to be in this dire situation. Adding to the danger is that if this National Emergency authorization goes into effect, its funding will come from resources designated specifically for natural disaster-related emergency relief — a real threat that’s only increasing in this moment of climate crisis.

We encourage all people of conscience, including our fellow veterans and service members, to resist this authorization if it comes to pass. We won’t forget that it was General Mattis who suggested this course of action to President Trump, and we won’t forget the corporations poised to profit from both the government shutdown and the ongoing militarization of the border.

These are trying times, but we draw strength from the millions of people who are showing up for their communities across the country and across the border, demonstrating that a politics of division will not win over a politics of solidarity.

Statement of Solidarity with No Cop Academy

About Face: Veterans Against the War is an organization of thousands of post-9/11 veterans and service members taking action to end a foreign policy of permanent war and the use of military weapons, tactics, and values in communities across the country. As people intimately familiar with the inner workings of the world’s largest military, we use our knowledge and experiences to expose the truth about these conflicts overseas and the growing militarization we’ve witnessed in the United States.

Because we see the connections between violence abroad and at home, it doesn’t surprise us to learn that AECOM, the company that recently won the bid for Chicago’s potential new Cop Academy, is the same company that’s received billions in contracts from the Department of Defense (DoD). From Iraq to Afghanistan, AECOM has profited from the endless wars that have cost trillions of dollars and, more devastatingly, millions of lives. And in Chicago, AECOM is now looking to profit from a project whose beneficiaries — the city’s police — have a highly documented, proven record of brutal abuse of communities, excessive force, and a decades-long lack of oversight.

It’s no secret that the DoD’s history is full of examples of illegal torture, assassinations, and indiscriminately targeting civilians, just as its contracts are rife with waste and overspending. AECOM is no exception. In fact, an investigation conducted by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that 14% of costs AECOM claimed — or more than $4.2 million — could not be supported or justified. As veterans and servicemembers whose families and communities are constantly impacted by a lack of access to health care, education, and housing, it disgusts us to see resources put towards and wasted on wars that have destroyed so many lives.

Now, AECOM is set to win a $95 million contract for Chicago’s new Cop Academy, at a moment when Chicago public schools are continuing to close and critical social services — including mental health — are continuing to be cut. For vets, this pattern is one that feels all too familiar to cuts to the VA as budgets for weapons and deployments rose. It’s a pattern that treats people as disposable in the pursuit of larger profits and extreme militarism, benefitting a few at the expense of many.

We endorse the No Cop Academy campaign, and we join their call to defund the city’s already-bloated police budget and to direct these resources towards fully-funded public schools, accessible mental health clinics, living wages, and more. Moreover, we stand with all the young people across Chicago working to break this pattern, demanding that we divest from what does most harm and instead invest in what communities need most — at home and abroad.