Veterans Day 2020 About Face Voices

2020 has been an incredibly isolating and difficult year, to say the least, but also a year of coming together for mutual aid and galvanizing people power to reject expanding fascism. We know that regardless of election results and new administrations we face an uphill battle in the efforts to dismantle militarism and #DropTheMIC (military industrial complex) and anti-war veterans will have an important role to play in highlighting the oft hidden truth and demanding peace and justice.

Throughout this Veterans Day we shared brief videos and statements from our members that demonstrate the power of their stories and the importance of this community for supporting them to speak out.

The Obama years proved warmongering is a bipartisan endeavor but sometimes with Democrats in power it becomes quieter and much more difficult to raise awareness or garner funding for critical anti-war organizing from traditional sources. Please consider helping us to keep the momentum up by uplifting the voices of anti-war veterans and investing in our ongoing efforts to end the wars we participated in by contributing to our end of year fundraiser.

Meet Krystal Two Bulls, Zack Henson, Ksenia Voropaeva, and Olie Valenzuela-Nettell- veterans from different walks of life united by their commitment to ending militarism and colonialism.
Special thank you to Brian Buesnel for this mini-documentary which beautifully captures the stories of these amazing members and the heart of our community.

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.