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Page 12
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Violence Always Goes Too Far

By Susan Ives

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Remarks by Gulf War vet Susan Ives
Vietnam Memorial
San Antonio, Texas
April 5, 2003

I've been reading a series of detective novels set in modern day Botswana. The owner of the Ladies Number One Detective Agency has become a hero of mine. In the first book she said, "I love all the people whom God made, but I especially know how to love the people who live in this place."

What a definition of patriotism! I love all the people God made but my own people — these Americans — are the ones I know how to love the best.

And the Americans I have learned to love best are soldiers, because I was one of them for so many years. Many of you know I was an Army officer, a Gulf War veteran. The units assigned to this second Gulf War are my people. The 101st Airborne Division is in Iraq. I was in the 101st the whole time I was a lieutenant, on the General Staff as a plans officer and in the Division Artillery. Fifth Corps is there too, and I was on the Fifth Corps staff in Germany, my last assignment. These are the very soldiers I know how to love the best.

But I say Love, not support. I cannot agree with what they are being told to do by the government, by my government. I think –- no, I know -– that this is not a just war, that there were avenues of diplomacy that we refused to travel. I am shocked and saddened by this new policy of preemptive war. Turning into a nation of conquerors.

I look at my country and see our social services being dismantled. We cannot find money to educate the children, we cannot find money for health care for the elderly, we cannot find the 1.9 billion dollars that the VA needs to care for the veterans of past wars. No, there is no money for that. But we can find 80 billion dollars to fight an unnecessary war in Iraq.

I do not feel safer. Do you feel safer? Iraq has never attacked us. If they do have weapons of mass destruction, as our president claims, they have never used them against us. But we have initiated this round of violence, and they will retaliate. We all know that. Violence cannot defeat violence. It never has. If it could, wars would have become obsolete centuries ago.

So no, I cannot support our soldiers if supporting our soldiers means supporting these policies. But I can love them as my brothers and sisters, as the people I have learned to love the best.

It is because I love these soldiers and because I love America that I must protest. I must dissent. I must speak out. This is my duty as a citizen.

I was born and raised in Philadelphia. Just as many of you were raised on the story of the dissent against Mexico that created Texas, I was raised on stories of Pennsylvania's founder, William Penn, a Quaker. He refused to pay taxes to England to support an unjust war against Canada. He dissented. We were all taught in history classes about the Boston Tea Party –- dissent. We learned about the speeches, the rallies, even the street theater of our colonial forebears. Dissent, dissent, all of it dissent. And our founding fathers thought that dissent was so important that they guaranteed it in the Bill of Rights:

freedom of the press,
freedom of speech,
freedom of assembly.

Dissent, dissent, all of it dissent.

It is because I love the soldiers that I dissent. It is because I love my country that I speak out. These soldiers -– the people I know how to love the best –- have been sent to Iraq in the name of democracy. It is my job, my duty to make sure that there is a democracy left for them to come home to.

A labor organizer, Amon Hennacy, once said that being a pacifist between wars is like being a vegetarian between meals. Now that we are a nation at war, dissent is harder. Some tell us that we must blindly accept whatever our government tells us. To do otherwise, they say, will dishearten the troops.

This is an insult to our soldiers. They are not children. They are men and women –- intelligent men and women, who studied the same history you and I studied, who read the same Constitution. They can think. They can read. They can analyze. They do not need to be fed pablum. They are not so fragile or so stupid that they have to be told some dumbed-down happily-ever-after fairy tale. They are the ones whose lives are at risk. They deserve to know the truth. Not lies. Not whitewash. The truth. If we love them, we will tell the truth.

These are hard times to oppose war. I am a realist, and I know we cannot pull out of Iraq today. It has gone too far. Violence always goes too far. To leave now would be a betrayal of the Iraqi people. And we cannot win the battles and leave. We must stay now, to rebuild Iraq and guarantee the safety of its people.

So what am I protesting? What is my dissent?

First, it must stop here. There is talk that since we're over there any way, how about Iran? How about Syria? How about the whole Middle East? I say no. This entire concept of preemptive war is evil. It must stop.

Second, we must rebuild Iraq with honor. We must rebuild it for the Iraqis and not for multinational corporations who value profits over people. The whole world is watching how we handle this and we cannot succumb to greed.

Third, we cannot let this state of fear, this state of war, intimidate us. We dissenters, we patriots, must defend our liberties. We cannot trade our precious freedoms for the illusion of safety.

Finally, we must build a culture of peace. We must learn to love all the people of the world just as we have learned to love our own people.

I do not want to dissent. I do not want to protest. I do not want to spend another Saturday standing in front of a memorial to dead soldiers speaking out against another damn war. But if I must dissent I will. Will you dissent with me? If I must protest, I will. Will you protest with me? 

Susan Ives served in Gulf War I as a lieutenant with the 101st Airborne Division.

Milwaukee VVAW members at The Wall in DC, 2003

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