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The Mass Media

Socialist Alternative Hosts Iraq Veterans Against the War

Student and Socialist Alternative member Matt Steuert speaks at last Wednesday´s event highlighting Iraqi Veterans against the war.
Negar Mortazavi
Student and Socialist Alternative member Matt Steuert speaks at last Wednesday´s event highlighting Iraqi Veterans against the war.

Last Wednesday, the UMB chapter of the Socialist Alternative brought the Iraq Veterans Against the War members to the university to speak in the Campus Center ballroom.

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is an organization that sends speakers to different parts of the country to talk about their experience in the war and what should be done about the present situation in Iraq. The group is compromised of veterans from all branches of military service (active duty, National Guard, and reservists) who have served since September 11, 2001. They include members who served prior to the war in Iraq on the premise that Iraq is considered one of the fronts on the War on Terror.

Formed in July of 2004, during the Veterans for Peace annual convention in Boston, Iraq Veterans Against the War makes appearances and gives talks all over the country in favor of a complete withdrawal from Iraq. According to their website, the group’s main objectives is achieving, “Support in the Iraqi reconstruction in whatever way possible and supporting the veterans and our troops now and upon their return home.”

Wednesday’s event included two members of IVAW, National Coordinator Michael Hoffman and co-founder Kelly Dougherty, who addressed a packed Campus Center ballroom. Both Hoffman and Dougherty are founding members of IVAW as well as veterans of the Iraqi war. Hoffman is a Lance Corporal in the Marine Corps artillery and was in Iraq for the March 2003 start of the war. Dougherty served in Iraq as a member of the Military Police with a National Guard unit from Colorado Springs.

Hoffman is currently on active reserve and therefore could be called back to duty at anytime. However, as a result of his outspokenness, he doesn’t expect to be recalled. He describes his job in the war as, “Raining death down.” Hoffman says that as an artillerist his job was to fire mortars and rockets at targets the infantry was soon going to enter. Kelly Dougherty was originally enlisted out of high school in the National Guard and was trained as a medic. When she was called to duty in Iraq, she was transferred to a military police unit as a sergeant. She recalled the abject poverty Iraq was living in, and the initial good will towards the Americans. However, the longer she was there the more she saw the people’s opinions of them change for the worse. Joining the Iraqi veterans in speaking out against the war were two members of the UMass chapter of the Socialist Alternative, Matthew Steuert and Nathan Aldridge.Aldridge, who has two brothers in Iraq, spoke of their enlistment in the National Guard as a result of financial difficulty due to outsourced jobs. Veterans of the war in Iraq not only made up the panel of speakers at the event, but the audience as well.Freshman Ray Travers, who works at both the Veterans Center and The William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences, took in the event and had his own opinions. “I just wasn’t really struck by anything that made me think differently about any of the situations.” Travers continues, ” You have your black and white, whether we should be there or we shouldn’t…I just feel like everything I’m hearing is just so far to one side or the other, it just seems likes there’s a lot of ignorance from both sides.” The IVAW, along with many other groups are joining together to participate in the March 19, Global Day of Protest to End the Occupation of Iraq. The march will take place on the second anniversary of the beginning of the war on Boston Common with the goal of bringing the troops home now.