Fighting for Peace
Veterans and Military Families in the Anti–Iraq War Movement
Publication Year: 2014
Fighting for Peace brings to light an important yet neglected aspect of opposition to the Iraq War—the role of veterans and their families. Drawing on extensive participant observation and interviews, Lisa Leitz demonstrates how the harrowing war experiences of veterans and their families motivated a significant number of them to engage in peace activism.
Married to a Navy pilot herself, Leitz documents how military peace activists created a movement that allowed them to merge two seemingly contradictory sides of their lives: an intimate relation to the military and antiwar activism. Members of the movement strategically deployed their combined military–peace activist identities to attract media attention, assert their authority about the military and war, and challenge dominant pro-war sentiment. By emphasizing the human costs of war, activists hoped to mobilize American citizens and leaders who were detached from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bring the wars to an end, and build up programs to take care of returning veterans and their families.
The stories in Fighting for Peace ultimately reveal that America’s all-volunteer force is contributing to a civilian–military divide that leaves civilians with little connection to the sacrifices of the military. Increasingly, Leitz shows, veterans and their families are being left to not only fight America’s wars but also to fight against them.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
Title Page, Further Reading, Copyright, Dedication, Quote
Preface. Contradictions: Peace/War and Observer/Participant
The U.S. military is largely hostile to protest and protestors. Like militaries in many other countries, it has been called on to control, dispel, and end protest both in the United States and abroad. People who participate in the military are less likely than civilians to take part in protest.1 Therefore, an examination of military community members who take on identities as protestors, especially peace protestors, is a study in contradictions...
Introduction: The Military Peace Movement
In response to a 2011 survey, veterans and military families who considered themselves antiwar activists bemoaned the United States’ continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They pointed to a divide between the military community and the civilian populace as a reason for the wars’ continuation. Larry Syverson, whose three sons served six deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, explained the wars’ impact on his family: ...
1. Joining the Military Peace Movement: Risky Business
Sweating profusely in the Texas summer heat of 2006, about thirty members of IVAW, GSFP, MFSO, and VFP, buoyed by smaller numbers of other peace organizations such as CodePink, worked frantically to create a space to stage events on a vacant lot that Cindy Sheehan purchased in Crawford approximately seven miles from President Bush’s ranch. Activists readied the rural space by building roads, clearing brush, planting gardens, setting up memorials, constructing...
2. Insider–Outsiders: From Warriors to War Protestors
Former Army Specialist Mike Blake served in Iraq during the initial invasion and then filed for and obtained an honorable discharge as a CO in February 2005. Blake learned things from his military service that brought him to the conclusion that he was more patriotic when he protested than when he was in the Army. Through Blake’s story we see that idealism often ran head on into the realities of war, causing activists to experience disillusionment with the Iraq War...
3. Building a Family and Transforming Activists’ Emotions
The Walkin’ to New Orleans Veterans and Survivors March for Peace and Justice, which lasted from March 13 to 19, 2006, was one of many political activities that brought members of the military peace movement into close contact and where they ate and lived together for extended periods of time. The march was requested by a VFP chapter in Mobile, Alabama. The theme of the march was, “Every bomb dropped in Iraq explodes along the Gulf Coast,” which is a rewording of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement, from his autobiography, “Yet bombs in Vietnam also exploded at home.”1...
4. Managing and Deploying the Insider–Outsider Identity
During a series of events over Mother’s Day weekend in 2006, military peace movement organizations arranged public events, strategy seminars, and legislative meetings in conjunction with the American Friends Service Committee and September 11th Families for a Peaceful Tomorrow. The weekend of events was called Silence of the Dead, Voices of the Living: A Witness to End the War in Iraq. On Saturday May 13, veterans and military families led a silent march around the...
5. Using Grief to Connect with Bystanders
In January 2007 a young man whose high-and-tight haircut and military-insignia tattoos on his bare shoulders indicated he was a Marine approached a small cluster of peace activists on a popular beach in Santa Barbara, California. He said that he had heard on the news about their memorial to the soldiers who had died in Iraq, and he wanted to visit the crosses that memorialized some of his friends...
Conclusion: One War Ends, Another War Continues
As part of the military peace movements’ post-Iraq protests, nearly fifty U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan joined protests of a NATO conference in Chicago on May 20, 2012. IVAW and Gold Star family members led a march of several hundred thousand through the streets of Chicago and were the only ones to speak at the rally after the march, though they were flanked by VFP and MFSO members. Men and women in desert camouflage, black IVAW T-shirts, ...
Appendix. Timeline of Major Events: Wars, Public Opinion, and Protests