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North Carolina

Students, vets combat Iraq occupation

by Josh Sykes |
March 2, 2008
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Asheville, NC - Members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the University of North Carolina Asheville and the Asheville chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) staged an exciting counter-recruitment action here, Feb. 5, that brought the war home to students at UNCA.

It was a quiet day in the Highsmith Student Union and handful of SDS members were tabling with anti-war and counter-recruitment literature across from the U.S. Marine Corps recruiting table while students were eating lunch. Suddenly, two members of UNCA SDS and two members of IVAW-Asheville burst into the hall, dressed in desert camouflage and shouted orders to a group of students who were playing the roles of Iraqi civilians.

According to the ‘joint statement’ released by UNCA SDS and IVAW-Asheville, “The ‘soldiers’ shouted commands (with profanity) to the ‘civilians’ to get on the ground, forced them down, interrogated them, zip-tied their hands, placed sacks over their heads, and took them away.” Jason Hurd, the president of IVAW-Asheville said, “Raids like this one occur daily in occupied Iraq.” As this took place more than 75 students looked on, crowding the balconies and halls to see what was happening. After the mock raid was over Hurd told the crowd that if they signed a contract with the Marines they would very likely be doing something just like this.

The statement says that the action was, “a statement against war and militarism as well as an indictment of the criminal regime here at home. Our government exploits U.S. soldiers who come predominantly from working-class and oppressed communities. Only the rich profit from this war. Therefore, we express solidarity with all U.S. service members; we see them as our natural allies in the fight against all oppression.”

“Unfortunately,” the statement continues, “we realize that our government trains military recruiters to use deception as a means to maintain America’s wars. For instance, military recruiters downplay the probability that new recruits will serve in combat. Furthermore, recruiters over-emphasize college money, job training and other veterans benefits to gloss over every service member’s primary function: to fight and win America’s wars. Recruiters conveniently leave out details concerning combat service which may frighten potential recruits; instead, recruiters emphasize fun, travel and adventure.”

“In the real world, veterans age 20-24 are twice as likely as their peers to be unemployed. Only 5.6% of returning veterans use the college money available to them. On average, these funds only cover half the cost of public university tuition or one-fifth the cost at a private college. 75% of African Americans and 67% of Latinos experience racism while serving. 28% of women report being raped while in the service, and many rapes go completely unreported. Only 12% of males and 6% of females make use of skills they learn in the military. Finally, U.S. war veterans are twice as likely to kill themselves as ordinary civilians.”

Angela Denio, a UNCA SDS member and participant in the ‘raid’ was quoted in the statement as saying, “This war is a complete injustice perpetrated against the people of Iraq. The anti-war movement must rise in solidarity with the Iraqi people and their just struggle for national liberation.”

The Iraq Veterans Against the War are hosting their Winter Soldier event March 13-16 in Washington D.C. There, echoing an event held by Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1971 during the Vietnam War, veterans will speak out and give testimony of their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. IVAW members and supporters will be hosting house party events to watch it live on satellite television and over the web.

Students for a Democratic Society is calling for national days of action on campuses around the country March 17 - 21 t to mark the fifth anniversary of the war. Last year over 80 schools participated in the SDS call to action. As we go to press, 66 campus groups at high schools and colleges around the country have signed on to this year’s call.