Interview with Anthony Teolis, Veterans For Peace
October 27, 2008 "Information Clearinghouse" -- Mike Whitney--I have a nephew who is finishing up at Quantico after graduating from the Naval Academy last June. He's bright and talented and wants to serve in the Marines. Naturally, his parents and relatives are worried that he will be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. What advice would you give someone like this who is extremely patriotic and may be asked to sacrifice his life in one of these wars? Would you give the same advice to your own son?
Anthony Teolis, Veterans For Peace (VFP)---I would ask that your nephew take his oath of office seriously. An officer’s job is to support and defend the Constitution above all else and to obey orders (as long as they follow the regulations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice) Your nephew should also become familiar with the U.S. Constitution, the Nuremberg Tribunal Charter and the Geneva Conventions. The gravity of violations to domestic and international law by the Bush administration and members of the U.S. military, should weigh heavily on the conscience of active duty and veteran military and civilian personnel.
If your nephew has concerns about whether his orders violate his oath to defend the Constitution he should look to Lt. Ehren Watada as an example and contact Veterans For Peace for advice. http://www.thankyoult.org/ and http://www.veteransforpeace.org
My own son is 7 and he accompanied me to my first peace rally in 2005. He is well aware that the military is not being used to support the Constitution. He knows that veterans take an oath that has no expiration date. He also understands history well enough to know that preemptive war is wrong. Your nephew should realize that the present structure--over 700 US bases around the world--is there to maintain the status quo. But it comes at a high price. Your nephew should think about that.
MW--Whenever I hear Iraqi veterans speak, I'm always struck by the number of liberal-looking people in the audience. Normally, one of the vets will say something like this: "We still consider ourselves soldiers" as though he wanted to clarify that he is not really from the same side of the political aisle as his audience. Is it harder to be a "conservative" and still be against the war?
Anthony Teolis---I don't think veterans try to separate themselves from their audience. More likely, they are reflecting on their service. It's often extremely difficult to think about one’s military experience. For some, the day of reckoning comes quicker than others, but the memories are always with us and result in many good and bad things. Veterans can speak out with pride, but they are also sharing the horrors of their experiences and trying to manage it as best as they can. Labeling them conservative or liberal really doesn't work, because they're speaking to people who are brave enough to listen. That's what counts. You don’t usually find chicken hawks and pro war veterans in an audience that has gathered to support people who are trying to deal with the horrors of war.
Every person who calls himself a conservative should be appalled by the violations to the Constitution. For veterans, it's natural to take a “conservative” stance and support and defend the Constitution. Our leaders are using their power to invoke fear. They are operating secret prisons and torturing people. They are deploying paramilitary forces that not answerable to congress and spying on the American people. Our representative form of government has become corrupt, ineffective and unresponsive to its citizens. The US treats political dissents like traitors. These are the headwinds we face and every citizen must fight to restore the promise of America.
I have friends who are veterans and consider themselves "conservative", but they are also accepting of other points of view. Lately I notice that a change is taking place and there is greater acceptance of the pro-peace sentiment.
MW---There has been a lot written about William Ayers lately. Ayers is the former member of the Weather Underground who carried out bombings on draft boards and the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. By the time Ayers was carrying out his attacks, more than 1.5 million Vietnamese –mainly civilians--had been killed by US forces in a war that had no clear objective. Every night the evening news ran footage of wounded soldiers being dragged to helicopters in stretchers or children running naked from their villages after being burned by napalm dropped by US pilots.
Without justifying what Ayers did; can you see that when government's carry out wars that are deeply unpopular and immoral; it inevitably leads to violence at home? Do you agree with me that the Ayers bombings did not occur in a vacuum, but were the direct (and predictable) outcome of the polarization and frustration that were created by America's bloody intervention in Vietnam?
Anthony Teolis---Veterans For Peace and responsible citizens do not believe that one's "opposition to war" justifies violence. We believe that Peace can only be achieved through Justice. Polarization and frustration are never resolved through violence.
Non violent resistance is the real solution. When people resort to violence, they create Hell on earth.
Groups such as the Weathermen are an obstacle to peace. They were formed during the Vietnam War but they were not necessarily a product of the Vietnam War regardless of their claims. The Weather Underground achieved neither justice nor peace.
MW---Would you explain what happened at the recent presidential debates where Iraqi veterans were beaten back by fully-armed police? None of the major media covered the incident even though the veterans who were injured represent 70 percent of the American people who still believe the war in Iraq was a "mistake" and want to see troop withdrawals within the next 12 months?
Anthony Teolis---(Watch http://tinyurl.com/6jhccb or search YouTube for Hofstra Univ: 3 injured, 15 arrested) Approximately, one hour before the final presidential debate; 14 members of Iraq Veterans Against the War marched in formation to Hofstra University to present questions for the candidates. IVAW had requested permission from debate moderator Bob Schieffer to ask their questions during the debate but got no response.
The contingent of veterans in dress uniforms and combat uniforms attempted to enter the building where the debate was to be held in order to ask their questions, but were turned back by police. The IVAW members at the front of the formation were immediately arrested, and others were pushed back into the crowd by police on horseback. Several members were injured, including former Army Sergeant Nick Morgan who suffered a broken cheekbone when he was trampled by police horses before being arrested. Read a message from Nick Morgan http://ivaw.org/node/4456
If 70% of Americans truly want Peace they can help by taking action.
INTERFERE WITH THE MILITARY
* Learn about how War Is a Racket http://tinyurl.com/bh13
* Join and be active with Veterans For Peace, and Iraq Veterans Against the War.
* Participate in counter recruiting activities at your local high school. http://www.counter-recruitment.org/website/
* Visit your local military recruiter. Get to know them and the visitors that come to their offices.
* Speak out at your local community venues and churches with displays of the war dead from your home town, state and the nation. http://projects.washingtonpost.com/fallen/
* Present the true cost war at every possible opportunity.
* Discuss the failed Department of Veterans Affairs. On March 19, 2008 the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq occupation Veterans For Peace National President Elliott Adams met with the Honorable Gordon H. Mansfield, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Mr. Mansfield was presented with a detailed list of grievances VFP has with the United States government for the abysmal lack of care, services and support for Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans and towards veterans from other wars. We have not received a response. Will you help us secure a commitment from the VA to investigate and respond to our grievances?
* Teach people interested in joining the military skills such as managing money, using local resources to help their communities, find other sources of money for education.
* Call for a closure of the 700 overseas military bases that are a drain on our economy and future.
* Make plans to put former military personnel to work on projects related to alternative energy, transportation, education, health care, rebuilding America's infrastructure, etc.
INTERFERE WITH THE POLITICAL SYSTEM
* Vote before or on November 4. Do not settle for a two party system and become involved in the divisive platforms that are designed to attract emotions not the statement of purpose of the representative government as written in the Constitution.
* Learn about local politics such as the school board and city council.
* Educate yourself about the influence of money on politics at www.opensecrets.org
* Help elect attorneys running for public office that are committed to prosecuting George Bush, Dick Cheney and the long list of their masters and cohorts.
* Learn about citizens arrest at http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/citizenarrest
MW---The economic meltdown has drawn a lot attention away from the war in Iraq. But just below the surface, the public's frustration continues to grow. The media and the two main political parties have effectively silenced dissenters like yourself by giving you no place at the table to articulate your opposition. It took roughly six years of fighting before the "war came home" during Vietnam and the country exploded in protest and political divisions spilled out into the streets. Do you foresee anything similar happening in the near future or are most people just apathetically shrugging it all off?
Anthony Teolis---Violence has already been used against us and has been on the rise for the last couple of years. I was a security guard for the March 17, 2007 March on the Pentagon, the September 15, 2007 March on the Capitol, and Winter Soldier 2008 (http://ivaw.org/wintersoldier) Both times, pro war supporters treated us violently.
I read an interesting book on Sophie Scholl and the White Rose which as you may recall was a small but passionate student and German war veteran resistant group that tried to warn the local Munich population of the actions of the Nazi government. I found some relief to our most troubling question about why most Americans refuse to step forward for justice. "Opponents to tyranny can never be created by force, only through personal experience."
An unbiased observer may think that the current financial crisis--along with the rise in poverty, decline in health care, the breakdown in infrastructure, and the rising cost of education-- would make people angry enough to get involved. But, it hasn't. Debt is a form of slavery that keeps people scared and inactive. Many Americans believe that it is impossible to change the government, so they try to get by with as little effort as possible. We need people to step forward and get engaged. We need to restore faith in ourselves and strengthen traditional values like frugality, conservation and energy independence. We need change--now.
For citizens who feel that they do not know what to do I offer the following suggestions.
* Read the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
* Share them with friends, family and neighbors. Teach your children what they mean.
* Call your congressman and senator and ask for 100 of the pocket sized version which contain both and pass them out to people you pass on the street.
* Find, call, visit and send e-mail to your U.S. Representative, Senators, Governor, State Senators and Representatives: http://www.congress.org/congressorg/home
* Write letters to the editor. The people of this country need to hear from the troops, their families and friends, veterans of this war and service at other times, those who support and sympathize with them, and activists who are organizing against the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
INTERFERE WITH THE FEDERAL RESERVE AND THE BANKING CARTEL THAT RUNS IT.
* Begin conversations about where money comes from with your local banker, family and friends. Watch Money as Debt http://tinyurl.com/27jppm
* Try to withdrawal all of your checking and savings from the bank just to see if you can.
* Responsibly get out of debt. http://finance.yahoo.com/how-to-guide/banking-budgeting/18442
* Make an emergency preparedness plan. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/preparedness/plan/
Katrina should have taught us all to never rely on the government for help in times of need.
Watch The Story of Stuff http://tinyurl.com/589z9s
INTERFERE WITH THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA
* Do not limit your information sources to the Washington Post, New York Times or the major news networks.
* Use alternative news sources on the web as a source for information, find public access local news on your TV, listen to Pacifica radio. http://www.world-newspapers.com/alternative-news.html
* Make your own media and spread it on the web and as a local newsletter.
INTERFERE WITH ENERGY AND UTILITY COMPANIES
* Learn about your energy use, how to save money and resources and how to prepare for an alternative energy future.
MW---What is that people need to know about Veterans For Peace (VFP) and how can they offer their support?
Anthony Teolis---Veterans For Peace http://www.veteransforpeace.org is a national organization founded in 1985. We, having dutifully served our nation, do hereby affirm our greater responsibility to serve the cause of world peace. To this end we will work, with others
(a) Toward increasing public awareness of the costs of war.
(b) To restrain our government from intervening, overtly and covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations
(c) To end the arms race and to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons
(d) To seek justice for veterans and victims of war
(e) To abolish war as an instrument of national policy.
We urge all people who share this vision to join us. http://www.veteransforpeace.org/join_donate.vp.html
Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) http://ivaw.org/ was founded by Iraq war veterans in July 2004 at the annual convention of Veterans for Peace (VFP).
From its inception, IVAW has called for:
* Immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces in Iraq;
* Reparations for the human and structural damages Iraq has suffered, and stopping the corporate
pillaging of Iraq so that their people can control their own lives and future; and
* Full benefits, adequate healthcare (including mental health), and other supports for returning servicemen and women.
Membership is open to those who have served in the United States Military since September 11, 2001.
I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and our local DC chapter blog is http://vfpdc.blogspot.com