Veterans Applauds “Pivot to Diplomacy” But Calls for Peace-Centered Policy


Now is the time for peace, and for healing the wounds of war!

Statement of Veterans For Peace,

As veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the U.S. wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, we listened very carefully to President Obama's State of the Union speech. We listened for words of peace. We listened for signs that our wounded warriors will receive much needed care. We listened hoping that our homeless veterans would soon have roofs over their heads.

The most remarkable part of President Obama's speech came at the end, when he honored a soldier who was wounded and left severely disabled by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Sergeant First Class Corey Remsburg was a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama in the balcony and bravely basked in the adulation of all present.

We, in Veterans For Peace cannot help but have mixed reaction when wounded soldiers are put on public display. It is a good thing that the American people are reminded of the huge price paid by service members and military families when our politicians send them to fight in faraway lands. Tens of thousands of men and women warriors have been severely scarred for life, physically, psychologically and spiritually. An epidemic of suicides continues to ravage active duty troops and veterans.

President Obama promised to “keep slashing that backlog so our veterans receive the benefits they've earned and our wounded warriors receive the health care – including the mental health care – that they need.”

Veterans and military families know that this is not always the case. Many veterans of the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be denied much needed benefits and healthcare, especially mental health care. In fact, the Army is giving less-than-honorable discharges to many soldiers with PTSD, thus withholding from them both benefits and healthcare.

This practice is particularly despicable, given that the rallying cry for these unjust military adventures has been “Support the Troops.” Is President Obama committing himself to do more for our wounded veterans, or is he continuing the hypocritical charade?

The American people have long called for the end of the wars initiated in our name in the Middle East. Iraq has been pretty much destroyed, and now is daily suffering from the sectarian violence unleashed by the U.S. occupation. Afghanistan is certainly no better off after suffering the dubious distinction of being “America's longest war.” The people of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia are outraged by regular U.S. drone attacks in their countries. U.S. support for rebels in Libya and Syria continue to reap chaos and death.

The failure of U.S. dependency on military force has not been lost on the American people, especially veterans and military families, large majorities of whom opposed Obama's stated plans to bomb Syria. We are grateful that President Obama listened to the people, and canceled the bombing.

We are equally grateful that President Obama is pursuing a diplomatic solution with Iran. We support his pledge to veto any bill that crosses his desk calling for additional economic sanctions against Iran, which would most assuredly undermine diplomacy, possibly leading to war.

We also support the President’s appeal to Congress to lift remaining restrictions on detainee transfers to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. Veterans For Peace will continue to work with our allies to push Congress to heed the President’s call.

If President Obama does not want his legacy to be one of war, but rather to be seen as the president who extracted the U.S. from wars in the Middle East, Veterans For Peace applauds this pivot to diplomacy. And we call for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops and so-called contractors from Afghanistan. Not one more Afghani civilian or U.S. soldier should die in this dubious occupation. Veterans For Peace does not support Obama's goal of maintaining U.S. bases and 10,000 or more U.S. troops in Afghanistan, even after the supposed end of the U.S. war.

President Obama stressed that he can take executive action when his policy goals are obstructed by a recalcitrant Congress. Veterans For Peace strongly encourages him to take the following executive actions, which are fully within his power: pardon Chelsea Manning, a soldier who has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for revealing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. And drop all charges against Edward Snowden, who has revealed the true costs of the American security state upon the privacy and civil rights of U.S. citizens.

Finally, Mr. President, end these wars once and for all, and bring all those war dollars home. Provide veterans with all the care they need and deserve, including housing for thousands of homeless veterans. We need those precious dollars for jobs, education, healing and housing. To do this, the U.S. must have a new foreign policy with mutual cooperation and diplomacy as its main tools. Abolish war!