The New York Times (Sept. 25, 2005) and much of the
other news coverage of Saturday's anti-war
demonstration in Washington, D.C. failed to note the
presence of a particularly knowledgeable group of
protestors - recently-returned veterans of the war in
Gathered behind a wide banner reading "Iraq Veterans
Against the War," approximately fifty men and women in
desert camouflage uniforms or IAVW T-shirts spoke with
a handful of reporters before moving out to take their
place in the miles-long march though the city streets
and past the White House. Short-haired, neat and
polite, they answered questions with a seriousness and conviction born of their first-hand experiences with the war.
Elizabeth Spradlin, an attractive Colorado
Springs native with straight neck-length brown hair,
spoke with quiet intensity of her year in Iraq. It
began in March, 2003, when she was part of the
invasion force moving from Kuwait to Baghdad.
"Going into that country, immediately they were
welcoming, wanting us there. And over the course of
three months we basically caused so much trouble in
the area we were in. We didn't have interpreters. We
were not helping them re-build their country. We were
just driving around with our vehicles with guns, not communicating with them in any way, just basically occupying their space, their country. And they kept on coming to us asking us to help them re-build and -- based on my personal experience -- we weren't doing anything to help them."
Spradlin enlisted in the Colorado national guard as a
medic, but in 2003, that changed.
"I was command-directed to go over to Iraq as
an MP. So I was basically unqualified at what I was
doing. I was a gunner, and I sat in a little turret
and patrolled around Iraqi cities - causing problems, basically. Running children over."
She paused, blinking.
"It was terrible."
Chad Soloman, a husky young man with
close-cropped reddish hair and goatee, served in Iraq
as mechanic with the Ohio national guard. He smiled as
he spoke, but his eyes were serious.
"We tried to survive. That was basically our
objective. I saw nothing that could be said to be
beneficial to the Iraqi people. When I tried to speak
with Iraqi people, they did not at all see that we
were there to help them. Certainly plenty of Iraqis
spoke with mortars and with rifles, so obviously they
were not content with our being there."
Tim Goodrich, a tall clean-cut Air Force veteran
who's spoken at several previous IVAW demonstrations,
was an electronics technician on E-3 AWACS
surveillance aircraft. He spoke of the heavy bombing
that, in effect, started the Iraq war months before
the March, 2003, invasion.
"My involvement in the Iraq war was the bombing
of Iraq - the intensified bombing in the fall of 2002.
While Bush kept saying we were going to try diplomacy,
in fact we were over there bombing the heck out of
them. So I saw the lie, right from the start."
Other members of Iraq Veterans Against the War
expressed their skepticism about the administration's explanations for the war. One uniformed young man with a southern accent said he'd been a military driver trucking supplies from Kuwait to many destinations in Iraq.
"We went in there for weapons of mass
destruction. There are no weapons of mass destruction
- I think that's perfectly clear. So we have no reason
to be there. Plain and simple."
In addition to the Iraq Veterans Against the War,
a number of active-duty troops attended Saturday's demonstration in uniform, and told the press of their opposition to the war in Iraq.
A tough-looking regular Army sergeant in
camouflage fatigues preferred not to give his name
because he was still in the service, but said he was
just back from eight months in Baghdad.
"I don't know what we're fighting for over there.
It's not a good cause. They don't appreciate us when
we're there. They look at us as enemies, not as
friends. So it's kind of hard when you're trying to
help the enemies, and not the friends."
He shook his head with a sad smile.
Chad Soloman, the Ohio national guardsman in
IVAW, probably spoke for many of the Iraq veterans at
"It's a war based on greed and selfishness and
ignorance and incompetence, and I just see no reason
why we should be continuing it. So we're here to show
that not all veterans are supportive of the war, that
some of us feel it's wrong, and that we need to take a
stand against it."
Eric Herter was the Vietnam producer for Associated
Press Television in the mid-'90s. He lives and works
near Brunswick, Maine, and his e-mail address is email@example.com.