As veterans and friends and families of veterans and active-duty members of the US military, we stand in solidarity with the courageous Egyptian people and the brave members of the Egyptian military who have refused to repress the people, and in some cases, joined them. We stand opposed to the role the US government has played in economically and politically supporting Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship. We oppose the 1.3 billion dollars in annual military aid our government continues to give to security forces in Egypt. We are horrified that during the week-long uprising, our tax dollars have paid for the weapons and training that have killed more than 125 peaceful protesters and injured thousands more.
After decades of supporting Mubarak's rule, the U.S. claims to support a "transition," calling for "restraint from both sides." Yet the Obama administration has been giving the Egyptian military strategic assistance throughout the uprising. When protests broke out on the 25th, the Egyptian military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Anan, was in Washington as part of an annual strategizing session. He stayed in DC until the 28th, when he returned to Egypt to command the security forces.
We do not believe Egyptians are "anti-American" for holding up the tear gas canisters that have killed so many peaceful protesters in Cairo, pointing out that they are stamped "Made in the USA." We believe that the US government's foreign policy is against the values of the American people. Our own government has chosen to support an Egyptian dictatorship, making a mockery of our country's deeply held democratic values.
We know that "regime change" and "democracy" were the code words behind the US invasion of Iraq, which took the lives of thousands of our young people and more then one million Iraqis. In the name of "regime change" and "democracy," we bombed, shot, tortured, and imprisoned a large number of Iraqi citizens.
That does not mean we support dictatorial governments in Middle Eastern countries. We believe in regime change that comes from the people. Invasion, occupation, and the use of force have failed at creating just societies. What we hope to see in Egypt is regime change by and for the people, society transformed from below.
In Egypt, the streets are filled with demonstrators chanting, "The people and the army are one hand!" The moment may soon approach when Egyptian soldiers will be forced to choose between killing or joining the people. Recently we have seen soldiers act heroically and peacefully in similar circumstances in Tunisia, Yugoslavia, Portugal, and Venezuela.
There is a parallel in the US: some of us who were in the military refused to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, while others have spoken out against military injustice since returning. Some have supported soldiers who have blown the whistle on our government's war crimes. Others have supported military refusers as they were imprisoned or forced to flee the country for their crimes of conscience.
We extend our support to all members of the Egyptian military who follow their conscience, just like those Americans who refused their orders to go to war or refused to fight once they got there. We support those who refuse to fire into crowds, those who lend their support to democracy.
We also recognize that the U.S. has a sustained military presence in Egypt, with a Connecticut National Guard unit currently being deployed to the Sinai Peninsula. We call on U.S. soldiers in Egypt to follow their conscience and stand on the side of the Egyptian people.
Today we stand in support of a global peoples' movement for freedom, democracy, peace, equality, and justice!
Peace and freedom be with you, people of Egypt!
(Organizations are for identification purposes only)
Scott Kimball, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Sarah Lazare, The Civilian-Soldier Alliance
Ryan Harvey, The Civilian-Soldier Alliance
Jacob George, Veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, 3 tours
Ethan McCord, Iraq Veteran, Bravo Company 2-16 (seen in Iraq "Collateral Murder" video released by Wikileaks)
Josh Stieber, Iraq veteran
Maggie Martin, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Clare Bayard, The Catalyst Project
Austin McCann, The Civilian-Soldier Alliance