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Iraq war vets form new antiwar group

By Nicole Colson | August 20, 2004 | Page 16

GEORGE W. BUSH has a new reason to be worried about the faltering U.S. occupation of Iraq. In late July, a group of veterans gathered in Boston to announce the founding of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).

The group--which consists of veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, as well as active-duty soldiers--is "committed to saving lives and ending the violence in Iraq by an immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces," says the group's Web site.

In Boston, IVAW members announced their new organization, surrounded by 901 pairs of empty combat boots--to represent the U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. "We formed it just to give returning Iraqi veterans who are disillusioned and angry with the government and with this war in Iraq a way to come together and organize a voice, because we think it's powerful to have returning veterans, especially who have seen what it is like over there, speak against it," IVAW member Kelly Dougherty told the Democracy Now! radio prorgram.

Dougherty joined the National Guard to get money for college and served for about a year in Iraq. "I was opposed to the invasion [before leaving]," she said, "and the more I have learned and what I saw, it's just reinforced what I felt."

As Mike Hoffman, an IVAW cofounder and former Marine, told the New York Press, "The organization will fill a void. It's really hard for guys over there to express themselves. Any of their stories that we can relay is a big thing, because the picture we're getting is filtered...Right now, there's no outlet for antiwar feeling. We'll be a magnet for venting. I expect a lot of people to come out of the woodwork."

The formation of antiwar veterans groups played a crucial part in the struggle against the Vietnam War in the 1960s and '70s, and will be important to the new antiwar movement today. The IVAW has the potential to grow--and quickly. According to Dougherty, in the first three days after the group's formation, its membership tripled.

For more information on the IVAW, visit www.ivaw.net on the Web.

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