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Army Vet Calls on Antiwar Movement to Press President-Elect Obama for Immediate Withdrawal from Iraq



Sgt. Matthis Chiroux, Served in the Army until being honorably discharged last year after over four years of service in Afghanistan, Japan, Europe and the Philippines. He is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

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In the wake of Barack Obama becoming the 44th president of the United States, we speak with Sgt. Matthis Chiroux, a member of Iraq Veteran Against the War. Sgt. Chiroux served in the Army until being honorably discharged last year after over four years of service, including in Afghanistan, where Obama has pledged to escalate the war. [includes rush transcript]


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.


I want to end by bringing in a veteran. In the early stages of the presidential race nearly two years ago, the war in Iraq was one of the leading issues of the campaign. Barack Obama, of course, billed himself as an antiwar candidate, but there were none perhaps more critical on the issue of war than Iraq Vets Against the War, and we’re joined by one of them now.

They marched on the Democratic National Convention in August. They marched on the last debate in Hofstra. And one of the leaders of those marches joins us right now. He is Sergeant Matthis Chiroux. He served in the Army, refused to deploy to Iraq. And now, after the Hofstra protest, where you were arrested — is that right?


Yes. Yes, Amy.


Sergeant Matthis Chiroux, you face court-martial for not deploying.


I do. October 15th, at the final presidential debate, the vets turned out to really force the issue that our — you know, our leaders are not hearing from us, and we’ve been put on the back burner in this election. We were responded to by police on horseback who actually trampled an Iraq vet, a very close friend of mine, Nick Morgan, and Barack Obama has yet to condemn that. He has yet to condemn the trampling on the sidewalk of Nick Morgan.


They broke his cheekbone. He was also arrested.


Right, he was. And so, I’m very excited about what an Obama candidacy —- or Obama presidency, the kind of racial unity it can bring, but I’m worried that people in this country believe he is truly going to be an antiwar president, and he’s not. He’s very far away from that. He’s got plans to leave troops in Iraq. He wants to expand the war in Afghanistan, go into Pakistan. It will be very interesting. I will be demanding court-martial. The Army is prosecuting me for misconduct, for refusing to deploy to Iraq last June; this was announced to me about a week ago. And I -—


You did you that very publicly in Washington.


I did. I did that after Winter Solider on the Hill in Congress. And this January, I will probably be going to court-martial over my refusal to deploy to Iraq. The Army is trying to downgrade my service and take away my benefits for that choice. And it will be interesting to see how that goes down under an Obama presidency.


You served in Afghanistan?


I did, Amy, for a short time in 2005, but, however, they ordered me to go to Iraq this year in 2008. And I said no. It’s not — it’s unconstitutional. The occupation of Iraq violates Article VI, Section II of the US Constitution. And Obama, it will be interesting to see if he’s ready to back service members. I mean, he’s spoken about the war and occupation of Iraq in the past as being at very least dumb, at worst illegal, and it will be interesting to see if he’s — you know, if he is ready to support folks who are refusing to go to Iraq, because they don’t think the Constitution permits it.


Professor Lacewell, what do you think are the prospects?

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, I mean, I want to just suggest that the question here is whether or not Barack Obama will see a 53 percent popular vote, a substantial margin in the Electoral College, as a mandate that allows him some freedom to make choices without feeling that he’s got to sort of bring in the conservative wing, or whether or not he will see his mandate as fundamentally a mandate for running in the center, because he said we’re going to have a new kind of politics. So I think it has a great deal to do with how Obama sees what the nature of this particular mandate is, what the prospects are.


Sergeant Matthis Chiroux, do you think there is more of an opening to make your point?


I’m not exactly sure. I do hope when the Obama supporters of this country who voted for him, specifically because they believed he was going to be an antiwar candidate, when they find out that that is not, in fact, the case, I hope they will be motivated to rejoin the antiwar movement in this country and support people like myself refusing to deploy to an occupation that clearly violates our Constitution and international laws.

And, you know, I have hope. I’m inspired by Barack Obama’s journey from senator to president. But it is our responsibility as the people not to assume that one man is going to do the job. If we want to see peace, the people need to get out and make that a reality. And they’re going to do that by supporting service members refusing to deploy to Iraq. They’re going to do that by opposing Barack Obama’s narrative of Afghanistan as somehow being good. And, you know, they’re going to do that by standing up and being heard, getting out there, participating.

We’ve seen the antiwar movement’s ranks shrink, because so many of these people have gone to campaign for Obama. And I’m looking forward to, now that the election is over, maybe some of those people are going to start moving back in. And when they realize that we have a candidate who wants to actually leave troops in Iraq, that will catalyze some activism.


We’re going to have to leave it there. Tomorrow, an international roundtable in response to this global election. Sergeant Matthis Chiroux, thanks for joining us. We’ll link to your website at Iraq Veterans Against the War. Professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton University and independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

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