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2008-08-26

Iraq Veterans Against the War Descends on Denver to Call on Democrats to Endorse True Antiwar Platform

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Sgt. Matthis Chiroux, served in the Army until being honorably discharged last summer after over four years of service in Afghanistan, Japan, Europe and the Philippines.

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On Monday, IVAW delivered a letter to Senator Barack Obama’s DNC campaign headquarters asking that he endorse the organization’s three main points: the immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq, full and adequate healthcare and benefits to all returning service members and veterans, and reparations made to the Iraqi people for the destruction caused by the US war and occupation. This weekend here in Denver, Amy Goodman caught up with IVAW member Sgt. Matthis Chiroux, who served in the US Army for five years and a few months ago publicly refused to deploy to Iraq, subjecting him to risk of prosecution. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

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

AMY GOODMAN: The Democratic National Convention is billing its Wednesday night gathering as celebrating America’s veterans. But there are some vets here in Denver that, well, as of now, have not been officially invited in. They’re the members of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War, an organization of more than a thousand soldiers and National Guard who have served in the military since September 11th and the launch of the so-called war on terror. Its membership includes active-duty soldiers deployed in Iraq. Iraq Veterans Against the War sponsored the historic Winter Soldier hearings earlier this year in Silver Spring, Maryland. Now, they’re turning their sights on Denver and St. Paul for the political conventions.

On Monday, IVAW delivered a letter to Senator Obama’s DNC campaign headquarters asking he endorse the group’s three main points: the immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq, full and adequate healthcare and benefits to all returning service members and vets, and reparations made to the Iraqi people for the destruction caused by the US war and occupation. The letter says, “A Presidential candidate dedicated to an anti-war platform should have no objections to the goals of our organization.” The group requested a response from Senator Obama by Wednesday. The letter goes on to inform Obama that the vets’ group will be holding a nonviolent march to “hold accountable the Democratic Party for their initial and continued support for the illegal occupation of Iraq.”

Well, this weekend here in Denver, I caught up with IVAW member Sergeant Matthis Chiroux, who served in the US Army for five years and a few months ago publicly refused to deploy to Iraq, subjecting him to risk of prosecution.

    SGT. MATTHIS CHIROUX: My name is Sergeant Matthis Chiroux. I’m in the Army’s Individual Ready Reserve. May 15th of this year, I refused deployment to Iraq. On June 15th, actually, is when I was supposed to report. During — from May to June, I spent in Washington, D.C., informing members of Congress about the plight of war resisters such as myself all over this country and all over the world and about the fact that service members hold very special — they take a very special oath when they enlist, and the first thing that they swear to do is protect and defend and protect the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

    The Iraq war — or the occupation, rather, I was — I feel I had no other choice but to resist as a service member who took that oath, as the war is — it is a war of aggression, which is defined as illegal by the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremburg Principles. And Article VI, Section 2 of the US Constitution says all treaties made under the authority of this Constitution and ratified by the Senate will become the supreme law of the land. I’m not exactly sure how the illegality of the war has become a political issue in this country, because, to me, it seems that while if you read the treaties and you read the conventions and you identify specific places where we violated them to conduct this war, it seems pretty cut-and-dry that the legality or illegality as such is not political.

    AMY GOODMAN: So you publicly refused to deploy. What happened?

    SGT. MATTHIS CHIROUX: I did. Well, I publicly refused May 15th, after Winter Soldier on the Hill. Immediately I went to work, meeting with members of Congress. As I said, I informed them of the plight of war resisters such as myself, and I asked them to sign a letter of support in solidarity with myself and with every member of the military speaking out and organizing against the war in Iraq. And thirteen members of Congress responded to that call. Well, the most significant signing member was Chairman John Conyers, Jr. of the House Judiciary Committee. He signed it, as well as my own representative, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke from Brooklyn, New York. Lynn Woolsey, the head of the Progressive Caucus, signed it. And a number of others signed it.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what happened? What’s the military going to do? [inaudible]

    SGT. MATTHIS CHIROUX: Well, the military contacted me about a month ago. They sent me a letter that basically said, “We’re not going to prosecute you.” It said, “It’s unfortunate that we’ve had to take this action to track you down as a result of your failure to report, and if you do not report, we’re going to consider you for adverse discharge,” so some type of a bad conduct discharge or some type of dishonorable discharge, which I will immediately and energetically oppose and work to have overturned. As I said in my original statement to resist, I refuse to hide, I refuse to leave the country or behave in any way other than how I normally would, because the fact is, I’m not a criminal. My decision to not deploy was in keeping with the Constitution. It is in keeping with the rule of law. And —

    AMY GOODMAN: Is this decision of the military a first?

    SGT. MATTHIS CHIROUX: As far as I know, and I have been asking around everywhere in IVAW, all over the peace movement, I have not heard of anybody else to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq and not face some type of prosecution for it. You know, the military is going to do what they’re going to do, and if somebody realizes this fact, perhaps they may come back and decide to do something different. But as of now, according to the last letter I received from them, which was actually on the 17th of August, they’re not planning to prosecute. I should be a free man from this point on.

    I’m here at the Democratic convention, because the Democrats have shown absolutely no initiative in getting the troops out of Iraq. The people of this country put them in power two years ago specifically to end the occupation, and they failed to do that and provide us no legitimate reason, only excuses, as to why our wishes have not been democratically carried out.

AMY GOODMAN: And that was Sergeant Matthis Chiroux, who served in the US Army for five years, a few months ago publicly refused to deploy to Iraq, subjecting him to risk of prosecution. They will be conducting checkpoints in the streets of Denver and actually house raids with people who volunteer to let people know how people are experiencing the war in Iraq.

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