May 24, 2007 – BRATTLEBORO, Vermont — He’s been out of the Marine Corps for less than six months, but the war in Iraq is never far from Vermont native Liam Madden’s mind.
While still in the service, he co-founded the Appeal for Redress movement, and presented a petition to Congress from active duty service members opposed to the war.
Since his discharge from the Marine Corps, Madden, who grew up in Rockingham, has been recruiting other Iraq war veterans to stand up in opposition to what he calls “the illegal occupation of Iraq.”
To further his outreach, he helped form a branch of Iraq Veterans Against the War in Boston — which he now calls his “base of operations” — and will be traveling the country with 11 other Iraq veterans to talk to active-duty service men and women about the war.
“They’re struggling with the same things we were struggling with,” said Madden. “And they’re ready to talk.”
And he doesn’t think the service members they speak with will be hostile to their message.
“Maybe they’ll be reassured that they’re not crazy.”
The mission of the veterans on the bus tour is to “recruit new members, inform service members about their rights and ability to oppose the Iraq war and gain community support for our message that this war is not, and will never be, winnable, moral or justified,” said Madden, in an e-mail announcing the bus tour.
At each base they visit, the former service members will “meet and greet” active-duty service members and invite them to an off-base function where they can learn more about their right to oppose the war.
“In the age of YouTube and blogs, people are neglecting the most powerful tool of outreach — showing up and having a meaningful conversation,” said Madden.
The “Bring the War Home” bus tour starts in Washington, D.C., in June and will travel to 20 military bases, including Fort Drum in New York and the New London Naval Submarine Base in Connecticut.
The tour is similar to one conducted by Veterans for Peace in 2005.
“We feel the veterans and the people still in the military have the power to effectively end this war by opposing it, either from within the ranks or from the viewpoint of those who have served in Iraq,” said Kelly Dougherty, a co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War and a former member of the Colorado National Guard.
“People on active duty are being mistreated by this administration and at the same time they feel powerless to vocalize their opposition to the war,” she said.
To make matters worse, many who serve in the military consider speaking out an act of disloyalty to the command structure and to the president himself.
There is also the image of the war protesters as “aging hippies,” said Dougherty, that many active duty members hold to be true. By having former service members speak to the troops, perhaps they can see that the anti-war movement is full of people from all walks of life, even war veterans, she said.
“It shows people still in the military that there is a movement of young people in and out of the service who they can relate to.”
Iraq Veterans Against the War was founded by Iraq war veterans in July 2004 “to give a voice to the large number of active duty service people and veterans who are against this war, but are under various pressures to remain silent.”
The group has members in 43 states and on military bases around the world, including in Iraq, said Madden. Members speak at community events, in classrooms and to the media about their experiences in Iraq and how they came about to oppose the war.
Other efforts by Iraq Veterans Against the War include a truth-in-recruiting campaign in schools and college campuses and the support of conscientious objectors.
Bob Audette can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.