Anti-war veterans group formed

By James Donaldson

Taking inspiration from US groups such as Iraq Veterans Against War, a new group of former military personnel opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — Stand Fast — was launched at the March 16 anti-war rallies across Australia, in time for the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Stand Fast’s Brisbane-based founder Hamish Chitts told Direct Action: “This is a group of veterans and former military personnel who oppose the current wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. We who have borne arms denounce these wars because they are wars about money, power and fear, and because soldiers are people. They are our neighbours, our sons, daughters, brothers and sisters, and too many of them have died, often leaving behind partners, children and other loved ones. Many others will carry the psychological scars for the rest of their lives.”

Chitts spoke about the anti-war movement within the US military during the 14-year US war in Vietnam. “By 1971 this movement had, in the words of one colonel `infested the entire armed services’. Whole units were refusing to go into battle. In 1972 there was fear among some generals that the majority of their armed forces would mutiny if the war did not end soon. This movement added great strength to the broader anti-war movement, not only through their actions within the military but also by coming to rallies, marching with protesters and speaking out about the horrors and injustices they had witnessed.

“Back then, as they do today, the US and Australian governments tried to discourage people to keep quiet and stay off the streets by fostering the notion, `If you’re against the war, you’re against the troops’. When veterans and military personnel joined protests against the Vietnam War, it blew this notion out of the water. This is what Stand Fast aims to do today.”

Stand Fast is encouraging serving members of the Australian Defence Force to inform themselves about what is really happening in Iraq and Afghanistan and is prepared to provide advice and support for those who may question serving in these wars. The anti-war group currently has members in Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney. For further information phone 0401 586 923, email standfast.au@gmail.com or visit http://www.stand-fast.webs.com