Joe Farah, U.S. Army "60-"63, shivers against the wind as he awaits the beginning of the city"s annual Veterans" Day ceremonies. Farah is wearing a cap and sweat shirt identifying him as a Veteran for Peace, with the shirt inscribed "Abolish War: The Last Campaign." Farah stands in front of the imposing War Memorial, which has its own inscription over its south entrance: "To vindicate the principles of peace and justice throughout the world."
To Joe Farah and other Veterans for Peace, the impending war on Iraq is more likely to trample the principles of peace and justice than vindicate them. "We know the true costs of war, to the soldiers during and after the war, to the civilians who are the most likely victims of modern warfare, and to the citizens who have to pay for all of this," Farah says. With the rhetorical power that accompanies their "been there, done that" warrior status-a status that eludes President Bush and Vice President Cheney, among other eager Iraq-attackers - Veterans for Peace members have a special place in the movement opposing war with Iraq. "Those who want a war can raise hell with us all they want, but they have to acknowledge that we"ve done our service for our country," Farah says. Veterans for Peace is a national organization made up of about 3,000 veterans representing virtually every war and conflict the U.S. has been involved in during the 20th century. Farah, a Zionsville free-lance writer (and occasional contributor to NUVO) is the administrator of the Indiana chapter, which is re-organizing as the U.S. rushes closer to full-scale war against Iraq. These veterans may be in support of peace, but they are far from timid in their advocacy. Veterans for Peace have campaigned against U.S.-sponsored oppression in Mexico and Colombia and have long opposed the crippling sanctions against Iraq. ("It"s like we are trying to starve them into submission," Farah says of the sanctions.) The group marches to cheers in the annual demonstration to support the closing of the terrorist-training School of Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. Veterans for Peace calls out corporations like Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and General Dynamics for the profits they reap from war, and the group"s members revisit their old battlefields in Vietnam and Korea, this time helping to build hospitals and establish clean water supplies. Bulldozing toward war On the impending war with Iraq, the Veterans for Peace position is that the real threat to U.S. security is the war lust of President Bush, who has made demonstrably false claims about Iraq"s nuclear capability and appears ready to declare the weapons inspections a failure before they begin. "What I see is just a bulldozer-like effort to make war happen," says VFP national coordinator Wilson "Woody" Powell, who visited Indianapolis earlier this month. "Someone once said, as long as they are talking, they aren"t fighting. But in our relationships with other countries, I see no willingness to talk anymore." Powell, a Korean War veteran, says the U.S. public may not be so tolerant of Bush"s reckless approach to battle if more citizens had friends and family in harm"s way. "When I was in the service, we were pretty representative of the population, but now it"s a professional army," he says. "People aren"t as connected to the soldiers who will bear the risk." Back at the Veteran"s Day commemoration, Farah winces at what he sees as an out-sized celebration of the glory of war. Fourteen months past Sept. 11, the event is more subdued than last year, when a civilian appeared with an ammunition-filled bandoleer slung over his shoulder and a woman sold t-shirts sporting a "Rag Head Warning" that the U.S. was "gonna kick your ever-loving Allah ass!" But the day still has a parade, a brass band, and a fly over by the Indiana Air National Guard. The city"s political leaders are front and center, the city"s many homeless veterans are not. "This is the kind of stuff that perpetuates the national mythology of great wars," Farah says. "I certainly want to commemorate the veterans, but it could be more dignified and tasteful, without the glitz." The 38th Infantry Division Band of the Indiana National Guard slowly plays "God Bless America." Two small girls approach Farah. After ascertaining that he is a veteran, they hand him a thank you card. He crouches low to show them his Veterans for Peace button, its picture of a dove and an olive branch standing out in contrast to the military insignia borne by most of those around him. "Wouldn"t it be nice," he asks the girls. "If one day we didn"t have to have a veterans" day?" To contact the Indiana chapter of Veterans for Peace, call 514-3600 or e-mail email@example.com.