An extraordinary anti-war forum entitled “Syria & Iran: The Next War?” was held here June 10 at the Solidarity Center. It featured anti-war veterans from the Iranian, Israeli and U.S. militaries, and was organized by United for Peace and Justice, Veterans For Peace and the U.S. Peace Council. The International Action Center hosted the meeting and IAC co-founder Sara Flounders chaired. All the speakers were members of the VFP Iran Working Group.
Michael Kramer, secretary of VFP Chapter 021-Northern New Jersey, was in the Israeli Defense Forces during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. His personal experiences as a settler and combatant led him to reassess his views on Zionism and the role of the U.S. in the Middle East. He is now a supporter of Palestinian self-determination, the right of return of all Palestinians to their homeland and the Arab cause for independence and self-determination, and an IAC volunteer.
Kramer explained that while the U.S. government and the establishment media paint Iran as a threat, the reality is that the Pentagon is threatening Iran. He detailed U.S. military deployments surrounding Iran, including nuclear-armed U.S. aircraft carrier groups in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet based in Bahrain, and Camp Doha, a U.S. base in Kuwait about 100 miles from Iran’s oil producing areas.
He described Israel as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” for the Pentagon and an enforcer of U.S. interests in the Middle East.
Faraz Azad, an American-Iranian living in the U.S., served in the Iranian Air Force from 1971 to 1973. Faraz ‘s activism dates to his 1973 arrival in the U.S., first as a student activist and then as a member of the National Board of the U.S. Peace Council. He is the chair of VFP’s Iran Working Group, organizational secretary of the U.S. Peace Council, co-chair of Iran Pledge of Resistance, and nongovernmental organization representative of the World Peace Council at the United Nations.
Faraz urged the political movement in the U.S. to reach beyond itself to educate others on the nature of imperialism, on how and why the U.S. is threatening Syria and Iran, and on how U.S. wars abroad hurt people in the U.S. He challenged groups and individuals to leave their comfort zones and find ways to work together to stop this war drive.
Michael T. McPhearson, who is African-American and originally from Fayetteville, N.C., was a field artillery officer in the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division during the 1991 Gulf War. He is the national coordinator for United For Peace and Justice and a national board member as well as a former executive director of Veterans For Peace. He is a member of Military Families Speak Out, works closely with the Newark, N.J., based People’s Organization for Progress and publishes the mcpearsonreport.org, expressing his views on war and peace, politics, human rights, race and other things.
McPhearson addressed obstacles the political movement must surmount in order to reach the public. He exposed some of the underlying myths that obscure the Pentagon’s predatory role abroad. These include the notion that the U.S. government is abroad to spread democracy and to protect people in the U.S. from terrorist attacks. He proposed fighting the demonization of the leaders and people of the Middle East through multinational presentations that include and present Arab and Iranian people as co-thinkers and neighbors.
A serious discussion followed on ways to expand and deepen anti-war sentiment. For example, a trade unionist raised ideas on how to bring an anti-war perspective to his constituency. Veterans discussed reaching out to military-age youth to stop enlistments.
The VFP Iran Working Group is available to speak. Contact [email protected].