Baltimore, Maryland (TFC) – When the National Guard deployed to police American citizens in Baltimore, Americans were politely told to shut their mouths out of respect for our men and women in uniform. That’s what a “good American” would do. The Fifth Column launched a series of open letters expressing our reservations and outright condemnation of the use of military force against American citizens.
So what of organizations that are entirely made up of veterans? What did they think? Surely their opinion should count for something, right?
The IVAW stated:
Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), a national group of Post 9/11 veterans, call on the Maryland National Guard to stand down from their mobilization to Baltimore. As 1,000 soldiers currently deploy to put down an uprising of exploited people who have been terrorized by a consistently racist police department, we stand in solidarity with the people of Baltimore and encourage service members and veterans to listen to their fellow community members and to stand on the right side of history.
We know that the death of yet another black person at the hands of police is not unique or new in our country. We also know that the rage we are seeing in the streets is the direct result of a legacy of police departments and a prison system that dehumanizes and targets black people and people of color and the result of a morally bankrupt economy that continues to profit off of the backs of poor people across the country. We stand with those people who have lifted up the banner of #BlackLivesMatter to ensure that fundamental change takes place in our country.
The irony of the National Guard deployment to quell protests due to the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of police is not lost on us as we approach the 45th anniversary of both the Jackson State and Kent State shootings, where the National Guard and police were deployed to silence protestors with deadly consequences.
As veterans who have deployed to and served in support of occupations abroad, we see some of the same tactics and military equipment being used by police against the people of Baltimore, just as it was used against the people of Ferguson and Oakland. The increased militarization of our foreign policy and our domestic policing, coupled with racist violence perpetuated by our government, has to stop. The people of Baltimore demanding systemic change should be responded to with dialogue not an escalation of force. We encourage National Guard members across the country, many of whom we have served with, to begin a conversation on how they will respond when it becomes their turn to be mobilized against their own communities.
The American soldier knows better than anyone the dangers of deploying the US military on civilian streets. Military forces are not tools for domestic use. The Fifth Column would like to thank the IVAW for keeping a clear head while taking a public stand against militarized police and the use of the military against civilians. We would also like to applaud the conversation encouraged by the last line of the letter. Don’t be the guy that “was just following orders.”