Our Lives, Our Rights is a March Forward! campaign led by active-duty troops, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and war resisters whose mission is to reach-out to and educate U.S. service members about their rights, help exercise those rights and advocate for those rights. Among these rights is the right to be a Conscientious Objector to war and refuse deployment to Afghanistan.
The war we have no reason to fight
The ongoing Afghanistan war—not-so-coincidentally located in one of the most profitable regions in the world for the oil tycoons and defense contractors—is the longest war in U.S. history. Mainstream polls show that more than 2/3 of the U.S. public as well as active-duty service members oppose the war and want it to end. But the generals and politicians continue to lie and mislead the public in order to continue a war—like the Iraq war—to control access to resources for Wall Street. Even if the cause was just, high-ranking Pentagon officers openly admit that the war against the Afghan resistance is unwinnable, yet continue to send U.S. soldiers to kill and be killed to avoid the perception of defeat. With more everyday, over 2,000 of us have died, tens of thousands have had life-changing wounds, and hundreds of thousands psychologically traumatized.
For the people of Afghanistan, who have overwhelmingly opposed and resisted the occupation, the U.S./NATO war has resulted in death and injury of tens of thousands of innocent civilians, destroyed villages, thrust the country deeper into poverty—all supposedly for a crime they had no role in whatsoever. U.S. service members increasingly recognize that the people of Afghanistan are not our real enemies and that the war has been a humanitarian catastrophe. We have a right to not be party to crimes against humanity and the subjugation of our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan, the vast majority of whom want all U.S./NATO forces out of their country now.
The crisis in mental health care
The politicians and military brass have shown disregard for the lives of U.S. service members not only in the battlefield but also at home. The epidemic of veterans’ suicides has been a crisis for years, with active-duty suicides shockingly outpacing combat deaths, yet the command has taken no meaningful steps to address it. In fact, they have deliberately refused to diagnose cases of PTSD to cut costs and repeatedly re-deploy service members. Every service member who has tried knows the difficulty of trying to get adequate treatment or a fair discharge process. For female service members, this problem is compounded by being treated like criminals for reporting sexual abuse and Military Sexual Trauma. The military brass has acted with historic disregard for our lives. Our commanders are solely responsible for the epidemic of suicides, which is nowhere near being resolved, making it necessary for us to take action outside the chain of command.
The generals and politicians have proven, for years, incapable and unwilling to treat our lives like they matter at all. They are playing politics with our lives while we commit suicide in record numbers, lose limbs and lives at an increasing rate, and while our families and families in Afghanistan suffer immensely.
These are our lives. We can exercise our rights.
Thousands of U.S. service members would qualify as Conscientious Objectors, or have the right to not deploy to Afghanistan or serve in the military based on moral opposition to war. Conscientious Objector status entitles one to an honorable discharge with full benefits.
Many thousands with psychological wounds, properly diagnosed yet or not, have the right to demand exemption from deployment, with adequate treatment, compensation and a fair process.
Many feel they have no other option to escape the war or their difficult situation in garrison other than to go AWOL or refuse their orders—they, too, have rights and legal options, and deserve help and support.
Most service members do not know these rights. For those who do, the chain of command actively blocks service members from exercising them.
Our Lives, Our Rights seeks to turn that situation around. We reach out to service members to ensure that they know their rights and options. We assist those who need information about their rights and legal support, and help in successfully navigating the maze of paperwork. We give a voice to those who want to take a stand and tell their stories to build a movement for the rights of their sisters and brothers in uniform. Alone, we are powerless against the will of the officers—but service members and veterans, united and organizing together, can challenge their callous disregard for our lives and the lives of others.
Our Lives, Our Rights holds that service members have inalienable rights, including the right to refuse deployment to Afghanistan. The time is critical to exercise our rights. We have the power to drastically improve the conditions for service members and their families, and prevent the suffering of other families in Afghanistan. These rights will not be handed down by the politicians or military brass. It is up to us to come together, organize, and fight for them.