My real heroes are those soldiers who stood up to the war before they went.
These are the people I look up to. To stand up at that time and say, no, I’m not gonna do it, to be accused of cowardice, is amazingly brave.
I disagreed with the war. I was already reading about the Black Panthers and Huey P Newton and Malcolm X, I was already beginning to radicalise, but I still went because I thought that’s what soldiers do. I went into the military because of, well, a big ball of different things. And that ball just totally unravelled when I was in Iraq.
I always grew up thinking if it was America fighting, then we were fighting for good. I thought America was the greatest country on earth and that we fight for freedom and democracy. I came to realise that Iraq is a war of genocide, a war of racism. When I went to Iraq, it all became real.
It had been October at Fort Drum when we took off. A cold October. We had snow on the ground. I got off the plane in Kuwait, and I had a duffel bag in each hand, and a rucksack and my weapons on my back and I was so tired and then that heat hits you.
You’re hot and you’re sore and they put you on a bus. We drove for a few hours until we got to a base where they gave us a briefing. And they told us, ‘You can’t trust these fucking hajis. Every one of these fucking hajis just wants to kill you! They’re all gonna stab you in the back. And when one of these fucking haji kids is out in the middle of the road and you’re out with your convoy, you run them over!’
I really thought, ‘Wow, I can’t believe they’re using such a racist term like this.’ At the time I didn’t know what haji meant, or its significance. I just thought, ‘Wow.’
In a film about the GI resistance in Vietnam, Sir! No sir!, there is a scene where a black GI, Greg Paton, says one day he realised, ‘Wow, a gook is just like a nigger!’ This light went on. And now I watch a film like this and I think what I realised in Iraq was, ‘Wow – a haji is a gook!’ Make that connection!
All this became crystal clear for me one day when in my division there was a traffic control point – a TCP – and this 18-yearold kid is on a 50-calibre machine gun atop an armoured humvee and this car’s coming at it really fast and he makes a split-second decision. He presses butterfly trigger on his 50-cal and he puts 200 rounds into a vehicle in less than a minute. A few minutes later, they drag out the results of his decision: it’s a dead father, a dead mother and two dead kids. The son was four. The daughter was three.
That night, I sat in on a briefing, as I did most nights, and this colonel turns around to the entire division-level staff and he says, ‘If these fucking hajis just fucking learnt to drive, this shit wouldn’t happen!’ And I looked around and thought, he never stopped to think that this 18-year-old kid for the rest of his life is going to be fucked up. He never stopped to think that we killed an entire bloodline that day, of how many more insurgents we created, of how many more service members are going to die as a result of this. There were so many things that he could have thought of.
The left, the anti-war movement, really needs to come up with alternatives, with solutions. We’ve essentially won the argument that the war is wrong, that the occupation is wrong. The mid-term elections show that. We should now be aiming for popularising concrete solutions. There are quite a few plans out there, but they need to be developed and they also need to take into account what the Iraqi people want.
We have to make sure America never ever does this again. Because after Vietnam, we thought we had learnt our lesson, but people forgot. We have to make sure that in ten years time, 20 years time, 50 years time, we never, never do this again.
I feel I’m becoming a warrior, fighting this fight, whereas before I felt I was just a soldier. Now I get to fight from my heart, for what I believe in, not what someone orders me to.Iraq Veterans Against the War can be found at www.ivaw.net
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Across Britain, hundreds of thousands of people have now taken part in mass rallies for Corbyn's Labour. Eli Regan soaks up the atmosphere in Warrington
The under-30s could be decisive in the general election. Frances Grahl meets young people hit by Tory austerity and looks at what's driving their support for Labour
“To them it’s just another number, someone else being sent back. But when you’ve got three children being left without their dad … it’s quite major,” writes Rebecca Omonira-Okeykanmi.
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker
In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing
After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry
Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again
Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood
7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.
After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani
If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945
On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.
Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow
The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite
Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself