A warrior against the war

Geoffrey Millard, 25, a former US Army sergeant, is president of the Washington DC chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He spoke to Leigh Phillips about how he became an activist in the anti-war movement

December 1, 2006
4 min read


Leigh PhillipsLeigh Phillips is a regular Red Pepper writer and was previously a Brussels-based journalist and Red Pepper's Europe correspondent.

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


Leigh PhillipsLeigh Phillips is a regular Red Pepper writer and was previously a Brussels-based journalist and Red Pepper's Europe correspondent.


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

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

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill

Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility

Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports

From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices

How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed

In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design

Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform