Iraq Veterans Working for Congressional Campaigns (UPDATE 2)

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(APN) ATLANTA — Iraq Veterans for Progress (IVFP) is supporting the campaigns of four candidates running for the US House and Senate, and creating jobs for veterans at the same time: by sending veterans of the US Invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan to help the campaigns in any way they can.

Air Force Veteran Tim Goodrich, who also co-founded Iraq Veterans Against the War, is the Executive Director of IVFP, a political action committee that launched a little over one month ago in Los Angeles, California.

Goodrich participated in Operation Southern Watch (enforcement of the southern no-fly zone over Iraq) and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) during his four-year service from 1999 to 2003.

“I’ve changed 180 degrees,” Goodrich told Atlanta Progressive News.  “I used to draw messages on bombs with a smile on my face.”

Goodrich took part in and witnessed the bombing of Iraq while President Bush was still telling the public diplomacy was the top priority.

These inconsistent and apparently misleading actions did not sit well with Goodrich, and his thinking on certain issues began to change.

Since his discharge, Goodrich has returned to Iraq as a civilian and become increasingly involved in politics.

IVFP supports several platforms they see as solutions to ending the US Invasion of Iraq, bringing the troops home in a safe, timely manner, and perhaps preventing this situation from happening in the future.

These goals include: Replacing US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, renouncing the practice of preemptive war, using military intervention only as a last resort, and ensuring Veterans receive the benefits to which they are entitled.

IVFP has an Advisory Board composed of professionals who have been working on Veterans’ issues for years and even decades. Each member of the Board is a Veteran who helps guide IVFP.

Notably, Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times in 1971, is a Member of the Advisory Board.

US Reps. Lynn Woolsley (D-CA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), both outspoken critics of the US Invasion of Iraq, comprise the Honorary Advisory Board.

IVFP is supporting candidates running for office who will help make their goals a reality.

The candidates are: Jerry McNerney (CA-11), Bruce Braley (IA-01), Sherrod Brown (OH-Senate), and Patrick Murphy (PA-06), all Democrats.

Murphy, the US House candidate in Pennsylvania, is a Veteran of the US Invasion of Iraq.

There are 11 Veterans of the US Invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan running for US House seats, 10 of whom are Democrats, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

However, Goodrich places the number of Veterans running for US Congress this year between 13 and 24.

Mr. Murphy is trying to unseat a first-term Republican and is holding his own in the polls despite slow fundraising.

IVFP, instead of just sending cash donations to campaigns, is paying Veterans a small sum of money ($2,100) while the Veterans personally help the campaign. In other words, the Veteran offering his or her paid service is the donation, and it also creates a temporary job.

Atlanta Progressive News spoke with one such Veteran, Michael Blake, who is serving as Veterans’ Outreach Coordinator for the Braley Campaign in Iowa.

Blake had just arrived two days prior to when he spoke with APN.

“This is an illegal, immoral war with no direction,” Blake said.  “There are so many things going wrong in Iraq right now and the Bush Administration isn’t offering any solutions.”

Blake joined the US Army right after high school in 2001 so he could earn money for college and also because he felt “a patriotic sense of duty.”

Blake now calls it “a misguided sense of idealism.”

“I was raised in a pretty progressive family and I think they were surprised when I enlisted,” Blake said.

Three weeks after the US Invasion of Iraq, Blake entered the country, in April 2003.

He was a supply specialist in a tank unit, drove humvees, and led supply convoys.

The mortar fire and roadside bombs were constant, Blake recalled.

Blake was discharged in 2004 and returned home a different person.

“When you’re out, you face this guilt about what you did over there. You start to think about what happened and why,” he told Atlanta Progressive News.

Because of the ordeal, Blake now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Dealing with that is very difficult,” Blake said.  “I have a group of Veterans that I talk to and work through the hard times.”

Blake can no longer watch violent movies or play violent video games.

Sometimes while driving down the road, he finds himself steering away from objects that appear suspicious near the road, he said.

“You find yourself driving this way and that,” he said.  “You hear loud noises that shake you up a lot.”

Since leaving the Army, Blake has completed one year of college on the GI Bill in his native New York.

“[In the Army], they really don’t teach you anything,” he said.

Blake is interested in teaching and in Political Science.

Blake decided political action is the best way to effect change and is excited to work on his first campaign.

“I feel confident in Bruce [Braley],” Blake said.  “He’s a really great guy, friendly, real big on common sense.”

As the Veterans Outreach Coordinator, it is Blake’s job to scout the VFW halls to rally the support of all Veterans, organize press conferences, and speak about the Invasion.

Blake is already organizing a press conference with Veterans and families speaking alongside Braley.

Mr. Braley wants to develop an exit strategy from Iraq, set a timetable for bringing troops home, and wants to investigate wasteful corporate spending that has occurred in Iraq by companies such as Halliburton.

“The last polls show [Braley] up by seven points,” Blake told Atlanta Progressive News.  “This race has been rated one of the most pivotal and challenging House races in the country.”

IVFP might endorse more candidates if more money comes in, Goodrich said. Those interested in donating may do so on the IVFP website. IVFP accepts donations in any amount up to $5000, Goodrich said.

CORRECTIONS (UPDATE 2): The organization’s website said donations would be accepted between $35 and $2000, but Goodrich says they will in fact take donations in any amount up to $5000. At the request of Goodrich, significant changes were made to the fourth paragraph. Instead of Goodrich having had a smile on his face when some bombs were dropped, he clarifies he had the smile on his face when drawing messages on the bombs themselves. In addition, he says he does not have a picture of himself smiling during a plane ride over Afghanistan.

About the author:

Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached at jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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This article may be reprinted in full at no cost where Atlanta Progressive News is credited.

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