Senator McCain has Iraq war veterans arrested
Iraq war veterans wait to speak with Senator John McCain. | Antonia Juhasz

WASHINGTON – After being arrested for trying to speak with Senator John McCain R.-Ariz., members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) have put out an urgent call for help.

“We wanted to speak to Senator McCain vet-to-vet” about “[our] deep reservations about [Rex] Tillerson as a cabinet pick” for Secretary of State, explained Matt Howard, co-director of IVAW and a Marine Corps helicopter mechanic who was twice deployed to Iraq.

Thursday Howard and eight other Iraqi war veterans went to McCain’s office and waited patiently to see him for several hours. McCain was just five doors down from where the veterans were waiting, Howard told the Business Insider.

But instead of spending a few minutes talking with the vets, McCain ordered his staff to call for the Capitol police to arrest them.

“Sen. McCain appreciates the professionalism of the U.S. Capitol police and all that they do to protect senators, staff and visitors to the U.S. Capitol,” a McCain spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes, a newsletter for military personnel.

The staffer did not mention that the veterans posed no threat whatsoever. In fact, they stood in an at-ease military formation during most of their wait.

Howard said, “I stood side-by-side with friends who had served in different branches, in multiple conflicts, and who held a variety of positions in the military including a Special Forces soldier and a nuclear, biological, chemical specialist. Although our experiences are varied, we were united in the belief that the former CEO of Exxon Mobil was the absolute wrong pick for the highest diplomatic post in our nation.”

Tillerson is a billionaire and chief executive of Exxon Mobile. He has made a fortune in the oil industry.

Howard told the Daily Mail newsletter that this has been “an industry and a person that has used the military to subsidize his own ability to make profit.”

“I did not sign up to protect oil or the interest of people lining their pockets,” another veteran said.

Also waiting for McCain was the Rev. Shawna Foster who said that because Exxon has time and again been sanctioned for endangering the environment and breaking regulations regarding business practices, “[Tillerson] cannot be expected to place the greater good over his and his company’s profits.”

The veterans the McCain staffers spoke for some time, but the staffers became agitated as Advisory Committee Member of Iraq Veterans Against the War Antonia Juhasz was live-streaming the encounter on Facebook.

When she refused to stop streaming, on orders from McCain staff members called the police.

Antonia Juhasz
Antonia Juhasz

The veterans were released Thursday evening. Donald Trump was sworn in the next day.

Although both Senator McCain and Senator Lindsay Graham had expressed doubts about confirming Tillerson as Secretary State, in the end they both voted with all the other Republicans to okay his appointment.

Shortly after his release, Howard wrote, ”We know that [Tillerson’s] nomination will bring us a steep uptick in the militarism we have seen since the beginning of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and that the threat of climate change, named as one of the top threats to our national security by no less than the Pentagon, will also be frighteningly exacerbated.”

He explained the IVAW is now working with Greenpeace, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and many other groups.

Howard continued, “We are ready to take the fight to doors [of corporations] and the halls of power. IVAW is stepping into this year with a renewed commitment to push back on decision makers in and outside of Congress and to provide the training to our veteran community to be able to take the risks that are needed to raise awareness and dial up pressure, that are aligned with our experiences and moral code.”

“Now more than ever,” Howard said, “need support to carry on our work.

To contribute to Iraq Veterans Against the War, click here.


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.