Thousands of protesters marched beside Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans Sunday to accompany the vets as they marched, hoping to return their service medals to NATO's generals....
"I'm here for the Iraq Vets Against the War, which is a group we've worked with pretty closely over the last couple of years," said McIlrath. "We've tried to show our fans a different side of the military, a different side of the war, a different side to the stories that they hear in the high-polished thirty second commercials of military recruitments versus the real stories of some of the troops who have been serving in the military.,,,
McIlrath remains optimistic that dissenters can have an impact on youths' perspectives even though they're competing with an enormous force of pro-military propaganda.
"It's really hard, especially when you have a military that pumps millions of dollars into propaganda, and the collective will of America is sometimes a hard thing to defy. It's a pro-war, pro-troop bundle in a way. There are some Americans who can't divorce those two things. But I'm hopeful there is an emerging part of America that can divorce those two things. There are other ways to support the troops than supporting illegal wars," he said.
Part of what makes McIlrath optimistic is that, in times of severe economic austerity, a country's bloated military budget inherently opens the government's pro-war faction to criticism.
"Budget cuts and the economy have put a unique spotlight on the military, and a staple of the right-wing. That's one of those sacred cows. We don't cut the military budget. But now that [the government] is putting these budgets under the microscope, I think it's forcing people who are stereotypically pro-war and pro-military industrial complex to really think about what a bloated machine it is. You can't ignore it. It sucks up so much taxpayer money," he said....
Chicago police, including about a dozen horse mounted officers, shut down the perimeter around McCormick Place, so the veterans spoke instead from a stage nearby the conference....
Veteran Scott Olsen, perhaps best known for being severely injured by police during an Occupy Oakland march, returned his service medals, as well.
"These medals once made me feel good," said Olsen, adding, "I came back to reality. I don't like these anymore."
At the end of the testimonials, the veterans threw their medals in the direction of the conference as the crowd cheered.
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