Vets for Freedom/"Win the War! Victory in Iraq" campaign

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This article is part of the SourceWatch coverage of Vets for Freedom (VFF) and
Vets for Freedom Action Fund (VFF-AF).
Related articles:

Vets for Freedom launched its Win the War! Victory in Iraq" campaign on July 10, 2007.[1]

According to its new executive director Pete Hegseth, VFF "plans to lead the charge to support General [David] Petraeus and stop anti-war radicals and politicians—Democrats (and some Republicans) on Capitol Hill—from undermining the troops-and their mission-for the sake of short-term political gain," VFF states.[2]

"Despite the great courage and success of our troops in Iraq, many Senate Republicans are wavering in their support for the mission. And in the past two weeks alone, 3 Republican senators have raised the white flag on Iraq. If just a few more defect, the Senate could over-ride a presidential veto and set a deadline for defeat."

VFF's call to action states: "If you believe America must defeat radical Islamists in Iraq, we need you to get involved with Vets for Freedom's 'Ten Weeks to Testimony.'

"For the next ten weeks, you will receive an email every Monday morning, outlining how you can make a difference during that week. This is a call to duty! The time for action is now!"[2]

Ad campaign supporting pro-war candidates

"Stand by the American Mission in Iraq" petition

During the week before the 2007 Labor Day weekend, VFF executive director Pete Hegseth posted an appeal on the conservative Family Security Matters website, where he is a "contributing editor",[3] and sent out emails[4][5] linking to a petition posted on the VFF website. The petition is to be presented to members of Congress when "General Petraeus and the new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, will report to Congress in mid-September [2007] on the American effort." It reads in part:[6]

"Iraq is now the central front in the War on Terrorism - not because Americans want it to be but because America's enemies have said so and made it so. Al-Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias are determined to drive the United States out of Iraq. Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups would then use that country as a safe haven from which they can mount attacks on the U.S., its interests and allies.
"We recognize that the U.S. involvement in Iraq has divided Americans and that our leaders have made mistakes. We also recognize the cost of this war, not only in financial terms but, more importantly, in the loss of more than 3,000 of our bravest men and women. The issue, however, is not how or why U.S. forces became engaged in Iraq but, rather, what is happening there now and what would happen if we were to leave too soon."

Most interesting is a sentence which appears near the end of the petition: "America has a chance to strike a serious blow against terrorism and the ideologies that drive terrorism."[6] Perspective comes from self-described "conservative liberal" Scott Bannon, who wrote the following in the September 4, 2006, American Chronicle:[7]

"By it's very nature, the ideology of hatred is fueled and grows with each individual battle we are victorious in. For each enemy combatant killed, a spouse, child, brother, cousin and so on is inspired to elevate their simmering despisal of Western Culture into a boiling rage. With each enemy death, one or more new opponents are created.
"Now, before anyone accuses me of being 'soft' on terrorists or a 'surrender monkey'; let me make clear that in no way do I believe the policies of the past were sufficient--nor that those who commit or attempt to commit acts of terror should be forgiven. I don't.
"However, what I do believe is that a brute force attack against an abstract ideology is doomed to failure. I believe that to combat an ideology you must combat both those who use it to promote acts of terror, and the environment that it grows from. ...
"Fighting the individual fanatics of the ideology in combat operations is treating the symptoms of the problem, but the core problem--the tumor if you will--isn't addressed with this approach and will continue to breed more believers to battle."

"Pro-American 'Vets for Freedom' Protest" September 15, 2007

The Gateway Pundit lamented in his September 21, 2007, blog posting that the mainstream media ignored Vets for Freedom's September 15, 2007, "Pro-American" protest. "But," he writes, "Sen. Joe Lieberman, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Mary Katherine Ham[8] and hundreds of patriotic Americans made the protest a huge success anyway."[9]

"Vets on the Hill" September 17/18, 2007

VFF's "Vets on the Hill" campaign, slated for September 17 and 18, 2007, was planned as a follow up—"on a much larger scale"—to its July 17, 2007, D.C. rally, where, it states, "Over 40 Vets for Freedom members joined together on Capitol Hill in July and helped stop Congress from voting to undercut the troops."[10]

During the "week nearly 250 members of Vets for Freedom and 450 members of Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission gathered on Capitol Hill", Brian Bresnahan, VFF Nebraska state co-captain, reported September 23, 2007.[11]

VFF called for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to sign up so that VFF can "Schedule meetings for you with your Senators and Representative. In July we had to 'walk in'. On September 18th we want participants to have appointments."[10]

According to its call for action, VFF was also looking for "Reserve high-profile speakers to address all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans on Monday night (September 17)." and to "Raise money to support the travel and lodging for ALL veterans. We plan to cover all air and ground travel costs, and lodging for the evening of September 17."[10]

First night

First night speakers included Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, VFF executive director Pete Hegseth, VFF co-founder and former executive director Wade Zirkle, VFF co-founder David Bellavia, Retired U.S. Army Gen. Jack Keane, Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), and Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.).[12][13] Also present was The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol.[11]

September 18

"More than 200 veterans of the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan will converge on Capitol Hill Tuesday [September 18, 2007,] to make the case for maintaining support for the war in Iraq," Patrick O'Connor wrote September 17, 2007, in The Politico.[14]

"Vets for Freedom, a group of combat veterans from the two wars, organized a press event outside the Senate Tuesday to tell stories about their service in Iraq.

"The group estimates 45 members of Congress will appear with the veterans Tuesday, along with more than 400 family members of soldiers who have served," O'Connor wrote.[14]

Bush's photo-op props ... again

From approximately 9:07 to 9:15 a.m. on September 18, 2007, President George W. Bush spoke[15] to "about 850 members" of "Military Support Organizations" "invited to the White House for coffee, juice and pastries."[16]

"Among the groups gathered at picnic tables set up on the [White House] South Lawn were Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission, Vets for Freedom, the American Legion, and Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations."[16] Also assembled during Bush's brief remarks were First Lady Laura Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson, Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, Secretary of the Navy Don Winter, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine General "Hoss" Cartwright and "his wife Sandee."[15]

Photographs posted by Kristinn Taylor of the D.C. Chapter of Free Republic, also an invited guest to the gathering, show Bush, Cheney, Rice, Under Secretary of State for Public Policy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes, and Laura Youngblood, who has been featured in Freedom's Watch's pro-war in Iraq ad campaign. Also present were members of Gathering of Eagles and Move America Forward.[17]

President Bush, "cheered on by Iraq war veterans and their families at the White House, urged lawmakers ... to back his plan to withdraw some U.S. troops from Iraq but keep at least 130,000 through the middle of 2008 or longer.

"'I ask the United States Congress to support the troop levels and the strategies I have embraced,' Bush said, to loud cheers and chants of 'USA! USA!'"[18]

Note: A version of this section was posted September 19, 2007, as a diary on The Daily Kos.[19]

Pro-war Congressmen meet with VFF

Photographs show about 250 members of Vets from Freedom at the day's events.[20] In the words of blogger Mary Katherine Ham of conservative, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) "got the most enthusiastic reception of anyone except perhaps" Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), "who really brought the house down. Still, folks were jumping out of their chairs to see McCain and grab pictures with him."

Others who spoke with the group at Upper Senate Park were Republicans "Sen. John Cornyn, Sen. Lindsay Graham and House Republican Leader Rep. Roy Blunt, [who] took a break from voting on the Senate and House floors".[21]

Related external articles

McCain: Petraeus to report to Congress on 9/11 anniversary

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, will now testify before Congress on September 11, 2007, the 6th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"The timing of Petraeus' testimony was first revealed by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) this morning in a conference call with conservative bloggers. According to the National Review's Jim Geraghty, McCain said he had 'been told' Petraeus would testify on the 11th:
"The calendar I’ve been told is that Petraeus testify 11th. We’re off September 13 and 14 for Rosh Hoshannah. The Senate debate will begin September 18th.
"Geraghty’s account of the conference call has been confirmed by other bloggers on the call, including the Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb and the American Spectator's Jennifer Rubin."[22]

Writing letters

In an August 14, 2007, letter posted by the Cedar River Salmon Blog, VFF National Field Director Joel A. Arends called for support for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) because anti-war activists "[had] been shadowing him as he criss-crosses Iowa over the August recess."[23] "Let's show the Senator that we have hometown heroes who support our troops and the mission by showing up [at an August 23 town hall meeting at the Cherokee County Courthouse] and thanking the Senator for his voting record. Let's not allow out of state liberal interest groups to one up us this most important of issues!," Arends wrote.

Foundation for the Defense of Democracies

As part of activities for week 7 of its 10-week "Win the War! Victory in Iraq" campaign, in a viral email posted August 21, 2007, VFF Executive Director Pete Hegseth directed[24] recipients to read three articles "released by" the neo-con-affiliated, pro-war/pro-regime change in Iraq think tank Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD):

  • "The Cost of Withdrawal from Iraq" (August 15, 2007)[25]
  • "The Progress of the Surge in Iraq" (August 9, 2007)[26]
  • "The Links between Al Qaeda and Iraq" (July 31, 2007)[27] (The correct title is "The Links Between Al-Qaeda in Iraq And Al-Qaeda's Senior Leadership.")

Unsurprisingly, listed among FDD's board of advisors are Bill Kristol and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

Move America Forward's "Fight for Victory Tour" September 3-15, 2007

VFF joined Move America Forward on its "national, cross-country[28] 'Fight for Victory Tour'"[29] September 3-15, 2007, ending in Washington, D.C., where MAF will "have a rally with a collection of pro-troop groups" that includes VFF, Gathering of Eagles (GOE), Military Order of the Purple Heart[30], Free Republic, Protest Warrior[31], Eagles UP!.[32], and Center for Vigilant Freedom (formerly known as The 910 Group).[33].

Also see September 15 Coalition and GOE information on Task Force EAGLE.



  1. "10 Weeks to Testimony," Vets for Freedom, July 10, 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Vets for Freedom... Win the War?", SWAC Girl Blog, July 12, 2007.
  3. Pete Hegseth, "Stay Active and Sign the Petition," Vets for Freedom (Family Security Matters), August 29, 2007.
  4. "Vets for Freedom - Sign the Petition!" Chris Dickson Blogspot, August 29, 2007.
  5. Spree, "Vets for Freedom: WEEK 8: Stay Active & Sign the Petition," Israelated Blog, August 29, 2007.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ten Weeks/Petition, Vets for Freedom, accessed August 29, 2007.
  7. Scott Bannon, "Winning the War on Terror - Can it be done?" American Chronicle, September 4, 2006.
  8. Mary Katharine Ham, "Moral Authority: A Day With the Vets for Freedom,", September 18, 2007.
  9. "Media Ignores Pro-American 'Vets for Freedom' Protest," Gateway Pundit Blog, September 21, 2007.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "Tenweeks" Signup, Vets for Freedom, accessed August 8, 2007.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Brian Bresnahan, "On Capitol Hill With Vets for Freedom and Families United," High Plains Patriot Blogspot, September 23, 2007.
  12. Michael Mannske, "Live Blogging Vets on the Hill," Look True North Blog, September 17, 2007.
  13. CyberPastor Ed, "Vets for Freedom - First Night," Do The Right Thing Blog, September 17, 2007.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Patrick O'Connor, "Veterans converge on Capitol to support the war," The Politico, September 17, 2007.
  15. 15.0 15.1 News Release: "President Bush Meets with Military Support Organizations," Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 18, 2007.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Jennifer Loven, "Bush to Lawmakers: Support Troop Levels," Associated Press, September 18, 2007.
  17. Kristinn Taylor, "D.C. Chapter Invited to Meet President Bush at White House Troop Support Event (Photos)," Free Republic, September 18, 2007.
  18. "Bush asks Congress to support his troop withdrawal plan as veterans cheer in the background," Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), September 18, 2007.
  19. B Merryfield, "Bush catapults the pro-war propaganda ... again," The Daily Kos, Sepember 19, 2007.
  20. Mary Katherine Ham, "Moral Authority: A Day With the Vets for Freedom,", September 18, 2007.
  21. Ericka Anderson, "Veterans and Families Hit the Hill," Human Events Online, September 19, 2007.
  22. Matt Corley, "Petraeus To Testify Before Senate On September 11," Think Progress, August 20, 2007.
  23. Joel A. Arends, "Letter from Vets for Freedom," Cedar River Salmon Blog, August 14, 2007.
  24. Pete Hegseth, "Vets for Freedom: Week 7: Spread the Word - The Surge is Working," Vets for Freedom (posted by spree (Susan Duclos) on Wake up America Blogspot)/cross-posted at Israelated, August 21, 2007.
  25. Kyle Dabruzzi and Joshua Goodman, "The Cost of Withdrawal from Iraq," Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, August 15, 2007.
  26. Kyle Dabruzzi, "The Progress of the Surge in Iraq," Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, August 9, 2007.
  27. Kyle Dabruzzi and Joshua Goodman, "The Links Between Al-Qaeda in Iraq And Al-Qaeda's Senior Leadership," Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, July 31, 2007.
  28. "Itinerary for 'Fight for Victory Tour'," Move America Forward, July 15, 2007.
  29. "Pro-Troop Supporters Announce Major September Push," Move America Forward, July 15, 2007.
  30. Military Order of the Purple Heart website; Tom Poulter, National Commander.
  31. Marty Droney, "Our Boys Want to Win... Continued,", July 24, 2007.
  32. Col. Harry G. Riley, Colonel's Corner: "Eagles Landing: A call to stand for freedom, September 15, 2007, Washington, D.C.," Eagles Up!, July 24, 2007.
  33. D.K. Shideler, "Help Wanted:State Bloggers for Pro-Surge Push," Center for Vigilant Freedom Blog (The 910 Group Blog), July 24, 2007.