Welcome to Kalamna, the student blog of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A view from the other side: My internship with Iraq Veterans Against the War

One of my biggest regrets from my undergraduate career is not holding enough internships. As a result, I left college unsure of what I wanted to do with my life (which is why I went from Film School to the Kevorkian Center). It’s much harder to dabble and figure out what you want while depending on a paycheck. Which is why as soon as those student loan checks hit my bank account, I was on the hunt for an internship.

Non-profits offer some of the best internships out there because often you get real job experience; the intern isn’t the assistant to a position, the intern is the position. Idealist.org maintains a huge list of non-profit internships all over the country.

In fact, it’s where I found my Social Media & Marketing internship with Iraq Veterans Against the War. This national non-profit doesn’t employ a regular marketing director, which means I get a lot of responsibility (and experience). And for 8-10 hours a week, they provide me with an unlimited subway pass and a meal every time I work. As far as unpaid internships go, you can’t beat it.

Iraq Veterans Against the War is an organization that allies veterans of the current wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan in a call for immediate withdrawal from the region, adequate health care and benefits for returning vets, and reparations for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The title of this entry, “A View From the Other Side” takes on multiple meanings in this context. I have a reciprocal relationship with the organization: in return for my academic understanding of the region, I get the opportunity to interact with people who have actually been there and witnessed the events that trouble us as Middle East Studies students. What is remarkable is that IVAW members, who have showed their patriotism and served their country, share the opinion of the (mostly) liberal MEIS students who often fear being labeled unpatriotic or anti-American for their scholarship.

I had pictured a group of hardened, scruffy old men wearing black U.S. Army painter’s caps and carrying picket signs. What I got was something completely different. The group is surprisingly young, good-humored, and smart. Some, on occasion younger than me, walk with canes for injuries from mortar blasts while others sat listlessly on the base with nothing to do. All have one thing in common: they believe the current wars to be unjust.

It’s sometimes funny to me how much our views overlap, although they come from different “sides.” For example, media coverage of the recent shootings at Fort Hood had me up in arms over its racist overtones in suggesting the “Muslim Terrorist” connection before they even had a name for the shooter; IVAW was frustrated that the media let these racist implications overshadow the impact PTSD likely had on the shooter. (We both found solace in Al-Jazeera’s coverage of the event. Some of the best reporting I’ve seen in years: http://www.youtube.com/aljazeeraenglish#p/search/2/RRDMdq6BE-M .)

The organization does disseminate a good amount of information on the Middle East to clear up misunderstandings that war-mongering folks use to justify the wars (e.g., “the Taliban attacked America on September 11”). Check out their website (www.ivaw.org) for more information, or email me at sme296-at-nyu-dot-edu.

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