War Is Not a Game tells the story of the new soldiers’ antiwar movement, showing why it was born, how it quickly grew, where it has struggled, what it accomplished, and how it continues to resonate in the national conversation about our military and our wars. Nan Levinson reveals the individuals behind the movement, painting an unforgettable portrait of these working-class veterans who refused to be seen as simply tragic victims or battlefront heroes and instead banded together to become leaders of a national organization.
Out today – Veterans’ Day 2016 – the paperback edition of War is Not a Game includes an all new preface that highlights the persisting immediacy of the struggle these antiwar veterans wage every day.
“We’re going over now. You ready?” a young veteran with a soul patch and a quicksilver smile asks a fellow vet who’s grabbing a smoke outside the Holiday Inn in downtown St. Louis in August 2007. They exchange a short nod. The heat wave, close to one hundred degrees all week, has finally broken, so it’s no longer punishing to venture beyond air conditioning. The two veterans, one lanky, the other solid as a door jamb, climb into a car, where a few others wait, and they all head down the street to the Missouri Black Expo job fair, now in full swing.
The exhibition hall is big, echoing, overlit, packed with job recruiters and seekers, but the clump of young men and women in black T-shirts with “Iraq Veterans Against the War” stenciled on the front is hard to miss as they make their way to the booth with “Go Army!” splayed across its canopy. A Humvee, decked out with fancy twenty-inch rims, is parked next to a table laden with brochures and sign-up sheets. There, military recruiters and civilian contractors chat with teens and encourage them to take turns playing “America’s Army,” a simulation game proclaiming itself to be “The Only Game Based on the Experience of Real U.S. Army Soldiers.”
For the antiwar veterans, the buzz has begun the day before, when a handful of IVAW members are hanging around the hotel lobby on a break from the panel sessions at their third annual meeting. “There’s a job fair going on across the street,” someone says. “The army’s got a recruiting booth, I saw them unloading a truck, we gotta do something.” They bat ideas around until someone—probably Steve Mortillo or Jabbar Magruder—suggests a sound-off, and it clicks. The plan spreads with a quiet signaling among the veterans. Now, at the expo, they’re ready for action.