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News :: Globalization
Trouble in the Ranks
19 Mar 2005
<
<p>Private Jeremiah Adler wrote home on his sixth day in Army boot
camp:</p>

<blockquote>
<p>"’I am so fucked up right now... I feel that if I
stay here much longer I am not going to be the same person anymore.
I have to GO. Please help... Every minute you sit at home I am
stuck in a shithole, stripped of self-respect, pride, will, hope,
love, faith, worth, everything. Everything I have ever held dear
has been taken away. This fucks with your head... This makes you
believe you ARE worthless shit. Please help. By the time you get
this, things will be worse.’"</p>
</blockquote>

<p>Shortly after writing this, his unit was scheduled to ship out,
and Jeremiah went AWOL (absent without leave).</p>
<h2>Growing Resistance Among GIs and Families</h2>

<p id="byline">by Phillip Watts</p>

<p id="issueinfo"><cite>Revolutionary Worker #1271</cite>, March 20,
2005, posted at rwor.org</p>

<p>Private Jeremiah Adler wrote home on his sixth day in Army boot
camp:</p>

<blockquote>
<p>"’I am so fucked up right now... I feel that if I
stay here much longer I am not going to be the same person anymore.
I have to GO. Please help... Every minute you sit at home I am
stuck in a shithole, stripped of self-respect, pride, will, hope,
love, faith, worth, everything. Everything I have ever held dear
has been taken away. This fucks with your head... This makes you
believe you ARE worthless shit. Please help. By the time you get
this, things will be worse.’"</p>
</blockquote>

<p>Shortly after writing this, his unit was scheduled to ship out,
and Jeremiah went AWOL (absent without leave).</p>

<p>There is a lot of that going on. According to <em>CBS News</em>
reports, the Pentagon officially says that 5,500 troops have deserted
since the start of the war. Some have fled to Canada. Others just
left on leave and didn’t come back. Many of them are Army
reservists who thought of themselves as "weekend warriors"
and have now found themselves repeating tours of duty in the
occupation zones, with no end in sight.</p>

<p>At the same time, the Army and Marines are having a harder and
harder time filling the ranks of their volunteer military. The
war-planners want to expand their military by 30,000, and their Army
recruiters are rapidly falling "behind schedule." One
article in the Associated Press (March 8) pointed out that young
Black men and women are now less willing to join.</p>

<p>An August 2004 study for the Army wrote: "More African
Americans identify having to fight for a cause they don’t
support as a barrier to military service." The study added that
attitudes toward the army had "grown more negative" among
all groups of American youth.</p>

<p>The occupation of Iraq continues without end. The casualties are
mounting. Many people question why the invasion of Iraq was launched
in the first place, and many understand that the government lied
about its motives for going in.</p>

<p style="text-align: center">*****</p>

<p>I was preparing to go to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to cover the
protests there marking the second anniversary of the huge
demonstrations against the U.S. war on Iraq. And I was suddenly
reminded of how I first learned about the resistance of soldiers
during the Vietnam War.</p>

<p>I was fortunate to have a progressive teacher in a suburban
Chicago-area high school who showed the movie <em>Only The
Beginning</em>. This is a film about GI’s who came back from
Vietnam radically transformed by their experience. To this day, I
know that my development as a revolutionary communist was greatly
impacted by a scene in that documentary.</p>

<p>The film, made in the ’70s, shows a long line of GI’s
throwing their purple hearts and other medals at the steps of the
Congress. What struck me was one vet who stepped up to a microphone
and said, "If I ever have to fight again it will be to take
these steps." It sent chills down my spine, you know, in a good
way.</p>

<p>It led me to want to understand more deeply how someone could go
into the military looking at the world one way- -and come out seeing
the system that military enforces and defends as the enemy.</p>

<p>It is a trip to think about how different the world is now than it
was in the 1960s and ’70s. One could write whole books on it,
I’m sure. On the one hand, the rulers of the U.S. empire have
always told their armed forces that each war was about bringing
"democracy" to someone and about securing the "free
world" from threats.</p>

<p>But, at the same time, there are real differences in the war plans
and the mentality of this post-9/11 world. These rulers have designs
to recast the world under U.S. domination—focusing most
intensely, right now, on the strategic and oil-rich Middle East.</p>

<p>And it stands out that this global crusade is described and
promoted in openly messianic ways. Many representatives and top
generals of the U.S. ruling class openly describe this "war on
terror" as a holy war between godly forces and evil (even
demonic) enemies. The president himself, George W., constantly talks
about getting "god’s guidance" in a global struggle
against "evil doers." This talk of "god’s
will," "crusades," and "getting the bad
guys" should not be mistaken for sheer lunacy. It is a madness
with method—which is to appeal to and <em>deceive</em>
fundamentalist religious people who believe in <em>revealed</em>
truth.</p>

<p>Millions of people who see so clearly through the blatant lies
that have justified the war on Iraq wonder how anyone could still
believe that there are weapons of mass destruction there. But when
George W. says "trust me," the hidden meaning for some
people is that this man has god’s ear, and what he says is
truth "revealed by god."</p>

<p>All this connects closely with intense and well-developed plans
for the U.S. military.</p>

<p>Bob Avakian has pointed out that "Within the armed forces
there has been, for some time now, a development and cultivation of a
situation in which the outlook of the fundamentalist reactionaries
occupies a prominent place, including among higher level
officers." The U.S. officer corps has become increasingly
characterized by an aggressively conservative political
"partisanship." And, within that, extreme hard-core
Christian fascist and theocratic networks have had an increasing
influence among officers and especially within the Pentagon’s
elite commando units.</p>

<p>Overall, the international policy decisions of the Bush regime are
being shaped by more secular "neocons," but the Christian
fascists have their own growing influence within the
government—and they have their own agenda for turning this
country into a theocracy. And it is extremely significant and
dangerous that such forces have connections and followers in
strategic parts of the military. And for these extreme hard-core
military networks, all the rhetoric about a "global
crusade" is taken quite literally—they see the U.S.
attacks on other countries as a divine war against evil. And this
dovetails with their fascistic belief that U.S. society itself must
be similarly purged of satanic and disloyal forces.</p>

<p>And this makes it all the more significant and potentially
important that the war in Iraq has stimulated the growth of something
quite different inside the military as well — disillusionment,
questioning, rising desertion, discontent and the potential for wider
and more politically conscious resistance.</p>

<p>If you look at these developments in the <em>context</em> of the
rise of extreme and rightwing forces — you can see how
revealing it is that Michael Moore’s irreverent Bush-bashing
movie <em>Fahrenheit 9/11</em> was such a powerful underground hit
within the military—with bootleg DVDs passing hand-to-hand, and
with movie theaters sold out in Southern military towns.</p>

<p>If there is one thing that <em>can</em> be learned from the 1960s,
it is that powerful resistance among the GIs themselves can
profoundly undermine the plans of the empire-builders, and can even
emerge as a factor when the government attempts to use its military
against people inside the U.S.</p>

<p>There are the beginnings of a real movement of resistance among
sections of GI’s and their families. Some of the more organized
forces are already playing a role within the current anti-war
movement overall.</p>

<p>And while people within this movement hold a wide range of
political views, there is a common theme among them of stopping the
war in Iraq and bringing the U.S. troops home.</p>

<p>I have gathered some of the stories of the people involved in this
new and growing resistance. In some cases, I drew from articles and
interviews they have written in the press. In other cases, I was able
to talk to them directly on behalf of the <em>Revolutionary
Worker</em> newspaper. And, at the same time, it is obvious that
there is much more to learn about what is going on—active duty
soldiers and their families face heavy threats and retaliation from
the military. And so much of what is going on remains unspoken and
unreported.</p>

<h2>A Building Resistance Within the Military</h2>

<p>Jeffery House, an attorney, represents at least five GI’s
who have fled to Canada — including Jeremy Heinz and Darrel
Anderson. In an online interview, he described how he speaks to at
least 12 other AWOL GI’s in Canada every week. Jeremy Heinz was
one of the first cases of a recruit who filed as a
"conscientious objector" prior to going to Canada. This
case could set a precedent on how Canada reacts to U.S. GI’s
going there for refuge.</p>

<p>Another case Jeffery House spoke about in the same interview was
that of Darrel Anderson. Anderson refused orders to fire on a car
full of Iraqi civilians. Three days later he was wounded by a
road-side bomb and ended up receiving a purple heart. When Anderson
was home on leave in Lexington, Kentucky and scheduled to go back to
Iraq, he escaped to Canada.</p>

<p>A major story by Kathy Dobie in the March 1 issue of
<em>Harpers</em> magazine follows different GI’s who have fled
the military, including right after basic training. Dobie points out
that the number of calls to GI Rights Hotline has "almost
doubled from 17,000 in 2001 to 33,000 in the last year."</p>

<p>I called the GI Rights Hotline myself and spoke to a friendly guy
named Steve. He informed me that around 30 percent of the calls they
get were from GI’s considering going AWOL. Steve also said many
of the calls they get are from GI’s still in boot camp. While
he couldn’t give a percentage, he said that when folks get to
boot camp it is often traumatizing because of how oppressive it is
and because it is wholly different than what had been promised by
recruiters.</p>

<p>The <em>Harpers</em> article follows Jeremiah Adler, who decided
to go AWOL before being shipped off to Iraq. Dobie quotes from his
letters home during the first few days of boot camp: "
’I’m horrified by some of the things that they talk
about. If you were in the civilian world and openly talked about
killing people you would be an outcast, but here people openly talk
about it, like it’s going to be fun.’ In his second
letter, written while he was doing guard duty, he tells his parents
how sad the barracks are at night. ’You can hear people trying
to make sure no one hears them cry under their covers.’</p>

<p>"In his last letter home, written on his sixth day,
Jeremiah’s handwriting disintegrates; ’HELP ME’ is
scrawled across one page. He was due to ship to basic training in the
morning. He had decided to refuse. ’I’ve heard that they
try to intimidate you, ganging up on you, threatening you. I heard
that they will throw your bags on the bus, and almost force you on.
See what I am up against? I have nothing on my side... I am so fucked
up right now... I feel that if I stay here much longer I am not going
to be the same person anymore. I have to GO. Please help.’
"</p>

<p>Jeremiah escaped with another new recruit before being shipped off
to Iraq.</p>

<h2>Soldiers’ Stories</h2>

<p>Mike Hoffman is the co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Mike has been part of a movement of soldiers and their families that
has become increasingly visible, outspoken and active against the war
in Iraq.</p>

<p>I was able to catch up with Mike and talk with him about his own
process of transformation. Mike had joined the Marines before
September 11, but for him the questions started around that time.</p>

<p>He told me, "When the days of September 11 happened,
everything in the world turned upside down for those in the U.S. and
especially those in the military. You know a couple of months before
September 11, just by pure chance I had picked up some books by Noam
Chomsky and started reading his works, all about U.S. foreign policy.
There was a big upheaval after September 11. While people were saying
let’s go kill whoever did it, I was one of the few people who
was asking ’Well, why did it happen?’"</p>

<p>Discussions started with Mike and a small group of friends in the
Marines about the question of going into Iraq. "It was
everything from Iraq, the real reasons for going in there, and a lot
of history, a lot of griping and talking about the history behind it.
A lot of this happened in the six or seven months prior to going to
Iraq."</p>

<p>Mike was part of the initial U.S. invasion into Iraq. The whole
time he was filled with questions. He told me that the U.S. invasion
into Iraq was fast paced and that deeper discussions between him and
his small group of friends got put on hold. Over the course of the
invasion there did develop a consensus among Mike and his friends
that what the U.S. was doing was wrong, what they were a part of was
wrong. Mike felt stuck and decided to do what he had to do to get
home alive.</p>

<p>Mike says that there wasn’t a particular event that
sharpened things up for him. He talked about how deeply he was
affected by what was happening to the Iraqi people. "That is one
of the main things that affects a lot of us—to realize what we
have done to the people of Iraq. And even though we might not have
direct relationships with them, a lot of this is about realizing that
we have done horrible things to the people of Iraq and that we are
responsible for so much of the destruction of their country. Ending
this war is the first step to helping them get back on their
feet."</p>

<p>Mike served in Iraq for two and a half months. After coming back,
the whole experience weighed heavy on his mind. He explained, "I
was against the war before I went over there, and when I came back
very unhappy about what had happened. I didn’t feel good about
partaking in it as everyone was expecting of me. And I felt very lost
in a certain respect. I went around without any place to put these
feelings until I by chance was introduced to Veterans for Peace. And
they gave me a direction and made me feel welcome—let me know I
was not the first person to go to war and feel like this. Other
people who had been in situations like mine had been through the same
thing. It was really important for me."</p>

<p>I asked Mike what is the process that GI’s go through that
causes them to question their mission. He explained it this way:
"Getting shot at for certain people can be a very radicalizing
experience. When your life is put on the line for something and you
don’t understand the reason or are dead set against it, it can
have a huge effect for your life and your outlook on things. So
really, people come home with a lot of questions and generally
don’t like the answers they get. It makes them open to ask
questions of why things are happening. Maybe the most obvious one is,
Bush talks about the ’terrorists,’ that they hate us
because we have freedom. Then you come back and realize that is not
really the reason. They hate us because we do things like invade
Iraq. And that really gets people to think about things in a
different light."</p>

<p>Mike continued, "A lot of the guys didn’t come out of
Iraq talking about American empire. They looked around and saw that
they were given one bill of goods going into Iraq about what their
mission is—what they are doing, what the military is doing
overall. Then they go into Iraq and all this falls apart in front of
them. They come home just questioning or dead set against this one
thing. By seeing what is going on there in Iraq, it gives you the
tools and the initiative to realize everything else that is going on
around them."</p>

<p style="text-align: center">*****</p>

<p>Sgt. Kevin Benderman, 40 years old, is a 10-year veteran of the
Army. He is currently being court-martialed for refusing to return to
Iraq. He has been charged with desertion for refusing to deploy with
his unit, and he faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.</p>

<p>During a 15-month leave, Benderman had time to reflect on what he
saw during his first tour in Iraq in 2003. After refusing to return
he told the Associated Press, "Some people may be born a
conscientious objector, but sometimes people realize through certain
events in their lives that the path they’re on is the wrong
one."</p>

<p>Benderman said, "The idea was: Do I really want to stay in an
organization where the sole purpose is to kill?’"</p>

<p>Kevin and his wife have written a number of statements relating to
his decision not to return. Particularly vivid and disturbing are his
descriptions of a young 10-year-old girl he saw while his convoy was
traveling through Iraq: "Her arm was burned, third-degree burns,
just black. And she was standing there with her mother begging for
help." The convoy didn’t stop. He also describes being
haunted by images of wild dogs eating carcasses in mass graves. May
11 has been set for the date of his court martial.</p>

<p style="text-align: center">*****</p>

<p>Camilo Mejia was released last month after serving nine months in
prison for refusing to return to Iraq. Camilo was one of the first
GI’s who publicly spoke out against what he had seen the U.S.
military doing in Iraq, including torture of prisoners and murder of
innocent civilians. During his imprisonment Camilo received a
Courageous Resisters Award from Refuse and Resist! In a statement
written for that occasion Camilo said, "Many have called me a
hero. I believe I can be found somewhere in the middle. To those who
have called me a hero, I say I don’t believe in heroes but I
believe that ordinary people can do extraordinary things."</p>

<p>He also said in the same statement, "I accept this award on
behalf of those who are still quiet, those who continue to betray
their conscience, those who are not calling evil more clearly by its
name, those of us who are still not doing enough to refuse and
resist. I accept this award knowing in my heart that I don’t
deserve it. I accept this award as a promise that I will live to earn
it. I will live to fulfill my duty to the people. I will live to
speak for those who know evil but are afraid to call it by its name.
I accept this award with a promise that I will live my life striving
to deserve it. I will live my life to refuse and resist."</p>

<p style="text-align: center">*****</p>

<p>Camilo has served as inspiration to many other GI’s who
refuse return or go in the first place to Iraq. This includes people
like Petty Officer Third Class Pablo Pedres, who on December 6, 2004,
reported to the 32nd Naval Station in San Diego wearing civilian
clothes and a T-shirt that read: "Like a cabinet member, I
resign."</p>

<p>He refused to ship out for the Persian Gulf on board the USS
Bonhomme. Pablo’s action was one of the few public displays of
protest by U.S. troops prior to being shipped off to Iraq. He told
the press, "I just want people to know how many Americans feel
about the war. It’s not just a few crazy liberals trying to get
the attention of the media."</p>

<p>The Navy officers on hand tried to persuade him to board the ship
and cease the protest, but Pablo maintained his position and did not
board the ship. He has since been a very outspoken critic of the U.S.
occupation of Iraq.</p>

<p>When asked about the consequences of his actions Pedro said,
"I’d rather do military prison time than six months of
dirty work for a war that I and many others do not support."</p>

<h2>Broader Resistance Developing Inside</h2>

<p>While the high number of AWOL’s is an indication of
questions that are being raised about the war in Iraq, there are
other kinds of resistance taking place among troops that are still
serving.</p>

<p>Mike Hoffman highlighted some significant aspects of this
resistance to me. He said he’s heard that "there are small
units that when sent off on patrol, instead of doing an actual patrol
they all just jump in the Humvee and they just cruise through town as
fast as possible without getting into a wreck and come back and say
’Yeah we went on patrol.’ They don’t want to do a
full patrol because they don’t want to risk their
lives."</p>

<p>"You see a lot of individual acts of resistance,"
Hoffman told me. "Like there’s one guy who is in the Army
whose mom is in MFSO [Military Families Speak Out]. He is in Iraq
right now and he refuses to wear any of his badges—calls them
his ’man scout’ badges and calls his entire chain of
command by their first name. There are individual acts like
that."</p>

<p style="text-align: center">*****</p>

<p>What is developing among sections of U.S. troops and family
members is an extremely significant part of the broader anti-war
movement. There is a highly important unraveling process going on
now—where some people go from loyalty betrayed to a deeper
grasp of the ambitions and underpinnings of U.S. empire. In the days
and months ahead, many more will find themselves questioning what it
is they are really fighting for and who that serves. And it is
important that they also get a chance to glimpse a revolutionary
future and a cause that is really worth fighting for.</p>

<div class="footer">
<hr noshade="noshade" size="1" class="footer" />
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary
Worker Online<br />
<a href="http://rwor.org";>http://rwor.org<;/a><br />
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654<br />
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
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