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The Jackson 17:
Reflections on a Mutiny
First published in CounterPunch
- by Jack Random
When a platoon of soldiers out of Jackson, Mississippi, the 343rd Quartermaster Company, refused to carry out an order to transport contaminated fuel along a dangerous corridor north of Baghdad, it was not an act of courage or conscientious objection. It was an act military prudence in keeping with every soldier's first obligation to his fellows and himself: survival.
As much as we would like to embrace their cause, we can only offer our sympathy and support. This act of defiance does nothing to indict the war; it indicts the incompetence of those charged with carrying it out. It does instruct us to ask: Why are we in Iraq? It instructs us to ask: Where has all the money gone if not to protect the troops? We have spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $130 billion and committed $70 billion more, yet our soldiers remain ill-equipped and we are further from victory now than we were on the day of Shock and Awe.
Realistically, what is victory in Iraq? What does it look like? What does it smell like? If we ram through a sham of an election (as we did in Afghanistan), if we crown a CIA strongman and convene a parliament without authority, will it be settled then? If we establish permanent military bases from Mosul to Basra, will the Arab world ever accept such an outcome?
Truth to power: As long as the rivers run and the skies are blue-gray, there can be no victory in Iraq. It will never happen neither in our lifetimes nor in the life spans of our children and grandchildren. A commitment to victory in Iraq is a promise of never ending war. If the president wishes to make a promise he can keep, let him speak no more of an all volunteer army or the politics of fear; let him deliver a promise of eternal war, a war for all ages, and a trail of destruction unprecedented in world history.
As the president babbles on about staying the course and fighting terrorists abroad so that we do not have to fight them here, we should reflect that only Israel and America could have transformed Islamic fundamentalist terrorists into freedom fighters just as we did with the same terrorists in Afghanistan when they opposed the Soviet invaders. As the president panders to voters in Columbus, Ohio, and Pensacola, Florida, he would do well to reflect that the only city that matters in this election is the ancient city of Babylon.
The Jackson 17 has handed Senator Kerry the issue he wanted: the war is poorly planned and poorly administered. Those of us who have opposed the war since its inception must go a step further. We must call on all foreign fighters in that war torn land to lay down their arms as a matter of conscience. This is a war that should never have been launched for a cause that is unworthy of dying and killing. If we crush the resistance, it will only be born again. If we level the land with a torrent of bombs, as we did in Viet Nam, everyone loses.
If we would have an end to the rumors of military conscription, let us assert the right of every individual to conscientiously object. If we would have an end to the very concept of war as the ultimate arbiter of international conflict, the solution must begin with individual choice. There will always be sufficient volunteers to fight in the defense of our nation. The combined volunteer forces of all nations may be called upon to stop genocide or fight back fascist imperialism. Even today, a volunteer army would be wholly adequate to fight the real war on terrorism. The only wars that require conscripts and mercenaries are those of the immoral, illegal and unjustified kind.
Our troops in Iraq by-and-large did not sign on to this duty. None should be held a moment longer than their initial commitments. The "back door draft" policies of the military are nothing more than an attempt to compensate for inadequate forces. That there are so few volunteers for this debacle should inform us all as to the morality of the war. That being the case, every soldier must confront a classic moral dilemma: whether to refuse a sworn duty or cooperate in an immoral endeavor. For those who choose, as a matter of conscience, to refuse, it becomes our duty to aid and comfort them.
Jack Random is the author of the Jazzman Chroincles, the War Chronicles (Crow Dog Press) And Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press). His commentaries have been posted widely. See JackRandom.com.