Left Hook GI News Briefing #1:
"All we are doing around here is getting blown up"
by Derek Seidman
What really contributed to ending the war in Vietnam (besides the resistance of the Vietnamese, which was probably the biggest factor), was the widespread antiwar activity and sentiment amongst GIs. Left Hook would like to start posting more material relating to the situation of the troops in Iraq and vets coming home. Besides publishing articles around this, we'll try to regularly gather various stories, information, and links circulating around the internet and pull them together into a "column", however messy. It's becoming increasingly important to get the word out and emphasize this stuff. Here is our first report.
Why did those 18 soldiers from the 343rd Quartermaster Company refuse orders to drive a fuel tank from the Tallil air base to north of Baghdad? According to some news sources, the soldiers told their families that their vehicles were without armor and in bad condition. They had complained about this, but their complaints were ignored. So, they refused to go on what seemed like a possible suicide mission. This wasn't about morality, but safety and survival.
Still, it's no secret that morale amongst many troops is low. According to an October 21 AP article on the refusal of orders: "The U.S. military has downplayed the incident, calling it an isolated incident not indicative of wider U.S. Army morale or maintenance problems." Considering the widespread stories about soldier shaving to buy their own gear on Ebay or having families members ship them badly-needed armor-among other stories of the horrible neglect shown towards many soldiers- this just looks like the military trying to cover its own ass, which is nothing unusual.
On Tuesday, October 19th, there was an AP article titled "Marines Vent Frustration in Western Iraq". 20 year old Cpl. Cody King, a son of a Vietnam Vet, had this to say: "We are losing guys left and right…All we are doing around here is getting blown up…After you lose so many Marines, you just keep fighting to stay alive…All we are doing is getting Americans killed and we cannot do much about it"
Understandably, the military is trying to play down sentiments like these. The troops are demoralized and pissed off. 18 soldiers refusing orders might give some others the wrong idea.
Some folks here at home are trying to get the word out. Check out
The activists who held up the banner posted this to bringthemhomenow.org:
"We had this banner up on I-5 here in Seattle today. We got probably a 10% positive response. Some of the responses were extremely positive, a number of fists in the air. We can't help but feel that some people will let their relatives in Iraq know they saw this banner today and that people here support the troop resistance. The really amazing part is that in over an hour and a half we only got flipped off 4 times. Usually we get a 2% negative response to our anti-war banners. Four negative responses out of thousands of cars doesn't even register on the scale."
During the Vietnam war there were some hugely important defense battle for antiwar GIs who came under attack from the brass. The Fort Hood 3 and the Fort Jackson 8, for instance, were cause celebres that were able galvanize GI resistance and win some important legal rights for soldiers. The GI resistance was truly able fuse with the broader antiwar movement. The ingredients for something similar today seem to be increasingly present, especially if progressive forces in the US can manage to get their heads out of John Kerry's ass and turn towards actually organizing with antiwar GIs to get the troops out of Iraq.
People should check out the new "Operation Truth" website (http://www.optruth.org). These folks are the ones who put out that commercial with the soldier Robert Acosta, whose right hand was blown off when his Humvee got hit with a grenade near Baghdad International Airport. Whatever the politics are of this outfit, getting this information and these images out to as many people as possible is objectively a good thing.
The website has a Cpl Tyson Johnson telling his story. He's a 22 year old who was severely injured in a mortar attack on the Abu Ghraib prison. He is now 100 percent disabled.
Picture He tells his story:
"Most of my friends, they were losing it out there. They would do anything to get out of there, do anything. I had one of my guys, he used to tell me -- my wife just had my son, I can't wait to get home and see him. And, you know, he died out there. He sure did and I have to think about that everyday.
"Well, uh, shrapnel down the back, shrapnel that came in and hit my head, punctured my lungs. I broke both of my arms. I lost a kidney. My intestines was messed up. They took an artery out of my left leg and put it into this right arm. They pretty much took my life. Pretty much.
"I got a bonus in the National Guards for joining the Army. Now I've got to pay the bonus back and it's $2999. If I would have continued and finished my contract I wouldn't have to pay it back. The Guard wants it back. It's on my credit that I owe them that. I'm burning on the inside. I'm burning."
"My high school buddies, well two of them just got found in a ditch around there, dead, dead. And the rest of them in jail, cracked out. For real. That's why after high school, I left. I was gone because I knew where my life was headed. Joined the Army. And here I am back here. I would love to go away. I would love to go away. I think that would be better. Because I'm driving in my car, I'm doing nothing. I don't know where it's going to end up.
(read it in full at: this link.)
As things draw on in Iraq, stories like this are bound to leak out more, and their accumulation over months will have a significant effect. I'll end off with an excerpt from Stan Goff's book, "Full Spectrum Disorder". One of the best chapters in the book is called "The Left and the Military", and that's where these quotes are from. Goff has some great, useful insights, and everyone should check out his writing for their own good:
"Every successful revolution requires either the neutralization or active participation of military people. It's really time we factor that into our thinking. It's time we thought about organizing within the military. And organizing is not helping out a handful of conscientious objectors (though that is important) or dropping into Fayetteville with antiwar petitions for GIs to sign. Organizing is getting to know them, listening to them, building relationships with them, and standing alongside them when they confront their own institution.
"My vision is that the American armed forces, when they are harshly taught, as the current conjuncture will teach them, will unite with the people, that sections of it will break away and become the defenders of their families, and thereby a liberatory force. As America's political class becomes ever more lawless, ever more compelled to scrap bourgeois democracy and slouch toward fascism, we shall need them, and they shall need us." (151)
Also- Check out these two links.
Here's Amy Goodman's interview with Army National Guard 1st Lt. Paul Rieckhoff. He discusses the neglect that the military has shown GIs:
The official website of
Veterans Against the Iraq War
Derek Seidman, 24, is a co-editor of Left Hook. He lives in Providence, RI, and can be reached at email@example.com.