There are also a growing number of in-your-face deserters living both in Canada and underground in the United States. One such war resister, Carl Webb, went as far as to maintain a website while he was on the run. The military ended this embarrassing situation not by finding and prosecuting him, but by discharging him, albeit dishonorably.
The all-'volunteer' armed forces
Speculation about a Vietnam-style GI uprising is often tempered by the argument that during the Vietnam war-era, most soldiers were reluctant draftees. Today we have an all-volunteer military. The inference is that the military is now a career choice and that today’s fighters are gung-ho.
The counterargument is that we do in fact have a draft today. The skyrocketing cost of a college education and the cuts in student aid, coupled with the disappearance of good entry-level jobs in the U.S. economy, has, many argue, created an economic draft. As a result, the vast majority of Iraq and Afghanistan casualties come from poor and working-class backgrounds.
Former NBC News correspondent Peter Laufer, author of Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq, interviews military resisters such as AWOL soldier Ryan Johnson, who says he joined because he was poor, describing himself as "a guy who made a wrong decision who wants a forklift job." Another told Laufer that he couldn’t support his family on a McDonald’s salary. In effect, while we might not have an official military draft, the new Wal-Mart economy keeps the supply of cannon fodder coming.
Then there’s the "stopgap" draft. The military reserves the right to "call up," or draft, military veterans who have served their time and earned honorable discharges, but technically remain in what the Pentagon calls the Independent Ready Reserves. These draftees, people who served and chose to leave military life only to be put back into the military against their will, make up the angriest and most vocal group of today’s military resisters. That’s because they, like their Vietnam predecessors, are clearly draftees.
People who feel that today's volunteer military is less likely to engage in resistance and disobedience need to look back at another little-known fact about the Vietnam war. According to David Cortright, author of Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War, enlisted troops were more likely to resist fighting than were draftees. Many joined out of patriotism and were sorely disappointed with the reality on the ground in Vietnam. Others, like today's volunteers, were victims of an economic draft.
Also, during the Vietnam war, once soldiers served on one tour of duty, they were done. In Iraq and Afghanistan, almost one-third of the 1.4 million service members who were deployed to the war zones were deployed at least twice, and many considered their second rounds as a draft.
And finally, there's the National Guard, the "weekend warriors," many attracted by educational benefits, who signed up primarily to serve their communities during natural disasters. The National Guard was never a part of the Vietnam equation. It's where George W. Bush hid out during the Vietnam war, before finally going AWOL himself.
Today National Guard troops from all 50 states and Puerto Rico are dying in Afghanistan and Iraq. Others are having their lives upended. They didn’t sign up for this. In effect, they, like the stopgap veterans, are draftees. And for the most part they don’t support this war or this president.
Michael I. Niman's "WHO'LL STOP THE WAR? The Vietnam War didn't end until the soldiers stopped fighting it. Is that the way out of Iraq?" (Orlando Weekly). Gina's brother passed that on. A topic in the gina & krista round-robin (check your inboxes if you haven't already) is Kyle Snyder and AP has put together a worthless article entitled "AWOL U.S. Soldier Briefly Detained In Canada." (We're going with that link because Kevin noted it has a video clip of Mark Wilkerson.) The AP article? Why was Kyle "detained" (AP avoids "arrests")? AP can't tell you.
[Sara Newman's "U.S. military deserter arrested in Nelson:Former soldier seeking asylum in Canada had planned to get married on Saturday" (Globe & Mail) can.] Bad wording may account for why it appears James Fennerty is still Kyle's lawyer (he's not and has not been for some time). But proving that no one thought facts were too important -- "He returned to the military last November" begins one sentence.
Here's a paragraph that pops up in the snapshots fairly often in one form or another (Feb. 5th is what I've pulled it from):
In other news of war resistance, US war resister Kyle Snyder has returned to Canada. Gerry Condon (Soldier Say No!) reports that Kyle Snyder and Maleah Friesen "moved to the quaint little town of Nelson" where "they have joined another war resister couple, Ryan and Jenna Johnson from California. Now the four of them are urgently seeking funds so they can rent a 2-bedroom apartment together" -- donations can be sent to Kyle Snyder, 310 A Victoria St., Nelson, BC, V1L 4K4, Canada or online via Courage to Resist (where they are tax-deductable). Synder depolyed to Iraq and, returning to the US in April of 2005, made the decision to self-check out and went to Canada. Following war resister Darrell Anderson's return from Canada to the US, Snyder decided to return as well, his attorney worked out an agreement with the US military, so, on October 31st, he turned himself in at Fort Knox only to self-check out again when the military refused to live up to the agreement. Condon quotes Synder stating: "I didn't leave Canada in order to go to jail -- just the opposite. I returned to the U.S. because the Army said they would discharge me with no jail time. But the Army lied to me -- again."
Lawyers Against the War's statement on the events can be found here. Vic notes 24 Hours Vancouver's one paragraph summary:
U.S. war resister Kyle Snyder is fighting deportation after he was arrested in his Nelson home last Friday. He came to Canada in 2005 while on leave from the Iraq war, and applied for refugee status, claiming the war was "illegal and immoral."
Sabina notes Prensa Latina's "Another US War Resister Court Martialed:"
The court martial of US soldier and conscientious objector Agustin Aguayo, who refused to return to Iraq because of the atrocities he witnessed, will start at US Mannheim Base in Germany on Tuesday, military sources confirmed.
As Sabina notes, there's not a lot of press on Agustin Aguayo. So we'll note a different section of Gillian Russom's interview with Helga Aguayo, the wife of Agustin. From "They're taking a stand for all of us" (Socialist Worker via Dissident Voice):
GR: What have the effects of Agustín’s deployment and then his incarceration been on you and your family?
HA: It's been emotionally draining for me. I consider myself a pretty assertive and strong woman, and I've seen myself become so stressed out, to the point where I've almost felt broken.
What I experienced firsthand from the military -- the questioning, the searching of my home -- is intimidation on such a high level. You're not used to being interrogated and questioned by people in uniform when you're just a regular person. It was intense, to say the least.
But they haven't broken me, and they won't break me. I will stand by my husband.
We will continue to fight this. If anything, it's made us stronger. Our daughters have a resolve and have learned some valuable lessons on standing up for what you believe in. As hard as it's been, we've been given this amazing voice that I never imagined having, and that’s a positive thing.
When my husband enlisted, we were very ignorant. We had both graduated from college and had no idea about history or the military. Now, our eyes are wide open.
I just found out that Los Angeles is the number-one place for military recruitment in the country. That’s unacceptable to me -- the way they recruit and prey on the people who have the least.
I want to bring awareness to these issues. I've already started counter-recruitment, and I know Agustín is committed to that. We will never be quiet ever again.
To learn more about Agustín's case, how you can show your support, and to donate to his defense fund, go to AguayoDefense.org on the Web.
For those not interested in Mr. Crazy (a number of e-mails this morning), Billie notes "EXCLUSIVE: DEMOCRACY NOW! Confronts Wesley Clark Over His Bombing Of Civilians, Use Of Cluster Bombs And Depleted Uranium And The Bombing Of Serb Television" (Democracy Now!):
This is in sharp contrast to statements Clark made as a commentator on CNN before the bombing last year. In January, Clark told CNN, "He [Hussein] does have weapons of mass destruction." When asked, "And you could say that categorically?" Clark responded: "Absolutely."
In February, Clark told CNN, "The credibility of the United States is on the line, and Saddam Hussein has these weapons and so, you know, we're going to go ahead and do this and the rest of the world's got to get with us...The U.N. has got to come in and belly up to the bar on this. But the president of the United States has put his credibility on the line, too. And so this is the time that these nations around the world, and the United Nations, are going to have to look at this evidence and decide who they line up with."
And we'll also note, September 18, 2003, "General Wesley Clark: The Anti War Warrior?" (Democracy Now!):
STEVE RENDALL: Well, Amy, I had to study the transcripts we did. Some of the listeners may know that we did study of the first three weeks of the war and we looked at six nightly newscasts including CNN. As you know, Wesley Clark was a hired analyst on CNN. And when we started hearing him in this sort of furious speculation about whether or not he was going to run, especially in the last few weeks we kept hearing him cast as antiwar candidate. Well, I hadn't seen much of that.
If I could give you couple of sites here the Boston Globe described him as a 'former NATO commander who also happens to have opposed the war'.
Michael Wolf writing a in New York magazine said 'Face it, the only antiwar candidate America is ever going to elect is one who is a four-star general.' Which I guess means the only legitimate antiwar person is a four-star general.
Newsweek's Howard Fineman said, Clark 'is as anti-war as Dean'. Washington Post described Clark and Dean, 'both opposed to the war in Iraq, and both are generating excitement on the Internet with grassroots activists'.
Now a couple of months ago, still well after the war, in an interview with Paula Zahn on CNN, some people might have mistaken Clark as having opposed the war when he said 'from the beginning I have had my doubts about this mission, Paula, and I have shared them previously on CNN'.
But a review of his statements during, before and after shows that he never made any definitive statement against the war at any time. What criticisms he had were criticisms of the logistics, tactics, criticisms meant to increase the effectiveness of the fighting force there. What we were able to find I think.
[. . .]
STEVE RENDALL: Well, I'm here as sort of like the correcting-the-record guy, I'm not here to debate what somebody from what Wesley Clark's campaign. But to point out at a time, back in January, when millions of people leading up to one of the biggest demonstrations worldwide that's ever happened, Clark said on CNN 'I probably wouldn't have made the moves that got us to this point. But just assuming that we're here at this point, then I think that the President is going to have to move ahead, despite the fact that the allies have reservations.'
A little later, this was in early February, remember the huge demonstrations around the world, and I believe that was on February 12th, Clark said on CNN 'the credibility of the United States is on the line, and Saddam Hussein has the weapons, and so you know we're going to go ahead and do this, and the rest of the world has got to get with us. The U.N. has got to come in and belly up to the bar on this.'
These are hardly the words, when millions of people just week later would be in the streets demonstrating against the war, these are hardly the words of an antiwar candidate.
[. . . ]
ROBERT FISK: I have to say first of all about General Clark, that I was on the ground in Serbia in Kosovo when he ran the war there. He didn't seem to be very antiwar at the time. I had as one of my tasks to go out over and over again to look at the civilian casualties of that have war.
At one point NATO bombed the hospital in which Yugoslav soldiers, against the rules of war, were hiding along with the patients and almost all the patients were killed.
This was the war, remember, where the first attack was made on a radio station, the Serb Radio and Television building. Since then we've had attacks twice on the Al Jazeera television station. First of all in Afghanistan in 2001, then killing their chief correspondent, and again in Baghdad, this year.
This was a general who I remember bombed series of bridges, in one of which an aircraft bombed the train and after, he'd seen the train and had come to a stop, the pilot bombed the bridge again.
I saw one occasion when a plane came in, bombed a bridge over a river in Serbia proper, as we like to call it, and after about 12 minutes when rescuers arrived, a bridge too narrow even for tanks, bombed the rescuers.
I remember General Clark telling us that more than 100 Yugoslav tanks had been destroyed in the weeks of that war. And when the war came to an end, we discovered number of Yugoslav tanks destroyed were 11. 100 indeed.
Steve Rendall is with FAIR and one of the three hosts of CounterSpin whose latest weekly episode (begins airing today in some markets) features Salon's Mark Benjamin discussing Iraq veterans and Sam Husseini is the other guest for the half-hour program.
ADDED: Just heard the interview (I don't watch DN!, I catch it on KPFA) so . . .
Dum, dum, dum, honey what have you done?
Dum, dum, dum, it's the sound of a gun.
Dum, dum, dum, honey what have you done?
Dum, dum, dum, it's the sound
Wesley's got a gun
Wesley's got a gun
The whole world's come undone
He's saying he may run
What did he ever do?
What did he put Serbia through?
He says that he was just tested
Amnesty charged "war crime"
But he told Amy they had it comin' Now that Wesley's got a gun
He ain't never gonna be the same
Wesley's got a gun
Wesley strokes his gun
(Sing to the tune of Aerosmith's "Janie's Got A Gun.")
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