Sunday, July 29, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

"Army of None: Strategies to Counter Military Recruitment, End War, and Build a Better World," (Seven Stories Press, August 2007) by Aimee Allison and David Solnit, is a manual for opponents of the Iraq war
"Army of None" is a manual for opponents of the Iraq war who want to cut off its supply of cannon fodder. It presents how-to guides, hot tips and successful examples of counterrecruitment strategies in schools and communities around the US. It argues that such actions can be a critical part of ending the war by depriving the military of soldiers to fight it. It presents this strategy as part of a more general "people power" approach to combating war and transforming society, based on the withdrawal of popular compliance with authority.
The authors argue that, without enough soldiers, it is impossible to sustain a large, long-term occupation in a country like Iraq.
(1) Anyone who doubts this argument should read the recent speech by Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) - the speech that heralded the stampede of Republican politicians away from support of Bush's Iraq policy. Along with the intractable political situation in Iraq and the loss of support for the war by the American people, Lugar listed a third factor that makes current policy untenable: "The fatigue of our military." Indeed, the window for employing American troops "without damaging our military strength or our ability to respond to other national security priorities," according to Lugar, "is closing."
Lugar confirms the assertion by "Army of None" that the unwillingness of young people to join the military is creating intense pressure to end the war. According to Lugar, the war has worn down the American military:
"Iraq is taking a toll on recruitment and readiness. In April, the Defense Department announced it would lengthen tours of duty for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan from 12 to 15 months. Many soldiers are now on their way to a third combat tour.... Instead of resting and training for three to 12 months, brigades coming out of the field must now be ready almost immediately for redeployment."
The military is meeting its quotas by recruiting those whom they believe are not good military material:
"Statistics point to significant declines in the percentage of recruits who have high school diplomas and who score above average on the Army's aptitude test. Meanwhile, the Army has dramatically increased the use of waivers for recruits who have committed felonies, and it has relaxed weight and age standards."
Anti-war and anti-military attitudes among young people are central to the deepening erosion of national military might:
"Filling expanding ranks will be increasingly difficult given trends in attitudes toward military service. This has been measured by the Joint Advertising Market Research and Studies Program, which produced a "Propensity Update" last September after extensive research. The study found that only one in 10 youths has a propensity to serve - the lowest percentage in the history of such surveys. Sixty-one percent of youth respondents report that they will "definitely not serve." This represents a seven percent increase in less than a year. These numbers are directly attributable to policies in Iraq."
Lugar's warning was underlined a few days later when the Army indicated that it had missed its recruiting goals this June for the second straight month.
The military's current "manpower" crisis is a direct result of the lessons that Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their colleagues took from the Vietnam War. They concluded (based in part on social science research) that the American people would not turn against the war as long as there was no draft and casualties remained relatively low. They therefore initiated a war without a draft; insisted on troop levels their own generals regarded as ludicrously low for the proposed mission; hired "contract" mercenaries whose numbers in Iraq now exceed those of combat soldiers
(4); and kept sending the same small group of soldiers back over and over again with barely a break between deployments.

The above, noted by Zach, is from Jeremy Brecher's "An Army of None" (Truthout). Brecher has covered Ehren Watada in "online exclusives" that were far better than most of what a rag elected to print. I haven't read the book. I'm honestly not sure I'm interested. "They therefore initiated a war without a draft"? They couldn't have brought back the draft if they wanted to.

I don't know if that's the book or Brecher but it is a revision of how the illegal war was sold. The 9/11 attacks took place, Bully Boy told people to shop. There was never any sacrifice called for (and remember, as Richard Clarke has repeatedly pointed out, the administration tried to tie 9/11 to Iraq immediately). Bully Boy's 2002 "roll out" wouldn't have worked with a draft. The whole myth was cakewalk. That's why he did claim "Mission Accomplished" ("major combat operations have ended") before the illegal war had reached the two month point (count it up, it's not even 60 days). There was never an option of reviving the draft. It didn't fit in with their plan or the way they sold the illegal war or how it was (falsely) connected to 9/11 from the beginning.

I don't know where we latch onto the idea that social science research is why they didn't move for a draft. An argument can easily be made that Dick Cheney repeatedly sitting Vietnam out taught him that others will always fight. An argument can be made that Dick Cheney would never call for a draft because he was never subjected to one. I'm not really sure how we peer into Dick Cheney's mind or even operate under the impression that it's possible for him to learn anything from social research or life experiences.

I'm really getting tired of this draft canard being tossed out. The draft doesn't exist. It's unpopular and it will be for further years. Those who lived through Vietnam remember the fight against the draft. (Reinstating the draft, FYI, would also mean lowering the drink age because you can't force someone to risk their life at 18 and yet tell them they aren't old enough to drink. That's exactly how the voting age got lowered.) Vietnam made the draft highly unpopular and you get idiots (including a lot of Democrats) calling for "national service" from time to time (both Clintons are big on it, others are as well) in what really sounds like Nazi Youth Programs. A lot of the voting age is going to have to die off before the US government can sell a draft again. And the only way Selective Service registration was reinstated was under a 'friend' (Jimmy Carter, just like the draft was pushed by a 'friend' Charlie Rangel). Not only that but one of Ronald Reagan's rallying cries in his 1980 run was that he would repeal the registration with Selective Service. Of course he didn't. But he did run in part on that.

The draft canard is a nice and easy excuse for the fact that the left has been so ineffective in fighting this illegal war. The people have been there. The grassroots have done everything asked of them and more. The leaders are the ones who have disappointed. They are disappointing now.

It's why new groups have sprouted up and why they show more determination and fortitude than what's passed for the leaders prior. I give the peace movement credit for raising public awareness. But if we're going to parcel out blame, the draft is not the issue. The draft has never prevented anything because most young people don't even know from a draft. They didn't live under or through that period. It's an easy out used to justify a lot of crap by the peace movement.

Now my negative opinion is probably, in part, based on last week's e-mail when a regional leader of a peace organization took it upon herself to explain to me how it was "nitpicking" to disagree with a centrist who attacks (publicly) war resisters. But the reality is the peace movement (and Naomi Klein warned against this when it was happening) sold out the movement in 2004. They became a get out the vote campaign and not for a George McGovern type calling for an end to the illegal war but for John Kerry calling for 'smarter' war.

And we're seeing the same sort of crap today with our 'leaders' who give cover to Barack Obama who is correct that he opposed the illegal war before it started but that's not the full story. In 2004, he opposed withdrawal. America must stay was his position and when you can find alleged leaders who will stop covering for him and start telling the truth, then you might be able to find a real peace movement.

I'm not talking about anyone's personal actions in the peace movement. I voted for John Kerry in the primary and in the 2004 election. Who someone personally supported is their own business. But when you turn over a peace movement to a political candidate's campaign, you destroy the movement. And we're starting to see that happen again.

(For any wondering I know Kerry and Heinz-Kerry and believed -- probably falsely -- that private statements and past history would take over after a win. That was probably very foolish of me. However, I did not use my time on campuses to plug John Kerry. I would run down the basics of the candidates if asked and I would not indicate who I favored. I started donating to the Kerry campaign in early 2003. I never pushed him on campuses.)

New groups have sprung up and they are truly independent. But they are the emerging groups. Too many hitched their wagon to the Democratic Party and refused to press on the Iraq issue.

What are we doing in the peace movement? We're going to DC for yet another rally? What are we hoping with that? We know what the press coverage will be. Jane Fonda spoke at the last big rally and got national attention the likes of which the movement hadn't gotten from the mainstream media before and the result was carping (even in an article in Extra!). So exactly what do you think will be accomplished by another DC rally?

We're all going to mill around listening to speeches and then do a march? People are tired of it. College students are sick of it. I hear repeatedly, "I'll be there but I really don't see the point." That's not one campus, that campuses across the country. Is that what a peace movement is? A booking agency for one national event. (An event that very honestly is getting tired with the same format.)

Where is the life in the enshrined groups? It's getting old and there is DC fatigue among students. (I imagine there's fatigue among many -- regardless of age -- who have been showing up for these events.) Is there no imagination or inspiration in the movement?

That's why the new groups have sprung up. They see the same-old-same-old as an indication that the peace movement leaders are as timid as the Democratic leadership. There is a huge distaste for the "Go to DC and lobby." Students repeatedly speak that they've seen more pressure applied locally with the occupation of local offices.

I give the peace movement credit for raising awareness but that's really not the issue today and hasn't been for some time. And I'm not really seeing any leadership. Six months ago, I was still defending it on campuses but I don't even bother anymore because the students' stories and examples have convinced me. The big question is, "What's the point of another DC weekend rally and why can't anyone explain it to me?" [September 15th is the Saturday. I'm not reading over this but if I said Sept. 12 anywhere in this, it is September 15th. I just want to post this before I go back and start pulling lines "in fairness."]

The weekend rally was chosen originally because it was thought to be easier for many (who are assumed to work Monday through Friday or have children in school Monday through Friday) to
attend if it was on a Weekend (when Congress isn't in session). If the point is to show our numbers and to get awareness, then why the carping of Fonda who, as a result of speaking, got outlets to cover the last big rally more than they had the others. When approximately 70% of Americans are against the illegal war why are we acting from a defensive posture of "We must show that we exist"? We do exist. We are the majority now. Why are we still unable to move to another level?

The new groups have. They've called for local action, they've gone through the country speaking. They've taken the illegal war out of the Beltway to Americans. So the idea that it's time to a do a same-old-same-old protest again in September is not flying with students. New groups like Iraq Veterans Against the War, World Can't Wait, SDS, Grassroots of America,
Military Families Speak Out and Cindy Sheehan's Camp Casey Peace Institute/Gold Star Families are inspiring personal action. But for students who are against the illegal war and working on this issue, the old guard (and yes, the illegal war has gone on long enough to now have an "old guard") really isn't moving forward. There is also concern that a great deal of the DC activity doesn't qualify as activism (the ongoing DC activity) but as lobbying and that their presence is needed to increase the lobbying efforts or presence.

Now when a Tina Richards openly challenges David Obey or when Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Cindy Sheehan and others take part in civil disobedience, that's one thing. But students feel there is far too much "making nice" in DC. As a student in North Carolina pointed out (to loud applause from her peers) this month, there seems to be a lot "niceness" and a lot of "support" for politicians and not enough calling out of the illegal war.

New groups are coming along (and the above list is not a complete listing) and they are doing that because people do not feel the leadership has been there. In 2003, 2004 and 2005, when I spoke on campus, I would hear students saying they were part of this national group or that national group. They don't do that now. They're also not looking for leaders, they are becoming their own leaders and they are addressing activism in their own areas.

The peace movement can hide behind the lie of there is no draft but that's not reality. We've addressed this before and noted that (then as now) the peace movement has always included large numbers of women (and they were never in fear of the draft) and we've noted that it's real hard to name any student leader from the 'sixties' who was actually drafted.

It's a pretty little lie, it's just not reality. Outrage over that illegal war built and built. And anyone who can remember those days (Stanley Aronowitz is one) can tell you the reality is that the peace movement leadership in place during the early part of the 'sixties' was timid and weak and was eventually replaced. Then, as now, too many either took or appeared to take their orders from the Democratic Party. Marches were scoffed at and scratched because it might hurt the Democratic Party. That's why new groups and new leaders emerged and that's what's happening today.

Students who were at or heard about the last big DC event don't slam Jane Fonda, Sean Penn or any of the others that voices in independent media have taken to slamming. They slam John Conyers who should never have been invited onstage (only Democrats were invited onstage) and who stated that "we" could "fire" Bully Boy. Of course, he remains the biggest obstacle to firing the Bully Boy today. Don't criticize Fonda, she spoke from the heart and connected the past with today. Criticize the rally being turned over to a bunch of politicians who, in the end, have done very little. A Dennis Kucinich, absolutely, invite him, he is opposed to the illegal war and trying to actually end it. But this nonsense that we're all going to cheer Conyers for five seconds of bravery that he's going to go back on is nonsense.

Ralph Nader should be onstage as well. At the actual event, that was a minor point to some people present that we spoke to. It has become a huge point in the months since. (And that's partly due to what's seen as the too cozy relationship between the peace movement and Democratic leadership.)

Using the immigrant rights rallies as an example, that was a student started and student led protest that involved others as it built but never felt the need to stage a DC rally. That's actually beside the point. The point of those rallies is that "We are here in this community." So another rally at this point in DC?

United for Peace and Justice (an older organization) is moving towards local rallies and demonstrations and actions for the fall. But when members have e-mailed asking why we aren't spotlighting ___ or pushing ___ in the snapshots, the general reason is that they aren't supported by students anymore. A.N.S.W.E.R. is surely the old guard. They have been out there for some time. However, they have always taken an approach that has not led to any charges of coziness with Democrats and there independence has never been questioned by any student or group of students I've spoken with. I'm glad UP&J are adapting but the reality is that most groups aren't and most groups continue to stymie student involvement as anything other than bodies to fill space.

That has been a constant but when some groups are also now seen as too cozy with Dems in Congress and too willing to sell toothless, non-binding resolutions as "Troops Home Now," the old guard peace movement is blowing their chances with students.

On the issue of war resisters, it's been repeatedly pointed out that after Ehren Watada, most resisters have not gotten support from peace organizations. The three brothers who self-checked out over the Christmas break aren't seen as supported. The war resisters in Canada aren't seen as supported. So when an old guard e-mails to explain how it is okay to back centrists and trash war resisters, you better believe our support will decline in this community for the old guard.

The raising of awareness that the illegal war needs to end has been accomplished. All future actions need to expand or be considered redundant and repetitive. The draft canard isn't dealing with reality. It has nothing to do with today and is nothing more than bad nostalgia tripping. It's not ending the illegal war and it's not speaking to students. The book is hopefully worth reading, Brecher is a write we'll continue to highlight (and there are strong points in his full review) but we're not in the mood for nonsense today. Jane Fonda connected the past to the present in a way that mattered. She didn't rely on, "Gather round kiddos and let me tell you about how the old days were different." She addressed the realities of today and tied current realities with past realities. It's past time that others did that and it's really past time that the lie of the "if only we had the draft" was no longer repeated. We don't have the draft and we should all be grateful for that. The fact that no draft has been instituted since Vietnam is one of the longest lasting accomplishments of the peace movement in the 'sixties.'

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3632. Tonight? They've announced 3648. Who knows what the actual figure is.

One of the organization doing real work today is the subject of Pru's highlight. Simon Assaf's "US military families in 'surge' against war" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

There is tide of change against the war among the families of US soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Families have inundated Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), an anti-war organisation set up in 2003, with requests to join. Since George Bush announced his "surge" of troops in January, over 500 new families have signed up.
Nancy Lessing, one of the founders, the military families' campaign, spoke to Socialist Worker about the growing anti-war sentiment among soldiers and their families.
"In 2002, when the drumbeat for war was loudest, over 70 percent of those polled supported an invasion of Iraq. Now over 70 percent say the war is wrong.
"We now have 3,500 families in our campaign. In a three day period, earlier this month, 60 new families joined us.
"When Bush announced his escalation of the war, military families understood that this meant multiple deployments, extended service and more soldiers being held under 'stop-loss' – a law that allows the government to keep soldiers under contract, even after they have completed their eight years of service.
"In April the Bush administration announced that all tours of duty would be extended to 15 months.
"Many soldiers are now on their third deployment. Many of those returning from the wars have post traumatic stress disorder, a condition brought about by constant fear and witnessing the horrors of war.
"Many families are finding that the soldiers returning from the wars are not the same people as the ones who left."
Lessing said many of these soldiers whose health had suffered are being drugged up and sent back to the conflict.
"The reality of this 'kill or be killed situation' is having an enormous impact on soldiers. Many of them have witnessed children being shot and their friends being gunned down.
"Each day three to four soldiers are being killed. And the longer they stay there, the greater are the odds of dying or being badly wounded."
Since the invasion over 4,000 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. In each month following the "surge" in Iraq, over 100 soldiers have been killed.
Tens of thousands have been injured, creating an army of wounded and traumatised soldiers who, on their return, are left to the mercy of a crumbling health system.
"The growing feeling among the troops and the families is 'Why are we there?'
"When the campaign started out it was composed mainly of soldiers' parents, cousins, grandparents and other relatives.
"Now we have an influx of the wives of troops. Many of them live on military bases, where it can be very difficult to speak out.
"We are also getting notes from the wives of officers, starting with the line 'me and my husband are opposed to this war'.
"There was a code of silence among soldiers' wives. Now they are beginning to realise that not speaking out is more dangerous than speaking out.
"We are putting these wives in contact with one another, and building networks in military bases."
The military families' campaign is one of a variety of organisations that are springing up among soldiers and former soldiers.
Returning soldiers have launched Iraq Veterans Against the War, and serving soldiers have been signing up to the Appeal For Redress campaign.
These campaigns have now become powerful vehicles for the growing anger at "the war based on lies".
According to Nancy, the watershed came with the congressional elections in November last year when the opposition Democrats swept the polls on a wave of anger against Bush.
"Even though many of the Democratic candidates did not campaign on the war, the elections shifted the debate from 'Should we bring the troops home?' to 'When shall we bring the troops home?'
"Congress has the power to cut the funding for the war. Bush says that if you cut the funding, you put the troops in danger.
"We say that if you fund the war, you are funding the deaths of our troops."
For more on Military Families Speak Out go to
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[C.I. Note: 3632 was the figure last Sunday.]