Various Clippings, All on One Topic: “Bring the Troops Home Now!”

by George Shriver


This medley on the theme “Support Our Troops—Bring Them Home Now” was addressed to a Dec. 24 meeting of the Tucson chapter (Unit 16) of the National Writers Union, Local 1981 of the United Auto Workers, AFL-CIO.

Much of the time, when it comes to working with the computer, I’m what they call a “techno-peasant,” but one thing I can do with the new technology is “Cut and Paste.”

I can snip a bit here, snip a bit there, string it together, and add some observations of my own.

I call it “Snippets.”

You might call it a pastiche, collage, montage, medley, potpourri. Perhaps a miscellany. Perhaps a Mischegasse. Or an outright hotchpotch.

So come an’ play hopscotch on my hotchpotch.

Snippet One.

This is from my most favorite writer in all the world, Arundhati Roy. And that’s not just because I was born in India. Nor that she puts me in mind of Kali, goddess of the downtrodden. It’s because her words are aflame.

Here’s Arundhati Roy speaking in January 2004 in Mumbai (which the British occupiers used to call “Bombay”), in India, at the fourth annual World Social Forum. The motto of the WSF is: “Another World Is Possible.”

This movement of ours needs a major, global victory. It’s not good enough to be right…it’s important to win something…

If all of us are indeed against imperialism and against the project of neo-liberalism, then let’s turn our gaze on Iraq. Iraq is the inevitable culmination of both.

We have to become the global resistance to the occupation. Our resistance has to begin with a refusal to accept the legitimacy of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. It means acting to make it materially impossible for Empire to achieve its aims. It means soldiers should refuse to fight, reservists should refuse to serve, and workers should refuse to load ships and aircraft with weapons.

Now we skip from January 2004 to a snippet from the Times of London of December 10, 2004:

While insurgents draw on deep wells of fury to expand their ranks in Iraq, the US military is fighting desertion, recruitment shortfalls, and legal challenges from its own troops.

The irritation among the rank and file became all too clear this week when a soldier stood up in a televised session with Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, to ask why the world’s richest army was having to hunt for scrap metal to protect its vehicles.

At our writers’ breakfast a few weeks ago, coincidentally, we were talking about that televised session with Rumsfeld. Another friend—who, unlike me, watches television—told me the soldier’s question was followed by applause from the hundreds of GIs present. The applause was cautious at first, she said, but then it spread and became quite loud. A couple of other soldiers challenged Rumsfeld too.

The December 10 Times of London continued:

The same night, interviews with three soldiers who are seeking refugee status in Canada, where they have become minor celebrities, dominated prime time television. They are among the more than 5,000 troops that CBS’s 60 Minutes reported on Wednesday had deserted since the war began.

Some say more than 5,000 have deserted; some say more than 5,500. Only their hairdresser knows for sure.

You’ve also heard no doubt that the National Guard came up 5,000 short of its most recent recruitment goal.

Now comes a snippet from the Christian Science Monitor of December 16, which quotes Army Reserve chief Lt. Gen. James Helmly, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year:

“Although generally successful in overall mission numbers, we continue to experience difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified individuals in certain critical wartime specialties.”

Don’t you love that bureaucratic prose? “Although generally successful in overall mission numbers…” What’s an “overall mission number”? Is it wearing overalls? Like Mayakovsky’s “cloud in trousers”? I prefer Mayakovsky.

The Christian Science Monitor went on:

The number of officers wanting to resign from the Army Reserve has jumped as well. And according to a recent report on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” the Defense Department acknowledges that more than 5,500 service personnel have deserted since the Iraq war began.

I saw another report about desertions from the Empire’s army (but forgot to snip it). It said, as I recall, that the Iraqi resistance is helping GIs leave Iraq and find safe havens in Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere.

My next snippet is from a December 10 message posted on the Internet by a “media platoon” of one of the Iraqi resistance groups.

This is long, and I ask your patience to listen for a moment to this voice from Iraq, a voice from another world, quite different from our world, with its unbombarded residential communities and unscathed shopping malls.

People of the world!

These words come to you from those who up to the day of the invasion were struggling to survive under the sanctions imposed by the criminal regimes of the U.S. and Britain.

We are simple people who choose principles over fear.

We have suffered crimes and sanctions, which we consider the true weapons of mass destruction.

Years and years of agony and despair, while the … United Nations traded with our oil revenues in the name of world stability and peace.

Over two million innocents died waiting for a light at the end of a tunnel that only ended with the occupation of our country and the theft of our resources.

After the crimes of the administrations of the U.S and Britain in Iraq, we have chosen our future. The future of every resistance struggle in human history.

It is our duty, as well as our right, to fight back against the occupying forces, while their nations will be held morally and economically responsible for what their elected governments have destroyed and stolen from our land.

We have not crossed the oceans and seas to occupy Britain or the U.S., nor are we responsible for 9/11. These are only a few of the lies that these criminals present to cover their true plans for the control of the energy resources of the world, in face of a growing China and a strong unified Europe. It is ironic that the Iraqis have to bear the full force of this large and growing conflict on behalf of the rest of this sleeping world.

We thank all those, including those in Britain and the U.S., who took to the streets in protest against this war and against Globalism. We also thank France, Germany, and other states for their position, which to say the least is considered wise and balanced, up to now.

Today, we call on you again.

We do not require arms or fighters, for we have plenty.

We ask you to form a worldwide front against war and sanctions. A front that is governed by the wise and knowing. A front that will bring reform and order. New institutions that would replace those which are now corrupt.

Stop using the U.S. dollar, use the Euro or a basket of currencies. Reduce or halt your consumption of British and U.S. products…Educate those in doubt about the true nature of this conflict, and do not believe their media, for their casualties are far higher than they admit.

We only wish we had more cameras to show the world their true defeat.

The enemy is on the run. They are in fear of a resistance movement they cannot see or predict.

We now choose when, where, and how to strike. And just as our ancestors struck the first sparks of civilization, we will redefine the word “conquest.”

Today we write a new chapter in the arts of urban warfare.

Know that by helping the Iraqi people you are helping yourselves, for tomorrow may bring the same destruction to you.

Helping the Iraqi people does not mean dealing with the American government for a few contracts here and there. You must continue to isolate their [U.S.-British] strategy.

This conflict can no longer be considered a localized war, nor can the world remain hostage to the never-ending and [constantly] regenerated fear that the American people suffer from in general.

We will pin them here in Iraq to drain their resources, manpower, and their will to fight. We will make them spend as much as they steal, if not more.

We will disrupt, then halt the flow of our stolen oil, thus rendering their plans useless.

And the earlier a movement is born, the earlier their fall will be.

And to the American soldiers we say, you can also choose to fight tyranny with us. Lay down your weapons, and seek refuge in our mosques, churches, and homes. We will protect you. And we will get you out of Iraq, as we have done with a few others before you.

Go back to your homes, families, and loved ones. This is not your war. Nor are you fighting for a true cause in Iraq.

My final snippet for today—because I’ll probably expand this medley as I go, cutting and pasting ad infinitum—comes from a December 11 speech by retired Master Sergeant Stan Goff, who served as a Green Beret in Vietnam. Today he lends his skills to help such groups as Military Families Speak Out and Iraq Veterans Against the War, as well as 9/11 family members who oppose the war.

By the way, antiwar veterans and representatives of Military Families Speak Out were present at the recent Chicago conference of U.S. Labor Against the War the weekend of December 3–5. I’m glad that our local unit of the National Writers Union, along with the NWU as a whole, is affiliated with U.S. Labor Against the War. A report about the Chicago conference is available on the USLAW and Labor Standard web sites for those who wish to read it, but I haven’t made a “snippet” out of that eight-page opus.

Here’s my final snippet from Stan Goff. The full speech can be found at BringThemHomeNow.org

The communities of the military are in a unique position—they have a special standpoint—to say we were there. We were not on CNN. We were not in the New York Times. We were there when you rained dioxin on us 35 years ago as you killed 3 million Southeast Asians, and we were there in our family hothouses when we carried the dioxin and the death back into our living rooms, into our relationships, into our children, who were the hostages of our pathologies. We weren't in the swimming pool communities in the LA foothills. We are the mountain lions [in your suburbs], and now you have a veteran problem. Now you have a military family problem. Now you have an “I’m-awake-and-I’m-pissed-off” soldier problem.

Only we are not mountain lions, consigned by…natural limitations to helplessly watch our own destruction by the system.

We were there! We are there! We have a special capacity and a special pedagogical responsibility to stop others from taking the air for granted, because that air is contaminated. It is poisoned by the criminality at the very genetic core of this whole system, that needs Agent Orange and Depleted Uranium to enforce its will on those it would dominate and those who refuse to surrender their own humanity to this criminality.

Who we call statesmen are often as not thieves. Who we call statesmen are often as not vandals. Who we call statesmen are often as not mass murderers, and who better to out them for what they are than those of us who have been held closest to their criminal hearts in their time of need...

Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out held out in the face of faint-hearted anti-Bush resistance and never listened to the siren call of compromise and chauvinism that led many of our allies to tell us to drop the word NOW from our campaign to Bring Them Home NOW! We were clear about the system, and we knew that the vandal that destroys your home is not the right person to decide who will rebuild it.

We stuck to our demand, and time is proving us grimly correct. We were correct to demand that this criminal class cease and desist. Now the elections that put a mask of legitimacy on this system are past, and we have to reiterate that demand: Bring the Troops Home NOW!

Now we all know that demands are the glue that holds movements together, whether or not the powerful meet them. One of our pedagogical tasks in the next period, I think, is to educate the public about the difference between a demand and an assertive request. …

Our job is not to be conciliatory. We are not diplomats. Our job is not to comfort the comfortable by reinforcing their denial. Our job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Because we were there. We know what these people have sent our children to do, and what they have sent our children to become.

And I'm not whining about that. I'm not going to cry about what was done to me, because the upside to it is that I'm grateful to the dominant class for my military career. I'm grateful for my education. I'm grateful to be a soldier. I'm just not their soldier any more.

On my 19th birthday, I left McCord Air Force Base to begin my international studies program in northern Bin Dinh Province. My professors were a Black buck sergeant named Eaves, a professional con-man named Westmorland, and the courageous and patriotic soldiers of the NLF and NVA, who taught me what it looks like to say NO. I learned that a person can put one foot in front of the other for a long time. I learned that mosquito clouds and thirst and sleeping in the mud won't kill you. I learned to accept my own mortality. I learned that what most of suburban America thinks is extreme and exceptional hardship is the daily reality of most of the world—and I began the process of learning that the comfort of those suburbs comes at a price often paid by those we never see and whose hardship we cannot comprehend.

These quotes give you the flavor, but I strongly recommend the full text of Stan Goff’s speech. He lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina, near Fort Bragg. The antiwar veterans’ and military families’ movement is calling on everyone to come there on March 19 this year, the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq—to make visible the demand “Support Our Troops By Bringing Them Home Now!” As they say in their call for a peaceful, legal demonstration on March 19:

“The wheels are falling off this war wagon.”

P.S. For anyone interested, here’s another snippet going beyond my “final” one—this from www.mfso.org
Military Families Speak Out and Iraq Veterans Against the War are calling for a demo at Fort Bragg on March 19.
Mark your calendars for MARCH 19, 2005.
On March 20 last year, we staged the biggest demonstration Fayetteville, NC, has seen in 35 years. Fayetteville is next to Ft. Bragg, NC, ground zero for the 82nd Airborne Division (which is preparing for their third trip to Iraq) and most of the U.S. Special Operations community. Many people feared trouble there, but the demonstration against the war was not only well received, many service members participated along with their families. And the police, many of whom privately expressed agreement with us (most are veterans in Fayetteville), kept the thin line of hecklers back and allowed us full use of beautiful Rowan Park.
On MARCH 19, 2005, in FAYETTEVILLE this year, we will mark the anniversary of the 2003 invasion AGAIN with a far bigger demonstration than the last. If you are tired of pilgrimages to DC and NYC for mass mobilizations, and if you want to send a message from the belly of the beast, this year you need to visit North Carolina. Before and after the action, you can hike through Raven Rock State Park (30 minutes), drive to the beach (2 hours), or explore Fayetteville’s Quaker House (a historic center for GI Resistance). But come to NC, come to Rowan Park in Fayetteville, and help us continue to undermine the legitimacy of this gangster-government. We want this to be not only national but international (international press was there last year), and we need every warm body available to come.
The wheels are falling off this war wagon, and we need you in Fayetteville this March to give them another hard kick.