Advice from a Gulf War Vet

by Jeff Paterson

Do you know anyone in the military, or thinking about signing up soon? Pass this along to them. They may or may not appreciate it, but they deserve a heads up.

In August of 1990, I was an active duty U.S. Marine Corps Corporal. I was ordered to the Middle East; we were on the verge of the Gulf War. Four years prior, thinking I had nothing better to do with my life, I had walked into the Salinas, California recruiting station and told them to "put me where I was most needed."

"What am I going to do with my life?" has always been a huge question for young people. Today, in the wake of the horror and tragedy of September 11th, this question has increased in importance for millions of young people.

No one who has seen the images will ever forget them. In a scene as unreal as the Matrix, a conflict reached into American reality in an unthinkable way. From copy clerks to administrative assistants, restaurant workers to firefighters, thousands of lives were ripped away from friends and family as those hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center. Now the television shouts, "revenge," "infinite justice," and "something must be done!" America continues to wave red, white and blue flag to ease the sorrow; to declare, "We’re not going to take it."

If it weren’t for those four years in the Marine Corps, I might be like the youth who are walking to the U.S. military recruiters right now, wanting to fight for their country. During my four years, most of the time my unit trained to fight a war against peasants who dared struggle against "American interests" in their homelands, specifically Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.

I saw dire poverty in the Philippines; U.S. government-sanctioned prostitution rings to service the U.S. Armed Forces in South Korea; and unbridled racism towards the people of Okinawa and Japan, where the standard response to a child waving a "peace sign" at us with his fingers was "yea, ha, ha; two bombs little gook."

I began to understand why billions of people around the world really do hate the United States – specifically its war machine, covert "contra" wars, and the whole system of economic globalization that replaces hope with 12-hour days locked in sweatshops producing "Designed in the USA" exports.

Faced with this reality, I began the process of becoming un-American; meaning, the interests of the people of the world began to weigh heavier than my self-interest.

When the U.S. launched the Gulf War, I realized that the world did not need or want another U.S. troop deployment. Although they did not look much like me, I found that I had more in common with the common peoples of the Middle East than I did with those who were ordering me to kill them. My Battalion Commander’s reassurance that "if anything goes wrong we’ll nuke the rag-heads until they all glow" was not reassuring.

Up against that, I publicly stated I would not be a pawn in America’s power plays for profits, oil, and domination of the Middle East. I pledged to resist, and I pledged that if I were dragged out into the Saudi desert, I would refuse to fight.

A few weeks later, I sat down on an airstrip as hundreds of Marines, many of whom I had lived with for years, filed past me and boarded the plane. I fought the Gulf War from a military brig, and after worldwide anti-war protesters helped spring me, we fought the war in the streets.

But back then we failed to stop the war. Since 1990 over 1.5 million Iraqi people have died, not mainly from the massive U.S. bombing which continues from the sky, but from a decade of economic sanctions. All the while the U.S. government has coldly declared that these Iraqi deaths are "worth it" in order to achieve strategic regional objectives. So today, as the U.S. government demands the world mourn with us for our loss, we in turn are expected to ignore the suffering that this nation produces.

Every time the U.S. war machine is kicked into high gear, acknowledgements are made about past "mistakes" such as: Gulf War sickness, Agent Orange and napalm in Vietnam, massacres of refugees in Korea, U.S. troops used as nuclear exposure guinea pigs after World War II, internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II. Yet after this acknowledgement comes: "Trust us, this time it will be different." But it never is.

One need not be a pacifist, a communist, a Quaker, or a humanist to oppose this current "War on Terrorism." However, it certainly helps to be an internationalist, realizing that our collective future is bound up with the majority of humanity, and not with those who are taking this horrific opportunity to wage war.

For the women and men in uniform, you have to make a choice. Silence is what your "superiors" expect of you, but the interests of humanity expect more. Think. Speak out. And if you make the choice to resist, there are hundreds of thousands who will support you – many of whom have already taken to the streets to oppose this war.

Like his father before him, Bush Jr. has drawn a line in the sand: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Simply put, the rulers of the U.S. see much unfinished business for their "New World Order." While we grieve, they announce that "the normal rules no longer apply" (translation: now is the time to settle our scores), and we have "a blank check to act, the nation is united" (translation: dissent will be ignored, or suppressed, as required). Now, more than ever, the people of the world, along with American citizens, are not safe from the U.S. government.

I will not wave the red, white and blue flag; instead, I will wear a green ribbon in solidarity with immigrants and Arab-Americans facing increased racist attacks.

Stop the War. Support U.S. troops who refuse to fight.

Let’s dedicate our live to changing this situation.

Jeff Paterson is a columnist for YellowTimes. He encourages your comments: USrefusenik@yahoo.com

 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 28, 2015
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald
Colin Todhunter
Working Class War Fodder
Gareth Porter
Obama’s Version of Iran Nuke Deal: a Second False Narrative
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Vacy Vlanza
Without BDS, Palestine is Alone
Laura Finley
Adjunct Professors and Worker’s Rights
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode Three, Where We Thrill Everyone by Playing Like “Utter Bloody Garbage”
Weekend Edition
July 24-26, 2015
Mike Whitney
Picked Out a Coffin Yet? Take Ibuprofen and Die
Henry Giroux
America’s New Brutalism: the Death of Sandra Bland
Rob Urie
Capitalism, Engineered Dependencies and the Eurozone
Michael Lanigan
Lynn’s Story: an Irish Woman in Search of an Abortion
Paul Street
Deleting Crimes at the New York Times: Airbrushing History at the Paper of Record
ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH
Making Sense of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Geopolitical Implications
Andrew Levine
After the Iran Deal: Israel is Down But Far From Out
Uri Avnery
Sheldon’s Stooges: Netanyahu and the King of Vegas
David Swanson
George Clooney Paid by War Profiteers
ANDRE VLTCHEK
They Say Paraguay is in Africa: Mosaic of Horror
Horace G. Campbell
Obama in Kenya: Will He Cater to the Barons or the People?
Michael Welton
Surviving Together: Canadian Public Tradition Under Threat
Rev. William Alberts
American Imperialism’s Military Chaplains
Yorgos Mitralias
Black Days: August 4th,1914 Germany and July 13th, 2015 Greece
Jeffrey R. Wilson
“It Started Like a Guilty Thing”: the Beginning of Hamlet and the Beginning of Modern Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Star Whores: John McCain, the Apache and the Battle to Save Mt. Graham
Pepe Escobar
The Eurasian Big Bang: How China and Russia Are Running Rings Around Washington
Charles Larson
The USA as a Failed State: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Robert Fantina
Israel and “Self-Defense”
John W. Whitehead
The American Nightmare: the Tyranny of the Criminal Justice System
Leonidas Vatikiotis
Rupture With the EU: a Return to the Cave Age or a New Golden Age for Greece?
Murray Dobbin
Harper is Finally Right: the Canadian Election is About Security Versus Risk
Brian Cloughley
Meet General Joseph Dunford: a Real Threat to World Peace
Manuel García, Jr.
The Trump Surge and the American Psyche