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 Day 19

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Shut Up and Shoot Be All We Want You to Be

Shut Up and Shoot

by RON JACOBS

From an ABC News interview with a GI in Iraq: "I’ve got my own ‘Most Wanted’ list," he told me. He was referring to the deck of cards the U.S. government published, featuring Saddam Hussein, his sons and other wanted members of the former Iraqi regime. "The aces in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and Paul Wolfowitz," he said

"None of us that wear this uniform are free to say anything disparaging about the secretary of defense or the president of the United States," General Abizaid said during his Pentagon briefing. "We’re not free to do that. It’s our professional code. Whatever action may be taken, whether it’s a verbal reprimand or something more stringent is up to the commanders on the scene and it’s not for me to comment."

Isn’t it great? The very same people who are supposedly fighting for freedom are not free to express their opinion, even when those opinions concern their lives. Welcome to the US Army, boys and girls. If it moves, salute it. If it doesn’t move, paint it. That’s the joke my GI buddies used to always tell when we were hanging out drinking a cold one in their barracks over in Germany in the early 1970s. Back then there was a pretty big resistance movement amongst the enlisted guys, so one could get away with talking shit about the commanding officer, whether he was in the building next door or in the White House. Nowadays, such sentiments might get you some time in the brig. Especially if your family is expressing similar sentiments on the homefront, even if those are only expressed to the stateside base commander.

What’s been striking about the mutterings of frustration and opposition to the Iraq mission by the GIs in the field is that they seem to be coming from the demographic least expected. That is, white guys from the Midwest and the south. This is a part of the country that supported the war and always supports the military. Furthermore, the Americans who live in these regions tend to believe the myths Bush and Co. used to get their sons and daughters into Iraq-freedom, weapons, the fear of terrorism. If these guys don’t like being used as pawns in Washington’s oil game and are willing to say so on national television, that could signify a problem for the war party. Who knows, maybe the GIs might even refuse to fight.

Even if the mutterings do not reach a level comparable to the GI resistance during the latter part of the war in Vietnam, the will for war could be broken. If the soldiers don’t want to fight, even though they signed up to do so, and their families are sick of them being gone, even though they knew this could happen, then who will get tired of this nonsense next? The American people? We can hope so. Of course, another scenario would be the situation between Israel and Palestine, or Russia and Chechnya, where the war hawks in those countries continue to send soldiers off to kill and die in wars of occupation despite the opposition of a large part of the respective populations.

I’m not foolish enough to believe that the men and women wearing the uniform of the American forces over in Iraq have become anti-imperialist. After all, their access to information that does not support their mission and confirm their boot-camp enhanced prejudices is very limited–even more so than the average FOX-CNN watching US civilian. Still, the very fact that they are ticked off that they were lied to about most every facet of their mission–from length of stay to its purpose and ease–has got to be bad news for the armchair generals inside the Beltway. Bad enough, in fact, for the Pentagon to send a direct message to the more vocal soldiers and their officers all the way from Virginia: a message telling them to shutup and/or to forget about their careers.

It’s up to us to support the right of these GIs to express their anger. It’s also up to us to get them home before they do any more harm and any more harm is done to them. More troops won’t help them in the long run, no matter what the Pentagon says. Indeed, more troops only increase the number of targets. Military assistance from other countries under UN auspices won’t help either. That will only allow the ideologues and fools in Washington to share the culpability. No government not already involved would want a pirce of this growing mess. There is not a military solution to the problems presented by the US/UK war on Iraq. The only answer to the growing mess in Iraq is a complete withdrawal of the forces from the invading and occupying countries.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground.

He can be reached at: rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu