FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

FTA (F*** the Army)

by RON JACOBS

And I couldn’t help but think, through the thunder rolling and stink,
That I was just a puppet in a play.
And through the roar and smoke, this string is finally broke,
And a cannon ball blew my eyes away.

“John Brown”, by Bob Dylan

The war just keeps getting closer. I found out from my dad over the weekend that the son of a kid I used to play Boys & Girls Club sports with was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq early in December. I never knew the dead young man, but his uncles and aunts attended the same schools and churches that I did when I was young. Unless the US troops get out sooner rather than later, this familiarity with death in war will become as familiar to US residents as it did in Vietnam and Korea (not to mention this country’s previous wars), and as familiar as it has become to Iraqis and Afghanis. Like my dad rhetorically asked after giving me this news: “What did he die for?”

For those of us who have been opposed to these wars since their inception, this is not that much of a question. For my dad, it is. A career officer during Vietnam, he sees the world from a perspective quite dissimilar to me. He knew Vietnam was pointless when he was there, but believed there might be a purpose to his mission. He has never seen such a possibility in Iraq and, once he got past his desire for revenge in the wake of 911, he began to question the conflict in Afghanistan, as well. My anti-imperialist self always suggests that he take a look at who profits from these wars to find out their true purpose, but his worldview won’t let his thought process go there. Instead, like many people, he blames individuals for these murderous escapades.

I mention my dad only because I just re-read a book published thirty years ago by Ramparts Press-the publishing house of the great leftist journal. The book, titled The Flower of the Dragon by Richard Boyle, was recently highlighted at a website titled “GI Special” which is maintained by Thomas Barton and is essentially a collection of news and opinion pieces about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The intended audience for the newsletter is GIs and other soldiers and the intention is to provoke this audience to question its role and, ultimately, refuse to participate. Like GI underground newspapers from the Vietnam era, GI Special reminds its readers that they have a right to read and carry the paper (if they print it out) and that their commanding officer or any other authority can’t take it from them. Barton intersperses news pieces about GI deaths and officer fuckups with commentary from antiwar writers in an attempt to provide military men and women with not only a different perspective from that which they hear all around them but one that also can provide antiwar soldiers with a sense that they are not alone.

Anyhow, back to Boyle’s book. At the time of its writing (1966-1971), Boyle freelanced as a reporter and photographer throughout southern Vietnam and Cambodia. He began his war correspondent career as a supporter of the war and the Special Forces men who were then the only US soldiers in combat. By 1971, he had changed his tune completely. Much of his work by that time was about the growing movement among GIs who opposed the war and tried their best not to fight. In addition, he exposed the dichotomy between what the military spokesmen and generals were telling the press in Saigon and what the GIs actually fighting the war were experiencing in the jungle. In short, it was the sentiment of Boyle and his GI contacts that the US was losing the war and should just get the hell out. Meanwhile, the press in Saigon was being told that US forces were making great progress not only in combat but in winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people. According to Boyle, his reporting made him very unpopular with the military brass, but helped his work amongst the enlisted men and younger officers who were doing much of the actual fighting.

In a section that seemed to me to be instructive for today’s wars, Boyle writes about a battle at a fire base in the jungle that took place in 1971. The chapter, which is named after the fire base, is titled Firebase Pace, and describes a pointless battle by a few hundred US soldiers, some southern Vietnamese troops (ARVN), and various mercenary forces against thousands of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars. Now, this battle took place after Nixon had supposedly removed all US forces in Vietnam from any type of combat role. Indeed, it was occurring a week after the generals in Saigon had told the media and the Pentagon that the battle was over and the ARVN had soundly defeated the NVA. Yet the GIs were taking casualties every day while the ARVN troops sat on the sidelines, unwilling to risk their lives in a war that they could care less about. Like many of today’s Iraqi forces, these Vietnamese were in the ARVN for the paycheck and saw no reason to risk their lives for either the Washington or the US puppet government “elected” in Saigon. As I read the conversations and details reported by Boyle in this chapter, I kept thinking about the recent “victories” in Fallujah and Samarra in Iraq and wondered how real those victories actually were. This wonder increased after hearing of more US air and ground combat in both cities as recently as December 29th, 2004-at least three weeks after US generals declared victory and told the world media that the Iraqi insurgency’s back was broken.

Boyle’s book is a good, conversational read and has more than a bit of relevance to today’s wars. Since most of the warmakers agree that the upcoming elections in Iraq will mean little in terms of ending the insurgency, the need for a movement against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan amongst the soldiers fighting them grows more essential with each passing day. Sure, they need good armor, but more importantly they need to get their butts home. Now! The casualties will only continue to get closer to home.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu

 

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
Robert Koehler
War and Poverty: A Compromise with Hell
Mike Bader – Mike Garrity
Senator Tester Must Stop Playing Politics With Public Lands
Kenneth Culton
No Time for Olympic Inspired Nationalism
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Final Days of the Regime
Irene Tung – Teófilo Reyes
Tips are for Servers Not CEOs
Randy Shields
Yahoomans in Paradise – This is L.A. to Me
Thomas Knapp
No Huawei! US Spy Chiefs Reverse Course on Phone Spying
Mel Gurtov
Was There Really a Breakthrough in US-North Korea Relations?
David Swanson
Witness Out of Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
George Brandis, the Rule of Law and Populism
Dean Baker
The Washington Post’s Long-Running Attack on Unions
Andrew Stewart
Providence Public School Teachers Fight Back at City Hall
Stephen Cooper
Majestic Meditations with Jesse Royal: the Interview
David Yearsley
Olympic Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail