Revolution #82, March 18, 2007
You Can't Support Troops Waging An Unjust War!
WHOSE WAR? WHOSE TROOPS?
There's a lot of talk about who does, and who doesn't, support the troops these days. It's one thing for George Bush and the leaders of the Republicans and Democrats to say they support the troops. Particularly those Democrats who say they oppose the war but support the troops are trying to corral the antiwar sentiment of people—to prevent people from confronting what is really going on over there, and beyond that the real role and character of the army and the troops who fight in it.
There are also people who genuinely oppose the war, but who also say I support the troops. Many of these people approach this from a personal point of view. They have relatives, friends, or people they know in the military. Some people feel these troops should be supported because many of them were drawn into joining the military because there is so little opportunity for employment or education for so many people in U.S. society today. But that isn't the heart of the matter. To determine whether you should or shouldn't support the troops, you have to look at what these troops are doing and decide whether that deserves your support.
These soldiers are part of the U.S. military. The war they are fighting in Iraq is aimed at maintaining and extending U.S. domination in the Middle East and around the world. This is an unjust and immoral war. Look at what it comes down to for the people of Iraq.
From the very beginning, the U.S. military has rained death and destruction on the Iraqi people. They've killed many, many people and created conditions in which many, many more have been slaughtered in violence pitting Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds against each other.
U.S. troops flattened the city of Falluja, driving virtually the entire population out in order to take the city back from the those resisting the U.S. occupation. They routinely call in air strikes on Iraqi villages and urban areas, killing innocent Iraqis. U.S. troops set up checkpoints and raid people's homes, subjecting people to harassment and brutality on a regular basis. While carrying out this occupation, some U.S. troops have raped Iraqi women and just outright murdered people. What about any of this deserves the support of anybody who opposes this unjust war?
Some who oppose the war try to deal with the contradiction involved here by saying, "I support the warrior, not the war." But how can you separate the troops from what they are doing? Bob Avakian has raised the point that if you came upon a woman who was being attacked and raped by a gang of men, would you say, 'I support the rapists, not the rape?' Or if you encountered a mob of racists lynching a Black person, would you say, 'I support the lynchers, not the lynching?' Of course not. You'd say these people are doing something heinous, and I can't support them. Well the war that U.S. troops are waging in Iraq is also heinous, and it, and the troops who are carrying it out don't deserve the support of anybody who cares about justice!
I know that these GIs are largely drawn from the working class and oppressed people. But that doesn't matter—it doesn't mean that we should support them. Nor does it matter if they think that what they're doing is defending their country. What matters is that they ARE a part of inflicting untold suffering on the Iraqi people in order to enforce U.S. imperialist domination. If you're in the U.S. military, you have to take responsibility for what it's doing, and troops who are responsible for the kinds of things the U.S. military is doing in Iraq and elsewhere don't deserve the support of anybody who is concerned about what's just and right. The fact that their fundamental interests aren't served by the plundering and raping of Iraq and other countries the U.S. rulers have them carrying out makes it doubly painful and all the more necessary to struggle with them over where their real interests lie.
When I talk about this, I'm dealing with something that I've been through. I was in the U.S. military back during the Vietnam war. The U.S. rulers put a gun in my hands, trained me how to use it and ordered me to go to Vietnam—to kill Vietnamese people and maybe be killed myself. I didn't know what the Vietnam war was about when I got drafted into the army, or when I got the orders to go to Vietnam. But I had to quickly find out what it was about because I had to decide whether it was something I should or could be a part of.
There was a huge movement against the war in Vietnam back then, and many involved in it were saying this was an imperialist war that was aimed at drowning the liberation struggle of the Vietnamese people in blood. Groups like the Black Panther Party were saying that Black people had no business fighting for the U.S. in Vietnam while Black people were having dogs sicked on them here in the U.S. while fighting for their rights.
I became convinced that this was true off of talking to a lot of GIs who had been in Vietnam fighting. They told me about atrocities committed against Vietnamese people that they had seen and some of them had even been a part of. About how they were trained to look at the Vietnamese people as a whole—men, women, and even children—as the enemy. I learned that things like the My Lai massacre, where U.S. troops destroyed a village and murdered many of its inhabitants—most of whom were women, children, and old men—because they suspected they supported the Vietnamese liberation fighters, was a routine occurrence. That the U.S. military frequently "destroyed the village in order to save the village." That U.S. troops called in air strikes on villages if they THOUGHT they were being fired at from the direction of that village. That they killed Vietnamese people indiscriminately and raped women.
I recalled that back in basic training our drill sergeants had fed us stories about the horrible things Vietnamese liberation fighters would do. They said they'd put a grenade in a baby carriage and blow up the baby to kill U.S. GIs. The drill sergeants would call Vietnamese people gooks, dinks and slopes non-stop. They were getting us ready to be part of the U.S. imperialist killing machine that could rain death and destruction indiscriminately on Vietnamese people in order to keep U.S. global domination in effect back then.
I also learned that there were U.S. GIs who were resisting this war from inside the military. Some units marched off in the opposite direction from where they thought the Vietnamese rebels were. Other units just flat out refused to fight, and some GIs even fragged officers who tried to make them fight.
This helped me to learn that the war in Vietnam was a war to suppress the struggle of an oppressed people to free their country from imperialist domination. And that it was a war that anyone who believed in justice shouldn't support and shouldn't be a part of fighting. Off of this, I was able to develop the strength to refuse to go to Vietnam. I did two years in Leavenworth Military Penitentiary for taking this stand. Faced with this situation all over again, I'd take the same stand. What was really criminal was the war, and refusing to fight in it was the right thing to do.
The war in Iraq isn't a rerun of the war in Vietnam, but just like that war, this one is a war for empire. It's an unjust, immoral war. People shouldn't want to be a part of such a war, and people shouldn't be supporting the troops who are fighting this war. What are these troops doing that deserves the support of anybody who believes in justice? Nothing—not a damn thing!
There are U.S. soldiers who deserve the support of everyone who opposes injustice. Those who have spoken out against the war, those who have refused to go to Iraq and those who have resisted the war in other ways. They are doing the right thing, and they deserve our support.
And what do all the troops really need from those of us who know this war is wrong? Again let me draw from my experience. I didn't get the understanding and inspiration to refuse to go to Vietnam because people expressed support for the troops. I was able to do that because people told the truth about the war in Vietnam. And because the people protesting the war and the GIs who rebelled against it from inside the military challenged me through their actions to do the right thing.
Today's troops need the same thing that I needed back then. They need to hear the truth about the war they're being sent off to be a part of in Iraq—that it's an unjust war, a war for empire. They need to be challenged to take off their blinders and look straight at the atrocities the U.S. is inflicting on the Iraqi people and that they are being ordered to be a part of. And they need to be challenged to do the right thing today, just like I was challenged to do the right thing back during the Vietnam War.
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