Revolutionary Worker #1192, March 23 , 2003, posted at http://rwor.org
The RW received this commentary and felt it was important to publish it and to encourage others
to circulate it and reprint it and to broadly discuss the points it raises.
What is the real nature and purpose of the U.S. armed forces, and are they deserving of "support"? In reading a number of books about the U.S. military--including Making the Corps , by Thomas Ricks, and a number of other books which actually attempt to put forward a basically positive view of the U.S. armed forces--what comes through clearly is that these armed forces are not, and cannot be, a force for "liberation" but, on the contrary, are intended to be and are in fact an armed force of imperial conquest. In particular, what is striking is how the soldiers in these armed forces are encouraged and conditioned to see killing in warfare in the raw terms of physical and sexual assault.
The widespread sexual assault and rape at the Air Force Academy, and similar outrages among the officer corps of the U.S. military, are not isolated incidents but reflections of the culture that exists, and is promoted, from the highest levels on down in this military and, more fundamentally, a reflection of its very nature and purpose. In this connection, and in thinking about the new war against Iraq, it is worth recalling the stories that were told about U.S. pilots in the (first) Gulf war spending hours watching pornographic films to get themselves in the right mood for the massive bombing they carried out.
If anyone thinks this is distortion or exaggeration, they should read a recently published book by a veteran of that first war against Iraq, JARHEAD, A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles , which further illustrates these points in very graphic terms. The author, Anthony Swofford, describes how a Marine recruiter got him to sign up by telling him about all the cheap sex he could get, all around the world, as a member of the U.S. armed forces. And there was a clear connection between this and being a good soldier:
"He gleefully talked to me about buying sex in the Philippines and Italy and Sweden and Panama--information my mother would never see in the brochures. The recruiter guaranteed me I could book a threesome for 40 American dollars in Olongapo, PI [Philippine Islands].... I was sold.
"I wanted to be a grunt, a rifleman, I didn't even need to hear what other options existed, and the recruiter supported this choice. `You'll be a fine killer,' he'd say to me after our meals." (p. 205)
This attitude was reinforced by the experience of boot camp, where the Drill Instructor regularly used words like "bitch" and "cunt" in reference to the new recruits (and their mothers), all the while telling them that: "I will teach you how to kill and how to stay alive! I will forge you into part of the iron fist with which our great United States fights oppression and injustice!" (p. 28) And Swofford describes his outlook -- and that of the young marine recruits in general -- as they prepared for the (first) war against Iraq:
"Fight, rape, war, pillage, burn. Filmic images of death and carnage are pornography for the military man; with film you are stroking his cock, tickling his balls with the pink feather of history, getting him ready for his real First Fuck....
"And as a young man raised on the films of the Vietnam War, I want ammunition and alcohol and dope, I want to screw some whores and kill some Iraqi motherfuckers." (p. 7)
This is only a small sampling of passages like this throughout JARHEAD.Can anybody who reads this really believe that the "iron fist" of the U.S. military can be a force to fight against oppression and injustice?! With all the talk, from Bush and the rest, about "liberating" Iraq, is it really possible to believe that an armed force indoctrinated and steeped in this kind of outlook and mentality, and trained in this way, can liberate, say, the women of Afghanistan, or the people of Iraq -- or anyone else?
Enough of this misplaced sentimentality--including from liberals and some others who say they are opposed to the war against Iraq but nevertheless keep referring to "the brave men (and women)" of "our" armed forces. There is nothing courageous about what these armed forces have done, in Vietnam, in the first war against Iraq, and in countries all over the world where they have enforced U.S. imperial rule and plunder, at the cost of horrendous suffering to the people there; and there is nothing whatsoever "brave" about the carnage--the mass destruction and slaughter, including of many civilians --they will be carrying out this time around in Iraq.
As for U.S. soldiers being "in harm's way": to the degree that this is true, this is because the U.S. government has put them there. And, as a matter of fact, by far the greatest harm they will be involved with will be the harm they are ordered to inflict on the Iraqi people.
What those men and women in the U.S. armed forces really need is not undeserved "support"; they need to be told the blunt truth about the murderous nature of the armed forces of which they are a part and what they are indoctrinated, trained, organized, and ordered to do, and the fact that committing war crimes and crimes against humanity may haunt them the rest of their days. Indeed, this is what many people, including many veterans of the U.S. military and its wars, are now doing-- veterans who have had the real courage to face what they were prepared and ordered to do and to reveal the truth of that and use it to educate others who find themselves in the same position they were once in.
The wars carried out by the U.S. government, in Iraq and elsewhere, must be opposed, and every question having to do with these wars must be approached with the understanding that these are murderous acts of imperial conquest and have nothing to do with liberation.
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