by Dennis Rahkonen
November 1, 2003
American military personnel serving in Iraq are largely young men and women from working class and minority backgrounds.
For the most part, they didnít join the armed forces out of patriotic fervor or bellicose obsession.
In a society fraught with economic injustice that makes it increasingly difficult for youth to find living-wage jobs or unimpeded paths to essential advancement, the assured income and training options afforded by the military have been the chief enlistment incentive for a majority of those presently in uniform.
Kids who were high school students not that long ago are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines today primarily because they needed to get their hands on some money to get ahead.
They obviously didnít want to be sent half way around the world† -- indefinitely -- to become rocket-propelled grenade fodder in an aggressive, unnecessary war that only the most uninformed could naively think isnít actually being fought in furtherance of blatant imperialism.
Their dreadful months in Iraq have been an eye-opener, and a radicalizing experience for many. Theyíve been communicating with their distant loved ones via e-mail, expressing profound disillusionment over the outrageous lies they were told.† Even Stars & Stripes, the U.S. military newspaper that propagandistically promotes the official government line, has had to acknowledge pervasive low morale and spreading anger among those mired in Iraq.
The brutal reality they've encountered has been a pivotal impetus for the determined activism of Military Families Speak Out, a growing peace group with credence and emotional clout that canít be easily dismissed.
On its website (www.mfso.org) are several letters and statements that evince a compelling truth Washington war hawks have good reason to fear.†
Here's an excerpt from one of them:
"I am a 20 year old college student and a friend of mine from college, who was only 19 years old, was killed in Iraq. He and I used to talk often in class about the impending war and he feared being sent to fight for a cause he did not believe in. He did not believe in this war, but he would say he had to sign up for military service because his family did not have enough money to pay for college. George Bush says we have no money for veterans, we have no money for children, we have no money for the elderly, and we have no money for education, but we have plenty of money for war and occupation. What a tragedy it is that the amount of money George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld have spent on this war could have sent Michael to college a million times over."
And there's this from the wife of an activated Army Reservist deployed in Iraq:
"It appears that the living conditions of the people we claim to 'free' are far worse than when Saddam was in control? It is no wonder they want us out? I can not blame them, can you? It seems to me and to many Americans, that this war was not about freeing the people of Iraq or about weapons of mass destruction, but was truly about greed and power. Haliburton and the oil companies are now the benefactors, and my husband, our soldiers, the taxpayers, and the people of Iraq are paying the enormous price for their wealth."
Our troops face blistering heat, lack of sleep, inadequate supplies (including a shortage of bulletproof vests), a cloying diet of Meals Ready to Eat, and relentless attacks from a populace they were told would joyously welcome them as liberators.† Additionally, they have no idea when and if they'll be extricated from the chaotic debacle into which Bush's wild extremism thrust them.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that several of the troops who recently came stateside for a brief respite have apparently gone AWOL, risking court martial.† Iraq is not a place anyone who's gotten away from unscathed would gladly return to.
No one knows that better than the rapidly escalating number of often severely wounded individuals whose sacrifice is shamefully under reported - - even dismissed -- by media that concentrate only on those killed in proliferating, increasingly more deadly Iraqi ambushes and bombings.
Hospitals on U.S. military bases and in the Washington, D.C. area are filling with legless, armless, blinded and otherwise grievously injured soldiers.
Incredibly, these hurting sons and daughters of America have discovered that they've been personally charged with the cost of their hospital meals. Not enough federal dollars to go around.
Meanwhile, a Senate that cravenly abdicated its responsibility to prevent the needless carnage of this objectively unwarranted folly just voted itself a pay raise!
There is a sickness loose in our land...the same moral malady induced by rampant avarice that brought down the Roman Empire.
Bush's audacious attempt to forge a Pax Americana empire for the benefit of monopoly capitalists† -- by squandering our federal treasury and freely spilling young service people's blood -- is a travesty treasonous to our country's best interest and its finest ideals.
An inescapable reality must determine our collective course of action.
This war is categorically wrong.† It plainly can't be won.† American troops have no legitimate business being anywhere near Iraq, let alone occupying it in a power and profit grab dictated by rightwing/reactionary forces that have temporarily gained political dominance.
For horrible reasons our troops are enduring each and every day, they themselves want to get out of Iraq.† Not later, but immediately.
We have a clear duty to use our Constitutional right of protest to create a climate conducive to promptly realizing that necessity.
As they suffer the betrayal of being killed and maimed for a series of colossal falsehoods, there is only one authentic way to "support" our troops.
By hitting the streets and resolutely demanding "Out Now!"
Dennis Rahkonen, from Superior, WI, has written progressive commentary and verse for various outlets since the '60s. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Out Now!