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41230.1Stan Goff Interview

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  • max watts
    ... From: To: Sent: Friday, December 24, 2004 12:48 AM Subject: Stat Goff Interview
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 29, 2004
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      ----- Original Message -----
      From: <ramapa@...>
      To: <rosiek@...>
      Sent: Friday, December 24, 2004 12:48 AM
      Subject: Stat Goff Interview


      >
      > MAX,
      > FYI
      > TAKE CARE
      > SCOTT
      > -------------------------
      >
      > Anti War Activism Interview
      > by Stan Goff and M. Junaid Alam; Left Hook; December 22, 2004
      >
      > Recently, Left Hook co-editor M. Junaid Alam was able to fire
      > off some questions to Stan Goff, a former US Special Forces Master
      > Sergeant with more than two decades of military experience who is now
      > heavily involved in anti-war work with Military Families Speak Out and
      > the Bring Them Home Now campaign, and is also the author of Full
      > Spectrum Disorder and Hideous Dream. Below, he offers his sharp
      > insights on recent tactical, military, and political developments
      > taking place in Iraq, discusses the very real growing signs of
      > discontent within the armed forces, and what the anti-war movement
      > should do about it.
      >
      > Alam: Stan, thanks for doing this interview with Left Hook.
      >
      > Goff: Thanks for Left Hook. And I want to apologize for
      > rushing through this. Things are getting hectic these days.
      >
      > Alam: The decimation of Fallujah did not either curb or
      > destroy the insurgency. Instead insurgents continue to dominate Iraq's
      > geographical center, threatening US supply lines and striking at will.
      > Meanwhile, US-trained Iraqi forces seem prone to falling apart, as
      > recently evidenced in Mosul. Does this mean US war planners' hopes for
      > finding an "exit strategy" are unfounded?
      >
      > Goff: The situation in Iraq generally and in places like
      > Fallujah is incredibly unclear in the details. Reporters who attempt
      > to get inside these zones are subject to be kidnapped, caught in the
      > crossfire, or even targeted for death as American forces have done on
      > a couple of occasions. And the problem with communiqués from any
      > partisan in an active battle is that these communiqués are
      > inextricable from tactical and political objectives - so in terms of
      > their empirical value, they are always highly questionable. This is
      > not moralizing. It's just part of the political constitution of war.
      >
      > Having said that, there is little doubt about the large
      > tendencies we are observing there. Almost from day one, contrary to
      > all the hype from the Pentagon about "winning the war and losing the
      > peace," and a "great tactical victory," the US forces, and to a lesser
      > extent the British forces, lost the initiative - that is, the ability
      > to choose the time and place and manner of combat engagements. They
      > want to swallow this fact up and regurgitate it to the public as "fog
      > of war," which is plain bureaucratic bullshit. They are losing, and
      > they have been losing in some sense from the very beginning, as some
      > of us were pointing out by April 2003.
      >
      > Several factors contributed to this almost immediate loss of
      > advantage. One that is now clear is a fairly thorough and
      > sophisticated preparation by some forces for a protracted guerrilla
      > struggle that has neutralized the technical advantages of the US
      > military as well as US military doctrine. Two is that US military
      > doctrine itself was thrown into an abrupt flux by the acceleration of
      > Rumsfeld's new warfighting doctrine in the middle of active
      > preparation and conduct of two huge military operations. New doctrine
      > take years to rationalize and debug, and Rumsfeld force-fed his to his
      > own generals - which could account for why they are standing silently
      > behind the right-wing Republican dogpile that is hitting Rumsfeld now
      > in the wake of that Reservist asking about "hillbilly armor." Three is
      > that the loss of the Turkish front for the initial ground offensive
      > took them completely by surprise and pushed them into last minute
      > revisions of the ground offensive plan as their weather window was
      > closing. This put the Iraqi resistance at least a year ahead in its
      > development, because it created this huge geographic space, now called
      > the Sunni Triangle, for a tactical withdrawal that preserved untold
      > numbers of fighters and materiel, as well as safe-areas for
      > reorganization. Finally, the combination of reliance on, may his name
      > never be spoken, Ahmed Chalabi for post-invasion intelligence
      > scenarios, and the incredibly brutal way the entire operation has been
      > carried out - which has created a near absolute ideological resistance
      > to the occupation. This generalized Iraqi opposition is difficult to
      > overestimate.
      >
      > None of this impacts an "exit strategy," however, because
      > there never was one, though we may start to hear ruling circles start
      > to clamor for one now as this whole situation goes further into the
      > toilet. The intent of this invasion was to establish a permanent
      > military presence in the region, and to gain complete control over the
      > Iraqi economy. Apparently, these are still the objectives among the
      > inner circle around George W. These guys are a little like Slim
      > Pickens in the final scene of Dr. Strangelove.
      >
      > Another goal of the invasion was to demonstrate US military
      > invincibility to the rest of the world. The reality has accomplished
      > exactly the opposite. There is no more significant outcome of this war
      > than that.
      >
      > If the decision is finally taken to get out, and there is a
      > real chance that this could happen if the resistance continues to
      > refine its tactics and strengthen its popular bases, it will not be a
      > decision taken coolly, but one forced on whichever administration we
      > have here by the Iraqi resistance. That's not an exit strategy. That's
      > getting kicked out.
      >
      > Not only have the Iraqi forces frequently deserted, many of
      > them have flipped into the resistance - I suspect more than we even
      > know - and many took the training as preparation for defection back to
      > the Iraqi side. This war will not likely be Vietnamized any more than
      > Vietnam was. Instead, we have thousands of miles of pipeline that can
      > not be secured, surrogate cops who have a life expectancy of about a
      > month, a puppet government that does little else but attend to its own
      > physical survival, and bases that now have to be supplied not by
      > vehicle convoys, but by the far more expensive and complicated method
      > of airlift. The resistance has turned the whole place into a kind of
      > grinding, low-grade Dien Bien Phu.
      >
      > Alam: As the Pentagon's Defense Science Board recently
      > admitted, US foreign policy is only increasing hatred and resistance
      > of America. At the same time, the US clearly does not have the
      > manpower to launch further aggressive maneuvers on a large scale
      > anywhere, including Iran. So what is impelling the ruling class toward
      > this seemingly unsustainable course?
      >
      > Goff: I don't know what the DSB might have said. I didn't hear
      > it. It is frightening to think that I might agree with them on
      > anything, even something this brainlessly obvious. Aren't those the
      > guys who've been pushing this strategic missile defense thing? Another
      > one of their jillion dollar toys failed to launch last week. It didn't
      > fail to hit a bullet with a bullet, which is what reputable scientists
      > call the whole scheme. It failed to take off. There are hobby stores
      > right down the road from where I live that sell rockets that
      > 12-year-old kids can make launch. These guys are on the Pentagon gravy
      > train, and they work very hard to keep their pals on the same gravy train.
      >
      > You are right about how this operation has constrained the US
      > ability to intervene militarily elsewhere. Even in Haiti, they
      > couldn't send enough Marines to consolidate the February coup further
      > out than a couple of upscale areas in Port-au-Prince. Now they have
      > pushed the Brazilians and a couple of other damn fool governments into
      > doing it for them. This is creating political ripples at home in these
      > Latin American nations, Argentina and Chile are the other two big
      > contingents, and being commander of the MINUSTAH has become about the
      > most unenviable job on the planet. They are talking about sending
      > contingents into the Philippines to assist relief efforts after a
      > hurricane. Right. It just happens to be in an area where the NPA is
      > well-entrenched and well-liked. But a couple battalions of Marines
      > doesn't cover a lot of territory, and when you add a long logistical
      > tail off of established lines of communication, they become a kind of
      > low-impact, high-maintenance, high-cost black hole.
      >
      > Iran is more vulnerable to a US invasion than Iraq was, if the
      > US had the assets, which it doesn't now. That's because there is a
      > conventional force protecting a conventional state. This is the enemy
      > that US doctrine is designed to defeat, but it has to have the
      > freed-up capacity. It doesn't.
      >
      > I'm watching Iran closely these days, because they may very
      > well come out of all this as the most significant power-broker in the
      > region, with the potentially Iran-oriented Shia majority in the South
      > of Iraq. Wouldn't it be something if it was George W. Bush who finally
      > won the Iran-Iraq War?
      >
      > The real nightmare, of course, for the US right now, is the
      > collapse of the Saudi royal family. This possibility was a huge factor
      > in the decision to invade Iraq and establish bases there. And it is
      > the real way in which Osama bin Laden and friends fit into the overall
      > picture in the region. Since 1990, when he was shut out of the Saudi
      > defense from a potential Iraqi attack, and the Royals chose the US
      > over him to conduct the defense of the Holy Land, his main objective
      > encompassing all other objectives, in my opinion, has been to
      > overthrow the royal family. With the erstwhile assistance of the Bush
      > administration, he has come closer to that than he might have
      > otherwise dreamed.
      >
      > A fraction of finance capital in the US, people like George
      > Soros the international currency pirate, have identified the increased
      > probability of an uncontrollable storm within this kind of wild
      > instability that could blow away the bloated mass of fictional value
      > that surrounds their little summit like a thick cloud. And no one
      > wants to risk pissing the region off in such a way that we lose access
      > to oil, even the little portion that comes from over there to the US.
      > For all the silly talk over the last few years about a dematerialized
      > economy, the US is still using over 25 percent of the world's primary
      > energy for around five percent of the world's population. Turn the
      > taps off here where I live, where the average commute to work is 25
      > minutes, and watch the burbs - Goerge W. Bush's base - shrivel like a
      > philodendron left out in an ice storm.
      >
      > I don't remember if it was Marx or one of those other smart
      > people who said it, but the ruling class is caught inside this system
      > every bit as much as the rest of us. Maybe more. They can't change
      > course easily. Especially in this period of capitalism when it is
      > driven so much by hot money, by speculation. They have literally eaten
      > away their own capacity to do long-range planning, and I think they
      > see a train wreck on the horizon. That's why the Hail Mary thing they
      > are trying in Southwest Asia. But Hail Mary plays don't often work, do
      > they?
      >
      > The longer this goes on, the higher the likelihood of
      > conscription, too. And not just that back-door Stop Loss conscription,
      > but a plain old-fashioned draft. Rumsfeld opposes it, but he's looking
      > more and more expendable these days. The scary thing about a draft is
      > that it has to be made urgent somehow to keep it from becoming a
      > political time bomb. That requires an event.
      >
      > Alam: There's been a lot in the news about US soldiers
      > criticizing or resisting the war in one form or another - a unit that
      > refused to deliver supplies, thousands of deserters, attacking war
      > claims, troops suing against stop-loss orders, pointed questions aimed
      > at Rumsfeld in Kuwait. As someone involved in organizing dissenting
      > soldiers and their families, what do you make of all this? Do you see
      > a pattern of growing disillusionment within the ranks?
      >
      > Goff: Do we ever! Our contacts with the GI Rights Hotline,
      > Quaker House, the National Lawyers Guild Military Law Task Force, and
      > the military families network are very sensitive barometers to the
      > morale and discipline inside the armed services, and all of them are
      > reporting dramatic spikes in requests for assistance of all kinds,
      > from filing for conscientious objector status to asking about the
      > risks of intentional AWOL to wanting to know what agreements the US
      > has with Canada that might force their repatriation.
      >
      > The little mutinies in the ranks do not constitute questioning
      > the war or its reasons, but it's a beginning. When someone is willing
      > to refuse an order to stick his or her neck out, that's a very strong
      > indication that they have already determined that this war is not
      > about protecting the US. If they believed that, there would be a
      > greater spirit of sacrifice. For the most part, these folks are
      > patriotic in their own chauvinistic, uninformed way. So refusal to do
      > something demonstrates a nascent level of consciousness that we have
      > to build on. I did a presentation recently in New York with Veterans
      > for Peace and Military Families Speak Out, and we used it to begin
      > drumming up support for a massive demonstration in Fayetteville, North
      > Carolina this year, next to Ft. Bragg. We are doing it on March 19th
      > and making a national call for the anniversary of the 2003 ground
      > offensive. Last year we had around 1,800 folks and it was very
      > well-received. Even active duty military joined in - in civilian
      > clothes, of course. This year, we want to take it to five digits. Come
      > along, and bring 100 of your best friends.
      >
      > Now that things are starting to visibly break down inside the
      > institution of the military, people have begun to express a renewed
      > interest in GI and military family organizing. There's a Marine vet
      > named Jimmy Massey from here in North Carolina who is shopping a book
      > around that is about to blow the lid off of some murders that were
      > known and sanctioned by members of the chain of command in Iraq. We
      > are encouraging whistleblowers, not just for the obvious reasons, but
      > as a form of therapeutic intervention for PTSD - witnessing. And the
      > dissent of the families, some of whose stories are horrendous, shreds
      > the legitimacy of the Washington gang.
      >
      > Alam: With the elections over and the situation in Iraq
      > worsening, the college campus-based anti-war movement, represented by
      > CAN, is on the rebound. Part of what it's doing now is helping
      > organize speaking events for Iraqi veterans against the war. How do
      > you think the youth anti-war movement can best link up with anti-war
      > vets, learn from them and lend support?
      >
      > Goff: Come to Fayetteville!
      >
      > Inviting anti-war veterans, and don't forget military family
      > members, to various public events is a good start. Iraq Veterans
      > Against the War has quite a few members who are near enough to
      > college-age. I think the college students and the vets can learn from
      > each other. Collaboration is the learning process. But even without
      > the vets and families, any public education effort, forums and
      > teach-ins and so forth that make the public smarter about the war are
      > helping the overall movement. The trick right now is not necessarily
      > linking up, which will happen over time as resistance grows, but to
      > put fire back into the belly of the anti-war and anti-empire movement,
      > and to get us back up on our feet. This damned election anesthetized us.
      >
      > Alam: Appealing to dissenting soldiers is a political
      > imperative for the American anti-war movement. But how do you approach
      > the contradiction of trying to organize soldiers against the war while
      > condemning soldiers for killing or torturing Iraqis? Is there a bigger
      > culprit to be targeted for the atrocities?
      >
      > Goff: No contradiction there for me. We not only want to
      > appeal to those who are dissenting, it's time to start encouraging
      > dissent in the ranks and more. Some folks were uncomfortable recently
      > when I said that we should see the US armed forces as ours, and begin
      > to reclaim them. But we have to begin to see this struggle for what it
      > must become, a fight for control over state power. That includes the
      > military. And we have to attend to the situation in Venezuela and
      > Cuba. A strong military committed to a people's agenda is essential. I
      > am not calling for supporting the troops. This is a call for their
      > eventual wholesale defection from the bourgeoisie's control. In the
      > same address, I called for the arrest and indefinite detention of the
      > whole executive branch. That should put things in context. How are we
      > going to preach revolution as long as it remains a figurative term? We
      > have to set our sights higher.
      >
      > Our focus should never be on individual crimes unless we point
      > out the context. There are some situations that are atrocity-creating.
      > There are those who execute the plans and those who make them. There
      > are those who make the plans, and those who order them made. There is
      > racism and xenophobia and shocking ignorance at the heart of our
      > system, and we on the Left know that those who own the means of
      > production also own the means of production of what passes for knowledge.
      >
      > If all we do is condemn individual acts of violence, then we
      > fall into the trap of claiming moral equivalence between the Iraqi
      > resistance and the forces of occupation, but even worse than that, we
      > abdicate our responsibility to explain how a situation like this comes
      > to pass.
      >
      > Fighting for the minds of the very soldiers who have been
      > tasked to carry out this war even as we condemn their every act in the
      > execution of the war is the very essence of what we have to be doing.
      > Fighting for their loyalty, and fighting to turn their loyalty from
      > the ruling class to the people, even as we endorse the Iraqi's right
      > to resist by arms, is exactly who we are and who we have to be.
      >
      > Otherwise we are just fence-sitters, a bunch of self-righteous
      > political spectators. Our job is to show that this is not
      > black-and-white in the simple-minded terms we have been given, but
      > that it is a complex and dangerous situation that can only be
      > explained with an analysis of class and imperialism.
      >
      > That's why I want to pull my hair out when I hear people
      > saying stuff like "Peace is Patriotic." This is drivel, and it is
      > getting us nowhere. Dumbing down movements makes movements dumb. We
      > cannot out-simplify the Right. They'll beat us every time. These are
      > the people that won't allow high school science teachers to explain
      > the fundamentals of biology. They empower ignorance. Our challenge is
      > to fight ignorance. That's harder than what the Right has to do. for
      > now anyway.
      >
      > Alam: Recently you gave a powerful speech in NYC. At one point
      > you said, "Our job is not to be conciliatory. We are not diplomats.
      > Our job is not to comfort the comfortable by reinforcing their denial.
      > Our job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
      > Because we were there. We know what these people have sent our
      > children to do, and what they have sent our children to become."
      >
      > In the longer run, what kind of movement - and what kind of
      > strategies - will we needed to not just "comfort the afflicted and
      > afflict the comfortable" but prevent the comfortable from afflicting
      > others in the first place?
      >
      > Goff: That's the jackpot question, isn't it? What is to be
      > done? Always has been; always will be.
      >
      > I'm not a big believer in long term strategies. I believe in
      > strategic goals, but not in trying to map out in detail how we get
      > from here to there. In the short term, we have to escalate. This is
      > that tricky business of walking a line between co-optation and
      > cowardice on the one side and reckless adventurism on the other.
      > Finding the right place to push and the right people to push there is
      > the key. Think about SNCC and the Freedom Riders. There's a certain
      > amount of trial-and-error in this, but one thing I've noticed is that
      > the more conservative forces in any movement will always tend toward
      > inertia, and the steps that advance movements generally meet
      > resistance not only from conservative elements, in terms of tactical
      > approach, but also from entrenched leadership for obvious reasons.
      > SNCC was bold, but it was disciplined. And they broke laws. We will
      > definitely have to break laws, but this has to be done strategically,
      > not just knocking out McDonald's windows - which is a good way to get
      > picked off by provocateurs and infiltrators.
      >
      > Each formation will have to find its own way in this movement,
      > and the movement will have to be creative and flexible enough to build
      > on discovered strengths and to ruthlessly abandon our weaknesses, as
      > well as learn how to work in various kinds of alliances - local,
      > national, and international.
      >
      > I have been flogging a kind of formula lately that I call 3-D.
      > Delegitimate. Disobey. Disrupt. One might think of these as three
      > separate activities, or as things that can go on at the same time. I
      > like to fantasize about them as phases. One massive effort at
      > achieving some threshold of delegitimation, followed on by the kind of
      > mass civil disobedience that makes cops go home ashamed of themselves
      > at night, followed by actual disruption of business as usual - once
      > there is enough public support to ensure that what we do doesn't just
      > piss off working class people. I'm thinking here about the Bolivians
      > who blocked all avenues in and out of La Paz and closed the capital
      > down. Now that's a disruption! But it has to have broad support, or it
      > becomes a pretext for jailing a movement's leadership.
      >
      > Short-short term, like this year, I think we have to put
      > everything into finding ways to push through or bypass media
      > propaganda and reach as many people as possible with any information
      > and analysis that exposes our government and this war for that
      > government's and that war's essential criminality. This effort needs
      > to be in your face and relentless. It needs to inflame public opinion
      > on both sides and sharpen political polarization. And as much as
      > anything, we need to begin the process of doing what the Left can do -
      > in that process of polarizing - to destroy the Democratic Party, which
      > has now become a complete drag anchor on the working class, on women
      > and LGBT folks, and on oppressed nationalities. We desperately need to
      > start the development of a red-black-green party of some kind as an
      > alternative that sees electioneering as secondary to militant street,
      > community, and workplace struggles. At least, that's how I see it.
      >
      > But I don't have a crystal ball, and I am not a long-term
      > veteran of the Left. I'm just some guy that fell into this politics
      > with a very peculiar standpoint owing to my heterodox personal
      > history. This conversation about how to refound a viable revolutionary
      > Left in the United States in the context of this anti-war work is one
      > we should all be having.
      >
      > Alam: Stan Goff, thank you for your time.
      >
      > Goff: Thanks again for being part of that process I just
      > described.
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