SORRY ABOUT THE LENGTH OF THESE 2 EMS - but I hope you'll find them of sufficient interest ! max
What really goes on in the US military -- Stan Goff
MAX, AN INTERESTING ONE! Sent me by PETER C - many thanks peter !
11 November, 2003
An Interview with Stan Goff
By DEREK SEIDMAN
Stan Goff knows better than most people about what really goes on in the US military. He retired as a Master Sergeant in 1996 after serving for 26 years, most of them with the Special Forces, Delta Force, and as a military instructor at West Point. In the process of his military career he was deployed to Vietnam, South Korea, Colombia, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Peru, Venezuela, Somalia, and Haiti. He is now an anti-imperialist activist and a member of the coordinating committee of Bring Them Home Now. He is the author of Hideous Dream: A Soldier's Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti, as well as the forthcoming Full Spectrum Disorder. He lives in Raleigh, NC.
BRING THEM HOMENOW:
Bring Them Home Now
P.O. Box 91233
Raleigh, NC 27675, USA
Derek Seidman, an editor of the new radical youth journal Left Hook, interviewed Stan Goff last week.
Derek Seidman: We really appreciate you doing this interview Stan. First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your experience in the US armed forces, and how you came to be a war resister?
Stan Goff: I don't know if I'm a war resister as much as an anti-imperialist. I mean, I see where they are the same thing on a contingent basis, but I don't identify with those who simply oppose "war," generic, on moral grounds. I see war as a systemic outcome, but feel we have to pay a lot of attention not only to the military form of
imperialism, but also to its economic, political, cultural, and ideological forms. I see all these things as part of a unified but nonlinear and dynamically evolving whole.
I joined the army in January 1970. I won't detail the whole process, but one thing led to another, and it became a career. I began in the infantry and drifted into special operations. My first assignment was Vietnam. Then there was a hiatus from conflict zones until the eighties, when I went first to Guatemala, then six more conflict areas besides Vietnam and Guatemala between 1983 and 1994. Working special ops in Central America, I had the experience of working directly under embassy supervision on a couple of missions, so I had a glimpse of foreign policy that most soldiers don't get. That's when it began to dawn on me that these military adventures and all these classified operations were being driven by motives that were as much financial as geo-strategic, and that there was some kind of symbiosis--which I didn't clearly understand yet--between the financial and the military.
I also became keenly aware of racism all around me. I became interested in understanding it because, besides being powerful, it is actually pretty complicated and even mysterious. And I found myself becoming a proponent of allowing women into combat arms--a nascent feminist current in my thinking. These were the threads that began to unravel the old notions and create the space for studying and seeking new ideas that would better explain my own experience. By the nineties, I had become interested in social theory, and by the time I left the army in February 1996 I was involved with various political activists on the left, where I was brought into a very lively culture of organizing and debate.
My opposition to US military adventures was a natural outcome of that. But I am seeing these adventures not as a pacifist, but through the interpretive lenses I have taken away from all that study, debate, and organizing, like Marxism, feminism, deep ecology, and world systems theory. Each of these perspectives yields a lot of useful information about the inner dynamics of capitalism, patriarchal constructions of sexuality and how they structure the totality of social relations, the energetic and
material limits to growth, the relationship between material and social entropy, and US imperialism as a global social structure.
DS: If you were a soldier in Iraq right now, what would be going through your head?
Goff: Trick question. There are over 120,000 US soldiers in Iraq right now, and each of them is unique in many respects. And at different points in my own career, I might have responded differently depending on what I was doing. As a grunt, or a support troop, I would probably be pretty low. Special ops folks are usually kept busy planning, planning, planning, or conducting some fairly sketchy operations, like the Phoenix-style stuff that just got that SBS troop killed, that are so all-occupying in the
execution that a lapse in professional focus can lapse your life.
DS: A lot of pundits argue that the soldiers made a conscious decision to serve their country, and that they need to live up to this responsibility and not criticize what they're being made to do--it is, after all, the duty they signed up for. What do you say to this?
Goff: Horseshit! This is a big, smelly red herring. They made a conscious decision alright, but not in a vacuum. The decision was to join the military. But they were weighing their real options in the real world when they made that decision, working off of limited information, limited experience, Madison Avenue "Army of One" sales pitches, and an economy that offers most people a glorious career in serial shit retail jobs. That's the reason rich frat boys like George Bush often don't do military service. They have more options. The lack of options is a real thing that can't be erased with a lot of abstracted, two-dimensional, libertarian, we-are-all-free-agents nonsense. And joining the military is a contractual agreement that is circumscribed
by law, not some holy vow to surrender your brain. How is occupying Iraq "serving" the United States? Unless we can define what the United States is, it's pure demagogy. They were not ordered to Iraq by the United States. They were ordered to Iraq by the Bush administration. That's why this volunteer military thing is a red herring. The decision didn't come from the troops. It came from the political establishment.
Whether they are "volunteer" or conscript doesn't change that. The question of criticism while on active duty is a very nuanced legal question, but I would counsel those on active duty to be cautious, or at least know what you're getting into if you speak out. The military can always retaliate, even when you are within your legal rights.
DS: Your son is stationed in Iraq. What do you hear from him and others about what the situation is like, both in general and for the soldiers in particular?
Goff: My son has asked me not to speak for him publicly, and not to pass along his comments made in private correspondence, and I am going to respect that. He will be very happy to come home and see his 11-month old baby, relax, make love, go to the refrigerator, sleep in once in a while, and not have to carry a weapon.
Other correspondents are telling us that morale is rock bottom, support is spotty, and they are beginning to believe that all politicians are pathological liars.
DS: Can you tell us about Military Families Speak Out? One of the main anti-war slogans is "Support the troops--Bring them home now". What do you think about the fact that the growing criticism of the war and occupation has to do not with the fact that the US is doing something wrong, immoral, and harmful for the world, but because our soldiers are getting killed in doing it?
Goff: That's the key to building a movement. The vast majority of people are not motivated by abstractions. They are motivated by what they can feel on their skin. The entry point for this movement into the consciousness of new people is not through morality. The ruling class has the best stage, the best sound, the best lighting, the best scriptwriters, the best actors, and the best broadcast ability to construct morality. Naturally, we fight them tooth and nail on every single lie, but even the content of our message is often lost, because of the WAYS that people process messages, which has also been constructed by the ruling class. The freshest stratum
in any movement are those who are there through trauma and fear. Soldiers getting killed is a very serious thing, because these are our families. Our experience in the Bring Them Home Now campaign is that in fighting to bring troops home, this fresh group is exposed to a lot of new ideas, and because they are in a painful space they are in a teachable space. It doesn't take long for them, once they begin to question the first motive to question all the motives. It's not as long a step as people think from asking the first question to questioning imperialism itself. I know. The truly surprising
thing is how incredibly thin the whole fabric of mystification is once it's exposed to a little critique. Americans don't know how to critique, and they are threatened by it. That's why the first step has to be something more fundamental than analysis, like revulsion, fear, and pain.
DS: Lastly, what do you think are the immediate concrete tasks of the anti-war movement? How much of this involves trying to reach out to the troops with their growing demoralization and resentment?
Goff: I've long been an advocate of reaching out to the military, but not in the ham-handed way some people have tried. Saying goofy shit like "Overthrow your officers!" is not going anywhere now. The BTHN campaign is addressing real issues, with a lot of emphasis on outreach to military families. Soldiers might reactively engage in shouting matches with a stranger from the movement, but they have respectful, thoughtful discussions with spouses and parents and siblings. They also confide in them when they themselves experience doubts.
Eventually, of course, I believe the soldiers will have to overthrow some of their officers, but not until we overthrow all of our bosses. The important thing for revolutionaries--if that term is to mean anything other than phrase-mongering and adventurism--is to build and maintain a bridge with the military. The day will come when we will need them, and they will need us.
I'm not sure we have just an anti-war movement anymore. Since the full scale invasion, I think we have three movements. One is a UN movement. Another is an anti-war movement. The last is an anti-imperialist movement. The former objected to the war on legalistic grounds, believing that the US would be justified in escalating the attack on Iraqi sovereignty with a Security Council resolution.
The UN movement wants to substitute a UN military occupation for a US occupation as part of a return to some mythical pre-Bush paradise of multilateralism. They profess a caring for Iraqis, but fundamentally buy the whole "white man's burden" theme that the Iraqis are incapable of self-government.
The anti-war movement is far more eclectic, but they are those who are uncomfortable with the UN option except as some short interim measure, and generally opposed to armed conflict under any circumstances. This is the "Peace is Patriotic" group, who still haven't quite grasped the essence of American nationalism. There is a substantial section of this stratum--not the hardcore religious pacifists--that can be won over to an anti-imperialist position if they are provided a few new analytical tools.
The anti-imperialist section is composed broadly of "anti-globalization" folks, radical feminists, Black and Brown nationalists, socialists, and anarchists.
If there is a strategic imperative for us in the Euro-American metropolis', it is to consolidate this anti-imperialist pole, then begin bringing in sections of the anti-war movement, beginning with those who feel the system, as it were, most directly on their skin. Poor people. Immigrants. People of color. Women. But also white middle class who have been downsized into the proletariat, so to speak. This entails a massive popular education campaign, which is easy to say, and hard as hell to do. Figuring out how to do that, however, is absolutely imperative.
There is a right-pole to mirror our left-pole, and it is white, middle-class, and armed to the teeth. When things really start to slip, economically, and these folks avalanche out of the middle class into the street, many of them will be susceptible to the siren call of blood-and-soil nationalism, and they'll look for scapegoats. I believe this is a real possibility in the next few years, and that gives added urgency to our job to fight for every soul.
Finally, imperialism starts at home. Think of it as colonialism. That's not an analog, it's a real thing. There are colonized nationalities here in the United States, and their struggle for self-determination--which means political power--must be seen as a key struggle for the whole movement. The other struggle that has been perennially set on the back burner during every upsurge of social unrest is the struggle for self-determination by the largest colonized population in our society: women. That is a mistake. In fact, this may be the deepest of all our struggles, for lots of reasons I don't have time to elaborate here. But more and more, I am coming to believe that the struggle against patriarchy will be the linchpin of any successful revolution in the future.
WELL, AND HERE ARE TWO WOMEN… THANX Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Nov. 20, 2003 issue of Workers World newspaper
JESSICA LYNCH AND SHOSHANA JOHNSON:
A TALE OF TWO SOLDIERS
By LeiLani Dowell
Stories about Pfc. Jessica Lynch are appearing all over U.S. television and in the print media. She has appearances on ABC's Dateline and on the David Letter man show, and will be featured on the cover of Time magazine and Vanity Fair. In addition, an authorized biography, "I Am a Soldier, Too," is being released to coincide with the viewing of NBC's movie dramatization, titled "Saving Jessica Lynch," of what happened to her in Iraq.
However, important elements of the story that the U.S. government issued after U.S. troops stormed the Iraqi hospital where Lynch was being treated for her injuries have been denounced--by none other than Lynch herself. She has called them a fabrication and a manipulation to promote the war. In addition, not only are the stories of other soldiers being ignored, but the charge of racism has been raised by the family of one African American soldier captured and injured at the same time as Lynch.
On April 1, Lynch received national headlines when the Army released a video of what appeared to be a dramatic, high-stakes operation performed by U.S. soldiers to "rescue" her from a hospital in Nasiriyah.
At the time, front-page reports attested to Lynch's heroism, saying that she had received knife and bullet wounds while emptying her weapon at her attackers before being captured.
However, later investigations determined that Lynch's injuries came when the U.S. Army vehicle she had been riding in crashed into the truck in front of it, and not from knives or gunfire. Also, her weapon had jammed before she could even fire a round. She received a head injury and broken bones in her right arm, right leg, thigh and ankle in the crash, and was taken to the hospital by Iraqi people.
In addition, Lynch denies reports that she had been slapped around during her hospital stay. She is reported to have told ABC's Diane Sawyer: "From the time I woke up in the hospital, no one beat me, no one slapped me, no one, nothing. ... I mean,I actually had one nurse, that she would sing to me." (New York Times,
Nov. 7) (AND, MAY I BLOW THAT HORN: OUR ROUND-ROBIN SIX MONTHS AGO ! MW)
Lynch also revealed that Iraqi soldiers had left the hospital the day before the rescue. When asked if the military's portrayal of the rescue bothered her, she criticized the Pentagon, saying, "Yeah, it does. It does that they used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff. Yeah, it's wrong."
In an article in the Nov. 9 Observer of London, Edward Helmore wrote, "Lynch has become a metaphor not for the heroism of pretty young Americans captured by a devilish foreign enemy, but for the confusion that has marked Bush's Operation Iraqi Freedom from the start."
LITTLE MENTION OF THE THOUSANDS WOUNDED
As the ruling class media spends an entire week dedicated to a false story of heroism and patriotism, the stories of other soldiers are barely mentioned.
An article in the Nov. 9 Los Angeles Times discusses the influx of wounded U.S. soldiers into U.S. military hospitals. The article states that nearly 1,900 wounded have been sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, 1,500 to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and several thousand to other smaller hospitals and clinics. One of those soldiers, Staff Sgt. Tarik Jackson, is from the
same unit as Lynch, was shot four times, and may be in treatment for the next year.
Injured and sick soldiers awaiting treatment at Fort Stewart in Georgia have been complaining about the conditions there, saying they have to wait for months in filthy barracks for medical treatment, are housed 60 to a barracks and are forced to pay for their own toilet paper.
On an open-line show on C-SPAN the first week of November, the entertainer Cher called in after a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She demanded that the stories of the "devastatedly wounded" soldiers there--50 of them amputees--be told.
Media time isn't the only aspect of selective attention being given. Communities are in an uproar about the disproportionate treatment another soldier, Shoshana Johnson, is receiving. Johnson was taken as a prisoner of war at the same time as Lynch, and was held six days longer. Unlike Lynch, she did fire at her captors. Unlike Lynch, she was shot in the melee--once in each ankle.
However, while Lynch is receiving an 80-percent disability pension, in addition to making money from publicity about her case, Johnson was informed that she will be receiving only a 30-percent disability pension--a difference of $600 to $700 a month. She has had little media coverage--and then only after protests.
Why the lesser benefits for someone who clearly displayed more "heroism" and received more injuries? In a statement, the Army said that the two women are receiving different benefits because a military Physical Evaluation Board placed them in different categories.
Many believe those categories were "Black" and "White."
For while Lynch is 19, white and blonde and, in the words of Syracuse professor of television and popular culture Robert Thompson, "fits the profile of the type of casting American television has done for years," Shoshana Johnson is a 30-year-old African American woman.
The two women and their families have issued statements supporting one another.
RACIST WAR AND OCCUPATION
The anti-war movement has condemned this racist war and its evolution into a racist occupation. That racism touches even the U.S. soldiers enlisted to fight the war. African Americans continue to serve in the military in numbers disproportionate to their population in the United States--19 percent of the Armed Forces, 13 percent of the U.S. population.
Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson has rallied to Johnson's cause, helping bring her case to light and demanding fair treatment. In a Nov. 4 column in the Sacramento Observer, Jackson wrote:
"For Johnson and thousands of other Iraqi troops, the real indignity comes when they return. ... President Bush likes to say that Sept. 11 changed everything. But it didn't change this administration's callous disregard for the lower ranks--for the soldiers, the workers ... It didn't change the special interest politics that choose the benefit of the few over the common good of the many."
[LeiLani Dowell, a member of Workers World Party, is running for Congress in 2004 in the Eighth Congressional District (San Francisco) on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket.]
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