Opposing a GI & Veteran-Focused Anti-War Movement: Seven Reasons

July 9, 2007

Opposing a GI & Veteran-Focused Anti-War Movement: Seven Reasons

By Tamara K. Nopper
July 9, 2007

As an activist involved in anti-war and counter-military recruitment work, I have been increasingly concerned about the growing GI and veteran-focused tendency of the broad anti-war movement. When my friend returned from the US Social Forum held in Atlanta recently, I became even more concerned when I saw the number of anti-war panels emphasizing GIs and veterans. Finally, after reading different announcements promoting veteran and military family gatherings on this past 4th of July, including the problematic discourses used to frame some of these events, I felt compelled to write.

Some may be surprised about my concerns given my anti-war work. Some may accuse me of just trying to be ultra-leftist, or worse, unsympathetic of the different realities faced by those who enlist. However, I also suspect that there are many out there, who, like me, struggle with what it means to understand the realities of GIs and veterans while simultaneously being active in anti-militarization and anti-imperialist work.

Specifically, I struggle with what is becoming the left’s uncritical embrace of GI and veteran-focused organizing. While I understand the importance of GIs and veterans speaking out against war, I struggle with some of the deep contradictions embedded in GI and veteran-focused work and what it means for organizing not only against the current war in Iraq but US militarization and empire. This is the political conundrum that I face when I talk with veterans that I know, read listservs and articles, attend events, or engage in anti-war and counter-military recruitment work. Thus, I write this essay to express my concerns and to connect with others who share them. And despite the obvious criticism from those who demand a solution before struggling with the problem, I do not pose a grand solution to this conundrum that I am exploring. Simply, I outline seven reasons why I am currently opposed to a GI and veteran-focused anti-war movement.

# 1: GI and veteran-focused activism over-emphasizes Iraq and Afghanistan as the only problems

While US GIs and veterans have been gaining more cache among the left for opposing the war in Iraq, not all of them oppose war and militarization in general. As such, we hear more about Iraq and then Afghanistan than any other military build-up, site of combat, or use of troops. This is a problem because it presumes that the only military build-up or expression of US supremacy through its military industrial complex is located in Iraq or Afghanistan. Or, it posits the notion that the build-up in Iraq and Afghanistan are unjust but that it is necessary to have US military presence in other countries.

To be fair, many GIs and veterans have, like other anti-war groups, “made connections” between Iraq and other sites of war or militarization, including Vietnam, Palestine, and New Orleans. In regards to Palestine, some groups have suffered for bringing attention to the Zionist occupation there. Activists have also made connections between Iraq and forms of domestic repression. It is important to make connections between different sites of militarization and state sanctioned violence. However, such gestures usually lead back to Iraq. When other situations are brought up they are automatically connected to Iraq as if they independently don’t deserve our attention. This was most obvious when, in the direct aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many activists depicted Katrina as if it could only be understood in relationship to Iraq—as if Katrina didn’t have a historical basis that preceded the current Iraq War.

Of course the current war against Iraq is of political and material importance. But I think that Kwame Ture provided us with a useful vocabulary for how to think about the over-emphasis on one locale. In 1966, Ture, then known as Stokely Carmichael, gave a speech opposing the Vietnam War at the University of California, Berkeley. As he put it, “One of the problems with the peace movement is that it’s just too caught up in Vietnam, and if we pull out the troops from Vietnam this week, next week you’d have to get another peace movement for Santo Domingo.” Related, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) made it a point, in their important 1966 statement on the Vietnam War, that US imperialism was not simply expressed with the spectacle of Vietnam. Indeed, SNCC emphasized those parts of the world that for the most part continue to be ignored today among anti-war activists, most noticeably African countries such as the Congo, South Africa, and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). In other words, Iraq and Afghanistan, like Vietnam, aren’t the only places anti-war activists need to focus on.

#2: GIs, veterans, and their supporters over-emphasize congressional and legal definitions of war and public support

Many who support a GI and veteran-focused movement tend to emphasize the “illegal nature” and supposed “contradictions” of the war in Iraq as their basis for speaking out and challenging US imperialism. Several well-known GI support groups and veterans organizations emphasize the illegal nature of the current Iraq War and that the war was predicated on lies and deception. They also go out of their way to point out that the current war in Iraq is an “unpopular war.”

The Bush regime was deceptive and the war in Iraq does violate international law—as do many US practices that a variety of activists have tried to bring before an international courtroom during the 20th century. Yet emphasis on notions of “unjust” and “illegal” war implies that wars are morally permissible if Congress ratifies it with no deception. More, the focus on Bush’s deception puts way too much attention on the Bush regime as the problem.

While I am no fan of Bush or his regime, we seem to forget that the Congress who helped, in the immediate sense, get us in the current Iraq War approved to give Bush unlimited war powers shortly after 9-11. Only Representative Barbara Lee stood alone in her dissent, just like the three individuals before her who refused to give unchecked power to presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson for World War II and the Vietnam War, respectively. That more did not join Representative Lee in her dissent is indicative of their cowardice or shared interests with the Bush regime.

Even some groups’ celebration of the Democrats getting back into Congress privileges a congressional interpretation of war and again, gives far too much moral power to those elected to office. Yet history and the present reveal that Congresses are willing, even with more information, to pass legislation that is extremely damaging to communities here and abroad. For those of us who understand the bankrupt notion of American electoral politics, Congress’ approval of Iraq, with or without information, is not the issue.

Related, an emphasis on the legalities of war suggests a belief in the fallacy of US democracy and civil society. The consideration of US democracy as a benign but now misdirected or unchecked process is predicated on political amnesia regarding both the nature of and implementation of US democracy and the related function of the US military.

Finally, to suggest that a war should be stopped because it is unpopular only contributes to the idea that a war is morally permissible if the majority of people within a nation support it. A logical extension of this conclusion is a faith in the ethics of the US public. This is a suspect assumption given that we have numerous examples demonstrating that only a minority of people in the US have any ethics when it comes to putting social justice before individual self-interests marked by race, gender, sexuality, and economic positions.

#3: Most GI and veteran-focused activism fails to address white supremacy

One of the major problems of GI and veteran groups today is that most fail to address white supremacy and its relationship to gender and sexuality politics. Many groups never mention racism, let alone white supremacy, among their main reasons for why they are against the war in Iraq. The closest some get is to claim that the war is unfair to the Iraqi people. While such statements are commendable, there is rarely mention of racism as an inherent part of any imperial project.

This is not much different from the statements of anti-war groups less preoccupied with GIs and veterans. Although many of their statements mention racism, the recruitment of communities of color, and even racial profiling, they give far more attention to detailing how immigrants or South Asians, Arabs, and Muslims have been affected by the “war on terror.” While of course repression of immigrants and South Asians, Arabs, and Muslims is inherently a white supremacist project, emphasis on these groups, for the most part, is not the same as fleshing out how other racialized groups have experienced homeland security measures or the “war on terror,” for that matter. Basically, whether GIs and veterans are featured or focused among organizations it generally results in either a silence regarding white supremacy or an over-emphasis on immigrant groups.

This is not to suggest that individual GIs and veterans don’t address racism in their work. Nor is it to minimize the efforts of more race and gender conscious GI and veteran-focused groups such as the recently formed Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN). Nevertheless, the failure among many GI and veteran-focused groups to have racism front and center in the debates regarding the military, raises a question about the leadership and operations of these organizations. Why is it that among GI and veteran-focused organizations (and the anti-war movement in general) we will see more about corporate profiteering (an economic and therefore “universal” concern among the broad spectrum of the middle and working classes) but very little about racism? And when racism is mentioned, why does the gesture seem obligatory? Why is it that critiques expressed by GIs and veterans that are given the most airtime tend to be limited to “economic” issues such as oil, land, corporations, and contracts? How is it that we have anti-imperialists with little or no race analysis becoming the most prominent GI and veteran-focused activists? Whatever the case, perhaps this is why David Duke voiced support for the positions of some of the most loved white anti-war activists expressing such rhetoric.

When racism is addressed among the GI and veteran-focused anti-war movement, it is usually in the context of non-white enlistees who have refused to go to or return to Iraq. It is important that the face of Iraq War resisters does not remain white. Yet this tendency to focus on people of color who refuse to go to Iraq misses the complexity of the non-white military experience.

For example, many veterans experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but the rates tend to be higher for non-white veterans and/or women. Researchers have argued that the experiences of racism and sexism (including physical and sexual violence), both in and outside of the military contribute to these higher rates of PTSD. More, research also shows that many African American veterans return to civilian life and experience the same meager job opportunities and discrimination in employment that may have compelled some of them to join in the first place. And the largest military court martial in US history was not the result of GIs and veterans resisting war (in the obvious sense)—it was in response to Jim Crow and the assault on Blacks attempting to defend themselves from police abuse.

In August of 1917, 150 Black soldiers of the Third Battalion of the Twenty-fourth US infantry marched on the city of Houston in response to Jim Crow both in the military and the civilian world. They were also responding to inaccurate reports that a Black corporal named Charles Baltimore had been killed while detained after intervening on behalf of a Black soldier who was assaulted and taken into custody for defending an African American woman being beaten by two white police officers. The white townspeople retaliated and several Black soldiers were killed and more than a dozen residents died. Subsequently, over sixty soldiers were tried in the first of several court martials. As L.V. Gaither describes in his book Loss of Empire: Legal Lynching, Vigilantism, and African American Intellectualism in the 21st Century : “Five were acquitted, four convicted of lesser charges, forty-two handed life sentences, and thirteen were sentenced to die. These men were summarily hanged on the morning of December 11, even before their sentences were publicly announced.” It is reported that many of the executed men were dumped in unmarked graves.

This situation reminds us that non-white GIs have not only risked their lives for challenging specific wars or unjust military policies. It reminds us that racism, as well as gender and sexuality politics, inform what soldiers experience and how they get dealt with by the military outside of the designated combat zones. More importantly, this situation reminds us that some of us are vulnerable to a myriad of issues that exist in the civilian world way before we enlist and possibly challenge the military from within. Demonstrated with this example, military personnel have been forced to address their lived realities of being racialized, gendered, and sexualized in the world. They have not only had to express political militancy against “unfair wars” but have had to deal with the reality of racial profiling, state and public violence, and everyday forms of discrimination and repression that affects life chances. But these realities are not addressed in the universalized calls against war promoted by many GIs, veterans, and their supporters.

This is not to suggest that organizations have no people in them raising these issues. People of color who are and/or promote GIs and veterans do raise these issues both within and outside of the organizations in which they work. Nevertheless, the general failure of GI and veteran-focused groups to emphasize white supremacy in their mission statements or platforms raises some urgent questions. For one, are there any possible linkages between the over-emphasis of the Iraq War by anti-war activists, the growing increase in GI-focused activism, and the fact that many white anti-war activists proclaim (with a sordid delight) that more white soldiers are dying on the front lines of the current war in Iraq than in the Vietnam War? Notwithstanding that such a comment is usually a disturbing way of saying “fuck you” to race-minded anti-war activists, it does make me wonder if there is any connection between GI-focused activism on the left and the continued absence of a conversation about race among the organizations given the most attention for their work with GIs and veterans.

#4: Some veterans and GIs present themselves as knowing best “because they were there”

GIs and veterans have valuable stories to share about their experiences given that they experience(d) the realities of military enlistment. However, all too often they are granted the moral upper hand to speak on how to address or stop war because they have been in the front lines. The implication is that those of us who are too “weak to enlist” or those of us who protest “from the sidelines” do not have the moral basis to speak out against war compared to those who enlist. Not only is this the same logic of US presidential candidates who brag to the press and the public about their military exploits in order to gain the upper hand in an election, it suggests that unless you go and fight in a war, that your history, your community, and your autobiography is untouched by the US military industrial complex.

Additionally, it contributes to a pro-military atmosphere by suggesting that the “truly brave” are those who enlist and then resist. I certainly appreciate the changes of heart that different people involved in the military have, as well as the courage it takes to resist the military from within. Nevertheless, I am frustrated by how the over-emphasis on GIs and veterans who challenge the military have, in some ways, rendered invisible the myriad forms of resistance among those who have deliberately decide not to enlist and who suffer for doing so. I have had the opportunity to know, meet, hear, and read about different people who resisted World War II and the Vietnam War. Some of them ended up incarcerated because they refused to enlist (as well as the fact that many institutionalized peace and anti-war groups did not help them). While many activists are aware of such individuals, they appear to have become uninteresting to the left. Today we hear very little about the many brave people who refuse(d) to go into the military. Or if we do, we are subjected to white people’s stories about fleeing to Canada or becoming COs.

Even to this day, non-white people’s historical and current resistance to war and militarization are given little attention among the left, just as they are given little attention in mainstream accounts of war resistance. Of course the exception is the attention given to the bravery of Muhammad Ali and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But the focus on such icons has translated into putting on the back burner the variety and breadth of anti-war, anti-military, and resistance movements. Thus, the important historical foundation and examples of resistance against war and militarization have yet to be fully told. One such important example already mentioned is the conscientious objection of many non-whites, even when the state or anti-war organizations refused to recognize them as COs. Another is the heroic work of Civil Rights and anti-imperialist groups that provided vital support to incarcerated draft resisters and organized against the draft among their communities. Even more deeply buried are the stories of those individuals who fought for the military but came back to the US and organized oppressed communities to engage in combat for self-protection or defense as they politically organized. Indeed, some of the calls for self-defense among a variety of Civil Rights and anti-imperialist organizations would not have materialized if it were not for veterans committing themselves to using their military skills to train organizational leadership and cadre. Finally, there are the everyday forms of refusal to join the military machine among those the military works the hardest to entice. For example, news stories over the past couple of years have detailed how Black enlistment remains down.

Despite this amazing history and continuation of resistance, our leftist films, forums, and marches are, for the most part, mainly filled up with well known military personnel or their family members and the organizations and big (usually white) names promoting them. While there are people of color involved in these ventures, some of them starting their own organizations, most of the people featured are white. But even if they were all people of color isn’t the point. Despite the fact that being non-white and enlisted is a radically different experience, people of color veteran or GI-oriented organizations are nevertheless veteran or GI oriented-organizations, and therefore fraught with some of the issues I address here.

#5: A movement to gain rights and benefits for GIs and veterans has been confused with a movement against militarization

Most of the effort to gain support for GIs and veterans is to put pressure on the US military to make good on its promise of benefits. Knowing that we all come to our political perspectives from a variety of paths, I still wonder if we would have so many GIs and veterans mobilizing against the war in Iraq if they had received the benefits or entitlements that they had been promised by the US military.

That aside, I politically struggle with the issue of GI benefits. I believe that GIs are getting screwed by the military and know that many of the GIs are non-white and/or working class or poor people who went into the military as a way out. And many of them were recruited through manipulation and nefarious means. Overall, I believe people desperately need services and support to deal with the physical, mental, and emotional traumas associated with or exacerbated by training, combat, and military life in general.

This is especially the case with the overwhelming number of women and some men who are physically and sexually assaulted while in the military, replicating heterosexism, patriarchy, homophobia, and incidents of violence that they experienced before enlistment. Women now make up 15 percent of the US military globally and one in ten soldiers in Iraq is a woman. During their military experiences most women are sexually harassed, pressured, assaulted, and/or raped by other people in the military. This can include what some victims’ advocates label as “command rape”—being pressured into sex by men above them in rank who can control their experiences in the military. And despite my profound disgust for those who engage in rape, sexual assault, and gendered and homophobic violence, it is also necessary to have a range of services available for these perpetrators upon their return to civilian life. This is because, regardless of how heinous their acts are while in the military, these are the same folks that will have to reintegrate back into civilian life, which means returning to our neighborhoods, homes, families, relationships, etc. And so how GIs get treated by the military affects not only them but entire communities of people.

However, I also really struggle with what it means to fight for GIs and veterans to get benefits (as opposed to needed services) for a couple of reasons. First, some people who go into combat already had patterns of acting violently in the civilian world. For example, a family member of mine had run-ins with the law and physically attacked his former girlfriend as well as punched holes in the walls of different apartments, which resulted in his immediate family being evicted several times. People thought a possible way for him to avoid the criminal justice system was to get him into the military. I am not sure I want this man learning combat skills and getting benefits for doing so. Second, I struggle because some of the people the movement is fighting to get benefits for are some of the same racist people who would beat up and terrorize us non-white people in the civilian world. I am not simply referring to neo-Nazis, whose numbers are reportedly up in the military. I am talking about the everyday white person who has no problem with perpetrating or supporting various forms of violence against non-whites. Third, I am not totally comfortable organizing for benefits for the all too numerous people, primarily men, who perpetrate violence against women and gay men.

Further, I am also troubled by the embedded suggestion that GIs are more deserving of benefits and rights than civilians because they went and fought for the US government and killed people—most of whom were non-white. For example, I have watched and shown counter-military recruitment videos that showcase veterans talking about how they went and fought for the US and then they return only knowing how to push a broom. Or they talk about how they received fewer benefits than someone working at McDonald’s. While this may be a powerful way to point out how military recruiters distort the realities of job training and benefits, implicit in these assessments is a belief that if you fight for the US you deserve to be treated better than a janitor or a McDonald’s employee. This of course is an economically, racially, and sexually problematic assessment in and of itself. More, it suggests that people who weren’t “brave,” “patriotic,” or “man” enough to enlist do not deserve to have benefits before a veteran. While this is not necessarily explicitly expressed or even held by all who are involved in the work, I do think it is embedded in many efforts to obtain benefits for GIs and veterans.

The failure to receive benefits or to upgrade one’s status after being discharged can be, and has been a catalyst for people to interrogate the function of the US military and their role in it. Some of the people with the most sustained critiques against US empire are veterans. However, this does not mean that we should confuse a concerted effort to get benefits or even services for GIs and veterans with an anti-war movement, let alone an anti-militarization movement. And yet, some of those who emphasize benefits more than a broader social justice agenda tend to be given center stage at many left anti-war gatherings as if both efforts are inherently one and the same.

#6: Some GIs and veterans enjoy violence and combat

I think that organizations that are quick to support GIs do not really grapple with the possibility that many people they may be taking direction from or giving a platform to have fantasies of seeing or participating in war and combat. Or, at least, many enjoy engaging in violence and having the skills to do so. Most GI activism garners support by suggesting that GIs are simply those people who are struggling in the civilian world and who, because of a lack of opportunities, went into the military. Indeed, on the left, the most popular explanations why people go into the military are that they had no other options or that they needed a job or educational benefits. Reports over the last couple of years that Black enlistment is down should push us to really interrogate this narrative. Additionally, while it is true in many cases that people join the military to fulfill some need, I nevertheless think the left has a great deal of difficulty confronting the anthropology of war and combat—the fact that many people go into the military because they derive pleasure from the thought of witnessing atrocity or participating in violent acts. Some even see it as a new and exciting experience.

For example, I know a male medical student whose parents had offered to pay his way through medical school but was determined to pay for it “on his own” by joining the military. He opposes the Iraq war and thinks that Bush should be impeached. But he also felt that the US military was providing excellent medical support for the injured insurgents. And he is excited about going to Iraq because, as he explained, he can witness medical injuries there and get on the ground training he can not receive in an emergency room in the US. When I just looked at the man, he became defensive and told me that he knew I wouldn’t go to Iraq.

While this man comes from a more economically privileged background from many enlistees, the pleasure from having combat skills, fighting, witnessing atrocity, or being in a position to police people is not necessarily at odds with having economic or social needs. A case in point is a woman I know who was in the military and who has been actively pursuing a job as a federal agent. When she was finally granted the interview, she told me she was elated because she has wanted to be a federal agent for so long. And I have met many people who are young, enlisted, and financially strapped—and who are excited about going into combat, or feel that it is their responsibility to go, or who are hyped about the physical and artillery skills they have gained from being in the military. For example, in high school my best friend’s sister, who had joined JROTC, bragged about her physical prowess and liked that she could kick people’s asses. Of course not all people who enjoy physical fighting or having the skills to do so want to be in combat. However, it does suggest that some of the people we are organizing with or on behalf of enjoy some aspects of engaging in or witnessing violence.

There are those, however, who do derive pleasure from killing. For example, if you read or listen to accounts of soldiers in Iraq, there are more than a few testimonies of how much they “get off” from killing people. The details of these accounts suggest that some soldiers find contributing to, and witnessing death as a sexually erotic experience. Others treat combat as an anthropological exercise, as demonstrated in the practice among some soldiers during the Vietnam War to take body parts from the Vietnamese that they killed and wear them like necklaces. All of this to say, some people have financial or social needs, but this does not preclude them from enjoying violence or combat.

Unfortunately, the left, especially those promoting GI or veteran-focused campaigns, doesn’t really know how to address the fact that many people enjoy witnessing and being involved in violence and combat, as well as having the power and training to kill people. Instead, we promote a standard narrative about the GI to garner sympathy from those who may otherwise be critical of the US military or the ideologies by which it operates and promotes. Generally, there is little space on the left to question the political ideologies, values, or intentions of military members or veterans and their families without appearing unsympathetic to the reasons for why people (presumably) enlist.

#7: GIs and veterans tend not to be opposed to militarization and the US military

While many GIs and veterans are vociferous about different military build-ups, such as the Vietnam War and the current war in Iraq, very few are willing to let go of their identity as military members. Indeed, it is precisely from being in the military that GIs and veterans opposed to certain wars derive their moral authority. They speak from the position of having been in the military—an important vantage point, to be sure—but are unwilling to interrogate the very purpose of the US military in the world. As such, most will never politically denounce all war or militarization. Or they will not interrogate how US empire, of which they may be critical, relies on the military.

Understandably, for some, this is a pragmatic decision in terms of trying to ascertain or keep some of the benefits the military promises them. However, many of the veterans and GIs I know, have met, heard speak, and read about really believe they are fighting the good fight but that the US just shouldn’t be fighting in Iraq. Some who oppose the war in Iraq have the nerve to tell me that they were fighting for my rights. Some will go so far as to challenge US imperialism and US economic interests (while barely touching on US racial or gender and sexuality interests), but do not explore the role of the US military in the actual expansion, creation, manifestation, and maintenance of US identity in all of its manifestations, regardless of how obviously imperial or not. That is, the US military has, since its formation and outgrowth from being US militias, been responsible for far more than simply the war in Iraq—or the Zionist occupation of Palestine or the repression of immigrants. It is the main state apparatus that has determined and enforced social boundaries, relations, and inequality, but whose many and mundane purposes have not garnered as much attention from the left as Iraq, Palestine, or the Southwest border.

Conclusion

Overall, I wrote this essay because I was concerned about the growing emphasis on GI and veteran-focused activism among the anti-war left. I have given seven major reasons why I think this direction in the movement should be reconsidered. I did not write to exclude GIs or veterans from the movement. To do so would be to deny the heroic and brave fights for social justice in which many engage. More, it would be to deny the complexity of how people come to their political conclusions and in turn, engage in activism. Some people surely have doubts before they enlist, and others will have a change of heart after they do. Some may even become actively involved in anti-war work. Yet all of these possibilities should not prevent us from interrogating some of the issues that GI and veteran-focused anti-war work brings. To this end, I wrote this essay to bring attention to issues that I have been struggling with and that I sense many fellow activists are struggling with as well.

Tamara K. Nopper is an educator, writer, and activist living in Philadelphia. She can be contacted at tnopper_at_yahoo.com

20 Responses to Opposing a GI & Veteran-Focused Anti-War Movement: Seven Reasons

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  2. dave hudson says:

    All of these are valid points of criticism, but the ways in which the argument as a whole is framed (through a discourse of “opposing” a “focus on GIs and veterans”) gives the impression that you are not welcoming of *any* focus (because there can be more than one focus at a time) on the experiences and perspectives of veterans/GIs, which is a group whose experiences and knowledges have tended to be largely ignored *in the mainstream* (except when they consist of a rhetoric of “brutal, but just war” or “fight for our freedom”). I know this directly contradicts what you say (you don’t want to exclude), but impressions are important and can work to counter direct impressions.

    I guess I wish the tone of this article was a bit more empathetic while no less critical. Then it’d be A1.

    Thanks, anyway, for writing it, though.

  3. Max says:

    I appreciate your tone in this article and the various clarifications for writing this article, but in the end I definitely disagree with your thesis for many different reasons. I have to run to work so here is just one:

    It fails to take into consideration that one of the main reasons Vietnam became un-winnable for the US planners was the organizing inside and around the military. This was particularly the case among black and working class white folks who came to the movement (as you mention) through different lenses. As the organizing began to take off, and people started supporting the organizing from the outside, those in the military became more militant. This led eventually to those statistics you see about 30-40% of black folks wanting to join a group like the Black Panthers when they came home.

    The military, especially if we can think about it in the long term, is an important site of struggle that we should always be focused on. Now obviously different people focus on different things, but im not sure i get your point about how “the left is focusing on GI resistance too much”. United for Peace & Justice, the largest anti-war coalition in the country does 90% of its work basically unrelated to directly supporting or talking about GI’s. Many counter-recruitment activists across the countries (like i guess yourself) do focus on the domestic front of the war without a specifically heavy focus on specific GI/Military groupings.

    I think maybe what we are seeing is just the start of the movement inside and around the military, and truth be told its still fairly small. We are seeing certain people (definitely a small minority) within the movement supporting or mentioning this movement, as well they should. These soldiers are completely isolated, many from working class backgrounds as you mention, also a very diverse grouping. If the movement or the left does not pay some attention and try to highlight their work at places like the US Social Forum then how do we expect it to grow and gain any momentum? The funny thing is, for those actually building ties to some of these new groups like Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), you will see how *little* support they get in comparison and how really groups like the ISO (international socialist organization) have taken advantage by this same lack of real interest shown by other forces in the left.

    So yes there were a few GI related sessions at the USSF, there were many more around anti-war related issues that did not focus on them (see South West Organizing Project’s numerous sessions as one example).

    In conclusion i would just say that the deeper analysis, especially with gender & sexuality (although it should again be said that there are several queer members of IVAW in leadership positions) will come with time. this is a very new movement. The point you raise about “Some GIs and veterans enjoy violence and combat” is silly. this is a sick society that teaches people how to hate and kill, its not like any of these people were born like that, and even after boot camp and everything else, large numbers still dont like killing other people. There is some good research out there about how during World War II the US Military did this study amongst its troops and found that only about 15% would “kill an unarmed soldier on the other side”. The researcher concluded that this was like opening a branch of libraries where only “15% of the librarians could read”. Since then there has been a dedicated effort on the part of US military propagandists to flip the script and ensure that people are ready for blood & guts. When they did the same study in the middle of the Vietnam war a few years later the number had gone up to like 60-70% or something ridiculous like that. Again, dont blame those who enlist in the military for that stuff, your arguing the wrong point.

    Some of your points are definitely right on and they need to be interrogated. But many others miss the mark in my humble opinion. In general, I wonder if writing essays like this really do anything for the anti-war movement other then further divide it.

  4. Thomas R. Markham says:

    I appreciate and agree with all of the observations and critique made. I would have framed it differently, though. The over emphasis by many, if not most, anti-war and anti-militarization groups on GI’s and Veterans against the War and Occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and on advocating for GI an Veteran rights and benefits is more of a reflection and symptom of endemic, socialized and institutionalized racism, white supremacy, heterosexism, paternalistic authoritarianism, and imperialism than a cause and contributing factor to it. However unintentionally, the essay, through its title and theme, often ends up re-enforcing the very thing it decries. I would have rather seen this important issue and critique as part of a positive focus on the empowerment of people and communities of color in light of, and in resistance and response to the racism, plantation mentality and politics, misguided political correctness, self-importance and denial of the predominately white male led mainstream left of center peace, anti-war, anti-militarization, and GI Rights movement, as well as the often internalized racism, sexism, homophobia and trans-phobia of communities of color and the LGBTQ communities themselves. If all emphasis on GI’s and Veterans against the War and advocating for GI rights were eliminated tomorrow it would still not do much to address the true root of the problem. While critiques of aspects and manifestations of our societal, social, cultural and political sickness are valuable and necessary, they alone do little to heal our malaise and denial, or empower those marginalized communities that are most negatively impacted. I would much prefer that a critique be balanced with a proactive perspective and leadership from people of color on how best to begin addressing the endemic racism, sexism, homophobia, culture of violence, white supremacy, American Exceptionalism and imperialism of our country, since they historically are experientially the most negatively impacted and brutalized as a result of it. Otherwise the critique comes off too much as only the complaint, which while justified, is not empowering in and of itself.

    That said, I appreciate and share the author’s conflictedness with the concerns for the defensive over-focus by the anti-war, anti-militarization groups on the Left with the moral justification and political correctness of spotlighting GI’s and veterans against the war whether they oppose it for reasons relevant to the lives of the oppressed and communities of color or not. All of us on the Left also have the unfortunate tendency to focus and depend on personalities and “poster children” rather than the collective of “the people” in building our social justice movements. This tendency largely informs the propelling of, primarily white male individual GI and Veteran resisters to the forefront whether they are truly the most appropriate and effective spokespersons and leaders or not.

  5. che says:

    hey tami,
    the overall point that most GI and veteran anti-war organizing fails to address militarism, white supremacy and imperialism as inherent and devastating aspects of war is, i think, accurate–and moreover, it’s an important point to make. the question of whether it’s ever ok to sacrifice an emphasis on anti-imperialism/white supremacy/militarism for the sake of winning more folks over to the anti-war side is one that can be/has been asked of many movements in terms of whether building a united front has to mean focusing on the most mainstream message at the expense of equally critical, but more controversial, aspects. i want to echo max’s point that it seems like GI and veteran organizing is still a not-very-visible part of the anti-war movement, and that there’s probably a lot more diversity within it than what we’ve seen…i, personally, have been pretty excited by some of the analysis presented by folks who have been in the war and are now doing work against it…
    on point #4 about GIs being presented as experts because they were there–i would also like to hear more from war resisters, and folks who have experienced war as civilians–that is, i think the voices of Afghani and Iraqi people as fellow war “experts” would lend a lot to the movement, and bring some of the necessary analysis about racism and imperialism. that being said, i think there is still a tendency among anti-war activists to look down on folks who’ve enlisted, and/or to understate the trauma that war seems to inevitably produce in those who are forced to wage it on the ground. so while i think those “expert” voices should be broadened and diversified, i also would want to honor the fact that, yeah, there are things i can’t know, and that, based on my experience with folks who have dealt with other kinds of violent trauma, perhaps it’s healing for some vets to speak about having been in war.
    and finally, on the benefits and violence tip–i think your comment that a lot of organizing for veteran benefits does come out of the notion that vets are somehow inherently more deserving of benefits than other struggling folks is true. i do, however, want to question your personal doubts about whether racist or violent vets should get benefits. i agree with the previous poster that if we are people who understand that systems of racism, sexism, etc. are real and condition our behaviors, then we have to know that even people who engage in political work we might believe in–like doing work against the war–might still be fundamentally violent, racist, etc. that isn’t to say that it’s acceptable, but it is to say that it’s a lot to undo, and 1) i can’t imagine denying a basic necessity like benefits to anyone on that basis, and 2) it’s not just an issue within the GI/veteran anti-war movement; it’s an issue everywhere.
    just some thoughts to keep the flow going…
    -che

  6. Max -

    I think that the anti-war movement needs to really begin to take seriously the point that people get involved in the military for more than purely economic reasons.

    First, you say “The point you raise about ‘Some GIs and veterans enjoy violence and combat’ is silly.” And then follow with “this is a sick society that teaches people how to hate and kill…” well, we know that. But if the society teaches people to hate and kill, then, doesn’t that mean that there are people who learn to in fact hate and do kill?

    Further, how does the society reinforce those things? If the images from Abu-Ghraib didn’t hammer home the point about the connection between pleasure and torture in the contemporary American psyche–and military service as a vehicle to play out sex and power, I don’t know what did. In addition, how do you then explain the entire history of lynching with its ties to sexual mutilation, performance, and COMMUNITY-BUILDING for white society, and the photography that accompanied those events? A racist society provided the context, sure, but individuals clearly “got off” on the participating in the violence and spectacle of it all.

    The military promotes itself thru gaming, mass media, and whatnot as a place to play out a kind of colonial adventurism that is completely tied up with playing on the needs and desires of a segment of the population to equate violence with adventure. Seen an army ad, like, ever? What part of humanity do you think they’re playing to? Do you think they don’t know that there’s a segment of the population who reads those ads, and understands that this is where they can get there rocks off, going to “exotic” places, and acting out their aggressions? It’s certainly not strictly catering to people’s economic needs.

  7. che says:

    p.s. i think tami’s call to keep an analysis of white supremacy & imperialism in the anti-war movement is right on, but it seems to me that it’s not just a call that needs to be made to folks doing GI/veteran organizing. there’s lots of sectors of anti-war folks who focus just on the fact that this war is “illegal” as opposed to what i’d consider more fundamental issues of imperialism etc.
    ok, just had to add that!

  8. Jen says:

    As a veteran in the anti-war movement, IVAW, I have many of the same criticisms as a whole of our movement, both anti-war and Veterans. I will comment more on that later but I just wanted to offer this one correction to one of the commenters.
    There are NOT many queer people in leadership of IVAW. There is one on the board, me. And its often an uphill battle as it is in the anti-war movement as a whole to call for Peace while seeing sexism, racism and homophobia in people words and actions.

    Although having complaints are easier than having solutions its good to see someone bring up these concerns. That is the first step.

  9. Todd Boyle says:

    Your essay is too long. It’s undisciplined. Get to the point.

    Your premise, “seven reasons why I am currently opposed to a GI and veteran-focused anti-war movement” is too undefined. You’re not going to get first-class analytical responses, to such a vaguely defined question. Let me sharpen it up for you. You’re opposed to veterans grandstanding or leading antiwar events and actions. You want those volunteers and resources applied to events by nonmilitary and nonveteran people unnamed. Hey-works for me. Why not both? On Wednesday some MFSO or IVAW make a ruckus. On Friday you and your people make a ruckus. What’s the problem?

    Shorten it up.

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  11. peacevet says:

    Not gonna argue with you K. I think too many white folks believe a spitting pregnant hippy chick lost Nam.

    GIs do kill babys. If you recieve fire from a building ya kill the person shooting at you not the family living downstairs. They die.

    Welcome to the world VVAW VVAW (AI) VFP and IVAW.

  12. Binh says:

    A point-by-point rebuttal of your seven reasons:

    1.) The “over emphasis” on Iraq and Afghanistan: given that over 4,000 Americans, between 10-20,000 Afghans, and 650,000+ Iraqis have been killed in these wars, I think the fact that people who fought there are focused on ending those wars is a no-brainer. U.S. imperialism isn’t killing people at the same rate in countries like S. Africa, Zimbabwe, or the Congo and so it is logical for people to focus on stopping the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Think of it this way: if you were an Iraq vet and your buddy got blown up by an IED or you saw troops torturing the people you were there to supposedly liberate, would you come home and start talking about Third World debt or Zimbabwe?

    2.) GIs point out that the war is illegal: what’s wrong with pointing that out? Naked, illegal, unilateral imperialism deprives Bush and the Dems of legitimacy that would shore up support for the war. Like it or not, broad swaths of the population have all kinds of illusions in the “international community” i.e. the UN. Before the war started, polls showed that 2/3 of people would support a war if the UN said it was OK while 2/3 opposed the war if the UN didn’t give its OK. Furthermore, the Bush administration’s assertion of executive power is historically unprecedented and also patently illegal, hence the references to “King George” and Emperor Bush in newspaper editorials attacking Bush’s abuses of power.

    The blatant trampling of the so-called “checks and balances,” due process, habeas corpus, international law, and the Geneva Conventions have been a tremendous factor in today’s radicalization. Failing to utilize this disregard for legality to end the imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would be a huge mistake.

    3.) “Most GI and veteran-focused activism fails to address white supremacy”: I’m not sure what “addressing white supremacy” actually means. Why not say, ” address racism”? Saying “white supremacy” makes it sound like the racism against Iraqis/Arabs/Muslims that permeates the military is a “white problem” which it is NOT. Black and hispanic troops get caught up in calling Iraqis “ragheads” and “hadjis,” although it may cause some of them to turn against the war faster because they realize that America and the military discriminate against them on racial grounds as well.

    This point brings me to a major problem I have with this essay which is the fact that it is entirely footnote-less, there are no specific references to either individuals or organizations, just a bunch of somewhat vague generalities passed off as “the truth.” The IVAW guys I know, Camilo Mejia, Garret Reppenhagen, Jeff Englehart, and others, all talk a lot about the racism against Iraqis that is necessary for the war to continue. They all understand that you cannot have an imperialist war without racism, without the systematic dehumanization of the people on the receiving end of American firepower. Many others in IVAW have spoken out about this as well because there is a huge contradiction between being told you are liberating somebody, having those people try to kill you because they don’t want to be occupied, and then trying to justify killing them in response. Liberators don’t bomb and shell neighborhoods indiscriminately, detain all military age males, or torture people who haven’t even been charged with a crime.

    4.) “We were there”: firsthand accounts are incredibly valuable. I would be more likely to be moved into action by a Katrina victim describing losing his/her house, job, and family than a professor who read a bunch of newspapers and a lot of books and proclaims himself to be “an expert.” Ditto for veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan. Or for Iraqis or Afghans for that matter.

    People who were there obviously have a legitimacy that people who weren’t there don’t. That’s just reality, and all the blogging in the world can’t change that. I have never met an anti-war veteran who tried to use the “I was there and you weren’t so therefore your opinion is crap” argument against me. The value in that argument is a good against the amrchair Rambos of the world like Bill O’relly who talk real tough in their air-conditioned TV studios, on their leather sofas, or from their Bentleys about why “we” (i.e. somebody else) need to go to war.

    5.) On GI benefits: the alternative to not fighting for benefits is to have a lot of injured, severely-PTSDed, pissed off veterans come home to ZERO support from the government. This type of thing has led to the horror stories at Walter Reed where people waited months and months just to see a doctor, as well as shoot-outs with the police where angry, alienated veterans were killed in gun battles with cops. Fighting for GI benefits is not about “rewarding” veterans for their service to imperialism, it’s about working class people getting the benefits they were promised by the government. If we can win better benefits for troops, we’ll be in a better position to force the government to give us universal health care, free education, etc.

    6.) Some veterans enjoyed combat: I wasn’t aware that it was a crime on the left to get a rush out of fighting, especially given the fact that you cite Muhammed Ali (boxing is a form of combat and Ali was devastating in the ring) in your article for bravery. In any case, the rush of adrenaline that comes from combat is as old as war itself. Some people enjoy it, others fear it. I think most who get a rush from it are probably those who have yet to lose a limb, or a few friends, to the war machine. Or they’re not on their second or third tour in Iraq.

    If so many soldiers in Iraq get a rush from combat to the point where it’s a major problem, why is the Pentagon stop-lossing so many people? Wouldn’t they just be happy to re-up over and over and over again? When they extended tours to FIFTEEN MONTHS there was a lot of groaning in the military – not a sign of “wow combat is awesome!” but a sign of “man, we are fucked.” People are leaving (or are trying to leave) the military in droves.

    7.) Veterans aren’t anti-militarist: again, the IVAW guys I know found out the hard way that the military is just a tool for Corporate America to smash down trade barriers, seize oil, pry open foreign markets, and keep the working people of this country down. Again, you don’t mention specific veterans, groups, individuals or particular events who are guilty of not being left enough.

    To conclude:

    Almost all of the criticisms you raise against veterans are even more true of the broader anti-war movement. UFPJ and other liberals are 1000 times more guilty of focusing narrowly on legality, lobbying, refusing raise other issues (Palestine, Katrina) and connect them to the war, etc. So either you are ignorant of the broader movement, or you are picking on veterans.

    If you bothered to look at the IVAW website, their member profiles, and or read their speeches, you would find that they are not on the right-wing of the anti-war movement. They are not running around screaming “Hillary/Obama in 2008!!!!” A couple dozen of them attended the Socialism 2007 conference organized by the International Socialist Organization where they not only spoke on panels but also participated in workshops on racism, the civil rights movement, the fight for gay rights and for equality between the sexes.

    Lastly, you are worried that the anti-war movement and the left are becoming too GI-centered. I have the opposite concern, that we are not GI-centered enough. The fact of the matter is that the rank-and-file of the military, the working class kids (who are also women, black, hispanic, and gay, by the way) who make up the bulk of the combat troops have the power to end the war! I would recommend reading the following article (http://www.isreview.org/issues/09/soldiers_revolt.shtml), David Cortright’s “Soldiers in Revolt,” or watch Sir! No Sir! to learn how it happened last time.

    Basically, the U.S. military was overwhelmed by mutinies and revolts in 1969-1975 that made waging war on Vietnam impossible. When Nixon sent planes and carriers to continue pounding the area with bombs, there were mutinies on the ships and many of the bomber pilots dumped their cargo over unpopulated areas but reported that they “accomplished their mission” as a means of resistance. If units, platoons, and companies began refusing patrols or engage in combat in Iraq, the war would be over. That’s why it’s important for the movement to focus on building its strength at the grassroots and try to reach out to military personnel.

  13. Pam says:

    This is a well-thought out essay, addressing many issues. First, I must say, that I oppose the peace/anti-war movement’s concern with being “pure.” Deciding who is fit to belong to a movement is not the way to build coalitions. Second I embrace the soldiers and veterans because they will be the ones, of any of us, to knock out the pillars of the military-industrial complex. “What if they held a war and nobody came?” Plus we cannot ignore their suffering. Also their treatment by the government is a sham but the administration and their supporters have hidden behind the “support the troops”mantra that is our responsibility to expose.

    If you read the history of movements against the Viet Nam war, it is quickly apparent that the activism of African-American soldiers was at the base of the ending of that war. In my research for a thesis project, I discovered that the military has actually limited the number of African-Americans that can serve in combat positions. These are people who have a history of having to fight for what they need, and the U.S. government fears this. Witness the organizing of Latino veterans against the war.

    It took me 30 years after I enlisted in the military to get to the point I am at now, a long road of discovery and insights. I remember the first anti-war post I made on some list serve and someone shot back “You are a disgrace to soldiers and veterans everywhere and you should go live in Iraq!” When I responded that I am a veteran, the person wrote back automatically “Thank you for your service and sacrifice.” So if we are truly for peace, we are also compassionate. We recognize that all our efforts for peace are important.

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  15. 2trang says:

    I am a counter-military recruiter in Orange County, California. And as much as I value this CR work, I don’t think it should be the focal point of an anti-war/pro-peace movement. Same goes for GI & veteran agendas & activity. Doing so in either case would be pigeonholing and diminishing to the point of dooming the anti-war movement.

    I would like to think that CR is one prong of the solution fork, whereas the others are congressional de-funding of combat operations (in Iraq & Afghanistan in this case) and strong, coordinated, active GI resistance & veteran dissent.

    That the latter can (and does) backfire is what I think Tamara’s saying. GI’s and veterans are not necessarily anti-war or anti-military (or anti-Empire), they might in general make effective but short-lived rebel rousers when speaking about specific situations such as the unwinnable war in Iraq (or whatever other conflict they directly participated in). The problem is they don’t necessarily advocate for a sustainable peace-building movement. Tamara makes a good point about not making the anti-war movement centered on GIs or veterans, or, for that matter, on counter-recruiters or left-leaning liberal politicians or Cindy Sheehan… They should be in the chorus of many, not the preacher.

    Notwithstanding, through my experiences reading about and speaking with Iraq veterans (against the war), it appears that many are renegade in that they actually are against war in general and for peace in general. The creme of this crop would be the conscientious objectors and those who go AWOL. CO’s deserve way more more attention and positive reinforcement in the peace movement. I wish anti-war activists put more stock into CO status and discussed it as a viable (though taxing) option, because those who actually oppose and refuse participation in a war have valuable foresight while vets speak out against war in hindsight. This I feel gives the devil a foothold, giving critics (and even sympathizers) fodder to question the belief systems of peace movement proponents and hence the authenticity & thoroughness of the peace movement itself.

    Tamara writes, “One of the major problems of GI and veteran groups today is that most fail to address white supremacy and its relationship to gender and sexuality politics.” I feel I am witnessing this today, and women veterans can attest. In fact, women, especially women of color, feel so disenfranchised by even contemporary veteran groups that some here in California have formed the first female veterans group called SWAN to air out laundry they couldn’t alongside “the boys”.

    Lastly, it’s an indisputable fact that the military is a microcosm of our society, except they’re endowed with license to monger violence. Sexism, gender discrimination, racism, and homophobia exist in the military as they exist outside the military. Activists, with or without military experience, are human beings and prone to prejudices. To be effective activists in the anti-war movement, we need to address these not-so-trivial issues and re-hardwire ourselves almost concurrently addressing the larger issue that purportedly brought us together in the first place.

  16. Jen says:

    As I said earlier I agree with the general premise of this article. Many of these criticisms are valid and if we had a movement that addressed them than I do belive we would have a better world. However I disagree with the tone and direction the article takes. This should be the type of end we are trying to arrive at but the getting there does include working with people, something an article like this does not help facilitate.
    I believe some of the views of vets taken are assumtive. I feel it does not leave room for the growth of people, in this case vets, and is chastising of not “being there”.

    My biggest critique of the article is that it presents the anti-war movement as the place where the changes must take place. I disagree wholly that it must in fact be a pro-peace movement where the changes spoken of need to take place. There is a BIG difference. Most vets are in the anti-war movement, where they can be most effective. If you want to have a place where vets are part of the solution not the leaders, then we need to make sure a Peace movement is strong.

    I have had many of these same concerns as a member of IVAW. We have included language about racism in our opposition to the war. This was a hotly contested addition, so yes there are many vets who are not “there”, but there are also many who are working to include broader issues that support the creation of war and militarism.

    This article also seems to take a swipe at SWAN which is the most wholly personified version of what this article is asking for.

  17. abw says:

    I do not even pretend to be an expert on this issue,-AT ALL-but I will say this-people need to hear the perspectives of nonveterans, activists, draft resisters, and family/friends equally. (Tamara probably thinks this for the record.)With that said, one thing I will say is that I feel like there should be more focus from the standpoint of the main victims of this war-namely Iraqis, Palestinians, and in the past Vietnamese people themselves since they will or did suffer from the consequences of combatants, the mistakes of activists(their actions or lack thereof), the lack of info on draft resistors(which encourages the idea there is unanimous U.S support about wars in general(although ALOT of us appear to support militarism/war and other factors). To top all this off, the Iraqis and other war torn countries will suffer from the past ,present, and future policies of foreign/domestic policy which seems to gets moderate press.The things mentioned seems to be missing in anti-war activism and “I would not be surprised” if Tamara Knopper wrote the article partly too because she felt that the voices of these very folks were silenced due to the overemphasis on the stories, experiences, and perspectives of AMERICAN vets,drafters, resisters, etc…Also, I want to say that she admits that some of these criticisms can be made for POC orgs to a degree since some people may construe this as being solely a way to indiscriminantly criticise white anti-war supporters. It is only one point I partly-really only a LITTLE(!)- question is that folks should not feel too entitled about working at McDonald’s or sweeping floors after serving in the armed forces. I question this because the military itself promotes the idea that folks will get advanced training hence high paying jobs for military and civilian life as part of military training and the risks theirin. For these folks to encounter low-paying jobs at BEST or unemployment at MOST is bogus-this is bogus when everyday people get all these degrees to end up working in low paying jobs with no upward mobility. With that said, for the record, I think working at fast food places , housekeepers, or janitors are decent, important jobs that require the workers to have more work skills than the fields are given credit. The people in those positions ANYWAY w/o combantant consideration should be paid much more than they are getting since they work hard, work smart, and are required to have more skills than people think. But, in light of the fact that the military endorses the idea that people will automatically get high paying jobs and advanced skills once they go back to civilian life when enough of them get nothing of the sort is not only a lie, but flat out hypocritical and wrong! Although I must say, that in light of the fact that the military often participates in lies, hypocrisy, and wrongdoing, this is not out of the ordinary! Anyway, someone said that the casualties in other places are not as high! I am not sure about this partly because we have bases everywhere.Also, Africa has several civil wars going on that has contributed to allot of fatal casualities. The same canprobably be said of Asia and Latin America in the recent past if not now.I could be wrong, but I think that there are “a-lot of war torn places” with fatality rates nearly, at, or higher than Middle Eastern coverage but they are not getting widespread coverage because they are not as rich in resources as Iraq or not strategically important as far as American foreign policy interests or whatever is concerned! Then again,you may hear less about the atrocities going on in some places precisely because they have as many valuable resources as the Middle East but to expose their tensions is to expose the impact of Western foreign policy or Western military reach or complicity in those atrocities. Racism can be a factor in lack of coverage in some cases since the media may feel the general public may view the coverage of some unsung wartorn places as unimportant since the people in those areas are looked at in even lest esteem than Middle Easterners.Anyway I say none of this to down play or trivialize the war torn Middle Eastern countries, I say this to say that the atrocities going on in other places may not need to be AS trivialized/downplayed, marginalized, or otherwised underestimated like they sometimes appear to be.

  18. abw says:

    Anyway, some people seem to be saying that the main focus of the anti-war movement should be stopping war without as much focus on a role other isms play. I think that is half the problem. The movement is not as effective precisely because it ignores how racism,classism, sexism, and imperialism drives much of militarism and foreign policy leaving folks to focus mainly on issues like how it affects the soldier or his family individually-personal interests as opposed to social justice issues and the suffering of the direct victims;which could mean were these problems to be addressed there would be limited interest in the cause by the segments that refuse to address the many factors that drive militarism head on! Folks say they focus on mainly militarism without any context to reach a broader audience-but if the broader audience of the movement are turn off by folks saying that racism, classism and other ism drive alot of policy-what guarantees some of them are willing to be dedicated supporters in the long haul once they feel their immediate family is satisfied or compensated. I wish I could express myself better but I am tired today!

  19. abw says:

    I also wanted to note that I said that I only partly feel that the vets complaining about few skills and low paying jobs with little mobility have a right to complain because they got none of the benefits or skills the military claims they will get when they are civilians or their time in service hence a breach of “contract” or promise. I also wanted to say that although folks SHOULD get paid in service jobs better, folks do not get told that they should expect grandiose pay in those conditions. But people see advertisements all the time from the “armed forces” about how people will be able to”be all they can be” or other such slogans since they will get all kinds of advanced skills needed in military/civilian life from military training to qualify for numerous opportunities that they will get in mil./civilian life since they are veterans with skills!

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