I’m not one of those “support the troops” types. I think “the troops” made an abominable choice when they volunteered to let a bunch of politicians tell them who to kill and maim, and I certainly don’t plan to support them.
That said, I know there are otherwise honorable people who have made this rotten decision in youthful folly and are trying to make the best of the situation they’ve thrown themselves into. And I know there are people who, having come to regret the decision they’ve made, are unmaking it and making amends. I’m with Wolfram Kastner: I support the deserters.
Some of the strongest and most compelling voices in the anti-war movement today are coming from military veterans. There’s Iraq War vet Jim Talib who sounded like Thoreau reincarnated when he told the anti-war movement: “I think that there are many people in this country who ‘disagree’ with the war in Iraq, but seem to me to be far too comfortable, and who appear to be doing little if anything to stop it… Every day that you do nothing is another day you have given them your consent to continue the occupation.”
And there’s Camilo Mejia, who turned his back on the war in Iraq and went to prison for it: “I say without any pride that I did my job as a soldier. I commanded an infantry squad in combat and we never failed to accomplish our mission. But those who called me a coward, without knowing it, are also right. I was a coward not for leaving the war, but for having been a part of it in the first place. Refusing and resisting this war was my moral duty, a moral duty that called me to take a principled action. I failed to fulfill my moral duty as a human being and instead I chose to fulfill my duty as a soldier.”
Mike Ferner of Veterans for Peace told an anti-war rally last weekend:
The times call upon us to do more than we’ve already done; more than we think we can do. We can no longer afford to limit our protests to what Good Americans are allowed in these terrible days. And we must stop funding this administration’s crimes against humanity. We must delegitimate, disobey and disrupt this war and this system.
When the next soldier decides he or she cannot go to Iraq, we must already know which local church will provide sanctuary and not stop there. We need to surround that church with thousands of disciplined, nonviolent citizens for as long as it takes, daring federal marshals to return that soldier to slavery. Can we do less than those citizens of Ukraine who stayed in the streets for weeks to get a legitimate government? Can we do less than people in Iraq who are losing their lives and limbs under this criminal occupation?
Americans and Iraqis, young and old, soldier and civilian are slaughtered daily for Empire. What can we do that is commensurate with what the times demand? Some of our more heroic friends refuse to pay a penny in taxes; some refuse to pay the war machine’s portion. Others purposely limit their incomes so they owe nothing to the IRS.
But here’s something that every one of us can do right now that is not particularly heroic; that carries little or no risk. Withhold a token amount from what the IRS says you owe. You will eventually get a series of letters trying to collect your 25 or 100 dollars. They will expend much time, effort, and stationery to no avail. Millions of us doing this will send the message that we will delegitimate, disobey and disrupt this war and this system.…
If we are well organized; if we are there for young soldiers who leave the military; if we refuse to be silenced and frightened by an immoral law; if we refuse to be “Good Americans;” if we do what history demands in this critical hour we can grind this war machine to a halt. We can put an end to the suffering and the war crimes. We can absolve our complicity. Will we do this together?