“The government had a plan, but it did not include the poor black people of the south”For too long I’ve remained silent on a number of issues, mostly for fear that I would jeopardize my chances for discharge as a conscientious objector from the US Army Reserve.
I am a staff sergeant with over 12 years of service to this nation in both active and reserve components.
However, I have refused to go to Iraq and serve in this illegal, unjust, and undemocratic war. My case is still pending, but my conscience can no longer bear the weight of not speaking out. I chose GI Special as the first place to announce my disgust with my commander-in-chief because it is here that I find what I consider the truth regarding the troops.
What follows are a few sketches that I hope to flesh out over the coming weeks and am confident your readers will find some insights that resonate with their experiences.
1) Hurricane Katrina – What finally drove me over the edge this morning was watching news coverage and hearing reports on DemocracyNow! about the debacle in New Orleans. In a sense the levees of my conscience finally gave way, allowing the rage that has been building up inside me to overflow.
I hope my words have as devastating an effect on this so-called administration, as the hurricane and subsequent flood had on the poor people of Louisiana.
My initial impression was surprise that so many of my black brothers and sisters were left for dead while others headed for the hills.
But then I realized that this is America, and we have a long history of discrimination against people of color (of which I am one) so it should come as no surprise that the refugees would be predominantly dark-skinned people.
My second impression was that these are nearly all poor people who did not have the means to escape the devastation and they unfortunately relied on the government to have a plan.
The government indeed had a plan, but it did not include the poor black people of the south.
So while this may be linked to a natural disaster, the real force lies behind the race and class discrimination inherent in the structure of American society.
Am I blaming the system for what the invisible hand has created? Perhaps.
Or maybe I’m simply drawing attention to the underlying current that connects people struggling in the Gulf Coasts (both Mexican and Persian gulfs).
Indeed, there exists a widening gulf between the rich, mostly white, elites and the poor, mostly brown and black, masses around the world. Through the events unfolding in the deep south I begin to understand what MLK meant when he said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
2) Shoot to kill – The governor of Louisiana and the commanding officer of a Military Police battalion recently back from Iraq, were both quoted as saying that lethal force would be used against the refugees in New Orleans to restore order.
Reports mentioned that the troops had M-16’s and they knew how to use them.
Presumably this meant these are battle-tested trained killers who have no qualms about shooting civilians.
What is truly remarkable about this story is that these troops, poor bastards that they are, have just returned from year long deployments in the most dangerous place in the world and are now faced with not only the destruction of their hometown but the prospect of having to shoot their refugee neighbors.
No amount of VA funding will be able to deal with the post traumatic stress these men and women are up against.
As a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, I fully support these soldiers in any dissent they wish to express toward this ridiculous mission.
My admonition to them is remember, you are CITIZEN and a SOLDIER. These are NOT mutually exclusive.
No one has more right to speak than the troops who have served this nation. You are asked to sacrifice much, but you are not asked to stop thinking for yourself. At least not by the American people.
Remember that one of the Army values is personal courage. Cultivate that courage and stand up to unlawful orders. The regulations and the law of the land are behind you in that regard.
Finally, remember that ANTI-WAR DOES NOT MEAN ANTI-SOLDIER.
On the contrary, we realize that no one appreciates the value of peace more than combat veterans. I for one support and respect you as human beings and public servants. You’ve done what my conscience prevented me from doing. And for that, you have earned my admiration and a personal promise to do everything I can to ensure that you are taken care of as a veteran.
Tom, thank you for the opportunity to vent my frustration. There’s more where that came from, as they say.
I have been inspired by other troops that I read about in your paper.
People like Camillo Mejia, Pablo Paredes, Kevin Benderman, Soldier X, etc. In your own way, you are providing a service to the grassroots of this wonderful nation we live in. You are standing on the shoulders of giants by continuing the tradition of a popular press. Jeff would be proud of you. For that I commend you and look forward to struggling with you to change things in some small way for the better.
This is my first dispatch to GI Special. It will not be my last...
Which of these looters would you shoot?