The Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) are holding a Winter Soldier’s Conference, presenting vets’ and Iraqi and Afghan workers’ testimony of U.S. imperialism’s war atrocities. It is modeled after testimony of U.S. war crimes in Vietnam presented by Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) in 1971. (“Winter Soldier” is drawn from the mutiny of “poorly-clothed, badly-fed, and worse-paid” soldiers, many re-deployed, at Valley Forge in the winter of 1776. They demanded and won full pardon, money, food and supplies and discharges for the re-deployed.)
While many activists want to re-invigorate the U.S. anti-war movement, some IVAW leaders want to use Winter Soldier — stressing voting, lobbying and direct action — to pressure politicians “to think twice” about launching “unjust” wars. But Vietnam vets’ testimony in 1971 couldn’t prevent virtually non-stop wars afterwards, in Latin America, Africa, the Mid-East and Europe. U.S. rulers spent billions to wage proxy and direct wars to compete with Soviet, European and Asian rivals.
Blaming “bad policy” and politicians just paves a path for wider wars. Fighting imperialism requires attacking its root — capitalism — with its violent competition amongst the bosses driving to maximize power and profits. Eventually ending such wars requires building a mass international communist party and a red army to smash the bosses’ state power with workers’ power — a world without profits.
During World War I, the Russian communist Bolsheviks organized soldiers on the frontlines and led workers, students and soldiers to turn imperialist war into class war. Instead of “pressuring” the Russian rulers to stop fighting, the Bolsheviks organized millions, including soldiers on the front lines, to throw out the imperialist war-makers and build a workers’ state. Organizing working-class troops into a red army is crucial to ultimately smashing the imperialist warmakers.
Winter Soldier has the potential to encourage anti-war organizing amongst troops. IVAW’s leader has called on soldiers to withdraw their support for the Iraq war. But much more is needed. PLP says we must fight to destroy the cause of these endless imperialist wars: that means organizing for communism.
In Vietnam, troops participated in mass protests, mutinied and “fragged” (killed) their officers in opposing the war and racism. Now, 35 years later, comes another Winter Soldier testimony to hold the rulers “accountable” again! Organizing conscientious objectors, refusing missions and counter-recruitment actions can be useful, but which class’s politics are in command — the workers’ or the bosses’ — is primary.
To “save GIs’ lives,” U.S. officers in Iraq lead “search and avoid” missions to minimize risking U.S. troops’ lives while patrolling — but instead favor leveling whole cities and everyone in them! Opposing the war only because it’s “dangerous for troops” is a racist and sexist attack on Iraqi workers and encourages genocide. Iraqi women and children are disproportionately killed by air strikes; military-age Iraqi males are targeted for detention and execution.
Today, some U.S. soldiers, influenced by communist politics, are leading fight-backs against the command’s orders, but also struggle to win fellow troops to the need for communist revolution, anti-racism and anti-sexism. Troops may resist war, but unless their resistance is part of the struggle for communism the bosses will use their grip on state power to reverse any gains we may achieve.
“Patriotic concern for the troops” still leaves us under imperialist leadership. Winter Soldier’s panel on how the occupation of Iraq “hurts the military” echoes the complaints of one faction of the U.S. ruling class. U.S. generals and Democrats complain of a “broken force,” worrying about keeping the military ready for other, larger, future wars. Some veterans and troops are upset about multiple rotations into combat and call for “sharing the burden” among the U.S. population, a position Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both support, with calls for “national service” and increased troop numbers.
These liberal Democrats are preparing for wider wars. Their job is to defend the U.S. ruling class against workers and rival bosses. Both Obama and Clinton support the Democrat Carter Doctrine: using military force to guarantee U.S. access to, control of, and profit from Persian Gulf oil. Obama says he’s “open” to keeping troops in Iraq for years, if necessary. While the NY Times reports the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan is “alarmingly high,”
Obama promises to redeploy more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. The recently-announced increase in U.S. covert operations in Pakistan will continue, no matter who’s president.
Liberal U.S. anti-war leaders want us to believe that the problem is just Bush, the neo-cons and McCain. With “democracy” and the Constitution, people can vote, lobby or “protest their way to peace.” PLP will work in Winter Soldier to expose the ruthlessness of capitalism.
As U.S. rulers contemplate their self-described “long war,” PLP is organizing troops, vets and military families for the long struggle for communism. Our class needs more fight-backs that build anti-racist, anti-sexist and international working-class unity to smash the bosses’ dictatorship, not patriotic peace movements for a “more humane” capitalist/imperialist-run country. Fight for communism!