SOUTHWESTERN CAMPUS, April 3 — “War crimes? Heck, the whole war is a crime!” exclaimed a student and Marine veteran of the Iraq war, summing up his contempt for the U.S. imperialist agenda.
Over 175 students, teachers and campus staff applauded enthusiastically. Foregoing classes, many stayed over three hours to hear testimonials from four members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and one from Military Families Speak Out (MFSO).
One army veteran/student quoted from Nazi butcher Hermann Göring at the Nuremberg Trials, exposing how all the rulers think: “Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in England, nor America, nor in Germany….But…it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along….Tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”
He should have said, “any capitalist country” because Soviet workers were won to fight the Nazis in their own class interests. This vet said Göring’s statement brought a “chilling familiarity to our experience since 9/11.”
This vet quoted Marine General Smedley Butler: “War is just a racket….It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.”
Urging soldiers to abandon blind pride, the vet noted the growth of anti-imperialist war activism, citing “the growing number of active-duty IVAW chapters.”
Vets revealed their painful understanding of war crimes and the contradictions that soldiers fighting an imperialist war face daily. One ex-Marine in charge of detainees explained how he attempted to protect them from casual abuse by other soldiers. Another witnessed a whole town storm his platoon’s position.
Current reports of corruption and of Iraqi recruits refusing to fight and turning over their weapons to Shiite insurgents mirrored one Marine’s description of outright corruption of Sunni commanders who sold weapons to insurgents. This Marine was disgusted with the “dog and pony show” of the Iraqi military, which is clearly not motivated to defend U.S. imperialism. These experiences provoked him to ask, “What the hell am I doing here [in Iraq].”
The MFSO parent noted how his son couldn’t make a decent living after high school and thus enlisted. This anti-racist MFSO member expressed dismay that after boot camp his son was trained to “hate people he never met.” He said 85% of those killed in Iraq are civilians. His son suffers from PTSD after one tour in Iraq where, on burial detail, he had to collect body parts of deceased soldiers with whom he had trained. This parent stressed the need for everyone to actively oppose the war by reaching out to active-duty soldiers.
The Q and A session revealed the uneven development among these vets. One panelist opposed the war in Iraq but not Afghanistan. Asked about the draft, one vet answered, “Draft all college-age Republicans,” which drew a laugh. Several vets supported a draft as a “wake-up call.” That position is based more on frustration than a real commitment to national service of any kind that’s promoted by the current presidential candidates. A few vets attacked imperialism as a system and opposed any wider wars or military call-up.
The potential for a revolutionary worker/soldier/student alliance was evident during these three brief hours. The panelists are part of the movement against imperialist war, which will ultimately require the fight for a world devoid of profiteers and exploitation. Such forums for political struggle are steps toward that goal.