Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Resistance to War - Honoring One's Conscience

In today's newspaper I read of an officer at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, WA, USA who is refusing to report for duty leading his group in Iraq shortly. He stated that it is his responsibility to refuse any order that is "illegal" and that the War in Iraq is an "illegal occupation" of another country.
It is anticipated that he will be convicted and sentenced in a military court to a lengthy jail sentence. He is speaking to supportive groups explaining why he is doing what he is doing.

I admire this man's actions very much! It is very, very hard to make a decision as a soldier to defy the military and civilian leadership of this country. To do so publicly is far harder still!

In 1969 just before I graduated from high school I first applied for conscientious objector status when I registered for the draft on my 18th birthday. 16 months later after two draft board appearances, and one denial by my State Appeals Board my application was approved by the State Appeals Board after a U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled that one's beliefs could be primarily "philosophical and spiritual and ..." rather than totally based upon a religious doctrine.

While I can respect others who serve and support the U.S. military forces, I am troubled by how we allow the military so much power, setting it up as a dominant economic force in many places (such as around Fort Lewis: ...Fort Lewis, the Army's major installation in the Pacific Northwest and home of America's Corps. ... Fort Lewis is the home of I Corps, 2d Cavalry Regement and Madigan Army Medical Center, as well as the Army's first two Stryker Brigades, the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division and 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Additionally, the post is home to several I Corps Major Subordinate Commands, units from Western Region Medical Command, Special Operations Command, Cadet Command, Fifth Army (AC/RC), and a number of other non-divisional support units and resident organizations. (end of quoted section).

Individually we can raise our children to Not be soldiers, though in the end it will be their choices. For many the military is a way out of economic or emotional problems in their homelife as teenagers or young adults.

For many who serve in Iraq and other war zones in particular (Vietnam in my day as a young adult), being in the military leads to a life of coping with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), mis-diagnosed physical and psychological problems and in general a most difficult life, assuming that they haven't suffered clear physical injuries or their life.

My late friend Gene was a conscientious objector in World War II. Many people feel that that was a "necessary war" due to the barbarism of the Nazis and the colonial designs of both the Germans and the Japanese. Looking at how the Germans were treated after World War I, it is easier, though not easy, to understand how a Fascist ideology could evolve.

Could World War II have been prevented at least with respect to Germany if Germany had not been so severely punished after World War I? This is an impossible question to answer.

It seems clear to me that we could do a lot more today to make war and terrorism less likely in the United States. We could look at our history: Iran (current boogieman) - we overthrough the popular government - installed the Shah and supported him as opposition grew into the 1970's and now have a fundamentalist government and many people who are opposed to us, Iraq - Saddam Hussein - was "our leader" to oppose the Iranians in the Iraq-Iran War - and lead our Middle East interests along with Israel until (surprise-surprise) he became "the enemy" when he "rudely" turned against our interests, Palestine-Israel - we support Israel against Palestinian (and Arab and Muslim) interests - supporting its expanding settlements on the West Bank, its dominance of the water which is needed for irrigation in the West Bank, its military power which far surpass the combined military forces in the rest of the Middle East put together, its long-term presence as a world nuclear force, Pakistan - breeding ground for much anti-US - activity + nuclear force - military dictatorship.

In the Middle East - in Palestine-Israel we should not be "supporting the terrorists" or indeed "supporting the Palestinian cause" . We don't have the choice of: "being with Israel or against Israel". We have various options.

The best types of options we have are to be a true mediator and supporter of long-term peace. We need to recognize what has been done to the Palestinians and what is being done to them today. We also need to recognize the fears that Israelis have of another Holocaust and how terrorism affects them. We need to recognize why Palestinians blow themselves up!

We need to help build a lasting peace where the Palestinians will have a viable state on the West Bank and in Gaza and the Israelis will have a lasting real peace for the first time.

This type of working towards peace would be a radical change for us in the U.S. We would not be looking at: "our interests" - which aren't the interests of most people in any case. We would be working towards peace.

Terrorists - for the most part look at "their enemies". The U.S. and Great Britain - are often the most visible targets - surprise - surprise - the Governments of these two countries are the strongest supporters in Iraq and Israel - of causes that a large percentage of Muslims and Palestinians (Christians and Muslims) feel strongly about in opposition.

We can't guarantee that there will not be wars in the world. We can however choose to work for peace and be a peaceful nation. We aren't that today and haven't been that for a long, long time.

I hope!




Mister Pregunto said...

When should we fight? And how?

geo said...

You pose two very interesting and difficult questions1 Thanks!

Commonly many people might say: "We should fight when we are threatened by another country".

Are we really threatened by Iraq or by "The War on Terror"? Is it a "fight" or a "war"?

We will continue to fight as long as we "make enemies" and use others in the world to help us maintain our standard of living at their expense as well as not respecting and understanding the differences between cultures.

If someday we really cooperate with others like they are our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers or children - including other countries and our own people, fighting will be much less likely.

I don't know how we should fight? It seems though that both "tne enemy" and our own soldiers and ex-soldiers are not treated as if they were - "family". Desert Storm I - had many soldiers with major problems and little assistance. Currently we have veterans really hurting as well as Iraqi's paying a horrible price every day.

Your questions are good and I don't have simple, clear answers. Thanks again!

thinking girl said...

hi Geo,

great post. I'm glad to see someone is thinking about these things south of the border. In fact, I know that many people are and am heartened by the anti-war movement in the US.

Being from Canada, I look at Bush's actions with both fear and disdain. Fear because our newly elected prime minister seems to be aligning himself with Bush. Disdain because, well, of all the reasons you cite here and more. I am tired of war, and I'm tired of the US's unilateral military actions on countries that are seeking their own way - flawed as it might be - in a world dominated by the west and in particular the US. Not every country is concerned with the interests of the US! Some are concerned with their own interests - and those might be conflicting with those of the US! I am tired of the "you're either with us or against us" mentality Bush spouts all the time. I am just an outside observer, so I can't even imagine how I would feel if I was living in the US. I might move out of sheer protest.

geo said...

Thanks Thinking Girl!

I think that "moving out of sheer protest" is a logical approach coming out of disempowerment or extreme fear - such as logically happens in the Sudan currently.

It leaves those Without Power - the poor and other oppressed people - with one less voice.

The soldier at Fort Lewis - is making a tremendous sacrifice - because of his Strongly Held Beliefs - confronting the oppressors. He's not "escaping" but rather "confronting".

How different is it for Men - to see misogyny and Worse - from Other Men directed at Women Around Them - "escaping to identify with women" out of fear/anger at other men, rather than working with men to end the misogyny?

Where we often fail in the US - is not enough of us recognizing - our history and patterns - such as Howard Zinn brilliantly outlined in "A Peoples History of the United States".

We see Bush's actions as "unique". While Clinton certainly wasn't "as bad" - his policies - killed innocent people and continued our "dominance mindset".

Building a True Peace - within the US is difficult, but important. It may take more than one generation to accomplish and may well come as our "Empire" - is defeated by others, not through Wars - but most likely by our Economic Deterioration - because of our Self-Destructive Policies.

Thanks Again!!!!!