Juan Fajardo fajardos at
Mon Nov 20 21:37:19 MST 2000

Macdonald wrote:

> I can see it as acceptable that any conscript go to the
> war without a fight. Once they are there, see what it going on and do not resist,
> then they are guilty.

That all depends on what they see as "going on".

There are plenty of testimonials that assert that front-line soldiers
tend to focus on present moment and to see only what is in front of
them, being unaware of larger strategic factors and movements, even in
other parts of their own sector.

In part that had to do with the way that plans and order get
communicated, or more accurately, don't get communicated, down the line
to the troops, but a lot of it had to do with the soldiers' focus on
surviving the present mission, that one night, that one single barrage,
and so on from day to day, attack to attack.   The grand scheme of the
war fades into the background in comparison to the machinegunner firing
at one from across the way.

When such becomes daily existence, if we read and listen to what
veterans have to say, dwelling on the past does not help and the future
is too indeterminate when in combat, and even in between battles.  What
matters is surviving the moment when in battle, and living it fully when
in the rear.   But, in the context of a guerrilla war in which there are
no front lines and thus few safe rear guard areas, that becomes very
complicated.  I am reminded of an interview with a Vietnamese guerrilla
in which he stated "Where American soldiers go, there will go some
liberation fighters. And they will attack them ... everywhere and every
day...wherever they are."   In Vietnam many GIs ended up feeling that
the only truly safe places for them were closed areas such as "China
Beach" where Vietnamese were not permitted, and all interactions with
Vietnamese ended up being regarded as risky, when not outrightly hostile
and deadly.

A very good friend of mine served in Vietnam as a paratrooper.  Today he
is one of the best guys you could get to know, but as he tells it, back
then he was just a kid who got drafted out of Ohio and din't know shit.
What he found in Vietnam was that the people he was told he was there to
help were shooting at him and more than once when off duty he and his
fellows came under attack from men, old women, and even children,
bearing explosives.  Thus the safest times were when way out in the
jungle out of contact with any Vietnamese whatsoever, and his focus
became simply to keep himself and his platoon alive long enough to end
their tour and go home.

There was not much of a chance of building an internationalist
solidarity under _those_ circumstances.

Of course, we can and should view the role of the combat soldier in
Vietnam as negative.  Internationalism demands that we do so. But it is
at the same time possible, and appropriate, to regard individual
soldiers, even soldiers as a group, especially draftees, and especially
if we take into account the racial, ethnic, and class composition of the
cadre of draftees that got sent as grunts, as victims of imperialism as
well.    It is no more gymnastic than pointing out that while the
Buffalo Soldiers did play a forefront role in integrating the US Army,
the role they played in that army and what they helped it do to the
Indians must be unquestionably condemned.

- Juan Fajardo

More information about the Marxism mailing list