Stan Goff: Bring 'em home now!

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jul 27 17:34:37 MDT 2003


Counterpunch, July 26, 2003

Don't Extend Them & Don't Replace Them
Just Bring 'Em on Home Now!
By STAN GOFF

On July 23rd, my son, who is assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, was
told along with the rest of his company at morning formation, to get his
affairs in order. They are going to replace the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq.

Jessie spent his first thirteen years around the military, from which I
retired just seven years ago right there in Ft. Bragg. It's no surprise,
then, that in the face of all my protests he joined the army anyway. The
military is 'normal' to him.

His mother and I have been scrupulously 'normal' for the last few days,
self-consciously so. We show great attention to detail in our day-to-day
activities. We stay busy.

I reassure her and myself that he is a light wheeled vehicle mechanic, that
he won't be participating in convoys when his unit goes to Iraq in
September, that Baghdad airport, where the motor pool probably is, has by
now been turned into an impregnable fortress, that perhaps there wasn't as
much depleted uranium fired there as in some Baghdad neighborhoods, that he
won't be obliged to take lives and lose that little piece of his soul, that
he won't fall into the habit of calling Iraqis ragheads or hajjis, that he
can just save some money, do his job, and stay busy and out of harm's way.
This is what people say to each other who are in our position, because
there is no alternative way to think and still go to work, still attend to
the needs of other children, still manage relationships, and still maintain
some modicum of self-control.

On July 3rd, I wrote a piece for "Counterpunch" expressing my reaction to
George W. Bush's remark about "bring 'em on." I went after this remark for
its counterfeit courage, for its puerility, for its utter hypocrisy and
insensitivity. But now I am reminded, now that my son is going to go there
(at his age I was already in Vietnam), that George W. Bush and his coterie
are more than offensive. They are obscenities with a lot of blood on their
hands, and their wretchedness is something far more terrifying and
unspeakable --viewed as a parent --than this bit of schoolyard mouth.

The "Counterpunch" column about this Texas preppy's remark elicited a
stunning reaction. My email was hit by a tidal wave, hundreds of responses
an hour at first, reactions of empathy and outrage that told me there is a
vast reservoir of doubt, fear, and rage filling up beyond the ken of the
cringing institution that calls itself the press. Around 40 percent of
those responses came from troops, military families, and veterans. There is
a great well of sullen anger smoldering out there against these pop-opera
generalissimos. Now, as parents facing our son's first combat tour, we are
even more part of that burning.

The recent news stories about the Bush adminstration's mountain of lies was
not news to those of us who learned long ago to seek sources outside
offcialdom. Millions of us said they were lying over a year ago. And we
parents --many of us --know that our enemies are not in Iraq. Our enemies
are in office, and they have the blood of children --some of them ours --on
their hands. Everyone is someone's child, even when they are grown. Even
when they take paths we don't approve of. Even when they become soldiers,
and are sent to pay for lies with their bodies and hearts and the blood of
others.

I replied to every email, most perfunctorily, some at length. I skimmed at
first, until I realized I had overlooked a letter from a woman whose son
struggled for four years with post traumatic stress disorder before he took
his own life. Not long after, his young wife did the same. This bereaved
mother wrote to say thanks for giving her a voice. But it was she and
others like her who are giving us a voice.

I made calls, and the people I called made calls, and within four days a
small group of activist veterans and military families had formed a
coordinating committee to figure out how we might find those other voices
and amplify them. We bought a web domain, made more calls, wrote statements
of purpose, developed outreach literature, conferred for two hours at a
time on the phone from the west coast to the east. We did more organizing
in two weeks than I have seen with most initiatives in six months. As the
word has leaked out, we are getting phone calls and email. What is this
thing you are doing? Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace,
Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Citizen Soldier, and others --these
dissident military communities have networks!

So we are going to give troops, their families, and critical veterans a
voice. That's the reason-for-being of "Bring Them Home Now!" We are using
our web site www.bringthemhomenow.org as a communications clearinghouse to
publish the voices of military communities and to link them to the networks
and resources they will need to organize themselves. When military families
rebelled recently at Ft. Stewart, the brass didn't hesitate to issue veiled
threats that criticizing the war might impact on their loved ones' careers.
The brass will have no control over us, however, and those same people
(mostly courageous women) will be able to say what they want, when they
want, and we'll protect their identities if that's what they need. Through
them, we will communicate with the troops in combat zones, whose recent
public dissent brought a swift and clear injunction from the CENTCOM
commander threatening retaliate with the full force of the Uniform Code of
Military Justice.

We are going directly to those upon whom our would-be emperors depend to
carry out their grandiose and deadly vision ---the military. A friend of
mine who passed away this year once said, "Soldiers [and their families]
are political scientists. No-one cares as much as they do about what it is
they are asked to die for." For these political scientists, 'Bring Them
Home Now!' will be a conference room, a classroom, and a loudspeaker.

We will turn up the volume and the political pressure to bring our loved
ones home, NOT 'replace' them with more of our children and spouses, and to
leave the people of Central and Southwestern Asia to determine their own
futures without Bush's bombs and bullets.

Stan Goff is the author of "Hideous Dream: A Soldier's Memoir of the US
Invasion of Haiti" (Soft Skull Press, 2000) and of the upcoming book "Full
Spectrum Disorder" (Soft Skull Press, 2003). He is a member of the BRING
THEM HOME NOW! coordinating committee, a retired Special Forces master
sergeant, and the father of an active duty soldier. Email for BRING THEM
HOME NOW! is bthn at mfso.org.

Goff can be reached at: sherrynstan at igc.org



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