To Serve or Not to Serve?

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Tue Mar 25 23:10:13 MST 2003

*****   CounterPunch  November 11, 2002

 From Marine to Anti-War Organizer
To Serve or Not to Serve?


...Having recently read "Up Against the Brass", the story of Pvt.
Andy Stapp, who founded the American Servicemen's Union in 1967 to
support GI's in opposition to the war in Vietnam and to fight the
hypocrisy of the Military in general, I decided to try and carry on
this endeavor in a small way by relaying my own experiences and
offering reasons why our men and women in uniform and those pondering
enlistment should oppose this war and resist serving in it by all
means necessary.

In August of 1999 at the ripe 'old' age of 29, I enlisted in the
United States Marine Corps. Why? The truth is, to this day I really
do not know the answer to that loaded question. Maybe I was deluded
in to thinking that I was championing the cause of freedom and
democracy. Perhaps I felt I was serving my fellow Americans by
ensuring their safety. The heroic deeds of General Smedley Butler and
many other war 'heroes' are methodically drilled into your head
during Marine recruit training. Their names and accomplishments are
recited by boots while waiting in the endless lines for hair cuts,
toiletries, forced vaccinations, urination and chow. This is done to
ensure that each and every Marine feels pressure to aspire to
greatness in battle and bring honor to their country and themselves.

Sadly, I came across General Butler's enlightening 'War is Just A
Racket' speech after being discharged from the Corps. This, the most
important of the General's accomplishments is conveniently left out
during 'indoctrination' even though it was delivered in 1933!

Being the police protection for big business in the third world is
neither honorable nor just. If the rank and file service members knew
whom they really represented, I have no doubt that they would refuse
to do so. Boot camp is like the first day at a new school with all
the fear and anxiety of being alone in a foreign place except in this
school the teachers control your every waking moment. You are
admonished never to call the drill instructor a drill 'sergeant',
that's the nasty Army terminology and Marines are superior to all
other branches, or look them in the eye for any reason. You do not
speak unless spoken to and in the case that you need to urinate,
permission must be requested in the proper military manner. I
witnessed more than one boot piss on himself at the position of
attention because he failed repeatedly to request permission in the
proper military manner. This is truly a proud moment in someone's
life. It doesn't pay to have a stammer or nervously mix up your
words. It also doesn't 'behoove' you to stand too close to a drill
instructor. It is made clear to you at the beginning of training that
if an instructor feels 'threatened' by a recruit he or she may
respond with extreme force and violence in 'self-defense'. Lets say
that some kids never heard this because I saw a few black eyes while
I was there.

The only words that make the loneliness, the physical torture, the
verbal abuse, the humiliation, the gas chamber, the group punishment
for individual mistakes, the endless hours of make your bunk, unmake
your bunk worthwhile are, "It gets much better at your next duty
station". The School of Infantry, I assume from the word 'infantile',
was my next duty station.

It does not get any better. When in formation you must stand at
attention and keep your eyes straight. One of our Sergeants used to
take great pleasure in walking up to a Marine and asking him, "Do you
know what my favorite city in Thailand is?" When the Marine, without
moving, answered no, the Sergeant would slap him in the genitals and
exclaim, "Bangkok!" After a few rounds of this we learned to answer
correctly while shielding our groins.

I still am not sure what this sort of 'training' was preparing us
for. After 3 months of learning how to kill 'Luke the gook', 'Jackie
the Iraqi', and 'Joe rag head' with all means available and reciting
cadences like 'Napalm sticks to kids' and 'We're gonna rape, kill,
pillage and burn' while we ran on the streets of the base, I began to
really question what the hell I was doing in the Marine Corps. Why
were we de-humanizing these people? Does racism make the job of
killing them easier? That certainly couldn't be what this was all
about. Could it?

The most sobering experience, even for the hard-core would-be killers
in my class, was Urban Combat training. When it was learned that a
30% casualty rate was expected in house to house fighting more than a
few of them regretted signing the 'contract'! Imagine that, at least
3 out 10 GIs will DIE when they invade Iraqi towns and cities.
Haven't were learned from Viet Nam that people will fight furiously
to defend their homes? Wouldn't you?

Another duty station and nothing changed. This time I was enrolled in
electronics school at 29 Palms. My career in Infantry had thankfully
been scrapped after an injury during Reconnaissance training and due
to much pleading on my own behalf to be out of the combat 'arts'. Who
knows, I might have gone on to protect former Unocal Oil spokesman
and now President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, from his own
brethren. More than likely, I would still be in the brig for refusing
to crash wedding parties.

Marine Corps Base 29 Palms is just about the most desolate and
bizarre piece of real estate in the country. Located in the high
desert outside Palm Springs, it is hard to believe you are not on
Mars. Morale here is said to be the lowest of any duty station in the
Corps. If my new superiors were any indication, the reason is clear.
Every morning before class the platoon would get into formation for
inspection. They look at your uniform, your haircut and most
importantly, your shave. One of the young Corporals in charge of our
class liked to pace up and down the ranks and indiscriminately swat
an unsuspecting Marine in the crotch. Non commissioned officers seem
to have an affinity for this in the Marine Corps. Was this the secret
to defeating your enemy? Why do they fight so hard to exclude
homosexuals from military service? I think they have a lot more
respect for fellow soldiers than this.

One particular morning stands out in my memory. A few Marines had
been found to have, in the class Sergeants opinion, unsatisfactory
shaves. Protests and verbal abuse, including threats of bodily harm
and death, over the situation caught the attention of our
instructors, two Staff Sergeants. One of them produced a pink lady
bic shaver and handed it to Corporal 'slaps your nuts'. Brimming with
satisfaction he ordered the offending parties to dry shave right
there on the spot. I was pissed. After a few moments one of the
instructors ordered them into the head so as not to attract
attention. Death threats and sharing a lady's razor because of poor
hygiene? I could see that the only battles we were being trained for
were among ourselves. When one human being believes they are above
another then they become their own enemy. Needless to say, I vowed
then and there to get out any way I could....

Scott Cossette can be reached at:
Scottmj01 at

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