Left Hook Second Release Online

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Mon Nov 17 20:46:07 MST 2003

I have visited this site and have to say that I am really encouraged by
this development. If I may so the intrepid moderator for this list, Comrade
Proyect, can take a bow for creating a forum which can have such a
promising off shoot as Left Hook.  Congratulations all round.

I have taken the liberty of cutting and pasting Derek Seidman's latest
piece from their website.  I hope this will be forgiven by the moderator,
but I really wanted to present it in full both as a way of showing the kind
of valuable stuff that is being produced at Lefthook.org and as way of
engaging with the ideas presented.  I would like to say here that I am very
persuaded by Derek's argument about the line "Support the Troops - bring
them home".  Hopefully I will be able to squeeze out some more time to
address this que4stion of relating to ongoing developments within the peace
camp.  It would seem to me that the most urgent task we face is to outflank
the UN wing of that movement.



Iraq: As the Resistance grows, so does the Demoralization of the Troops

- By Derek Seidman

As the situation in Iraq spirals into evermore chaos for the occupying
forces, there are some telling letters coming home from America's bravest:

"What are we getting into here? The war is supposed to be over, but
everyday we hear of another soldier getting killed. Is it worth it? Saddam
isn't in power anymore. The locals want us to leave. Why are we still here?
(Anonymous Sgt., 2th Infantry Division).

"We're more angry at the generals who are making these decisions and who
never hit the ground, and who don't get shot at or have to look at the
bloody bodies and the burnt-out bodies, and the dead babies and all that
kinda stuff" (Spc. Anthony Castillo, Third Infantry Division).

"I've got my own "Most Wanted" list. The aces in my deck are Paul Bremer,
Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush, and Paul Wolfowitz" (Anonymous Sgt., 2nd
Battle Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Brigade, Stationed at BCT's HQ). 1

Journalist Robert Fisk, stationed in Iraq, tells of this scene:

"When I suggested to a group of US military police near Abu Ghurayb they
would be voting Republican at the next election, they fell about laughing.
"We shouldn't be here and we should never have been sent here," one of them
told me with astonishing candor. "And maybe you can tell me: why were we
sent here?""2

According to Fisk, the occupying forces are facing up to 35 attacks daily
in Baghdad, 50 outside the city. The military paper Stars and Stripes has
reported that one third of stationed soldiers are suffering from low
morale-and we can assume this is a conservative figure. Cases of AWOL are
sharply on the rise. The suicide rate of soldiers has increased
threefold-there have been 23 reported suicides already in Iraq. Soldiers
from all but two states have been killed. The (reported) death toll is
creeping up to 400, with many more injured in combat.

The euphoria over a victorious invasion has quickly vanished as the
occupation of Iraq becomes a living nightmare. The reality of the situation
is setting in more firmly with every reported death and without any
legitimate sign of progress or possible exit. Soldiers' days and nights are
mostly devoted to the transferring of convoys along extremely hazardous
routes where they are in constant danger of being shot at or of running
into a deadly roadside bomb. Amidst the sweltering heat and the air sticky
with debris, with deferred hopes of returning home anytime soon, some
soldiers' worlds must be beginning to lose their sense of time and space,
beginning and end. They face water shortages, and many have to buy needed
supplies using their own pay (which barely squeaks past the official
poverty line in the first place). The realization must be setting in: they
have been lied to by their government, their presence is not desired by
those they are occupying, and they face a pointless death at any moment.
The notion of the government "supporting the troops" becomes a much more
difficult illusion to cling on to. Crushed beneath the emotional weight of
all this, some soldiers will surely lapse into a state of primitiveness,
viewing every Iraqi as a blood enemy and committing Vietnamesque acts of
brutality and murder. Others will begin to criticize the occupation and to
actively oppose it.

Meanwhile, the administration has reiterated the order that the media not
cover the increasing number of incoming coffins home. A New York Times
headline of November 5th reads "Issue for Bush: How to speak of Casualties?
The White House is struggling with the political consequences for a
president who has said little publicly about the mounting casualties of the
occupation in Iraq". It appears the president, pity him, is caught up in a
humdinger of a contradiction: "expressing sympathy for fallen soldiers
without drawing more attention to the casualties by commenting daily on
every new death". It seems the Iraqi resistance took the president's
invitation to "Bring 'em on" too literally. Yet, however much this
administration tries to alleviate (read: manipulate) reality for the
benefit of the poor American masses, it is becoming as futile an effort as
hiding the image of fallen soldiers. It is what is one everyone's mind. The
media, grudgingly and by force of events, is beginning to give more
coverage to the reality that defies government assurances with each new
body bag. Military families are speaking up, organizing, even rioting at
family military centers. They realize they were lied to, and their patience
in getting their family members back home is running out.

Debbie Roath, a mother of five from Marshall, Missouri, whose husband is in
Iraq, voted for Bush in 2000. She is now a vocal critic: "Our husbands' and
our soldiers' lives are being put in danger, and I don't see any reason for
it except greed". After hearing that the government broke its promise and
extended her husband's tour of duty, she told her children: "They cried and
they were angry. They don't understand why the military and our president
lied to them".3

Why were they lied to? With no WMDs discovered, and no proven Al-Quada
links, the soldiers and their families must be left with a sickening
sensation in their stomachs. As they struggle to believe the lives of their
comrades and family members weren't lost in vein, that they have sacrificed
for something noble, the bitter truth sets in. They have been used as
fodder to pursue the nefarious motives of the United States government. The
ill-prepared mission to make a strategic move in conquering the world's
most economically vital region, an effort to assume supremacy in
geo-political competition, is becoming the feared bloodbath that was

Tim Predmore, who is stationed in Mosul with 101st Airborne Division, has
this to say:

"There is only one truth, and it is that Americans are dying. There are an
estimated 10- to 14-attacks on our servicemen and women daily in Iraq. As
the body count continues to grow, it would appear that there is no
immediate end in sight.

"I once believed that I served for a cause: "to uphold and defend the
Constitution of the United States." Now, I no longer believe; I have lost
my conviction, my determination. I can no longer justify my service for
what I believe to be half-truths and bold lies. My time is done as well as
that of many others with whom I serve. We have all faced death here without
reason or justification.

"How many more must die? How many more tears must be shed before America
awakens and demands the return of the men and women whose job it is to
protect them rather than their leader's interest?" 4

While Predmore's words must surely be resonating more and more with
stationed troops as the days anxiously flow by, it is not the case that
Americans dying is the "only truth". The corpses of US soldiers are piling
up, though not nearly as quickly as the resentment of ordinary Iraqis
resisting the occupation of their country. This resistance comes not out of
a vacuum, but is fueled by the experience of a carnage that US troops are
just getting a taste of. A decade of sanctions that killed hundreds of
thousands, sandwiched by wars and bombings that ripped apart the lives of
millions: this is the modern Iraqi experience. Each Iraqi having a family
member or friend who has been killed or mangled by American forces, slashed
by the shrapnel of a cluster bomb, deformed by the poisonous radiation of
depleted uranium, sickened due to a deliberately destroyed water system now
seething with contamination: this is the Iraqi reality. And now the
unrepentant perpetrator of these crimes comes in to officially occupy your
land, posturing as your Liberator while he guns down civilians in the
streets, perpetuates civil disorder, and displays the most offensive type
of cultural insensitivity. While some American soldiers are coming to grasp
this reality, to understand it, we must begin our understanding of the
conflict from the inescapable premise that the Iraqi people have suffered
more, died more, cried more, than these occupying troops will ever have to.
This is, in fact, the greatest truth: the need to oppose US imperialism.

The US is deeply ingrained in its imperial arrogance. On the part of most
ordinary people, this assumes a type of imperial naivete. People don't
understand what's going on in the rest of the world, and don't see the need
to. They believe, due to an immensely powerful propaganda machine deployed
by the ruling class, government, and media, that our foreign ventures are
inspired and imbued with noble intentions. Thus, the growing criticism
and/or opposition to the war and occupation is not based on an
understanding of the deplorable motives and goal of US foreign policy, nor
should we expect to be.

What is turning the domestic tide is the death of American troops. The
admiration for the troops runs deep in the social and emotional fabric of
our society. This is for the most part not because ordinary Americans
consciously cheer on US imperial ambitions. It is because the troops are
the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters of
the working class. People support the troops because they want to give
their family and friends their love and support. Many people admire the
troops because they view them as putting their life on the line to defend
the noble ideals they mistakenly believe the US stands for. But as soon as
it starts to become clear that they are dying for senseless reasons having
nothing to do with freedom and democracy, people begin to realize that
supporting the troops doesn't mean supporting US imperialism, but opposing
it. To the rest of the world, the "troops" are a force that reaps
intimidation and destruction on the globe, the military weapon of the USA's
imperial pursuit. To ordinary folks in the US, they are real people who we
care about and don't want to die or come home injured and traumatized. Some
on the Left object to using slogans such as "Support the Troops-Bring Them
Home" on the basis that we shouldn't "support" the sword of imperialism.
While well-intentioned, this type of thinking displays a real lack of
understanding for the dynamics of struggle today in the US.

First of all, it is plain illogical to claim that posing the two connected
ideas of supporting the troops and bringing them home is somehow supporting
US imperialism. One could perhaps argue this if the only slogan was
"Support the Troops". But by making the fulfillment of this idea predicated
on fulfilling the demand of bringing the troops home, it is objectively
anti-imperialist. In this context, supporting the troops equals bringing
them home, which equals a defeat for US imperialism.

Further, as Stan Goff says (see my interview with him at www.lefthook.org),
people for the most part are not moved by abstract morality, but by what
actually, physically affects them. While it would indeed be nice if mass
opposition to the war and occupation sprung up initially from a moral
repulsion towards US imperialism, this is wishful thinking. In order for
most people to get to this stage they need to be forced to confront reality
by actual circumstances. The form that these actual circumstances are
taking right now is the dying of US troops, which is beginning to jolt
people into opposition to the war due to their bare interest of not wanting
their family members and friends to get killed. Once this step is taken,
the natural questions are asked to oneself: Why are the troops really
there? Why were we lied to? Who's benefiting from all this? Why would our
own government get into something like this? In seeking answers to these
questions, people begin to think critically. They become much more able to
absorb and embrace the radical ideas that provide the answers to their
questions because these ideas are no longer abstractions. Thus for some,
"supporting the troops" is the natural gateway into developing a radical
opposition to an unjust order.

It is in the objective interest of the world for us to cater to the growing
sentiment against the war, on whatever level it may be developing. The
stronger the resistance to the war at home, the greater the blow to
imperialism on a global scale, the greater empowerment of those resisting it.

The changing sentiment within the ranks of the armed forces is also a vital
development. The troops, after all, are mostly working class youth,
disproportionately poor and of color. They joined up for economic reasons,
or because they fell victim to the carpet-bombing of advertisements that
the armed forces deploys in order to pull in susceptible, alienated youth.
Once the troops begin to realize the scope of what they have been ordered
to do, that the bloody reality they are participating in is at odds with
the proclaimed ideals of the mission, many will begin to resist. Many will
come to recognize that they have been lied to and that their lives are
being used as pawns in the ruling class' imperial game. They will come to
realize, as in Vietnam, that not only do they not want to die for that
game, but that it is unjust and morally wrong to go into another country,
occupy it, and oppress its people who desire self-determination.

In coming to terms with this reality, we should hope that many other people
will go through this same learning process. What we as anti-war activists
need to do is create and cultivate an environment where this type of
consciousness can be achieved, where people who are becoming critical of
the war will be welcomed and given a friendly space to learn, on their own
and with honest help, the truth. This is the only way that a real movement
to end the war and occupation can formed.

Last weekend on the evening news, amidst tending to the mangled bodies of
those injured in the deadly crash of the Chinook helicopter, a military
doctor turned towards the camera and blurted sarcastically: "End of all
major combat hostilities... right".

We are only beginning to sense an inkling of what is to come. The US armed
forces are not wiping out the remnants of a clever group of Baathists and
Al-Qauda followers. They are engaged in an escalating war of popular
resistance to occupation. The troops are being used in a war they have no
interest in fighting. It is only a matter of time until more of them come
to this realization. This war is going to become one of the defining issue
of our generation. It is our duty to resist the occupation with all of our
strength and energy, and to create an environment where every soldier and
person feels more comfortable in stepping over to our side to criticize the
war and learn more about what's going on. There is nothing more crucial.

Derek Seidman, 23, is a co-editor of the radical youth journal Left Hook
(www.lefthook.org). He is currently living in New York City. He looks
forward to your feedback at derekseidman at yahoo.com.
1. The Indypendent, #40, Oct 25-Nov 11, 2003. Quotes taken from
2. "One, Two, Three, What Are They Fighting For?", Robert Fisk, The
Indepedent, Oct 26, 2003
3. The Indypendent, #40
4. Peoria Journal Star, August 24, 2003

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