[Marxism] Is the GI heretic for real? And why imperialist war is a moral issue

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Dec 9 15:05:13 MST 2004

M. Junaid Alam wrote: 
Also Fred, yesterday you posted something titled along the lines of "the
GI Heretic is real!" But I scanned through it several times and I guess
I just "didn't get it." What was the proof that it is in fact real? 
My response:
The  answer is given by Stan Goff.  In his letter to Tom Barton, the
publisher of GI Special, he wrote: At any rate, I never said he didn't
exist, but that we should be careful.   The kid is real, and he is
taking a huge risk, when people around him can shoot him and get away
with it.... 
"On the fly, I noted a post to Marxmail, from Fred Feldman, in which he
suggested that WW and ISO are making the most inroads into military
communities with anti-war work.  He included the post from our mutual
acquaintance (whom I did not know was this particular person)." 
It is clear that both Goff and Barton have very good reason to be
satisfied that this GI is real. As far as I am concerned, confirmation
by either one of them is more than enough.  As a rule, I don't need even
that much proof to accept the reality of an "anonymous" Gi posting. I am
not for a Control Commission investigation to prove who this GI is.  We
don't need that information.  We can leave the investigating to Army
When GIs feel the time is ripe, we will find out their names, ranks, and
serial numbers. 
M. Junaid Alam also said: .
And let us speak honestly, US soldiers in the main have not been "dying
for a cause" - they have been killing for it. The trouble is that
killing is problematic when you are not accomplishing highly touted
objective within a promised time frame, when your life is made hellishly
difficult, and when everyone around you hates you and might as well be
from Mars.... " 
Of course, US soldiers have not been dying for a cause, although it is
an quite an exaggeration that they have not been dying in large and
growing numbers.  Of course they are. 
 Nor is it correct to say they are killing for a cause.  If they
believed they were killing for a just cause, there would be no obstacle
-- not even casualties -- to their continuing to do so. 
After all, look at the killing that the Iraqi resistance is doing.  You
can place your  emphasis on the fact that the US can and does kill many,
many more but does that really turn Iraqi killing into something other
than killing -- and not small-scale killing either.    Of course not.
And it looks like they are likely to go on killing till they have their
country back, regardless of how many of them are killed.) 
My point is that the US troops do not have that motivation and, as the
war is exposed for the crime against human rights and the Iraqi people
that it really is, it is becomes ever harder to justify any sacrifice OR
ANY KILLING for it. 
In the Vietnam war, the Spartacist League and other far-left groups
argued  -- in the Spartacist League's case literally -- that fear of
casualties on the home front and fear of death among the GIs were among
the keys to the defeat of the US in Vietnam.  I think the sense of
justice had more to do with it.  And, the education that war provided is
an important part of the reason why the administration has had so much
trouble maintaining support for the war at the necessary level, and is
having growing difficulties imposing REAL discipline, on and off the
battlefield, even though the costs of Iraq in lives of US soldiers are
not yet  anywhere close to those in Vietnam. 
Revolutionaries should know enough never to overestimate the power of
pure cowardice on either side in a war.  The "body  bags" are not
enough.  The moral argument must be lost by the imperialists, overcoming
all the patriotic, religious, parental authority, hierarchical training
and belief that the troops have been trained since childhood to bring
with them to the battlefield.  The biggest illusion you can have about
human beings is that the willingness to kill or be killed is a rare
Maybe I think that  because I've seen too many Westerns, or maybe that
belief is why I see too many westerns, but that's always been one of my
core beliefs about people. I don't think courage is unusual.  And
cowardice and fear will never stop an imperialist war -- not even the
fear of being killed by the "enemy."
And that is why it is important to grasp that it is courage, not fear of
death, os expressed in the actions of  GIs who decide the war is wrong
and feel they  must act on this in some way. 
Just yelling "body bags" won't end the war and didn't end the Vietnam
war.  The casualties pose the issue to the people: is it worth it and
there is nothing automatic about the answer. In a sense, the war is won
and lost on a plane of morality. 
I think John Catalinotto's comments were very useful, including how he
presents the military's role as a relentless killing machine and its
effect on its GI  human instruments.    Like him, I was involved in some
work related to GI organizing, working with Alan Meyers and other
antiwar GIs at Fort Dix who were putting out a paper called The Ultimate
Weapon. (The offical slogan of the Fort Dix base was, "The common foot
soldier is the ultimate weapon," a belief I still hold to today.}
War -- especially when it reaches the intensity of the battle of
Fallujah -- certainly qualifies as an extreme situation and it affects
thinking accordingly.
So I think we should stop being surprised or incredulous at
manifestations of  extreme radicalism among Gis. 
I also repeat my original point about the GIs challenging Rumsfeld.  M.
Junaid Alam sees this as a patriotic, prowar manifestation -- as
Rumsfeld NOW claims to do. 

And so will almost every sectarian within a ten-thousand mile radius of
my computer (especially those who have no experience in the field or
have repudiated that kind of organizing as social-patriotic (the US
What happened was this: Two days ago the military announced that it was
dropping plans to court-martial GIs who had refused an assignment that
they considered a suicide mission (an action we should totally support,
of course, as a matter of solidarity against the war and with working
people in uniform who are beginning to resist it).  For most GIs, this
has been registered as a legitimate issue on which to challenge the
brass.  And within a few hours of the decision, a shocked Rumsfeld --
and he was shocked, not pleased as he would have been by a patriotic,
prowar demonstration -- faced a grilling by the GIs on this issue.  One
thing the army doesn't want is GIs standing in judgement over whether
they go out on patrol or whatever -- that is one way the ground war in
Vietnam tended to slowly grind to a halt.  That was part of the
destruction of the US army in Vietnam.  The army's backdown on the 343rd
meant that you could challenge on this issue,  unlike on the war itself,
which would open you to punishment, or even death.  "You, who talked out
of turn today, you take the patrol out, and make sure that mosque is
So I don't see the incident the way M. Junaid Alam does -- a gang of
enthusiastic killers simply asking: "How can we have tons of fun killing
ever more Iraqis while never getting hurt ourselves."  I see it as a
problem for the warmakers and a step forward in the development and
boldness of GI resistance to the war.
Fred Feldman
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