[Marxism] Stan Goff comments on Fahrenheit 9/11 critiques

Craven, Jim JCraven at clark.edu
Thu Jul 8 18:48:40 MDT 2004

  Something you wrote caught my attention  . . You wrote,

  "Many who signed up, and even initially wanted to go to the Gulf (hard
to get a CIB or "war credentials/medals"
  necessary for real advancement these days) . . ."

  What evidence do you have that "war credentials/medals" are necessary
for "real advancement".  I confess that I also don't know exactly what
you mean by "real advancement". On the one hand everyone acknowledges
that the majority of front line soldiers are from working  class  or
lumpen background (i.e, the permanently unemployable that capitalism
needs) and are disproportionately representative of minorities.  Do
these "credentials" really provide them the possibility of real
advancement in the society as a whole?  Is there some evidence that this
is the case in a significant way? I also wonder if  young people from
the other end of the social/economic pyramid need such credentials to
achieve "real advancement".

  Paul H. Dillon

Let me try to answer this--or give my opinion and the reasons for it--by
also dovetailing it with something David Quarter wrote:

I agree that most join the army for these reasons .  Yet what about
those who join because it is their only ticket out of poverty, e.g., to
receiving a college education? These are the people I have sympathy for.
Obviously, folks such as Tillman are low lives through and through.  

First of all, I have read some of the literature--from the services
themselves--on the backgrounds of recruits (active duty, versus
Reserves/Guard) and some of their own stated reasons for going in. On
active duty, the poorest of the poor, the ones who may "THINK" there is
no way out of poverty except through the military, are found generally
in the MOS categories having to do with combat arms--particularly at the
"grunt" level. They can also be found as cooks, logistics, truck
drivers, etc. Actually, these days, with the squeeze on the middle class
and many young people unable to qualify for certain financial assistance
because their parents make too much (even though they may not be living
with their parents) many of the new recruits are not from strictly
working class--or at least ultra-poor working class--or
lumpenproletariat as was once the case; many are from families hardly on
the verge of starvation and outright poverty. Although money for college
and specialized training are the top reasons given among recruits in
interviews (not "killing commies/muslims for Jesus, patriotism, making a
difference, defending the country, etc) there are additional reasons as
well: the Audie Murphy Syndrome (nothing like a war to turn a nobody
into a somebody), low self-esteem (become a Ranger or Airborne or
Special Forces and come back home and show that bitch who dumped you in
high school for the quarterback on the football team that you are now a
somebody and now how does she feel about dumping you?), travel (get out
and see the world beyond that in-bred podunk town you were raised in),
adventure (watching too much JAG, war movies etc), a career (retire at
40 years old with a pension, medical benefits--less and less--), and of
course the standard--can't make it on the outside at anything
interesting and that pays more than minimum wage.

Once in, then you get the full dose of ideology designed to help you
rationalize why you went in in the first place. Although you went in for
strictly mercenary reasons like help with college tuition, and didn't
give a fuck or thought about what and whom you might be really serving
or whom you might really be hurting--and in whose interest--now comes
the icing on the cake to ease your cognitive dissonance problems--if you
are not some kind of sociopath and actually have such problems. No you
are among the elite. You are fighting for freedom. You are the cutting
edge of the most powerful military machine ever known and you are
sacrificing--perhaps life and limbs--so that those at home can live in
"freedom." And you also get a full dose of what it takes to get anywhere
significant promotion-wise. In Army terms, you need a patch on your
right shoulder (unit in a combat area), you need horizontal bars on the
right sleeve (each is six months in combat zone), you need a CIB (combat
infantryman's badge) or combat medic badge, a purple heart is excellent
(particularly if you can get one without too-damaging wounds), a Bronze
Star with V-cluster or Silver Star will take you far coupled with
theater and combat campaign ribbons. And then there is further
specialized training, networking, good performance reviews and most of
all, demonstrating unquestioning loyalty to and being on the same page
with the ideology, mission, goals, objectives and dominant values of
your superiors. All of this is understood and the best evidence is to
look at the ribbons of those at the top and/or look at what the likes of
Haig et al did to get combat decorations they clearly did not
deserve--why did they go after them and engage in all sorts of phony and
desecrating stuff (to those who might have deserved some special award)
to get them?

I know not only from the research, but I was one of them once. And no
amount of liberal hand-wringing and solicitous
"these-poor-souls-with-nowhere-else-to-go-to-escape-poverty" will ever
rationalize or let me off the hook for my having once been a willing
tool, dupe and instrument of U.S. imperialism like so many other willing
accomplices. I am responsible for what I did, whom and what I served and
what victims were created by my own complicity with U.S. imperialism.

Jim Craven

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