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WE WILL RECLAIM OUR ARMED FORCES!

Stan Goff at the December 11 Public Meeting and Speak Out in New York City.

 

I want to thank the organizers for this very

important defibrillation of the anti-war and

anti-empire work that was put on hold by the

recent elections. I want to thank my fellow

speakers and presenters, and I want to thank

everyone who is here for your tireless and

stubborn refusal to confuse setbacks with defeats.

I tend to think of resistance politics these days as if they were a Charles Dickens novel. There is always a happy ending in the last chapter, but every chapter leading up to that ending is sad.

I'm extremely honored to be here with Christian Parenti, whose book Lockdown America I consider canonical in many ways, and which should be required reading prior to entrance into any university. I quoted Mr. Parenti extensively in a long analytical piece I did in From The Wilderness that attempts to show how utterly connected the incarceration industry in the United States is with the entire system of late imperialism, and in particular why these most direct and brutal forms of social control - including prison rape and sexual humiliation, which are secretly sanctioned by the state - draw a straight line from a place like Pelican Bay maximum security to Abu Ghraib in Baghdad.

There is another book I want to recommend, while

I'm at it, that is not about Kabul or Baghdad,

but about Southern California. It is written by

radical urban theorist Mike Davis, and it is

entitled Ecology of Fear In it, Davis describes,

among many other things, how the development of

high-end residential housing enclaves in the

suburban foothills of LA spread into the habitats

of mountain lions. Now, from time to time,

explains Davis, a mountain lion - described as a

rogue, of course - eats Fluffy the Cocker

Spaniel, or encounters and attacks one of the

yuppie joggers, demonstrating how the feline diet

can be diversified to include spandex.

This is extremely interesting, because these

encounters are referred to by the press and by

members of these communities as a mountain lion

problem. Obviously, the mountain lions are not

getting equal time on the nightly news at these

Young Republican settlements, or the mountain

lions might explain that they were there first,

and that from where they stand, there is a people

problem.

But the mountain lions don't have equal time, and

this phrase - mountain lion problem - this phrase

and this concept stick, because it is repeated

over and over again until it is incorporated

effortlessly into casual conversation and folded

into descriptive lists until it becomes a single

signifier. There is no longer a problem between

people and mountain lions.

The mountain lions are the problem.

This is how the standpoint of selfish, clueless

yuppies is enshrined as an axiomatic premise that

is out of reach of any critique, because we

simply breathe that premise like the air, and

like the air, we take it for granted.

This is one reason we are important to the movement not just against the war, but the movement to overthrow a system that breeds war, why veterans and military families and dissident soldiers are so important in this crucial period. In this period when the old tricks no longer work, and the depredations of this global system have once again consumed the very bases of that system - its subordinated people and its wrecked environment - the essence of that system, its true essence, the gun and the bomb and the rape and the prison, are being unmasked by the necessity to use these colonizers' tools openly to preserve power.

George Bush didn't start this war. This war was waiting at the end of a road that we stepped onto decades ago, and by continuing to walk down that road we have inevitably encountered what is at its end. How many Iraqis did Bill Clinton kill?

Why did we not want to hear during this last electoral folly that the anti-Bush candidate selected for us by Wall Street and the DLC did not promise to end the war, but to expand it?

The communities of the military are in a unique position - they have a special standpoint - to say we were there. We were not on CNN. We were not in the New York Times. We were there when you rained dioxin on us 35 years ago as you killed 3 million Southeast Asians, and we were there in our family hothouses when we carried the dioxin and the death back into our living rooms, into our relationships, in to our children who were the hostages of our pathologies. We weren't in the swimming pool communities in the LA foothills. We are the mountain lions, and now you have a veteran problem. Now you have a military family problem. Now you have an I'm-awake-and-I'm pissed-off-soldier problem.

Only we are not mountain lions, consigned by our own natural limitations to helplessly watch our own destruction by this system.

We were there! We are there! We have a special

capacity and a special pedagogical responsibility

to stop others from taking the air for granted,

because that air is contaminated. It is poisoned

by the criminality at the very genetic core of

this whole system, that needs Agent Orange and

Depleted Uranium to enforce its will on those it

would dominate and those who refuse to surrender

their own humanity to this criminality.

Who we call statesmen are often as not thieves. Who we call statesmen are often as not vandals. Who we call statesmen are often as not mass murderers, and who better to out them for what they are than those of us who have been held closest to their criminal hearts in their time of need.

Our demands have a special force, and so we have a special responsibility.

The movement demanded that we not invade

Afghanistan to kill 4,000 civilians as vengeance

for the 2,800 killed on September 11th. The

movement demanded that we not invade Iraq - where

our government had already overseen the

destruction of over a million human beings, half

of them not having reached the age of majorityS

and Iraq has never been any kind of threat to the

United States.

Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out held out in the face of faint-hearted anti-Bush resistance and never listened to the siren call of compromise and chauvinism that led many of our allies to tell us to drop the word NOW from our campaign to Bring Them Home NOW! We were clear about the system, and we knew that the vandal that destroys your home is not the right person to decide who will rebuild it.

We stuck to our demand, and time is proving us grimly correct. We were correct to demand that this criminal class cease and desist. Now the elections that put a mask of legitimacy on this system are past, and we have to reiterate that demand.

Now we all know that demands are the glue that holds movements together, whether or not the powerful meet them. One of our pedagogical tasks in the next period, I think, is to educate the public about the difference between a demand and an assertive request.

I already have my post-election bumper stickers to impeach. But I also know that these little provocations, like that bumper sticker, which is intended to be provocative, are useful mostly to further polarize our society - which I think is a good thing, because as long as we stay polite we never seem get to the point. A Congress of the criminal class is not going to impeach a fellow criminal, unless a scandal is so out of control that it threatens the whole structure.

 

One thing I agree with Christian Parenti on is that I oppose the criminal justice system as it is, but I think we will need prisons for a long time. I say that because while my bumper sticker says impeach, what I really want to see - for these people who are presiding over yet another generation of our kids being sent abroad to do their criminal wet work - what I really want to see is George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin and Condoleeza I-forgot-who-I-am, Paul Wolfowitz, and cabinet members old and new, slammed up against a wall, searched as roughly as an Iraqi detainee, put in handcuffs, and their sorry asses thrown into a cell at Guantanamo Bay after we give it back to Cuba.

Our job is not to be conciliatory. We are not diplomats. Our job is not to comfort the comfortable by reinforcing their denial. Our job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Because we were there. We know what these people have sent our children to do, and what they have sent our children to become.

And I'm not whining about that. I'm not going to

cry about what was done to me, because the upside

to it is that I'm grateful to the dominant class

for my military career. I'm grateful for my

education. I'm grateful to be a soldier

I'm just not their soldier any more.

On my 19th birthday, I left McCord Air Force Base

to begin my international studies program in

northern Bin Dinh Province. My professors were a

Black buck sergeant named Eaves, a professional

con-man named Westmorland, and the courageous and

patriotic soldiers of the NLF and NVA who taught

me what it looks like to say NO. I learned that

a person can put one foot in front of the other

for a long time. I learned that mosquito clouds

and thirst and sleeping in the mud won't kill

you. I learned to accept my own mortality. I

learned that what most of suburban America thinks

is extreme and exceptional hardship is the daily

reality of most of the worldS and I began the

process of learning that the comfort of those

suburbs comes at a price often paid by those we

never see and

whose hardship we cannot comprehend.

What the Bushes and the Rumsfelds have failed to

understand about soldiers, old soldiers and new

soldiers, and the families of soldiers who learn

these things from and with us, is that when we

learn that there are different experiences in the

world, and when we learn to keep putting one foot

in front of the other, and when we learn that we

can survive extreme hardship, and when we learn

to accept our own mortality, and when we learn to

recognize con-men, and when and if we finally

learn that everything they say is a lie, and

every mission is vandalism and murder, then what

is left behind is still a soldier, but he or she

is not THEIR soldier any more.

Those troops are OUR armed forces, and we have to

reclaim them no matter the cost.

Movements start with those who are not afraid, and they grow with those who are only a little afraid. The veteran just back from Iraq, and the veterans of past conflicts, who have snatched their humanity back from this system are not going to fall for every bullshit story. We are not going to fall for their appeals to criminality cloaked in patriotism.

We are not going to be intimidated by their with-us-or-with-the-terrorists rhetoric.

I hope they are listening, and I expect they are.

George and Dick and Don, you are not going to

shut up these veterans, and these families, and

these soldiers by shaking your Patriot Act in our

faces. Some of us worked pretty hard and risked

everything to fight for lies. Don't you know

that we will fight harder against you now that we

know the truth?

Those troops are OUR armed forces, and we have to

reclaim them no matter the cost.

Patriot Act! We are the ones who have the responsibility to teach the rest that the patriotism of someone defending their home is not the same as the patriotism deployed to take our children away from home. The patriotism of the invader is not the same as the patriotism of the invaded.

We can teach that, because we went then, and we are going to witness now.

Man, they hate witnesses, don't they? They hate

witnesses the way all criminals do.

And I've got something to say to those soldiers

and veterans who are not with us yet, but who are

wandering in the wilderness of post-combat shock.

Witnessing will heal you. PTSD is not the

outcome of violence. PTSD is the recognition that

you have been betrayed and that you were helpless

when it happened, because you couldn't do any

better or you didn't know any better. Do people

know what the single most common cause of PTSD in

the United States is?

Rape.

Rape victims report that confronting their attackers - and not just in court where the system tries to rape women again

- but confronting one's attacker with a support

group and outing that attacker are highly

therapeutic.

It is a way to recapture that lost agency from a

former state of helplessness and standing back up

in the world.

For combat veterans, we have a group right here

for you, and we will stand beside you when you

out the authors of the crime by describing what

it really looked like. We know that some cling

to denial, that some are broken in body and

spirit, that some rage, and that some turn their

anger in on themselves and crawl into a needle or

a bottle or the chamber of a pistol. But there's

a way out of that wilderness, and it's the path

of the witness.

Imperialism has staked a claim on our children in

uniform, and that's why we will never relinquish

our claim on them. We will never surrender in

the struggle for the souls of this and future

generations. Never.

Those troops are OUR armed forces, and we have to

reclaim them no matter the cost.

I'm a grandfather now. Those of you who are

grandparents know what I mean when I say, Dick

Cheney don't put yourself between me and my

grandbaby and expect me to retreat.

We're not only not going anywhere, we are coming after all of them. The veterans of this war are already organizing against it. Troops in Iraq write to us. The whistleblowers are emerging from within the service. The MFSO family list is growing. The number of conscientious objectors is growing. The mutinies have already begun. We are going to court with stop-loss suits, and to defend military refugees in Canada. Soldiers in theater are setting up blogs that bypass the Centcom censors. There is a Camilo Mejia or a Mike Hoffman or a Kelly Dougherty in every squad waiting for us to invite them into the light.

George Bush, we are going to fight you for every last one of them.

Those troops are OUR armed forces, and we have to

reclaim them no matter the cost.

To those troops who are not yet ready, we'll be there when you are. We don't go away. We put one foot in front of the other. We will never stop. When you decide that its time to see what's on the other side of all those taboos, it's us you'll find there. Veterans and military

families.

I made that Dantean journey you are on for two

decades, separated from the very people who most

wanted to confirm my humanity when I thought I

had abandoned it along the road through eight

conflict areas as a servant of this Ivy League

mafia. But when I made the leap, they were there

to catch me, and they catch me when I fall to

this day. This movement is your family, and the

door to that home will always be open.

If we're not home, look for us in the street.

That's where we're headed now. One foot in front

of the other, until we get where we gotta go,

because those troops are OUR armed forces, and we

have to reclaim them no matter the cost. And

those people in Iraq are not our enemies, and

they have to reclaim their children no matter the

cost, and we are reclaiming them from the same

criminal clique.

Look for us in the street, and don't think we are making requests any more. We are going to delegitimate this war and this system. And if that's not enough, we will disobey. And if disobedience is not enough, we will disrupt that system. We slept in the mud and did their dirty work, and we brought their wars back into our homes to be the burdens of our families. They made us soldiers, so that's how we are going to act. We are not afraid of poverty. We are not afraid of prison. We are not afraid of death. So now what are they gonna do? Without our fear, they have no power, and in movements, those who are not afraid will show those who are a little afraid the way.

We are not making a request. We are making a demand.

That demand is to let the Iraqis be the

architects of their own future, and bring the

troops home now. You want a compromise, turn on

Judge Judy. You want a retreat, go book a cabana

in Hawaii. You want a surrender, go visit

Appomattox and read the plaques. We ain't goin'

nowhere. Bring them home now!

 

 

 
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