RAY O’ LIGHT Newsletter
Publication of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA
Twenty-two months ago Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. Presidency over the supposed “war hero,” former Vietnam POW John McCain, the son and grandson of Navy Admirals. The suave, diplomatic, soft-spoken Harvard Law honors graduate, Democrat Obama won in large measure due to a widespread sentiment to end the U.S. wars against the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then, in contradiction to the electorate’s “vote,” the Obama-Biden Administration has increased the total number of U.S. troops and private military contractors (U.S. mercenaries) engaged in the two main theaters of U.S. imperialist war well beyond the number bequeathed to the Democratic Administration by the openly bellicose Bush-Cheney Regime.*
* The one campaign promise Obama has kept thus far, though, has been to openly expand the Afghan theater including by crossing the border into Pakistan, a promise that most of his voters had chosen to ignore.
The combination of widespread U.S. unemployment which continues to be the chief feature in the USA of the ongoing world capitalist economic crisis and Obama’s disarming demagoguery, with his lip service to a desire for peace, has enabled the U.S. military, including even the Army and Marines, to fulfill the “volunteer” manpower quota, even as it is increasing, for the first time in years, using an economic “draft.”
As the outstanding anti-war heroine, Cindy Sheehan, pointed out shortly after the inauguration, “The economic collapse is a very worrisome and immediate problem to so many of us, but we need to remember that the Military Industrial Robber Class Complex is the reason we are in this current crisis and the economic costs of the occupations cannot and must not be separated from the human cost.” She continued, “Our demands must be the same with the Obama regime as with the Bush regime: Troops home completely and immediately.” (Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox, 3-12-09) In this context, the U.S. anti-war movement, such as it was before the 2008 election, has been a complete failure, a virtual non-factor in U.S. political life, ever since. Sister Sheehan correctly concluded that the U.S. anti-war movement turned out to be merely an anti-Republican Party war movement.
Over the past two years, with the notable exception of the brilliant and courageous Cindy Sheehan, there has been little positive about the U.S. anti-war movement– until now.
“Fort Hood Disobeys” (FHD): A Qualitatively Better Anti-War Group
At about 4 AM on August 23rd, five peace activists blocked the
street outside the Clarke gate of Fort Hood in Texas, successfully
forcing six buses to halt. The buses contained soldiers of the 3rd
Armored Cavalry Regiment (3rd ACR) being deployed to Iraq. The
protesters held signs reading “Occupation is a Crime” and “Please don’t
make the same mistake we did. RESIST NOW.” The police used automatic
weapons and police dogs to drive the protesters off of the street,
enabling the buses to proceed with their bloody business.
Despite its outcome, this was a significant positive event for a number of reasons. First of all, it signaled the emergence of a new anti-war force in the USA, an organization called “Fort Hood Disobeys” (FHD). FHD includes at least these five serious anti-imperialist war activists as well as supporters who, in coordination with the five, attempted to hang large banners on a highway overpass with messages addressed to the troops on the buses such as “Tell the Brass: ‘KISS MY ASS’ Your family needs you more” and “Sick of fighting your Wars.”
Secondly, this deployment of the 3rd ACR, a combat unit of three thousand soldiers, is occurring less than two weeks after U.S. President Obama announced an end to U.S. combat operations in Iraq. FHD’s August 23rd action underscores the important fact, as they pointed out, that this deployment exposes Obama’s declaration on Iraq as a lie. In line with this, FHD has pledged to continue to oppose the wars with direct action in the Fort Hood community as long as troops continue to deploy.
Thirdly, these anti-war activists have come to their radical anti-imperialist politics out of their own bitter direct experience with the U.S. military in its brutal invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Three of the five “Disobedients” served tours of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan and a fourth was “an army wife for 18 years.”
In the brief biographies published as part of this action, the four have one other distinctive feature in common, along with and in connection to their direct experience with these wars. That is, an important element of their present motivation for opposing these imperialist wars is their solidarity with the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Bobby Whittenberg-James [is] a Marine veteran of
the war against the people of Iraq, a Purple Heart recipient and a
third generation military service member. [He] joined the Marines in
June of 2003, believing the lies about weapons of mass destruction and
an imminent threat to our safety. [He has] since come to learn that
these wars and occupations do not keep the people of the United States or the Middle East safe, but instead serve the interests of politicians, capitalists and corporations; the ruling elite. These
unjust wars and occupations rob the people of Iraq, Afghanistan,
Pakistan and Yemen of their dignity and their right to
self-determination …” He concluded: “I do not believe that the
government or the capitalists will end these wars, I will vote with my
body.” (Our emphasis, ROL)
|All five participants in the Fort
Hood Disobeys blockade action. From left to right are Iraq Veterans
Bobby Whittenberg-James and Crystal Colon, Jeff Grant, Military Spouse
Cynthia Thomas and Afghanistan Veteran Matthis Chiroux.
Crystal Colon identified herself as having served as a sergeant in the Army for five years. She was stationed at Fort Hood, except for two tours of duty in Iraq totaling more than two years. She had planned to leave the military after her first tour of duty there; but she was “stop-lossed” and forced to return to Iraq for 15 months. She served well over a year more than the length of her enlistment. She said, “I am doing this today because I can’t allow this war in which I have fought to continue. I can’t allow other soldiers to make the same mistake I did, deploying in support of a war crime. As a veteran of Iraq, how could I not do this today? For the people I helped occupy, for the friends I lost and still have over there, for the Soldiers on the buses. … I should have disobeyed … I wish someone had tried to stop me.” (Our emphasis, ROL)
Matthis Chiroux, a former Army sergeant, said he was “press-ganged into the Army by the Alabama Juvenile ‘Justice’ System in 2002.” He “occupied” Japan and Germany as well as the Philippines and Afghanistan and served as “a Public Affairs Noncommissioned Officer.” “I was a propaganda artist.… discharged honorably to the Individual Ready Reserve in 2007.” He began to resist actively in 2008 after he received mobilization orders for a year-long deployment to Iraq, orders he considered “illegal and unconstitutional.” When thirteen members of Congress signed a letter of support for his decision and sent it to Bush, he says, “I thought we had won a victory for peace. This was more than two years ago. The president has changed, and the wars and destruction drag on.”
Matthis Chiroux declares: “I am putting my body on the line in
solidarity with the people of the Middle East, whose bodies have been
shot, burned, tortured, raped and violated by our men and women in and
out of uniform. I cannot willfully allow Americans in uniform to put their lives and the lives of Iraqis in jeopardy for a crime.… I will not rest until my people, ALL PEOPLE, are free.” (Our Emphasis, ROL)
“If these wars are destroying our Soldiers and military families with 12 to 15-month, often repeat deployments, how do you think the Iraqi and Afghan people [are] doing? They have been living these wars 24/7, 365 days a year for nearly a decade! My youngest daughter is an Operation Iraqi Freedom baby. She was less than one-year-old when her father left to invade Iraq. I look at her, and I see an Iraqi or Afghani child having to live in constant fear with no end in sight! I am doing this for our community, for my girls, for my husband and our Marine. I am doing this for the Iraqi and Afghan People. Enough is enough. If Soldiers really want to go fight, they’ll have to go through me.” (Our emphasis, ROL)
From these autobiographical statements, the deep sense of responsibility and commitment of the FHD group to fight for a just and peaceful world is clear. For the first time we are seeing evidence of a group that has approximately the seriousness of purpose and selfless dedication and courage of Cindy Sheehan. We anticipate great things from FHD and the many FHD’s to follow.
WikiLeaks Exposes U.S. War Crimes in Afghanistan
Likewise, the revelations of the “Afghan War Diary 2004-2010” released on WikiLeaks on July 25th of the war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated in Afghanistan in defense of the U.S. Empire should help to solidify opposition to U.S. imperialism, and especially to the U.S.-led war against Afghanistan, both within the USA and around the world. These revelations were made in the face of tremendous pressure from the U.S. imperialist state and its stooges on WikiLeaks founder, Australian Julian Assange, as well as on key witnesses to the U.S. crimes in Afghanistan.
In the face of massive attacks on his website, Assange went to Sweden to seek legal protection for WikiLeaks and wound up having his name and the site “legally” tarnished. On August 20th, a warrant was issued in Sweden for the arrest of Assange for an alleged rape. The warrant was revoked the very next day but the message to the world public remained that Assange (and Wikileaks) is unreliable and disreputable. And the personal threat to Assange himself was unmistakable, as well. Despite the seriousness of these events, Assange said that WikiLeaks is preparing to release more Afghan files. The refusal of Assange and WikiLeaks to knuckle under is a real contribution to the building of a serious anti-imperialist war movement in the USA and worldwide going forward.
Pat Tillman: From football hero to war hero to anti-war hero
On August 20th, just a few days before the “Fort Hood Disobeys”
group blocked the buses transporting the troops being sent out for
deployment to Iraq, the world premiere of a new documentary film, “The
Tillman Story,” was screened. Narrated by Hollywood star, Josh Brolin,
the film documents the life of Pat Tillman, a National Football League
(NFL) all-pro safety for the Arizona Cardinals. Tillman possessed a
high degree of honesty and integrity, unusual in today’s corrupt U.S.
society, and especially rare among the extremely privileged and spoiled
elite professional athletes in major revenue sports such as football.
Out of a sense of patriotic duty after the 9/11 attack, Tillman turned
his back on a new $3.6 million dollar contract and sacrificed the
comfort of life with his fiancée and (later his bride) to join the U.S.
Army Rangers. In June 2002, he joined the Army with his brother Kevin.
|Pat Tillman, left, and his brother Kevin
Because of his self-sacrificing patriotic spirit, and his acclaim as a pro football player, Pat Tillman, despite his desire to remain out of the spotlight, was promoted ceaselessly by the U.S. imperialist government from George W. Bush on down. He became the most celebrated member of the U.S. military during this period.
By the time he was trained and ready to go, Pat Tillman was sent to Iraq, where he was part of the initial U.S. invasion of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Evidently, after his tour of duty in Iraq, in some sweetheart agreement between the U.S. Defense Department and the National Football League, Tillman was offered the opportunity to get out of the service and back into the league with a multimillion dollar contract, without having to finish his three year military commitment. Despite the fact that he already had become disillusioned with the U.S. war in Iraq, his sense of honor would not allow him to do this and he was redeployed to Afghanistan.
It was shortly after his redeployment to Afghanistan that Pat Tillman was shot to death. Under the orchestration of then Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, a wholly fabricated story was immediately concocted, claiming that Tillman was killed by the enemy Taliban as he rushed up a hill à la John Wayne to save his men. It resulted in Tillman being awarded the Silver Star. But General McChrystal knew all along that Tillman had actually been killed by “friendly fire,” a fact that only came to light because of the integrity and persistence of the Tillman family.
When President Obama announced his intention of naming McChrystal to head the U.S. Command in Afghanistan, Mary Tillman, Pat’s mother, wrote to Obama urging him to not make the appointment. Mary Tillman’s book, “Boots On the Ground By Dusk: Searching For Answers in the Death of Pat Tillman,” was originally published in 2008, before McChrystal was elevated to U.S. War Chieftain in Afghanistan. But she made it clear then that McChrystal was at the center of the lies, fabrications and cover-ups involving her son’s death. The book has just been re-released as a paperback in coordination with the release of the documentary film and includes a more scathing indictment of McChrystal as well as the process by which Obama selected him to lead the troops in Afghanistan. She feels vindicated by the forced resignation of General McChrystal, insisted upon by Obama, after McChrystal and his clique of Special Ops brass were caught being blatantly disrespectful of the civilian leaders of the USA.
But Pat’s father, Pat Tillman, Sr., went further, stating: “I do believe that guy [McChrystal] participated in a falsified homicide investigation.” (Cited in Zirin’s article, The Nation, May 25, 2009) Indeed, there are a number of reasons to think that McChrystal himself may well have had direct responsibility for the murder of Pat Tillman!1. As the head of Special Ops in Afghanistan, McChrystal had the power to do just about anything to anybody there.
2. Army Ranger Specialist Russell Baer, who served alongside Tillman and his brother Kevin, says he was told by his commanders to lie to the Tillman family about Pat’s death, propping up the myth that he was killed during a Taliban ambush.
Furthermore, it was McChrystal and his plan (which General Petraeus is still carrying out today) which formed the basis for the prolongation and expansion of the hugely unpopular U.S. war in Afghanistan. McChrystal was also very close to the corrupt Karzai government. And it has just been “discovered” (or only just revealed?) in the past few months that Afghanistan may be one of the most mineral rich countries on earth. Had Pat Tillman lived to come home to the USA as the most admired soldier in the country in 2004 or 2005 with an anti-war stand or even a serious question about why “we” are there, the U.S. war in Afghanistan and perhaps even the entire Bush so-called War on Terror might have been no longer possible to continue!!
The Removal of General McChrystal and the Question of Civilian Control of the U.S. Government
The lead article in the current issue of the U.S. imperialist ruling class magazine, Foreign Affairs, addresses the mini-crisis which resulted in the decision by President Obama to relieve General McChrystal of command of the war in Afghanistan. Written by U.S. Army Colonel Matthew Moten, the article, entitled, “Out of Order: Strengthening the Political-Military Relationship” seeks first to reassure the U.S. ruling class that the proper Constitutional balance between the subordinate military and the prevailing civilian leadership of the U.S. government remains solid.
In this vein, Colonel Moten clearly expresses his unqualified support for President Obama’s decision: “He [General McChrystal] and his staff expressed an intolerable level of disrespect for and mistrust of their superiors, which is completely at odds with the military’s professional ethic, the constitutional principle of civilian control, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.” (page 3, Foreign Affairs, September-October 2010)
But where did General McChrystal and his clique get the idea that they could be so cavalier toward their civilian “superiors”? One largely overlooked “nugget” in the Rolling Stone magazine piece that proved McChrystal’s undoing, is that, “In May 2009, as McChrystal prepared for his confirmation hearings, his staff prepared him for hard questions about Camp Nama and the Tillman cover-up. But the scandals barely made a ripple in Congress, and McChrystal was soon on his way back to Kabul to run the war in Afghanistan.” In other words, despite the warnings of Mary Tillman and others, Congress didn’t even attempt to challenge McChrystal, the warrior, in any way. No wonder these military leaders held their civilian “superiors” in such contempt. No wonder McChrystal conducted himself like a warrior king in relation to Afghanistan and the USA.
Colonel Moten admits that “respected observers of political-military relations such as Richard Kohn and Andrew Bacevich … are concerned that contempt of civilian leadership is widespread within the military and that the problem is getting worse with the passing years of seemingly interminable wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.” And Moten acknowledges that, if they are correct, “the situation is indeed grave.” But he is quick to respond that this is not his experience.
Instead, Moten says that, in essence, education is the answer. He asserts that “the military profession supports civilian control … from the moment they take their first oath, cadets learn that they have sworn to protect the U.S. Constitution, and their political science and history courses teach them that civilian control of the military is essential to the safe and effective functioning of government.” (page 4, ibid.) He observes that there is an “education deficit” that has occurred because, during the long period at war, the professional training of officers has been curtailed. Furthermore, with the strain of the ongoing wars, there is a large dropout rate of officers, resulting in almost all captains being automatically promoted to major and almost all majors promoted to lieutenant colonel. Moten believes that “with no qualitative winnowing – the U.S. military’s strategic leadership will only get weaker ...”
In addition, Moten documents the recent trend of retired generals and admirals getting involved in partisan political elections. This followed Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s unprecedented personal interviews of three and four star nominations in all the services that purged so-called Clinton-Democrat generals and admirals and politicized the military. “In the 2008 election more than a hundred retired generals and admirals publicly endorsed one of the presidential candidates.”
Finally, Colonel Moten is concerned about the Defense Department allocating a growing proportion of resources to private enterprise rather than to the professional military. “Relying on Halliburton, DynCorp, CACI, and Blackwater – to name just a few of the thousands of such corporations – to perform military functions represents a return to the failed policies of Machiavelli’s time[!]. And as The Prince shows, operational complications and fiscal corruption follow closely behind military contractors. Contractors now outnumber soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq …” (page 7, ibid., our emphasis, ROL)
At the same time, numerous retired officers, mostly generals, who had become military commentators on television, had undisclosed financial ties to defense contractors.
Compounding this problem are two other factors: the U.S. military has, in the past several years, “hired 158 retired flag officers as advisers and senior mentors at rates ranging from $200 to $340 an hour. Eighty percent of those had financial ties to defense contractors.” Moten points out that, despite the conflicts of interest, there are no regulations regarding these positions. And, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), as of 2006, 52 defense contractors employed 2,435 former generals and admirals in contracting and acquisitions positions senior enough to be subject to lobbying rules.” (page 8, ibid.)
In our last newsletter, we concluded our article, “The War in Afghanistan Revisited” with the following: “General McChrystal’s ‘callous bravado’ toward the U.S. civilian government represents a natural political development in a USA in a state of permanent war.” (“U.S.-led Capitalism Gives a Wake-up Call to Us All!,” Ray O’ Light Newsletter #61, July-August 2010)
Colonel Moten’s article, far from reassuring the reader that civilian U.S. government control over the military is unassailable, as he contends, on the contrary, provides a well documented picture of a country heading backwards toward semi-feudal principalities as in the Italy of Machiavelli’s time, with private armies and armaments. In the 21st Century USA, however, the backwards drive is fueled by state monopoly capitalism and imperialism. And especially by the U.S. military-industrial complex that spends as much money on the U.S. military as the whole rest of the world combined spends on their military power.
Colonel Moten seems to believe that the fact that the public standing of the military is high somehow will help to keep the military from seizing control from the civilian government. But let’s look at the facts. According to annual Gallup polls, says Moten, “the military now enjoys the trust of 82 percent of Americans, compared with under 60 percent for the decade that followed the Vietnam War.” He continues: “Americans appreciate the sacrifices that soldiers make and generally believe that they are carrying out their responsibilities bravely, competently, and, for the most part, ethically.” At the same time, the U.S. President and especially the U.S. Congress are currently extremely unpopular with the people of the USA.
What makes the current prestige of the U.S. military so remarkable is that barely 40% of the U.S. people support the expanding war in Afghanistan, led by the civilian commander in chief. Clearly, the discrepancy between the confidence in the U.S. military and the lack of confidence in the U.S. civilian federal government on the question of war and peace is just one more important factor leading in the direction of a military coup d’etat.
In this dangerous political environment, it is indeed encouraging that the life of the most admired soldier of our day, Pat Tillman, with his misgivings about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and his mysterious death at the hands of his U.S. military brethren and the massive cover-up of that death is being given a new lease on life. And it is encouraging that “The Tillman Story” documentary film has been released at the same time that WikiLeaks has exposed the criminal character of the U.S. imperialist occupation of Afghanistan and as a new anti-imperialist war group, “Fort Hood Disobeys,” led by experienced U.S. military veterans, has begun to take its first serious steps toward helping the oppressed masses of humanity stop the U.S. Empire.
Meanwhile, it is all the more urgent that the civilian U.S. population demand from the civilian federal government that it stop its global war of terror, bring all the U.S. troops and mercenaries home and meet the needs of the people.
Fund Jobs – Not Unending War!
Support the Real War Heroes – Not the U.S. Military!
Glenn Beck’s Pro Military Rally Draws Right Wing Crowd to Washington, D.C.
A massive crowd of from a quarter of a million to a half million people turned up at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on August 28th for the “Restoring Honor” Rally spearheaded by Right wing cable TV news talking head Glenn Beck. Sarah Palin was a star performer and the crowd was overwhelmingly white as would be expected at what was basically a tea party mobilization. However, the speakers’ list was diverse. It included, for example, Alveda King, a niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking on the date and at the site where, forty-seven years earlier, King’s “I have a dream speech” was delivered at the most famous civil rights rally of the 1960’s. All this helped Beck to invoke King’s civil rights legacy as part of a ball of confusion in which he invoked and/or white-washed all sides and views of U.S. history, so as to make himself and the USA appear to be all things to all people.
Most noteworthy is the fact that the Rally was hosted (and almost certainly largely bankrolled) by “the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.” Beck’s invitation described it as a “non-political event that pays tribute to America’s service personnel and other upstanding citizens who embody our nation’s founding principles of integrity, truth and honor.” (Our Emphasis, ROL)
The “non-political” “Restoring Honor” Rally invoked God, Country and especially the Military. It is perhaps the first mass mobilization of the current period in the USA that clearly promotes the military option as preferable to the current “corrupt” civilian rule, driving forward the push toward military, fascist dictatorship in the USA. How ironic that “the Special Operations Warrior Foundation,” helping to pave the way for a military overthrow of the U.S. government, is itself no doubt funded out of the billions of federal government tax dollars that go into the coffers of the military-industrial complex.
Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally makes clear the fascist connection between the U.S. military and the “anti-federal government” tea party movement. It underscores the importance of Cindy Sheehan, Pat Tillman, WikiLeaks and the Fort Hood Disobeys group (as well as the Iraqi and Afghani fighters against U. S. imperialist military occupation) for the future of the USA and the world.
“For the proletariat needs the truth
and there is nothing so harmful to
its cause as plausible, respectable
Selected Works, Vol. X, p. 41
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