Winter Soldiering Against the State

In Minnesota a few weeks ago, I observed a mini-Winter Soldier event. A panel of five members of Iraq Veterans Against the War talked about their experiences in Iraq to a small audience of other veterans, peace activists, anarchists and collectivists, parents and grandparents, children and grandchildren.

Simply, straightforwardly and without passion, a panel of young men under a tent on a farm in the Midwest told us what they did and saw in Iraq. At times, they still seemed amazed at what they had seen, what they did, and why they did it.

To hear or see what our veterans experienced, go to the IVAW website and review the testimony from the March 2008 event. We heard in July from mostly local soldiers who had not attended the D.C. conference. One who attended both events was Daniel Fanning.

Every witness communicated the multifaceted inhumanity and stupidity of the state — our state — engaged in endless war. The audience was knowledgeable and receptive. Those not knowledgeable about American foreign policy, not receptive to a hot dose of reality without slick advertising every ten minutes, not curious about where their money goes, or not interested in how they themselves might need to do something were not in attendance.

My two teenagers were along for the ride. I think they were impressed most by one of the soldiers, a squad leader, who detailed unemotionally how he prepared sub-par soldiers, 18 and 19 years old, for their duties in Iraq. His actions were frightening, brutal, over the top. And that was just against Americans in an Army plagued with sub-par recruits. We complain that our video games and modern entertainment feature gratuitous violence. But as the U.S. Army knows, nothing in life is really gratuitous. It’s all functional, purposeful, and useful in some way. The purpose, of course, may be debated. To save lives, to take them, to dehumanize ourselves first, so that we can freely and proudly carry out dehumanizing policy. Whose policy doesn’t matter — these soldiers, as in all state exercises of this sort, are just bands of brothers.

It was easier to hear about the various ice cream flavors offered by Halliburton to the troops, and what taxpayers paid for this service. We were righteously angry and incredulous when told how high-end personal computers were shipped in each year to certain bases in Iraq, and how the previous year’s high-end computers — never taken out of their boxes — were physically destroyed to make room for the new stuff.

We react with shock at these examples of immoral bureaucracy, yet most people really do grasp that the state — or its modern symbol, the president-emperor — is fundamentally responsible for the debasement of our currency, our militarism and inhumanity abroad and at home, our Friendly Fascism. The state is, for just about everyone, at some time or another, indeed the enemy, whether we drive a car, seek affordable health care or a quality education, start a business, pay taxes or seek to avoid them. The state is the biggest money pit, worst environmental polluter, and most famous and effective abuser of human beings ever devised.

I finally returned to my own neck of the woods, and received an update. Among other things, an Army recruiter had called for my youngest son, despite my written request to the school that his contact information not be released. My husband spoke to him, and apparently the new sales pitch is "a year in Iraq fighting for our country, and then straight to college on Uncle Sam’s dime."

Today, on the radio, I heard another cool talking point, a neat device to explain the Iraq War. A caller to Bill Bennett’s show said that he now believed the war was based on lies, and that it would have never happened had the government and most of the media had not presented lies as unquestionable truth. The host’s answer was basically, lies or no lies, "The American people wanted this war!" While the neocon host admitted that even though maybe the American people should have informed themselves more thoroughly — it was the American people who had pushed for the invasion of Iraq. It was indeed our fault, but one has to appreciate the irony of hearing it articulated with such delight by a bleating neocon goat.

We are now in the sixth year of the Iraq occupation. The first Winter Soldier occurred in 1971. The IVAW conducted a Winter Soldier event exposing our adventure in Iraq earlier this year. In the first case, we saw, and in the second case, we are likely to see, most troops return from their colonial post within a few years after these hearings. The end of Iraq is in sight. After all, the mission has been accomplished, as planned. The Washington instigators won every desired concession, destroyed every untoward thing that Iraq stood for beyond recognition, and beyond reconstitution.

There is another war being fought today, but it’s not in Iraq, and it has nothing to do with the three legged race team of Obama/McCain. This war is being waged here at home, every day, by the state-corporate machine against the individual and against freedom. It is a war that was overtly won by the state in the 20th century, a war it continues to aggressively wage for persistent American-style fascism, into and beyond the 21st century.

If we recognize that fascism is the wrong organizing construct for our beautiful country and its good people, we have instantly enlisted on the right side. But that won’t be enough, just as enlisting more soldiers has nothing to do with winning or losing in Iraq. Like generals and strategists, we need to carefully consider how our existent and growing fascism can be defeated here at home. Like patriots, we need to seriously think about our own critical roles in a potentially long winter.

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