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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Anti-War Soldiers Our Only Hope

Last week, a political event of grand historical importance took place in the Campus Center Ballroom two days before the great uncle of social fascism came to spew his “humanitarian imperialist” propaganda. I’m talking about the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) tour.While racist U.S. rulers squabble over how best to occupy and terrify the Middle East, the IVAW tour is quietly making history by pushing the anti-war movement further to the left, and thus forward.

IVAW strengthens the anti-war movement by uniting students, workers, and other activists with veterans and soldiers. This is a strategy that helped end the Vietnam War. U.S. soldiers in Vietnam were able to rebel confidently, refuse orders, and “frag” because they knew those actions were supported by anti-war students and workers at home while they were striking and attempting to shut down institutions used to make war. Just how important to the defeat of U.S. imperialism in Vietnam were those activist soldiers? Here is what Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr. wrote in his June 1971 Armed Forces Journal article: “By every conceivable indicator, our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse…Word of the deaths of officers will bring cheers at troop movies…Bounties…in amounts running anywhere from $50 to $1,000, have been…put on the heads of leaders whom the privates and Sp4s want to rub out.” Those privates and Sp4s were very important. And the movement they led inside the military, when added to the militant fight-backs in cities, factories, and schools around America, was too much for U.S. rulers to handle.

IVAW speaker Michael Hoffman put this point another way when he spoke at Roxbury Community College last Friday: “They didn’t end the war in Vietnam because they wanted to. They did it because they were forced to…they feared revolution…they were afraid of losing their status.”Later, a woman in the crowd asked Hoffman if, “since we [poor people] are the ones dying in Iraq, shouldn’t we try to speak to the higher ups, the ones with money who make the decisions to send us all over there?” Hoffman believes that people in positions of power cannot be reasoned out of waging wars for oil and profits; he further explained that the war on Iraq could easily be identified as a war on working people in America. He urged fighting back in our communities, and “taking our voices to the streets in large numbers.”

Sometimes people take to the streets in large numbers to celebrate baseball victories. It will obviously take more than that to end this war. Since I’m a big fan of Iraq Veterans Against the War, I suggest we take our cues from them.

Vets like Hoffman are playing their positions. They found themselves stuck fighting for a cause that had nothing to do with them. They found themselves being forced to make uncomfortable decisions. But in the end, they realized they still had power. As people who were previously soldiers, they can convince current enlisted men and women to refuse to fight. They can speak out against wars for profit, and convince others to join them.

Colin Powell, while he was an officer in Vietnam, was so afraid of being killed by “his” soldiers that he often moved his cot before retiring for the evening. The new anti-war movement among vets and soldiers surely has officers sweating again.