A Trojan Jackass for the Anti-War Movement
By Stan Goff
“To mark the second anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq on March 19, various anti-war groups are planning to protest in Fayetteville, N.C., the home of Fort Bragg. It’s not the protest, but the location that has some people upset.
“An organization representing veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan said demonstrators are ‘wrong and insensitive’ to take their complaints to Fort Bragg, because it blames the warriors for the war.
“‘The decision makers are not at Fort Bragg, they are in Washington. Rallying against the war by marching at Fort Bragg is like protesting the cows if you don’t like McDonalds,’ said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Operation Truth.”
Everyone knows the story of the Trojan Horse. An act of friendship used to smuggle the enemy force inside your gates.
Actually, that’s the dumbed down version.
The Greeks led the Trojans to believe that the great wooden horse was a Greek war offering to Athena, alleging it had been abandoned on the battlefield. The Greeks left a soldier behind, pretending he was now a non-combatant, to convince the Trojans that if they didn’t carry the ligneous steed back into fortified Troy, the Trojans themselves would risk the wrath of the goddess Athena. It’s a better story this way. Maybe it’s a more apt metaphor, too, for what Paul Rieckhoff and “Operation Truth” are up to with the antiwar movement.
Paul Rieckhoff, a former first-looey in the Reserves who went to Iraq, has now found his political niche as a plant for the Democratic Party, using his outfit’s non-profit status to give him plausible deniability. The NGO in question is Operation Truth, which has somehow managed to pass itself off as an antiwar group ever since its inception while explicitly not taking a position against the war. It’s a little like calling Camille Paglia a feminist or James Carville a leftist. Say it a couple of times in the press and it’s riveted together in the public consciousness. Feminist Camille Paglia...“from the left, James Carville.” Basically, people can get away with any damn thing these days, or think they can. Not this, though.
Let me be frank. Operation Truth is a sham, and its staff commandant is a jackass.
Just so no one tries to attribute my remarks to anyone or any organization or any campaign I might be in now, or any in the future, I say again…I am speaking for myself. I have a number of friends and colleagues who are a good deal more diplomatic than I am that can speak for their organizations. But after Reickhoff’s creepy little attack on the Fayetteville, North Carolina antiwar action of March 19th, I can hold my tongue no longer on either Rieckhoff or the attempt by the operatives of liberal imperialism more generally to blunt the sharpening anti-imperial edge of the broad movement against the Mesopotamian misadventure.
Let me reiterate again that I am speaking for myself, personally, representing no organization...so no one like Rieckhoff can attribute anything I say to any of my allies in any current or campaign within the antiwar movement.
I’m speaking for myself as an unabashed leftist—that’s someone who opposes capitalism, in case this term is confusing. (James Carville is not a leftist. He is an obnoxious asshole, which is just one current within the Democratic Party...the Republicans have a lot of obnoxious assholes, too.) Leftism is part of the broad antiwar movement, openly so, and we argue openly for our position: that capitalism as a system, and not some moral or intellectual failure, causes these wars.
My reaction here doesn’t only include Operation Truth, but the Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC), and all the rest of these bombardier-liberal shills. I haven’t gotten ugly with any of them in public in the past because they were still mixed in with us when the pre-2004-election antiwar efforts were homogenized within a movement that was not antiwar, but anti-Bush. And this is the first time they have very publicly attacked those of us who are organizing among military families, veterans, and GIs.
Just two weeks ago, Operation Truth’s Rieckhoff launched a full frontal bullshit assault against that action in the press saying, “If you support the troops, don’t protest them in their backyards—especially not as they’re sent to war or returning home.”
Of course, the entire call-up for that event was painfully clear from the very beginning that this was not a protest “against troops,” which is a red herring in any case, and the speaker line-up was ponderously heaped with the families of military members, veterans, and the surviving families of the war dead. Rieckhoff knew this, and he lied about the character of the demo anyway.
Anyone who cares to search Rieckhoff’s Operation Truth website, by the way, hungry for a single statement opposing either the invasion or occupation of Iraq will go home with an empty stomach. That’s because it is not an antiwar NGO. It is criticizing the conduct of the war and the actions of the Republican administration on veterans benefits in a way calculated to bewilder people into believing it is an ally of the antiwar movement.
So here’s my message to Rieckhoff. We got your number. Go home to your imperial buddies.
The same goes for Eric Gustafson who heads up the Education for Peace in Iraq Coalition (EPIC), another vet mired in the issue-policy swamp of liberal pluralism. From their own news release in which they piled onto the campaign of lies directed at the Fayetteville action: “Founded in 1998 by human rights advocates, EPIC promotes peace, human rights, and democracy for the people of Iraq. Since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq two years ago this week, EPIC has advocated U.S. and international assistance for Iraqi-led nation-building and opposed the withdrawal of UN-sanctioned forces until Iraq is able to provide for its own security.”
EPIC’s website claims it “was” against the war, but now... here’s the uniform mantra among these fronts…. WE cannot “abandon” Iraq. The caps are intentional, and the claim is mendacious. Their opposition was not to invading and occupying Iraq, but to the way in which the neocons went about it…that is, without a resolution from the UN Security Council.
“Give me a Security Council resolution, and I’ll release my masculine energy on those wogs in a cloudburst of 500-pound bombs!”
The other specialty of this “tendency” is to red-bait. So I might as well take that away right here. I’m as red as a baboon’s ass and proud of it.
I don’t have to put on a red hat, though, to talk about this WE business... this WE must not “abandon Iraq.” Even my movement allies in the hardly-seditious North Carolina Council of Churches—who co-sponsored the Fayetteville action—know that support of ANY continuation of ANY imperial military occupation is NOT antiwar. If you support a military occupation, then you are supporting a war. Two plus two. This is not complicated.
Just for the record, Paul & Eric, the U.S. military is not in Iraq to do a damned thing for the Iraqi people. What particular brand of cheap magical-mystery acid does someone take when he implies that Pizarro should be nominated to help the Incas with reconstruction? WE are the barbarians here!
This benevolent force you are arguing to leave in Iraq has been used to enforce attacks and sanctions that are slouching toward a body count of 2 million, microtoxified the entire environment with a radioactive condiment that produces babies born without brains, slaughtered children in front of their parents and parents in front of their children, trashed the social and economic infrastructure, imprisoned thousands of people in indiscriminate round-ups (including children, by the way), subjected detainees to sexual humiliation, beatings, rape, murder, and other methods of systematic torture, bombed whole neighborhoods, kicked in the doors of sleeping families and waved guns at their infants and grandmothers, surrounded a city (Fallujah, in case WE forgot), then blocked the exits against “military-aged males,” who the U.S. armed forces then exterminated, Warsaw-style, by the thousands. You know, Paul and Eric, that I could go on with this list for some time.
That’s why the antiwar movement is going to reject your little containment mission for the liberal bourgeoisie (Oh my God, he used another one of those commie words!). It doesn’t take a Red to see the White-Man’s-Burden stamp across this box of goods you are selling. WE can’t abandon the Iraqis, indeed!
There is no WE. There is a THEY. I may as well explain this wild-eyed leftist claim. THEY are an imperial ruling class. THEY really do exist, and with about a month’s dedicated research, it would be possible for a small staff to list them out with names and addresses…but then someone would accuse us of developing hit lists. Hmmm.
THEY operate very like a mafia, and THEY rely very much on their U.S. state to keep things running smoothly, including sending out hirelings to kill their enemies and victims. The difference is that the hirelings, who are vast numbers of working class kids, have been convinced all their lives by a zillion-dollar-a-year Orwellian brainwashing apparatus to believe that killing for bankers and currency speculators and politicians is some noble cause.
THEY just sent hundreds of thousands of working class people in uniform to kill hundreds of thousands of unfashionable brown people in order to establish the re-disposition of a post-Cold War imperial military into Southwest Asia. THEY have not for one millisecond considered, nor will THEY ever consider, the welfare of Iraqis except when it is politically and militarily expedient.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq will not be converted into a Botticelli painting.
THEY want to establish permanent military bases there, and every day that they stay there puts them one day closer to that…or more likely to some humiliating denouement like Vietnam, so we can ring up the carcass numbers in five figures with the only body count THEY keep—American dead. Iraqis don’t count, you see. So as long as we’re playing the pronoun game, let me point out that YOU and the flabby Democratic Party bosses you ultimately work for when you attack us on actions like Fayetteville…YOU are arguing precisely what your correlatives did during the Vietnam occupation.
YOU and all the rest of the civil-societist gasbags in the alphabet soup of issue-policy NGOs are advising moderation in the face of a world that is already deeply in the grip of the very barbarism that Rosa Luxemburg warned us about. (She was red, too.) That’s what YOU always do when big sections of the people start to look left. It’s your nasty little job, and the latte fumes meandering up from your cups have always masked the smell of spilt blood…because what YOU are endorsing is nothing more nor less than the continuation of Wolfowitz’s lethal Caligulan fantasy in Iraq to save capitalism from its own dirty, dangerous, and expensive messes.
In Fayetteville, where you would like to have shut us up, Cindy Sheehan tore open the tender wound of her grief for the hundredth time before a crowd, describing the moment when she learned that the child she pushed out of her own body no longer existed, that he had disappeared in a sustained moment of terror and pain during the Sadr rebellion, a rebellion incited gratuitously by the occupation authorities. She puts that grief on display again and again in the hope that others won’t have to experience it, when she could stay home and let the wound heal. So I am not going to be diplomatic with Paul Rieckhoff and his ilk, when they misrepresent the action in Fayetteville as somehow being directed against those bewildered, economically caged-in workers in uniform we call “the troops.”
Of course, class has been off their agenda for a long time. More and more of us already know who is served by trying to check the growing militancy within the antiwar movement, and we recognize the Kiplingesque racism that props up their flaccid argument that the Iraqis are uniquely unqualified to take control of their own destiny. It’s not Iraq they are concerned with, after all, is it? They are worried, just like any Democratic Party boss or entrenched union bureaucrat that the left shift in the movement, where a lot of “ordinary” people now seek out and speak with known socialists, will eat into their careerist base. This has always been the motivation for cluster-bomb Democrats. Nothing freaks them out worse than school teachers and postal workers and janitors who are educating themselves on the deeper meaning of words like “imperialism.”
It’s this fear that motivates the cheap attack on the Fayetteville action, because when the resistance is carried into the dark heart of the imperial military itself a storm threat appears on the horizon, and not just for the war but for the bosses at home.
The left in this movement is not “against” the soldiers. Speaking for myself, I am on the soldier’s side, not as a soldier, but as a human being. I encourage all soldiers to resist. I won’t conceal the fact that my encouragement of that resistance is aimed at utterly gutting the capacity of that institution to continue operations in the charnel house they’ve made of Iraq. Because when the institution of the military can no longer occupy other nations and kill their people, then our sons and daughters will quit returning as torn flesh and pain in mobile burn units, wheelchairs, and body bags.
Oh, but WE can not abandon Iraq! Hearing this from Rieckhoff who has never claimed to oppose the war has created the controversy it has partly because many in the antiwar movement, including the alternative media, feted this barn weasel. They thought that his noisy entreaties for better body armor and more Prozac for PTSD were “progressive” for the same reason people voted for that Boston Basset hound, John Kerry. They believe the war is about George W. Bush instead of capitalism.
One pampered, intellectually challenged, legacy admission to the White House does not explain the direct line that can be drawn between an airplane flying into a skyscraper and a kid that will kill for a pair of shoes. It doesn’t explain the straight line from Abu Ghraib to Pelican Bay. It doesn’t explain the connection between Ken Lay and My Lai, between the battering of a wife in Cleveland and the sexual torture of a prisoner in Afghanistan, or between a flood victim in Princeville, North Carolina, and a tsunami victim in Aceh. But there are connections, and they become clearer to people the longer they stay in the antiwar movement, because they want answers. The drivel about staying the course is unsatisfactory. People can see Luxemburg’s prediction of barbarism right in front of them. It’s here, and this WE finds it unacceptable for future generations.
Take your big wooden jackass home and leave us to be on our way. We’re taking that left turn ahead in the road.
And to the soldiers... resist!
Stan Goff is the author of Hideous Dream: A Soldier’s Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti (Soft Skull Press, 2000), Full Spectrum Disorder (Soft Skull Press, 2003) and Sex & War which will be released approximately December, 2005. He is retired from the United States Army. His blog is at www.stangoff.com. Goff can be reached at: email@example.com
—CounterPunch, April 3, 2005