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Dead Soldiers & Dead Dreams

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

If there is one lesson that soldiers don’t need to be taught, it’s that “War is hell.”

Drawn into the military because of the shrinking pool of manufacturing jobs, a failing educational system, and the promise of money to pay for college, this so-called volunteer army is trapped in a prism of fear, hope, and fate.

For many, the military is trainer of last resort, the best chance for schooling, a way away from the sad, dismal reality of today’s national life.

Fear, because many young men experienced deep, heart-felt fear in the face of the planes slamming into the twin towers on Manhattan; hope, because, given the hopelessness endemic in many rural and urban communities, there was considerable hope that military action would help restore that which Sept. 11th banished utterly the sense of safety, and fate, the blind force that governs the curved roads of life.

Unfortunately, those in power in Washington had other ideas.

Drunk on the wins of victory and executive power, a cadre of neo cons pushed their dreams of imperial domination as far as their imaginations could reach.

The result, of course, is over-reach. The result is a state of global disaster, the ends of which we all can only barely conceive.

Who are the soldiers who have been trained, taught to kill, and sent into the field? In “Operation Enduring Freedom” (or is it ‘Enduring Occupation’?), there are 37,000 people in U.S. uniforms who are non-citizens. They hope to live long enough to benefit from a program that allows them to get citizenship immediately, without waiting the usual 5 years.

Thirty-seven thousand non-citizen soldiers!

This is a part of the immigration debate that we don’t hear on the overheated floors of Congress.

The hottest U.S. Army recruitment spot is Tijuana, Mexico.

When you hear the names of the newly dead, there is a good chance that among that number is more than a few who were a non citizen, their Spanish name denoting their Mexican heritage rather than Puerto Rican.

They are not the cardboard cutout figure that the Pentagon tried to sell in the case of Pat Tillman.

A well-muscled former professional athlete, who joined in the glory days after September 11th, those who sent him to Arlington National Cemetery weren’t Al Qaeda, the Taliban, nor the “terrorists” who “hate our freedoms.”

They were Americans, engaging in some unfriendly fire.

Tillman, like most of us, was far more complex than the papers or the newscasts suggested.

One of his favorite authors was the MIT linguist and war critic, Noam Chomsky. He also loathed what he saw and experienced in the Middle East.

If he were alive today, he would probably be in the forefront of antiwar demonstrations.

Rome, as it approached its latter years, promised a lesser kind of citizenship to barbarians on their borders, who promised to fight for the empire. To the average Roman, they promised bread and circuses.

Like Rome, the U.S. Empire promises a lesser kind of citizenship to people on the border, as border wars rage around them, and as xenophobia reaches a fever pitch. It doesn’t promise bread and circuses, but rather American Idol and a chance to appear on a reality TV show.


June 14, 2007