Volume , Number 0
There are no articles.Commentary
There are no articles.Culture
There are no articles.Features
Stephen R. Shalom
Organizing The Military
Gay & Lesbian Community Notes
There are no articles.
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Resisting War: October 25 and Beyond
F ernando Suarez del Solar’s Marine son was one of the first U.S. soldiers to die during the recent U.S. invasion of Iraq. Suarez del Solar and his son immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in 1997. Growing up in the U.S., his son had seen TV adds glorifying the U.S. military and by the age of 14, he wanted to enter the Marine Corp to combat narco-trafficking. Recently sent to Iraq as a Marine, he was killed on March 27. Speaking at the October 25, 2003 anti-war rally in Washington, DC, the Washington Post quoted the father’s declaration to the crowd, “We need to make George Bush understand he doesn’t own our children’s lives.”
If the deceased soldier’s family uses the U.S. government’s cemetery and funeral services, it is free. Because Suarez del Solar wanted a traditional Mexican funeral and cemetery (independent of the government’s) he was only given $4,325 for expenses. The grieving father challenged this as a case of racism and general disregard for the soldier’s family. While his son had been touted as a hero following his death, the government’s attitude soon changed and Fernando’s challenge was met with hostility. With nothing more to lose, he only fought harder.
After going to the media and several politicians, the government reversed its decision and paid the full amount.
Suarez del Solar is clear about the forces behind his son’s death. “The illegal war on Iraq is about geographic political control. Presi- dent Bush lied to the American people about the weapons of mass destruction and Al-Qaeda’s relationship with Iraq. He used the September 11 horror to persuade the U.S. population that Iraq is an enemy, but he has never proven any relationship.”
End The Occupation
O n October 25, tens of thousands gathered in Washington, DC to protest the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq as well as general U.S. foreign policy. Police estimated the crowd to be 50,000, while the organizers placed it at 100,000. The event was organized by the country’s two largest anti- war coalitions: Act Now To Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) and United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ).
The array of signs that day reflected the diversity of the crowd. Queers for Peace and Justice held a banner declaring “From Stonewall to Baghdad, People Fight Back.” Others held signs calling for the freedom of the Cuban five political prisoners, as well as prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier. The Code Pink women’s anti-war organization dropped a banner from a building on the march route declaring: “Bush Lied. Fire Him.”
In an interview following the demonstration, Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator of UFPJ, explained that the event’s message “was first and foremost to end the occupation and bring the troops home. Second, we wanted to show that there still is a very viable and dynamic anti-war movement delivering the first message.
“The U.S. is in Iraq for a variety of reasons that include Iraq having the second largest oil reserves in the world. It’s really about the larger-scale global interests of the major international corporations.
“Second, the world’s only military superpower needs to flex its military muscle and send a message everywhere—not only to people in that part of the world.
“Third, because of how the Bush administration has used the so-called ‘war on terrorism,’ they have to act as if they really are engaging in a war on terrorism. For ideological reasons, they had to do something concrete. This helps to justify high military spending and the military on alert and active on the frontlines.”
One of the most significant aspects of the October mobilization was the growing participation from the military. A contingent of 1,000 veterans, family members of soldiers, and supporters marched near the front of the demonstration. Many different organizations were represented. Interviewed during the march by Counterpunch , Nancy Lessin, one of the founders of Military Families Speak Out, said “We started out with two military families last November in the run-up to war. We’re now up over 1,000 military families. In the beginning, there was a very clear understanding that this war was not about defending the U.S. It was about oil. ”
The presence of military families and veterans clearly contradicted the mainstream media’s historical depiction of anti-war protesters as being against the soldiers.
“The only way to ‘support the troops’ is to bring them home and treat them fairly upon arrival,”said David Cline, National President of Veterans for Peace and one of the coordinators of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
“Being a Vietnam veteran, I know about government lies. During Vietnam, the government made all these claims, but it was only with the release of the Pentagon Papers that we found out that the whole thing was a lie. Today, we’ve been in a war for seven months and we already know that it’s based on misrepresentations, distortions, and outright fabrications. Having been sent to fight and seen guys killed, my eye is drawn to the Vietnam Memorial right over here with 58,000 names. Two to three million Vietnamese died because of politicians’ lies and to preserve their ‘credibility.’
“They shouldn’t do this to our young men and women. The military should only be used to defend the nation; not to attack others. When we tried to prevent this new war, they called us ‘unpatriotic’ and said we had to ‘support the troops.’ However, we’re here to say that waving a flag and cheering on Bush is betraying the troops. They should not be sent to die and shed their blood for an unjustified cause.”
The Poverty Draft
M ario Hardy Ramirez is the founder of the Philadelphia-based AWOL magazine (a joint project of the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors and the War Resisters League), published to challenge the U.S. military’s recruitment of youth of color. CCCO is one of the founders of the toll-free GI Rights Hotline (1-800- FYI-95GI). Active duty service people can call and get counseled on discharge from the military. This year they’ll take between 35,000 and 40,000 calls from people in the military.
Calls received on the GI Rights Hotline reveal deceptive recruitment tactics and serious resentment from soldiers. Hardy reports that many callers proclaim: “I was lied to by my recruiter. I was told I would learn computers, but now I’m out here in the middle of the desert with shit going off all around me. I was promised $50,000 for college and I’ve never gotten 50 cents….”
Hardy and CCCO argue that these deceptive tactics are part of the U.S. military’s overall “poverty draft” strategy. “During the Vietnam War, you were pretty much snatched off the street physically and told in a very straightforward manner: ‘You’re going to Southeast Asia to kill and be killed.’ Today’s poverty draft is much more insidious—400,000 young people a year are being lured into the military using the poverty draft. That’s way more people than were ever conscripted under the actual ‘snatch you off the street’ draft.
“People of color and all poor people are the most heavily targeted. Recruiters capitalize on the lack of opportunity and the terrible conditions in the community by holding themselves up as the only viable way to escape that. They’ll tell the youth: ‘Look, you’ll wind up dead or in jail.’ If you grow up in the hood or a poor community, you know somebody who’s been killed or in jail. I talk to young people around the U.S. who go to two or three funerals a month. Their friends’ heads are blown off just like if they were in Iraq. If you’re in that situation, it sounds good hearing, ‘All you have to do is graduate from high school and we’ll guarantee you $50,000 for college.’”
T he October 25 demonstration was the largest anti-war protest since February 15 when 350,000 to 500,000 protesters gathered in New York City while millions of others around the world marched and demonstrated against the escalation of the U.S. and British war on Iraq. The size of the international protest was truly historic. Between two and three million turned out in Rome. The turnout of one and a half million in London was the largest political demonstration in England’s history. The half million that turned out in Berlin was the biggest demonstration since the week before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. The Philadelphia Inquirer declared on February 16 that the demonstrations “taken as a whole, may have been the largest simultaneous, single-day antiwar protest in history.”
When asked about tactics and strategy for organizing against U.S. militarism, Cagan replied, “We need to keep using all of the tactics we have been using. These are the tactics that any social change movement uses: mass protest, civil disobedience, silent vigils, marches, lobbying, media work, educational forums, and sending U.S. citizens to Iraq and other parts of the world, etc. I don’t think it’s rocket science, but we need to be open to new ideas.
“One challenge is how to function in an election year. How do we keep a focus on the issues and not have people feel that they need to only focus on electoral work? While this can be important work, it’s certainly not the only thing that we need to be doing.”
UFPJ and ANSWER are organizing an anti-war mobilization for March 20, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. On November 27, Fernando Suarez del Solar and others from military families traveled to Baghdad with Global Exchange to meet with Iraqis and show them that the people in the U.S. are not their enemy.
The struggle continues.
Hans Bennett is an anarchist and independent photojournalist currently working with Philadelphia’s INSUBORDINATION and AWOL magazines.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.