Hope, courage and support
A note from David Solnit
This is an amazingly effective,
bare-bones organization. I’m asking you to become a monthly sustainer
or to make a larger-than-you-first-thought contribution so that we can
continue to organize the “support of the people” when soldiers become
part of the solution, and to build a better world.
Three things I want to tell you briefly: hope, courage and support.
It has been
rough; 12 killed and at least 30 injured at Fort
Hood, and Obama is about to deploy tens of thousands more young
soldiers to war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As I started writing this I got a call from Aaron Hughes, the
amazing National Guard veteran, artist, and Iraq Veterans Against the
War (IVAW) field organizer. He called from Missouri driving down
Highway 44 from Chicago to Fort Hood, TX to strategize with the Fort
Hood IVAW Chapter.
I asked Aaron about the shooting. He said, “They have pointed the
finger and looked for a “motive” but they have not addressed the
fundamental issue. This is a result of the destruction of the mental
well-being of the Army through multiple deployments and the repression
of the realities soldiers face. Our military is overtaxed, our
government and command doesn’t care. Our country is in denial about
PTSD and the lack of mental health care. And we still don’t know why we
are in Iraq six years and Afghanistan eight years later.”
Aaron added, “Courage to Resist’s support for Victor Agosto when he
refused to deploy to Afghanistan—after already serving in Iraq—helped
build the Fort Hood IVAW Chapter. Now we can lead a response to the
shooting and give this nation a way to respond.”
It was actually many nationwide who donated through Courage to
Resist that covered Victor’s legal expenses. Many more helped with
publicity and support (specifically, Under the Hood café) that
contributed to his 30 day sentence and quick discharge. Victor’s stand,
and the support it generated, inspired Sgt. Travis Bishop to refuse.
Keep your eyes on Fort Hood.
I remember being with Lt. Ehren Watada the predawn morning he had to
report for duty. It was the day his unit was deploying to Iraq. He had
already announced his intention to refuse deployment at a press
conference before the worldwide media, but now it was him alone that
would refuse orders and face the consequences.
On August 12, 2006 at the Veterans for Peace National Convention,
ignoring cautious legal advice, Ehren delivered the clearest call to GI
resistance in recent history:
Today, I speak with you about a radical
idea. It is one born from the very concept of the American soldier (or
service member). It became instrumental in ending the Vietnam War—but
it has been long since forgotten. The idea is this: that to stop an
illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it.
Now it is not an easy task for the soldier. I tell this to you because
you must know that to stop this war, for the soldiers to stop fighting
it, they must have the unconditional support of the people.
To no one’s surprise, the military attempted to make an example out
of him. Yet last month, the military finally gave up and discharged
Ehren. Ehren is now free of the Army—without having served a single day
in jail. He, with the support of thousands of people, set the example.
I remain inspired by the 1986 Philippine “People Power” uprising led
by rebelling soldiers backed by tens of thousands of ordinary people
who defended them. The brutal US-backed dictator Ferdinand Marcos fled.
I co-founded Courage to Resist with a few veterans, a military mom,
a priest and a half dozen peace activists five years ago because we
believed that in order to achieve deep change in our country, our
movements had to make common cause with the 2.5 million service
members—and their family members—who are getting a raw deal.
Today I’m convinced that troops organizing themselves to be part of
the solution—with ordinary people backing them—are key to getting us
free of the interlocking crisis of war, climate change, and economic
To do this we need long haul organizations that can weather the ups
and downs of anti-war mobilizing to help organize that “support of the
people.” Courage to Resist does this.
Staff organizer and 1991 Gulf War resister Jeff Paterson was there
to support and counsel Ehren Watada in the months before he publicly
refused to fight. Jeff, I, and other activists traveled to and lived
near Fort Lewis, WA for a month in order to set up press conferences,
coordinate media and establish a national support campaign. So when
Ehren resisted, it mattered.
In another recent victory, we made it possible for Army Spc. Dustin
Stephens to take a stand, get support and change the conditions for
many soldiers at Fort Bragg, NC. Shortly after Dustin first contacted
us, staff organizer Sarah Lazare traveled across the country and not
only met with Dustin and other members of his unit, she also recorded
an interview with their commanding officer! After her first article was
published, living conditions improved. After her second article,
co-authored with Dahr Jamail, “Echo Platoon” was disbanded. And after
we mailed hundreds of petitions to military authorities on behalf of
supporters like yourself, Dustin’s court martial for desertion was canceled. He was discharged last week.
Courage to Resist Organizing Collective member
P.S. This is an amazingly effective, bare-bones organization. I’m
asking you to become a monthly sustainer or to make a
larger-than-you-first-thought contribution so that we can continue to
organize the “support of the people” when soldiers become part of the
solution, and to build a better world.
David Solnit is an anti-war, global
justice, and arts organizer. He was a key organizer in the WTO shutdown
in Seattle in 1999 and in the shutdown of San Francisco the day after
Iraq was invaded in 2003. He is editor of Globalize Liberation: How to Uproot the System and Build a Better World (City Lights Publishers, 2003) and co-author with Aimee Allison of Army of None: Strategies to Counter Military Recruitment, End War and Build a Better World. He is a co-founder of Courage to Resist and an active member of the organizing collective.
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