War and profit: Deciphering what it means to be in the U.S. military



March Forward! Against War and Racism

© copyright 2009 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

From the newsletter of March Forward!

We join the military for many different reasons. Some of us want to have access to a college education. Some of us want job training and a steady paycheck. Some of us join to get U.S. citizenship. Some of us need to get out of debt or need to get off a destructive path. Some of us join out of pride, patriotism and a genuine desire to be a part of some greater, collective good. Many of us made the decision early-while still in high school, enticed by recruiters’ promises of cash bonuses, adventure and opportunity-while some of us joined after years as a worker, drawn by the military’s full health care and housing benefits.

Whatever the reason, we all found ourselves wearing the uniform of the U.S. military. What did we actually join? What is the role of the U.S. military in the world? What does it mean to be a soldier following the dictates of U.S. foreign policy? When we sign ourselves away to the military, what are we being used to do?

In recent years, many of us ended up in Iraq or Afghanistan. We are told that as a soldier in the U.S. military we are defending the interests of the United States. This does have an ounce of truth-but only an ounce. We are defending the interests of a particular class in the United States. It is only a wealthy minority whose interests are being defended in Iraq, Afghanistan and the more than 130 countries where U.S. troops are stationed.

In whose interests do we serve?

I was sent to Iraq believing we would be helping the Iraqi people. Once the illusions of pride and patriotism crumbled, I realized I was never sent to help anyone. I kicked down their doors and dragged them from their homes. I robbed them of their humanity in interrogation cells. I watched the life ripped out of them. I saw children torn to shreds. I witnessed my friends disabled by physical and/or psychological trauma. All this suffering and destruction for “Iraqi Freedom,” which really means the freedom of a new U.S.-installed government to hand over control of its natural resources to U.S. corporations.

It wasn’t much different for those soldiers sent to Korea, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Panama or other countries that have been targets of U.S. intervention over the past half-century and more.

We are taught the United States stands for freedom and democracy, and that military force is used to defend or further those ideals. This is echoed constantly throughout our lives, in school and in the media. It is woven into the fabric of our national identity, making it possible for people to accept the deaths of U.S. soldiers in foreign lands, as long as they are assured they died in the interests of democracy.

History of U.S. conflicts

However, reviewing the history of conflicts in which the U.S. military has been involved tells a completely different story. The U.S. government does not have a history of supporting democratic movements, but rather a history of overthrowing them. Among those countries whose popularly elected governments have been crushed by the U.S. military and replaced by authoritarian and non-elected dictators are the Congo, Grenada, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Chile, Indonesia, Iran, Haiti-and the list goes on. Quite simply, this government – whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican in the White House-has no problem installing and backing oppressive dictatorships.

Understanding U.S. foreign policy becomes much easier if we stop looking at it in terms of “defending democracy,” and start looking at it in terms of economic interests. It is not the form of a foreign government that determines whether it ends up in the crosshairs of the U.S. government, but whether or not that government will give U.S. businesses access to its markets, labor force and natural resources. This explains why the United States supports governments with some of the worst human rights records, like Colombia, or Saudi Arabia, which has never had an election in its history! U.S. corporations reap billions of dollars in profits from these countries.

U.S. foreign policy really boils down to ensuring the extraction of wealth from the developing world by U.S. corporations. In the words of two-time Medal of Honor winner Major General Smedley Butler: “I spent 33 years in the Marines. Most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism.”

Claims that the Pentagon only works to defend the United States and spread democracy fall apart when you look at the current use of the military. It is now obvious that Saddam Hussein posed no threat to the United States, nor did the U.S. government care about the well-being of the Iraqi people. A quarter of Iraq’s population of 26 million people has been killed, wounded or displaced since the illegal U.S. invasion on March 19, 2003. Iraq sits atop a massive supply of petroleum, all of which was nationalized and closed to U.S. corporations’ control under Saddam Hussein.

The role of banks and big business

The banks and Wall Street exert dominating influence over U.S. foreign policy. Our “democracy” is reserved for those who have millions of dollars to run for office, and who are funded by (and ultimately beholden to) corporate interests. Our “free press” is owned by only five mega-corporations who directly profit from the military-industrial complex and distort reality to shape public opinion accordingly.

The ruling class of Wall Street CEOs, bankers and their loyal politicians has the power to annihilate an entire country for profit-but they never fight in these wars themselves. So they have to find a way to convince the average worker that these wars are worth fighting. They must find a way to convince working-class people that we should kill and die to make the rich ruling class even richer.

Our enemy is not on the other side of the world; that enemy is in the corporate boardrooms and the Pentagon Brass. Defeating that enemy means refusing to take part in their imperialist plans and organizing together to demand real justice.

U.S. war machine the real enemy, not Iraqis

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally Published Wednesday, October 24, 2007

An Iraq veteran’s perspective

When I volunteered as a soldier to be a part of the initial invasion of Iraq, it was under the assumption that our intentions were just.  U.S. troops-most of us from working-class backgrounds-were fed countless stories of the supposed brutality of Saddam Hussein, and the plight of the Iraqi people.

I truly began to understand the nature of the “liberation” that the U.S. military was bringing to Iraq after one particular mission-one that I struggle with everyday, and one that I share with a great deal of shame and regret.

I still have not discovered the reasons for being sent on this mission.  There was a block of about 10 homes in an Iraqi city, all with families living in them.  Our orders were to force them to leave.  We drove our unarmored Humvees as occupiers through a newly “liberated” Iraqi neighborhood.  We found the block of houses, set up security and began knocking on each door.

Each family, “free” from Saddam’s “dictatorship” was greeted by rifles in their faces and eviction notices.  As they argued with us, confused and panicked, all we could tell them was that they had two days to leave.  We did not tell them where to go, why they had to leave or offer any compensation.  All we provided was an “official” letter ordering them out of their homes.

When we returned two days later, none of the families had gone.  The instructions from the military brass were clear: empty the houses no matter what.  We were given no reasons or explanations.  Only orders.

The orders did not tell us what to do with the Iraqi children in the homes, or the old man who could not walk.  We barged in the houses, rifles first, and began removing people.

A young Iraqi girl who spoke English tried to reason with us.  She tried to understand why this was happening and what they were supposed to do.  All we did was tell her we were sorry, as we dragged her family crying onto the street.  That day was spent being spit on, being told we were “worse than Saddam,” and being forced to turn our heads as crying families begged us to let them stay.  The men who refused to leave were zip-tied and brought to jail.  The women and children were told only what prison their family members were being taken to; we left them standing in the street as we drove back to base.  This was the “liberation” that the U.S. military occupation brought to Iraq.

International solidarity

Not a day has gone by that I haven’t been haunted by the desperate faces of those newly homeless families.  The oppression of the colonial occupation of Iraq is something that weighs heavily on my mind.

Everyday, the U.S. government throws families onto the street.  In Iraq, it is with threats and violence.

There is no colonial occupation in the United States, but workers also are losing their homes and apartments to make way for the rich.  Workers here are faced with racism, bigotry and poverty-all aimed at them by the system and a massive media-based propaganda machine.

Families in Iraq are not our enemies.  The hungry and impoverished workers in Iraq are the same as workers who struggle to survive in the United States..  And it is working-class people in this country who are deliberately targeted by military recruiters.  The politicians in Washington send oppressed people overseas to kill, humiliate and oppress others.

This does not serve our interests; it only serves the interests of the war profiteers.

Real liberation will come when we-soldiers, workers, immigrants, students and families-no longer let the ruling class divide and create barriers between the exploited in the United States and the exploited abroad.  Soldiers should refuse to fight and, instead, bring the struggle home.  Real liberation will come when we struggle together against our common enemy, instead of being used against each other to profit the rich.

Woodstock; War and Peace Revisited



country joe mcdonald and the fish- vietman song

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

It was summer.  Temperatures were high and war was in the air.  People said they were upset with politicians who refused to heed the cries for peace.  Battlefields far from home became burial grounds.  The public noted too many people had died, perhaps unnecessarily.  Americans publicly announced, its time to bring our young home.  End the combat was the common cry.  Yet, it seemed the Administration did not intend to declare a cease-fire.  Some feared a superpower might appear weak.  A pullout would indicate that we had surrendered.  As Americans safe at home pondered policy, soldiers still fell on foreign fields.  Families struggled to come to terms with what it means to be a patriot.  Moms and Dads of military personnel may have wrestled with the idea of what it means to win a war more so than the average American did.  The year was 1969.  

Now, near four decades later United States citizens can closely examine what was on August 16, two score ago.  The opportunity for deep reflection, in retrospect, is possible since a museum at the Woodstock concert site opened in June 2008.  

As visitors literally trek from one exhibit to the next, they figuratively travel through time and space.  Spectators are emotionally transported to the world of the now legendary Woodstock, a festival that marked a political movement.  Within the walls of the museum, people read of the arts and melodies gala, billed as “3 Days of Peace and Music.”  

The words the main organizer of this event, delivered to a massive audience of anti-war youth echoes through the newly constructed chamber.  Then forty-nine (49) year-old dairy farmer Max Yasgur, a man who provided $50,000 and 600 acres of his land, pronounced  “You have proven something to the world . . . that half a million kids can get together for fun and music and have nothing but fun and music.”  Indeed, they did.  Many hoped the event had established that people, who yearn for global tranquility, could lead by example.  News reports mirrored this message.

An estimated 400,000 youngsters turned up to hear big-name bands play in a field near the village of Bethel, New York state in what has become the largest rock concert of the decade.

About 186,000 tickets were sold so promoters anticipated that around 200,000 would turn up.  But on Friday night, the flimsy fences and ticket barriers had come down and organisers announced the concert was free prompting thousands more to head for the concert.

Traffic jams eight miles long blocked off the area near White Lake, near Bethel, some 50 miles from the town of Woodstock.

Local police estimated a million people were on the road yesterday (August 1969) trying to get to Woodstock.  They were overwhelmed by the numbers but were impressed by a good level of behaviour.

Yet, good behavior amongst brethren taught us nothing.  Perchance sadly, those separate from the event, who saw what happened only from a distance, could not accept the veracity; peace is possible.  Ed Meese, U.S. Attorney General, in the Reagan Administration certainly could not.  When asked to reflect on the era in which the historic event occurred, he spoke with disapproval.  Mister Meese, who in 1969, served as an Executive Assistant to then California Governor Ronald Reagan, remembered the Age of Aquarius with disdain.  He said definitely, “It was the age of selfishness. It was the age of self-indulgence.  It was the age of anti-authority.  It was an age in which people did all kinds of wrong things.”  

Years later however, former President Bill Clinton mused the Reagan years, “The 1980s ushered in a gilded age of greed, selfishness, irresponsibility, excess, and neglect.”  Perhaps, history allows for perspective, or only verifies how often humans repeat errors.

Thirty-nine years later, Americans have an opportunity to re-assess for themselves what was and is.  As many journey back into the garden that was Max Yasgur’s farm, in Bethel Woods, Americans may realize novel insights.  The past is ubiquitous in the present.  As people young and older stroll through a Woodstock Museum, vivid reveries may stimulate much thought.  

A child may study the similarities that plagued people then and now.  War is again in the wind.  A teen might think of the trail laid before them.  Is it different from the path a parent or grandparent was forced to choose.  Will they too be asked to fight for a country that did not care to end all combat?  Ample analogies will likely be evident to a young adult.  Elders might sway to the music piped into the halls and be transcended.  Sounds from years gone by may  offer a view of the world too easily forgotten.  In 1969, and 2008, many of our young feel like they are fixin’ to die.  Why?  

The answers are found in the lyrics of a melody sung at the Woodstock concert in 1969.  The festival now seems a century ago.  Perhaps the words will again be vocalized in Bethel Woods in 2008.  Country Joe MacDonald and the Fish speak for many young Americans when they say  . . .


“I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die”

Yeah, come on all of you, big strong men,

Uncle Sam needs your help again.

He’s got himself in a terrible jam

Way down yonder in Vietnam (Iraq, Iran (?), Afghanistan)

So, put down your books and pick up a gun,

We’re gonna have a whole lotta fun.

And it’s one, two, three,

What are we fighting for?

Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn.

Next stop is Vietnam;

And it’s five, six, seven,

Open up the pearly gates,

Well there ain’t no time to wonder why.

Whoopee!  we’re all gonna die.

Well, come on generals, let’s move fast;

Your big chance has come at last

Gotta go out and get those reds – The only good commie is the one who’s dead

And you know that peace can only be won?

When we’ve blown ’em all to kingdom come.

And it’s one, two, three.

What are we fighting for?

Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn.

Next stop is Vietnam (Iraq, Iran (?), Afghanistan);

And it’s five, six, seven

Open up the pearly gates.

Well there ain’t no time to wonder why

Whoopee!  we’re all gonna die.

Huh!

Well, come on Wall Street, don’t move slow.

Why man, this is war au-go-go.

There’s plenty good money to be made?

By supplying the Army with the tools of the trade.

Just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb.

They drop it on the Viet Cong.

And it’s one, two, three.

What are we fighting for?

Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn.

Next stop is Vietnam (Iraq, Iran (?), Afghanistan).

And it’s five, six, seven.

Open up the pearly gates,

Well there ain’t no time to wonder why

Whoopee!  we’re all gonna die.

Well, come on mothers throughout the land,

Pack your boys off to Vietnam (Iraq, Iran (?), Afghanistan)

Come on fathers, don’t hesitate,

Send ’em off before it’s too late.

Be the first one on your block

To have your boy come home in a box.

And it’s one, two, three

What are we fighting for?

Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,

Next stop is Vietnam (Iraq, Iran (?), Afghanistan)

And it’s five, six, seven.

Open up the pearly gates,

Well there ain’t no time to wonder why.

Whoopee!  we’re all gonna die.

America, might we sigh and consider, the more things transform, the more they stay the same.  If today we wish to chant, “Change we can believe in,” might we contemplate that there is still talk of war.  Troops trample through Iraq.  Soon they may storm into Iran.  Those in the Middle East might be shifted to the sands of Afghanistan, or possibly conflict in Pakistan will be on the horizon.  

We need not journey to a Museum to revisit history.  Our local mausoleum may serve to tell the tale of war and peace.

What are we fighting for . . .

Government ignores veteran and soldier suicides

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally Published Friday, December 28, 2007

While prosecuting its war on the Iraqi people I had been in Iraq for about two months when my brigade suffered its first fatality. He died from a gunshot wound to the head. Nobody wanted to believe that it had happened. The deployment was supposed to be quick and easy; we were supposed to be greeted with flowers and return home within a few months. ??As the sounds from the memorial service echoed in our barracks, there was silence-only the recorded sounds of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.” Nobody wanted to talk about the realization that we may never return home. Nobody wanted to talk about the situation we had gotten into; the number of Iraqi people who were dying because of the invasion. Most of all, nobody wanted to talk about the soldier who had died.

The bullet that killed him came from his own rifle, but nobody wanted to talk about that either. Everyone wanted to believe the official story, that it was an accidental discharge. To consider anything else meant accepting that surviving the war was more than just surviving combat. Making it home alive does not necessarily mean making it home safe.

According to the Pentagon, at least 152 soldiers have committed suicide while serving overseas in the phony “war on terror.” It can be safely assumed that this number is much higher, as the military brass would rather explain a suicide as a “tragic accident” rather than a result of combat stress. ??In fact, the Army maintains to this day that it has not yet found a link between combat stress and suicide. The Army’s Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, has asserted: “We have not made a connection between the stress on the force and some massive or even significant increase in suicides.” ??This position ignores the truth about serving an imperialist army in an imperialist war. ??It was exposed by a recent CBS News study on suicide levels among veterans. The study showed that veterans commit suicide at twice the rate of civilians. The suicide rate among people in the United States as a whole is 8.9 per 100,000 people. The level among veterans is at least 18.7 per 100,000 people.

Veterans of the imperialist “war on terror” experience a higher rate of suicide with at least 22.9 suicides per 100,000 people.

The Veterans Administration does not keep a record of veteran suicides. It actively avoids these terrible statistics. Countless cases have come to light about soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder being denied treatment, being diagnosed as having a “pre-existing” condition and being accused of lying to escape military service. ??The military brass has stooped so low as to blame suicides on “Dear John” letters, poor upbringing by parents, and “underdeveloped life coping skills.” ??False excuses like these allow the Pentagon to absolve itself of all responsibility. The military is able to circumvent paying disability benefits. It also permits the warmongers to distort the situation in Iraq to serve their own interests. The Pentagon only cares about advancing its military goals. It cares nothing about the soldiers it uses to spread imperialism.

It cares nothing about the Iraqi people, over a million of whom have been killed in this criminal war and occupation.

A criminal war

I have experienced first hand the bureaucracy of the VA system. I have walked into the mental health office and been pointed in a hundred different directions, told to come back another time, and told to drive over an hour to another VA office. After several months of frustration, I ended up with a bag full of pills. This was the treatment I was offered.

Private Jonathan Schulze also received the run around from the VA. An Iraq war veteran suffering PTSD, he tried to check himself in to a VA psychiatric unit in Minnesota. With the aid of his parents, he explained to his counselor that he was suicidal and insisted on being admitted. Instead, he was placed on a long waiting list. The following day, his parents called the VA and pleaded for their son’s admission. They received no cooperation. Four days later, haunted by memories of war, Jonathan Schulze went into his basement, tied an extension cord around his neck, and hanged himself.

Private Jason Scheuerman could not wait until he returned home from Iraq to seek treatment for PTSD. He informed his fellow soldiers and commanding officers that he was suicidal. He was experiencing some of the most extreme symptoms of PTSD, including hallucinations. When he finally received a mental health evaluation, the psychiatrist concluded that he did not meet the criteria for a mental health disorder. The psychiatrist also informed his leaders that he was “claiming mental illness in order to manipulate his command.” ??Not only was Scheuerman denied treatment and forced to remain on combat duty, but he also was punished by his superiors for seeking mental help and threatened with jail time. Shortly thereafter, there was a letter posted on Scheuerman’s barracks closet. Inside the closet, his lifeless body was discovered. “Maybe finally I can get rid of these demons, maybe finally I can get some peace,” he wrote.

The U.S. government will not adequately care for the soldiers it sends to do its biding. It will use them as cannon fodder, then leave them to die alone in a basement or in a dark closet. ??With the recent data displaying a suicide epidemic, the VA has vowed to improve its psychiatric treatment. This is nothing but empty promises. Soldiers will continue to kill and be killed in an unjust war on the Iraqi people. If they return, many will be plagued by trauma. ??But soldiers have the power to break this cycle. If soldiers want to fight a just battle, one that will serve their interests and not the interests of the ruling class, they can join the fight against the system that profits from human suffering. ??Not one more Iraqi should have to die. Not one more Iraqi family should have to leave their homes to flee the imperialist occupation of their country.

Not one more U.S. soldier should fight and die in Iraq. And not one more will have to if they refuse to fight in this criminal war.  

The night I learned which side I was on?

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally Published on Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The all-too-common story of a checkpoint in Iraq

On a cold night in Iraq, two fellow soldiers and I were awakened by our superiors and told to interrogate a prisoner who had just been arrested. Whoever brought in the detainee insisted that it could not wait until morning, so we irritably left the warmth of our sleeping bags and set off into the darkness.

When we arrived at the detention facility, there was a young Lieutenant waiting for us. He brought the prisoner there.

But the prisoner did not get to that facility the way most did-hands bound tightly behind the back with a sandbag over the head.

He arrived on a stretcher. The Lieutenant told us with a sadistic smile that this prisoner tried to flee a traffic checkpoint he was working that night, and he proudly proclaimed that he filled the Iraqi man’s car with bullets as he tried to drive away.

The traffic checkpoint was one of thousands that operate daily in Iraq. The road is blocked off, and anyone driving on the road is searched and questioned. We had gotten used to questioning prisoners who were arrested for the slightest suspicion at these checkpoints. Many were arrested for carrying a large amount of cash-a common practice for store owners and vendors. ??According to the Lieutenant, there was a long line of cars waiting to pass through his checkpoint. Towards the end of the line, a car that had been waiting pulled out and turned around, driving away from the checkpoint. This act was proof to the Lieutenant that the driver of the vehicle must be guilty of something and trying to escape, so he raised his rifle and fired into the night.

When I walked in to the cell where he was being kept, it was dark, and I couldn’t see him but I could hear him breathing. He was breathing heavily, almost hyperventilating, and his breaths were interrupted by shaking and sobbing. As we followed the sounds, I was able to make out a figure lying on a stretcher against the wall.

We approached the man and clicked on our flashlights. The first thing I saw was the gauze wrapped around his neck, caked in blood, where he had been shot. My first thought was that he was lucky to be alive, but I could tell that he was not thinking the same thing.

I could see streams of tears along the sides of his face, leading to the stretcher that was too small for his large body. He was shaking furiously, his bare feet sticking out from under a thin blanket that was not large enough to cover him. I knew that he was not only shaking from the cold, but from the fear of death, torture, or life in prison. Every Iraqi knows that people get snatched up in the middle of the night; some never seen again, some returning with stories of intense interrogation techniques.

We told our translator to ask him why he had run away. He responded, struggling through gasping breaths and flowing tears. He said he was tired of waiting in the long line in the middle of the night, and decided to just go back home. Nothing suspicious was found in his car.

Instead of making it back home he ended up in that cell, alone in the dark with only blood soaked bandages to keep him warm. This was the price he paid for being impatient.

He cried as he pleaded with us, repeating over and over that he had never done anything wrong. He said he was in pain and begged to be taken to a hospital. I have never seen a man so weakened, terrified, and defeated.

When we left, the Lieutenant was still proudly boasting about his accomplishment. I wondered how many more Iraqis would be wounded or killed by this man, or by the soldiers he commands. This was the example he set for his subordinates in the field.

As I tried to go back to sleep that night, I could think only of the man down the street in a cold cement room with a bullet wound in his neck. I tried to imagine what he felt, how he thought of the U.S. occupation, and how this mission could possibly be conceived of as “liberation” or maintaining “peace and security.” I’m sure we were both kept awake that night-me by confusion and frustration, and him by fear and desperation.

The next morning, I was instructed to go back to the detention facility for more interrogations. There was, as always, a constant flow of scared, shaking, and sobbing prisoners. The man I had seen the previous night was a unique case only insomuch as his wounds were visible. ??Through his broken words, his convulsing body, his tears, and his blood, the innocent Iraqi man on the stretcher showed me what every prisoner felt. That night he taught me what the Iraqi people already know; he taught me who the real enemy was.

What recruiters will not tell you?



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Iraq war veteran, Herold Noel; homeless.

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally Published on Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The truth about military ‘opportunities’

Employment opportunities are a pillar of military recruitment.  Recruiters focus much of their efforts on low-income schools and communities, promising that the military provides valuable skills and job training.

Television commercials for the Army often show soldiers transitioning into the professional world, depicting military service as a guaranteed stepping-stone to success.  The Army airs television commercials showing soldiers in uniform transforming into professionals in suits and lab coats.

The idea that one can serve a short term in the military and emerge a valued, marketable worker attracts youth fearful of life after high school, as well as older workers who struggle under capitalism.  While many join the military hoping for a better life for themselves and their families, the reality is that veterans actually experience a dramatically higher rate of unemployment.

A recent study by consulting firm Abt Associates Inc. discovered that a staggering 18 percent of veterans who sought work within one and three years of their discharge were unemployed.  The current unemployment rate in the United States is 4.9 percent, showing that veterans are far more likely to suffer unemployment than civilians.

Of the veterans who do find employment, 25 percent earn less than $21,840 annually.  The study said that the reasons veterans are denied jobs are the very things they hoped to overcome when they joined the military-lack of technological skills and poor education.

The issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been a difficult obstacle for veterans trying to return to civilian life.  The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers severely inadequate assistance.  The study also revealed that employers are less likely to hire veterans because they fear a mental condition.  Veterans with PTSD not only have to struggle with their own inner demons and the effect it has on their families; they are also discriminated against by employers for their condition.

The reserves uses the potential for quality employment as a recruiting tool much more than the active-duty military, promoting the idea of a “citizen soldier” who is in the military for only one weekend a month.  Reservists are convinced that they will receive job training and education, and have the freedom to pursue a career while serving a small obligation to the military.

As it turns out, reservists are finding themselves locked into active-duty status and being sent on repeated deployments.  Moreover, they are also being denied their jobs when they return.  The Labor Department has reported high rates of formal job complaints filed by reservists.  In 2006, 1,357 reservists filed formal complaints after being refused their old jobs upon returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

While thousands of veterans struggle to find employment after leaving the military, many cannot even find a place to live.  The VA refuses to track the number of homeless veterans.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates hundreds, perhaps thousands, of soldiers who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan are homeless or living in shelters.  Over 1,200 homeless veterans have received help from NCHV.  However, groups aiding homeless veterans assert that this number reflects only a fraction of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are homeless.

When compared with the rate of homeless veterans following the Vietnam War, the future of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan looks very grim.  Vietnam veterans who became homeless did so after spending five to 10 years trying to readjust to civilian life.  Veterans of the current wars are ending up with no place to live after only 18 months.

The problems veterans face upon separating from the military-lack of jobs, alcohol and drug abuse, denial of benefits, suicide, homelessness-all stem from the same root cause.  The military-industrial complex has one goal in mind: profit.

The U.S. government spends millions on a single bomb, but will not spend an adequate amount establishing support systems for veterans once they return from combat.  The massive military budget is used to increase the wealth of the capitalists, while the veterans of their imperialist wars are tossed into poverty.

The deteriorating conditions for veterans and the increasing number of problems they must face reveal the true nature of this war: profits over people.

Michael Prysner is an Iraq war veteran running for Congress (22nd District – Florida.) as a candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.  For more on his campaign click here.

Recession and the Iraq War; A Soldier’s Story

A soldier’s story is our story.  On this April afternoon, I attended a memorial.  Americans in my local community, as well as those in every other region of the country, mourned the recession. People pondered the reality; this war affects our daily lives and our fiscal stability.  In my neighborhood, Michael Prysner, an Iraq War veteran offered his theory on the theme, Recession and the Iraq War; A Soldier’s Story.  I share an introduction to his tale and an invitation.  Please peruse the musings of Michael Prysner.

Twas the day before any other day in the lives of average Americans.  It was April 24, 2008.  Countless people traveled about in late model luxury automobiles.  A few could not afford such finery.  Still, those of lesser means were able to retain a vehicle of sorts.  In the United States, a motorized metal chariot is considered a must.  In many nations, car ownership is thought lavish.  Certainly, those with money enough to drive from place to place have not a care in the world.  Yet, here most individuals in carriages are stressed.  

In every neighborhood, numerous persons are now out on the street.  Some only have a car to count on.  They do not have the money to purchase the petroleum needed to run the vehicle.  The price of fuel is high and steadily climbing.  Rates of unemployment have increased.  Job security decreased.  The value of homes has dropped.  However, few citizens can afford to remain in what was once their shelter.  Foreclosures are frequent.  Mortgage brokers and a lack of reasonable banking regulations have helped to create a meltdown within the marketplace.

In America, there is an economic crisis.  The government cannot assist the common folk.  All available funds are spent on wars in the Middle East.  Residents in the richest country in the world are worried.  Will they survive?

This was the question asked at vigils throughout the nation.  In conjunction with MoveOn.org people in this country spoke of how the Persian Gulf wars have affected the economy.  Recession and the Iraq War were the themes.  In Boca Raton, Florida Mike Prysner, an Iraq war veteran spoke of his experience in country and how those relate to the fiscal calamity Americans face.

May I introduce Michael Prysner and his Winter Soldier testimony.  With permission from the informed, informative, and inspirational author, it is my great honor to present  . . .



Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony, Pt1

A soldier’s story?

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally published on Friday, March 21, 2008

Michael Prysner’s Winter Soldier testimony

The following statement was delivered at the Winter Soldier event, organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, and held in Washington, D.C. from March 13 through March 16. The event featured the testimony of numerous Iraq war veterans about their personal experiences. The author is an Iraq war veteran and the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s congressional candidate in Florida’s 22nd District.

When I first joined the army, we were told that racism no longer existed in the military. A legacy of inequality and discrimination was suddenly washed away by something called “Equal Opportunity.” We would sit through mandatory classes, ensuring us that racism had been eliminated from the ranks, and every unit had its own EO representative to ensure no elements of racism could resurface. The Army seemed firmly dedicated to smashing any hint of racism.

And then Sept. 11 happened. I began to hear new words like “towel head,” “camel jockey” and-the most disturbing-“sand n*gg*r.” These words did not initially come from my fellow soldiers, but from my superiors-my platoon sergeant, my company first sergeant, my battalion commander. All the way up the chain of command, viciously racist terms were suddenly acceptable.

I noticed that the most overt racism came from veterans of the first Gulf War. Those were the words they used when they were incinerating civilian convoys. Those were the words they used when this government deliberately targeted the civilian infrastructure, bombing water supplies knowing that it would kill hundreds of thousands of children. Those were the words the American people used when they allowed this government to sanction Iraq-and this is something many people forget. We’ve just learned that we’ve killed over 1 million Iraqis since the invasion; we had already killed a million Iraqis before the invasion throughout the 90s through bombings and sanctions.

‘Haji’ was the enemy

When I got to Iraq in 2003, I learned a new word-“Haji.” Haji was the enemy. Haji was every Iraqi. He was not a person, or a father, or a teacher, or a worker. But where does this word come from? Every Muslim strives to take a pilgrimage to Mecca, called a Haj. A Muslim who has completed that pilgrimage is a Haji. It is something that, in traditional Islam, is the highest calling in the religion-essentially, the best thing for a Muslim made into the worst thing.

But history did not start with us. Since the creation of this country, racism has been used to justify expansion and oppression. The Native Americans were called savages. The Africans were called all sorts of things to excuse slavery. A multitude of names were used during Vietnam to justify that imperialist war.

So Haji was the word we used on this mission. We’ve heard a lot about raids during Winter Soldier, kicking down people’s doors and ransacking their homes. But this mission was a different kind of raid. We never got any explanation for these orders, we were only told that this group of five or six houses were now property of the U.S. military. We had to go in and make those people leave those houses.

So we went to these houses and told the people that their homes were no longer their homes. We provided them no alternative, no place to go, no compensation. They were very confused and scared, and would not leave-so we had to remove them from their houses.

There was one family in particular that stands out: a woman with two young daughters, an elderly man who was bed-ridden and two middle-aged men. We dragged them from their houses and threw them onto the street. We arrested the men for not leaving and sent them to prison with the Iraqi police.

At that time I didn’t know what happened to Iraqis when we put a sandbag over their head and tied their hands behind their back; unfortunately, a couple months later, I had to find out. Our unit was short interrogators, so I was tasked to assist with interrogations.

A detainee’s ordeal

First, I’d like to point out that the vast majority of detainees I encountered had done nothing wrong. They were arrested for things as simple as being in the area when an IED went off, or living in a village where a suspected insurgent lived.

I witness and participated in many interrogations; one in particular I’d like to share. It was a moment for me that helped me realize the nature of our occupation.

This detainee who I was sent to interrogate was stripped down to his underwear, hands bound behind his back and a sandbag on his head-and I never actually saw his face. My job was to take a metal folding chair, and as he was standing face-first against the wall, I was to smash the chair next to his head every time he was asked a question. A fellow soldier would yell the same question over and over, and no matter what he answered, I would smash the chair next to his head.

We did this until we got tired, then I was told to make sure he stayed standing facing the wall. By this time he was in an extremely broken state-he was shaking uncontrollably, he was crying, and he was covered in his own urine.

I was guarding him, but something was wrong with his leg-he was injured and kept falling to the ground. My sergeant told me to make sure he stayed standing, so I would have to pick him up and slam him against the wall. He kept falling down so I’d have to keep picking him up and forcefully putting him against the wall.

My sergeant came by, and was upset that he was on the ground again, so he picked him up and slammed him against the wall several times-and when the man fell to the ground again I noticed blood pouring down from under the sandbag.

So I let him sit, and whenever my sergeant starting coming I would warn the man and tell him to stand. It was then that I realized that I was supposed to be guarding my unit from this detainee, but what I was doing was guarding this detainee from my unit.

I tried hard to be proud of my service. All I could feel was shame.

Face of occupation is laid bare

Racism could no longer mask the reality of the occupation. These were people. These were human beings. I have since been plagued by guilt-anytime I see an elderly man, like the one who couldn’t walk, who we rolled onto a stretcher and told the Iraqi police to take him away. I feel guilt anytime I see a mother with her children, like the one who cried hysterically, and screamed that we were worse than Saddam as we forced her from her home. I feel guilt anytime I see a young girl, like the one I grabbed by the arm and dragged into the street.

We were told we were fighting terrorists. The real terrorist was me. The real terrorism is this occupation.

Racism within the military has long been an important tool to justify the destruction and occupation of another country. It has long been used to justify the killing, subjugation, and torture of another people. Racism is a vital weapon employed by this government. It is a more important weapon that a rifle, or a tank, or a bomber, or a battleship. It is more destructive than an artillery shell, or a bunker buster, or a tomahawk missile.

While all those weapons are created and owned by this government, they are harmless without people willing to use them. Those who send us to war do not have to pull a trigger or lob a mortar round; they don’t have to fight the war, they merely have to sell us the war. They need a public who is willing to send their soldiers into harm’s way, and they need soldiers who are willing to kill and be killed, without question. They can spend millions on a single bomb-but that bomb only becomes a weapon when the ranks in the military are willing to follow the orders to use it. They can send every last soldier anywhere on earth, but there will only be a war if soldiers are willing to fight.

The ruling class-the billionaires who profit from human suffering, who care only about expanding their wealth and controlling the world economy-understand that their power lies only in their ability to convince us that war, oppression, and exploitation is in our interest. They understand that their wealth is dependent on their ability to convince the working class to die to control the market of another country. And convincing us to die and kill is based on their ability to make us think that we are somehow superior.

Soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen have nothing to gain from this war. The vast majority of people living in the United States have nothing to gain from this war. In fact, not only do soldiers and workers gain nothing from this occupation, but we suffer more because of it. We lose the limbs, endure the trauma, and give our lives. Our families have to watch flag-draped coffins lowered into the earth. Millions in this country without health care, jobs, or access to education must watch this government squander over $400 million a day on this war.

The real enemy is here

Poor and working people in this country are sent to kill poor and working people in another country, to make the rich richer. Without racism, soldiers would realize that they have more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires who send us to war. I threw people onto the street in Iraq, only to come home and find families here thrown onto the street in this tragic and unnecessary foreclosure crisis that is already leaving hundreds of Iraq war veterans homeless.

We need to wake up and realize that our real enemies are not in some distant land; they’re not people whose names we don’t know and whose cultures we don’t understand. The enemy is people we know well and people we can identify-the enemy is the system that sends us to war when it’s profitable; the enemies are the CEOs who lay us off from our jobs when its profitable; they’re the insurance companies who deny us health care when it’s profitable; they’re the banks that take away our homes when it’s profitable.

Our enemies are not 5,000 miles away. They are right here at home, and if we organize and fight with our sisters and brothers we can stop this war, stop this government, and create a better world.



Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony, Pt2

In Country: Spirit, Two

copyright © 2008. Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the campaign blog.

Originally penned November 10, 2006

The mind is a very personal part of each one of us.  We all carry our memories, our personality, and the very heart of our being in our mind.  Wartime touches that special piece of who and what we are in ways that are sometimes difficult to ascertain without the lens of history.  Every war affects those who fight in different ways and yet all share some similarities.  Every individual has a story of their personal stuff.  I have pondered this subject once before here.  This time at the risk of repeating what may have already been said I offer the following story.  Follow up the street, around the corner, and across the field for another rendering from the possum’s personal tales.

Recently I was reminded of some real differences between those who are involved in the action of war and those who only stand and watch.  In the course of time in Vietnam with an infantry company in the Central Highlands, I experienced so many different times and thoughts.  News reports one morning included pictures of a wounded Marine being aided by his comrades.  Even though wounded, the soldier held his rifle in both hands across his chest as he himself was being dragged across a road and out of further danger.  The attention paid to one’s weapon, no matter whether that item may be a pistol, rifle, or some other is peculiar to soldiers exposed to danger where the weapon may make the difference between life and death for the individual as well as for comrades.  Other soldiers in support positions and not exposed to the daily rigors of combat and civilians often handle weapons with careless regard, leaving hand prints on the exposed surfaces or holding a rifle by its barrel.  Never would a combat infantryman do any such.

When the company was on the move, we each carried our rifle at the ready.  Most weapons were  loaded with safeties off, but with a round in the chamber.  Only a few carried their weapons without a round already loaded.  Whether we were on the march or on patrol, danger lurked around every bend in the trail.  Every person had different ways of accomplishing the proper posture, but all remained prepared every moment for whatever the next moment had to offer.  The constant state of high alert wears on the mind over the course of time but such is the plight of the infantryman.  We knew we not only had to remain in a posture of readiness, but we had to be truly ready to perform our duties at any given moment.

All the men in my company were young with very few exceptions.  Even the NCO’s (non-commissioned officers, sergeants) were no more than about 30.  All the rest of us were much younger at the time.  We swaggered and talked bravely, but each of us feared the next moment.  Any given moment could be our last on this earth.  The pressure was ever present even though we were reluctant to make any mention of that fact.

We lived for the moment, planning only for our last day in country.  Every man knew exactly how many days remained in their tour.  In the final days, most knew the number of hours remaining in their assignment.  In those years, rotations were limited to a finite time, unlike the rotations of today where extensions are so common.  We knew exactly which day we would be headed home.  Not one of us ever admitted openly to any chance of not going home.  Such an admission would have been a psychological blow none of us was prepared to accept.

The pressures of war come not only danger, but in real boredom.  The bulk of any soldier’s time is spent waiting.  We waited for orders, for transportation, for food, for any news of current events, and mostly we waited for our turn to leave the field or to go home.  Waiting time was often occupied by idle chatter or card games.  The nature of the time spent depended as much on the individuals involved as the surrounding circumstance.  Waiting brought boredom and weighed heavily on every one’s mind.  Any diversion was always welcome relief.  Jokes and stories of life back home were common.  We called one another nicknames to lighten the atmosphere as well as to keep some measure of barrier between ourselves.  We used cigarettes and chewing tobacco as diversions.  

Very few of my company were destined to remain in the military.  I was unusual in that I had some years of college education prior to joining the Army.  Most members of the unit were draftees with a high school education at most.  We were from all parts of the country with no particular connection one to the other beyond our service of the time.  We came and went at odd intervals without allowance for any real connection in terms of service.  Most of us had only a few short weeks together-too little time for real unit camaraderie such as might have been seen in earlier wars.  Barely knowing each other left us alone in so many ways.  Even though we spent time together, we kept our own counsel in nearly every instance.  In effect, we remained almost as lonely as if we had indeed been all alone.

The words of Christian Stroud in IRON BRAVO tell it all

War is a nasty thing.  The people who start them are hardly ever the people who end them, and the people who end them are never what they were at the beginning.  No one gets out without being touched by fire, and that fire changes everything, changes it forever.

Some men get to enjoy the feelings of battle with a sense that approaches sexual lust.  That feeling was never mine to share.  I came home with a bitter hatred of all the war meant to the men on the ground.  Until this day, I have held those feelings inside.  Today I have returned to the active state of opposition.  If I have any opportunity in this life to keep any more from suffering the trauma of war, I will exercise that chance at any cost to myself.  

The effect of war on the mind of the troops is sometimes overlooked in our society today.  Soldiers themselves may suppress the memories and civilians are often unprepared for the stories.  Civilian populations not only stand and watch during times of war, but stand in support of the troops who ARE involved.  While each group has different obligations during the time of war, it becomes the duty of each and every one of us, veterans and civilians alike, to remain supportive of the returning troops.  Only by sharing our feelings and experiences on both sides (inside and outside) will any of us find the healing we all need so desperately.  This is one more in a series of my personal sharings.  More will come as time and energy allow.  As one of so many who were actively involved I am responsible for continuing to inform those who by virtue of choice or circumstance only stand and watch.  

Crossposted at Daily Kos.

MSNBC Debate; Clinton, Edwards, Obama. Theatre of the Absurd.



MSNBC Democratic Debate in Las Vegas Jan. 15, 2008 Pt. 7

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

The night was young, and yet, the messages were old.  The top-tier Democratic hopefuls huddled together around a round table.  The stage was prepared and the performance would be unparalleled.  Each character in this play reveled in an accepted reality.  Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, or Barack Obama, are “right” for the country.  No one else could compare to this cast of characters.  In truth, the three were one.  The dramatic debate was cordial and quaint.  The candidates were polite, prim, and extremely proper.  The production was well-managed.  No one was scolded.  Regrets were expressed.  Geniality grew as the hopefuls promised to do no harm to the others.  

It was easy to be calm.  The setting was comfortable.  Candidates were able to comfortably sit in chairs.  The dialogue was intended to seem spontaneous.  There was no rehearsal, supposedly.  As the Presidential aspirants interacted amicably, spoke, the audience wondered; would they join hands and hum kumbaya.

The only possible opposition to the message of unified-status-quo was strategically eliminated from the panel.  Corps and the Courts barred the only voice-of-change from what MSNBC billed as a Democratic Candidate Debate.  General Electric owned and operated, MSNBC refused to allow Presidential aspirant Dennis Kucinich to participate in this televised assemblage.  Apparently, according to Donald Campbell, a Las Vegas lawyer who represented NBC Universal, “The Federal Communication Commission [FCC] broadcast rules do not apply to cable TV networks.”

Given this statement, unexpectedly, Americans have an answer to what has long been a source of confusion.  The cable news channels need not broadcast in the interest of the people.  An audience, the source for sales, is captive.  For producers, favoritism is fine.  Viewers, who have long claimed the candidate they will cast a ballot for, are absent from the air, now, we know why.  Only those, the writers considered crucial were part of the plot.  Extras, or unelectables, as defined by the network Directors, need not apply.

Attorney Donald Campbell proclaimed, to force MSNBC to include the people’s entrant, Dennis Kucinich, or not air the debate if the Congressman from Ohio did not appear, would amount to “prior restraint.”  Legal legend, Campbell declared to allow Presidential aspirant Kucinich to take the stage would be a tantamount to a “clear and unequivocal” violation of the First Amendment. Campbell pleaded with the Justices, and requested they consider the right to a free press.  The Nevada Supreme Court Jurors conferred and concluded Campbell was correct.  

Individual liberties, and the ‘public’s right to know’ may be legally abridged if cable corporate Chief Executives needs are involved.  in 2008, exceptions and exclusions dominate the Democratic debates as does obfuscation.

Americans might have heard in the past, on the few occasions when they were afforded an opportunity, Congressman Kucinich is committed to bring the all the troops home from Iraq months after he enters the Oval Office.  Not only will President Kucinich establish a policy of truth and reconciliation, Commander-In-chief Kucinich will lead with a refined resolution.

The US announces it will end the occupation, close military bases and withdraw.  The insurgency has been fueled by the occupation and the prospect of a long-term presence as indicated by the building of permanent bases.  A US declaration of an intention to withdraw troops and close bases will help dampen the insurgency which has been inspired to resist colonization and fight invaders and those who have supported US policy.  Furthermore this will provide an opening where parties within Iraq and in the region can set the stage for negotiations towards peaceful settlement.

Our future President Dennis Kucinich, believes we must recognize the plight of the people of Iraq.  Americans cannot ignore the truth; we went to war on false premises.  This fact alone affects the battle.  For too long citizens of this “free” democratic homeland deny the realities on the ground.  Circumstances ensure there is no hope of a military resolution.  As occupiers, we provoke more discord than bring peace.  A President Kucinich avows the United States must own its responsibility, and accept our actions caused the chaos.  A diplomatic process, adherence to international law will achieve stability in Iraq.  When Americans work towards a reverent resolution in Iraq, our troops will be able to return home with dignity.

This philosophy and plan contrasts with the Three-Are-One Plan.  What Americans heard was, as Fact Check characterized it, “Iraqi Theatre,” absurd, and lackluster.  Nonetheless, this, we are told is want Americans want, regardless of the polls that state the general public wants out of this futile war.

Once again, the candidates all made sweeping claims about their plans to withdraw troops from Iraq.  Obama and Edwards promised to “get our troops out” by the end of 2009, while Clinton promised to begin withdrawing troops within 60 days and promised to have “nearly all the troops out” by the end of 2009.  But under questioning, all three conceded that troops could be in Iraq for years:

Obama: I will end the war as we understand it in combat missions.  But that we are going to have to protect our embassy.  We’re going to have to protect our civilians.  We’re engaged in humanitarian activity there.  We are going to have to have some presence that allows us to strike if al Qaeda is creating bases inside of Iraq.

Clinton: Well, I think that what Barack is what John and I also meant at that same time, because, obviously, we have to be responsible, we have to protect our embassy, we do need to make sure that, you know, our strategic interests are taken care of.

Edwards: I just want to say, it is dishonest to suggest that you’re not going to have troops there to protect the embassy.  That’s just not the truth.  It may be great political theater and political rhetoric, but it’s not the truth.

As far as we can tell, there isn’t much daylight between the Iraq policies of Clinton, Edwards and Obama.  The biggest difference we noticed: Edwards would station some combat troops in Kuwait and bring them into Iraq whenever they were needed to counter terrorist activity.  Clinton and Obama would keep about the same number of troops for precisely the same mission, but they would station those troops in Iraq.  We leave it to our readers to determine how significant that difference is.

There is a distinction between combat troops and embassy guards.  But the candidates drew this distinction only when pressed.  The fact is all of them would have Americans in uniform stationed in Iraq indefinitely, and all of them leave open the possibility that U.S. combat troops will be fighting limited engagements in Iraq for years, whether they are stationed in Iraq or Kuwait.  That leaves us agreeing with Edwards: There was definitely some political theater going on.

After this performance, the actors did not stand; nor did they take their bows.  These artistes are professional entertainers.  Clinton, Edwards, and Obama need no props.  They can deliver a monologue without a script.  These three are truly practiced.  They know their craft.

Cater to the corporate sponsors.  Cackle in a charming manner.  Be charismatic.  Present a commanding presence.  Remember, the public likes it when you are cute.  Cry, if you must, but be cautious.  True emotions can distract or create distance between you and the audience.  Strut your stuff, but whatever you do, do not subscribe to the “extreme” positions, mainstream candidate Congressman Kucinich does.  

“Exit Iraq?”  That idea is preposterous.  There is money to be had from war.  The truer Weapon of Mass Destruction is Dennis Kucinich.

Speaking of arsenals, MSNBC Correspondents, and employees of parent company General Electric turn to the topic of guns.  The Presidential players sing the song conventionally Conservative, Constitutional constructionist wish to hear.  Guns?  Grab me by the barrel and I am yours.

Russert: We arrived in Nevada, the headline in Nevada Appeal newspaper: Nevada leads in gun deaths.

Russert: The leading cause for death among young black men is guns — death, homicide.  Mayor Bloomberg of New York, you all know him, he and 250 mayors have started the campaign, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Senator Clinton, when you ran for the Senate in 2000, you said that everyone who wishes to purchase a gun should have a license, and that every handgun sale or transfer should be registered in a national registry.  Will you try to implement such a plan?

Clinton: Well, I am against illegal guns, and illegal guns are the cause of so much death and injury in our country.  I also am a political realist and I understand that the political winds are very powerful against doing enough to try to get guns off the street, get them out of the hands of young people.

The law in New York was as you state, and the law in New York has worked to a great extent.

Clinton: I don’t want the federal government preempting states and cities like New York that have very specific problems.

So here’s what I would do.  We need to have a registry that really works with good information about people who are felons, people who have been committed to mental institutions like the man in Virginia Tech who caused so much death and havoc.  We need to make sure that that information is in a timely manner, both collected and presented.

We do need to crack down on illegal gun dealers.  This is something that I would like to see more of.

And we need to enforce the laws that we have on the books.  I would also work to reinstate the assault weapons ban.  We now have, once again, police deaths going up around the country, and in large measure because bad guys now have assault weapons again.  We stopped it for awhile.  Now they’re back on the streets.

So there are steps we need to take that we should do together.  You know, I believe in the Second Amendment.  People have a right to bear arms.  But I also believe that we can common-sensically approach this.

Russert: But you’ve backed off a national licensing registration plan?

Clinton: Yes.

Ahhh, the audience applauds.  We witness one of those moments of regret.  A subdued Clinton, in character shows her inner strength.  She is strong enough to admit she was [once] wrong, or at least, did not act in accordance with what the producers or the public relations persons say the people prefer.  The moderator, the narrator, or the demigod for political dialogue then turns his attention to another in the cast.

Russert: Senator Obama, when you were in the state senate, you talked about licensing and registering gun owners.  Would you do that as president?

Obama: I don’t think that we can get that done.  But what I do think we can do is to provide just some common-sense enforcement.  One good example — this is consistently blocked — the efforts by law enforcement to obtain the information required to trace back guns that have been used in crimes to unscrupulous gun dealers.

That’s not something that the NRA has allowed to get through Congress.  And, as president, I intend to make it happen.

But here’s the broader context that I think is important for us to remember.  We essentially have two realities, when it comes to guns, in this country.  You’ve got the tradition of lawful gun ownership, that all of us saw, as we travel around rural parts of the country.

And it is very important for many Americans to be able to hunt, fish, take their kids out, teach them how to shoot.

And then you’ve got the reality of 34 Chicago public school students who get shot down on the streets of Chicago.

We can reconcile those two realities by making sure the Second Amendment is respected and that people are able to lawfully own guns, but that we also start cracking down on the kinds of abuses of firearms that we see on the streets.

We began this performance with the notion of Amendments.  It seems apt that we return to the discussion of Rights.  On stage, the actors address issues of public interest, while they work to avoid any offer of information in the interest of the common good.  

Russert: Senator Edwards, Democrats used to be out front for registration and licensing of guns.  It now appears that there’s a recognition that it’s hard to win a national election with that position.  Is that fair?

Edwards: I think that’s fair, but I haven’t changed my position on this.  I’m against it.  Having grown up where I did in the rural South, everyone around me had guns, everyone hunted.  And I think it is enormously important to protect people’s Second Amendment rights.

I don’t believe that means you need an AK-47 to hunt.  And I think the assault weapons ban, which Hillary spoke about just a minute ago, as president of the United States, I’ll do everything in my power to reinstate it.  But I do think we need a president who understands the sportsmen, hunters who use their guns for lawful purposes have a right to have their Second Amendment rights looked after.

Might we again ask of Rights, the Bill of Rights, Constitutional Amendments, and how the Courts apply these to weapons-maker General Electric, the owner, and operator of Microsoft-NBC.  Could we consider the courts determination and how the same rules affect the outcome as it relates to citizen, Congressman, and Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.  The words freedom and justice for all come to mind.  In a country where all men are created equal, perchance, the interest of Corporate Chiefs supersedes those of the common folk.

Were we to review Act I, Scenes II, II, or IV we would see how similar the cast of characters are on issues such as Energy, Health Care, Immigration and more.  However, this Playbill is just as the Producers prefer, concise.  After all, conventional wisdom, which is all the network wishes to present, is American audiences have short attention spans.  This too, maybe by design.

As the public reviews the reality of the program, they need not know that General Electric offers a panoply of products and services all affected by the President of the United Sates and his or her Administration.  Personal interests, and certainly, not public needs, may have prompted the parent company of MSNBC to do as they did.  This conglomerate produces or provides engines for planes, petroleum, energy, and entertainment.  Health Care, Business, and Consumer Credit are integral parts of the General Electric portfolio.  This major Producer/Director does much more than light the auditorium, or offer well choreographed “enlightenment.”

Perchance, critics might pose the better question.  Why are Americans willing to accept theatre of the absurd?  Citizens tune in and channel the “advisable” perceptions.  The “majority” of people consider Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards as separate candidates, the super stars, amongst the dramatis personae.  Audience members focus on placement and how a Presidential hopeful moves across the stage.  Intonations inspire.  Cadence counts.  Most Americans ignore that there is little variance in the actors’ script.  Personalities may not be identical.  However, essentially, the three are one.  

As Americans look at the Presidential aspirants declared viable, we laugh, we clap, we cheer, and we jeer.  Once we choose the candidate-of-change, and place that person in the Oval Office, might we realize as we could have during this “debate,” there is little difference?  Will citizens ask for a refund?  This premiere performance might help us to understand, the price of this ticket may be far too costly.



MSNBC Democratic Debate in Las Vegas Jan. 15, 2008 Pt. 11

Scenes, Sources, The Stage . . .

What It Means To Support Our Troops



Dr Drew Westen on How Democrats should frame their Positions

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Weeks ago, as I stood my post in support of peace, our soldiers, and all civilians worldwide, a young fellow stopped and asked me how could I do as I did.  The fellow declared my actions treasonous, disrespectful of the troops.  I replied.  I have family who served, and one about to enter the fray.  The man, visibly irritated, yelled as he pointed to other protesters. “What about them?” he said.   I began to explain how one of the women has a son stationed in Iraq, another . . . my voice trailed off as he waved in disgust.  Then, the inquisitive chap left.

It seems that many who advocate global harmony know not what to say when they are told to protest against the war is to dishonor those that serve our country.  Peace people could explain as Drew Westen, Psychology Professor, at Emery University has.  Doctor Westen offers, when George W. Bush declares we must continue to fight, and fund a futile battle built on false assumptions, Americans who care must respond . . .

Mr. President, do you want to know what it means to support our troops?

1. Don’t make the families take up a collection for their body armor.

2. Armor their Humvees so they don’t lose their lives or their limbs when they don’t need to.

3. Don’t send them into someone else’s civil war.

4. Don’t send them to war unless you would send your own children.

5. When they come home damaged  . . .when they come home with their bodies frayed from that war, don’t you dare warehouse them with cockroaches in Walter Reed Hospital.

6. When they come back to the shores that they will never see again after having given their life for this country, don’t wisk their bodies in the middle of the night because it’s good PR for people not to see their bodies. You proudly display their flag-draped coffins like every American president has done in American history before you.

7. Don’t you ever, ever write a letter to their parents, to their spouses, to their children — when they lost their lives for this country — with a mechanical pen. You write it your own hand so you feel what it means when they lost their lives for this country.

Do you really want to know what it feels like to support our troops?

Bring them home.

~ Drew Westen, Professor, Emory University, November 7, 2007

I thank you for the thought, for the guidance, for the wisdom you share, Professor Westen.  I hope all Americans will embrace the essence of your words.  It is time we truly show our support for soldiers, for the principles we hold dear.  Stop the killing. End the madness.  Exit Iraq; not possibly in the next five years, if then, but now.