Published on Dissident Voice, by Ron Jacobs, August 7, 2009 (11).
As the casualty figures climb in Afghanistan and dip in Iraq and support for those wars plummets, the question of troop resistance remains on the table. According to US military estimates, desertion and AWOL rates have climbed since the resistance in Iraq began its armed campaign against the US occupation. In addition, recruitment numbers dropped drastically, although they have began to climb since the economy began its collapse in Fall 2008. Soldiers and Marines have been stop-lossed and their tours of duty in the combat zones were extended. In addition, many troops serve not one, but two or three consecutive tours with as little as one month stateside between tours. All of these phenomena have created increased levels of stress and depression among the troops, leading to one of the highest known suicide rates among veterans and active duty troops ever …
… Jamail highlights the various organizations organizing GI resistance, from the Iraq Veterans Against the War to the group Courage to Resist. He also commits a chapter to each of the primary forms of resistance and reasons for that resistance. He describes instances of individual resistance and the refusal of entire units to carry out missions. He also explores the nature of the sexist culture of the military and the immorality of the wars themselves. One of the most interesting chapters in The Will to Resist is titled “Quarters of Resistance.” It describes the mission and interior of a house in Washington, DC run by a couple veterans. The purpose of the house is to operate as a sort of clearinghouse for the GI resistance movement. At times, the house has provided shelter for veterans and GIs attending antiwar activities in DC. It is also a place that the founder of the house, Geoffrey Millard, calls a “training ground for resistance.” In addition to these quarters, Jamail discusses the beginnings of a coffeehouse movement slowly developing outside major US military bases.
Jamal’s book is also about his learning to understand and appreciate the humanity of the US soldier. Originally inclined to consider them all killers without conscience, his conversations and other interactions with the young men and women who have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan to kill in America’s name have led him to understand that many of these folks struggle with their souls on a daily basis. With this growing understanding of folks who are essentially his contemporaries, The Will to Resist becomes more than just another collective biography of troops who discover their conscience under the duress of war.
If the current commander of US troops in Afghanistan has his way, there will be more than 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan by the end of the summer in 2010. Already, Barack Obama has approved adding 20,000 more active duty troops to the 1,473,900 already on duty. Without public protest, the escalation of the war in Afghanistan is certain to continue. In addition, General Odierno in Iraq insists that US troops remain in that country, as well. Furthermore, the likelihood of combat against other foes chosen by Washington increases. Resistance is never easy, as the men and women in The Will to Resist can tell us. However, if the people who poured into the streets to protest Bush’s war are truly opposed to war, then they should also make an appearance in those same streets now that the war is Obama’s. (full text).
(Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground. His most recent novel Short Order Frame Up is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached by e-mail. Read other articles by Ron, or visit Ron’s website).