The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Refusing an order, 19 soldiers throw a spotlight on the Army

Oct 25, 2004

In mid-October, 18 Army Reservists, together with their staff sergeant, refused to transport a convoy of fuel trucks into a dangerous area outside of Baghdad. Stories like this have made the rounds before, but this is the first one the Army has acknowledged. This one would never have made it into the news if it hadn't been for relatives' efforts to get the story told when they heard from other people in the same unit that the Reservists had been arrested.

Ironically, the Army, which at first had arrested the 19 people involved, later tried to downplay the refusal, with one officer saying only that the Reservists had "declined an assignment."

"Declined an assignment"! The Army, which usually calls this "mutiny," was trying to put as good a face on it as it could. The fact remains, the refusal threw a spotlight on the growing unrest among U.S. troops in Iraq.

At the very beginning of the war, many of the troops may have believed the stories they were fed about being welcomed as "liberators" by the Iraqi people. That myth has long since been shattered by what the troops are going through daily on the ground in Iraq, seeing the U.S. army kill women and children and old people, knowing that any Iraqi civilian walking by them might try to kill them in turn."I didn't come over here to kill civilians" – it was a refrain heard by reporters as well as by relatives of the troops who got e-mail and phone calls.

As the war has descended into the chaos we see today, troops are no longer going over to Iraq with illusions in their "mission." Some, in fact, aren't going. On a recent call-up of Reservists for Iraq, only one-third reported for duty on time and ready to go. Some active duty soldiers have left for Canada. Others have simply gone AWOL and disappeared.

But even more significant are the troops who return from Iraq and begin to speak out publicly against the war and even form organizations to mobilize opposition to it. They have been joined by veterans from the first Gulf War who had formed organizations fighting to get the government to acknowledge the ailments they were still suffering as the result of that relatively short war. Veterans from the Viet Nam war, who in their turn had formed organizations against that war, back up the current soldiers, adding their voices to the protests about the Iraq war.

The Army has what it calls a "morale" problem. In other words, more U.S. troops are coming to realize that their lives are being put at risk in a bloody war decimating the Iraqi population. And for what – so big U.S. oil corporations can put their hands on Iraqi oil, so that Haliburton can make billions off the disaster the U.S. has created in Iraq?

It's not the first time that American soldiers have come to publicly oppose a war they were involved in – what happened during the Viet Nam war is well known. One of the factors that drove the U.S. government to decide to withdraw from Viet Nam was the increasingly bitter disaffection among U.S. troops there – a disaffection that in many cases was acted on. The government no longer knew how much it could count on its own army.

As the U.S. continues this filthy war in Iraq, the same bitter disaffection may develop among this generation of troops. If it does, we may see an end to this vicious slaughter – both of the U.S. troops themselves and of the Iraqi people.