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The new GI resisters

By Eric Ruder | January 26, 2007 | Page 7

SOME 350 people attended a hearing in Tacoma, Wash., on January 20-21 to put the U.S. war--not war resisters--on trial.

They heard testimony that the U.S. war on Iraq is illegal and immoral from Iraq war veterans like Chanan Suarez Díaz and Harvey Tharp; former diplomat Ann Wright; and former Defense Department analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked the top-secret Pentagon Papers that exposed U.S. lies about the war in Vietnam.

Also on hand was Army Lt. Ehren Watada, the first officer to publicly condemn the war in Iraq and refuse to deploy. Watada now faces up to six years in a military prison on charges related to his decision to follow his conscience and not go to Iraq last year.

Activists in the Northwest and around the country are planning a February 5 day of action to show support for Watada, timed to coincide with the beginning of the Army's court-martial against him.

What you can do

Information about Lt. Ehren Watada's case and what you can do to support him, including the February 5 national day of action, can be found at the Thank You Lt. Ehren Watada Web site.

Active-duty soldiers can register their discontent by signing the Appeal for Redress. Troops who need advice about their rights should go to GI Rights Hotline Web site or call 800-394-9544 from the U.S. or 510-465-1472 from outside the U.S.

Go to the Iraq Veterans Against the War Web site for news and updates about war resisters and other initiatives.

Antiwar coalitions, campus groups and individuals can sign on to a petition, initiated by Noam Chomsky, Cindy Sheehan, Howard Zinn and others, at calling for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

For an excellent history of the GI rebellion during the U.S. war on Vietnam, read David Cortright's Soldiers in Revolt, newly republished by Haymarket Books. David Zeiger's Sir! No Sir! is an inspiring documentary about the Vietnam soldiers' revolt, and is available on DVD, along with many other supplemental materials.

 

Defending war resisters is a critical part of ending the war, because it gives confidence to other soldiers considering their options as Bush plans a "surge" of 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

During the U.S. war on Vietnam, the revolt of rank-and-file soldiers--who refused combat missions and resisted deployment--hampered the effectiveness of the military as a fighting force and ultimately was critical to ending that war, along with the resistance of the Vietnamese themselves and the mass antiwar movement in the U.S.

Today, the seeds of a GI movement opposed to the war in Iraq are taking root. On January 16, Seaman Jonathan Hutto, Marine Sgt. Liam Madden and Army National Guard Sgt. Jabbar Magruder delivered their Appeal for Redress (online at appealforredress.org), signed by 1,034 active-duty troops, to Congress.

Hutto was inspired to organize active-duty opposition to the war after reading David Cortright's book Soldiers in Revolt, which chronicles the GI rebellion during the Vietnam War.

Opinion polls show that large numbers of troops are unhappy about their situation. Just one in five agree with Bush that they should stay in Iraq "as long as they are needed," according to a Zogby poll released almost a year ago. Seventy-two percent thought the U.S. should withdraw by the end of the year.

With two-thirds of the public opposed to Bush's surge option, it's certain the opposition is even higher today.

But for soldiers to act on this discontent in ways that hinder the war effort, the antiwar movement needs to make its presence felt.

At a time when Democrats and Republicans talk about "supporting the troops," but won't bring them home, the January 27 protests--in Washington, D.C., and other cities around the U.S.--will play a critical role. They can show U.S. soldiers that they have a powerful ally in the antiwar movement--and give confidence to those who choose to fight back by resisting the U.S. war machine.

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