What attitude should
the anti-war movement take
to the flag-waving slogan of
"support our troops"?

Articles from the 1991 Gulf War.

.. The following articles from the first Gulf War in 1991 raise issues that are coming up again with respect to Bush's campaign for a new Gulf War today.

* On the slogan 'support our troops'

* Who really spat on Viet Nam GIs?

* More on the slogan "Support our troops"

* On GI resistance & anti-war work during the Persian Gulf war,
part two of a reply to criticisms of the anti-war agitation of the Workers' Advocate
(this article contains a detailed exposition of some basic points of communist anti-war work)

On the slogan 'support our troops'

(The Workers' Advocate, Feb. 1, 1991, vol. 21, #2)

. Congress and newspapers, war-lover and liberal critic, tells us that we must all unite to "support our troops." They appeal to working people worried about the fate of their co-workers or children or friends who have been sent off to fight in the Gulf.

. But this appeal is false and hypocritical. It presents the idea that there can be unity between the Pentagon and anti-war activists, between supporters and opponents of the war, to "support our troops". When a war is unjust, when it is mass murder of the people of another land, then it does not help the ordinary soldier to get a patriotic send-off or to hear news censored so that it seems all is well. The only way to help our comrades caught up in the army is to support the GI resistance. We must find ways and means of getting the truth into the armed forces, and we must link up with the soldiers who are organizing against the war or refusing to take part in it.

Bush and the Pentagon care nothing about the ordinary troops

. The newspapers tell us that the Viet Nam veterans suffered depression and problems because they didn't have red-white-and-blue parades when they got home. What rot!

. The GIs suffered because they had been used to kill and murder an innocent people. It was to their honor that they could not cold-bloodedly massacre innocent people and smile it away.

. The GIs suffered because the Pentagon and the ruling class simply used them up and threw them away. The establishment doesn't give a damn what happened to GIs in the hellholes called veterans hospitals. And they fought for two decades to deny medical benefits to soldiers suffering from exposure to the army's weapon of chemical warfare "Agent Orange", and this fight is still continuing.

. The GIs suffered because they faced racism and harsh oppression in the army, and when they got back home.

The anti-war movement linked up with the GIs

. It was the anti-war movement that linked up with the concerns of working people in uniform. In another article [see "Who really spat on Viet Nam GIs?"], we review the experience of Viet Nam. Here we note that once again it is the anti-war movement that is providing aid and comfort to GIs who don't want to be mindless killing machines.

. After all, when you see patriotic, flag-waving demonstrations shouting "support our troops", will it be those people who display sympathy for GIs who don't fight? Hell no. They'll call them traitors. And the same newspapers who tell us that we must all "support our troops" editorialize against the soldiers who object to aggressive war. You enlisted, the papers sneer, and weren't drafted, so it's all so democratic to order you to be killing machines.

. So why should those who really care about the common people in the army take up the same slogan?

Can there be national reconciliation around supporting the troops?

. The present campaign to "support our troops" culminates years of effort by the bourgeoisie to promote a "national reconciliation" between supporters and opponents of the war in Viet Nam. The Viet Nam memorial is a perfect example of this "healing of wounds". It lists the names of American soldiers who died in action against the Vietnamese. It does not, however, list the names of those who died protesting the war, such as at Kent State. Nor does it list the names of Vietnamese soldiers who died in the war, or of Vietnamese civilians killed by B-52s.

. It seems that the point of "support our troops" is to support the war that is being waged by the government. This slogan is not a new one. And that is what it has always meant in the past.

The other America

. Among the liberal forces who say that the anti-war movement should give the slogan "support our troops", there are those who say that the anti-war movement should compete with the government over who is more patriotic.

. But there are two Americas. There is not just the America of Bush and the Pentagon and Wall Street bankers. There is the America of poverty and backbreaking work. There is the America of the downtrodden and the oppressed. And these two Americas, the America of the rich and the America of the poor, are at war.

. The anti-war movement must base itself on the other America, and it must unite with the workers and downtrodden of all lands. Not patriotic unity with the flag-wavers, but internationalist unity with our class sisters and bothers around the world. That should be the slogan of the anti-war movement.

What the liberals are doing

. The patriotic liberal forces promote that we can unite everyone by demonstrating our reasonableness and patriotism and common concerns. By saying "support our troops" there will be a friendly discussion of those concerned with the welfare of our youth.

. But look what's going on right in front of everyone's eyes. The patriotic newspapers and militarist forces are not preparing for discussion. Instead, war in the Gulf means repression at home. They are carrying out a multi-pronged offensive against the rights of the people.

. 1) They are seeking to cover up the protests, and marginalize them.

. 2) They are working to build up a flag-waving "America, love it or leave it" movement.

. 3) They are attacking Arabs in the US.

. 4) They are laying the groundwork for police repression through anti-terrorist hysteria. And the government and capitalists are seeking to build networks to look for "suspicious" people in factories, post offices, etc.

. 5) They are presenting dissent as treason by saying that it will result in the death of troops.

. They are having a hard time accomplishing this. And it is the growth of the anti-war movement that is hurting their plans. But there can be no illusions. The war in the Gulf means flag-waving repression at home. <>



Who really spat on Viet Nam GIs?

(The Workers' Advocate, Feb. 1, 1991, vol. 21, #2)

.

. You can hardly open a paper these days without seeing the charge repeated that the movement against the Viet Nam war spit on the US GIs. But this simply is not true.

. It is true that there was tremendous hostility to US troops being used to stamp on the Vietnamese people and their heroic struggle for freedom and independence. It is true that there was terrible anger against the US forces' unbridled use of chemical weapons, like napalm and Agent Orange. It is true that there was enormous hatred for the massacres, and tortures, and other war crimes committed by the US military, and that hatred could not help but lash out at those who could commit such atrocities.

. But since it was ordinary soldiers who were frequently the first to expose these crimes, and who increasingly stood up to their commanders to refuse to commit such atrocities, the anti-war movement directed its fire against the White House, the Pentagon, and against the officers who were directing the aggression. The anti-war activists showed the masses who hated the atrocities how to link up with the GIs and form a common front against the militarists.

The US government spit on Viet Nam GIs

. If you look at the facts, it was not the anti-war movement but, rather, the US government itself which spit on the ordinary GIs.

. Forget about after the war, when the injured were cast into the hellholes called VA hospitals. When the victims of Agent Orange could not even get the government to admit responsibility. When the vets often could not find jobs or a decent life. But simply take a look at the government's treatment of GIs during the war.

. Take, for example, the widespread racism in the military. It not only meant that the minorities were the first sent to the front lines and the first to be killed. It also meant daily racist treatment form officers, discrimination on the bases, and repression -- like the arrest of eight black GIs at Fort Jackson, South Carolina in 1968 for merely listening to taped speeches of Malcolm X.

. Or take the black-hole conditions of the stockades and detention centers. For no more than being AWOL, GIs were thrown into prisons overfilled twice and three times beyond their capacity. Where toilets overflowed through showers. Where food was cut sort. Where guards tortured prisoners and were on orders to shoot down escapees. Where, at the Presidio army post in San Francisco in 1968, 24 GIs were convicted of "mutiny" for merely sitting down and singing "We shall overcome" to protest a guard killing one of their fellow prisoners.

. Or what about the vicious repression of anyone refusing to carry out atrocities against the Vietnamese people? For example, the GI sentenced to a year in the Long Bihn jail for refusing orders to beat a confession out of a Vietnamese prisoner.

. Or what about the vicious suppression of any dissent? Like GI resisters shanghaied to the front lines of Viet Nam or "disappeared". Like General Stone's order in 1968 that "Any GI showing disrespect for an officer will be sent to the front. " Like the 75,000 courts-martial annually for everything form opposition to the war and racism to failing to salute an officer.

. In these, and a million other examples, it was the government which trampled on the ordinary soldiers and sailors and airmen.

The anti-war movement defended GIs from our own government

. It was the anti-war movement that stood up for the GIs, that helped them organize, that helped them fight for their rights, that helped them stand up to the government and come out against the war.

. The anti-war movement generally accepted the view that the GIs were mainly working people who had been dragged into the movement by the draft or because they had no alternative. It recognized the growing dissent in the military, which showed up in such things as the roughly 200,000 GIs who deserted or went AWOL in 1968 alone. And by the mid-1960s there were many anti-war activists who, instead of refusing induction, decided to go into the army to help organize resistance.

. By 1966-67 a broad GI movement had burst out. Beginning with individual resistance, the GIs soon began to organize. They put out their own underground papers (reportedly 144 of them by 1970, covering every military base in the US and abroad). They formed organizations (reportedly 14 GI dissent organizations by 1970). And they carried out their own marches and other mass actions against the war, against racism, against riot-control duty in the US, against the horrible conditions and regimentation. (See Colonel Robert Heinl's article in the June, 1971 issue of the Armed Forces Journal. )

. In Viet Nam itself, the resistance to the war became enormous. The admissions of marine Colonel Robert Heinl are no exaggeration. He confessed that, "By every conceivable indicator, our army that now remains in Viet Nam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and non-commissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited, where not near-mutinous. "

. And in all of their struggles, the GIs were supported by the broader anti-war movement. There were 116 demonstrations in defense of the Presidio protesters alone. The GIs and veterans were put at the head of the anti-war marches. And their own protests were given huge support--like the April, 1971 week-long encampment in Washington where thousands of Viet Nam veterans chanted pro-NLF slogans outside the White House and threw their Purpose Hearts and combat medals at the Capitol.

. No, it is not true that the anti-war movement spit on the GIs. Rather it helped them stand up and join the movement that spit on the war and on the imperialists who caused it. <>



More on the slogan
"Support our troops"

(The Workers' Advocate Supplement, Feb. 20, 1991, vol. 7, #2)

. The Workers Advocate Supplement noted that the following article was from the Feb. 15, 1991 issue of Chicago Workers' Voice, the local Chicago paper of the Marxist-Leninist Party (while The Workers Advocate and The Workers' Advocate Supplement were the national papers of the MLP).

. Congress and newspapers, war-lover and supposed critic of the war alike, tell us that we must all unite to "support our troops ". This is an appeal of the bourgeoisie and the rabid-flag-wavers. But it is also meant to draw in working people worried about the fate of their co-workers or children or friends who have been sent off to fight in the Gulf. "Maybe you think the war is wrong," they say. "But now that it's started, you must support our troops."

. What hypocrites. They want us to just forget what this war is all about with mindless yellow ribbon campaigns. Why, you can even put signs that say "world peace " with your yellow ribbons. But this "world peace " is the "peace " of the "new world order ". In Bush's double-speak, war is "peace ". It is the "peace " of the slaughter of the Iraqi people. It is the "peace " of the lives of young men and women sent to die for the greater profits of the oil billionaires and so that the rich US capitalists can dominate the Middle East.

. The "Support the Troops " campaign is also meant to throw blame on anti-war activists for deaths, injuries, psychological troubles, etc. of the troops for not "supporting the troops ". But who sent the troops there in the first place and what for? This is an unjust war. It does not help the ordinary soldier to get a patriotic sendoff or to hear news censored so that it seems that all is well.

. "Be All You Can Be, Join the Army " the recruiting ads say. The military is presented in an oh, so innocent light as a way to get an education, a way to get a job. It is presented as the alternative to two of the other big choices the bourgeoisie has for working class and minority youth, the streets or prison. Again what hypocrites. The rich capitalists close down factories. The educational system is left to rot while big handouts are given to the rich and the military machine is built. Then the military is presented as the alternative to the very situation the bourgeoisie has created.

. "Be what we want," they say. "Be a part of the military machine of U. S. imperialism." After all, what is the purpose of the US ilitary? The military invaded Panama, Grenada, Lebanon and many other countries for the profits and empires of the rich. US troops were sent to put down struggles of the black people in the 60's. US troops have been used to break strikes. All the recruiting ads cover over the truth. That the rich capitalists want an army of cannon fodder to keep other countries in line, to put down dissent and strikes at home, to defend their rule and profits.

* * * * *

. Unfortunately, in the anti-war movement there are those who say that the movement should give the slogan "Support Our Troops". Here in Chicago the movement has been flooded with buttons that say so. Some peace groups even put yellow ribbons on their literature tables. This is a big mistake.

. There can be no unity between the Pentagon and anti-war activists, between supporters and opponents of the war. Furthermore, the only way to help those caught up in the army is to support GI resistance. We do not support this war. We are not looking for ways to raise the morale of the troops so that they can better fight, kill and die for US imperialism. No! We are working to build an anti-war movement to end this war. We work to finds ways and means of getting the truth into the armed forces, and we link up with the soldiers who are organizing against the war or refusing to take part in it.

. There are those in the anti-war movement who promote that we can unite everyone by demonstrating our reasonableness and patriotism and common concerns. But again this just covers over what is actually going on against the anti-war forces. The "Support Our Troops " campaign is not preparing for discussions. It is part of the ideological preparation for repression at home. The rich and their government, the flag-waving press and the militarists are carrying out a multi-pronged offensive against the rights of the people.

. 1) They are seeking to cover up the protests, and marginalize them.

. 2) They are working to build up a flag-waving "America, love it or leave it " movement.

. 3) They are attacking Arabs in the U. S.

. 4) They are laying the groundwork for police repression through anti-terrorist hysteria. And the government and capitalists are seeking to build networks to look for "suspicious " people in factories, post offices, etc.

. 5) They are presenting dissent as treason by saying that it will result in the death of troops.

. They are having a hard time accomplishing this. And it is the growth of the anti-war movement that is hurting their plans. But there can be no illusions. The war in the Gulf means flag-waving repression at home.

. The anti-war movement should not get caught up in any of this flag-waving. Build the anti-war movement. Expose the aims of this war. Organize groups and committees against the war in factories, workplaces and schools. Unite with those GIs who want to find a way to oppose the war and encourage other GIs to resist. This is our task. <>


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