“The pioneers of a warless world are the youth that refuse military service.”
- We must #Occupy against soldiers driving other soldiers to suicide
- We must #Occupy against soldiers torturing and killing animals as entertainment (Warning: very graphic video here)
- We must #Occupy against soldiers obeying orders to commit atrocities like the siege of Fallujah in 2004
The good news is that the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement is doing its part to make the connections. The bad news is that some—even on the Left—refuse to recognize or appreciate this process. For example, while I consider William Blum a friend and a mentor of sorts, I wasn’t surprised to read that he’s “been reluctant to jump with both feet on the Occupy bandwagon.”
Why the hesitation, you wonder?
Falling back on the now-familiar script of older generation activists measuring OWS against the 1960s and 70s, Blum informs us that the good old days “were also a marvelous movement” but “nothing actually changed in US foreign policy” as a result of what he calls “our endless protests.”
I’m not sure what that has to do with OWS but then he gets to his primary gripe: “It has greatly helped Occupy’s growth and survival that they have seldom mentioned foreign policy.”
Hmm, this would be an extremely valid concern…if it were based on more than anecdotal evidence, that is.
From the official Declaration of the Occupation of New York City:
- They have squandered our public treasure, over half of federal discretionary spending, into the military and security state, while waging immoral and illegal wars opposed by the people of the United States and the world.
- They have wasted trillions of dollars on these wars, much of it spent on contracts outsourced to private mercenary corporations directly affiliated with members of government.
- They have perpetuated colonialism abroad, maintaining a military presence in dozens of countries, and hijacking the economies of dozens more.
- The have colluded with governments and companies in torture and murder in direct contradiction with the Geneva Convention.
Without making reference to the Declaration, Blum added: “Foreign policy cannot be ignored permanently of course, if for no other reason than that the nation’s wealth that’s wasted on war could be used to pay for anything Occupy calls for … or anything anyone calls for.”
Each Occupation has its own style and focus, of course, but let’s be clear: Foreign policy is not being ignored by OWS and when someone who is known and respected for providing meticulous documentation not only makes this claim but also adds in the word “permanently,” it is a potentially damaging misrepresentation—one that could discourage prospective allies when they are needed most.
Can I get another Mic Check?
Contrary to the criticism cited above, it is precisely because “the nation’s wealth” is “wasted on war” that OWS has caught on and is continuing to grow. The point many seem to be missing is how deep the connections run:
- Those who volunteer to be paid to wage illegal and immoral war are those who commit the atrocities I mentioned above
- Without such volunteers, the US would find it virtually impossible to brutally impose its will across the globe
- The most common excuse employed to defend those who enlist is that they have no other financial options
- If the excuse in #3 is accurate, then the struggle for economic justice upon which OWS was founded directly correlates to any effort to expose and transform US foreign policy
If a more equitable economic climate were created, young Americans would no longer be compelled to enlist solely for financial reasons (and by doing so, provide manpower for wars of Empire). In such a scenario, those who do volunteer could then rightfully be exposed as willing accomplices to US war crimes and maybe we can finally retire all those counterproductive “support the troops” stickers.
As an aside…
I often wonder if the same economic excuse making would hold water for those who opt to become gang members: the poor black kid who “enlists” in the Crips, the poverty-stricken Hispanic who “enlists” in the Latin Kings, or any underprivileged kid anywhere in America who “enlists” in any of the myriad mafias and crime syndicates. These kids also face a stark choice—being destitute or choosing a uniform and weapon—but no one hangs yellow ribbons for them.
Of course, there are two primary differences between the kids I just described above and those who volunteer to join the US military:
- The US military is far more dangerous and deadly than any gang or Mafia family
- The US military is considered legal
Now, I mean no disrespect towards Bill Blum with this article. I’m merely voicing disagreement with him on what I see as a very crucial point. That said, I’d still strongly urge anyone seeking a better understanding of US foreign policy to read Blum’s classic, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II.
I’d also strongly urge anyone seeking a better future to:
#DeOccupyYerHeroes: Just about anyone we encounter will have lessons to impart. Therefore, we must maintain an open mind but also be cautious about putting people on a pedestal. That goes for everyone—from the revered Old Left to the mythical Greatest (sic) Generation. (Solution: #BeYerOwnHero)
#OccupyCounterRecruitment: Educate yourself on the realities of US foreign policy and spread the word far and wide—especially to those young enough to volunteer. If Americans learn the truth and refuse to enlist, the interventions—and the inevitable atrocities—will decrease proportionally.
#OccupyConnections: As detailed above, to wage war on poverty is to wage war on war.
#OccupyProcessOverPurity: Occupation is imperfection. It will never be perfect and even if the initial results leave much room for improvement, consider this: Those results will still be far better than anything we have now. A successful movement must be an enduring process. Say no to purists, say no to opportunists, but find reasons to say yes to occupation.
#OccupyTogether: Rather than expending so much damn energy searching for motives not to #Occupy, I hope anti-warriors will volunteer/enlist/use their skills to help wage class war—because it’s the only kind of war that can possibly save the planet.
There has never been a better time to be an activist, so get busy in 2012.
We are the 99%. Expect us. Join us…
#OccupyCounterRecruitment. #OccupyClassWar. #OccupyParticipation2012.