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(en) Blood Money: The Human-Capital Equation of the U.S. Occupation of Iraq by Stephen "Flint" Arthur

From Northeastern Anarchist <northeastern_anarchist@yahoo.com>
Date Fri, 13 Aug 2004 07:26:59 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
News about and of interest to anarchists
http://ainfos.ca/ http://ainfos.ca/index24.html

"Endless development of armed force. Every day we hear
of fresh inventions for the more effectual destruction
of our fellow-men, fresh expenditure, fresh loans,
fresh taxation. Clamorous patriotism, reckless
jingoism; the stirring up of international jealousy
have become the most lucrative line in politics and
journalism. Childhood itself has not been spared;
schoolboys are swept into the ranks, to be trained up
in hatred... drilled in blind obedience to the
government of the moment, whatever the colour of its
flag, and when they come to the years of manhood to be
laden like pack-horses with cartridges, provisions and
the rest of it; to have a rifle thrust into their
hands and be taught to charge at the bugle call and
slaughter one another right and left like wild beasts,
without asking themselves why or for what purpose.
Whether they have before them starvelings... or their
own brothers roused to revolt by famine-the bugle
sounds, the killing must commence." -- Peter Kropotkin
- War!

When a state is determined to pursue war, and all
forms of indirect symbolic protest actions have failed
to sway politicians to halt their imperialist
aggression, the only remaining option is direct action
by the working class. One option is a general strike
by workers that can effect the production and
transpiration of military capital, that is the
materials essential for the war machine. The other is
to deprive the military of the labor it needs to fight
the war. The slogan from the Vietnam War protests
deliberately speaks to this, "What if they had a war,
and no one came?" The U.S. military is overwhelmingly
recruited from the working class, and convincing our
class as a whole to refuse to work for this blood
money may be our best chance for both ending the war
in Iraq and limiting the imperialist ambitions of the
U.S. for future decades.

Military recruitment is a big business. The U.S.
federal government spends $2.4 billion dollars a year
to recruit soldiers for what is the most capital
intensive army in the world. It costs the U.S.
Department of Defense about $11,600 to recruit a
solider. In addition to the cost of recruitment,
training and equipping the average solider costs an
additional $50,000. The U.S. Army estimates that each
increase in the size of the army by 10,000 soldiers
increase costs by $1.2 billion a year.

The U.S. military spending is $395.2 billion, with an
additional cost of the current war of $74.7 billion.
To understand the kind of money we are talking about,
the annual budget for the U.S. Department of Defense
(not including the current war) is three times the
combined military budgets for Russia, China, Iraq
(before the U.S. invasion/occupation), Iran, North
Korea, Libya, Cuba, Sudan and Syria.

It also represents 48% of the Federal Discretionary
Budget. The U.S. federal spending on education is
$61.4 billion -- it is ironic that if not for the huge
sums the U.S. spends on the military and the
prosecution of various wars, the very economic
benefits it tempts recruits with could be shared
across the entire U.S. populace. We need resources for
housing, education and healthcare -- not warfare.

The Class Character of Cannon Fodder

"Politicians hide themselves away. They only started
the war. Why should they go out to fight? They leave
that role to the poor" -- Black Sabbath "War Pigs"

A 1999 Pentagon study says that the military is
recruited from the lower middle class, and that the
socioecomic status of recruits is slightly lower than
the general populace. To lure a segment of the working
class into the "voluntary army" a number of benefits,
that are quite commonplace as social benefits in other
countries, are offered to soldiers.

Education, job training, medical treatment, housing
subsidies, a steady income -- all benefits that the
working class has won through class struggle in some
other countries are lacking in the U.S. and used as a
form of economic conscription. The "poverty draft"
targets the most economically precarious sections of
U.S. society and among super-exploited communities;
mainly youth of color.

Military recruiters prey upon working class people in
Black, Latino, Native American, Arab, Asian, and
Pacific Islander communities. Quite simply, the armed
forces target people of color for recruitment
disproportionately, and thus they die in war
disproportionately. During Operation Desert Storm over
50% of the front-line troops were people of color,
largely Latino. While blacks make up about 12.7% of
the same-age civilian population, they constitute
about 22% of enlisted personnel.

Perhaps most striking is the number of enlisted women
who are black: more than 35%, indicating not only that
black women enlist at higher rates, but that they
serve longer. In the Army, half of all enlisted women
are black, outnumbering whites, who account for only

The U.S. military doesn't restrict recruitment to U.S.
citizens. 35,000 non-citizens are active in the armed
forces, of which 15,000 are now eligible for expedited
naturalization under an executive order from President

Do You Want to Be a Bullet Sponge for Career Day?

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) has led to more
intense military recruitment in schools. Before the
act, one third of all high schools refused recruiters'
request for students' names or access to campus.

Under the NCLBA, schools can loose federal funding if
they refuse to release student information to
recruiters. So now most schools turn over student's
names, addresses and phone numbers to military
recruiters and allow military recruiters unrestricted
access to campuses. The NCLBA opened up some 22,000
schools to military recruiters. Through the Deferred
Enlistment Program, students can join the military
before they have graduated high school. The proportion
of new recruits who were high school graduates has
dropped to 91% from it's peak of 98% in 1992. Only
6.5% of enlistees had some college as opposed to the
46% of civilians of the same age.

The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) is
present in over 2,800 high schools nationally.
Further, the limit on the national number of JROTC
units in high schools has just been lifted. These
programs traditionally target communities of color,
especially areas of Latino concentration.

Fifty-four percent of JROTC participants nationwide
are students of color. The prior JROTC expansion took
place in 1992 in the aftermath of the Gulf War and the
L.A. uprising. Writes Shelly Reese, for American
Demographics Magazine, "The riots underscored the lack
of opportunities for teenagers in economically
disadvantaged areas. That led General Colin Powell to
lobby for expanded JROTC."

There are now even feeder courses in middle schools to
recruit adolescents into high school programs in the
future. In some schools, a course in JROTC has become
effectively mandatory for freshmen who find it listed
in their initial class schedule. JROTC programs even
cost their host schools money, about $50,000 per
school; for 1995-1996, Atlanta spent $1.5 million on
JROTC. Considering the size and expense of the
program, it also is very effective; with 50% of
program graduates joining the military, recruited
directly into the lowest ranks.

Military "Adventure Vans" (actually RVs and
Semi-Tractor Trailers) now travel across the country
attracting youth with video games and educational
multi-media shows, reaching 500,000 students every
year. The army vans visit 2,000 schools; and the Navy
and Airforce vans visit another 500 each.

One new recruitment strategy has been to attract youth
through video games. America's Army video game is a
first person shooter developed at a cost of $7
million. Released on July 4th, 2002, the game was a
free downloadable. It's website got 750,000 hits
per/second the first two days it was online. Computer
Gaming World magazine packaged 40,000 copies of the
game in an issue of their magazine. It is certainly
worth the army's investment since 28% of hits to
goarmy.com's are from websites that host America's

Human Resources for the Greatest of Inhumanities

"The reason to have a military is to be prepared to
fight and win wars. That is our basic fundamental
mission. The military is not a social welfare agency,
it's not a jobs program." - Dick Cheney, Vice
President of the U.S.A.

The much lauded fringe benefits to military service in
terms of job training, education and healthcare, are
really just another big swindle.

Only 12% of male veterans, and 6% of female veterans
say they have made use of their skills learned in the
military for regular jobs. Veterans actually earn less
than non-veterans. The average post Vietnam-war era
veteran earns between 11% and 19% less than
non-veterans from comparable class backgrounds. Over
50,000 unemployed veterans are on the waiting list for
the military's "retraining" program. The Veteran's
Administration estimates that one-third of all
homeless people are veterans.

Soldiers must pay $1,200 into the Montgomery G.I. bill
during their first year, while their pay is as low as
$700/month. Bureaucracy tends to delay paying soldiers
up to the first three months in college. Only 35% of
recruits receive any education benefits from the
military, that means about two-thirds don't. Only 15%
of military recruits graduate with a 4 year degree.
The American Council has attributed a drop in black
college enrollment to military recruitment.

You can wait for months for an appointment with a VA
medical center. In some states, veterans who are not
disabled cannot use the centers. In 2002, an
infestation of mice, maggots, and flies caused the
removal of the director and deputy director for the VA
medical regional network for Missouri, Kansas, and
southern Illinois. Janitors had not touched food
storage areas or the cafeteria for over a year.
Maggots had nested in the noses of two comatose
patients. Bush slashed the VA medical budget by $275
million in 2002.

Job Security Through Infinite Destruction

One thing often told to U.S. soldiers in Iraq is that
they are rebuilding country, however the military is
not the Peace Corps. The U.S. military is also
responsible for much of the damage to Iraq's
infrastructure since during the Persian Gulf War in
1991. The intentional bombing of civilian life and
facilities systematically destroyed Iraq's
infrastructure leaving it in a de-industrialized

The economic sanctions against Iraq after the Gulf War
exacerbated the problems of destroyed infrastructure.
The combination of infrastructure destruction and
sanctions was quite deliberate. Col. John Warden III,
deputy director of strategy, doctrine and plans for
the Air Force, agreed that one purpose of destroying
Iraq's electrical grid was that "you have imposed a
long-term problem on the leadership that it has to
deal with sometime. Saddam Hussein cannot restore his
own electricity," he said. "He needs help. If there
are political objectives that the U.N. coalition has,
it can say, 'Saddam, when you agree to do these
things, we will allow people to come in and fix your
electricity.' It gives us long-term leverage."

The Iraqi government and the U.S. military have
financed reconstruction of nearly 40 hospitals. Iraq's
Health Ministry's budget for next year is nearly $1
billion with an additional $793 million from the U.S.
as well as donations from other countries. Iraq's
hospitals were once the envy of the Middle East. The
rich used to fly their relatives in for everything
from heart transplants to plastic surgery, and Iraqi
specialists traveled the world lecturing about their

Targeting the electrical grid and water-treatment
facilities in Iraq in 1991 resulted in epidemics of
gastroenteritis, cholera, and typhoid, leading to
perhaps as many as 100,000 civilian deaths and a
doubling of the infant mortality rate. Medical care
continued deteriorate under the economic sanctions
imposed after 1991, and Hussein banned the importation
of medications produced by U.S. companies and their
affiliates, even though those were often the best
available. Iraq has one of the highest infant
mortality rates in the world -- one that climbed from
40 out of 1,000 live births in 1989 to 108 per 1,000
live births today. Former US Secretary of State,
Madeline Albright, was asked if the death of a half of
a million Iraqi children from sanctions was worth the
price, Albright replied: "This is a very hard choice,
but we think the price is worth it."

The education system in Iraq was once one of the best
in the Middle East in the 1980s, but investment
declined from $620 per year per student in 1988/89 to
$47 in the late 1990s. Sanctions hit the economy and
schools were left short of basic supplies such as
chalk and blackboards, and poverty forced many
children out of education. Until last year, very
little money had been put into construction or repair
work since the 1991 Gulf War, resulting in a shortage
of buildings. During and after the latest war, more
than 3,000 schools were looted, destroyed or burned in
southern and central Iraq - and 60 in Baghdad suffered
bomb damage.

Downsizing in the Death Factory

"Is there anywhere where our theory that the
organization of labor is determined by the means of
production is more brilliantly confirmed than in the
human slaughter industry?" -- Marx to Engels (1866)

Much of the 1990s was known for a profound
restructuring of labor through plant closings, layoffs
and downsizing made possible through the increased
efficiency of automation as well as speedups,
taylorizations and "just-in-time" production made
possible through improved communication and
distribution networks -- a philosophy that has been
applied to the U.S. military. The smaller, more
flexible, more mobile army championed by Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld, shows that he has been
thinking like the CEO of the military. Many CEOs
discovered that a reduction in the amount of labor
makes what labor is used, particularly skilled labor,
more essential. Further, that a breach in one link in
a global just-in-time production chain can bring the
whole enterprise to a screeching halt. A leaner and
meaner operation, becomes far more vulnerable to
disruption by a withdrawal of labor.

Today, roughly 1 in 200 U.S. citizens are on active
military duty -- the lowest proportion in a century.
The army's ranks have dropped by 40% since the fall of
the Berlin wall in 1989. A surprising retirement bulge
after Desert Storm contributed to the decline.
Currently, there are 499,000 active duty Army troops,
backed up by 700,000 National Guard and Army
reservists. That's a third less than when the U.S.
fought the Gulf War in 1991.

The U.S has troops in 156 countries; 63 with military
bases. According to the Department of Defense, "the
United States military is currently deployed to more
locations than it has been throughout history". Over
130,000 Army troops are in Iraq, 9,000 in Afghanistan,
3,000 in Bosnia, 37,000 in South Korea, 56,000 in
Germany. More than half of the U.S. troops stationed
permanently on foreign soil are in Germany and South
Korea. By comparison, during the Persian Gulf war in
1991, The U.S. had more than 500,000 troops deployed
in the Gulf while the non-U.S. coalition forces
equaled roughly 160,000, or 24%, of all forces.

The U.S. has already begun to shift resources. For
instance one unit has been permanently removed from
South Korea and is moving it's 3,600 troops to Iraq.
The move will deplete U.S. forces in South Korea by
nearly 10%, the first major shift of resources out of
the country in decades --indeed this is shifting
troops from the border with North Korea one of the
dreaded "Axis of Evil" that actually has openly
demonstrated that it has nuclear weapons of mass
destruction. There is a real limit to exactly how much
the U.S. military can rearrange it's troop

According to the Congressional Budget Office, "the
United States has invested heavily over the past 50
years in base infrastructure for its troops stationed
overseas, any major shifting of forces -- either
between overseas locations or to the United States --
would require significant spending to provide that
infrastructure somewhere else."

Increasing numbers of National Guard and Reserves are
being called up for one year stings since 9/11. 15,000
were mobilized this spring, in addition to the 43,000
already mobilized. Deployments of the National Guard
and Reserves have gone up 3-400%. This year, 40% of US
troops in Iraq will be from the National Guard or

Outsourcing and Privatizing the Privates

"Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and
dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these
arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they
are disunited, ambitious and without discipline,
unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before
enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor
fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so
long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by
them, and in war by the enemy. The fact is, they have
no other attraction or reason for keeping the field
than a trifle of stipend, which is not sufficient to
make them willing to die for you. They are ready
enough to be your soldiers hilst you do not make war,
but if war comes they take themselves off or run from
the foe" -- Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

The largest military presence in Iraq after the U.S.
is not the contingent from the United Kingdom, rather
it is the some 20-30,000 mercenaries employed by
various private security firms -- the exact number is
unknown. Their losses can be high, but are rarely
reported because of non-disclosure agreements--but as
many as 80 foreign mercenaries were killed in an eight
day period in April. Is the pay worth the risk? It
certainly depends on who you are. Some foreign
mercenaries receive up to $1,500 a day, while an Iraqi
might receive as little as $150 per month. Former
British SAS commandos can expect $10,000 month, while
the 700 Nepalese gurkas hired by ArmorGroup earn one
tenth what white soldiers make. A low-ranking U.S.
army grunt makes about $1,000 month in Iraq, about the
same as a Nepalese gurka mercenary.

The U.S. has pushed for the interim Iraqi government
to grant mercenaries with U.S. citizenship the same
immunity to Iraqi law that U.S. military troops have
-- but the mercenaries aren't accountable to the U.S.
military either. Officially, the "US government
assumes no responsibility for the professional ability
or integrity of the persons or firms whose names
appear on the list" of private security firms. The
question of immunity is particularly troublesome since
two of the accused torturers at Abu Ghraib prison are
U.S. employees of CACI International.

The largest mercenary group is the South
African/British company, Erinys. It is charged
protection of oil fields and pipelines. Ahmad Chalabi,
previously the Department of Defense's favorite
stooge, secured Erinys the $100 million contract which
employs 14,000 Iraqi troops, largely from Chalabi's
militia for the Iraq National Congress.

Around 1,500 South Africans are employed as
mercenaries in Iraq. SAS International, an Erinys
subcontractor, was revealed to be employing troops who
had been part of South Africa's apartheid-era security
forces. This included a member of the Koevoet, a South
African unit used in Namibia which paid bounties on
blacks during the 1980s independence movement; as well
as a former Pretoria police sergeant who was part of
the Vlakplaas death squads whose actions ncluded a car
bomb assassinations of a government official, killing
fifteen blacks and firebombing the homes of between
40-60 anti-apartheid activists.

Mercenaries continue to find themselves at
flashpoints. Blackwater USA contractors were the
victims whose corpses were mutilated and hung off a
bridge which triggered the increased repression of
U.S. forces on Fallejuh. Blackwater also participated
in the siege -- which was only resolved by turning
security in the town over to Iraqi troops lead by
former Baath officers. Having received additional
training at Blackwater's 6,000 acre compound in North
Carolina, the company has also employed and dispatched
60 former officers of the Pinochet's Chilean military.
Blackwater (as well as Titan Corp) also have employed
between 500-1,000 Serbian troops who have experience
in Bosnia. Among it's contracts, the company won a
bidless $21 million dollar contract to provide
security for the boss of the U.S. occupation -- Paul

Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) current 21,000 troops
might be the outsourcing solution to the occupational
army's labor problem -- if only they would show up
reliably to work and not slack off so much when they
do show up. During the uprising of al-Sadr and the
Mehdi army, there were reports of ICDC troops
deserting, leading U.S. troops into ambush, and firing
upon U.S. troops. In April, half of the Iraqi army,
paramilitary units and police deserted or left their

"Right now the ICDC are a mess. They have no disciple
and no motivation to do anything. All they want to do
is show up, get their pay and their three good meals a
day, and that's that. Plenty of guys over here view
them as cannon fodder for us, people we put on the
very front of the gate as a first line to stop whoever
first." -- Anonymous U.S. soldier working with the

The behavior of the ICDC is not surprising in light of
the Iraqi military under Saddam. That army was one of
the most disloyal, deserting, fraternizing,
mutineering, couping militaries of all time.

Forty percent of the Iraqi army failed to show up for
muster when the U.S. invasion started, and even more
deserted once it started. During the Iraq-Iran war,
the Iraqi army had to shell itself to get its own
units to fight. Many of the frontline troops
surrendered to Iran rather than fight -- which
accounts for the fact that at the end of the war Iran
had 75,000 Iraqi prisoners of war -- seven times the
number of Iranian POWs. After the first Gulf War, the
U.S. released a similar amount of 71,204 Iraqi POWs to
Saudi control.

Between 1991-1994, over 13,000 Iraqi troops deserted.
Strangely enough, during the U.S. invasion and
occupation of Iraq in 2003, only 7,000 Iraqi soldiers
surrendered -- leaving the bulk of the Iraqi army to
go underground or desert. Perhaps they had a
premonition about what might await them at the Abu
Ghraib prison; but more likely it was the mass
slaughter of Iraqi troops deserting the front lines
during the first Gulf War where some where literally
buried alive by bulldozed trenches or massacred along
the "highway of death" that encouraged them not to
surrender so easily to the U.S. this time.

If the U.S. military followed the lead of the Iraqi
military, there wouldn't have been a war at all. With
the retirement bulge after the first gulf war, and the
current difficulties with retention... some U.S.
soldiers might be taking at least some Iraqi advice --
albeit in a less dramatic fashion.

Similar problems plague the Afghan National Army (ANA)
under the Karazi government where 3,000 troops have
deserted, leaving the ANA with only 7,000 troops to
fight a resurgent Taliban. Other Jehadi/Northern
Alliance militia, like those Dostum and Gulbuddin have
already proved themselves as less than loyal to the
Karazi government.

Iraq's new police force has some 70,000 cops. There is
also 21,000 border police, and an additional 92,000
Iraqis guard important infrastructure and government
buildings through the facilities protection services.
While these positions are some of the most dangerous
in Iraq, and while the pay of $3-500 a month for
security services is the equivalent to the salaries of
civil servants and teachers -- a larger motivating
factor might be Iraq's 45% unemployment rate.

The largest challenge for the future Iraqi army is the
incorporation of standing militias. So far, the army
has an officer core of 1,700 officers -- but it
remains to be seen if they can successfully integrate
the militias. Some 100,000 troops are being ordered
into the army, border security or police --they are
being given the enticement of being treated as
veterans with various government benefits including

The bulk of militia fighters are 75,000 Kurdish pesh
merga under the control of the two main Kurdish
political parties PUK and KDP. The Kurds have been
seen as the U.S. strongest allies, but that all might
be about to change. At the beginning of May, the
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) under it's new name of
the People's Congress of Kurdistan has declared an end
to it's five year-old cease-fire with the Turkish army
-- which they backed up with attacks that the Turkish
army responded to in kind. Since no Kurd was selected
as either president or prime minister in the interim
government, Kurdish political parties are feeling
frozen out. The KDP and PUK have threatened to pull
out of the interim government unless Kurdish autonomy
is guaranteed. A new Kurdish uprising could mean
mission creep to Turkey, Syria, Iran, Armenia and

The rest of the militias are controlled by Allawi's
Iraqi National Accord, Chalabi's Iraqi National
Congress, the Shiite Dawa party, the Iraqi Islamic
Party, Iraqi Hezbollah, the Iraqi Communist Party and
the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in
Iraq, The Badr Brigade (of the Supreme Council)
numbers 15,000 and so far appears to be cooperating,
however many Badr brigadiers were sympathetic to the
uprising by al-Sadr and the Mehdi Army, with over 800
fighters killed, still appears to be growing.

The other U.S. allies in Iraq are the 24,000 troops
from the armies of other nation-states who are
increasingly concerned about their role in Iraq. It
was U.S. allies that bared the brunt of Mehdi
uprising. Britain has more than 10,000 troops in Iraq,
and Italy, Poland and the Ukraine have between 3,000
and 1,000 troops deployed in Iraq respectively.
Spain's removal of 1,300 troops is the most
significant so far. A request by the U.S. to involve
NATO in Iraq has fallen on deaf ears. Will the new
U.N. mandate help in securing more peace keepers?

The Rising Cost of Blood in Exchange for Oil

"We don't do body counts." -- General Tommy Franks, US
Central Command

Even though Bush declared an end to major hostilities
over a year ago, death of occupying forces continues.
Since the start of the Iraq war there have been 1,000
coalition deaths including 880 U.S. soldiers. For the
U.S. forces alone that's more deaths than the first
three years of U.S. involvement in Vietnam war. At
least two dozen U.S. soldiers have committed suicide.
According to the Pentagon, 5,013 U.S. troops have been
wounded in action. Soldiers are medically evacuated
from Iraq for other reasons including "non-combat
related weapons discharges", malingering
(self-inflicted wounds), pregnancies, psychological
breakdowns, and accidents. An unknown number of
mercenaries have died, as well as an unknown number of
Iraqi military. Civilian Iraqi deaths are estimated
between 9,436 and 11,317.

Four divisions -- half the Army's active-duty strength
-- are in the two lowest readiness categories because
of their service in Iraq. They are expected to be in
that situation for the next six months. US ground
force requirements in post-invasion Iraq "have
stressed the U.S. Army to the breaking point" With a
third of the army's total end strength involved in
occupying Iraq, the Army War College calls "for an
across-the-board reassessment", that is for an
increase in service levels.

Part of the effort to increase service levels has led
to the highly resented "stop-loss" policies, which
prevent armed forces members from retiring or
resigning. At the end of May 2004 some 44,000 soldiers
had there service extended. The most recent stop-loss
policy restricts soldiers from completing their
service if their unit is within three months of
deployment to Iraq.

Finding it increasingly difficult to retain current
soldiers and recruit future soldiers; as well as
finding increasing needs to increase the size of the
military; the U.S. government may try to return to one
of the more primitive forms of labor expropriation --
slavery. While they will wait till after the elections
this fall, politicians might find it necessary to
reinstitute forced military labor-conscription: The

"Unless so-called Army short tours in the badlands of
Iraq and Afghanistan become manageable based on the
number of troops available -- right now the Army is
trying to do the work of 14 divisions with 10
under-strength, active-duty divisions--we'll see a
mass exodus from the Green Machine and the inevitable
return of the draft." -- Col. David H. Hackworth (USA
Ret.), Soldiers for Truth

Take This Job and Shove It

"We soldiers who are driven along to the word of
command, or by blows, we who receive the bullets for
which our officers get crosses and pensions, we, too,
poor fools who have hitherto known no better than to
shoot our brothers, why, we have only to make a
right-about-face towards these plumed and decorated
personages who are so good as to command us, to see a
ghastly pallor overspread their faces." -- Peter
Kropotkin, An Appeal to the Young

We can expect retention to continue to decline as
morale continues to decline, which will increase both
the amount of stop-loss orders as well as number of
soldiers fleeing military service when they have the
opportunity. An October (2003) Stars and Stripes
survey said that 1/3rd of the military personnel
surveyed believed that the war had "no value" or
"little or no value" at all.

Further, nearly half of the U.S. troops plan not to
re-enlist. The New York Times reports that for the
last three years, Army, Navy and Airforce Reserves
have failed to meet their recruitment requirements.
According to Thomas White, retired general and former
Secretary for the Army, "We are in serious danger of
breaking the human-capital equation of the Army. Once
you break it, it takes along time to put it back
together. It took us 20 years after Vietnam".

"The voting via the shoe leather express isn't about
to start, it HAS started. A few of my best friends and
confidants here at Campbell are company grade officers
and they can't wait for their obligation to end. They
have no intention of staying in. One of them spent 9
months in Afghanistan and then 7 months in Iraq. He
just took company command and he will be going back to
Iraq in a few months for another year. 3.5 years in
and most of it spent in the Middle East. He has no
intention of staying past his mandatory service date."
-- Anthony Topkick, Soldiers for Truth

While many soldiers will "vote with their feet" and
decline future service at their end of their tours, a
few have already started to apply as conscientious
objectors, that is they are refusing to participate in
war in any manner. Conscientious objection reached
record heights in the Vietnam War era where there were
some 200,000 COs. By comparison, the Gulf War had only
111, but military put a stop to the practice and
imprisoned 2,500 C.O. applicants. To qualify as a CO,
an applicant must have a "firm, fixed and sincere
objection to war in any form or the bearing of arms"
because of deeply-held moral, ethical, or religious
beliefs. The GI Rights Hotline (1-800-394-9544) can
provide information to military service members about
military discharges, grievance and complaint
procedures, and other civil rights. In 2002 the number
of calls to the hotline had grown to 21,000 calls --
it now averages 3,000 calls a month.

For some, they won't be willing to wait out the terms
of the service (or stop loss), nor will they qualify
as conscientious objectors. Their choice becomes
imprisonment or desertion. After being Absent With Out
Leave (AWOL) for 30 days soldiers are classified as
deserters. In the Vietnam war some 100,000 people went
into exile to avoid military service, mostly to Canada
-- and the New York Times estimates that 25,000
Vietnam resisters never returned to the U.S.

According to the U.S. Army public affairs office. Over
3,800 soldiers deserted in 2002, of these 3,255 were
returned to military control -- then usually
discharged or serving a short incarceration sentence.
There are currently several high profile desertion
cases like Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughes who've
requested refugee status and political asylum in
Canada -- though these requests are likely to be
denied, and if denied it is likely means deportation
back to the U.S. It is also much more difficult to
legally immigrate to Canada today than it was during
the Vietnam War. Further, by going into exile, the
U.S. government will consider the expatriate deserter
to be a fugitive. Any return to the U.S. is likely to
result in conviction for desertion.

Breaking the Human-Capital Equation

"In response to the ongoing atrocities being committed
against the Iraqi people by the US military, an Air
Force recruitment center in Woodbridge, NJ became the
target of direct action. The Main Street office had
red paint thrown all over its front, including its
front windows and sign. This serves the primary
purpose of causing damage but also symbolically
protests the slaughter at the hands of America's
criminal air force. The blood is on every Americans'
hands... this invasion is an effort by the US
government to expand corporate hegemony over the
region. Human rights are being pushed aside to plunder
Iraqi resources and leave a stronger military
stronghold in the region. America's oil-based consumer
economy is destroying civilizations all over the world
for the profits of a minority." -- Communique from
Direct Action Front, April 16 2003

With all these statistics, it's tempting to reduce
human beings to mere numbers. For the likes of General
White, the labor of soldiers is commodified to such an
extent, that the soldiers themselves become
indistinguishable from war-material -- human beings
are reduced to just another form of capital. Labor can
become so alienated, our humanity, ethics and
conscience is on the auction block. There is a
tendency for people to simply go along with the
situation, to buckle under to the pressure, to accept
authority. It feels like a betrayal to go against the
espirit de corps, to breach the job contract, to break
the law. As much as the state and capitalism attempt
to reduce human beings to automatons through the
alienation of our labor, one thing I've realized by
talking to soldiers, is that some humanity still
exists under the mass-produced uniforms. Some part of
them wants to defy authority and reclaim their lives.
While politicians, corporations and military brass
might think of grunts as nothing more than
interchangeable pieces in the war machine, we should
not make the same mistake. They are still human
beings, we can still talk to them, and by doing so...
we might be able to help them free themselves from

We can reach out to youth who are feeling pressured to
join the military and show them that there are other
paths they could take, that some jobs just aren't
worth having. Since the military starts recruiting in
schools, we must be active there as well. There is an
exception in the No Child Left Behind Act that allows
students and parents the ability to opt out of their
information being provided to military recruiters,
they must simply send a letter to their school
superintendent. Presenting students and parents with a
form letter they can use is an excellent way to start
conversations in opposition to war and militarism.

Also, some anti-recruitment activists have gotten
access to schools by calling for equal access as the
military recruiters have, and they provide
presentations on other options for training and
education while exposing the swindle that is the
military recruitment. We can work with student
activists groups to kick JROTC out of their
curriculum, and counter the military adventure vans.
Forums at schools should be planned where people can
speak out against joining the military, and veterans
can relate both the banalities of the military as a
career and the horrors of war. Targeting recruitment
centers for pickets and protests will help prepare the
anti-war movement for opposition to the draft.

Further, in reaching out to youth, we have to build an
anti-militarist culture. To a certain extent, the U.S.
move away from conscription after the Vietnam war
represented how much anti-militarism had already taken
hold in the U.S., and the pre-emptive protests before
war that have happened since the 1990s are another
example of how deeply anti-militarism has become
entrenched. The counter-culture of the hippies has
been stereotyped as anti-militarist, but
anti-militarism can be found in many youth scenes, and
that sentiment should be encouraged; much like
anti-racist activists have encouraged anti-racism in
youth culture through combinations of music, fashion,
graffiti, periodicals, forums and rallies.

Getting to potential recruits before they enlist is
the best way to deprive the military of new blood. We
should setup pickets outside recruitment centers, just
like we might picket a struck business or a temporary
employment agency that primarily is used to break
strikes through hiring scabs. Joining the military
must be seen as even worse than scabbing. We must
impress upon our fellow workers that the military is
the worst job imaginable, that whatever they are
offering it's not worth killing and dying.

Finally, and potentially the most difficult thing to
do is to convince those already in the military to get
out. It is likely that most soldiers will come to be
selectively opposed to the current war, instead of
becoming total conscientious objectors.

The U.S. military, however, doesn't allow for
selective objection -- so for those willing to get
out, they'll either need to claim conscientious
objection, or go AWOL and then desert. We need to
provide soldiers with all the information we can get
them to accept. Even if you can convince a soldier to
go AWOL for just a short period of time, to decide if
fighting this war is what they really want to do, you
are providing a window where they, at least, have the
option to think for themselves. Once they are deployed
to the Middle East -- even if they change their minds
once there -- they are in a difficult situation; you
can't walk home from Iraq.

The protests that attempted to "stop the war before it
starts" we're unprecedented -- and yet, they failed to
stop the war. What's needed now is a qualitative, not
quantitative, shift in our anti-war activity. Instead
of speaking to politicians, we need to start speaking
to more receptive ears -- that is the rest of the
working class with a message that speaks to our
economic situations and human needs. There is no war,
but the class war.

By breaking the human-capital equation of the military
and depriving the capitalist state of the labor it
needs to keep the war-machine going, we can limit the
U.S. ability to wage wars of occupation. If we are
successful in such a campaign, we can deter U.S.
imperialist aggression not just today, but perhaps for
an entire generation. The U.S. may have reached it's
pinnacle as an empire. The war in Iraq may represent
the empire overstretching itself. If we can break the
will of soldiers to fight for the U.S. empire, this
might be the last such war the empire will ever have.
The struggle against imperialist war is a worth


Stephen "Flint" Arthur is a member of NEFAC-Balitmore,
and currently has a sister in Iraq with the U.S. Army
National Guard


This essay is from the newest issue of 'The
Northeastern Anarchist' (#9, Summer/Fall 2004)...
which includes essays on the Iraq war and military
recruitment, anarchist arguments against electoralism,
wages for housework, prisons and fascism,
revolutionary organization, a history of anarchism and
anti-imperialism, the Quebec general strike of 1972,
and much more!

The Northeastern Anarchist is the English-language
magazine of the Northeastern Federation of
Anarcho-Communists (NEFAC), covering class struggle
anarchist theory, history, strategy, debate and
analysis in an effort to further develop
anarcho-communist ideas and practice.


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