Joe Glenton: The disillusionment amongst soldiers, on both sides of the Atlantic, is rising.
‘…We all took an oath to uphold, protect and defend the constitution of this country. That’s what we will be doing…’
Many on the left would dismiss this statement as jingo; doubly so given that it was made by a US Marine. This jarhead, however, was not bound for Afghanistan or Iraq. He and fifteen of his fellow US veterans were deploying to Wall St. under their own steam to protect the protestors there. He added that;
‘…my true hope, though, is that we veterans can act as first line of defense between the police and the protestors. If they want to get to some protesters so they can mace them, they will have to get through the Fucking Marine Corps first. Let’s see a cop mace a bunch of decorated war vets…’
Machismo aside, this should be treated seriously. The disillusionment amongst soldiers, on both sides of the Atlantic, is rising. Here, there have been 11,000 cases of AWOL since 2001 and 20,000 veterans in prisons and the judicial system. This is framed by the huge opposition to the war among normal working people; the section of society from which the actual fighting soldiers are drawn.
Another, age-old, effect of the recession is the spike in recruitment. It has taken a financial crash to get new recruits (pronounced: desperate youth) into the ranks, such was the distaste for the adventures in the Middle East. This oversubscription has also allowed the military to filter out a layer of experienced veterans with Afghanistan and Iraq medals, bad dreams and zero illusions over the wars.
Moreover, the servicemen who are returning and leaving the military are coming back to a society which is being looted by the Tories. Their families are being attacked with austerity measures and there are no jobs.
This anger is reflected in the willingness of some twenty British servicemen and veterans to put their names to a letter to parliament at the Mass Anti-War Assembly on the 8th, denouncing the war and demanding an end to the expensive program of intervention and occupation. This is a turning point for the anti-war movement in the UK.
The letter not only reflects the times but strongly counter poses the government and the military’s tactic of using politicized charities to wrong-foot the public. We should not forget that slogans like ‘help the heroes’ and ‘support the troops’ have nothing to do with helping the troops. What they really mean is ‘support our government’s policies, unquestioningly.’
Interestingly, the Tory’s frightened threats to put the army on the streets during the riots were later ridiculed by a right-wing politician given that the soldiers who would be expected to swing the batons have more common ground with the rioters than the establishment.
Recently, an army faced with attacking its own people instead sacrificed Hosni Mubarak. Conscript army or not, governments are mindful that the bodies of armed men they rely on are starting to question the status quo.
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