Thoughts on the role of veterans in the Occupy movement
I did not serve my country in Iraq; I served the 1%. It was on their behalf that I helped lay siege to Fallujah, helped kill thousands of civilians, helped displace hundreds of thousands of innocent people, and helped destroy an entire city. My “service” served Exxon-Mobil, Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater, and other multinational corporations in Iraq.
My family in Massachusetts is not safer because of my service, and Iraqis are not freer. I helped oppress Iraqis in a manner far more brutal than what has been experienced by the Occupy movement at the hands of the New York and Oakland police departments.
I was an occupier and am now an #occupier. I once served the 1%, but now try to serve the 99%. That is why I must speak up when I see the Occupy movement being led astray by the same nationalism and “Ameri-centrism,” the same thoughtless praises for U.S. troops and veterans, and the same hypocrisy that led us into the so-called “War On Terror” and the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many of us have joined the Occupy movement, because we identify as members of the 99%, but the media only began to highlight our participation after Cpl. Scott Olsen was shot in the head by the Oakland police with a projectile on Oct. 25. Olsen was immediately rushed to the emergency room, and his name soon became a rallying cry. A nationwide call was put out for vigils in solidarity with Olsen.
Going to war is not “serving our country”
The Occupy movement was quick to highlight Olsen’s “service” and his two deployments to Iraq. The New York Times noted that “his injury—and the oddity of a Marine who faced enemy fire only to be attacked at home—has prompted an outpouring of sympathy, as well as calls for solidarity.”
Although Olsen appears to oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—he is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans For Peace,—the Occupy movement’s response to his attack has revealed ambivalence on these issues.
The Occupy movement has glossed over the irony that Olsen was put in the hospital by some of the same tactics that his Marine Corps has used against Iraqis. It has not drawn a connection between what happened to Olsen and what happened to Iraqis who peacefully protested against the U.S. occupation of their country—like in Fallujah on April 28, 2003, when the U.S. fired into a crowd of protesters and killed 13 civilians. Countless other identical incidents have taken place, even today as Iraqis also protest unemployment, corruption and lack of services.
When the Occupy movement mentions Olsen’s “service” without clarifying who he served, they hide the lies of the 1% and ignore the more than 1 million dead Iraqis, the millions of refugees and orphans, and the dramatic rise in cancers and birth defects in Iraq.
We must stand for the most affected victims of Wall Street
I watched a Youtube video the other day of U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Shamar Thomas shouting at the NYPD: “If you want to go kill or hurt people, go to Iraq. Why are you hurting U.S. citizens?” as a crowd of Occupy Wall Street protesters cheered him on.
Over 2.5 million people have watched this video, and Thomas appeared on Rosie O’Donnell’s television show and made several appearances on Keith Olbermann. Everyone championed his “service” and decried police brutality against U.S. citizens. Nobody questioned the dismissal of the value of Iraqi lives.
We should all decry police brutality wherever it rears its ugly head. Yet police brutality and the murder of innocent civilians in foreign countries in service of the 1% are both moral issues, and to decry one without decrying the other suggests a serious disconnect.
These attitudes in our movement are deeply troubling to me. We decry economic injustice at home, but stay silent about the unjust occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. We decry police brutality at home, while the U.S. war machine brutalizes innocent people abroad. We need to understand that Iraqis, Afghans, Palestinians, Libyans and everyone else who has fallen victim to the 1% and its war machine are part of the 99%, too.
We can love our country, but we should not value American lives more than any other. We can set up a Scott Olsen Support Fund, but we should not ignore the rise in cancers and birth defects that U.S. weapons have caused in Iraq.
Veterans have an important role to play in this movement, but we are not heroes because of our participation in the wars, and it is shameful for anyone to use us to appeal to patriotism; that only serves the 1%. What we have to offer this movement is a first-hand account of what the 1% has done all over the world at the expense of the 99%. We as veterans are in a better position than anyone else to fight against the dangerous beliefs that put veterans on a pedestal. It is our responsibility to speak out against injustice, no matter where it occurs in this world.
The author is a Marine Corps veteran of the second siege of Fallujah and a member of March Forward!. He is the founder of the ‘Justice for Fallujah Project’ which will host various events during the second annual ‘Remember Fallujah Week,’ Nov. 16-19. Click here for more information.
This item was first published at www.answercoalition.org