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The Pentagon's problem

Published Aug 23, 2007 7:50 AM

The failed and failing occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are bringing the U.S. military’s basic problem to a boiling point. Such a boiling over can affect the Pentagon’s role for decades, despite its overwhelming advantage in strategic warfare and air power.

Warfare still requires humans. This is the root of the Pentagon’s problem.

The resistance movements in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to attract people who are willing to fight and ready to die to liberate their countries from the U.S. occupation. Most of the U.S. soldiers and marines, on the other hand, only grudgingly and wearily follow their orders to fight a war they see more and more for the crime it is, a crime against the Iraqi and Afghan people, and a crime against themselves.

A sign of the growing despair among U.S. forces is that troop suicides reached a high point for the last 26 years in 2006, and that the rate was growing for those troops now stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The combination of longer tours in Iraq—now at 15 months—and the knowledge that the war had lost the support of the U.S. population drove the U.S. troops not just to despair but to unprecedented expressions of dissent. An opinion piece in the Sunday New York Times written by seven enlisted soldiers in the 82nd Airborne Division offered its own analysis of the war that differed entirely with the chain of command, up to the president, and called on the U.S. to get out of Iraq.

Those committed to ending the occupations of those countries can only applaud the recent decision of the Iraq Veterans Against the War to actively support war resisters. The IVAW’s choice of a 2003 anti-war hero—resister Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia—as chair of the IVAW board underlines that step toward promoting active-duty resistance.

Add to this the Pentagon’s difficulty in attracting new cannon fodder. The African-American community’s near 100-percent rejection of the war has driven the enlistment of new Black recruits to a low point. In Puerto Rico, a popular movement has been preventing U.S. military recruiters from luring high-school students.

As a result, the U.S. areas providing most new “volunteers” are poor rural towns and small cities, where even recruitment bonuses of $20,000 and a $3.2 billion recruitment campaign were barely keeping the numbers on target.

Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute—Bush’s “war czar”— raised one solution for the recruiting problem in a recent radio interview. Lute spoke of reinstating military conscription of U.S. youth: the draft. Even the Bush administration, which has arrogantly stonewalled the growing mass opposition to the war in Iraq, fears a draft and has denied it will happen—up to now. It fears a draft might turn 40 million U.S. youth from passive avoiders of imperialist war to impassioned political activists against it.

The troops have moved from compliance to demoralization to despair to dissent. They are moving toward military resistance. Those troops who resist deserve the unstinting support of the anti-war movement. The Pentagon’s problem is an opportunity for humanity.