“There hasn’t been one war in history where only soldiers die. Conflicts kill children, kill women, and kill the elderly; anybody who cannot run when the bombs are dropped - those are the ones who die.”
Pablo Paredes, first Conscious Objector of the 2003 - 2011 war in Iraq from Puerto Rico, a contemporary colony of the United States of America.
The United States is involved in dirty wars around the globe, including our own backyard. Whether it manifests as drones in Yemen and Pakistan, “surgical strikes” and “intelligence gathering personnel” in Iraq, stop-and-frisk checkpoints in the Bronx, or martial law in Ferguson, MO. Anyone who disrupts the status quo will be punished. Ask Michael Hastings.
Popular and corporate media as well as government officials declare that they are protecting us from undesirables; they use rhetoric that instills fear by assuring our safety, and they implement a particularly perverse form of collective gaslighting known in some circles as Just World Hypothesis or Theory, and in others as Just World Fallacy.
I fall into the second camp.
I learned about Just World Fallacy (JWF) from my therapist at the VA (veteran affairs hospital). They have a novel program for “permanently treating” PTSD without “relapse” that combines all of the torment of exposure therapy with some practical facts, theories, and information about cognition and behavior. I had a strong preference for the latter, but the former prevented me from ever completing the program.
My therapist explained that JWF is socialized into our consciousness through institutions we are raised within and tells us, essentially, that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.
These institutions typically include schools, churches or other religious institutions, and our nuclear families. In my case, it also included drug rehab, a juvenile detention center/mental health facility, Children and Youth Services (CYS, now CYF - Children Youth and Families), a state social work agency, and the US military to name a few. Oh, and the institution of capitalism, which permeates US culture and enters our homes through the media we consume.
My therapist went on to explain that when something terrible happens to us that we cannot stop or control (in this case rape and combat related incidents) we weigh our experience on this worldview. We must be bad people who deserved what happens to us.
This impedes our ability to process the event in any other way and eventually leads to PTSD, a condition that tortures both veteran and civilian survivors of violence in a way I cannot describe in words, at least not at this moment.
All of this seems to make sense, but it begs some questions.
If the DoD, the VA, and the US Government are aware that our cultural framework and moral compass are based on total bullshit that leads to lifelong torment for many, many people, why would they allow it to continue? Isn’t this a public health crisis?
If PTSD were prevented by discussing JWF and how it impacts our minds and ability to process our war experiences, wouldn’t it save the VA incredible amounts of money in treatment costs for returning veterans? Apparently it might not, depending on the sum of the spoils of war.
When you truly examine these questions, it seems obvious that JWF allows us to Other anyone who is struggling for survival in any way by blaming them for their own problems under the assumption that they are bad people who must deserve what is happening to them.
This allows people to believe that war is justified and compels them at times to fight on the side of “good.” It allows people to believe that those who do not have enough to eat must be lazy or otherwise bad people and compels them to cut entitlements like food stamps and medicaid. When those people die, it is their fault. If they turn to alternative methods of income generation, it is also their fault. It justifies rape, poverty, starvation, militarization, occupation, execution by cop, hatred and condemnation of migrants, and a variety of other horrible things that we have been suffocating under for what feels like lifetimes.
JWF is the ultimate apologist for crimes against humanity. It allows militarism, white supremacy, and patriarchy to thrive. It also allows for extreme wealth and power for those who JWF automatically assumes are deserving.
Ultimately, it allows trust for authority and power over trust for people to whom we should be able to relate. In other words, it is a pathological self-sabotaging behavior for the vast majority of people who believe it.
At this point I think it might be important to share that I don’t think that JWF is a grand conspiracy. Things like lizard people don’t appeal to my sense of logic or practicality. It is a fact that a small number of people in this country have significantly more money and power than the vast majority of the world combined. This blew people’s minds and helped catalyze the Occupy Movement.
The fact that the Occupy Movement had the unfortunate effect of magnetizing conspiracy theorists and white supremacists (not to mention problematically romanticizing colonialism) does not change those numbers. It just made the movement unsustainable and limited in reach.
Those who are extremely rich and powerful cling tight to those things that they love (money and power). In 2006, Jamie Johnson, the heir to the Johnson and Johnson dynasty, created and released a documentary that coined the term “The One Percent."
Jamie Johnson’s status as a member of the one percent allowed him to access the unimaginably rich assholes that control so much of this country and this world.
Around minute 17:22 we meet investment banking heir and spoiled man-child Karl Muth. Karl (or rather, his father) has purchased a swanky apartment in Chicago, right in the heart of a neighborhood going through the turmoil of gentrification. We meet Karl’s neighbors at the nearby local project, Cabrini Green. At minute 23:10, Karl lets us all know, on camera, exactly how he feels about the situation:
"It is easier to just cleanse the earth of these people, send them to the far reaches of the universe, and the mayor’s office will build a big police station, build a bunch of town houses, yuppies will buy in and they’ll bouge-ify it, and suddenly we’ll have a community! Yeah there will be a bunch of people displaced, yeah there will be a bunch of crime problems, but it’s easier. We found the easy solution."
When Karl mentions sending “them” to the “far reaches of the universe,” I cannot help thinking about who they are and where they go to die.
The first person in the US Military to die in Iraq was an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala named Jose Gutierrez. He survived civil war, but his parents did not. To escape extreme poverty, he embarked on a 2000 mile trek on foot and by hitch-hiking until he reached California. When he was picked up by INS in 1997, he told them that he was 16 and eligible for asylum when in reality he was at least 22.
He was placed in foster care where he had 30 foster-siblings, one of whom suggested he might be granted citizenship by joining the military. Once he had citizenship, his sister would be able to join him from Guatemala. He died of a chest wound in Iraq less than one year later.
Not wanting to disrupt the American Dream - or miss out on an opportunity to earn income - the US government offered Gutierrez posthumous citizenship provided that his sister paid the government that killed her brother $80. Time Magazine dutifully insists that it was “what he always wanted in life.”
Gentrification processes often displace rather than deport, particularly in the case of black communities. You cannot easily deport someone who has arrived in the United States via mass kidnapping for the purpose of enslavement (although it is not unheard of). The military seemingly provides all of the things that are taken away from those displaced through gentrification and colonization: a home, food, medical “care”, and education.
This strategy takes the Others out of “desirable” neighborhoods (sometimes referred to as “development opportunities”), places them in a rigid institution and allows the rich and powerful to continue the cycle of taking away from other people what is rightfully theirs, all across the globe.
While immoral an unethical, this strategy is meeting all of the goals of those who desire to hoard their wealth; their opposition is literally killing one another.
People join the military for opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise, and the go to Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Djibouti, Eastern Europe, Latin America, Japan, Guam, and outposts all over the world. They control other people’s resources, denying them the same opportunities they themselves sought in the military, and ultimately they kill many of them whether through bombs or simply as a long-term result of resource deprivation and deteriorated mental and physical health.
The National Guard
When people join the National Guard, they do exactly the same in their own backyard, as well as backyards across the globe when the US has other colonial projects in mind. After all, it was created for this purpose.
The United States National Guard originated to “protect” the Massachusetts Bay Colony from uprisings of the local Pequot tribe whose land they occupied. Over time, more militias were formed to kill off the local residents or drive them Westward. They were also used to ambush Mexicans who attempted to stop US colonial expansion.
After experiencing its effectiveness, the US government decided to formalize the militias into the modern Army and Air National Guards. The federal government has deployed the national guard countless times to smash civil unrest, conquer labor disputes, and acquire and maintain colonial projects - frequently leading to massacre.
Current US “Colonial Possessions,” Puerto Rico and Guam, have their own national guard units. This is not unlike the US military-trained Afghan or Iraqi military and police forces, and the Afghan and Iraqi military and police forces are not unlike the Missouri National Guard who are currently occupying Ferguson MO under martial law.
They are using us to kill people we have more in common with than contrast to protect their own interests, and they do not care what happens to us in the process. They are tempting people to turn on their own communities by bribing them with resources and power, and they are disrupting our trust for one another.
We cannot allow that to happen.
We need to remember who the real enemy is, and we need to stop allowing them to destroy ourselves and our communities. We need to remember that the same people who are doing this to us are doing this to others, and there are far more of us than them. In short, we need to refuse to participate, and we need to stand in solidarity with one another. But what does this look like in practice*?
- Don’t accept the bribe. No matter what it seems to offer, joining the military or the police force has long term negative impacts on your family, your community, and you, yourself. The system that takes care of you in the short-term often turns its back on you in the long-term.
- Resist. If you have already joined, you don’t have to stay, and you do not have to consent to harming people in your community. Take a stand. If you are deployed to Ferguson, you don’t have to fight. Do not fire your weapon, do not follow illegal or unethical orders. If you need support, there are a variety of people and organizations that will help you.
- Support. People join the military and police because they are vulnerable and people who feel vulnerable often need support as they leave oppressive power structures, transform themselves and their world view, and ultimately heal. If we want people to take a stand and resist these power structures, they need to feel confident that there is a supportive community available to help them through that process.
It is also important to support and mentor young people in our own communities and speak with them about issues of systemic oppression. Having this kind of support makes military and police recruitment significantly more difficult. Impairing recruitment keeps our communities vibrant and strong, maintains internal integrity and trust amongst community members, and ultimately allows us to thrive and proliferate.
- Preserve Histories. Learn the histories of other people and communities who are occupied domestically or abroad. It’s important to acknowledge and learn from our unique struggles and be sensitive to our differences, and it is also important to acknowledge our intersections and use them to foster understanding and solidarity. Transmit your history and the history of other communities and movements to other people in your community and your family and stress that it is important to stand together.
- Take Action. Situations like these feel enormous and can make us feel powerless. But there actions that can be taken even if you feel isolated and distant. Right now, corporations, contractors, police, and military forces are gearing up for Urban Shield; a 4 day festival of arms and gear sales and training for the militarization of a neighborhood near you.
There are a number of corporations who benefit from events such as this one. Urban Shield is estimated to cost 1.7 million dollars.
The War Resister’s League and local organizations in Oakland, CA are asking that the Marriott refuse to host the event on the grounds that police are networking internationally to create and practice strategies and tactics that tear our communities apart.
Right now, you can sign this petition. There are plans to increase pressure on the Marriott as Urban Shield approaches, and updates will be available through The War Resister’s League.
Thank you for your non-cooperation.
*This list is non-exhaustive.