‘The only occupations in our interests are here in the U.S.’
Veterans and GIs: Why we are joining the Occupy movement
By March Forward! via the Newspaper of the Party for Socialism and Liberation at LiberationNews.org
Active-duty soldier, Iraq war veteran marches with Occupy DC
March Forward! co-founder and former Marine sergeant Eddie Pages was one of 700 mass arrested at the Occupy Wall Street march on the Brooklyn Bridge
Iraq war veteran speaks at Occupy LA
This article was originally posted on the website of March Forward! an organization for anti-war veterans and active-duty service members.
Since the Occupy movement started, veterans and active-duty troops in
March Forward! have been active organizers and participants in cities
all over the country. Our members have been attacked by police, pepper
sprayed and arrested at occupations and actions. We have been speaking,
camping and helping organize at Occupy events from coast to coast.
believe that it is essential for our community to be active in this
movement, and call on all veterans and GIs to join the encampment
Here is why we are participating:
1. We are used as pawns in Wall Street’s wars.
Over 6,000 of our brothers and sisters are dead; tens of thousands
maimed; hundreds of thousands will live the rest of their lives with
psychological trauma. Over 1 million Iraqis have been killed, along with
tens of thousands of innocent Afghans. The past 10 years have been
nothing but constant, repeated deployments to wars waged in the
interests of the 1%.
We are fighting wars that were sold to the
public by Wall Street—by the banks, Big Oil and defense contractors. The
millionaire politicians who provided the political cover have long been
exposed as lying to us and our families about why we must go to war. We
are expected to believe it’s just a coincidence that the wars are in
the most resource-rich, profitable regions of the world, which were
off-limits to Wall Street. It is only the rich who benefit from these
wars, while we suffer because of them.
Polls show that
two-thirds of the American public oppose the war in Afghanistan, a war
that only benefits Wall Street, yet Washington has been clear that there
is no end in sight. The wars cost tax payers over $800 million
every single day, while we desperately need those funds here at home.
These unpopular wars will only end from pressure from below, with
veterans and active-duty troops leading the way.
The only occupations that are in our interests are the occupations here in cities and towns across the United States.
2. The U.S. government has refused to address the epidemic of suicides and the crisis in mental health.
For the third year in a row, more active-duty troops are dying from
suicide than combat. And it’s getting worse. 2011 is breaking all the
records for suicide numbers. This is not a difficult problem to fix:
Stop deploying troops with PTSD; provide quality, adequate care; and
provide ample disability compensation.
But this government has
allowed it to become an emergency situation, with hundreds needlessly
dead. Of course, “there’s not enough money,” as they say. There is
plenty of money for multi-billion-dollar contracts with the defense
industry, but when it comes to our lives, we get abuse, neglect and mere
scraps from the table.
3. Unemployment for Iraq and Afghanistan vets is at least 30 percent.
Despite what recruiters tell us to lure young people into the military,
we are statistically less likely to be able to find employment after
serving in the military. Our unemployment rate is triple the official
national average. We desperately need jobs programs. If the banks can
get trillions in bailouts from our tax dollars, there is enough money to
bailout veterans as well.
4. Veterans experience a high rate of homelessness.
In 2010, over 75,000 Iraq and Afghanistan vets were homeless. In that
same year, over 20,000 active-duty troops had their homes taken away by
the banks. One out of every four homeless people are veterans.
we come home, this government cares nothing about us. Politicians
“support the troops” when they’re sending us to war, but have no money
to provide simple services to struggling vets once we get home.
5. The benefits for which we risked life and limb are on the chopping block.
Those receiving the touted post-9/11 GI Bill had a rude awakening last
month when we discovered that “break pay” was eliminated. The Marine
Corps just cut its tuition assistance program by 80 percent. Even
retirement pensions are on the line.
This makes one thing clear:
In addition to lack of funding for vital social services, the benefits
for which we risk our lives can be taken away at any time. Meanwhile,
the 1%, who do nothing but go on vacation, are immune from the slightest
increase in taxes.
6. Iraqis and Afghans are part of the 99%, just like us.
Here at home, we suffer at the hands of Wall Street. But Wall Street’s
tentacles are spread across the entire globe. Especially hard hit are
poor countries mired in deep poverty. Wall Street uses the Pentagon
generals and politicians to do its bidding and attack these poor
countries with war, sanctions, embargoes, bombings and occupations.
affected today are the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, who never did
anything to us. Their crime is living atop massive reserves of natural
resources, in countries that refused to be plundered by the U.S. bankers
We know firsthand that the people of those
countries are just like us: They want to work for a living, provide for
their families, have access to education, pursue their dreams and live
stable lives in peace. Wall Street and the Pentagon are responsible for
their conditions. We have far more in common with the people of Iraq and
Afghanistan than we do with the millionaire politicians and billionaire
bankers who tell us we must go to war. We must take a stand for our
brothers and sisters in Iraq and Afghanistan, too.
7. Our only enemies are on Wall Street.
A recent study found that 78 percent of U.S. troop casualties in
Afghanistan are from poor and working-class communities. The reason is
no mystery. When the economic crisis hit in 2007 and 2008, the U.S.
military had a record-setting number of new recruits.
young people who could not afford to go to college, and students with
loan debt. We are fathers and mothers who want to provide a decent home
and health care for our children. We are workers who could not find
Many of us are also people who believed in our hearts what
we were taught our entire lives about the U.S. military fighting for
“freedom” and “democracy,” but we have learned that we just went to war
to conquer new markets for big banks and corporations.
enemies are not other poor and struggling families thousands of miles
away. Our enemies are the bankers on Wall Street and the politicians in
Washington. They are ones who laid us off, raised our tuition,
foreclosed our homes, denied us health care, and sent us to kill and die
in wars based on lies.
We are occupying across the United
States because this government has proven that it is in the pocket of
Wall Street fat cats and cares nothing about our lives or the lives of
workers in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
We are taking it upon ourselves to organize together, fight together, and win true justice and democracy together. Join us! Click here if you are a veteran or active-duty GI who supports the Occupy movement!
Content may be reprinted with credit to LiberationNews.org.