It was heartening to see Iraq and Afghan veterans marching in Chicago with throngs of civilian protesters. Veterans made passionate anti-war statements before throwing their war medals at the NATO venue; "I choose life," one veteran exclaimed as he tossed his medals away. Who knows more about the injustices of war than those that fight it and the innocents unjustly affected by it? Obama and the war mongers have no idea of the horrors of war, which why they so easily advocate war instead of Peace.
We should remain vigilant and ensure that the fight and peaceful movement does not lose momentum. Successful protests are sustained movements not one-off events to be nostalgically discussed some time in the future.
We should not forget that Vietnam war protests were sustained over years before the protest movement achieved its objective of stopping the war. Hopefully today's protesters have learned from the past and will continue their fight until their objectives are realised.
The sight of Corporate puppet Obama and his puppet, NATO chief and war (Libya) criminal, Anders Fog Rasmussen, bathing in the in-glory of civilian killing warfare was nauseating to say the least; but elitists and social disconnects have no notion of broader community sentiments until a rope is tightened around their criminal necks and they are hanged for their heinous crimes! In the brief moment before the trapdoor is released they are able to reflect one last time on the criminal deeds that resulted in their trial and execution.
I wish to encourage and express a profound but simple truth to all men and women of conscience -- the revolution begins and ends with the individual. We know that all politics is local, in the same way all social change is actually personal change.
Populations that adamantly refuse to be ruled by criminals, rogues and murderers soon reform their respective societies. However, if no permanent change occurs at the individual level then very little hope of social change is possible at the social level.
R/evolution is a continuous process not spasmodic, intermittent events. All successful revolutions of the past were characterised by sustained, offensive action.
In his must-read book, World War One: A Short History, Norman Stone identifies one of the main reasons for Hitler's appeal: the success of the German Right in persuading millions of Germans that they could have won Great War and that they lost it because they were "betrayed". The American Right did a similarly and tragically successful job with public opinion in the United States: millions of voters believe that the war in Vietnam could have been won if it hadn't been for lily-livered liberals and student protesters – and if more soldiers had been sent.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that President Obama, surrounded by super-intelligent advisers from the best universities, continues with the Afghan war because, if America were to withdraw, millions of voters would believe that a wiser and tougher leader could have won, and so the President would lose the next election. Ignorance is the greatest weakness in democracies, because leaders have to go with the majority's views.
But the war in Afghanistan was lost long before President Obama came to power, because of an iron law of human conflict: most people hate foreigners coming to their country and trying to force them to change their way of life for a better and wiser one. This was as true when the Romans invaded Britain as it is today. In the past, though, people were accustomed to being ruled by others. Now, they are not – and conflict situations give the home team, like the Taliban, advantage and likely victory.
There are exceptions to the rule, but they are few and far between. Napoleon won in the German principalities, Austria, the rest of Central Europe and Italy, because a significant part of the population had absorbed the ideas of the Enlightenment and felt and thought like the French soldiers: they wanted to be equal and wanted to be able to rise in the world, regardless of their low birth. This was the reason for Napoleon's early victories. But what sealed his fate in a few quick years was his fatal blunder of sending his troops into countries where people believed that the idea of equality was satanic. (Napoleon was the first "Great Satan", by the way.) He was beaten not only in Russia, which had greater manpower and resources, but also in Spain, which didn't.
There has to be a shared purpose between the population and foreign armies for an invasion to triumph, such as existed during the liberation of Europe in the Second World War. All the Allies had to do was to fight the German armies. The inhabitants of the continent were sick of the Nazis, even in Germany, and practically everybody rooted for a swift Allied victory.
This is not the case even among the Afghan soldiers who fight alongside us at the moment. The soldier who killed several of our troops before joining the Taliban is far more typical of these young men's true feelings than their impressive turnout for Hamid Karzai's inauguration ceremony.
When President Bush sent US forces to Afghanistan, he was effectively asking them to win a war in the Middle Ages, and therefore doomed his country to ultimate defeat. He would never have started that war except for a deep-seated faith in his country's invincibility. The almost universal belief that the "good guys always win" is the most self-destructive notion both for individuals and nations, as it conditions them to disregard the evidence of their senses – the facts.
Of course, there is the notion, particularly strong in California, home of the US weapons industry, that superior weapons make the lessons of history irrelevant. This fallacy is wrapped up in the belief that, in the end, it is our values which win wars, our assistance to agriculture, education, healthcare, and so on. But winning "hearts and minds" is the policy of mixing killing and maiming with healing, and it doesn't work. Weapons don't "settle" anything, for the reasons I set out in The Rules of Chaos, which I wrote during the Vietnam War, explaining that the longer a conflict lasts, the more people and countries it involves – to the point that no power can control it.
It's simple enough: every enemy killed in a foreign country increases the number of enemies exponentially. In Afghanistan, the parents, the in-laws, the relatives of the dead, turn against the West. They may not take up arms and they may not join the Taliban, but they will certainly not oppose anybody who wants to kill the men who killed their loved ones. This has always been true – the Canadian columnist George Jonas wrote that communism still survives in those countries which were engaged militarily with the West, including North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and China.
The military documents revealed by Wikileaks last week illustrate what has been evident for years: Nato has been creating more enemies of the West by the day. Yet Nato soldiers continue to die, and unknown numbers of Afghans die, and the wealth of the West drains away by the billion, making us weaker and more vulnerable.
The most notable successful violence against terrorism on foreign soil is President Reagan's bombing of Libya after the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing, targeting Gaddafi himself. The stealth bombing managed to kill one of Gaddafi's wives, one of his children, and nearly killed Gaddafi. That was a strategy of hitting back and then quickly retreating. Reagan was not going to engage in an ongoing war on foreign soil which was bound to spiral out of control. Reagan learned from Vietnam, President Bush did not, and neither, so it appears, has President Obama.
There was a great deal of outrage and hand-wringing about Reagan's cruel and lawless action, yet it cost less to both sides than the gallons of blood soaked into the earth in Afghanistan on a bad day, let alone in seven years. And today Gaddafi is a business partner of BP.
The most hollow justification for the Afghan war is that unless we fight the terrorists in Afghanistan and other foreign places we will have to fight them at home. But as the convictions of terrorists in Britain demonstrate, it is only at home that terrorists can be fought effectively. No atrocity has succeeded here for quite some time, which is certainly not the case in Afghanistan. And it is difficult to believe that the Government's main concern is to prevent terrorism at home, when it intends to cut the budget of the security services.
Terrorists can be tailed, their phones can be tapped. The security services speak the language, they are familiar with common habits, locations – they know the country better than the terrorists and they have back-up at their disposal. If and when terrorists succeed, their violence gains them only enemies, not converts. What is true of us there, is true of them here.
There is a lot more to be said, and all our leading columnists, Left and Right, have said it. I would just like to add the thought that it was the Soviet Union's defeat in Afghanistan that robbed the Red Army of its terrifying reputation for invincibility and led to the uprisings in the suppressed Soviet Republics and the collapse of the Soviet Union. All a great power has to do to destroy itself is persist in trying to do the impossible.
Thousands of protesters marched beside Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans Sunday to accompany the vets as they marched, hoping to return their service medals to NATO's generals.
Before the march began, musicians - including rocker Tom Morello and Rise Against's Tim McIlrath - performed for the veterans and their supporters.
"I'm here for the Iraq Vets Against the War, which is a group we've worked with pretty closely over the last couple of years," said McIlrath. "We've tried to show our fans a different side of the military, a different side of the war, a different side to the stories that they hear in the high-polished thirty second commercials of military recruitments versus the real stories of some of the troops who have been serving in the military. I find these stories so compelling that I want to do anything that I can possibly do to connect the people from these stories to our audience, who are desperately looking for information that is coming from somewhere besides the military."
McIlrath remains optimistic that dissenters can have an impact on youths' perspectives even though they're competing with an enormous force of pro-military propaganda.
"It's really hard, especially when you have a military that pumps millions of dollars into propaganda, and the collective will of America is sometimes a hard thing to defy. It's a pro-war, pro-troop bundle in a way. There are some Americans who can't divorce those two things. But I'm hopeful there is an emerging part of America that can divorce those two things. There are other ways to support the troops than supporting illegal wars," he said.
Part of what makes McIlrath optimistic is that, in times of severe economic austerity, a country's bloated military budget inherently opens the government's pro-war faction to criticism.
"Budget cuts and the economy have put a unique spotlight on the military, and a staple of the right-wing. That's one of those sacred cows. We don't cut the military budget. But now that [the government] is putting these budgets under the microscope, I think it's forcing people who are stereotypically pro-war and pro-military industrial complex to really think about what a bloated machine it is. You can't ignore it. It sucks up so much taxpayer money," he said.
After the short jam session, the march began and the veterans, accompanied by Afghans For Peace, led the way to return the vets' service medals.
Or rather, the veterans attempted to return their medals, but didn't quite make it. Chicago police, including about a dozen horse mounted officers, shut down the perimeter around McCormick Place, so the veterans spoke instead from a stage nearby the conference.
One emotional veteran addressed the crowd, "Looking out at this peace-loving crowd, I'm convinced my daughters will have peace."
Veteran Scott Olsen, perhaps best known for being severely injured by police during an Occupy Oakland march, returned his service medals, as well.
"These medals once made me feel good," said Olsen, adding, "I came back to reality. I don't like these anymore."
At the end of the testimonials, the veterans threw their medals in the direction of the conference as the crowd cheered.
Christopher Moberg was one of the veterans marching in the procession. Moberg joined the army in 2002 and was deployed to Iraq for the invasion in March 2003.
"My unit spearheaded the attack on most major cities during war and I saw or participated in much of the initial destruction," he said. "I was in a heavy missile artillery unit and we were responsible for over 5,000 indiscriminate casualties."
Moberg says he witnessed sanctioned killing of civilians for sport and the later cover up of these actions.
"There was a culture created to justify these actions within my unit, and I believe [in] the Army as a whole," he said.
Moberg survived a number of IED attacks and now suffers from traumatic brain injury and PTSD and says he experiences depression, confusion, and massive migraines. Furthermore, many of his friends suffer the same ongoing agony.
"It needs to end," Moberg says. "That is why I am marching and have participated in other Occupy actions...I do my best to seed progressive ideas in the hearts and minds of the super conservative, but good people overall, people of my town."
After the veterans spoke and descended the stage, protesters milled about for a bit, trying to figure out their next move.
That's when CPD suddenly accelerated aggressively.
Initially, no order for dispersal was given, when suddenly police arrived in what can only be described as souped-up riot gear that gave the officers the appearance of Storm Troopers.
CPD appeared ready for a violent confrontation with protesters, which of course became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Police attacked protesters, clubbing them across their heads with billy clubs, and generally shoving activists around.
At least two protesters were badly injured.
"Just saw protesters gushing blood from head," independent journalist John Knefel tweeted, "Photog
witnessed it, called it terrifying."
Later, Knefel tweeted, "2 protesters bleeding from head being treated by medics in alley."
The infamous LRAD, or sound cannon, also made an appearance. Additionally, independent journalist Jesse Myerson tweeted that he saw Chicago police dolling out ear plugs among themselves, and protesters tweeted they too were suiting up with earplugs and gas masks after several witnesses noticed police and fire fighters donning masks.