What’s Your Occupation?

What's Your Occupation?

My Column from "the Other Press" in September, 2003.

Were you pissed off that the war happened, despite the largest movement for any cause in history? Well, hold on, something even better is taking place. The war machine is losing the ability to make war. Oh, it's not obvious yet. It won't be for a while, at least not to the generals and the oil administration. Well, actually, it's becoming obvious to some of the generals. These men have started demanding that the Secretary of Defense (Donald Rumsfeld) send more troops. What's the problem with this? They don't got 'em.

Military discussions can get tedious and boring quickly, but here are some basic points:

   * The total number of people in the US Army is approximately 1.4 million.
   * The total number of "active" troops is well under half of a million.

* 148 000 troops are currently under siege in Iraq (including some 6000 accounted for but unreported 'medevacs'). * The total number of countries that the US maintains troop presence in comes to over 100 countries (the number tends to only increase). With the continuing joyful adventure in Iraq, there are three options, so it would appear.

1) Radically increase the number of troops in Iraq. This option means calling up more reserves, and doing a massive recruitment at home. The US Army is in no position to recruit people. It is one thing to get a citizen to sing "God Bless America" or put on a yellow ribbon, quite another to ask them to get shot at in an occupation that is becoming more dangerous and more unpopular every day. More than two American soldiers are being killed every day--­with twice as many killed in the time since Bush declared "victory" and the army has instituted a pay cut for troops in Iraq just last month (in a military that spends more money than the rest of the other 200 countries on the planet combined).[1]

2) Turn over the entire operation to the UN. Though George Bush has asked for "help" from the UN, the US didn?t invade the country to simply turn it over to the rest of the planet or worse­--the Iraqi people themselves. The United Nations was part of the attack of the war, to eliminate the supposed peace-enforcing body. The rest of the Security Council including permanent members France and Russia as well as rotating members Germany and Syria want no part in picking up the American tab (Bush just "asked" congress for another $87 billion for Iraq alone) or getting attacked by Iraqis who want to be left alone. The political humiliation of the American Empire in Iraq is growing thicker by the day. The very fact that the Americans have turned to the UN is in itself indicative of just how desperate the government is getting.

3) Continue on with what they have, and hope that somehow, the people of the Middle East will come to love their new occupiers. This option is the one that Donald Rumsfeld wants to maintain, and he?s in charge. Known for an almost superhuman faith in the new hi-tech weaponry of the US, Rummy just now has to figure out what good an Apache helicopter is to a roadside bomb built out of fertilizer. The media report the dead figures, but when these numbers continue to increase (and they will) the whole "Operation Iraqi Freedom" will begin to get questioned in ever-greater numbers.

In fact, this is already happening. The US occupation of Iraq, I once feared, would lead to the occupation of Syria, the nuclear bombing of north Korea and the absolute unleashing of a world superpower unseen with ferocity since the times of the fight against fascism. And all of my fears were the dreams of the men in the Pentagon, but my nightmares are morphing into their daily nightmare: The Empire is unraveling in Iraq. Once an occupation reaches the point it is at in Iraq, the question really becomes: Leave now or later?

 

This past summer I went hitchhiking far up North with my partner. When you are a hitchhiker, you are leaving yourself open to the whims of other people; hitchhiking doesn?t allow you to decide your own fate. There were many times we were left in the middle of nowhere, hoping to get a ride. Getting through Alaska was the toughest part of our journey. We got rides from several American war veterans: Vietnam for the first one, a great man who helped load us back up with water after we were standing in brutal heat on an abandoned gravel road. He had nothing good to say about the war, but he liked having his "Veteran" license plate to get through the border guards that much easier (his words). However, it was the second ride with an American army boy that really got to me.

 

This man was 22 years old, with 4 years in the military. The reason he joined the army? He couldn't afford to go to college and he wanted to get a trade. He?d been stationed all over the world and he had enjoyed it--­his absolute wonder with the world, his fascination with people and his caring gentle spirit reminded me of the best friend I had growing up. My girlfriend and I had been stuck in this little town for hours and were literally on our knees begging for a ride when he appeared and pulled over. He was badly injured from an accident while playing on a dirt bike near Fairbanks, Alaska. When he spoke about international politics, he didn't do so with "let's go" gusto. When we got out of his truck in Whitehorse, Yukon he made my partner take some Gatorade: "I've seen people die of dehydration, it isn't pretty! Take it."

She took it and we parted ways.

When I see that the people of Iraq will fight for their country to be left to just them, I have no problem with this. I just try to understand, try to respect. But when I see people like Donald Rumsfeld talk, I get furious. I just hope that the Pentagon figures out that the war is lost, before 2 more hitchhikers never see their ride come down the road during the beating heat. I don't think any of us should die of dehydration, unnecessarily.