U.S. Soldiers: Is this Really What You Signed Up For?

By Robert Fantina, World BEYOND War, April 13, 2024

The possibility of a wider war in the Middle East – a constant threat since the start of Israel’s current genocide of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip – is ever increasing. After Israel bombed the Iranian consulate in Damascus (a violation of international law), killing senior Iranian military leaders, the United States and Israel are on high alert, awaiting the inevitable reprisal. Why the leaders of those two nations believe that they can bomb any other nation indiscriminately with no blowback is beyond comprehension. Iran will certainly act to protect its citizens.

Where will this lead? U.S. officials are forever talking about the U.S.’s ‘ironclad’ commitment to Israeli defense. So it not implausible to consider the very real possibility of U.S. soldiers being deployed to the Middle East to fight Iran, and possibly Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, to defend the apartheid, Zionist regime.

One must ask: is this what U.S. soldiers signed up for? There has been much talk that, with the cost of higher education in the U.S. astronomical and beyond the reach of many, a stint in the military could provide some money towards tuition after the deployment ends. And many young people  trying to escape the poverty that is rampant in inner cities throughout the U.S. may see the possibility of training in the military as their ticket to a better life. This is often referred to as the ‘poverty draft’; the government has no need for conscription if it can keep large numbers of the young adult population hopeless for a better life. This seems to be more of what many young people signed up for; not to die for apartheid Israel.

But some of the unfortunate young people may soon find themselves ordered to kill people who wish them no harm, and are in no position to harm them even if they could. They will be ‘defending’ Israel against its victim – Palestine – a nation with no army, navy or air force, and one that is blockaded by Israel by land, air and sea. They might actually have to invade Palestine, or perhaps only Iran, a nation that the U.S. has attempted to demonize and vilify for decades. Do the people of Iran feel hostility towards the U.S.? Certainly they do. It must be remembered that in 1953, the CIA overthrew the democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, and installed the brutal Shah of Iran as monarch. For the next twenty-six years he oppressed the people of Iran, until he was overthrown in 1979, against the wishes of the United States. That revolution established the Islamic Republic, which the U.S. has opposed since its inception. It must also be remembered that Iran has not invaded another country since 1798. The U.S., of course, cannot say the same thing.

And what of Syria, Lebanon and Yemen? All three nations support the rights of the Palestinian people, and Lebanon and Israel have been launching rockets towards each other in the last six months, and Yemen is actively disrupting commerce in the Red Sea as a protest against the genocide of the people of Gaza; this is negatively impacting the Israeli economy. Will U.S. soldiers be sent into those countries?

Are U.S. soldiers really willing and anxious to fight against a people that has never harmed or threatened the U.S. in any way? How can they justify doing so. Perhaps, one might say, they will be ordered to do so. However, this ignores international law. The website of ‘Human Rights First’ states the following: “Service members of the United States Armed Forces are required to disobey orders that violate the law. As retired Marine Corps General John Allen recently said: “When we swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution…one of those is to ensure that we do not obey illegal orders.”  While the Uniform Code of Military Justice demands obedience to the lawful orders of a superior commissioned officer, it equally demands disobedience when the order given is illegal.”[1] The same website further proclaims: “Both international and domestic courts have a robust history of convicting service members who carried out unlawful orders. When former Nazis claimed to have just been following orders, this defense was unequivocally rejected during the Nuremberg trials.”[2]

Aaron Bushnell, a 25-year-old member of the U.S. Air Force, set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. on February 25, 2024. Another member of the U.S. Air Force, Larry Herbert, is currently on a hunger strike, saying that if the children of Gaza can’t eat (they are being starved to death by Israel and the U.S.), then he won’t eat either. Mr. Bushnell paid for his protest with his life, and it’s possible that Mr. Herbert will, too. Certainly, these aren’t the only two, principled people in the U.S. military who look beyond U.S. propaganda to see the facts.

It is time now for U.S. military members to take a stand for human rights and international law, and refuse to participate in foreign aggression. During the U.S. war against the people of Vietnam, Colonel Robert Heinl said the following in an article in the ‘Armed Forces Journal’: “The morale, discipline and battleworthiness of the US Armed Forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at anytime in this century and possibly in the history of the United States.

“By every conceivable indicator, our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and non-commissioned officers, drug-ridden and dispirited where not near mutinous.”[3]

During the Gulf War, on August 16, 1991, Marine Cpl. Jeff Paterson held a press conference in which he said: “’I will not be a pawn in America’s power plays for profits and oil  in the Middles East…’ Two weeks later, Jeff was ordered to board a military transport plane bound for Saudi Arabis….As Jeff broke ranks, a struggle broke out, and he was physically forced back in line. When order was temporarily restored, Jeff sat down on the tarmac. After refusing all subsequent orders, he was arrested and taken to the Pearl Harbor Brig.”[4]

This neither suggests nor endorses the murder of officers or the abuse of drugs; nor it is meant to imply that resistance to the U.S. war machine is easy. But history shows that resistance by soldiers can be extremely effective. They can be no war if the ‘warriors’ refuse to participate.

It is time for U.S. soldiers, and the soldiers of every nation, to take a principled stand for justice, human rights and international law. Israel and the United States have no regard for these three principles, which should be the guiding principles of every nation on earth. Other nations, too, which continue to send armaments to Israel, hold these principles in disdain. Since government leaders won’t listen to the people they presume to represent and serve, their unjust actions that violate human rights and international law can only be prevented by the very people they send to violate them: soldiers. By refusing to fight U.S. wars for Israel – wars which certainly will be supported by members of Congress who are bought and paid for by pro-Israel lobbies –  soldiers from the United States and other countries can end genocide, and enable the people of the Middle East to live in peace. It can be done; but the people who actually fight the wars are the very people who can bring about this peace by their refusal to participate. It is time for them to stand on the right side of history.

[1] https://humanrightsfirst.org/library/fact-sheet-following-orders-is-no-defense-to-war-crimes-the-duty-to-disobey-illegal-military-orders/

[2] Ibid.

[3] The Columbia Encyclopedia, 2004. Anti-Vietnam War Movement. Sixth Edition, p. 2307.

[4] Jeff Paterson: First Military Resister to the Gulf War; http:..jeff.paterson.net/pdf/jp_rsueme.pdf

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