Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Veteran Learns of Militarism, Joins the 99%

from Joanie Connors via Dwayne Knox
Thursday, December 1, 2011


Harry Targ

“I grew up in Chicago and Northwest Indiana. Working-class family,
father was a Union Ironworker…mother was a stay at home Mom.” Vince
Emanuele joined the Marines after graduating from high school. “I came
out of boot camp a hard chargin’ Devil Dog.” He served in the Marines
from 2003 until 2005 stationed in California, Kuwait, and Iraq. His
eight month deployment in Iraq involved him in street patrols, looking
for snipers and land mines “…along with shooting at innocent
civilians, destroying their property and beating up prisoners….”

While in Iraq the fascination with war that he had acquired as a kid
playing video games dissipated. His father sent him reading
material--Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Hunter Thompson, the Nation--and
he and friends began to reflect on what they were doing in Iraq. He
came to the view that the war was “illegal, immoral, unjustified, and
unneeded.” He was not spreading “democracy” or “peace” and the U.S.
war effort was not winning the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqi people.

After returning to the U.S., Emanuele joined Iraq Veterans Against the
War, has been organizing vets in Indiana and Illinois, created a
weekly radio show called “Veterans Unplugged” which is available
on-line, and has become a prominent activist for social, economic, and
political justice in the heartland of America while finishing an
undergraduate political science degree.

Emanuele recently spoke on a panel organized by the Lafayette Area
Peace Coalition. He elaborated on the current plight of veterans,
particularly veterans who served in the two longest wars in U.S.
history, Afghanistan and Iraq. While acknowledging that the current
military force has chosen to enlist in regular army or reserve units,
the 21st century enticement to serve is really an “economic draft.”
With declining incomes, wages, job opportunities, and rising
educational costs, more and more men and women, he said, have seen
military service as the only escape from lives of economic

He spoke of the culture of militarization to which every new recruit
was exposed: a process of dehumanization; the spread of racism,
particularly targeting stereotypes of Muslims; sexism; and homophobia.
In reality the military experience of young people, Emanuele said,
involves placing raw, uneducated, teenagers in a war zone, with
weapons and a license to kill. The victims of the actions of these raw
recruits, schooled in video games and super-patriotism, were the
millions of Iraqi and Afghan citizens who most fervently wanted the
young foreigners off their land.

Emanuele presented some figures on the impacts of military service on
returning veterans. (According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in
2010 there were 20.2 million men and 1.8 million women who had served
in the military). In 2011, Emanuele reported;

-Rates of unemployment of returning veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq
are higher than in the non-veteran population, both men and women

-African-American vets experience double the unemployment rate of white vets

-80,000 returning veterans are currently homeless (56 % of homeless
vets are African American or Latinos)

-20% to 50% of 21st century returning veterans suffer some form of
Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (an estimated 350,000 to 1 million

-1,000 returning vets attempt suicide each month

Emanuele, connected the plight of returning veterans to the
military/industrial/complex and imperial wars. As a member of Iraq
Veterans Against the War, he highlighted the long tradition of
soldiers resisting participation in unjust wars. He referred to
patterns of resistance to war running throughout U.S. history:

-In 1781 the Pennsylvania militia mutinied against war profiteers and
for food

-Between the 1870s and the 1890s, National Guard soldiers often
refused to fire on striking workers
-In 1919 unknown numbers of U.S. soldiers refused orders to go fight
against the Bolsheviks who had come to power in Russia

-Thousands of World War I veterans, known as the Bonus Army, assembled
in Washington D.C. in 1932 to demand back pay due them from their
active duty experience.

--From 1964-75 a massive GI anti-Vietnam war resistance movement
emerged with over 300 GI anti-war newspapers produced, 10 % of all
Vietnam era soldiers going AWOL or deserting, and a broad array of
other forms of anti-war resistance, and opposition to military

Emanuele stressed the commonality of experience and vision that is
shared by most veterans with the Occupy Movement. He suggested that
peace and justice activists must understand that returning veterans
are a vital part of the 99% movement committed to radically
restructure American society. He argued that the 99%, including vets,
must see the vital connections between the global capitalist system,
the military/industrial complex and the pain and suffering that have
generated war and economic insecurity in the twenty-first century.

Emanuele ended his talk with reference to the frank admission of
General Smedley Butler who oversaw the effort to crush the army of
Augusto Sandino in Nicaragua in the early 1930s. Butler admitted that
he, as a Marine General, had served as an instrumentality of Wall
Street, putting down popular rebellions in the service of profit.

To learn more about Vince Emanuele and his weekly radio show check out

To learn more about Iraq Veterans Against the War see http://ivaw.org/

See my blog at http://www.heartlandradical.blogspot.com/

The PJSA is a non-profit organization that was formed in 2001 as a
result of a merger of the Consortium on Peace Research, Education and
Development (COPRED) and the Peace Studies Association (PSA). Both
organizations provided leadership in the broadly defined fields of
peace, conflict and justice studies.

We are dedicated to bringing together academics, K-12 teachers and
grassroots activists to explore alternatives to violence, and share
visions and strategies for social justice and social change. PJSA also
serves as a professional association for scholars in the fields of
peace and conflict resolution studies.

For more information please visit our website at:

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