TP: You joined the US army in 2001 aged 17 and in March 2003 you were deployed to Iraq for a period of 12 months. What was your motivation for joining the military and how did your perceptions of the ‘case for war’ and the actions of US government change after you left the army in 2005 compared with the time prior to your deployment?
MP: I joined the military because I believed in my heart that the United States was a force for good in the world. It was that same reason that led me to deploy to Iraq in 2003 because I believed that I would be helping people. My views about the US government and its role in the world before and after deploying to Iraq were turned completely upside down. I went from believing that I was some heroic savior, to realizing that I was nothing more than a thug for oil companies, defense contractors, and the banks.
In 2008, you planned to stand as a candidate for the ‘Party of Socialism and Liberation’ (PSL) in the congressional elections in the state of Florida. What alternatives to the current political system does the PSL, formed in 2004, have to offer the American people?
While I ran for office in 2008, we had no illusions about electoral politics. “Democracy” in the United States is a completely closed political process, accessible only to those who have the backing of the rich. The PSL does not seek to change society by running in elections, but by completely overturning the capitalist economic system, which can only happen through a revolution. A socialist economy would take control of the wealth of society, which is created by our collective labor, and use it to meet human need instead of super-profits for a tiny few. Under this system, health care would be free and accessible to everyone, as would a quality education through to the highest level. Everyone would have the right to a home and a job. Imperialist wars would immediately end, and systemic racism, sexism and homophobia would be eradicated. The possibilities for life under a planned economy in the interests of human needs are endless, and it is the only alternative to the current system that has clearly proven to be inhumane and criminal.
In 1971, over a hundred Vietnam veterans gathered to share their experiences of the atrocities that they had either witnessed or had been forced to take part in during the course of the Vietnam war. The event was known as ‘Winter Soldier’. In 2008, a similarly named event was initiated by the group ‘Iraq veterans against the war (IVAW) which saw Iraq and Afghanistan veterans sharing testimonies. As one of the veterans who took part, do you feel that the event achieved its intended aims?
Winter Soldier was a historic event that exposed the true brutal nature of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. However, there was a total blackout in the bourgeois media. This came as no surprise, since the mega-corporations that own all the mainstream media outlets also own companies that make billions of dollars off of the wars. Winter Soldier showed the need for a mass people’s movement to fight back against the hegemony of capital.
In the long term, do you think that the Obama administration’s foreign policy will be significantly different to that of the Bush administration?
Obama’s foreign policy will be slightly different on the surface but the same exact goals and interests are in place. While there is a different president, he is ultimately beholden to big corporations, banks, and Wall Street. Whatever differences there are between Obama’s foreign policy and Bush’s, none of them are progressive. Every single foreign policy action that Obama takes serves to strengthen US imperialism.
The ANSWER coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), of which you are a coordinator, has been campaigning to stop the military recruiting in schools, colleges and in the community. Is military recruitment from amongst the school and college students widespread in the US and what degree of success has ANSWER had in curtailing this process?
Military recruitment in the US heavily targets people from poor and working class communities. While no draft exists in the US, there is an economic draft for young people who have no access to an education, a job, job training, health care, etc. The wars of the rich are fought with the blood of the poor. While the ANSWER coalition and its allies have won some victories against recruitment in schools, it is only a small drop in the bucket. The majority of US troops are poor and working people driven to join out of necessity sent to kill other poor and working people who fight out of necessity for the super-profits of a small minority of owners. The only way to truly stop this is a mass movement that overturns the system of imperialism.
Pro-war politicians have stated the importance of ‘supporting the troops’. Have the ever increasing numbers of military personnel speaking out against the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan lead to a significant shift in public opinion in the US turning against the wars?
The GI movement is a dynamic component of the anti-war movement and has made great strides in changing people’s consciousness. However, much more work needs to be done. The war in Iraq is off the front page and tens of thousands more troops are being poured into the criminal war in Afghanistan. Public opinion has shifted, but a much larger shift is needed to force this government to end the wars. That is what we are fighting for in the ANSWER coalition.
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This post was written by Tomasz Pierscionek