Veterans Speak Out, Part 2

Ross Caputi in Iraq.

by Ross Caputi

 Veteran Privilege

I worry that by using the authority and privilege of veteran voices to spread our antiwar message and deflect criticism, we in the antiwar movement have inadvertently made veterans into a kind of propaganda, packaging an antiwar message within a familiar warrior ethos. In effect, we are using the very same culture of soldier worship that we should be dismantling.

I worry also that the antiwar movement assumes a “truthiness” about veteran war narratives. The common refrain is that no one knows the horrors of war better than veterans. However, the experiences of veterans do not always lend themselves to a single antiwar interpretation. To assume that they do is just another iteration of what James Campbell has called combat gnosticism — “a construction that gives us war experience as a kind of gnosis, a secret knowledge which only an initiated elite knows.”

The culture of the antiwar movement has created a kind of veteran identity politics that regards veteran voices as given goods. But combat gnosticism can be dangerous when it leads us to become uncritical of our soldiers, even the ones who share our political beliefs.

I’m not saying that veterans have nothing to offer the antiwar movement. I’m arguing that we should not rely on them as sources of informational or moral truth. This does not help us build a culture of critical, independent thinking, responsibility, equality, and antimilitarism.

An alternative contribution that antiwar veterans could make is to offer stories and self-reflection that renounce the authority and privilege we enjoy in our society, that recognize our moral agency, that confess our mistakes in enlisting and participating in unjust wars, and that announce our responsibility to our war victims. This would be a first step in a process toward full reparations that not only seek to repair the harm done, but that also address the root causes of the violence: power, privilege, and imperialism.

Ross is the cofounder of the Islah Reparations Project. He is also the director of the documentary film Fear Not the Path of Truth: a veteran’s journey after Fallujah. The full essay can be read at


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Recovering from the Violence Done

323 Kennington Rd, London. Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March. Annually on the 1st August, which marks emancipation for the abolishment of slavery in the Caribbean, The Afrikan Heritage Community come together to stand in solidarity and March to Parliament, where laws of slavery were made. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author: Jordiferrer.

By Kathie MM

Violence is oozing its way steadily into our daily lives — into our theaters, churches, homes, and schools. It’s happening right here in the US, but also around the world with a little help from Uncle Sam. If anyone wants to make America great, they should start by reifying nonviolence.

A tremendous effort was made to promote and preserve peace after the two vicious 20th-century World Wars. Countries in Africa and elsewhere were released from the bondage of colonization, a universal convention on human rights was adopted, and international peacekeeping groups were created.And two superpowers emerged — the USSR and the US — and the Cold War began, played out in lots of deadly proxy wars, comfortably away from the nations trying to rebuild their lands and their budgets.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union shrank, and the United States extended its greedy military fingers into all corners of the globe. People primarily of different hues and faiths than the US power elite suffered in untold ways, and the nation’s defense budget expanded, effectively robbing the poor (and increasingly the middle class) to make the rich richer.It’s time for a change.

On one level, the change must be a major political and social rebellion against the military-industrial complex that profits so highly from the death and destruction they impose most obviously on civilians elsewhere, but also on the people at home who bear the burden of the war machine’s costs.

But it’s not enough to resist evil; we must also devote ourselves to particular reactions — to redressing the harm that the nation’s violence has caused civilians in countless (mostly poor) countries around the world, reconciling with the people in countries we have identified as enemies or have raped of resources, repairing the damage our pursuit of profit has inflicted on the environment, and making reparations for the harm our country has done.

In the next two posts, guest author Ross Caputi focuses on reparations.


Posted in Armed conflict, capitalism, colonialism, Environmental impacts of war, Human rights, imperialism, Military-industrial complex, Nonviolence, politics, Poverty, Protest, racism, Reconciliation and healing, resistance, Uncategorized, Understanding violence, War tax | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Afghanistan: A Veteran’s Perspective


E Battery Royal Horse Artillery escaping from the overwhelming Afghan attack at the Battle of Maiwand, from “Maiwand: Saving the Guns” by Richard Caton Woodville. In the public domain.

by Michael J. Corgan

I don’t consider myself a pacifist. I believe there will always be those who choose to resort to war for little or no good reason and others of us must deal with them. However, sometimes we ourselves are the ones who resort to war for little or no good reason.

Those of us who were in the military as a profession have a particular moral responsibility to speak out.

Like my longtime colleague Andy Bacevich, I am a service academy graduate. I served several tours in wars whose justification was uncertain at best. Like him I am concerned about our propensity to get into wars with no justification: Mexico in 1846, Spain in 1898, Woodrow Wilson’s 20th century Latin American invasions, Granada and Panama in 1982, Iraq in 2003, and others.

At the Naval War College in the late 1970s we began  studying Thucydides and Clausewitz to try to determine why we, a supposed 1st-rate military power, lost to North Vietnam, a supposed 4th-rate military power.

From Thucydides one learns how easily the arrogance of power leads to foolish and disastrous military adventures, in which many are killed for no worthy aim.

From Clausewitz a more important lesson, know when to quit–when you’re not going to ‘win’ and all you’re doing is killing people, however worthy the original reason.

What prompts my concern now is our war in Afghanistan, the longest war in our history. According to New York Times interviews with commanders there,  we are farther from ‘winning’ than ever.

According to international law, we probably had justification for going to war after the Al Qaeda attacks of 9/11 – that group operated with either the acquiescence of the Taliban or the inability of Taliban to prevent using their country as the operations base. But after 14 years, what is our justification for continuing this war that kills civilians without end?

Five hundred years ago, the Mongols couldn’t control the land; 200 years ago the British began their futile attempt to control it; in the last century the Russians also failed.  Now, in our arrogance we think we can create a stable country- though we come as foreigners, don’t speak any of the languages, and are infidels.

It isn’t working. and meanwhile people who want no part of either side are dying. There needs to be a solution to problems in that unhappy land but we and our war aren’t providing it even with all our incredible precision weapons and dropping of the largest conventional bomb ever.

The only right thing to do is to extract ourselves and admit the final answer, if there is one, will be attained by those who live there. The moral imperative is that we must go home.


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