Will there be a second Vietnam in Iraq? This question was already asked before the US aggression started in March 2003 when the anti-war movement came into existence. It was huge and reminiscent of that of the 1960s and 70s. After the invasion had run according to plan and without meeting any great resistance, only the most active anti-war opponents continued to actively protest. Among those are such organisations as "Military Families Speak Out" (in which people who have relatives in the army are organized), and "Veterans For Peace". In mid-August they started the "Bring them home now!" campaign. This slogan is an allusion to George Bush's arrogant remark, "Bring 'em on!", that he made about armed Iraqi resistance in July 2.
When they sent the GIs to the Middle East the US politicians, officers and the corporate media explained to them that they would be fighting for a good cause, defending their own country, liberating Iraq and, of course, finding weapons of mass destruction. So far they haven't found any weapons of mass destruction and the majority of the Iraqi people didn't welcome the GIs as liberators and quite a few of them are now offering quite fierce resistance to the occupation.
The propaganda lies are collapsing like a house of cards and the ordinary soldiers are recognizing more and more how they were and are still lied at. They were promised they would be returned to their families as fast as possible but now they are stuck in Iraq and nobody knows when they will be going home. There is also the fact that the living conditions are often very poor, to say nothing of the daily attacks by the Iraqi guerrilla movement.
Lou Plummer, a member of the campaign, describes the conditions as follows: "There are people there who have spent 140-150 days with no hot food, the temperature there is 120 degrees, and they’re getting three liters of rationed water a day. The tools of war making are flowing in, but the basic needs of the soldiers are not. The guys are writing home saying, ‘Please send me toothpaste’, ‘Please send me toilet paper’. And yet, when you go to the military to ask them to comment on this, you're talking to career soldiers who say everything's fine, we’re gonna kick some Iraqi ass. And it’s just bullshit."
The conditions are not only miserable because of the climate and the food supply, they are even deadly. "Modern battlefields are full of lethal toxic wastes, including radioactive depleted uranium. Over 30% of the troops deployed in the 1991 Gulf War have some sort of disability, mainly the poorly understood Gulf War Syndrome, and they were only in the region a short time. The new "mystery pneumonia" which has already killed several troops in Iraq is only the tip of the iceberg." ("Bring them home"-FAQ's)
The GIs are becoming disillusioned and the mood is getting worse daily. Only a few of them joined the army for patriotic reasons, e.g. to defend their country or to take revenge for 9/11. Most of them are from a working class background and joined for social and financial reasons, "poverty draft" as the Americans call it. The young people hope to improve their social position, e.g. to get into a college program, as there are hardly any civilian job programs in the "richest country in the world".
"If you live in Harlem, and you want to get a job where you can make $20,000 a year and have health insurance and educational benefits and get the hell out of Harlem, your choices are pretty much to join the military, and nothing else. That’s what’s there for you. So, they did have a choice. They had a choice to stay at home where the average life expectancy for a male person of color is about 35, where half the people of color staying in that environment end up being convicted of a felony--or joining the military", says Lou Plummer.
Fighting in a war means that a soldier has to kill people or see how enemies or friends are killed and this changes the whole personality of a young person emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. They came to Iraq thinking they were there to help other people but soon learnt that they were not wanted. Many of them have begun to question why they are here and want to return home as soon as possible. Others may start to hate the Iraqis and commit atrocities, as happened in Vietnam.
Many of the GIs who are deployed in Iraq are reservists. They are usually away from home one weekend per month to be a soldier or brought into action when there are natural disasters. They have now been in Iraq for several months and have been left in the dark about their return. And when they do get back home to the States they will rethink their commitment as reserve soldiers and many of them will certainly quit. Dan Kline, President of "Veterans For Peace", thinks, "the whole situation is shaking the military to its foundations. (…) After this, reserve recruitment is going to collapse."
The campaign "Bring them home now!" wants to mobilize military families, veterans, active duty personnel, reservists and others opposed to the ongoing war and put an end to the occupation of Iraq and other misguided military adventures and an immediate return of all US troops to their home duty stations.
In a country where the corporate media unanimously mobilized for this war and where so far - as it has become clear that the Bush administration told lies and is still telling lies to the US and the world public - they have not fundamentally criticized the aggression, it is necessary to make the real facts public. Military families have been writing to their Congressman or -woman, writing letters to the editors, which are often published in local papers, or encouraging GIs to report about their situation in Iraq.
The campaign presents its ideas about post-war Iraq on its website as follows, "We absolutely have a responsibility to help clean up the mess that we have helped to create. We have a responsibility to help re-build the country that we helped destroy. But the reconstruction of Iraq cannot take place under US military occupation, it cannot happen at gunpoint. It cannot truly begin until the US has ceded military control. This is yet another reason we say: Bring Them Home Now! Much of the chaos and violence in Iraq right now is in direct response to the U.S. military occupation. The critical first step to creating order and civil society in Iraq is a commitment by the U.S. to end the military occupation and remove the U.S. military presence from the country." ("Bring them home"-FAQ's)
Campaigns such as "Bring them home now" can appear – for now - as mere pinpricks against the military machine in Iraq and the USA. Remember however how the war in Vietnam came to an end. As mentioned before the USA was in an internal war in the 1970s as lots of soldiers were fed up and wanted to return home. Most importantly, however, was the anti-war movement in the US. In the beginning the protest against the war was organized by the youth, students, artists and intellectuals, but later it reached its climax, when a large part of the American working class joined the demand for an immediate end to the war. This was a long process because the leaders of AFL-CIO under George Meaney supported the US aggression without reservation. As early as 1965, however, local union branches took the view that the US should end the war. In 1969 the UAW (car workers union) and the Teamsters (transport workers union) split from the AFL-CIO and started the Alliance for Labor Action that demanded an immediate termination of war. The majority of the union members supported the Democrat candidate Mc Govern in the 1972 election who also opposed the war and wanted to bring the troops back. The fight against the war in Vietnam radicalised the American workers; there was an increasing number of strikes including wildcat strikes.
Jonathan Clyne wrote about this in his article "How US imperialism was defeated in Vietnam" on marxist.com, "No parliaments were stormed, no barricades were built and no presidents were overthrown in the U.S. (at least not until two years after the American troops had been withdrawn). Yet the American working class possessed enough strength to bring the troops home, at least once it had decided that it didn't want to see its sons die for a cause they didn't believe in, a cause that they had to pay for and only favoured the establishment." (Jonathan Clyne: How US imperialism was defeated in Vietnam).
The US working class as well as the middle class will have to pay for this war, too. The living conditions under the Bush administration have got worse and will continue to get even worse, as it is only possible to finance this war by a redistribution of the national budget. The expenditures for the social system, education, health and housing will be cut rigidly and the profits of the monopolies in the armaments industry will go up massively. The US unions will, sooner or later, have to express the mood that is developing among ordinary working class Americans and they will be forced to consider their power and use this to mobilise against Bush and his neo-conservative gang of warmongers.