Iraq War veteran Mike Prysner has been an antiwar activist for fifteen years. He has been arrested demonstrating outside the Capitol building, helped active-duty soldiers refuse orders to fight in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and organized grieving families who’ve lost enlisted or veteran loved ones to war or suicide. Prysner founded the organization March Forward! in 2008. Today, he’s an antiwar journalist, having cowritten and produced multiple documentaries for the program The Empire Files, hosted by his wife, Abby Martin. He’s also a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. As US troops withdraw from Afghanistan, Jacobin’s Meagan Day caught up with Prysner to talk about why the United States stayed in Afghanistan so long, despite knowing it was losing the war and destroying countless lives.
Chris Lombardi, editor at Democratic Left Online, stops by the podcast to discuss her new book “I Ain’t Marching Anymore: Dissenters, Deserters, and Objectors to America’s Wars”. It’s an amazing history of military dissenters, conscientious objectors, and their hard, but determined path of dissent. She will be hosting a live stream on Nov 10, 2020, at 4pm PST. Click here to register for the event! Journalist Chris Lombardi has been writing about war and peace for more than twenty years. Her work has appeared in The Nation, Guernica, the Philadelphia Inquirer, ABA Journal...
America’s military industrial complex and multiple presidential administrations have funnelled several generations of soldiers through unwinnable wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq seemingly without qualms. What has emerged from these tragedies are thousands of traumatized young Americans bringing home wars and leaving behind millions of innocent civilians killed, wounded and forced to become refugees. But some of these former soldiers also came home with an urgent new perspective to share with their compatriots.
When it comes to debate about US military policy, the 2020 presidential election campaign is so far looking very similar to that of 2016. Joe Biden has pledged to ensure that “we have the strongest military in the world,” promising to “make the investments necessary to equip our troops for the challenges of the next century, not the last one.” In the White House, President Trump is repeating the kind of anti-interventionist head feints that won him votes four years ago against a hawkish Hillary Clinton. In his recent graduation address at West Point, Trump re-cycled applause lines from 2016 about “ending an era of endless wars” as well as America’s role as “policeman of the world.” In reality, since Trump took office, there’s been no reduction in the US military presence abroad, which last year required a Pentagon budget of nearly $740 billion.
US military rank and file soldiers and sailors are being ravaged by an invisible enemy — the same enemy that is killing civilians across the country – COVID-19. This presents a quandary for the US military: do they prioritize readiness to launch wars and continue the many imperialist objectives the US is pursuing in places like Venezuela, Iran, Syria, Yemen, the Asian Sea, Europe, Africa, Latin America, etc. . . . or do they take seriously the wholesale threat of COVID-19 to the lives of US GIs and sailors? The Pentagon is suppressing the breadth of the infection of its rank and file forces and mostly disregarding any real effort to minimize their casualties. The US does not want the rest of the world – that it constantly bullies, invades, bombs, and threatens - to know that it is militarily vulnerable right now due to the depleted morale and health of the rank and file.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of both the Moratorium and Mobilization, it’s worth recalling one critical anti-war constituency whose role was less visible then and remains little-acknowledged today. Fortunately, three Vietnam-era activists have just published Waging Peace in Vietnam (New Village Press, 2019), which gives long-overdue credit to anti-war organizing by men and women in uniform, and their civilian allies and funders.
While on active duty, Lt. Susan Schnall dropped antiwar leaflets over five military installations and an aircraft carrier from a small plane, held a press conference, and lead a mass peace march while in uniform. She’s been resisting war ever since. “It became more and more obvious to me as I took care of these guys and physically got them better that I couldn’t heal them psychologically, and I certainly couldn’t heal their souls. And I thought, “I’ve become a part of the military. I need to do something about this, and we need to end this war. I understood that there would be repercussions."