Message to Gulf War Veterans from Jeff Paterson

Break Your Contract of Silence

Revolutionary Worker #946, March 1, 1998

The following message is from Jeff Paterson. On August 16, 1990 Jeff--an active duty Marine Corps corporal at the time--became the first of hundreds of military resisters to the Gulf War. He went on a hunger strike and declared, "I will not be a pawn in America's power plays for profits and oil in the Middle East...[I will refuse] to board the plane...and if I am drug out into the Saudi desert, I will refuse to fight."

At the Marine Corps base in Hawaii, Jeff was ordered to board a military transport plane bound for Saudi Arabia. Jeff sat down on the tarmac and refused to board. He was arrested and taken to the brig. Jeff spent three weeks in the brig before being assigned to restricted duty pending courtmartial. He faced charges carrying a total of five years imprisonment. In December 1990, the military was forced to drop the charges, and Jeff was discharged.

Jeff spent the next two years publishing a nationally distributed newsletter of military resistance, The Anti-WARrior. He continues to be a supporter of revolutionary and national liberation struggles around the world.

The U.S. government is once again poised to launch a military attack on Iraq. For those of us who were the "troops" the first time around back in 1990, this brings back many memories. Many of us knew something was just not right. Hundreds of us openly opposed the war and many did time in the brig for it. I was the first of such "troops" who refused to fight. As an active duty Marine Corps Corporal, I publicly denounced the U.S. troop build up. A few weeks later, I broke ranks and sat down on the airstrip as my unit boarded a plane to Saudi.

I have never regretted the stand I took.

Now it's 1998. Iraq--once a highly developed country--has had its entire infrastructure crumpled. Through the cruelty of U.S. bombing and sanctions the Iraqi people have been deprived of basic human essentials: medicine, food, safe drinking water. Sewer systems are non-existent, and Iraq's once modern health care system has been reduced to 17th century levels. 1.5 million people have died since March 1991, over 750,000 of these were children under the age of five years old. While this goes on, America's partner Turkey hunts down and massacres Kurdish people throughout northern Iraq with impunity.

Here at home, tens of thousands of veterans are sick with debilitating symptoms, many dying from "Gulf War Syndrome." The Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses tries to convince us that "an important contributing factor to" the fatigue, rashes, body aches, memory loss, and birth defects of our children is stress--or to put it another way--it's all in our heads! It is also no surprise the "committee concludes it is unlikely that" the government's use of experimental drugs, the exposure to chemical and biological agents from the chemical weapons depots we bombed, the depleted uranium shells used and the massive exposure to pesticides have anything to do with your illnesses.

Since U.S. troops returned from the Gulf in 1991, some of us have broken our silence. MPs have described what it was like cleaning up the Highway of Death: hurriedly dumping hundreds of burnt bodies in mass graves--before the press was escorted in. Engineers have told how they were ordered to methodically bulldoze Iraqi bunkers, burying alive Iraqis who tried to surrender. Infantrymen have told of orders to kill those trying to surrender--mowing them down with 50 caliper machine gun fire, leaving only a "red mist in the air." It's time to dig up more truth, to bring it front and center.

Maybe you haven't told anybody what you saw or did in the Gulf. It's time to break the contract of silence with the U.S. government. It's time to speak the truth. Not only should we speak out against any renewed bombing and continued sanctions, but as the "troops" who are repeatedly called upon to do the government's dirty work, let's demand: "NO U.S. Troops Anywhere, Anytime!" We need to oppose all U.S. military intervention under any guise and challenge those in the military today to understand that The People of the World are Not Our Enemy--They are Our Sisters and Brothers!

As veterans of all eras, we in Vietnam Veterans Against the War Anti-Imperialist have learned that there is no glory in fighting, killing and dying for Uncle Scam. We support all GI resistance to the U.S. war machine. What you do now can and will make a difference--It is not too late to act.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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