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Monday, May 18, 2015

Stan Goff, Retired US Army Special Forces Master Sergeant & Anti-War Campaigner's Interview with John Tognolini


“We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or where will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once. Who knows? Not even the Generals in what remains of the Pentagon or the New York papers calling for war seem to know who did it or where to look for them.
This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed--for anyone, and certainly not for a baffled little creep like George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child President, has been chosen by fate and the global oil industry to finish it off.”
Hunter. S. Thompson, Writer 1937 – 2005 on the 9/11 Attacks.

"The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag. I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defence of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket. There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, its "muscle men" to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big Boss" Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism. It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. "
Major General Smedley Butler, 1881-1940 War is a Racket.

  “Official Washington cannot tell the American people that the real purpose of its gargantuan military expenditures and belligerent interventions is to make the world safe for General Motors, General Electric, General Dynamics, and all the other generals.”
Michael Parenti, Historian

 “The Americans had this catch-all approach to lifting suspects. The tactics were draconian and completely ineffective. The Americans were doing things like chucking farmers into Abu Ghraib or handing them over to the Iraqi authorities, knowing full well they were going to be tortured.

The Americans had a well-deserved reputation for being trigger happy. In the three months that I was in Iraq, the soldiers I served with never shot anybody. When you asked the Americans why they killed people, they would say 'we were up against the tough foreign fighters'. I didn't see any foreign fighters in the time I was over there.

I can remember coming in off one operation which took place outside Baghdad, where we had detained some civilians who were clearly not insurgents, they were innocent people. I couldn't understand why we had done this, so I said to my troop commander 'would we have behaved in the same way in the Balkans or Northern Ireland?' He shrugged his shoulders and said 'this is Iraq', and I thought 'and that makes it all right?'

As far as I was concerned that meant that because these people were a different colour or a different religion, they didn't count as much. You cannot invade a country pretending to promote democracy and behave like that.”
Commenting in similar vein to another former British SAS soldier, Griffin also gives his account of how the Americans view Iraqis:

“As far as the Americans were concerned, the Iraqi people were sub-human, untermenschen. You could almost split the Americans into two groups: ones who were complete crusaders, intent on killing Iraqis, and the others who were in Iraq because the Army was going to pay their college fees. They had no understanding or interest in the Arab culture. The Americans would talk to the Iraqis as if they were stupid and these weren't isolated cases, this was from the top down. There might be one or two enlightened officers who understood the situation a bit better, but on the whole that was their general attitude. Their attitude fuelled the insurgency. I think the Iraqis detested them.””

Ben Griffin, interview for The Sunday Telegraph, he told Defence Correspondent Sean Rayment, 12 March 2006.

Stan Goff, a former United States “special ops” soldier who served on the ill-fated mission to Somalia (of Black Hawk Down fame) was a key speaker at Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference in Sydney at Easter 2005 organised by Green Left Weekly.

Stan was a Vietnam Veteran of the 82nd Airborne. He later became a Special Operations soldier in the U.S. Army (which included Paratroop, Ranger, Special Forces and so-called Counter Terrorist assignments) in every corner of the globe and into the highest echelons of U.S. serving as an infantryman, an Airborne Ranger, and as a member of the Special Forces and Delta Force.
Stan was deployed to Grenada, El Salvador, Columbia, Guatemala, Somalia, Peru and Haiti. He also trained troops in Panama, Venezuela, Honduras, South Korea and taught Military Science at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and tactics at Army’s Jungle School in Panama and worked in some cases directly under the supervision of the U.S. Embassy.

Since his retirement in 1996, Stan made a dramatic transition from elite soldier to outspoken critic of the U.S. military and Iraq War. He became a prominent figure in the anti-war campaigns by military families in the U.S.A.

Stan has also written a number of books, including Hideous Dreams-A Soldiers Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti and Full Spectrum Disorder: The Military in the New American Century.
At the time of the interview Stan’s son had returned from serving in Iraq and was waiting for deployment to Afghanistan.

John: Why did you join the military?

Stan: When I joined the military, both my parents were working in the same aircraft factory as riveters on the centre fuselage at McDonnell-Douglas.

John: And where was that?

Stan: That was in a suburb of St. Louis. We moved around a lot. My father chased work a lot. And everyone in our neighbourhood worked in the same place and what people talked was where they worked in the plant. What shift they were on and that kind a thing. That was pretty much the prospect that I saw in front of me.

It was 1969. I was out of high school. I was floating around. I was roaming the streets, probably on a fast track to getting into trouble. Or if I wasn’t going to get into trouble, work in the plant. And I bought the official sort of story. You know the Domino Theory and the world communist conspiracy and the threat.

So it wasn’t a big leap, I could go in the army, everybody would admire me because I was a soldier. I could go to Vietnam and fight. It was the typical thinking process of an eighteen year old boy that doesn’t have much else to look forward to and that’s what I did. And I got out, for the first time for four years. I reverted to reserve status, not on active duty, I found myself working in a sweatshop in Arkansas and the army started to look good again.

John: What happened when you came back from Vietnam?

Stan: I came back from Vietnam. I was in the 82nd Airborne and separated from active duty. I did what most did that came back from Vietnam. I used my GI Bill to go to college. Then I worked in a sweatshop. I had a daughter by then and some responsibilities to take care off and ended up back in.

And once you are in and especially if you advance a bit; you’ve got your standing, you’ve learnt some skills, you’re not treated like a recruit any longer, you have a little bit of authority. But the skills you have are not transferable to the civilian sector. So it becomes the easiest thing to do to continue to look after yourself and your family and you sign the reenlistment papers, next thing I know, I was in the military as a career.

John: Did you go back in the Airborne again?
Stan: Oh yeah. I spent about two years as a cavalry scout and found out that I did not like large track vehicles or motor pools and I ended up submitting my paper work to a reassignment to the 2nd Ranger Battalion and at that point I went into the special operations field and basically never got out it after that.

The Ranger Battalion is elite shock infantry and also a parachute infantry outfit. Then from the Ranger Battalion I progressed to other special operations forces and as a Small Unit Tactics Instructor at the Jungle School in Panama. In Panama I was assigned Special Operations Forces Delta for about four years. After that worked as Military Science Instructor at West Point, went back and run a platoon in the 1st Ranger Battalion and did what they call a qualifications course, and went into 7th Special Forces and was in the Task Force Ranger debacle they had in Somalia. I left there and went in the 3rd Special Forces. The 7th Special Forces our area of operation was Latin America. The 3rd Special Forces was Sub Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. It was that last assignment with 3rd Special Forces, when I was deployed to Haiti. That’s when I got in trouble in Haiti and I wrote the book Hideous Dreams-A Soldiers Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti about that and then retired.

And in that process I went to eight conflict areas, Vietnam through to Haiti.
John: What was so special about Haiti? What was the turning point for you?
Stan: I’m not too sure that Haiti was a turning point, but there were some circumstances that were unique in Haiti.

I’ve been struggling with issues around race ever since my experience in Vietnam. And race is a big issue in the military and a big issue in our culture generally. Racial issues became very stark in Haiti.

But I was already in the process as to my own transformation early in my assignment to West Point. I became familiar with of Nadine Gordimer who [1923-2014] was a South African Leftist who became a Noble Laurite and that in a way made me
a little more open minded. The first book I read of her’s was Burger's Daughter (1979) which was about the struggle of this woman, whose father had died in prison and he was a member of the South African Communist Party. And the humanisation of the Left through literature like that was part of that process.

Working in Guatemala and El Salvador directly under the supervision of the United States Embassy gave me a snapshot of the foreign policy establishment that most soldiers don’t have. I became very familiar with the inner workings of the US Embassy. That was where it begun to occur to me that there was an economic reason for a lot these foreign policies. And believe it or not I spent all this time in the military, gone to these different places, and understand that until then. I stared see how important the host country’s chamber of commerce was to the US embassies in places like Guatemala and El Salvador.

My mind was opening to the Left. I was beginning to see some structural similarities in different conflict areas, our role tended to be always siding with people in their war against the poor people. You know, you make a lot of excuses for yourself like that and certainly no one wants to go to jail or anything like that. I was in the process of going through a role conflict.

John: Let’s go back a bit. It’s generally regarded that Special Forces have always been the Central Intelligence Agency’s army, do you agree with that?

Stan: Well, yes. It’s changing now but certainly true that Special Forces are closely integrated with the work of the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency]. The whole establishment is networked together. That’s not to say that there are not bureaucratic turf wars with different agencies. There’s a sort of a revolving door especially since it has become less of an intelligence agency and more of a covert operations agency. With the revolving door between the Special Forces and the CIA, most of people involved in paramilitary operations are former Special Forces. The Special Forces primary operation is to work with indigenous forces in other nations. If the CIA was heavily involved in say political destabilisation or the prosecution of some kind of a war. Special Forces played an instrumental role primarily in training host nation forces and there’s always been a close relationship between Special Forces and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Now we are seeing the Agency sort of shuffled aside because there has always been sort of a contest between the power of the Department of Defence and the CIA. I think what we are seeing now with the CIA being made the scapegoat by claiming that all these lies they developed for a pretext for the war on Iraq were intelligence failures.

John: So what took place in Haiti?

Stan: Haiti was kind of a different situation. Haiti was the first time where we got ourselves involved for which we had no established doctrine. And they didn’t know exactly what to do. The only people who had any language capability at all in the army were Special Forces. And in 3rd Special Forces there were some of us who spoke Spanish, a good number of us spoke French, some that were actually trained in Creole. So 3rd Special Forces took a sort of a point mission inside the Task Force during the invasion and there was no way to go out and establish some sort of a presence in the rest the country without using Special Forces detachments. Which are small detachments of nine to twelve people, maximum. Mine had nine people, out into the hinterland, into the country side to establish some sort of a presence out there as a basis for future organisation of US diktat, into a post invasion milieu in Haiti.
They had spent three years intimidating and defaming Aristide, but they bought him back into the saddle of a US invasion. Tactically what we did was ‘Hubs and Spokes’. They established Special Forces battalion headquarters in key places around the country and pushed teams out on the Spokes.

What was interesting, unique about that I was running a team that was all the way out to the Dominican border. I was as far away as you could get from the capital and the Task Force headquarters, so I was physically out of reach. And I was not in a location that people wanted to visit, just to pass some time. It was a place called Forte Liberte. Long story short. I was there by myself and a nine man team and basically the defacto military dictator for an area of a thousand square kilometres. If that was what I wanted to be and the mission guidance was very vague. Normally a mission guidance is very specific, so you knew what was expected, but because no one knew where they were going with this invasion after they got there. Their mission guidance was to establish stability. You can’t come up with a more elastic kind of mission guidance and say we are going to establish stability.

At that point I was developing ideas that were very consciously socialist and I was very interested in the idea of Liberation Theology and the history of Aristide and sympathetic to the Lavalas movement. [Lavalas, a popular movement of peasants, workers, and some sectors of small business in Haiti. Began in the “ti egliz” or little church, as the network of Catholic parishes advocating for the poor. Combined elements of liberation theology with Haitian nationalism and opposed the autocratic system left behind 1915-34 United States Marine occupation of Haiti, of which Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier was an emblem though only in a series of autocrats. The word “lavalas” means flood. It was popularised by Father Jean-Bertrand Arisitde, who emerged as the national leader of the Lavalas Movement, was elected President of Haiti in its first open election in 1990, took office in 1991, and was deposed in a violent coup d’ etat eight months later. Each person, said Aristides, is like a mere drop of rain, and therefore insignificant by herself. But the combination of many drops of rain can be unified into a cleansing—flood.]

Now that was the movement that was crushed in the coup in 1991. The US actually subsidized and assisted and facilitated even though they turned it around in 1994. Primarily, because it wasn’t working very well. And so I had this autonomy and in those two months that I was there I was operating on my own and I was making decisions on my own. I was establishing relationships with actually establishing relationships members of the committee of Lavalas. I had the opportunity to start arresting people. I wasn’t arresting the people you’d normally think that Special Forces would arrest, which would be people who were dangerous to the ruling establishment of the country. I arrested the North East President of FRAPH. [ An acronym for the Allied Front for Progress in Haiti, FRAPH is phonetically the same as the French word for blow. Composed of military, former military, and members of the Tonton Macoutes , FRAPH was a network of right-wing death squads that was strengthened in the wake 1991 coup d’ etat against Aristide. FRAPH’s principle purpose, which it pursued with determination, was to annihilate the Lavalas Movement. It functioned as a kind of secret police on behalf of the Cedras. It was headed by Emmanuel “Toto” Constant, who also worked as an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency.] I arrested the former ambassador to France under Papa Doc [Nyll Calixte] I actually got a presidential reprimand for that.

John: This was under Clinton.

Stan: Yes, it was passed down orally all the way from the top, ’You cannot put ambassadors in jail!’ So I locked him up.

John: So what did he do? Why did you arrest him?

Stan: Because I went out and talked to the population and found out that they had been responsible for all this stuff. They had five thousand people killed. That’s considered conservatively in three years. They were going out there and trying to completely decapitate this popular political movement. And they were still doing right up until the day we arrived. It was like a local gang they used and when the sun rose up I had ten people in jail at Forte Liberte. Eventually all these guys got let lose except one and a couple I had arrested four people with my team when I was Gonaives, one of them is part of the new coup.

In a way I bent my team to my own will, until my own team rebelled against me, because my own team was being subjected to the daily intelligence summaries that we were received over the radio. Those intelligence summaries just like the intelligence summaries we got before Iraq had nothing to do with the interpretation of data or any other kind of interpretation of intelligence. They were basically screened anti-Aristide propaganda even though in the period that we were there to reinstall the legitimately elected president of Haiti. The so called intelligence we were receiving and the actual practice of the task force commander was to undermine his power in every way possible and the anti-Aristide propaganda we were getting under the guise of being intelligence summary were designed as guidance for the way we would relate to the Haitian population and various forces on the ground.

We were expected to read between the lines and to subdue our lot after I arrested a couple of members of FRAPH, these are death squads network, that operated under the Cedras, the defacto coup after the regime in 1999. These death squads were rehabilitated with the stroke of an American pen and they sent us down this mission that we have to release all these members of FRAPH. They are now the legitimate political opposition. Just like that. So I’m supposed to read between the lines. I was supposed to put the FAd’H, [Force Armee d’Haiti] the Haitian Armed Forces, the Haitian Police back in power. They said, ”You have to put them back on the street.” And you know I was doing some dumb stuff that I was eventually going to get caught at. So I said I put them on the street. I put them in positions in the shade trees and let them have their dominoes and give them their weapons but not their bullets and that got reported.
And everything I did eventually got reported and the end of this thing three months into the mission my own team rebelled against me. They said, ”You’re not supposed to do this stuff.” At the point they were accusing me of being seditious and then one day a jeep rolled up and relived me, searched all my bags, took the bullets away from me so I couldn’t shoot them or commit suicide. I don’t know what it was but it was crazy, it was nuts. I was subjected to a 15/6 Investigation. The only thing they could get on me that was legally binding was that I drank beer. Because there was a clause in general order one. There was a general blanket order that we were not to drink alcohol and it was universally ignored, everybody was drinking beer. The commanding general bought a case of beer, General Donavan bought a case of beer. One of The highest ranking generals in Special Forces bought a case of beer. This was the only thing they could get me on. They charged me with violation of general order one, but when they went to the investigation, the interviews all they were interested were what kind of contacts I had.
That’s all they were interested in and things that I said that were politically suspect. And the word sedition came up, “Don’t you think this is seditious?” One of the other accusations that came up was that was ironic, that I was to pro-Haitian. I said, ”OK I’m in Haiti,what am I supposed to be pro-Albanian? What does that mean I’m to pro-Haitian?” This sort of describes the mentality.

The other thing that came up was the issue of race, because I acted out on my anger one time and said something in front of my whole team, about how racist so many people were in Special Forces. It became a big issue during the investigation.

I got sent back to the States, threatened with a general court martial and I was just a hop, skip and a jump away from collecting my pension. And at that point I said “Court martial me and I’m going to tell all and we are going to go head to head and mud wrestle. We’ll talk about everything that happened in Haiti.”

In the course of three months, I heard about violations of general order one and violations of international law and everything else that had gone on all the way up to the level of O/C colonel in Haiti. I’m fighting for my life right now if you’re going to court martial, then I’m going to tell everybody everything and we are not going to talk about me.

The next day I get called into my battalion Sargent Major’s office. He calls me by my first name, “Have a seat Stan. We decided it is time for you to submit your retirement paper work.” I said “I agree with you 100 per cent. I’ll start working on my retirement paper work right away.” That was basically the end of my military career.

John: What rank were you finished.

Stan: I was a Master Sergeant.

John: What happened when you left the military?

Stan: Not much. I worked a couple of odd jobs. Then I ended up working as an organiser with an NGO that was dealing with politics. Even while I was waiting for my retirement paper work to go through, I became involved with a small, student based socialist organisation in North Carolina. I was going to their meetings and some of their events. I began to study social theory more thoroughly. I became very politically active in the campaign to defeat Jesse Helms, who was this fascist old guard segregationist. A senator from my state. We lost that. He won the election again. That was sort of the beginning of my political activism. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since and writing books.

John: Talking about your political activism. You’re very involved in Military Families Against the War. Can you say what Military Families is? And how it came about?

Stan: It is a group called Military Families Speak Out and it really just started with this couple, Charlie Richardson and Nancy Lesson and during the initial mobilisation before the 2003 ground offensive in Iraq and you had these massive mobilisations in October 2001 and 2003 in Washington DC. Nancy and Charlie had a son in the Marine Corp. And they went to one of these mobilisations and they had this big portrait photograph of him, about four feet tall. This picture of this young man in uniform and they had thing down there, ”Don’t Send My Son to Die for Oil!” While they were there, with the sign. You know, tens of thousands of people in the mall of Washington DC. Other people, who were part of the demonstration with family members in the military, came up to them. They said, ”Wait a minute. We’ve got to stay in touch.” And that was this military families peak organisation came to pass and there’s about 200 families. People who have loved ones in the military. So the Military Families Speak Out, these were wives, mothers, husbands, grand dads of soldiers. Veterans for Peace was a standing organisation that was an outgrowth of Vietnam Veterans against the War, because after a while, there was only so many people, who were Vietnam Veterans and they wanted a veterans antiwar organisation that could capture all those veterans that came after the Vietnam War Era, so they had Veterans for Peace.

After George Bush made that inane comment, ”Bring them on.” I’d written an article for Counterpunch which is an online Left wing journal, taking Bush to task about it. It was column size, maybe a thousand words, but my e-mail address was posted on it and in a couple of days I had two thousand e-mails responding. I touched a nerve with this thing, people were so angry about this comment Bush had made about, “Bring them on.” They were angry because it was un-statesmen like. They were angry because it was stupid, adolescent and macho. They were angry and a lot of them were angry because they had family members who were in theatre. So we went through the e-mail responses and we found out over forty per cent we’re veterans and military families. We said damn we’ve got something going on here. So we got on the phone and got hold of Nancy and Charlie form Military Families Speak Out. We got hold of Dave Kline from Veterans for Peace. And on the telephone within 48 hours we had coordinated a campaign between Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out and that campaign we call Bring Them Home Now. Instead of “Bring them on.” Bring Them Home Now.

We were shocked in how quickly it took off and its grown into a huge campaign. The membership of Military Families Speak Out has gone tenfold. Out of the network of Veterans for Peace there is a new group called Iraq Veterans Against the War. We basically established a speakers bureau and Veterans and Military Families and veterans of this invasion and occupation.

John: Your son was in Iraq?

Stan: When it first started out my son was in Iraq. He had just joined the army. He ended up in Ramadi which their preparing to turn into another Fallujah. He’s back now. He’s still in the military. He’s scheduled to go to Afghanistan next month.

John: Getting back to the War. What do you think of the analogy, that has been made between the United States as the new Romans on the block?

Stan: I think they see themselves that way. If you read the documents, later called the Wolfiwiltz doctrine, they see themselves as that. They see themselves as the new Romans. The only difference is that they see it as a permanent situation. The problem with that whole construction is that is that not one single initiative they’ve taken in that direction, since they used 9/11 as a pretext, has worked its worse. The interesting thing about Iraq is that they were going to in and pacify Afghanistan.

They have not been able to do that. In fact the Taliban is running around in battalion size elements in the south of Afghanistan, running around with near absolute impunity. The puppet president, Kazia is the mayor of Kabul. He has no capacity to extend his governance elsewhere. The heroin enriched warlords in the north are running everything up there. So that’s been a disaster. They do have some permanent military bases in Afghanistan. That was probably the permanent goal in the first place.

Any way they’re in a region now that is in deep jeopardy. They’ve created contradictions for the Pakistani government that are going to be impossible to sustain. Let’s not forget the Taliban was a creation of Mushrafi’s ISI.

John: During the war against the Soviets.

Stan: During the war against the Soviets. Everything that Mushrafi’s doing on behalf of the United States right now is incredibly unpopular in his own armed forces and security apparatus. They were two attempts on his life, that could have not been attempted without inside information. He’s got his own people trying to kill him right now. This has the potential to destabilise a nuclear power that is adjacent to a hostile power, India who is also a nuclear power. How stupid is that?

Now we go to the next one, Iraq. Iraq they were going to go in there, invade the place. A minimal troop commitment. It was going to be over in two days. They claimed initially. They were going to conquer Bagdad in two days, everybody was going to throw roses at them like the Allies marching into Paris in 1944. And none of that stuff came to pass. They not only had a political defeat from the outcome. It took them four weeks to get to Bagdad….

They’re sitting on one of the richest oilfields in the world. They’ve created a situation where they thought they were going in and restabilise and reconcentrate in the area their military forces in South West Asia from their old Cold War dispositions and use that as the basis of restructuring the world’s geopolitical architecture, in a way so they could control the tap on the energy resources coming out of South West Asia, every single thing they’ve tried gone wrong, even from their own perspective, it’s all gone wrong. It’s a complete disaster. The only reason no one in the United States knows what’s going on is because that the one thing these people are masterful at is bullshit. Propaganda, their great spin artists and they’ve convinced everyone that we are making progress.

John: One thing you’re touching on is the role of the media.

Stan: Well, who’s media is it any? Do you know what news channel the GIs get in Iraq?

John: Murdoch’s Fox network if you call it a news channel.

Stan: It’s not news. It’s Murdoch. It’s a right wing propaganda channel. Thank you Australia you sent him to us.

John: He hasn’t been an Australian for over twenty years.

Stan: The other thing is that the administration is very successful at mobilising demagogic appeals. The most demagogic appeal is the patriot appeal. No one in the media wants to be perceived as somehow unpatriotic. They get caught up in the same source of hysteria that seizes the whole population. One of the things that is interesting is my experience in El Salvador. I talked to a reporter from the Chicago Tribune. In fact I bought her a beer and we sat around and chatted for a while after this big Independence Day celebration in El Salvador. I asked her do you guys report on the stuff that is going on? I knew what was going on. A guy that I used to work with told me, ”That we are training the best right wing death squads in the world.” Working directly out of  the [US] embassy. How come you don’t report what the El Salvadorans are doing in Morazan? She said, ”Are you crazy? I can’t report that. If I reported that I would never have access to my sources inside the embassy again.” So they will basically impose an official spokesperson embargo on any news organ that strays to far afield. There’s a lot of questions that you can’t raise about this war without implicitly raising things about capitalism and the capitalist press is not willing to go there.

John: There’s an old saying about war that truth is the first casualty. In one of your interviews on American Public Radio you made the point about this being the most stage managed war ever.

Stan: Yes it is. It is totally a war of images and the offensive is not against anyone else but the American public to continue to get there acquiescence. They haven’t got their consent really. There’s no popular support for the war. All they have managed to gain is their acquiescence, which is enough for the time being.

John: Saying that how important are Military Families in lessening the gain they’ve got in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Stan: There’s two dimensions of its importance, one is that anything that we are doing right now to undermine the ability of the military as an institution to carry out its mission is a positive and the creation of not just the Military Families campaign and the larger veteran organisations is a way to begin to hollow out some of the capacity. That is now beginning to support open disobedience and dissent among the military population is a way to begin to hollow out some of the capacity. The biggest, the most important destructive influence on the institution of the military is the Iraq war itself. We can’t replace that. That’s what has created the main problem. All we are doing is taking advantage of it, by using it as a teachable moment to begin to raise the level of conscious among people inside the institution, to contend for these people, because the military is a bureaucracy in one dimension but on another dimension its people. It is people that we know friends, families and neighbours and so forth. The right to contend for their loyalty, especially if our justifiable perception is quite right, their under the control of a gangster government right now. The institutional impact it has on the military itself. I think if we have a special role to play in the Anti-War movement because Military Families and Veterans have a certain degree of immunity from the kind of demagogic patriot baiting that is directed at everybody else in the Anti-war movement. It is very difficult, but they try it. George Bush comes up and says,” You’re not supporting the troops.” In fact, don’t tell me about not supporting troops. My offspring is one of them. You can’t get away with that. And veterans have a certain extra element of credibility in any discussion on war and peace. So the credibility and immunity of the kind of patriot baiting on the one hand and we have a special sort of inroad to develop into the military itself to weaken the willingness of people inside the institution itself, to continue serve it uncritically. So that’s where the two dimensions of Military Families and Veterans organisations together are uniquely important. Not privileged among all Anti War sectors but certainly important.

John: Is this just a war over oil?

Stan: No. I think that is a simplification. I’m no expert on this. I have a blog called Feral Scholar. That’s what I am a Feral Scholar. I’m someone who looks up a lot of stuff on my own, like a lot of people do now days. I’m not a credentialed academic or a Middle East expert or an expert or anything like that. I don’t have to go to the library anymore to do research. I can do it on the World Wide Web. There’s an avalanche of information out there, if you can make some sense of it. And everything I’ve been able to research, leads me to believe and usually straight from the horse’s mouth, read the documents like The Project for a New America, Century for a New American Empire, the Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute, all these right wing think tanks.

They’ve created their ideological foundation for what we see going on right now. They stated years ago what their intent was. This is a key area of the world, especially when they are facing competition with China. A steep, industrial development turn right now. And the production of oil worldwide is beginning to peak, it is becoming a much more critical resource. The idea is not steal the oil. The US doesn’t need to steal oil. Saddam Hussein would have sold us all the oil we wanted. Anybody would have sold us the oil. And we are getting cheap as it is. At fifty dollars a barrel we are getting it cheap. When you consider, how much work you get done, out of a given unit of fossil fuel. But when you’re in a position with military bases to control the region, then you’ve got your finger on the tap. And the finger on the tap is not an attack on the Muslim World. The attack on the Muslim World right now is an instrumental attack but it’s directed against future competitors towards places like China, Western Europe. And you know, the rest of the world be dammed. Instead to continue them with loan sharking regime, that we have in the IMF.

The goal is not to steal oil. The goal and this is really important for to understand, to have some sort of criteria to gauge the level of Success, the goal is to establish permanent military bases in the region. That is a permanent military presence in the region.

When the whole world system was defined by the conflict between the US and Soviet Union, where did we have the troops? We had them in Korea. We had them in Germany. That system has changed so what we are doing now is picking up these military forces up and reconcentrating them in a new place, so a new geopolitical military architecture that they are trying to impose but what they didn’t factor in was the people in the region might not perform according to the script. And the Iraqis are not performing to the script with the resistance.
John: Iraq has been compared to Vietnam. As a Vietnam Veteran what do you think of that comparison?

Stan: Not only has the situation not improved on the ground but the situation has not improved politically but the longer they stay there the more they bring down the institution itself. We are seeing a material degradation of the capacity of the US military. We’ve got people going back for their third tour in less than three years. That’s a much higher operational tempo than the operational tempo that tore us apart in Vietnam. That cannot be sustained indefinitely. They’re going to have to draft or do something differently than what they are doing right now because they can’t sustain it. The other thing it has done is tie up the capacity to organise a ground offensive, they’ve still got plenty of naval and air force capacity if they want to go and bomb somebody, there’s more than enough capacity to do that, but to go and occupy somebody, their done. They’re not occupying any places. They barely occupied Haiti. They had to go and blackmail Brazil and Argentina and Chile to take up the occupation of Haiti after they organised a coup, this last year because they couldn’t even afford one battalion of Marines to protect the rich up in Paton Ville. They had to go and get somebody else to take over. In a way they created breathing space for popular resistance around the world. I’m sure they would love to something right now in Venezuela right now, except they haven’t got capacity to do it. I was there in 1992 when Chavez was locked up. What is going on right now is Chavez is in the process of arming his population. He just made a deal with Russia. Who is sort of mad at the United States. Because they’ve gone around into the former Soviet republic to gain influence as we speak the Russians are sending a hundred thousand Kalashnikovs to Chavez but they’ve only got twenty thousand soldiers, so they are arming the population. Venezuela is preparing itself right now for a resistance if necessary to a United States invasion. They are already a formidable opponent. The Venezuelan army is not to be toyed with. They’re a very competent military and are in a large part loyal to the democratic forces of the Chavezista Revolution. There are other people doing the same thing around the world. These popular movements are advancing right now and they consolidating their gains, because the United States is tied down. George Bush and his administration have probably done more in many ways to advance our cause right now. They’ve created a lot of space for people to consolidate their popular gains around the world by tying up the military in South West Asia. But look at what they’ve done to the forces on the Left inside the United States. This is the highest level of collaboration since the 1960s and early 70’s on the Left.

John: Going back to Vietnam.

Stan: Going back to Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement, the struggle against American Apartheid follow by the Vietnam Anti War Movement. We didn’t have much to but squabble on the Left. All of a sudden there’s one project we can all give way and work on and that’s opposition to the war. So it has not only strengthened the Left, we’ve seen an expansion of the people who have got involved in the Anti-War Movement, we find more and more of them have moved from an anti-war consciousness to an anti-imperialist consciousness. And we are seeing the people who consciously identify with the Left forces

The Neo-con project has actually helped us. Maybe I’m an incurable optimist but I don’t want to see a hundred thousand Iraqis killed or a million Iraqis killed by sanctions, or my son or someone like him killed. This is totally an optimistic scenario this has created conditions that are less favourable to the American Bourgeois, where before they started this adventure.

John: How important do you think the internet is building opposition to this war?

Stan: You’ll have to talk to someone much smarter than me. I mean I’ve learned how to use a mouse and weave around the web but I don’t speak that special kind of language, especially young folk. I think for the time being at least until they figure out how to control that, it does have potential especially in metropolitan countries like the United States and Australia where a lot of people are on line. It has huge potential as in run democratic medium to get information out there to people that is being spiked by the capitalist press and it that it has been very effective. It is not just effective in getting information out. It is an easy to overcome some of the geographical difficulties of us being spread out all over the place. The flip side of all that is that we have to be real careful that we don’t end up spending all our time in our little computer rooms with our mouse and begin to think that sending messages back and forth on the internet can’t replace face to face activism. The society already got us isolated and atomised let’s not make it worse. All just becoming computer geeks sitting in computer rooms and talk about our politics. Let use this medium to amplify our work but let not forget that the work we do is with real people.