The Time Is Right for a "War-Strike"
Gar Smith / The-Edge
April 4, 2006

An anti-war protestor carries an image of George W. Bush created from the faces of more than 1,000 young Americans killed in Bush's illegal war-of-choice. Credit: Leah Hogsten / Salt Lake Tribune
Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton have all had occasion to praise "America's brave fighting men." But, despite the faux-heroic hullabaloo of leaders talking a red-white-and-blue-streak, the fact remains that, under none of these administrations were US soldiers actually dispatched to fight and die "for America," "for freedom," or "for our democracy."

The practice of "fighting for America" arguably ended in 1945. World War II marked the last time Americans were ever legally assigned to "fight for America."

    Korea was a "police action."
    Congress never officially declared war on Vietnam.
    Panama and Grenada were not wars, but "invasions."
    Lebanon was a UN "peacekeeping operation."
    As was the debacle in Somalia.
    Iraq was expelled from Kuwait in 1991 without a declaration of war.
    Afghanistan was attacked without a declaration of war.
    Iraq was invaded and occupied without a declaration of war.
Despite the lessons of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution (when President Lyndon Johnson used a faked attack on a US warship as a pretext to wage war on North Vietnam), the US Congress failed to stand its ground against the bellicose usurpations of the Oval Office. (See "How to Fake a Wargasm," The-Edge, October 18, 2002.)

Instead of reasserting its historic, sovereign Constitutional responsibility to declare war, Congress initiated the War Powers Act. Under the WPA, Presidents are freed to start a war whenever and wherever they want. The only requirement is that the must notify Congress within 90 days that they have done so.

In the meantime, presidents are free to invade foreign lands, violate international law, kill innocent civilians and sacrifice US troops. After 90 days, the WPA requires the president to go to Congress to obtain permission to continue waging war. Congressional must grant approval to maintain troops in combat beyond those first three months. But the psychology of the situation undercuts this attempt at reigning in the president since, the Commander-in-Chief may then resort to the argument that "out troops are committed on the ground" and to pull them out precipitously would endanger (a) the soldiers, (b) the mission, (c) national security.

While the 1990 Gulf War had the backing of a United Nations coalition, President George H. W. Bush did not bother securing a formal Congressional declaration of war.

The civilian and military blood spilled in Afghanistan and Iraq was not shed at the behest of the US Congress. Young American men and women were sent into harm's way to fight on behalf of an unelected leader and a documented war-evader.

These troops were not sent to shoot, bomb and blast on behalf of America (as Constitutionally manifest in a vote of the Congress). They were ordered to fight and die to assuage the whims of a single individual guided by a cabal of powerful advisors.

On another day that shall live in infamy, Congress officially cast aside its Constitutional responsibility to declare war and handed its war powers to a man who, while serving in the Texas Air National Guard, was punished for disobeying orders and who apparently deserted his military duties during a time of war.

US soldiers are no longer "fighting for America." They are fighting for George W. Bush -- a man who avoided combat service in Vietnam and, as president, lied about the reasons for going to war in Iraq.

This is Not America's War:
It Is George & Dick's War

Let us agree to speak honestly about the "War on Terrorism." This is, technically speaking, not America's war. This is George W. Bush's War. Soldiers are not fighting for Old Glory: They are fighting and dying for Young George and his Svengali-like mentor, Richard "Halliburton" Cheney.

This galling fact will remain true until Congress reclaims its proper role as the custodian of America's military response. And, the very instant that correction is accomplished, US troops should refuse to fight another day for Bush and Cheney.

US troops might wish to consider staging a "stand-down" until such time as the Bush administration permits a full and independent investigation into the extent of its foreknowledge of the 9-11 attacks.

This "war-strike" could continue until the White House is held fully accountable for its failure to mount a timely response to either prevent or limit the carnage that resulted from the assaults of September 2001.

The "peace-out" could persist until the Bush administration is held accountable for the scores of mistruths, fabrications, frauds, counterfeits and outright lies that it promulgated to "market" the Bush Doctrine of Pre-emptive War -- anytime, anywhere and forevermore.

The Wages of War Are... Paltry
Every war has its critics from inside the ranks but resistance to the Vietnam War radicalized tens of thousands of soldiers. The Pentagon did its best to suppress internal dissent and hide the spreading rebellion from the public.
Soldiers are among the world's most exploited workers. An entry-level war-worker in the US earns a meager $13,810 a year while a Major General earns nearly $90,000 and the Commander-in-Chief (who never has to shoulder a weapon) rakes in $400.000. (George W. Bush doubled his presidential salary: Bill Clinton had been paid $200,000.)

All too often, the families of enlisted soldiers are forced to go on welfare and take food stamps to survive. Many families of reservists and National Guard troops are facing bankruptcy and financial ruin owing to the loss of a breadwinner.

In early January 2004, the Defense Department offered $10,000 to any war-weary soldier who agreed to re-enlist for at least three more years. At best, that works out to an extra $8 bucks a day. At those rates, Al Qaeda could afford to pay soldiers an extra $20 a day to stage a "go-slow" on the streets of Baghdad.

Ordinarily, such a paltry inducement would be universally scorned but initial reports indicated that as many as 13% of the Army's enlisted personnel were re-enlisting -- not prompted by patriotism, however, but because, as the AP explained in a grim headline: "Poor Stateside job outlook may make deal more attractive."

The domestic workforce is off-times characterized as an "army of the unemployed." Thanks to the reverse miracle of Bushonomics (which turned Bill Clinton's $127 billion surplus turned into a $8.2 trillion debt and triggered the loss of 1.8 million jobs in 2005 alone), the Pentagon happily reaps the benefit of this Army of the Unemployable.

As the tired joke puts it, American soldiers find themselves between Iraq and a hard place. Some troops who would like nothing more than to return home may be chose to risk their lives for an extra eight bucks a day because they are afraid to risk their futures on an economy that is already on life-support.

Is there a way out? Perhaps there is. Maybe peace-loving working families in the US could "adopt" these soldiers by offering to pay them $8-a-day so they can put down their flack-jackets and return home to their wives and children.

There is already a proven model for such a campaign. Christian groups have managed to purchase the freedom of children and women in Sudan and Darfur who had been abducted by armed militias and forced into slavery.

One Big Union Army?
During the Vietnam War, there was a serious attempt to form a union among military personnel. The campaign even had its own newspaper, the Enlisted Times. It may be time to revisit that concept.

While a private sector employer can hire scabs to bust a picket line, the generals do not have similar leverage. For what would the Pentagon have to pay someone to entice them to become a war-scab?

Can you imagine the spectacle of union truckers refusing to cross a soldiers' picket line to load cluster bombs onto Gulf-bound cargo ships?

What would happen to troops if they went on strike against George W. Bush's juggernaut of unending wars? The same thing that would happen to them if they were to strike against a civilian employer back home: they would face arrest and jail time.

Of course, any striking soldiers found guilty of refusing to fight, kill and die for their leader, also could be sentenced to death by firing squad (a threat that not even the most ruthless corporate CEO is prepared to muster).

Truce Is Stronger than Friction
The Pentagon doesn't like to admit it, but there have been war-strikes in the past.

In WWI, a spontaneous war-strike broke out on Christmas Eve 1919, when German soldiers and allied troops began singing "Silent Night" from their respective foxholes. The troops slowly emerged from their trenches, waving white flags and, to the dismay of their commanding officers, met in "No Man's Land" to exchange gifts of letters, buttons, German brandy and Yorkshire pudding. The Christmas Truce quickly spread the entire length of the 500-mile battle-line. (The incident inspired the Academy Award nominated film, Joyeux Noel.)

During WW II, hundreds of black Navy sailors refused to load ammunition after a horrendous explosion leveled much of Port Chicago, north of San Francisco. The strike, of course, was called a mutiny.

Also during WWII, hundreds of soldiers recovering from war-wounds in Hawaii en route to the states after serving their terms of duty, received word that, instead of returning home, they were to be sent back to the battlefront. The outraged soldiers refused to budge and the Pentagon eventually surrendered.

During the Vietnam War, internal resistance to the war took a decidedly less peaceful turn when US soldiers began shooting their commanding officers in the back and resorted to "fragging" officers (a deadly form of protest that involved tossing fragmentation grenades into the tents of sleeping officers).

Today in Israel, top military officers have resigned their military commissions. Israeli refusniks have balked at joining the national role of conscripts. Even active duty members of the Israeli Defense Force have refused to carry out orders. IDF pilots have refused to participate in bombing raids that are designed to assassinate Palestinian leaders. Ground troops have refused to enter the Occupied Territories on missions that involve the demolition of Palestinian homes.

Judgements at Nuremberg
Soldiers who participate in war crimes may be tried before the International Criminal Court. But only if their government has ratified the ICC. Tellingly, the Bush administration has refused to recognize the ICC unless the court grants Washington an exemption from the ICC's jurisdiction.

It is a crime to invade another country without cause. It is a crime to use weapons of mass destruction in war. It is a crime to inflict destruction and death of civilian populations. It is a crime to subject populations to "collective punishment."

US soldiers have a moral and legal right to refuse to participate in illegal acts. It may be patriotic to declare "I support our troops" but, if the troops are compelled to engage in war crimes, they may deserve our sympathy and forgiveness, but they do not deserve our support. The Nazi true believers swore their full support for the German Storm Troopers.

Newspaper owner Randolph Hearst (son of William Randolph) once responded to criticism of America's invasion of Vietnam with the headline: "World Opinion Can Go Fly a Kite!" One of the crowning slogans of the morally compromised is the phrase: "My country right or wrong." After the US shot down a commercial Iranian jet filled with civilian passengers, George H. W. Bush declared: "I will never apologize for the United States of America, ever. I don't care what it has done. I don't care what the facts are."

Can citizens who support an illegal regime that openly violated international laws be held accomplice to those crimes by providing the financial aid that empowers the lawbreaking? If so, anyone who knowingly pays taxes to the current government can be held complicit under the statues of the Nuremberg Principles.

When The-Edge raised this issue with the IRS, the tax-collecting agency replied that it was unable to respond to the question owing to "the large number of similar questions" that had been directed at the agency. Repeated attempts to obtain an official response to this question have failed.

Even if the rogue regime in Washington manages to steal the next election -- or uses the pretext of another "terrorist attack" to declare martial law and suspend the election -- there still is an opportunity for peace-loving citizens to register their resistance to the rise of Neo-con fascism. The government feeds off the labor and wealth of its citizens.

If the government abandons the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, we have a duty as the descendents of Thomas Jefferson to "rise up and cast off the yolk of tyranny." It would be futile to stand up to federal forces armed with attack helicopters and bio-weapons but there are nonviolent alternatives.

If people in the armed forces have had the courage to declare a "war strike," the citizens -- in their homes, offices, factories and places of worship -- can declare a "tax strike."

Ten million American citizens could shut down this illegal and dangerous regime by shouting "No More!" and refusing to pay federal income taxes. That could be the "shout heard 'round the world."

A patriotic, nonviolent vote of "no confidence." Even the likes of Donald Rumsfeld or Alberto Gonzales, would be hard-pressed to find the means to imprison ten million enraged and engaged citizens.

Gar Smith is Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal, editor of the investigative web site The-Edge (, editor of Common Ground magazine and co-founder of Environmentalists Against War (

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