It’s becoming apparent that there is a new anti-War tactic coming out, and it’s using the military as the base for operations. More and more, people with long-standing anti-War agendas have enlisted in the military after the Iraq War began with the apparent purpose of gnawing away at the military from the inside — especially with the help of that ever useful shill, the American media. I’d first heard about this tactic this in connection with Army Lieutenant Ehren Watada, a cause celebre amongst the anti-War crowd, because he’s being court-martialed for refusing to serve in the Iraq War.
Watada is not your garden-variety conscientious objector. Traditionally, COs were unwilling draftees who were going around living their ordinary lives when the government’s long arm swept them into war. Many had strong religious ties to religions, such as the Quakers, that had long-standing oppositions to serving in war. Beginning in WWI, significant numbers of COs and anti-War agitators were socialists, who envisioned a brotherhood of workers being forced to wage war against each other by capitalists and imperalistic regimes.
Watada doesn’t fall into either of these categories. To begin with, he is not an unwilling draftee. Instead, he is an officer who willingly joined the military after the war began, and underwent training while the war was going on. In other words, he knew what he was getting into and where he’d end up. Given these facts, his only reason to have joined can have been to get a platform from which to broadcast his resistance to the War, something he couldn’t do if he were just your ordinary anti-War activist. It’s just so much more exciting and photogenic when you’re a military anti-War activist. (Watada is still getting air time on reliably liberal forums.)
Not only is Watada a new breed of conscientious objector — someone who joins the military, intending to desert so as to make a loud political statement — he’s also not alone. At the Mudville Gazette, Greyhawk has a long post discussing Jonathan Hutto, who seems to have done precisely the same thing. Hutto was a socialist and a very visible anti-War activist who, in 2004, suddenly decided to enlist in the Navy. His service was apparently exemplary but he used his time in the Navy to gather data about discrimination against African-Americans. From there, he went on, while still in the Navy, to design an anti-War web page, much touted by the usual cast of anti-War activists as a, yes, you guessed it “military anti-War website.” Again, the “military” aspect garnered more media attention than any run-of-the-mill anti-War protest could have.
Americans have always had a warm spot in their hearts for genuine COs who played by the rules. They did not join the military but, if they were drafted, they made a formal declaration of their unwillingness to serve, with their time in jail the necessary martyrdom to garner public interest and, perhaps, change hearts and minds. Some, like the famous socialist Eugene V. Debs were too old to be drafted, but spoke out so vociferously against the way that they ended up jailed for treason. Although the American public was not very sympathetic, his was certainly a newsworthy sacrifice, of a type that can’t be replicated nowadays.
This new breed of CO, however, is a fox in the henhouse, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Knowing his opposition to the war, he nevertheless signs up, takes the military’s money (or, rather, your and my tax dollars), takes military training and then, at the last possible moment, sets up a hootin’ and a hollerin’ that catches the press’ fickle eye. He’s not an innocent swept up in the military draft net. Instead, he’s someone who intentionally places himself in the middle of the game, only to cry foul. It’s sneaky, it’s dishonorable, and it’s a story that deserves to be told so that those who listen to these new COs can fully unerstand how they are manipulating the system to gain maximum attention for their anti-War position.
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