3/13/2005

Listening to the soldiers' stories

From Simona Sharoni on CommonDreams.org:
...Most peace activists would admit that they harbor no illusions that administration officials are going to listen, let alone end the war and bring the troops home. At best, anti-war demonstrations may re-energize the peace movement. But to avoid the paralysis that struck the movement when the Bush administration ignored the 2003 massive peace demonstrations around the globe, we must use any event marking this sad anniversary to expose the realities of war. Rather then appealing to the deaf ear of this callous administration, we should listen to those most affected by the war in our society: soldiers who fought in Iraq and have been returning in large groups to our communities these days. We should not compete with the military or with groups in our communities that are celebrating the return of the troops home with medals, honors, and fanfare but often fail to listen to the battle tales of individual soldiers. Instead, we ought to reach out as individuals to family members, friends, neighbors and coworkers who witnessed and participated in this war. We need to listen to their first-hand horrific experiences. We should ask them to describe in as much detail as possible, what they witnessed and did in the war and what the war did to them, recognizing that for most, this was the most intense, and probably traumatic, experience of their lives. It is not the time, nor our role, to judge or educate these soldiers. They do not need us to tell them that they participated in a futile war, nor to lecture them about the real reasons behind it. Most of them know experienced the futility of this war on their bodies, pondered the lies behind it in their minds and had to fight with anguish, frustration and fear in their hearts, whether they admit it publicly or not. Listening to these stories as difficult as they may be, will enable us to better reach out to and to communicate with those who don't yet share our sense of urgency to end this war. Further, these personal accounts, shared in private settings, are invaluable because it is such uncensored stories that the mainstream corporate media, which has been embedded with (or rather in-bed-with) military units has failed to share with the public. The public debate that took place in this country at the height of the War in Vietnam and eventually contributed to its end was ignited as much by the soldiers who returned from the battlefield and shared their hellish stories as by the anti-war movement. By listening to the stories of soldiers who have fought in Iraq, we do not condone the inhuman actions they may have participated in, nor the war. Instead, we expose the reality of war and its devastating effects not only on its victims but on its perpetrators as well. One of soldiers interviewed in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 states: "When you kill someone, you also kill a part of yourself." This is not a message that military recruiters share with the vulnerable youth they are trying to desperately recruit. Unfortunately there is very little we can do to undo the massive death, destruction, and human suffering caused by this war. Listening to soldiers' accounts may help us mobilize a larger segments of American society to end the war in Iraq and stop the senseless loss of life. In this dark moment in our history, soldiers' war stories have more of a chance to offset the beat of the Bush Adminstration's war drums then the anti-war slogans we have been chanting at peace demonstrations.

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