This Memorial Day, Support GI Resistance!

May 2012

With Memorial Day just around the corner, we’d like to share with you a joint statement written by the Oakland chapter of Critical Resistance and the Bay Area chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War.  Originally produced for the historic National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners, we hope the message and its call to actionreverberates as strong as ever

The War is Not Over!

US imperialism destroys lives.  In addition to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the US-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the hundreds of thousands more related to attacks on infrastructure such as water systems and hospitals in those countries, and the generations of trauma and instability war leaves in its wake, war has a devastating impact on the soldiers sent to do the killing and the dying.  Wars abroad are directly connected to the war at home.

Many people recruited into the military, especially people of color, are pulled from low income communities—the same communities suffering  most intensely from economic inequity, racism, lack of access to meaningful work, good schools, decent housing, and reliable healthcare.  They are also the communities most negatively impacted by the violence of policing and imprisonment.  Indeed, we see more and more veterans returning home not to the good jobs, free education, or the veneration they were promised—but to debilitating mental and physical health problems, poverty, and prison cells.

Furthermore, some of the same weapons (guns, helicopters, armored vehicles, surveillance technology), tactics (no knock entry, kettling, aerial surveillance), and players (Haliburton, Raytheon, Kroll) employed to wage foreign wars are used to surveil, police, and imprison our most vulnerable communities at home as well.  By more fully understanding the connections between war, economic and social devastation, and the prison industrial complex, we can find ourselves better equipped and stronger to fight for a better world, at home and abroad.

The War Machine Targets Poor People and People of Color

  • According to a 2007 Associated Press analysis, “nearly three-fourths of [US troops] killed in Iraq came from towns where the per capita income was below the national average. More than half came from towns where the percentage of people living in poverty topped the national average.”
  • In 2004, 71% of Black recruits, 65% of Latino recruits, and 58% of white recruits came from low income communities.
  • Veterans aged 18 to 24, had a 30.4 percent jobless rate in October 2011. For Black veterans aged 18-24, the unemployment rate is 48 percent.
  • Black people are overrepresented in the armed services and Latino recruitment has risen 30 percent in the last decade.
  • According to the ACLU, “In 2005, the Department of Defense commissioned two training sessions for its recruiters on how to market military careers to Latinos and African-Americans in particular. PowerPoint training materials obtained from the Department of Defense website shows that these training materials based recruitment efforts around stereotypes of Latino and African American youth, including adapting language to mimic “hip hop culture” and to appeal to “hotheaded Latino culture”.

Locking Up Vets

  • 1.2 million vets were arrested in 2007.
  • 9.4% or 223,000 prisoners are veterans.  This number may be as high as 1 million.
  • In 2004, more veteran prisoners reported having served during wartime (65% Federal and 54% State institutions) than in 1997 reflecting a 4% and 4.5% increase respectively.  Vietnam veterans remained the largest represented group of veterans while Gulf War veterans increased 2.3% in State facilities and 8% in Federal institutions.  Additionally, veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars now represent 3.7% of veterans in State facilities and 4.5% in Federal institutions.
  • Between 2003 (the beginning of the most recent Iraq war) and 2005, Department of Defense military imprisonment increased 7.25%
  • From 2005 to 2006, the overall percentages for those personnel confined for violent offenses rose 4%.

PTSD increases the likelihood of going to prison or jail

  • According to USA Today: “Since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began, 211,819 combat veterans have been treated by the VA for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), about 16% of the 1.3 million who fought. But the VA says it sees only about half the veterans from the two wars, because hundreds of thousands seek care elsewhere or not at all.”
  • 40 percent of veterans who show symptoms of PTSD have been charged with crimes in the period after their wartime service—the majority designated as violent crimes.
  • A 2000 Bureau of Justice Statistics Report found that 81% of all veterans in prison, jail, or on probation or parole had a substance abuse problem prior to imprisonment, 35% were identified as suffering from alcohol dependency, 23% were homeless at some point in the prior year, and 25% were identified as mentally ill.
  • A study linking Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to violence and imprisonment found that absent adequate care, prisoners with PTSD will return to their communities and likely engage in the same behavior that led to their initial imprisonment.

Get Involved to Resist the Wars at Home and Abroad

Iraq Veterans against the War (IVAW), Bay Area Chapter
Too often, service members are forced to redeploy back into dangerous combat, or train in situations that re-traumatize them.  We say, individuals suffering from trauma have the right to remove themselves from the source of the trauma. Service members who are not physically or mentally healthy shall not be forced to deploy or continue service. Operation Recovery will support service members by standing up for their right to heal from PTSD, TBI, MST, and combat stress.  We will expose those responsible for the deployment of traumatized troops, and we will stand up against those responsible for violating them.  We will end the wars by winning our Right to Heal.

To learn more about Operation Recovery and to sign a pledge to support the campaign, click here.

Critical Resistance (CR), Oakland Chapter
Through its work in coalitions like Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB)Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, and Stop the Injunctions Coalition, Critical Resistance Oakland works to eliminate the hold that the prison industrial complex has on our lives and to build healthy, sustainable futures.