By Bob Witanek and Richard Moser
US military rank and file soldiers and sailors are being ravaged by an invisible enemy — the same enemy that is killing civilians across the country – COVID-19.
The quandary for the US: maintain readiness to launch war and continue to support the many imperialist objectives the US is pursuing in places like Venezuela, Iran, Syria, Yemen, the Asian Sea, Europe, Africa, Latin America, etc. . . . or take seriously the wholesale threat of COVID-19 to the lives of US GIs and sailors.
The Pentagon is suppressing the breadth of the infection of its rank and file forces and mostly disregarding any real effort to minimize their casualties.
The US does not want the rest of the world – that it constantly bullies, invades, bombs, and threatens to know that it is militarily vulnerable right now due to the depleted morale and health of the rank and file. It is ignoring COVID-19 – but it is not going away – it is starting to kill its own troops.
The strategy of downplaying the crisis is having the opposite effect since the COVID-19 is becoming so rampant it is being widely reported. No longer can it be kept secret from the nations and peoples the US is killing and threatening. More important – this murderous US strategy could lead to the deaths of hundreds, maybe even thousands of US troops.
No doubt, the threat of dying from COVID-19 and the willful neglect of command is on the mind of GIs and sailors who are cramped in their quarters. The blow out on the Teddy Roosevelt Aircraft carrier that arose after the leak of Captain Crozier’s letter, which was written after the brass refused his requests to take life-saving action, raised the alarm. Since then one of the sailors on the carrier has died and several hundred are sick. The carrier is not war-worthy and it represents the abject failure of the Pentagon to protect its crew. A more sober analysis would likely call it willful negligence and premeditated murder. The Pentagon is no stranger to collateral damage.
When Captain Crozier was dismissed and made to walk the plank, the crew came to the deck and cheered and chanted. The unruliness demonstrates that the sailors might have things other than duties on their minds — like trying not to get killed by COVID-19.
Several days after Crozier’s dismissal from his post, Navy Acting Secretary Modly visited the same carrier and called Captain Crozier stupid and idiotic during a speech to the crew — he was heckled and cussed out by sailors in attendance. Mody was soon dismissed from his position for failing to manage the situation. Once again, rank and file soldiers were in open defiance of authority. Sadly, Captain Crozier himself has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
The Pentagon has demonstrated its worries over this state of affairs among the rank and file, warning “enemy” nations from attacking:
“We’re still capable and we’re still ready no matter what the threat,” Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley said recently. “I wouldn’t want any mixed messages going out there to any adversaries that they can take advantage of an opportunity, if you will, at a time of crisis,” he added. “That would be a terrible and tragic mistake if they thought that.”
What the Pentagon misses is that it is caught in a double bind: increases in military activities will only increase the spread of COVID-19 further weakening US military power. The pandemic has magnified the contradictions of empire: imperial overreach sows the seeds of its own destruction.
It is time to do everything possible to save the lives of troops and sailors whose health and safety is being disregarded by the US so as not to appear weak before its many chosen adversaries.
The US must suspend its focus on warfare and empire and instead focus on saving the lives of as many GI’s and sailors as possible. The following demands should be widely communicated to the public, veterans and to active-duty soldiers and sailors.
- Quarantine entire armed forces – suspend all hostile operations.
- Testing and medical support for all military personnel
- Training and logistical support for hospitals, clinics, shelters, and neighborhood medical surveys – not repression but total medical coverage.
- All of the healthy get redeployed in a civilian effort to save the maximum number of lives — under civilian command, without arms.
- Transportation and deliveries of food and supplies to sick and/or homebound
- Harvest of the crops where civilian workers are sick or not available.
The ranks would be totally engaged in the service of the people under civilian control.
As we struggle to save the maximum number of lives – as we make plans to resist the bipartisan effort to prematurely “open up America” and let the virus “coarse through the population” (possibly killing millions) – we need to actually work to save the lives of the troops. While we do not know the exact casualty count, we know it is growing. The GIs and sailors should know that we are ready to struggle to save their lives while it is the brass that willfully neglecting their safety and medical needs.
But the biggest question remains: Will soldiers and sailors join the General Strike? We shall see. But if the military rebels it will shake the empire itself.
Bob Witanek is founder of #NJAntiWarAgenda and is coordinating a demand that #WeWillDecide opposing corporate-driven demands to force a rise in COVID-19. He recently released a song “Breathe” with some commentary which you can view here.