When Does the Lesser Evil Become Just Evil?

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Editor’s Note: At the end of this article we have posted an interview with the author conducted in late 2003 which sheds light on his own personal transformation from Special Forces operative to anti-Imperialist activist.—PG

House Resolution 1955 must have been numbered to reflect the rebirth of the House Un-American Activities Committee, that was flailing in its McCarthyite abuse of US citizens that year after McCarthy’s vicious anticommunist burlesque a year after Joseph Nye Welch rebuked McCarthy publicly during one of his Congressional show trials.

The revival of these witch hunts is not being headed up by Republicans, but by Democrat Representative Jane Harman of California’s 36th District. So much for the mythical Republican threat. As always, when it goes to shit, Democratic operatives will blame the neo-cons, or whomever, and self-absolve. Those bad, bad authoritarian Republicans!

Let me remind readers that no President in the last seven decades has had a more devastating effect on the African American community — the greatest captive demographic of this lesser-evil scam — than Bill Clinton, whose “crime bill” facilitated the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of Black, non-violent offenders who were already facing the perils of ubiquitous prosecutorial misconduct, bigoted judges and juries, and vast sentencing disparities.

Read Harman’s Orwellian masterpiece… and weep. The Dems are showing freaked-out Suburbia that they can wipe their ass with the Constitution just as well as any Republican, if it will just stop all that “violent radicalization.” And the women in the men’s club are proving they can be just as mean and asinine as any man.

Hardly any Democrat is challenging the recent Bush administration propaganda that Iran’s government is producing and distributing weapons for Iraqi resistance fighters.

The US military has been claiming all year that Iran is sending explosively-formed-penetrators (EFPs) into Iraq; and to date has not shown a single shred of supportable evidence to back this up. In fact, no one has demonstrated that Iran is any kind of threat to the US. The reason — dare I say it — is that the whole thing is a lie. That’s spelled L-I-E. It means an intentional fabrication.

It’s no surprise that the defense-industry press pretends otherwise, but the vast majority of Democrats have already been harmonized on the message that Iran is dangerous.

They say that the truth is the first casualty of war. It’s also the first casualty of Democratic political campaigns… the exceptions this time being a few like Kucinich and Cindy Sheehan.

How many Democrats are pushing for sanctions against Iran? On what grounds? Nukes? They don’t have any. Israel does, though. No sanctions there. So does Pakistan, India, China, France, etc etc. No sanctions anywhere. Most of the nukes are in the US, however, and no one is sanctioning us.

For that matter, what are Democrats saying about the government of Venezuela? … now the most advanced experiment in this hemisphere in popular democracy. Have any of the front-runners for the Oval Office decried the US-supported coup attempt against that democratically elected government? No, Nancy Pelosi called President Chavez “an everyday thug.” Her support for that statement? There is none.

Have any of the Democratic front-runners made a peep about the successful US-orchestrated coup against the democratically elected government of Haiti? Obama said he would “support a fact-finding mission.” A fuken fact-finding mission! About a transparent US overthrow of a legitimate government! The rest of them? Silence.

Which of them showed up at Jena?

How many of them will dare speak out about Israeli abuses of Palestinians? Or even the recent attacks against academic freedom by American Zionists? Among the front-runners? Zero, that’s how many.

They won’t even vote to impeach the current band of gangsters, though there is evidence aplenty to do so.

Here is what we should be telling them, instead of holding out the perennial hope that this “lesser evil” will somehow show us a difference.

Tell them they can all go straight to hell.

STAN GOFF is a retired Special Forces Master Sergeant. He is the author of three books; Hideous Dream – A Soldier’s Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti (Soft Skull Press, 2000), Full Spectrum Disorder – The Military in the New American Century (Soft Skull Press, 2004), Sex & WarEnergy War – Exterminism for the 21st Century, and My Year with the Liberals. He is the former military affairs editor for From The Wilderness, and has written foreign policy analysis for Sanders Research Associates. He also occasionally writes for Truthdig.  Goff is also a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW)Veterans for Peace (VFP), and Military Families Speak Out (MFSO). His oldest son is in the active duty army and has been deployed to Iraq four times, his youngest — likewise Army — has been to Iraq once.


SELECTED COMMENTS from the original posting

I’ll vote Kucinich in the primary. Likely as not, that will be my last vote above the state level. And then I’ll tell people to resist, resist, resist… and Congresswoman Harmon can investigate us for our “violent radicalizations.”


Regarding where Stan said, “The US military has been claiming all year that Iran is sending explosively-formed-penetrators (EFPs) into Iraq; and to date has not shown a single shred of supportable evidence to back this up. In fact, no one has demonstrated that Iran is any kind of threat to the US. The reason — dare I say it — is that the whole thing is a lie. That’s spelled L-I-E. It means an intentional fabrication.”?~?I found an interesting quote yesterday pertaining to this. I think it was on Rense.com and called that “Why Americans will believe practically anything” ?Anyhow, here is the pertinant quote, ??”No weapons were ever found, nor will they be. So confident was the PR machine in the general inattention to detail commonly exhibited by the comatose American people that they didn’t even find it necessary to plant a few mass weapons in order to justify the invasion. It was almost insulting.”


The lesser evil only becomes just plain evil only when it becomes the greater evil.?? Or when it leaves politics. People who don’t vote for the lesser evil ALWAYS hand power to the greater evil.??The greater good and lesser good never figure into politics. Politics will always be contest between the greater evil and the lesser.??Be prgamatic and realistic. Temper idealism with realism. Vote for the lesser evil and pray. The lesser evil has hope of redemption because they have not yet become the greater evil; the greater evil will never be redeemed.


Choir here, Stan, I’ve been preaching since a week before the election, and Pelosi’s infamous 60 Minutes “Off the Table” show, that we’d been sold out by a one-party K-Street system in OUR Government. Why on earth would ANYONE give away the leverage for investigation before ever you start one? ??And then today I hear the Blackwater gaurds are promised immunity while OUR soldiers are always prosecuted. Can State Department actually grant criminal immunity for non-foreign diplomats? Just a question…?It’s a stain and a kick in the teeth to OUR service people everywhere. Not to mention they’ve ALL been placed in jeopardy of torture themselves now. The dems helped pass the Military Commissions Act, violating their oaths to The Constitution and providing ex-post facto pardon for ALL war crimes, …’that weren’t done by service persons’. ?? Uh huh…?? EVERY vote seems scripted to be ‘close’ but always in favor of corporations and NEVER the citizens. The K-Street Way… ??? Great piece of TRUTH, Stan, thanks!!!


Kucinich is my candidate too. ?? Why is the coverage of candidates almost perfectly inversely proportional to how close they are to mainstream American values?? http://www.dehp.net/candidate/stats.php?? In a poll of nearly 10,000 people, Kucinich wins hands down, with Gravel about half as good, Obama 1/4 as good and the rest less then 1/10th as good.


“Perfect masculinity is sociopathic.” — Goff

November 11, 2003

Imperialism Starts at Home

An Interview with Stan Goff

Left Hook

Stan Goff knows better than most people about what really goes on in the US military. He retired as a Master Sergeant in 1996 after serving for 26 years, most of them with the Special Forces, Delta Force, and as a military instructor at West Point. In the process of his military career he was deployed to Vietnam, South Korea, Colombia, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Peru, Venezuela, Somalia, and Haiti. He is now an anti-imperialist activist and a member of the coordinating committee of Bring Them Home Now. He is the author of Hideous Dream: A Soldier’s Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti, as well as the forthcoming Full Spectrum Disorder. He lives in Raleigh, NC.

Derek Seidman, an editor of the new radical youth journal Left Hook, interviewed Stan Goff last week.

Derek Seidman: We really appreciate you doing this interview Stan. First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your experience in the US armed forces, and how you came to be a war resister?

Stan Goff: I don’t know if I’m a war resister as much as an anti-imperialist. I mean, I see where they are the same thing on a contingent basis, but I don’t identify with those who simply oppose “war,” generic, on moral grounds. I see war as a systemic outcome, but feel we have to pay a lot of attention not only to the military form of imperialism, but also to its economic, political, cultural, and ideological forms. I see all these things as part of a unified but nonlinear and dynamically evolving whole.

I joined the army in January 1970. I won’t detail the whole process, but one thing led to another, and it became a career. I began in the infantry and drifted into special operations. My first assignment was Vietnam. Then there was a hiatus from conflict zones until the eighties, when I went first to Guatemala, then six more conflict areas besides Vietnam and Guatemala between 1983 and 1994. Working special ops in Central America, I had the experience of working directly under embassy supervision on a couple of missions, so I had a glimpse of foreign policy that most soldiers don’t get. That’s when it began to dawn on me that these military adventures and all these classified operations were being driven by motives that were as much financial as geo-strategic, and that there was some kind of symbiosis–which I didn’t clearly understand yet–between the financial and the military.

I also became keenly aware of racism all around me. I became interested in understanding it because, besides being powerful, it is actually pretty complicated and even mysterious. And I found myself becoming a proponent of allowing women into combat arms–a nascent feminist current in my thinking. These were the threads that began to unravel the old notions and create the space for studying and seeking new ideas that would better explain my own experience. By the nineties, I had become interested in social theory, and by the time I left the army in February 1996 I was involved with various political activists on the left, where I was brought into a very lively culture of organizing and debate.

My opposition to US military adventures was a natural outcome of that. But I am seeing these adventures not as a pacifist, but through the interpretive lenses I have taken away from all that study, debate, and organizing, like Marxism, feminism, deep ecology, and world systems theory. Each of these perspectives yields a lot of useful information about the inner dynamics of capitalism, patriarchal constructions of sexuality and how they structure the totality of social relations, the energetic and material limits to growth, the relationship between material and social entropy, and US imperialism as a global social structure.

(Read more about Stan’s life and how he came to oppose US imperialism at: http://www.indyweek.com/)

DS: If you were a soldier in Iraq right now, what would be going through your head?

Goff: Trick question. There are over 120,000 US soldiers in Iraq right now, and each of them is unique in many respects. And at different points in my own career, I might have responded differently depending on what I was doing. As a grunt, or a support troop, I would probably be pretty low. Special ops folks are usually kept busy planning, planning, planning, or conducting some fairly sketchy operations, like the Phoenix-style stuff that just got that SBS troop killed, that are so all-occupying in the execution that a lapse in professional focus can lapse your life.

DS: A lot of pundits argue that the soldiers made a conscious decision to serve their country, and that they need to live up to this responsibility and not criticize what they’re being made to do–it is, after all, the duty they signed up for. What do you say to this?

Goff: Horseshit! This is a big, smelly red herring. They made a conscious decision alright, but not in a vacuum. The decision was to join the military. But they were weighing their real options in the real world when they made that decision, working off of limited information, limited experience, Madison Avenue “Army of One” sales pitches, and an economy that offers most people a glorious career in serial shit retail jobs. That’s the reason rich frat boys like George Bush often don’t do military service. They have more options. The lack of options is a real thing that can’t be erased with a lot of abstracted, two-dimensional, libertarian, we-are-all-free-agents nonsense.

And joining the military is a contractual agreement that is circumscribed by law, not some holy vow to surrender your brain. How is occupying Iraq “serving” the United States? Unless we can define what the United States is, it’s pure demagogy. They were not ordered to Iraq by the United States. They were ordered to Iraq by the Bush administration. That’s why this volunteer military thing is a red herring. The decision didn’t come from the troops. It came from the political establishment. Whether they are “volunteer” or conscript doesn’t change that.

The question of criticism while on active duty is a very nuanced legal question, but I would counsel those on active duty to be cautious, or at least know what you’re getting into if you speak out. The military can always retaliate, even when you are within your legal rights.

DS: Your son is stationed in Iraq. What do you hear from him and others about what the situation is like, both in general and for the soldiers in particular?

Goff: My son has asked me not to speak for him publicly, and not to pass along his comments made in private correspondence, and I am going to respect that. He will be very happy to come home and see his 11-month old baby, relax, make love, go to the refrigerator, sleep in once in a while, and not have to carry a weapon.

Other correspondents are telling us that morale is rock bottom, support is spotty, and they are beginning to believe that all politicians are pathological liars.

DS: Can you tell us about Military Families Speak Out? One of the main anti-war slogans is “Support the troops–Bring them home now”. What do you think about the fact that the growing criticism of the war and occupation has to do not with the fact that the US is doing something wrong, immoral, and harmful for the world, but because our soldiers are getting killed in doing it?

Goff: That’s the key to building a movement. The vast majority of people are not motivated by abstractions. They are motivated by what they can feel on their skin. The entry point for this movement into the consciousness of new people is not through morality. The ruling class has the best stage, the best sound, the best lighting, the best scriptwriters, the best actors, and the best broadcast ability to construct morality. Naturally, we fight them tooth and nail on every single lie, but even the content of our message is often lost, because of the WAYS that people process messages, which has also been constructed by the ruling class. The freshest stratum in any movement are those who are there through trauma and fear. Soldiers getting killed is a very serious thing, because these are our families. Our experience in the Bring Them Home Now campaign is that in fighting to bring troops home, this fresh group is exposed to a lot of new ideas, and because they are in a painful space they are in a teachable space. It doesn’t take long for them, once they begin to question the first motive to question all the motives. It’s not as long a step as people think from asking the first question to questioning imperialism itself. I know. The truly surprising thing is how incredibly thin the whole fabric of mystification is once it’s exposed to a little critique. Americans don’t know how to critique, and they are threatened by it. That’s why the first step has to be something more fundamental than analysis, like revulsion, fear, and pain.

DS: Lastly, what do you think are the immediate concrete tasks of the anti-war movement? How much of this involves trying to reach out to the troops with their growing demoralization and resentment?

Goff: I’ve long been an advocate of reaching out to the military, but not in the ham-handed way some people have tried. Saying goofy shit like “Overthrow your officers!” is not going anywhere now. The BTHN campaign is addressing real issues, with a lot of emphasis on outreach to military families. Soldiers might reactively engage in shouting matches with a stranger from the movement, but they have respectful, thoughtful discussions with spouses and parents and siblings. They also confide in them when they themselves experience doubts.

Eventually, of course, I believe the soldiers will have to overthrow some of their officers, but not until we overthrow all of our bosses. The important thing for revolutionaries–if that term is to mean anything other than phrase-mongering and adventurism–is to build and maintain a bridge with the military. The day will come when we will need them, and they will need us.

I’m not sure we have just an anti-war movement anymore. Since the full scale invasion, I think we have three movements. One is a UN movement. Another is an anti-war movement. The last is an anti-imperialist movement. The former objected to the war on legalistic grounds, believing that the US would be justified in escalating the attack on Iraqi sovereignty with a Security Council resolution.

The UN movement wants to substitute a UN military occupation for a US occupation as part of a return to some mythical pre-Bush paradise of multilateralism. They profess a caring for Iraqis, but fundamentally buy the whole “white man’s burden” theme that the Iraqis are incapable of self-government.

The anti-war movement is far more eclectic, but they are those who are uncomfortable with the UN option except as some short interim measure, and generally opposed to armed conflict under any circumstances. This is the “Peace is Patriotic” group, who still haven’t quite grasped the essence of American nationalism. There is a substantial section of this stratum–not the hardcore religious pacifists–that can be won over to an anti-imperialist position if they are provided a few new analytical tools.

The anti-imperialist section is composed broadly of “anti-globalization” folks, radical feminists, Black and Brown nationalists, socialists, and anarchists.

If there is a strategic imperative for us in the Euro-American metropolis’, it is to consolidate this anti-imperialist pole, then begin bringing in sections of the anti-war movement, beginning with those who feel the system, as it were, most directly on their skin. Poor people. Immigrants. People of color. Women. But also white middle class who have been downsized into the proletariat, so to speak. This entails a massive popular education campaign, which is easy to say, and hard as hell to do. Figuring out how to do that, however, is absolutely imperative.

There is a right-pole to mirror our left-pole, and it is white, middle-class, and armed to the teeth. When things really start to slip, economically, and these folks avalanche out of the middle class into the street, many of them will be susceptible to the siren call of blood-and-soil nationalism, and they’ll look for scapegoats. I believe this is a real possibility in the next few years, and that gives added urgency to our job to fight for every soul.

Finally, imperialism starts at home. Think of it as colonialism. That’s not an analog, it’s a real thing. There are colonized nationalities here in the United States, and their struggle for self-determination–which means political power–must be seen as a key struggle for the whole movement. The other struggle that has been perennially set on the back burner during every upsurge of social unrest is the struggle for self-determination by the largest colonized population in our society: women. That is a mistake. In fact, this may be the deepest of all our struggles, for lots of reasons I don’t have time to elaborate here. But more and more, I am coming to believe that the struggle against patriarchy will be the linchpin of any successful revolution in the future.

If you would like to give feedback to Stan, he can be reached at: sherrynstan@igc.org

Goff’s WikiPedia entry is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stan_Goff


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