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To tell the truth – Realities of War tour offers a less rosy perspective on combat

Just two days before Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez served as the grand marshal in last Saturday’s Veterans Day parade and City Council welcomed him with open arms, a couple of ex-soldiers served on a Realities of War panel in a downtown UTSA campus theater.

They weren’t there to extol the virtues of war. In fact, they advised the students at the conference to shun military recruiters who routinely visit local high-school and college campuses, trolling for young men and women to fill the ranks of a U.S. military currently embroiled in the Bush Iraq war. `See related story, “A bachelor’s in combat,” November 3-9, 2005 and news briefs, next page`

Dave Bills lived in what he described as a “small-town trap,” and he wanted out. He saw the Air Force as a pathway to freedom, and he spent the next seven years of his life witnessing the toll that war takes on human beings.

“I loaded bombs on B-52 bombers during the Gulf War,” he says. “War can’t be seen on CNN. Saving Private Ryan didn’t come close to what it really is.”

Hart Viges joined the 82nd Airborne Infantry, a division of the U.S. Army. He went to Iraq in January 2004, and when he returned to the United States, he filed for status as a conscientious objector. “I was on a mortar crew. I bombed a village, but I don’t know how many innocents we killed. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”

Fernando Suarez joined Military Families Speak Out after he lost his son, Jesus, in Iraq on March 27, 2003.

“My life changed. My family was broken,” he says. “I lost my only son, and I asked the question, For what?”

Suarez later learned that his son was killed by friendly fire, and he says the government refused to pay the full cost for his funeral. He says recruiters who go to schools in communities of color are relentless in their pursuit to fill recruitment quotas. “The situation is clear; the working-class communities are under attack today from the recruiting system.”

San Antonio recently reported the highest recruiting numbers in the nation, just a short time before it was reported that the 2,000th soldier had died at Brooke Army Medical Center from wounds sustained in Iraq.

Lovella Calica is an organizer for The National Youth and Student Peace Coalition, and part of The Realities of War tour. “We came to inspire people to get out into the community,” she says.

Somebody in the audience mentioned President Bush, but stopped short of suggesting that Congress should impeach him for lying about the war in Iraq.

“This is bigger than George Bush,” Calica countered. “We need to target Congress, it’s their decision. Target them, and demand that they don’t vote to finance the war, no more money for war.”

Suarez says resistance is inevitable on local high-school campuses if the counter-recruiters show up. “It is not easy to go to a high school and speak. The principal will close the door and say you’re speaking against the government or being political. When I speak, the young understand the real situation.”

Suarez advises anyone who takes up counter-recruiting in their communities to get onto the high-school and college campuses while military recruiters are there. Counter-recruiters, Suarez says, have the right to be there despite what school officials say.

The message for the students who attended the panel discussion is first, get organized, explained UTSA political-science professor Rodolfo Rosales. “No. 2, we live in a capitalist market economy,” that promotes imperialism such as the Bush Iraq War. He advises against violence, or anarchy, or violent revolution. “We can’t be like the people we’re opposing.”

By Michael Cary


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