Corrente

If you have "no place to go," come here!

Should U.S. troops mutiny like they do in 'Avatar'?

fairleft's picture

It definitely seems morally right to side with the colonized against the colonizer and preemptive invader, the U.S. and the Western invaders now so nakedly aggressively imperialist toward the third world. NGOs' feeble cover stories notwithstanding, poor people and poor countries are there for the rich and powerful to exploit, otherwise they are ignored.

But much much better never to join the military as it is now, and I think 'Avatar' can be an impactful as hell anti-recruitment propaganda video for U.S. high school kids. You really don't want to join the corporate mercenary imperial shock troops burning down and blowing up native villages and all inside. Those are the _bad_ guys, the assholes, the macho airheads, not the heroes.

But, the above interpretation of U.S. military conduct in the world, though the obvious one, requires wide social support, by you and me, especially all over the progressive blogs and whineytopia. We must counter the huge corporate media lie, the 'our troops are heroes' bullshit. Make it so my army of progressive and left bloggers!! Talk up Avatar's anti-colonial, pro-resistance, anti-U.S.-military-recruitment meaning everywhere your blogging selves reach.


Michelle Rodriquez as Trudy Chacon in 'Avatar'

24 Percent, in Avatar And Anti-Colonial Resistance, explains Michelle/Trudy joining the resistance, turning her guns on her former mercenary mates:

The Na’vi . . . win for real, sending the colonizers – represented by the corporate-military alliance of Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) and the K.I.A. Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) back to Earth at the barrels of guns or in pieces. But it isn’t just theNa’vi sending the invaders away, the scientific team (Skully, Dr. Augustine, avatar guide and science dork Norm Spellman (Joel Moore), their military pilot Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriguez) and Dr. Max Patel (Dileep Rao)) joins the Na’vi very quickly. There is no discussion of non-violent resistance or any real attempt to negotiate, the intellectuals – including all the women and people of color among the humans – show no hesitation in siding with the the colonized against the colonizer and shooting humans. By the end of the film we have a clear division between the white male capitalist imperialists fighting ruthlessly for profit and everyone else siding with the indigenous Na’vi fighting to save their homeland. The best line in the movie is when Quaritch says to Skully in the heat of battle, “How does it feel to be a traitor to your race?” The film’s answer is: Great! In this way, Trudy is perhaps the most interesting character. She’s a member of the military, but through her contact with the scientists gains empathy for the Na’vi. She refuses to fire missiles at the natives’ home, this is according to the traditional script. But what isn’t is when she rapidly turns her guns on her fellow soldiers. There’s no discussion of how she knows the men on the other side and has served with them, nothing about their wives and kids. She dies in combat, and there was never a question of an ethical third-way.

. . . What sets Avatar apart is that it suggests a positive alternative to paralyzing guilt: becoming a traitor to the dominant race. Maybe the violence just makes for a crowd pleaser, but the fact that the movie ends with intellectuals and those outside traditional ideals of white masculinity joining indigenous people to successfully fight off an invading army of corporate mercenaries left me leaving the theater very happy.

More below on the anti-imperial movie of the century:

Rob Kall of OpEdNews:

The storyline is built around an evil corporation that has gone to this gorgeous planet, Pandora, where it has no problem killing indigenous people, destroying their most precious cultural possessions. The corporation and its military personnel act horribly, killing wantonly, destroying some cultural icons, threatening to destroy the most sacred place on the planet, comparable to bombing Mecca or Jerusalem or the Vatican here on earth.

Does this sound like what Blackwater did in Iraq? Does it sound like the way the US is attacking the Taliban in Afghanistan? By the end, the audience has been totallyoffended by the militaristic support of corporate greed. The audience has spent 160 minutes falling in love with the indigenous people of Pandora, then watching military neanderthals heartlessly try to kill them and their most sacred place, where their deity resides.

Comrade Kale (at the website of the American Party of Labor, which I don't know anything about, btw):

Avatar is very much an anti-imperialist film. This movie does its job properly—it shows the suffering of the people and the destruction they face due to the invasion by the humans. It correctly puts forward the idea that oppressed peoples have the moral right to violently rebel against their oppressors.

The relationship to Native Americans is simply the most prevalent example that can be seen, but Avatar can be related to nearly every atrocity of imperialism. Imperialism, the expansion of economies and nations through force, is the driving motive of the story. The humans attempt to trick the Na’vi into letting them exploit the natural resources of their planet, and when that doesn’t work they resort to violence, a pattern that has been repeated many times in history. Most movies that attempt such a thing would end up taking a moralist approach and thus taking the safe path—teaching its American audience to sympathize with the Na’vi while refusing to connect it with real events—but Avatar does no such thing.

It does not show the brutality visited upon the natives as incidental, or disconnected from the capitalist-imperialist system which spawned it. It shows it as institutionalized and inherent in the system the humans have set up.

Here is plastic pals:

This isn’t a story about being white or blue, but about following the path of righteousness. I don’t view Avatar as another “white guilt” story, but more of the old “Empire vs Rebels” kind of story that is a slam against colonialism, regardless of what race is doing it. The fact it comes from a white director for a predominantly white audience means the main character will probably be played by – surprise! – a white dude.

In Avatar, it is not just white people who are colonizing Pandora; if you look at the soldiers during their conference scenes you will see representatives from many races. In other words, it transcends the “white guilt” story we’ve seen before and presents us with the simple truth that colonialism itself is about taking what you want from another group of people by turning them into your enemy. You don’t need to look back to the historical record for an equivalent; we are currently living one: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We now know that there were no WMDs, that the majority of the hijackers on 9/11 were actually Saudis, and that the main issue is an oil pipeline through Afghanistan, that the US has used torture. America and its allies are actively engaged in colonialism – it’s just not as obvious as (for example) British and French imperialism was in the past.

A latinobro comment at above site, plasticpals:

It is amazing we are so fucking sensitive to race that no one even mentions that this privileged white protagonist is a poor, less-educated, handicapped ex-marine looking for some fast cash as a security contractor having just lost his twin brother. Way to overlook the obvious as we stretch in order to make everything about racial oppression. Typical knee-jerk bending-backwards hyper-sensitive American racism that continues to shamelessly milk White Guilt.

James Cameron himself:

So certainly it is about imperialism in the sense that the way human history has always worked is that people with more military or technological might tend to supplant or destroy people who are weaker, usually for their resources. . . . We're in a century right now in which we're going to start fighting more and more over less and less. The population ain't slowin' down, oil will be depleted - we don't have a great Plan B for energy in this country right now, notwithstanding Obama's attempts to get people to focus on alternative energy. We've had eight years of the oil lobbyists running the country.

Adam Cohen in the New York Times (but note that the mainstream corporate press never specifies how the movie evokes what the U.S. is doing and has done to Afghanistan or Iraq):

The plot is firmly in the anti-imperialist canon, a 22nd-century version of the American colonists vs. the British, India vs. the Raj, or Latin America vs. United Fruit.

Underlying the political message is the running theme of the importance of seeing clearly. “Avatar” opens with the hero’s eye snapping open. The movie’s title comes from a bit of visual deception. The mining company has developed avatars — part-human, part-Na’Vi bodies — that allow its employees to appear more like the natives and help them in winning the Na’Vis’ trust.

The central love story reaches its culmination with the lovers declaring, “I see you.” The movie’s ending, which I will not give away here, brilliantly drives home, one last time, the importance of how one sees things.

The ability to see Pandora’s natives for who they are is the movie’s moral touchstone. The company’s shock troops, who have not seen the Na’Vi up close, view them as nothing more than an impediment to the extraction of ore. When the inevitable battle begins, one employee refers to them as roaches. The two human characters who live among the Na’Vi undergo conversions and come to realize the importance of respecting them and their way of life.

All of this draws on a well-known principle of totalitarianism and genocide — that it is easiest to oppress those we cannot see. This is one reason the Nazis pushed Jews into ghettos, and one reason that the worst Soviet abuses occurred in far-off gulags.

The movie’s rich 3-D technology allows the audience to feel that it has lived among the Na’Vi as well. Through this immersion experience, we undergo the same kind of moral education as the characters who lived with the Na’Vi. The friend I saw “Avatar” with wondered aloud, a bit too optimistically, if people would be able to think of the battles between the developed world and indigenous peoples the same way after seeing this movie.

Even Mr. Insightful, David Walsh of WSWS, who generally dislikes the film, admits that

. . . one of the elements that carries some power is the presentation of the mercenary armed forces in their attack mode. Some water has flowed under the bridge since 1997. Clearly, Cameron is bringing to bear feelings and images generated by the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. (He reportedly dropped his application for American citizenship after the election of Bush in 2004.) The scenes of the brutal ground and aerial assault on the virtually defenseless Na’Vi are chilling and convincing.

0
No votes yet

Comments

khin's picture
Submitted by khin on

Why did the sexy girl have to get blown up?

You can't win.

Zolodoco's picture
Submitted by Zolodoco on

They should question and refuse orders that violate the law and their own sense of right and wrong. All of our "war on terror" adventures fall into that category. That isn't really mutiny, but people who follow through with that obligation will be treated like mutineers. However, if it came down to a choice between protecting people from indiscriminate slaughter by turning your guns on the slaughterers or just throwing up your hands and hoping you can live with yourself later, the former doesn't seem all that unreasonable. It seems absolutely appropriate in some of the more brutal historical contexts.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

isn't it still execution? or have the services mellowed over the years? does mutiny still apply among mercenaries?

Since the former choice is more likely than not having your former unit-mates kill you I daresay it's not quite as easy a choice as it seems sitting at a keyboard, or in the IMAX scarfing down popcorn.

Zolodoco's picture
Submitted by Zolodoco on

That old cliche. No the penalty for the type of "mutiny" I described in the first part of my comment is not execution.

Refusing to fight or support a war without being granted conscientious objector status is at most punishable with a prison stay. Having spent 9 years in the Air Force, I know that the reactions to people who make that choice will vary between the right wing meat heads who want to execute everyone who doesn't goose step to their Himmler to those who'll just make sure that your career ends with a somewhat mundane detainment and court martial proceedings. Execution is no longer something they really should worry about despite those trumped up officers who make a lot of ugly noise.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

if you took your weapon and started shooting your own fellow soldiers, the military (whichever branch) wouldn't go for your head? I find that difficult to believe, no matter how many years you were in the Air Force.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

And exhorting kids to not join the military, is really ignoring some realities on the ground for many people who join the military. Hint: Most kids don't join because they wan't to be the hero, or kill brown(or blue) people, they join because it offers financial security. And that will only get worse as the economy is left unaddressed by this current administration.

Now, addressing the question as to whether US troops will mutiny, I will say most definitely not. That "unit cohesion" bullshit serves more than one purpose, and one of those is to make individual soldiers feel that they must keep the peace for the sake of the unit.

I have the documentary "Sir, No, Sir!" in my Netflix queue, which examines the anti-war movement amongst the soldiers serving in country in Viet Nam. I will probably review it here once I've seen it, but I know one of the points is how effective this movement really was. I can't imagine the military didn't learn lessons from that, making it harder for combat soldiers to organize.

fairleft's picture
Submitted by fairleft on

they knew that is essentially what they would become by joining an army of unprovoked invasion of third world countries. Many kids would refuse to heavy commitment of joining the military even if they weren't totally sure about the preceding but the military just stank of dehumanizing asshole-ism.

Of course there are heavy economic pressures on high school graduates and of course I wasn't ignoring that. Anyway, we're dealing in individuals and percentages here: NOT telling young people the truth means a higher percentage will unwittingly join the 'heroic' US military. Telling them the truth on a mass basis means there's a much greater chance that recruiting goals are not met and the US military needs to pull in its horns a bit, or a lot.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

But telling kids who may feel they have no other options to help their families, that they are murderers for joining the military, isn't going to get them on your side.

I'm all for stopping wars, and I'm all for less militirization, but shitting all over the lower classes is something I DON'T support, and that's what most anti-recruitment drives do for me.

Like the drives to get military recruiters off college campuses, which further winnows the pool of available recruitees to the lower class kids who with either can't afford college, or can't hack college. It's forcing the military to focus their recruiting attentions on those already on the margins of society, and I don't like it.

That's one of the reasons I actually do support a reinstatement of the draft(including all genders), because if the upper classes were feeling the pinch in this war, it would've been stopped by now.

fairleft's picture
Submitted by fairleft on

I don't see how you get around the word 'murderer'. If soldiers are well-informed on what's really going on (all left bloggers' job, but I'm the only one doing it) ,it's certainly not manslaughter, which involves lack of intentionality.

And typically recruits have options: they are generally lower-middle-class rather than outright poor. This is not about the option of starving or killing, it's a lifestyle choice and profound moral choice between right and murderous wrong, if prospective killers for corporate plutocracy are informed/knowledgeable. Yes, moral beings should sacrifice income security instead of making the wrong choice.

Submitted by lambert on

... but I doubt very much that "you're the only one doing it" (whatever "it" might be).

Like I said:

[W]e on the left need to work hard to make sure that we, too, aren't pissing all over the relatively powerless.

fairleft's picture
Submitted by fairleft on

Whatever your economic/class background, and there is a very wide range in the military, invading countries that don't want you there and then killing poor third worlders for the greater good of large corporations is murder. You flirt with it but really no sane legal system allows the "I was poor" excuse, and, again, we're not talking about a choice between homelessness/starvation and murder.

And, again II, by far the most important object of my argument is potential military recruits. Cutting down on recruitment has a very real and very important negative impact on imperialist planning. Pre-recruited young people deserve the truth, and moral leftists are obligated to tell it to them.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

if you're going after the group with the least amount of choices. The greatest moral burden is on those who chose the war and those who have the power to stop it but do not.

If we're going to start discussing what the left is morally obligated to do (as opposed to what is most effective), then I would prioritize creating the economic and social conditions such that the military is NOT a better option in terms of income, educational opportunities, respect and status. Clawback the billions to bankers and put it into real economic recovery and importantly, reduce our dependence on gas and oil which drive much of our current imperialism in the first place.

From an effectiveness standpoint, even calling pre-recruits potential murderers is not even nearly a winner; first you can't escape the implication that all those already in the service are murderers (which is unlikely to be well taken); second, you have the weight of thousands of years of history and tradition, as well as the considerable weight of current cultural and popular opinion arrayed against you.

If it's your own moral conscience you're seeking to alleviate, than a much better question to raise and discuss with potential recruits would be to ask whether it's worth the risk of dying for an immoral war.

The argument of placing the moral burden of a war, which is conducted by a society, on individual soldiers or potential-soldiers eerily echoes the general neoliberal meme of shifting all the costs and burdens of society onto those least responsible or able to bear them by zealously reducing societal problems to simplistic matters of individual choices.

Submitted by lambert on

What you said, V:

The argument of placing the moral burden of a war, which is conducted by a society, on individual soldiers or potential-soldiers eerily echoes the general neoliberal meme of shifting all the costs and burdens of society onto those least responsible or able to bear them by zealously reducing societal problems to simplistic matters of individual choices.

That it does.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

Ignores the reality that it is, indeed, brave to volunteer to die for your country. Any argument that fails to acknowledge that reality is flawed, I feel.

And I think the way that the right always wins the patriotism argument is that the left pretends the troops aren't especially courageous; in fact, they are a lot more courageous than we are, sitting typing our little anti-war screeds on our keyboards. They may be misled, but they feel they are putting their lives and limbs on the line for America.

If we truly want to change the paradigm, I agree that we have to attack the military-industrial complex that causes us to go to war, not the underlings who get ground up in its evil maw.

fairleft's picture
Submitted by fairleft on

Shifting the terms of the argument does make a silly one easier to make. Anyway, yes, part of the burden for the moral wrong of killing Afghans and Iraqis for no good reason should be placed on the people dropping the bombs and pulling the triggers. And it's important to communicate the "no good reason" part to potential recruits and serving military, so that many will make the right moral choice in time.

Submitted by lambert on

"It's called the ruling class because it rules." By far the greater culpability is theirs.

Again I ask: If the only way to get your mother her dialysis treatment was to quit your job at Wal-Mart and join the military, what would you do? All the Pentagon propaganda aside, that's the kind of choice that a lot of people face, and as the NAIRU is permanently ratcheted up, it's a choice many more will make.

May I suggest that taking up your work with a sneer -- "our poor underprivileged murderers" -- will not only be ineffective, but destructive of less self-indulgent efforts?

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

"III. The Immorality and Destructiveness of a Draft"

Wishing back the draft can be a tempting trope -- e.g., to presumably level out class inequities and to presumably encourage caution about engaging in ill-justified military conflicts -- but it's a quite terrible thing to advocate for.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

And I don't agree.

IF we are going to have a standing military, and IF we are going to continue these imperialist adventures, the sacrifices required must be shared equally amongst it's citizens.

Other nations do have compulsory national service, like Denmark, and they also have more socialist policies, a engaged and informed electorate, and strong and secure civil liberties. They also have strong reproductive rights.

Submitted by lambert on

I took out the image of Michelle, since I couldn't get it to resize to our 500px maximum. (Anything larger will cause some versions of IE to become very unhappy.)

And I took out the first image because of a call I received that questioned whether we'd crossed the line from questioning to advocacy. Needless to say, I don't advocate a strategy of soldiers, or anybody, shooting soldiers, because I think that non-violence is the only way forward for us (and moreover can be shown to work). Of course, no serious advocate of that strategy would be foolish enough to post on it in an open forum, but some may not be bright enough to appreciate the point.

* * *

Raising the class issue, as Aeryl does, is important. We need to blame those who force the choice on our kids -- and they are kids -- between supporting their families and and joining the military. I agree with your point that we're explaining the nature of the choice more clearly, but too often "the left" lectures the unterbussen from a stance of presumed moral authority. What would you do if the choice were between joining the military and saving the life of your mother who needs a kidney transplant that she can't get because the legacy parties screwed us all on health insurance? What would you do if you were a bright kid who saw no other future than being a packer at Wal-Mart and wanted to learn computers, and reasoned "It can't be that bad?" I don't think we know. Now, the movie provides a narrative that reframes those choices, and good for that, but we on the left need to work hard to make sure that we, too, aren't pissing all over the relatively powerless.

fairleft's picture
Submitted by fairleft on

The problems with the sympathy and support for our poor underprivileged murderers strategy is that it's incredibly morally wrong to excuse murder, it gets zero attention as it fades into and becomes just another feature of the dominant 'heroes' discourse, and most important it obviously glaringly doesn't work. Other than that, carry on.

khin's picture
Submitted by khin on

Keep in mind that under Nuremburg, common soldiers were not, at least as far as I know, considered criminals. I prefer to say that they would be "involved in crimes," in the same way that Nazi soldiers were involved in crimes even just by being Nazi soldiers. Saying that imperialism is murder is more justified, but the murderers are the leaders, not the soldiers. Or if you want to accuse the soldiers, then in my view we are all guilty for paying taxes. You get the picture.

But I definitely agree that we need to cut through the "soldiers are heroes" bit.

fairleft's picture
Submitted by fairleft on

Which was the basically legit excuse used by most Nazi common soldiers who committed war crimes. However there were several common soldiers, in unusual circumstances, who were prosecuted and convicted of war crimes. Anyway, U.S. soldiers don't have that excuse; their punishment would be pretty damn mild by Nazi standards.

But again, one of my arguments is a moral one, getting soldiers to face the moral evil of what they are doing. It has nothing to do with advocating criminal prosecution. We owe soldiers the truth, actually, because it enables them to end and escape from their evil conduct.

My main argument is for antiwarriors and counter-recruitment activists to get to potential recruits with the reality of what they would be doing, from a moral perspective, as a soldier in Iraq and/or Afghanistan (or Yemen or Somalia or wherever is the next stop)

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

not a very persuasive tactic. Esp. not when they are part of an organization like the military, where the pressures of acculturation and tribalism are enormous in framing their actions as just the opposite, as patriotism, sacrifice for country and family, etc. etc. Hundreds, even thousands of years of societal and military framing casts soldiers as heroes; a single popular, $300 million dollar entertainment event notwithstanding.

And murder is just what you are calling it (not that Aeryl is arguing in favor of witholding the truth in any case). Most people don't agree. Many people have turned against the war in Iraq, but most are not against war per se (or Obama's esacalation would not have seen 60% approval ratings).

Asking those on the authority chain who have the least ability to choose alternatives, the soldiers at the bottom, to make the sacrifices is not only inefficient, but insensitive and probably stupid. Aeryl's right that many of the people in the military are there because of economic pressures -- it's not as if they have a lot of alternatives in this economy in particular, and it doesn't really matter if most of them are not from the very poorest, most desperate sector of society. You are advocating going after the actors with the very least amount of power and authority to do otherwise. (on the basis of a movie? seriously.) That's attacking the problem at the most difficult part.

And is yet another instance, as has been pointed out here many times, of great talk of sacrifice where only certain classes of people are being required to do the sacrificing.

fairleft's picture
Submitted by fairleft on

NOT the ones already involved. Anti-recruitment needs to tell the truth, especially the horrible truth, to potential members of the military. If he/she were aware of the lack of justification for what his/her forces were doing in their preemptive war for natural resources, how else would you describe a corporate mercenary soldier in 'Avatar'? Our armies in Iraq and Afghanistan are basically, substantively, in the same moral situation.

We need to spread the Avatar moral message to potential members of an immoral military.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

aren't blank slates, and they face the same economic and social pressures as those who are already in the service.

Hell, our whole society buys into the same soldiers as heroes beat. It's the "deciders" who exploit patriotism and soldier-heroism (not to mention the economic 'security' provided by military service --twas ever thus). But now you're arguing that we should threaten those with the least alternatives, in a structure in which was not of their own making, with accusations of murder?

U.S.entertainment media is littered with popular rebel-against-the-powers movies (hello, Star Wars!) which haven't influenced us as a society against imperialist action, nevermind wars, one bit. Because, despite vast evidence to the contrary, we identify with the rebels, not the oppressors. Hell, even members of The Village think of themselves as oppressed heroes.

Plus, there's something disturbing about trying to derive important moral lessons from Hollywood event-media.

I don't disagree that we need to get out of the corporate-imperialism business, esp. when thousands of lives are at stake. But I think a much better argument, if we're focusing on soldiers, is that improving the economy domestically -- real improvements I mean, in real wage increases and fewer Versailles-class payoffs off the backs of those least able to afford it -- gives people real alternatives for economic security. When times were 'good', the armed services were hurting for recruits, now that the economy's tanked they're pulling back on efforts because they don't have to spend nearly the same on marketing; people don't have choices.

So give them choices. If we need to make moral arguments about imperialistic murders, we should be making them against those directing the killing.

fairleft's picture
Submitted by fairleft on

Hell, our whole society buys into the same soldiers as heroes beat. It's the "deciders" who exploit patriotism and soldier-heroism (not to mention the economic 'security' provided by military service --twas ever thus). But now you're arguing that we should threaten those with the least alternatives, in a structure in which was not of their own making, with accusations of murder?

So what? Our society needs to change that attitude, so how are we supposed to do that other than pointing out the obvious truth about what our soldiers are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq?

I'm not arguing that we should threaten anyone, I'm saying we should tell them the vital, essential moral truth about what they're doing.

U.S.entertainment media is littered with popular rebel-against-the-powers movies (hello, Star Wars!) which haven't influenced us as a society against imperialist action, nevermind wars, one bit. Because, despite vast evidence to the contrary, we identify with the rebels, not the oppressors. Hell, even members of The Village think of themselves as oppressed heroes.

Avatar is likely going to be the biggest grossing movie of all time, and it is blatantly, obviously anti-imperialist, anti-invasion, anti-corporate-mercenaries, and pro-third-world, all of which directly points any sentient being toward the current military imperialism of the U.S. military. It would be _so_ easy to use the film in anti-recruiting propaganda. Star Wars, otoh, was about dueling monarchies and cheering for the cute princess and the 'chosen one' super hero.

Plus, there's something disturbing about trying to derive important moral lessons from Hollywood event-media.

That's your problem, because using an huge popular impact phenomena is how you create significant impact on young people even with the feeble resources anti-recruitment activists in fact possess.

I don't disagree that we need to get out of the corporate-imperialism business, esp. when thousands of lives are at stake. But I think a much better argument, if we're focusing on soldiers, is that improving the economy domestically -- real improvements I mean, in real wage increases and fewer Versailles-class payoffs off the backs of those least able to afford it -- gives people real alternatives for economic security. When times were 'good', the armed services were hurting for recruits, now that the economy's tanked they're pulling back on efforts because they don't have to spend nearly the same on marketing; people don't have choices.

I don't see why you wouldn't employ this argument: "What you would be doing is horribly and obviously wrong, please don't do it." Doesn't that just 'sound' extremely effective? In addition, the approach you suggest has been tried and is not working. Disillusioned former soldiers back from Iraq and Afghanistan agree with me that a moral argument needs to be directed at young potential mass killers, and wish someone had told them what they were getting into ethically/morally. We _owe_ it to potential recruits. Can't you see that?

So give them choices. If we need to make moral arguments about imperialistic murders, we should be making them against those directing the killing.

No, there really should not be a choice. Despite hard economic times, murder is still not okay. So, first explain, it won't be hard, how what U.S. are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq is murder. Then tell potential recruits, "NO, don't do that, it's wrong!"

fairleft's picture
Submitted by fairleft on

, so please don't do it." To "I empathize that times are hard and the military is a way to get ahead and secure a middle class quality of life and good health care, but what you would be doing is horribly and obviously wrong, so please don't do it."

Or can we be opposed as long as we say empathetic things about the murderers? I admit privileging the killed, the Afghan civilians and opposing soldiers who don't threaten the U.S. in any way. Is that what you mean by a privileged argument? I don't get it, I can't just say murder is wrong? It's a privileged argument to oppose murder by the down and out (which in fact describes very few enlistees into the U.S. military)?

Submitted by lambert on

... and, obviously, are going to. So, carry on!

* * *

Still waiting on those links from disillusioned soldiers. Got any?

fairleft's picture
Submitted by fairleft on

War resisters who've escaped the military often talk about how much they regret their former naivete, but it begins with a particularly on point example.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

here. At least, I have the same problem with it as I did with the talk-down to the working class situation discussed here.

If Avatar is as hugely popular as predicted, and its anti-imperialism message as obvious and as powerful as you detail in your original post, then what is it about the situation that needs lefties to 'explain' to all the soldiers and pre-soldiers that it is murder? Are you assuming that none of them will see Avatar? (in which case the analogizing will be a bit lacking) Or that they are too stupid to work out who the bad guys, or what the bad acts, are in the film without your help?

The war in Iraq is a war conducted by our society on another. I haven't seen it, but does it make the connection between the consumption-driven society that fuels corporate and nationalistic imperialism and the bad guys? and what you term murder? If soldiers are commiting murder by acting as one relatively small part in a vast machinery of homicidal imperialism, aren't we all just as murderous every time we drive a car or heat our homes? Or do you just assume that all the obviously smarter and more intellectual 'left'* will understand and absorb that message (and act accordingly) without the need for you 'educate' them about their moral obligations?

I'm not familiar with you're overall writing, so perhaps you advocate bringing the message of imperialistic murder to all of society, since we're all participants (whether in favor or the war), and you assume that everyone needs to have the message spelled out for them. But the focus in this post is, as Aeryl points out, a privileged one, as well as a condescending one.

fairleft's picture
Submitted by fairleft on

The U.S., like Japan and China for instance, could be fully supplied with energy resources by doing things the non-imperialist way, by paying Middle Eastern countries fair value for their natural resources wealth and committing itself seriously to conservation and home-grown alternative energy. So in no way are Americans advantaged by our trillion dollar military and its imperial adventures, in fact almost all of us are disadvantaged. A thin slice of investors in energy and military sector corporations are advantaged.

Yes, the movie does hit on greed as the imperialist motive, but the corporate profit motive variant. Basically we see a corporation's army, sanctioned or sponsored by its home country/planet, invading the less technologically advanced planet.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

It will not make anything better. Not for the troops and not for us. One cannot, IMO, advocate for restoring our democracy and then, at the same time, advocate for losing the civilian government control over the military. Soldiers, of course, have an obligation to disobey any illegal or unconstitutional order, but I wouldn't consider that to be mutiny, that's simply fulfilling their duties. Beyond that is simply asking for disaster. Once nobody has to follow orders, then it's just a matter of what they want to do with their guns, which may not always be lay them down. Perhaps they just know better which groups of people to shoot or, even worse, they'll start shooting each other. In addition, while many Americans oppose the current wars and I'm all for scaling back the empire, there are things I think a lot of us want the military to be doing and that requires personnel and a functioning command structure.

Also I don't think it's right to subcontract out citizen activism to enlisted soldiers. We do still elect our officials. The problem here is that either they aren't listening to us or that Americans support the wars. Regardless of which source is identified as the problem, it lies with the American people. If the government isn't doing what Americans want, then Americans need to get off their asses and do something about it (march, protest, throw the bums out). We already subcontract out our dirty work of war to the volunteer army filled mostly with kids just hoping to pay for college, must we subcontract out our duty as citizens, too?

We do have an all volunteer military and so people do not have to join (which would not be "mutiny" and so I don't consider that to be the subject of your post). Valhalla and Aeryl have already touched upon some of the issues that make the volunteering part less voluntary. I tend to agree that if you want to simply give the military access to fewer soldiers, then working to strengthen economic opportunities here is the best way to go about it. But refusing to join a volunteer military is not "mutiny" and so this is an off-topic discussion probably best left for another day.

But mutiny - and violence generally - are not the answer to our problems.

fairleft's picture
Submitted by fairleft on

The headline is primarily an attention getter for a helluvan anti-imperialist movie. My main point is paragraph two, to get anti-recruitment activists to use the righteous mutiny portrayed in 'Avatar' as a great way to teach potential recruits the moral wrong of joining today's U.S. military.

Submitted by lambert on

But I'm not for a lot of what this policy comes wrapped up in. In particular, I'm concerned about the lack of empathy, as I see it, for the people you hope to persuade. That's the class argument that several of us have been making. (Preemptively, "You're not showing empathy for the millions of Iraqi dead" isn't an on point response. You may be an equal opportunity pisser, but our deeply unjust system is not. If you were faced with the choice of having to join the military and getting your mother dialysis treatment, or not, and the choices are like that by design what would you do? Think carefully...)

fairleft's picture
Submitted by fairleft on

murderers' difficult life choices? No, the two are not connected. I'm empathetic, but would of course impose life imprisonment for such crimes (though how and whether to punish war criminals has nothing to do with the main topic of this diary), wouldn't you? How extensive must your empathy be? Related, do you seriously think it is a representative case that young people are choosing to join the military in order to provide their moms with life-saving medical treatment? And on that basis do you therefore not want to inform enlistees' (or 'poor' enlistees') that it seems straightforward that they're committing war crimes and/or mass murder and therefore might want to leave the military or not join?

To review I propose mass murder is a terrible, monumental wrong, and that activists inform and remind those in the military and those considering enlisting. I propose that 'Avatar' is a great vehicle for doing the preceding. You and others here oppose doing that.

Submitted by lambert on

... who can't get the point of a massively popular movie without you explaining it to them from a privileged stance of assumed moral superiority.

But do carry on and report back your results; they are, after all, what count.

fairleft's picture
Submitted by fairleft on

that its army is rightfully fighting terrorists and/or 'the bad guys' in Afghanistan and Iraq. They share those opinions with the majority of Americans, and of course that's the uniform message of the entire mainstream mass media. So yes, of course, there is a great deal of important education work to be done, and the movie could make that education work a lot more accessible and a lot easier, imho.

Just to be explicit, I didn't think I'd have to go back to square one on matters as obvious as the above.