War, Liberation, & Violence – ryan forest, M.A.
Reflections of a war veteran
There is a very interesting contradiction in the heart of American culture around war, justice, and violence. At its root is the principal that when waged on behalf of American ‘Freedom’ and ‘Democracy’ in foreign countries, violence is always justified. No matter the brutality. No matter the cost. Invasion, occupation, carpet bombing, and even atomic warfare are all justified as necessary acts of violence in the preservation or expansion of freedom.
War & Violence
I saw this first hand when I deployed to Ramadi in March of 2005 as a Marine Infantryman. For 7 months, we occupied the city of Ramadi leaving a collapsed city in our wake. When we arrived, Ramadi, the capitol of the Al Anbar Province, was a thriving city of around 350,000 people. Yet, as we marched across the city with machine guns, rockets, and Mark 19 grenade launchers, the city was turned to ruble. Schools bombed to the ground. Entire neighborhoods with no access to clean water. Children playing in filthy trash laden streets lined with razor wire. The midnight raids. The ransacking. The mass arrests. Sandbags over the heads. To a people I had never met living half way around the planet from my home. We brought war, brutal occupation, and by the time we left, 7 months later, the entire infrastructure of the city of Ramadi had fallen.
When I came home from the war, I was welcomed by most of society as a ‘hero’ that had ‘fought for freedom,’ and it was here that I began to realize the contradiction our society has about liberation and violence. When I walked out the gate of Camp Pendleton for the last time in 2008, I walked into a society in the depths of economic collapse and social unrest. Millions of Americans were loosing their jobs, their homes, and their healthcare as billions of dollars were handed to the very bankers responsible for the collapse. Members of my own family lost the entirety of their retirement money. Deportations swept the streets, and the police had higher quality protective war gear than I had in Ramadi. There was women, children, men, and non binary people experiencing homeless across the city on nearly every corner of the working class neighborhoods I lived. Entire tent cities popped up across the country. This infuriated me to my very core, and like so many Veterans who turn against imperialism, I got active.
I had realized that my enemies were not the People of Ramadi, half a word away struggling to survive an occupation. It was the people who seized my family’s retirement. The people who evicted my community members from their homes. It was not the people in Iraq or Afghanistan that used violence to occupy my community, it was the police. It was my own government and the oil tycoons, weapons contractors, and bankers making trillions of dollars off all this suffering.
I started to see the worst aspects of the occupation right in my own neighborhood, but, there was a fundamental contradiction in the way society views violence.
When in the interests of capitalism, the state, the corporations, and the expansion of American imperialism, violence is always justified. Yet, when the people decide we have had enough and fight back, we are told ‘violence is never the answer.’ This is because the capitalist class, through the state, maintains a dictatorship on the use of violence.
The government was eager in putting a machine in my hand and sending me half way around the world to fight, kill, and potentially die in a war for profit. A war that cost the American people $800,000,000 every-single-day. Yet, when I came home to a collapsing system, horrific police brutality, evictions, deportations, suddenly, violence was never the answer.
I was told the only viable solution to these horrific social injustices is to vote. Yet, a decade later, things have only gotten worse. Police terror is even more militarized, debt has an entire generation under the boot of poverty, the plant’s ecosystem is being devastated to the point of threatening all life on earth, and now the US is operating concentration camps, conducting mass sweeps and caging of the most vulnerable of our society in horrific conditions.
Liberation & Violence
On March 27, 1943, a Dutch Anti-Fascist Willem Arondeus and a group of guerrillas dressed as police officers convinced their way into a Civil Registry office under Nazi Occupation. They piled files, used explosives, and burned the office to the ground destroying over 800,000 identity cards and 600 bank cards saving the lives of countless Jewish People from death camps. Willem along with 13 other Anti-Fascist Guerrillas were captured and sentenced to death. Willem was murdered by the Nazi Occupation on July 2, 1943. Willem, a gay man, had these last words before his murder “Let it be known that gays are not cowards!”
On July 13, 2019, Anti-Fascist Willem Von Spronsen used firebombs to attack the North West Concentration Camp holding undocumented immigrants in horrific conditions. Born in Post WWII Holland, Willem saw first hand the devastation caused by fascism and the Nazi Occupation that Willem Arondeus gave his life resisting. Willem Von Spronsen was murdered by police on site and while he was unable to liberate the prisoners from the camp, he has brought a much needed discussion to the national stage. The discussion on the use of violence in the resistance to fascism.
As the rise of extreme state violence, terror, and tactics undeniably used in fascist authoritarianism constructs concentration camps, will we just stand by? “You don’t have to burn the motherfucker down, but are you just going to stand by?” Willem asked in his final words.
Violence is not the answer. It has never been the answer to political liberation. It is one tactic among many, many, important tactics in building revolutionary struggle. Mass mobilization is another very important, and necessary, tactic in resisting occupation and in waging liberation struggle. Strikes, food redistribution drives like the Free Lunch Program by the Black Panthers, and practical community assistance programs build relationships, struggle, and ease the suffering we face day to day. Protests build solidarity, networks, and trust. Building affinities, comradeship, communities, and organization capable of coalition building are all a part of struggle. This is the heart of diversity of tactics, and sometimes, the use of physical force is necessary, justified, and effective at liberation, movement building, and struggle.
I would like to honor Willem by closing with some of his last words I hope shine into the beauty of a man who gave his life for liberation.
this is the test of our fundamental belief in real freedom and our responsibility to each other. this is a call to patriots, too, to stand u against this travesty against everything you hold sacred. i know you. i know that in your hearts you see the dishonor in these camps. it’s time for you too, to stand up to the money pulling the strings of every goddam puppet pretending to represent us…
i am antifa, i stand with comrades around the world who act from the love of life in every permutation, comrades who understand that freeom means real freedom for all and a life worth living.
keep the faith
all power to the people