by Jan Baughman
(Swans - November 21, 2011) Despite cities across America growing weary of the Occupy movement and increasingly ordering police to dismantle the encampments and arrest and/or relocate the protesters, the movement has not lost traction as of yet, and it has certainly gained media attention. Its "99%" message has finally provided a sound bite for the obscene and immoral wealth inequality in America (and beyond). Another powerful outgrowth of the movement is the participation of Iraq Veterans Against the War, who, with unemployment rates exceeding the national average, are lending their voices to fight inequality and the obscene military spending that consumes half of the US budget and enriches the elite.
The post-9/11 revenge frenzy that enabled the War on Iraq fed into the "We Support our Troops" propaganda that labeled criticism of the war as unpatriotic and an attack on those who were allegedly fighting to preserve American freedoms and way of life. Just how destroying Iraq would preserve American freedom was never explicitly defined. (Oil was, of course, left out of the discussion, and ironically, Iraqi oil has not flowed to America to satisfy her unquenchable thirst.) The antiwar protests obviously failed, but the Occupy Wall Street movement has exposed the fallacy that We Support our Troops, and that their service in Iraq and Afghanistan has helped to preserve our freedoms for which they supposedly fought -- free speech, the right to peaceable assembly, the right to challenge the government. Once out of uniform, they are just civilians like the rest of us at the mercy of power.
Marine Corps veteran Scott Olson survived two tours in Iraq, and while exercising his freedom was hit by a tear-gas canister during an Occupy Oakland protest, suffered a fractured skull, and is currently in therapy to regain his ability to speak. "After my freedom of speech was quite literally taken from me, my speech is coming back, but I've got a lot of work to do with rehab," he recently stated. He vows to continue to protest.
Also injured during Occupy Oakland was army veteran Kayvan Sabeghi, who was brutally beaten by police, suffered a ruptured spleen, and was arrested and jailed for hours with internal bleeding and vomiting before receiving medical treatment and surgery.
The best the government can do is try to bribe tax-evading corporations with tax credits to hire war veterans, while 16 of them commit suicide every day because of the horrors they faced in war and in their return to the brutal realities of civilian life. It is time that we genuinely support our troops and listen to those revered voices that are left behind when their "service to the country" is completed. It may prove to be the most important battle they will fight on our behalf.
The elite will be challenged in this new political climate to defend their propagandistic mantra that raising taxes on the wealthy will hurt the economy, when 99% are already hurting with no relief in sight. The recent report that 47% -- not 1% -- of US Congress members are millionaires should be a wake-up call to those who keep voting them into power where they repeatedly legislate in their self-interest and against the public interest.
The American Dream has become a living nightmare for civilians and veterans alike. One can only hope that a new generation of leaders will emerge from the OWS protests to represent the people. The movement is criticized, in attempts to discredit it, for lacking specific demands. But the message on its Web site is rather straightforward: "[OWS] is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations." We are the 99%, and we are too big to fail if we put our minds and our actions toward success.
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