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Such is the power of today’s mass Black Lives Matter uprising, that it has opened a breach in U.S. capitalism’s most important defense wall: the military. For if the police are American capitalism’s junk yard Dobermans, the Armed Forces are basis of its domination over the world. And if the cry for equal justice has opened a tiny crack in the Blue Wall of Silence, the breach in the ranks of the U.S. military, which is 40% colored and recruited from the poorest classes of American society, is more like a gulf.

If the cry for equal justice has opened a tiny crack in the Blue Wall of Silence, the breach in the ranks of the U.S. military, which is 40% colored and recruited from the poorest classes of American society, is more like a gulf.

The rank and file in today’s U.S. Army, Navy and Air Forces are a reflection of American society, of a population of mainly poor and minority people for whom the military provides one possible solution to unemployment and discrimination. The mood of the troops reflects that of the communities they are recruited from, and their officers, who are responsible for their morale, discipline, and loyalty, must be sensitive to their feelings. This situation is epitomized by the following quotations from the N.Y. Times:

Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright of the Air Force, who is black, wrote an extraordinary Twitter thread declaring, “I am George Floyd.”

“The Navy’s top officer, Adm. Michael M. Gilday, said in a message on Wednesday to all sailors: “I think we need to listen. We have black Americans in our Navy and in our communities that are in deep pain right now. They are hurting.” “

Although Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, released a message to top military commanders on Wednesday affirming that every member of the armed forces swears an oath to defend the Constitution, which he said “gives Americans the right to freedom of speech,” The Generals and Admirals, retired and active, who have been speaking out for racial justice and the rights of demonstrating citizens this week are not all sudden converts to the cause of peace and justice. Rather, the America officer class is sharply focused on its global mission, which is to protect American domination around the world by leading these troops to kill and be killed in bloody civil war situations in mainly non-white countries.

“We are at the most dangerous time for civil-military relations I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, a retired vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an email. “It is especially important to reserve the use of federal forces for only the most dire circumstances that actually threaten the survival of the nation. Our senior-most military leaders need to ensure their political chain of command understands these things.”

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For the troops, policing the world for capitalism is an endless, incompressible and demoralizing mission of violent counter-insurrection from which they return physically and psychologically damaged, often haunted by guilt, only to face unemployment and lack of support from the public and the underfunded Veterans’ Authority. As for the officers, it is a question of maintaining discipline and morale. The top brass know that deploying troops trained in counter-insurrection to control civil disturbances on U.S. soil would inevitably have one of two negative results (if not both):

  • Un-acceptable violence against civilians and/or
  • fraternization with the protestors, mutiny, and disobedience among the ranks.

Hence the Pentagon’s open break with their “law and order” Commander in Chief. The danger of fraternization is especially real in National Guard regiments, whose troops are drawn from the populations of the states their families live in.

Senior Pentagon leaders worry that a militarized and heavy-handed response to the protests, Mr. Trump’s stated wish, will turn the American public against the troops, like what happened in the waning years of the Vietnam War, when National Guard troops in combat fatigues battled antiwar protesters at Kent State. Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, denounced the use of the military to support the political acts of a president who had “laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country.”

Although the eternal showman Trump apparently appointed Mark Milley chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the basis of the General’s physical resemblance to John Wayne, Milley happens to be a serious military historian. So is Secretary of Defense Esper. Both are aware that revolutions can only happen when there is a split in the ranks of the soldiers. In their West Point courses on counter-insurgency, they have certainly read of the classic example of Russia in 1917 when the Cossacks were sent to block the demonstrators in St. Petersburg. These fierce cavalry men sat passively still on their horses as the strikers dove between their legs, leading Trotsky to famously remark that “the revolution passes underneath the belly of a Cossack’s horse.” And indeed, not long after this incident the Russian soldiers formed ‘Soviets’ (councils) and joined the workers’ and peasants in overthrowing the Czar.

Of course Russia in 1917 was in the middle of a social crisis, led by an inept, self-deluded Autocrat, bleeding lives and treasure into an endless, pointless foreign war. Nothing even vaguely similar could ever happen in optimistic, triumphant, happy, America under the firm leadership and uniting presence of our lovable President, Donald J. Trump.

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Richard Greeman

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