Cover photo by Theo Stroomer for The New York Times
By Robin Fontaine
At the age of eighteen, like many poor and working-class youth, I felt desperate, hopeless, and powerless in my own life. I believed the only way I could be useful to society was to enlist in the military and fight for “my country.” The US, I believed, was greater than myself, and its army offered myself and others a pathway towards spiritual fulfillment. Its cause was just-that is, the supposed fight for the freedom of our own people and for the people oppressed by tyrant governments and religious zealots overseas. Through enlistment, I saw an opportunity to rise out of the ranks of poverty and grueling, low-wage work and into the ranks of the so-called middle class where the “American Dream” –complete with a piece of land, and impressive degree courtesy of the GI Bill –seemed to become less of an abstract idea and more of a tangible paradise just beyond the horizon of basic training and war.
I no longer hold these delusions of a middle-class paradise because I saw firsthand the consequences of my service to the US and to imperialism. I remain haunted by the sound of falling mortars and rockets, the sight of senseless death, and the brain-liquefying explosions of roadside bombs. Every night I dream of Afghanistan, of my lost friends, and of the countless faces of the Afghan people as they looked upon me with fear, hatred, and righteous anger. I participated in the bloodthirsty domination of the Afghan people. I occupied their lands and violated their rights.
It is no wonder that twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day. I have struggled often with it, myself. The truth is, the US government only wants to use you for its imperialist aims: the conquest of lands for their resources and the super-exploitation of people for their labor power. Once they use you up, once you’ve become a shell of yourself, they discard you.
By joining the Army, I directly betrayed my own class: the working class. I betrayed the workers of the world who valiantly struggle against US imperialism and took up the gun of the enemy. I was the enemy. The Afghans who fought against me and my brothers-in-arms were not. In fact, they were fighting for their very lives! They were fighting to rid their lands of US imperialism! My friends died not for a free Afghanistan, but for its exploiters –the very people keeping Afghanistan oppressed. Chairman Mao once said that to die for the exploiters was lighter than a feather, but to die for the people was heavier than a mountain. I wish more than anything that my friends had not died for the exploiters, but rather had given themselves to the people.
Despite my crimes against the people, and despite the years of ultra-nationalist indoctrination I received in the Army as an infantryman, I have still been accepted as a supporter of Tribune of the People. I can never make up for what I’ve done, but through my work with Tribune, I can finally unite with the working class, and all the exploited and oppressed people of the world. I can fight against the enemy and the exploiters. I can educate others from my class on the dangers of joining the US military, so they don’t make the same mistake I did.
If you’re looking for a cause to fight for, a purpose in your life, away to rise out of your poverty, for real hope, then I implore you to reject the US military, reject imperialism, and fight against it in the growing revolutionary movement! If you’re a veteran like myself, then you too can fight against the real enemy, and avenge not only those friends you’ve lost, but also end the same exploitation you helped enforce. Tribune of the People contributes to this movement through its political line, generated by its ideology –the ideology of the working class –Maoism! I implore you to read Tribune to understand this ideology and join us in the fight against imperialism!
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