Michael Prysner and James Circello, staff members of March Forward!, an antiwar organization for active duty soldiers and veterans, discuss the bigotry ingrained in military culture that dehumanizes the enemy du jour, the class struggle between enlisted soldiers and officers, the intentional “draw fire” missions that boost an officer’s career while endangering troops, double-dipping retired generals who get paid to propagandize for more war, the continued deployment of soldiers with PTSD and the Pentagon’s fear of a mass GI desertion.
MP3 here. (30:09)
Michael Prysner joined the U.S. Army when he was 17 years old, between his junior and senior year of high school. He left for basic training in June 2001, and spent six months training at the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Academy, where he was taught to operate a radar system used to call air strikes and artillery barrages on vehicle convoys. He was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, N.Y., and in March 2003 his company was attached to the 173rd Airborne Brigade to take part in the initial invasion of Iraq.
Of this experience, Michael wrote: “Once in Iraq, there was no computer screen separating me from the suffering civilian population. Because of the Bush administration’s failure to anticipate the resistance of the Iraqi people, there was an inadequate number of soldiers in my unit, and I ending up having to do a myriad of different jobs. I spent 12 months in Iraq, doing everything from prisoner interrogations, to ground surveillance missions, to home raids. It was my firsthad experiences in Iraq that radicalized me. I believed I was going to Iraq to help liberate and better the lives of an oppressed people, but I soon realized that my purpose in Iraq was to be the oppressor, and to clear the way for U.S. corporations with no regard for human life.
“I separated from the Army in 2005, by which time I had begun to make sense of my experiences in Iraq, and understood that the occupation I was a part of was a crime against humanity. I understood that illegal conquering of Iraq was for profit, carried out by a system that serves a tiny class of superrich whose endless drive for wealth is at the expense of working people in the United States and abroad.
“I left this Army with a new understanding of the system under which we all live, and the nature of U.S. foreign policy. But, I still had the same drive to fight for freedom, justice and equality as I did when I joined, and I understood that fighting for those things meant fighting against the U.S. government, not on behalf of it.”
James Circello enlisted in the United States Army as an Airborne Infantryman in September 2001.
He served with various units throughout Europe and deployed with the 173rd Airborne Brigade during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Of this experience, James writes: “During the occupation of Iraq, the truth about what the United States government has done to the country of Iraq became more apparent. Open waste water flowed through neighborhood streets where children played soccer. Families were thrown out of their homes with simple accusations from others. Vehicles were taken on sight by the military if individuals couldn’t provide proper documents claiming they own the vehicle. These events and others helped in strengthening my opposition to the so-called ‘War on Terror.’”
In April 2007, while his unit was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, James Circello deserted the military. Months later, he issued an open letter to the U.S. government declaring he had officially resigned from the military. While AWOL he delivered speeches along the devastated Gulf Coast, making the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan personal to many of Hurricane Katrina’s survivors.
In November 2007, James Circello turned himself in to the military at Fort Knox and was discharged administratively within three days.