The Soldier That Wasn’t There

There is an anti-war slogan that says “Suppose they gave a War and Nobody Came.” This was the title of a 1966 essay by Charlotte Keys, the mother of an anti-war activist son who was imprisoned for refusing to serve after being drafted. The essay was published in McCall’s magazine.

I read this essay in college and it flashed into my mind when I read about my Northern Illinois University ROTC classmate and friend Tammy Duckworth coming back from Iraq with no legs in 2004.  The picture of her broken body brought tears to my eyes. At about the same time, the first news of Abu Graib hit the news. At that moment, memories of the lies told to justify the war in Vietnam floated back into my mind from my young childhood as I sat in front of the TV watching the nightly news. Frankly, I do not know whether to thank Tammy for her service or to apologize to her.

I had already evaded numerous orders to report for duty from the US Army’s Inactive Ready Reserve Command in St. Louis since shortly after 9/11. My wife had given birth to our first child, a girl, in 2002. My concerns as a parent may have propelled my evasion at first. However, in 2004, I turned against the war on terror out of principle as well as out of necessity.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq droned on into 2005 as the troop surges occurred only 2 years after George W. Bush declared “mission accomplished” from the deck of an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. I read on that the US Congress authorized the Defense Department to use tax records to track evaders. Canada was sending soldiers back, so the thought of Israel came to me and we applied for aliyah.

The IRR found my last US address in 2006, shortly after our aliyah. While I was honorably discharged, I remain in the Retired Ready Reserve. It is almost impossible to resign a commission, so this military commitment is still hanging over my head as the war on terror continues at the end of its second decade.

One issue that has come up is Joe Biden’s outstanding support for the Iraq War in the Senate. This was critical to pass the resolution authorizing the disastrous Iraq War. To understand this, I would suggest you view the short documentary Worth The Price? Joe Biden and the Launch of the Iraq War, narrated by Danny Glover. It is short (about 15 minutes) and will bring you quickly up to speed on the role prominent Democrats had in rubber stamping the war on terror and stamping out opposition voices.

As Colonel Wilkerson notes in the documentary, the former chief aide to then Secretary of State Colin Powell noted that the entire oil industry and the arms industries called the shots.  They are the only party that matters.  Republicans and Democrats are all subservient to the military industrial complex.  They now run America.  They did not command me then or now.

I really wonder though what would happen if more people had done what I did. There is another saying from the 1960s that says “think globally and act locally.” This is what I did. In addition to my two legs, I count two more children in my life. Though I am divorced due to the strains of aliyah, I can show my clean hands to my children and say I did not commit murder. More US troops need to do the same.

I would like to leave you with then President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warning to all future generations about the military industrial complex. He truly was a prophet. No one knows how to condemn war better than a former general.  I hold with his counsel.

About the Author
Akiva ben Avraham is a former community college adjunct, US Army intelligence analyst and officer, and a caregiver.
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