With the election of Barack Obama as president, people in the United States and throughout the world celebrated the end of the hated Bush administration, and looked forward with a new sense of hope and optimism.
It was a victory to beat back the most blatant right-wing forces while overwhelmingly demanding change. However, the struggle is only beginning for service members, veterans and all working people in the United States.
The people are against war and occupation
The vast majority of people are against the illegal occupation of Iraq and reflected this in their vote for Obama. However, U.S. service members and Iraqi people alike will continue to die, and to be seriously wounded and psychologically scarred on the streets of Iraq. A real end to the occupation is not on the horizon; at best we have been promised just a different strategy, one that maintains the presence of U.S. troops, bases, defense contractors and mercenaries indefinitely. There is no change in the deceitful rhetoric of doing “what is best for the people of Iraq.” The U.S. government will continue to do what is best for U.S. corporations and allied powers’ interests in Iraq. The lies that landed us in Iraq may have begun with the Bush administration, but they continue under the Obama administration. The occupation of Iraq is still criminal, no matter who is president.
Even if service members are sent less frequently to kill and die for oil and domination in Iraq, they will be sent much more frequently to kill and die for oil and domination in Afghanistan, where Obama has already ordered a troop increase of between 17,000 and 30,000. What has been falsely defined as the “good war” serves only the interests of the rich, securing the region’s most vital oil pipeline routes and providing a strategic foothold to dominate the region’s resources. The fight is not against “terrorism,” as we are told, but against people who will not allow U.S. corporations to reap massive profits from their land and labor. The Obama administration has pledged that countless more service members will have their lives placed in jeopardy fighting for the rich in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Surviving the criminal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is only half the battle. Women, people of color and LGBT people in the military still face discrimination. Enlisted personnel still endure unnecessary missions, low pay and substandard living conditions while the officer corps lives in luxury. Service members still do not have the right to refuse to obey illegal and immoral orders, and are forced to deploy again and again.
For veterans the battle continues at home
Meanwhile, nothing has changed for veterans who will come home and be kicked to the curb by the government for which they fought. The treatment of veterans is now a scandal and blows holes in the government propaganda that it cares about the lives of the men and women who are sent to fight in imperial wars. The pressure is growing so much that President Obama went out of his way to pledge increased benefits for veterans and increased pay for active-duty people when he delivered his “Iraq speech” at Camp Lejeune on February 27.
Funding for the Veterans Administration is still significantly inadequate. A record number of suicides have been recorded, with countless stories of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder being denied care. Service members who joined the military to escape economic hardship are still coming home to find the same lack of opportunities. In most parts of the country, the job situation is much worse than when service members entered the military. Veterans more than ever are expanding the ranks of the homeless and the unemployed.
The election of Obama aside, there is still a system in place that allows the interests of the rich to dictate both foreign and domestic policy. For service members, veterans and workers this means war and colonialism abroad, and poverty and inequality at home. Under these conditions, nothing will come of simply waiting for change, no matter how much hope one has. Change will come when we organize to make the demands that need to be made and fight together until they are won.