Special Forces Rebels
By Jim Travis
29 September, 2006
Special Forces training, instilling the will to kill is equally important
as teaching the skills to kill. Commandos are heavily indoctrinated
in the rightness of using violence to defend and expand the US empire.
It's part of the esprit de corps, inseparable from the ethos of patriotism.
It's not surprising, then,
that few Green Berets can throw off this indoctrination, reject violence,
and rebel against the military, against a part of themselves. Those
who do so are usually extraordinary people with stories to tell.
Two such Special Forces combat
veterans have defected from the warrior cult and told their stories
Stan Goff, former commando
and instructor of military science at West Point, has published three
books on the interrelation of gender, violence, and patriarchy.
His first, HIDEOUS DREAM:
A Soldier's Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti, gives a close up view
of imperialism in action. His second, FULL SPECTRUM DISORDER: The Military
in the New American Century, charts the ongoing collapse of the Pentagon's
quest for "full spectrum dominance."
His new book, SEX & WAR,
goes a level deeper. It is both an eloquent refutation of the conventional
wisdom that war is essential to human nature and a working manual for
overthrowing the male domination of our society. He illustrates his
points with combat anecdotes and quotes from feminist writers.
Stan Goff, the ultimate warrior
turned peacemaker, has this and more to say about gender:
as sexualized-violence and violent-sexuality is not some alpha-male
genetic defect; it is not natural. It is an historically evolved reflection
of a division of labor and a division of social power. The military
-- an organization within the state -- simply
took this construction into itself, and made itself in masculinity's
"Gender is not the imposition
of human characteristics on sex. It is the division of human characteristics
-- forged into their concrete forms in the dialectic between society
and the individual -- into a gendered division of productive, reproductive,
epistemological, affective, and psychic labor.
"Men are not from Mars
and women are not from Venus. They have been exiled there from Earth."
"Social phenomena, then
-- like sexuality or economic production -- can never under any circumstances
be explained or understood as universal or timeless abstractions like
'drives' or 'nature.' They are historically contingent, existing only
in their specific forms at specific times and places, with biology and
"This is in many ways
the most radical proposition of Marxism, so it merits more than a passing
thought. Once we begin to dispense with ideas that are abstracted or
naturalized out of history, the ideological edifices of patriarchy and
capitalism begin to crumble."
"While males as an aggregate
have material benefits in the gender system, my argument remains that
the price we pay in every other aspect of our lives is terrible. Somehow
we have to connect not with male privilege but with male pain and make
that our point of departure for re-integrating the struggle for the
liberation of all human beings from the tyranny of gender."
"It becomes a revolutionary
responsibility then for male revolutionaries to become feminist, and
to exploit their own privilege for the purpose of destroying it.to become
"The liberation of women
is not an outcome of revolution. It is a precondition for it."
Further selections from SEX
& WAR are on the publisher's website,
and more of Stan Goff's writing is available at http://www.stangoff.com.
In addition to being a prolific
author and a devoted family man, Goff is an energetic activist. He lives
in Raleigh, North Carolina, within striking distance of his former base,
Fort Bragg, home of the Special Forces. Now he goes there to demonstrate
His specialty as an organizer
is building resistance to the military from within it, among soldiers
and their families. He co-founded Bring Them Home Now! and helped organize
Walkin' to New Orleans, a 150-mile march this spring from Alabama to
Louisiana to protest the militarism
that is impoverishing our society.
William T. Hathaway, another
Special Forces rebel author, shares Goff's conviction that patriarchal
machismo causes war and other pathologies of our culture. His first
novel, A WORLD OF HURT, won a Rinehart Foundation Award for its portrayal
of the blocked libido and the need for paternal approval that draw men
to the military.
"I was trying to uncover
the psychological roots of war, the forces that so persistently drive
us to slaughter," says Hathaway. "Our culture has degraded
masculinity into a deadly toxin. It's poisoned us all. Men have to confront
this part of themselves before men and women together can
heal it. I was lucky to have found a partner skilled at this.
"Understanding the effects
that our culturally imposed gender roles have on us is crucial to understanding
why we go to war. One attraction of war is that it is a substitute for
eroticism; it is the ultimate sexual perversion. It also reduces our
ability to love."
Hathaway shares Goff's leftist
politics. He wrote the introduction to "America Speaks Out: Collected
Essays from Dissident Writers" and has published numerous political
In his latest piece, "Sedition,
Subversion, Sabotage," which is published in CounterCurrents, he
argues against liberalism, saying its purpose is to preserve the system
by defusing discontent with superficial reforms. "Capitalism, although
resilient, is willing to change only in ways that shore it up, so before
anything truly different can be built, we have to bring it down."
Hathaway's writing won him
a Fulbright professorship at universities in Germany, where he currently
In addition to writing he
supports counter-recruitment work to persuade young people not to join
the military. He is active in a group encouraging soldiers to refuse
to go to Iraq and Afghanistan. For those who want to desert, they have
a sanctuary network that helps them build
new lives. "Refusing or deserting the military takes great courage,
and I wish I had been that brave. If convicted, they're punished viciously
because they're such a threat to the government's power. They're the
real heroes," the combat-decorated Green Beret veteran states.
Hathaway sees spirituality
as an essential component of a more peaceful world. "My military
experience convinced me that to prevent war we need to raise human consciousness.
A look at the history of revolutions shows that switching economic and
political systems isn't enough. The same
aggressive personality types take over and start another army. We have
to change the basic unit, the individual.
"I've found Eastern
meditation to be the most effective way to change people. Unlike psychotherapy
or prayer, it works on the physiological level, altering the brain waves
and metabolism. It refines the nervous system and expands the awareness
so that the unity of all human beings becomes a living reality, not
just an idealistic concept.
"After a while of meditation
people stop wanting to consume things that increase aggression, such
as meat, alcohol, and violent entertainment. They become more peaceful.
"I think it's very true
that peace begins within you. As Gandhi said, 'We have to become the
change we want to see in the world.'"
novel, SUMMER SNOW, approaches peace from this meditative perspective.
It is set amidst the war on terrorism as a US warrior falls in love
with a Sufi Muslim and learns from her an alternative to the military
The book's wisdom figure
is an aged Sufi woman, the warrior's lover's teacher, who has survived
by outsmarting male political and religious hierarchies. "This
bin Laden, this Bush, all these leading men, they have highjacked us
all with their violence," she states. "They have turned the
whole world into their suicide airplane. These men are too primitive
to have such power. Too ignorant of the underlying reality. We must
stop them. We must take the boys' toys away from them...these terrible
How she does that becomes
the climax of the novel.
Its theme is that higher
consciousness is more effective than violence and that women may be
more able than men to lead us there.
In writing SUMMER SNOW, Hathaway
drew on his experiences during a year and a half in Central Asia. The
first chapter is on the publisher's website, http://www.avatarpublication.com/books/?id=13,
and a selection of his writing is available at http://www.peacewriter.org.
Stan Goff and William T.
Hathaway shine light into the military's heart of darkness. These two
defectors from the elite guard have become effective opponents of the
empire they once served, and their example will help other soldiers
to rebel and tell their stories.
Jim Travis reads and writes and sometimes works in Massachusetts
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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