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A Foot Soldier Throws Down His Gun

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Source: Consortium News


Brandon Toy's General Dynamics employee badge (Photo credit: Brandon Toy)

Brandon Toy, who has just resigned from his position as an engineering project manager at the military contractor General Dynamics, released a letter of resignation that a lot of people are looking at. It says in part:
"I have served the post 9/11 military industrial complex for ten years, first as a soldier in Baghdad, and now as a defense contractor. I've always believed that if every foot soldier threw down his rifle, war would end. I hereby now, throw mine down. At the time of my enlistment I believed in the cause. I was ignorant, naive, and misled. The narrative professed by the state and echoed by the mainstream press has proven false and criminal. We have become what I thought we were fighting against. Recent revelations by fearless journalists of war crimes, including counter-insurgency, dirty wars, drone terrorism, suspension of due process, torture, mass surveillance and widespread regulatory capture have shed light on the true nature of the current U.S. government..."
DB: Let's start here Brandon Toy, how did you become, if you will, in your own words, a part of the post 9/11 military industrial complex. Where did that start for you?

BT: To be honest with you, Dennis, I think that started seeing images of soldiers and war, glorified veterans held up as heroes, flag waving, etc., etc. It just got the idea in my head that that was about the highest thing that you could do for your country, was to serve in the armed forces. And then it just snowballed from there. After 9/11, I became, I guess you would say, a rabid patriot and I was all for the Iraq war. I have to confess that I voted for President Bush twice. I enlisted at the end of 2003 after Iraq had started. I believed in the cause. I thought we were going over there to find WMDs and fight terrorism on its own soil, etc., etc., oust Hussein from power and bring democracy to the Middle East which now seems like a ludicrous concept to me. But I actually believed that stuff. So I got sucked in very deeply, very quickly. And even though I didn't enlist when I was 18 -- I was 24 -- I still see myself as very young and naive, at that time.

DB: Now could you talk a little bit about your experiences in the war zone? What did you do there?

BT: I was a machine gunner in a Humvee unit. And I was stationed at Camp Rustamiyah, it was formerly called Camp Cuervo. It's on the southeast side of Baghdad. And we patrolled, up and down, what's known as Canal Street through Al Masada [phonetic] and Sadr City. We trained and supported and transported Iraqi police officers, and Iraqi army personnel. We checked on detainees, we transported detainees from the Green Zone to different locations, or from an Iraqi police station to different locations. But like I said, I was a foot solider. I was a machine gunner.

DB: Did you see the "collateral murder" video that was made available by WikiLeaks through Bradley Manning?

BT: Yeah, absolutely. I saw that about two years ago, two to three years ago, for the first time.

DB: And was that familiar, in terms of your own experience?

BT: The way they carried themselves, and the way they talked about the targets on the ground was familiar to me. And it was very disturbing.

DB: What was your response to seeing that video? Was that part of, sort of, your transformation?

BT: Yeah, absolutely. That was one of the major things that really stood out to me, in the beginning of really coming to understand the truth of the true nature of what we're doing overseas.

DB: And what about that video became, sort of, a crucial part of your transformation. What details, what was the essence that got to you there?

BT: The thing that stuck out in my mind was just the disregard for these actually being people on the ground, that they are firing at. And then when the van comes to pick up the wounded ... and they almost take joy in, you know, "Please let us shoot." And then shooting the van, and then finding out that there were a couple of Reuters reporters, and that were on the ground there, and children in the van, and then the tank that, maybe it wasn't a tank, but that's how I remember it, that ran over one of the bodies on the ground. And kind of laughing about that. It just seemed very callous, uncaring, dehumanizing, like somebody watching a video game. It was just very disturbing.

DB: Well, after your military experience you actually became a contractor. You worked with General Dynamics as a project manager. That's a major defense establishment in the sort of the corporate military, you have to say, media complex, at this point. Tell us about how you went to work to General Dynamics, and what you were doing there, in terms of supporting the war effort.

BT: Sure, I graduated from college in 2008, and one of my professors knew somebody there, and got me in. And I started there as a very, almost glorified administrative assistant. And then worked my way up to managing small projects and other efforts of that nature, developmental engineering projects, nothing too exciting...around combat vehicle stuff, different systems, mechanical systems, electrical systems, etc.

DB: What about what you were doing became offensive to you, and at what point did it? What was the work?

BT: It wasn't particularly the work itself that was offensive. There was nothing overtly criminal or anything of that nature, for the work that I was doing. It was more, I came to not see that much of a difference between holding a rifle in theater, and sitting behind a keyboard speaking military jargon, basically being a soldier, an appendage of the military industrial complex, from behind a desk, without a uniform on. We had the same bosses that we reported up through. We were supporting the same war effort, it was just a matter of location, and comfort. I was more comfortable than I was in theater. But I was working for the same exact bosses, in the same effort.

DB: How would you explain the relationship between General Dynamics and the United States military?

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http://www.flashpoints.net/

Dennis J Bernstein is the host and executive producer of Flashpoints, a daily news magazine broadcast on Pacifica Radio. He is an award-winning investigative reporter, essayist and poet. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, and (more...)
 
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