In response to President Barack Obama's announcement on December 1 to deploy 30,000 additional troops to the occupation of Afghanistan, the organization March Forward!, comprising both veterans and active-duty members of the US military, has called on all soldiers to refuse their orders to deploy.
"March Forward! calls on all service members to refuse orders to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq," reads a press release from the group from December 3. "We offer our unconditional support and solidarity. Join us in the fight to ensure that no more soldiers or civilians lose their lives in these criminal wars."
Michael Prysner, a former corporal in the Army who served from 2001-2005 and a veteran of the occupation of Iraq, co-founded the group with another Iraq war veteran, James Circello.
Truthout asked Prysner how he responds to those who believe a soldier should always follow orders, no matter what.
"In my experience the majority of people joining the military today join out of necessity, like money, jobs, help for their family, etc., so most don't join for ideological or patriotic reasons. Most are driven into the military by economic conditions. We see this playing out now, as people are joining in droves because of the economy."
Prysner added, "Yes, people do sign a contract to follow orders, but those orders are wrong and unlawful. We want to educate people to the fact that these are immoral orders, and they [soldiers] are being used as muscle for corporations, to colonize the developing world, and it's not legitimate. People who join and take this oath seriously who think they are in [the military] to defend the US, this is not what we are being used for in the military today."
Prysner has written about his experience in Iraq, "... there was no computer screen separating me from the suffering civilian population. I spent 12 months in Iraq, doing everything from prisoner interrogations, to ground surveillance missions, to home raids. It was my firsthand 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 US corporations with no regard for human life."
After he separated from the Army in 2005, Prysner "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 super-rich whose endless drive for wealth is at the expense of working people in the United States and abroad."
According to Prysner, the lessons he learned from being part of the US occupation of Iraq taught him that, "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 US government, not on behalf of it."
To those who call him and his organization "anti-American" and/or "unpatriotic," Prysner has this to say:
"I would say that I have more in common with my sisters and brothers in Iraq and Afghanistan than I do with these people in DC who've sent us to war. If that's unpatriotic, then yes, I am. But patriotism and racism are the only things the military has to fall back on to convince people to do the things we are being asked to do today."
March Forward! was founded in 2008, and the aim of the organization is "to unite all those who have served and who currently serve in the US military, and who want to stand up for our rights and for that which is right."
"We are new and growing," Prysner explained. "We have seen somewhat consistent growth, and we're expecting this to accelerate now."
The group's statement from December 3 adds, "On December 1, we got a clear order from President Obama. For many more years, we will be sent to kill, to die, to be maimed and wounded, in a war where 'victory' is impossible, against a people who are not our enemies. For over eight years, we have come home in coffins, in wheelchairs, with our skin burned and with our days and nights haunted by the trauma of war. We return home to a VA whose services are so inadequate that active duty soldiers who succumb to suicide outnumber those killed in combat."
James Circello is a former Army sergeant and veteran of the US occupation of Iraq. Circello, who joined the military in 2001, describes his experience in Iraq as follows: