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The Special Forces Rebels

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Message Jim Travis
During 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 in books.

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:

"Masculinity constructed 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 society interfused.

"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 become gender traitors."

"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

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Jim Travis reads and writes and sometimes works in Massachusetts.
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