Springer: It’s a little half-horse town up the 25 in the northeast highlands. I joined the military to get the hell out. After I turned 17, I came down to Albuquerque and enlisted. I went in in 1981. Regular Army. I was in the Gulf War in ’91. Our first firing was on 14 February. That’s my association with Valentine’s Day since.
In 2003, after years of anger, I ran into this group of veterans, who were Veterans for Peace. I’m one of the youngest people in the chapter. I’m 45. Veterans for Peace: You put those three words together and it doesn’t make sense to most people. One of our goals is to dispel ignorance. We have never told a kid not to join the military. We have told them, ‘Here’s what happens beyond the recruiter’s story.’ A well-informed society would act different. But if you keep everyone running their asses off trying to work their job-and-a-half or two jobs, they’re too busy to pay attention.
One of those high-ranking Nazi guys said if you tell a lie long enough, people will believe it’s the truth. My take is, if we tell the truth long enough, people will come to see it as the truth.
We’re told a lie in this society about military service and ‘duty, honor, country.’ It’s more like ‘duty, honor, corporatism.’ [Before 9.11] we were negotiating pipelines through Afghanistan. We didn’t care about the women being treated the way they were. It was really about access to Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and their natural resources. If we cared how women were treated, we’d start in this country, and a woman would make $1 to what a man does, instead of 78 cents to the dollar.
I don’t care what Obama says. To do the job, [Gen. Stanley McChrystal] doesn’t need 30,000 [soldiers]—I’m thinking at least a million, if you want the ratio to be correct for counterinsurgency.
The rules of engagement are that these damn Predators are killing kids, old men, women, civilians. It’s some dude sitting somewhere in Nevada or Kirtland with their little joystick controlling a drone like it’s a video game.
The indoctrination we go through as soldiers blinds us to certain realities. We are the invaders. The Afghanis have nothing but time. We were also one of the most powerful militaries during the Vietnam War, and they managed to do just fine. We have the drones, the satellites; the thing that we lack is the conviction they have over there. We’re not Sparta.
People can’t just go out there like this and kill, and come back mentally and spiritually intact. You don’t turn this on and off like a faucet. For a lot of people, it’s like, ‘You trained me to do this. You conditioned me like a dog.’ But we don’t act like dogs. Because we have this neocortex, we don’t obey quite as well as dogs do.
The visible protests have died down. I used to be out at the corner weekly, and then I was overcome by work. Work takes precedence. Did you see the protests before Iraq? There were millions on the streets. [The government] said, ‘Go right ahead, as long as you pay your taxes.’ Being a democracy doesn’t mean we’re a free society.
I’m an addiction counselor. In recovery, there’s no such thing as ‘cured.’ It’s an ongoing process. On one level it doesn’t matter exactly what we do, it’s that we keep doing something. Change is inevitable. Code Pink, United for Peace & Justice, the Quakers—everyone’s doing footwork.
Protests in the street are not as effective as going and occupying a congressman’s office. You’ve got to be willing to be arrested and, at this point, I’m a parent—I’m not prepared to do certain things. [My son is] a lot better behaved than I was at 16. I was a mess at 16.
Afghanistan will end up being a bigger mess than Iraq was.