Campus Left brought three members of Iraq Veterans Against the War to speak at UCSB on Friday, May 14. To an audience of about 30 students, in a room at the Student Resource Building, the three shared their experiences of the military both at home and overseas. They described insurgents as “the poor and hungry” and urged students to get active and seek “a solution to end systematic violence.”
Brian Casler spoke passionately of his time in Iraq. He served four years overseas. Casler told his listeners that at first he was excited to go to war and serve his country, but that the realities of this war changed his feelings drastically. “No good can come” from military involvement there, he said, “which is a hard line to draw after serving four years.” Casler said that “dehumanization, segregation, hate, and violence were taught at all levels” of the military, which he called “an instrument of global imperialism.”
He spoke of inhumane orders that tended toward and even encouraged violence, describing brutalities against civilians—even children. His commanders allegedly told him that “if they have a cell phone and you feel threatened, you’re authorized to engage.” The adage “a good Marine makes a bad citizen” was commonplace, he said, and commonly put into practice.
Rick Reyes said he joined the military to improve his economic stature. He described his experience as a violent hunt for something “that was not there” and a “war of the poor on the poor, manipulated by the rich.”
Reyes said there were no accurate death counts of Iraqi civilians because no one’s counting, and that there is no need to wonder why there’s an insurgency when 80 percent of the country is opposed to the U.S. presence.
Robin Long spoke out against the military while he served—and he said that the pressure and coercion that followed made him suicidal. He was not allowed to become a conscientious objector, and after he told the chaplain he was having suicidal thoughts, his commander told him to “kill himself in Iraq” and threatened to ship him off apart from his platoon. He deserted and fled to Canada, and was deported three years later.
Campus Left is a small student organization seeking social justice. This was the last event they hosted for the spring quarter.