Photo credit: Joe Mabel
As the occupy movements continue to grow nationwide, thousands of veterans are returning to the United States from battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the trickle turning into a flood over the next few months. There are already 240,000 unemployed Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans in the US, and the national unemployment rate continues to hover at around nine percent. So as these vets come home, many of them physically injured or suffering from trauma, the US government is scrambling to put them to work.
But as some veterans are learning, the US they are coming home to doesn't resemble the country they thought they were fighting for — and isn't offering them the kind of future they'd hoped for upon their return. The same concerns driving the occupy movements — skyrocketing economic inequality and what many Americans see as a justice system in which the powerful remain above the law while the weakest are punished severely for the most mundane of crimes — have motivated some veterans to get involved in the fight for justice in the US. Among their targets? A system in which unemployment levels among undereducated and Americans of color are at their highest levels since the Great Depression.
At least one veteran has made a direct connection between the defense/security industry and poverty at home. Jerry Bordeleau, an Iraq war veteran, was one of about one hundred veterans who marched on Wall Street in early November after their comrade, Marine Scott Olsen, had been shot and seriously injured by Oakland police. He told the Wall Street Journal:
"Wall Street corporations have played a big role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Bordeleau, 24, who attends college in New York.He said private contractors have reaped big profits in those countries "in pursuit of corporate interests that have had a devastating effect on our economy and our country, benefiting only a small number of people.""The 99 percent have to take a stand," Bordeleau said.
So as the veterans continue to stream home from Iraq and Afghanistan, those qualified to work in the 'security' industry will face a choice. They could join the ranks of the secretive surveillance state apparatus, or they could get involved with movements in the United States seeking to challenge anti-democratic policy, be it economic inequality, Patriot Act-type anti-democracy legislation or the militarization of the police at home.