from november 1 counterpunch
"I was in the Marine Corps Infantry.
I Learned Absolutely Nothing of Value in the Rest of the World."
By RON JACOBS
Last week, military recruiters set up a climbing wall and information
table at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. The local student antiwar
organization, the Kent State Antiwar Committee (KSAWC), which is part
of the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN), called for a protest against the
presence of the recruiters. To understand what happened next, I will
quote from the KSAWC press release that was published in Counterpunch
and elsewhere after the protest.
IRAQ WAR veteran and Kent State student, Dave Airhart, is under attack
for opposing the war he considers "unjust" and attempting to stop any
more students from being used as "cannon fodder." On October 19, the
Kent State Anti-War Committee (KSAWC) stood around the Army recruiters,
who had brought a rock-climbing wall to entice students over to talk
with them. A member of KSAWC and former Afghanistan and Iraq War
veteran, David Airhart decided to show his opposition against the war
by exercising his rights of free speech. After filling out liability
forms Airhart climbed the rock wall.
Once he reached the top he took out a banner, which he held under his
jacket, and draped it over the wall. The banner read: Kent, Ohio for
Airhart was forced to climb down the back of the wall because a
recruiter was coming up the front, yelling at him. As he was climbing
down another recruiter came up the back and proceeded to assault
Airhart both verbally and physically by pulling his shirt, forcing him
off the wall. Airhart was fined $105. by city police for disorderly
conduct and told that he will have to go to judicial affairs at the
university where he will face probation or expulsion
I contacted David a day or two after he was cited and asked him for an interview. He agreed immediately.
Ron: To begin with, were you surprised at the apparent vehemence of the university's
response to your action?
David: Yes. I figured that they would be more understanding in the fact
that I was using my freedom of speech to illustrate KSWAC's opposition
to the war.
Ron: What is your current status with the university and the Kent authorities?
David: I have paid my fine with the Kent City Police. There is a Judicial Affairs hearing for my case on Nov. 8,
Ron: Have they backed off from their threats to expel you?
David: It is still a possibility that I will be banned from campus indefinitely, or expelled.
Ron: Oh yeah, what are you studying?
David: I am studying cultural anthropology.
Ron: Let's go back to your military service. Why did you join the service in the first place?
David: I watched too many war movies, and I had an overly romanticized view of
what combat might be like.
Ron: What branch were you in and did you have any special training?
David: I was in the Marine Corps Infantry. I learned absolutely nothing
of value in the rest of the world. I learned how to shoot guns and how
to get yelled at a lot.
Ron: Jump school? Medic?
Ron: I see that you served in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
How long were you in both places?
David: I was in Afghanistan for 7 months , starting Christmas day of
2003, and in Iraq for 6 months, starting at the beginning of the war in
Ron: Did you do more than one tour either place?
Ron: What was a typical week like in country?
David: In Iraq: Mostly doing vehicle check points where we would search
vehicles for weapons. We also patrolled cities such as An-Nasiriyah. We
searched homes. We would knock on the door. If nobody answered, we
would break through the door. We would throw all of their stuff around
looking for munitions and stuff to make bombs with.
In Afghanistan: We didn't do much, we just guarded various prisons and
manned watchtowers. I spent most of my time with a psychiatrist at this
time, mostly to get out of doing stuff.
Ron: What was your impression of the Afghani and Iraqi people?
David: Most of the people that I met were really friendly. They seemed
scared, anticipating the worst. The ones I met were cooperative.
Ron: Did it change as you spent more time in their countries?
David: No, not really.
Ron: Now, the big question. What made you decide to oppose the US wars in these countries?
David: Mostly personal reasons. Like the fact that most of the dead
bodies that I saw were women and children, innocent civilians. Also,
most of my friends that were killed were killed by friendly fire from
close air support. It is obvious that there is some hidden agenda
behind Bush's motivation for going to war in Iraq, because they had
nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks, and there were no weapons of mass
destruction. We should know the real reasons that we are fighting and
dying over there. At the very least, we should know that, be it a good
or bad reason, it is important that we know why. If it is that crucial
that it stays a secret, it is probably too crooked to be worth fighting
Ron: Was there any one incident that you were involved in or heard about that
made you decide to speak out?
David: Mostly all the murders of innocent civilians. I guess, the
different fliers and anti-war groups at Kent that appealed to me.
Ron: I'm fifty years old and the name Kent State has a huge emotional
attachment to it, because of the murders that happened there on May 4,
1970. When those students were killed by the National Guard that day I
was living in Frankfurt, Germany. My dad had been stationed there since
March of that year, right after he came back from Vietnam. A bunch of
us students at the high school and junior high on base protested the
whole thing. We were joined by GIs and Germans, who protested the
invasion of Cambodia and the murders at Kent (and later that month at
Jackson State in Mississippi) in their own way. Does the history of
protest at Kent State influence your group's organizing?
David: Absolutely. We feel that since we are at Kent State and have
such a history of anti-war activity, we get a lot of media attention
whenever we have a protest or anti-war action. We try to use that to
our advantage. Unfortunately, the amount of active anti-war protesters
at Kent is very small. So we also try to use the fact that Kent State
has had a reputation for having a major anti-war population, we try to
remind students that if they are against the war, to not be silent
about it. Not only do we have a war to stop, but it would be nice to
know that people are perpetuating this tradition.
Ron: Do you find that people you talk to in your antiwar work listen to
you more than your fellow antiwarriors who have never been in the
service? Why or why not do you think this is?
David: Yes, I think so. I think that anti-war statements have more of
an impact if they come from someone who has been there and actually
seen with their own eyes the horrible things that are going on.
Ron: How do most people that you talk to during your antiwar work
respond? I don't mean the Campus Republicans or other hardcore war
supporters, but just the regular students and townspeople?
David: Unfortunately it seems like most of them are indifferent, more
concerned with personal things. This is frustrating, being that this is
Kent State, and there is a lot of activist that count on Kent State to
be a strong force in the antiwar movement.
Ron: What's next?
David: I'm going to try to keep doing things that help build the
antiwar movement and to get its presence felt to as large of a
population as possible. However, this time we will try to do it in a
way that doesn't put any of our members at risk of being expelled. We
will try to use this incident to show the administration at Kent State
how terrible it is that they allow our campus to be a supplier of fresh
bodies for Bush's war machine. Hopefully they will realize that it is
the administration who is putting us students in danger through
allowing recruiters on campus, not KSAWC. KSAWC is trying to protect
ourselves and the entire campus from being sent to die in an unjust
war. We will continue to do actions that aid in removing military
recruiters from campus.
Ron: And what do you have to say to other folks who might be thinking
about joining the military?
David: If they want, I can kill a couple of their friends and then give
them some money for college, if that is what they really want. At least
that way they wouldn't have to spend four miserable years in an
oppressive organization where they deprive you of most of your rights
and use you for whatever they feel like. I would also point out that
the GI Bill is only $1004 per month. And it is only good for 36 months.
That is the extent of what the military pays for your college. So if
they are joining for college money, there are better and safer routes
to take to afford college. If they are just romantic thrill seeking
warrior types, I'd recommend joining the Iraqi resistance for they are
fighting for a more noble cause.
Thanks, David. Good Luck.
Tell Carol Cartwright, Kent State's President, to back off Dave Airhart:
Ron Jacobs is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather
Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs' essay on Big
Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch's new collection on music, art
and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at:
"The truly educated never graduate."