Why I am going to Gaza
Iraq war veteran and ANSWER Coalition representative Michael Prysner reports on the Viva Palestina delegation’s journey to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza and deliver humanitarian supplies.
Michael Prysner joined the U.S. Army when he was 17 years old, hoping that he would get a college education and, in his own words, "believing that the U.S. government stood for freedom, justice and equality." Prysner was later deployed as part of the initial invasion of Iraq.
Of his experience, Michael wrote: "I spent 12 months in Iraq, doing everything from prisoner interrogations, to ground surveillance missions, to home raids. It was my firsthad experiences in Iraq that radicalized me. I soon realized that my purpose in Iraq was to be the oppressor, and to clear the way for U.S. corporations with no regard for human life.
"I separated from the Army in 2005. I understood that illegal conquering of Iraq was for profit, carried out by a system that serves a tiny class of superrich whose endless drive for wealth is at the expense of working people in the United States and abroad.
"I still had the same drive to fight for freedom, justice and equality as I did when I joined, and I understood that fighting for those things meant fighting against the U.S. government, not on behalf of it."
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In fact, I remember some of the people being happy, children running up to our trucks and laughing with us, locals excited to talk to us and shake our hands, people bringing us food and wanting to tell us their stories. I felt like we were there to help—like we were there for real liberation.
As the war dragged on, I saw people changed. People avoided making eye contact. Children were more hesitant to approach us. Some turned and ran when they saw us. I saw the resentment, frustration and indignation in their eyes grow every month that passed with troops still in their country.
It was those faces that I could never get out of my mind. Those who screamed us, those who cried hysterically when their doors were kicked in and their homes were raided, those who begged to be left alone. I saw how living under occupation destroyed people. Seeing what we did to the Iraqis—how we changed them, how we shattered their lives—compelled me to turn against that criminal occupation and fight to end it.
After witnessing the horrors of one year of occupation, I could only imagine what more than 61 years of occupation would do to a people. That has been the reality of life for millions of Palestinians. Once the common thread of U.S. imperialism reveals itself, stitching together these colonial projects, opposing the war in Iraq is not enough. I had to fight against the occupation of Palestine.
I’m going to Gaza because standing against imperialism means standing with the most oppressed. It means standing with those on the receiving end of Hellfire missiles, F-16s, Apache helicopters, carpet bombing and Abrams tanks. It means standing with those who refuse to budge before the merciless U.S. drive to conquer new markets, steal resources and crush all opposition to U.S. domination—not just in Iraq or Afghanistan, but wherever the Pentagon and U.S. client regimes set their eyes. Israel is Washington’s most faithful attack dogs in a region that U.S. capitalists see as the most vital to their interests.
I’m going to Gaza because I know what it’s like to be woken up in the middle of the night by the slightest noise, to not be able to breathe when a door slams, to feel your heart explode out of your chest when the sounds of war become the sounds that surround you every day.
It’s almost impossible to fathom the death and destruction that the U.S.-backed Israeli settler state has forced on every person in Gaza. The world saw nearly 2,000 murdered, thousands more maimed and made amputees during the December 2008/January 2009 Israeli siege of Gaza—but there is no doubt that every person living there, and every child, will have to live the rest of their lives with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is a bond that every veteran should feel with the people of Gaza.
I’m going to Gaza because I am inspired by the strength, the steadfastness, and the resilience of the Palestinian people, who have proven to activists and oppressed people all over the world that we can stand up to the forces of imperialism and the biggest military machine in history.
I’m going to Gaza because this could be a breakthrough period for the people of Palestine. To many people in the U.S. and the world, the Gaza massacre has laid bare the true nature of the Israeli colonial project. It has made clear who the real terrorists and who the real victims are.
The political climate is shifting all over the world. In the United States, people are organizing against this criminal atrocity known as the Israeli occupation. The people of Palestine have proven for over 61 years that they are strong, and every day that they resist, they make our movement stronger. It is the people of Palestine, and their supporters around the world, that will win against the forces of imperialism and Zionism. Palestine will be free, but it’s going to take a mass movement—and that movement is growing every day. Every day, new people and new sectors of society are drawn into that movement. Veterans and members of the U.S. military must join their ranks!
I’m going to Gaza to tell those who have served in Washington’s imperialist wars, and those who are currently serving in them, that we are not fighting for freedom or democracy—that we have been on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of the barrel. We should not be fighting for Lockheed Martin, or Boeing, or Raytheon, or for any of the thousands of other corporations who profit from U.S. expansionism—for the tiny percentage at the top who reap billions upon billions of dollars from war and occupation while the vast majority go bankrupt from hospital bills, unemployment and foreclosure. If we’re going to fight, we should fight for real freedom for oppressed people—we should fight to end the system that has wrought untold suffering on people in Palestine and all over the globe.
I’m going to Gaza to show the U.S. government that those serving in its military are not the robots that they want us to be. We can see through the lies, we can see through the veil of racism, we can see through the claims of fighting for freedom. I’m going to Gaza to show the U.S. government that we can wake up, and we will switch sides, and we will become yet another sector in the growing movement to erase the era of imperialism from the face of the planet.
End the siege of Gaza, end the Israeli occupation of Palestine, end U.S. imperialism!
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