Wednesday, April 12, 2006


"The education's free you're looking for, but it's all gone to war. The bombs are heading South, South-East, with a tooth just like a saw."--Edmund Berrigan of I FEEL TRACTOR

For those of you who don't know, there are an estimated 8,000 United States military servicemen and servicewomen who are currently AWOL.

Some people would tell me these 8,000 are cowards, that they deserve to be captured, tried for treason, and sentenced to YEARS in prison. Some would say (some DO say) they should be executed.

I say they are my heroes, these 8,000. They are the REAL heroes of this war.

From the Working Class world I come from, if any of these 8,000 were from my family, they would be shunned. They would be as if they had never been born.

Imagine being a teen, in rural America, NO WORK to speak of, but the Army, or the Marines, which PROMISES you college tuition and Fatherly care. You take it, and with it, you take the BELIEF that you are defending this America. You believe, really believe, you are doing a duty to defend our America, and you can find no fault with this belief.

Then, your country's leaders decide to invade and occupy a sovereign nation, eventually killing some 50,000 innocent people of that country. This does not fit with the jargon of the recruit. This does not fit with your personal PUSH to rationalize the oath. This is not honorable, and you FUCKING KNOW IT! And you decide, DESPITE LOSING YOUR FAMILY, DESPITE HAVING TO BECOME A FUGITIVE FOR WHO KNOWS HOW MANY YEARS, to not go.

These 8,000 are my heroes. I'll repeat this as many times as you need to hear it. Heroes like Stephen Funk, and like Mehmet Tarhan.

Imagine your family never speaking to you again, or at least thinking you're weird, that you're not real, that you're a coward, for the rest of your life. You would almost have to be queer, like me, to understand this. But the truth is, being queer like me, would mean you've already had quite a lot of practice, unlike someone who has PLAYED by the rules, GONE to the prom, CHEERED for the home team on the ball field, and saluted the flag and meant it for your whole life, until now at this critical moment. In some ways, for someone like me it's been easier, the gradual slope of getting with the feel of the pain, the doses of torture. But how difficult is it to question your entire belief in your country (which is now so connected to your family, connected to your idea of Freedom and other fancy fucking bullshit terms these days) in such a brief moment of time? Do you hear what I'm saying? Do you GET how hard it must be?

You have to have REAL courage to CHALLENGE every single thing about your life in order to make the decision to NOT go to Iraq.

You might have to have a major break-through or break-down in order to get there.

You have to be, quite seriously, a brave fucking Soul to make that leap to NOT go.

Thank you for not going, those who did not go. You have sacrificed MUCH.

The best thing we who believe in You who refuse to GO can do for you, is to increase your numbers, to make it as impossible as we possibly can for the Bush administration to hunt you all down and find you all guilty of treason. We must encourage others to say NO. We must encourage others to make the same sacrifices you have made to say NO. As many as possible saying NO.

For the sake of all you FEEL for Life, you must say NO.

I remember watching the news the NIGHT BEFORE the Dow Jones (Tao Jones for some, especially those crazy fuckers on the news that night) hit 10,000 for the first time in history. People (and by people I mean rich people) were acting like we were about to land on the fucking edge of Heaven itself. Like the space shuttle missed it's target and discovered where God lives and does his evil. They were SO happy. It gave me a creepy, slimy, AWFUL feeling watching them react. I KNEW it was bad news for me and my family, and my extra-extended family of poor, and working poor. These fucking creeps were just WAY TOO happy if you know what I mean.

But my point is, LET'S have our OWN celebration of HITTING 10,000!

Let's help bring those 8,000 brave Souls an extra 2,000 by the 4th of July.

Let's starve those BASTARDS who invested in Haliburton three years ago JUST before the war started and are now filthy rich on the blood spilled on the desert.

Fuck John Kerry and Hillary Clinton (both of whom REALLY DID vote FOR the Patriot Act VERY RECENTLY to be made PERMANENT!) and their "exit strategies." Fuck all "exit strategies," let's help persuade everyone to NOT go as a strategy!

Let's STOP this machine.

Let's do it by supporting the men and women who are fugitives in their (our) own country. Let's all give them what they need in order to increase their numbers of brave Souls, to confuse Washington, to disrupt the White House, to end the madness we have begun as a nation.

Let's take this step together, please! It is evil, what we have done. If you pay your taxes, as I pay my taxes, we have bought many, many bullets together you and I, which have killed tens of thousands of lives. Together, let's stop the murder we have supported.



At 9:17 AM, Blogger Linda M said...

While there always seems to be something of a circus surrounding you, making me nervous, this is truly profound.

Thank you C.A. Conrad,


At 10:36 PM, Blogger Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore said...

CA, here's a rant that should be heard round the world. Being of the older generation, this was the crossroads many of us had to face vis-a-vis Vietnam, and it's the same sad song again, only somehow louder. Those were the days of the draft, and for the twenty-year-olds we all were feeling its icy breath down our backs as soon as we were conscious, as something to be faced, submitted to or avoided. I imitated the piliated gibbon monkey in the psychologist's office, and was sent home before lunchtime. Not 4-A but definitely unacceptable. Later even that shenanegan wouldn't have kept anyone out of the army. They were taking canon fodder, as they are now.

I marched with Ginsberg and hundreds of others from Berkeley to Oakland to shut down the draft board, and it's because of no draft today that this war of the rich and bloody-minded can be waged, and no youth uprisings on campuses anywhere are making themselves heard... it doesn't affect as many.

If only people understood that now the govt. has a nice "professional" army it can send anywhere... slimmer and more technological than the soldiers of Vietnam. The intolerable frustration is that there seem so few avenues to stop it all... the ostriche headed media are useless. The right-wing idealogue juggernaut seems unstoppable, no matter how stupid they manifest themselves... and now Iran?

Blessings for your words, CA, and may those souls in flight be shielded by angels.

Is there no category of Conscientious Objector anymore? William Everson, Robinson Jeffers, I think Rexroth? Noble souls...

Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

At 5:49 AM, Blogger hyperpoesia said...

CA you are a brave soul, in all your hyper-expressive upper-case wrath. I like your spirit; it's not clear if you're asking your readers to actually *do* something concrete, take some action; or are we symbolically among the 2,000? shd we be actively encouraging people to desert?

At 8:00 AM, Blogger poet CAConrad said...

Thanks for the comments. I've been receiving many personal e-mails, and the very first one was also asking me, "What is it you're asking us to do?"

My answer was, "Just this, asking, asking me, asking yourself, asking everyone. We need to be thinking and talking about these people at a time when the most negative things are being said and DONE to them. Terrible things happen when they are caught. And they are only following what their true conscience is guiding them to do, and it can't be anything but a spiritual crisis for them, considering that they are in fact people who have actually BELIEVED in this very system they have now turned their backs on. They need us out here spreading the word, and who knows how that will come to intervene on their behalf one day, right? It is so interesting how things come around and twist around, and you're faced with someone you have been thinking about, and they need you, and there you are."


At 8:11 AM, Blogger poet CAConrad said...

Dear Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore, thanks so much for telling us these things! You generation's strength and bravery is very much part of this protest, and your wisdom and guidance is invaluable.

Thanks you,

At 9:20 PM, Blogger David Stone said...


I'm a fan of yours. I've been to your readings. I admire your work. I admire you, as a person. I admire your concern for the predicament that those currently under AWOL status are facing.

I'm also a vet. Your use of the word "murder" cuts deep. We all do what we have to do, just as I did, and just as the people currently serving in Iraq are doing. Please do not blame the soldiers for the war.

The AWOL men and women you refer to are called "concientious objectors", and I assure you that no vet who has ever been shot at, including this one, has ever begrudged their point of view, let alone their actions.

The problem is that there is no mechanism in the military to let these people go with honor. Or as Lincoln would have said, "with malice toward none".

I understand your anger. but don't cut yourself off from the process of change despite yourself.

I'll help you lobby for change (I think, at least, that that is what your article is about) But let's contain our anger so that the work we do together is effective.

God is not evil, CA. The people in uniform are not evil. The people of this country, for the most part, are not evil.

Anger, when constructive, is a good thig. Keep up your writing. You're a gifted young man who needs to be heard. Know the difference between constructive and alienating anger, and you will be.


David Stone

At 3:18 PM, Blogger Jessica Smith said...

CA this is great.
Anyone wants to get to Canada, I gots connexions. Just email me jss13 at

At 8:32 AM, Blogger Curtis Faville said...

If only life, and war, were so simple.

For those who voluntarily "choose"--either out of true valor, or self-delusion, or ignorance--to serve their country, the moral dilemma can't be limited simply to the jeopardy of conflict. Some argue, persuasively, that a willingness to sacrifice oneself for a principle is a noble act, and undoubtedly many millions of men and women in history have done just that. Also, however, many millions have gone reluctantly into conflicts they did not believe in, either out of a sense of duty or because they saw no comfortable, or convenient way to avoid doing so.

The peasant in Europe had nothing to say about his conscription. Press gangs once seized young men willy-nilly and forced them into sea duty. Since World War I, conscription has been defended as a universal instrument to muster armies. Corruption has always provided alternatives to the privileged and the "shirkers"--in the American Civil War Union conscripts could "buy" their way out or find a "replacement." The rich and powerful have always found ways to shield their loved ones from combat duty. The so-called "volunteer" army is a sly end-run. Morally, the volunteer is trapped into committing, despite whether or not he agrees or does not agree with the cause in question.

The Iraq war has nothing to do with winning freedom for anyone, or making this country--or any other country--safer from terrorism. It's about protecting corporate access to the oil fields on the Arabian Peninsula. The media, our politicians--hardly anyone talks about this, but it's the huge elephant in the living-room. "Everyone knows" we can't talk about it. Our dependence on foreign oil.

My father was a CO in WWII. He was sent to a camp in Minnesota for a year, and was ill-treated. His family was subjected to persecution and harrassment. My Mother probably left him as a result, before I was even born. I narrowly avoided the Vietnam War by postponing my induction exam until after the lottery was instituted and I pulled a high number (287). I was prepared to high-tail it to Canada, as others I knew had done. Vietnam was a much bloodier war for American men than Iraq, but the issues were more complex.

It's good to see people speaking up about this. Not enough is said about the so-called "volunteer" military--how the young are coerced into signing up with promises of financial security and purposeful duty. What a crock! And yet there are people who do buy into that. Surely, for them, it's a perfectly consistent choice.

Pacifists wil say no war is worth participating in. But if that were true, human misery and suffering would be much more prevalent in the world, if no one ever had the courage to defend their interest(s).

If there has to be a military, volunteerism is clearly preferable to conscription. But that places the burden of justification squarely on the shoulders of the government, to make its case. Unfortunately, when all the legislators and the executive branch are at the corporate trough, we usually don't get to hear opposing viewpoints about the resolutions that determine our country's decisions to enter or initiate conflict. And the media often lies down too. Thank god for freedom of the press, and freedom of speech--for without those principles in play none of us would ever have access to the other argument. Are those principles worth defending? I'd say yes.


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