To illustrate the point, Braga recalls the story of the 343rd Quartermaster Company, from Rock Hill, South Carolina. In October 2004 this Army Reserve unit (Braga worked alongside them at times) refused what they called a “suicide mission” to deliver fuel in a convoy of old, unarmored trucks. Eighteen drivers from the 343rd were arrested, but the media storm that followed — a whole company had openly refused orders! — helped pressure the military into delivering armor and retrofitting its trucks and Humvees. Similarly, when Reppenhagen joined IVAW, his spotter, the guy he’d spent a year with in Iraq, also joined — they remained a team.
The rebellion of the 343rd also pointed out the pragmatism of resistance. “Hey, protesting could save your life,” says Braga. “I’ve seen it happen. The 343rd and that soldier who asked Rumsfeld that question about the body armor, those two things got the military to pay attention and buy decent armor.”
If 1960s activism was fueled by disillusioned outrage, today’s activism is fettered by a type of world-weary cynicism. Braga says most of the guys in his unit assume the war is based on lies and that it’s all about oil, but they won’t get involved in peace activism because “they say, ‘You can’t change anything.’ But if you read history you see that usually people already have changed things,” he says. “Movements have made lots of things happen.” Reprinted with permission from the May 8, 2006, issue of the Nation. Portions of each week’s issue can be accessed at thenation.com.
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