[From Workers Vanguard No. 355, 25 May 1984]

Defend Corporal Griffin!

Black Marine: I Won’t Go!

Refused to Go to Lebanon, Grenada

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On May 15, a military judge at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina threw the book at U.S. Marine corporal Alfred Griffin. This black Marine was sentenced to four months at hard labor, reduction in rank to private, forfeiture of $395 monthly payments for six months and a bad conduct discharge. His “crime” in the eyes of the Marine Corps? Griffin, a black Muslim, refused to go to Lebanon and Grenada to kill fellow Muslims and blacks. This soldier has stood up to the Marine Corps. The draconian sentence is an attempt to intimidate all soldiers, particularly blacks, in the imperialist U.S. military. The Spartacist League demands: “Drop the charges! Freedom for Corporal Griffin–Restore his rights!”

A machine-gun team leader and two-year member of the Presidential Honor Guard, Griffin was depicted as a model black Marine on the cover of the Marine Corps Gazette. He had a flawless record until he refused to join his unit when it left for Beirut on 18 October 1983. “If I had gone to Lebanon,” he said later on the stand, “I would have been put in a situation in which I would have had to take arms against other Muslims.” The Marine brass had a politically explosive situation on their hands, complicated by the fact that only a few days after Griffin returned to Camp Lejeune on October 19, more than 240 Marines were blown up in their barracks in Beirut. So they offered Griffin an “all is forgiven” deal to rejoin his unit in Beirut. Griffin refused. When the unit was diverted for the assault on Grenada, the Marines tried to send him there. But citing religious and moral grounds, Griffin again said “No” to all “offers” to kill Muslims and blacks. Therefore, on November 29, special court-martial proceedings were begun, the prosecution seeking their heaviest penalty.

Reagan and the racists gloried the sight of white Marines ravaging a black and largely defenseless Grenada. But a military machine based heavily on black enlisted men poses serious problems for U.S. imperialism. Racist Marine Corps “justice” was demonstrated in the case of Camp Pendelton 14 in 1976. A group of black Marines defended themselves against repeated terror raids by Ku Klux Klan Marines and the military threw the blacks into the stockade. For the U.S. military with its endless history of war crimes, from atom-bombing Nagasaki to mining Nicaraguan harbors, the”crime” is to refuse to carry out murderous orders. American military and civilian “justice” means that Lieutenant Cally, the butcher of My Lai in Vietnam, is driving a around today in a Mercedes in Columbus, Georgia thanks to a pardon from Jimmy Carter, while Corporal Griffin, who refused to commit such atrocities, gets imprisonment at hard labor.

The case of Corporal Griffin reveals the Achilles’ heel of American imperialist militarism. The rotting U.S. economy has driven tens of thousands of desperate black and Hispanic youth into the recruiting stations as a last-ditch means to escape starvation. Griffin himself told reporters that he signed up at 19 because he couldn’t find work and wanted job training. But under fire, many GIs, especially minorities, realize that they don’t want to be cannon fodder for their oppressors. Some, like Corporal Griffin, object for religious reasons. No doubt many recall Muhammad Ali saying “No Vietcong ever called me nigger.” At the time of the Beirut bombing, we noted that the widespread American outrage was mainly directed at the imperialist commander in chief. We seek to channel this outrage against the entire imperialist war effort. And as for vicarious bloodthirsty “leftists” who say of the Marines in Beirut, killed in a senseless imperialist adventure, “live like pigs, die like pigs,” we wrote: “We can only despise those who call for the death of American soldiers for the crimes of their rulers” (“Marxism and Bloodthirstiness,” WV No. 345, 6 January).

It took courage for Corporal Griffin to stand up to the USMC. But more than an individual’s moral stance is required to fight racist U.S. imperialism. As a crucial part of the struggle to achieve a socialist society we need to burst asunder the U.S. armed forces from within, mobilizing the ranks against the brass who are prepared to slaughter millions in the Cold War crusade against Communism. Proclaiming solidarity with their “foreign” class brothers against the bosses’ wars, revolutionary soldiers and sailors will inscribe on their banners: “The Main Enemy Is at Home!”