RT's Anastasia Churkina talks to Occupy activist and war veteran Scott Olsen on the state of affairs in the U.S. today, and the changes that have taken place since the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"Most likely people are either going to vote for Democrats or Republicans and I think both those are wrong choices. They are both working for the same system, they are both taking money from the same people, from the same banks and you can see in their policy that they are rewarding their donors. Voting for the continuing of this policy is not going to change anything at all," explains Olsen.
On alternatives in the coming election, Olsen said "You can vote for the third party that may not win. You may count voting for the third party as a waste of vote, but I think voting for a Democrat or a Republican is a waste of vote. You are shooting yourself in the foot if you are voting for either of those."
A great conversation with Scott Olsen. He talks about war, being a veteran, homeless veterans and the tragedy of 18 military veterans daily committing suicide in the U.S.
You'll also hear Scott's thoughts on the Occupy movement, and what's ahead for Occupy Wall Street now that it's approaching its first anniversary.
A full transcript follows below the fold...
RT: You are one of dozens of war veterans who have returned their medals to NATO generals here in Chicago, throwing the medals into the direction where NATO leaders were meeting. What is the reason for this? Do you feel betrayed?
Scott Olsen: I really do. And betrayal is the biggest fact here I think. We have all joined the military for our own reasons. But we joined to help other people, to be part of something bigger than ourselves and to defend our country. And when we went over to Iraq, Afghanistan or wherever our service was, we saw that it just was not true and we are destroying people’s lives. We are not doing good work in Iraq or Afghanistan and that’s why I don’t want these medals. Because they represent something that is not important to me, it is meaningless to me. I am not proud of being part of the system that has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. That is not something to be proud of and that is not something to get an award for.
RT: Your injuries at Occupy Oakland clashes with police got people talking about the fact that veterans sometimes really do get injured at home after being injured abroad. Do you think that’s the case?
SO: I don’t think there are more veterans getting hurt here. But there are a lot of veterans getting hurt by the system, in a sense that they come back to a broken system, a system that they feel disconnected from. And that is why we have eighteen veterans a day committing suicide, that’s why we have so many homeless veterans. It is the system hurting veterans.
RT: Why do you think it is that when billions of dollars are being spent on US warfare, as we speak, we are seeing a staggering number of homeless and jobless veterans here in the United States?
SO: Because people are making money out of these wars. They are getting money from our government to buy their toys, to buy their equipment and to fund these wars. That’s how they make their riches. There is always money for war but we never have money for schools.
RT: Do you think the authorities, who recruit soldiers such as yourself to do their bidding for them abroad, are essentially lying to get people to join the military about the reasons behind the wars the US is involved with?
SO: For military recruiters they at least mislead people. They may not lie to you, but they will mislead you, not give you the whole story. That’s why it is so important if you think of joining the military to talk to as many veterans as you can find and get as many points of view as you can.
RT: What do you think the majority of those veterans will say?
SO: I think the majority would recommend against joining. It is a life-changing thing and I wouldn’t take my joining back because it made me who I am, but I would not recommend anyone else to make this mistake.
RT: It is going to be a year in September since the Occupy Wall Street movement kick-started. What stage is the movement at now? What should we be expecting next?
SO: It is not as big now as it should be. It could always be bigger and louder. We are changing to other strategies that may not be quite as visible, working on creating worker-managed businesses that are really going to take the money away from money-borrowing to the corporate system. That is going to be really successful for the future of Occupy.
RT: Some critics of the Occupy Wall Street movement are trying to undermine the substance of what it is all about by saying that it is almost a year on and no unified strong single message. What do you say to those people?
SO: Any time there is a large number of people demanding change and someone feels threatened they are going to attack in any way and every way. We do have a message. Everybody who comes here has their own message. But it is very common, we are working and we are not getting what we really deserve. We are working our @sses off. We work more than most other countries in the world. And our salaries have not grown in years, our corporations are making billions every day and our retirement pensions are being cut, our schools are being cut.
RT: One of the things the Occupy Wall Street movement is demanding is the accountability for bankers and CEOs on Wall Street. Do you think it is naïve to expect this several years after the economic crisis? Why still demand this?
SO: I don’t really know if we are going to get the real changes we are looking for just by asking. It has to be forced change. Banks will always find a way to screw us over. They will always find a way to maximize their profits and they maximize their profits without actually doing any work. So by taking that money they take it from somebody else.
RT: Presidential elections in the US are just around the corner and four years after Barack Obama was elected critics are now saying that there is no difference between Democrats or Republicans as they are two sides of the same coin. Are you expecting any kind of change to take place after the elections regardless of which of the parties wins?
SO: Not particularly. Most likely people are either going to vote for Democrats or Republicans and I think both those are wrong choices. They are both working for the same system, they are both taking money from the same people, from the same banks and you can see in their policy that they are rewarding their donors. Voting for the continuing of this policy is not going to change anything at all.
RT: So considering both Democrats and Republicans essentially bring the same thing to the table, what is the alternative? What could be the other option for the United States?
SO: That’s a good question. You can vote for the third party that may not win. You may count voting for the third party as a waste of vote, but I think voting for a Democrat or a Republican is a waste of vote. You are shooting yourself in the foot if you are voting for either of those.
RT: When the Occupy Wall Street movement first started, the mainstream media were trying hard to undermine the protesters. They were saying that it is a bunch of dirty hippies and later trying to say they have no message. There was constant criticism and they could not take the movement seriously. Almost a year on since it has started how do you assess the way the mainstream media has been covering what the movement is all about?
SO: They have covered it more than I was expecting them to. I didn’t expect much of them. And that’s why we come out here and we build our own media that we need. We build websites and do web live stream events for everybody to know and to find out what they are missing out. But it is a shame that the everyday American is not going to see those things. The American who turns on the six o’clock news, they don’t hear about these things, just like they don’t hear about the wars we are still in. Most Americans probably do not really know that we are at war. They aren’t affected by these things.