Clarence Davis, Gulf War Resister

Against the Current, No. 53, November/December 1994

David Finkel

FOUR YEARS AGO U.S. combat forces poured into the Persian Gulf to prepare the “liberation” of Kuwait. Cruise missiles were being programmed for downtown Baghdad; the “smart bombs” that would incinerate Iraqi women and children in air raid shelters were being loaded; the propaganda arm of the war machine softened up the U.S. public with lies about Iraqis tearing Kuwaiti infants from hospital incubators.

Some of those troops would fall victim to “friendly fire;” hundreds, possibly thousands, required to take experimental drugs of a still-undisclosed nature, would develop the sinister and debilitating symptoms now called Gulf War Syndrome. Those were the victims; then there were a few authentic heroes-who chose, at great sacrifice, to resist.

Clarence Davis was one of our Gulf War heroes-a Marine, a young African American and a poet, who served two years in military prison as a resister. He received particularly harsh treatment because he became a war resister after being shipped to Saudi Arabia, where he had no publicity or meaningful legal help.

Clarence, who tragically killed himself this past spring, had struggled to find work and a meaningful life in his home town Detroit since his release. Some of Clarence’s friends, who found it particularly painful that his own family chose to deny the meaning, and even the very fact, of his record as a resister, organized a memorial meeting for him in Detroit to honor his life and courage.

Among those participating in the memorial were Clarence’s companion, Laurie Stanley, Hasan Newash, a Detroit Palestinian activist who read several poems in Clarence’s memory, and Tahan Jones, a fellow military resister who served nineteen months imprisonment at Camp Lejeune, where he met and befriended Clarence. Jones recounted to ATC a few memories of Clarence:

“He always had a smile, and was the best poet I’d ever known. He knew how to make words come alive. He was always thoughtful would pat your back when you were down, even though he had problems of his own.”

“He was a very principled person. He was also angry-very angry toward the whole system. He had no fear toward the system and would challenge it whenever he got a chance.

“He was a profound reader-hungry for information, with a mind like a sponge. He had a lot of time for that in solitary confinement.

“People in the brig respected him as a righteous person. I hold him in the highest degree of respect.”

ATC 53, November-December 1994