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"Called to Serve Vietnam" - 5 new articles

  1. YOUTH SPEAK OUT AGAINST YET ANOTHER WAR!
  2. As Memorial Day Approaches Honoring Two Black Men Who Deserve Much More Recognition
  3. CAN ANYTHING BE DONE ABOUT THE UNACCEPTABLE SUICIDE RATE AMONG VETERANS?
  4. FORGIVENESS AND HEALING
  5. YET ANOTHER HEIGHT OF ABSURDITY – HONORING A WAR CRIMINAL…
  6. More Recent Articles
  7. Search Called to Serve Vietnam
  8. Prior Mailing Archive

YOUTH SPEAK OUT AGAINST YET ANOTHER WAR!

As we are about to launch our country, our resources and our military into yet another war I have been trying to find a way to express the anguish and grief in my heart.  It is undeniable that the recent murders of two reporters by members of ISIS are deeply disturbing as were the deaths of those who lost their lives on 9/11.  I can only begin to feel the indescribable sadness of those who have lost loved ones to acts of terrorism.  The fact remains that our response to 9/11 – invading Iraq and Afghanistan – in an attempt to stop the destructive paths of Al Queda has neither brought the departed back nor made the world safer.

So when I read the following piece on www.commondreams.com this morning, I was convinced that I needed to send it out to those who might read this blog.  The young people who authored the MANIFESTO had clearly thought long and hard about war’s effects and they have organized their words into sub-topics that address each of the reasons why war only worsens problems and contributes to the degradation of the human condition.  What makes their views even more powerful and compelling is their statement that:

“We, the youth of America, have grown up in war, war war. War has become the new norm for our generation. But these conflicts—declared by older people but fought and paid for by young people—are robbing us of our future and we’re tired of it. There is no future in war.”  I honor their commitment, their awareness of our world and their determination to do whatever they can to wake up our nation.

 THERE IS NO FUTURE IN WAR: YOUTH RISE UP, A MANIFESTO

Statement written by Ben Norton, Tyra Walker, Anastasia Taylor, Alli McCracken, Colleen Moore, Jes Grobman, Ashley Lopez

A peace sign printed on the American Flag is raised during a protest against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Archive / History Channel)

Once again, US politicians and pundits are beating the drums of war, trying to get our nation involved in yet another conflict. A few years ago it was Iran, with “all options on the table.” Last year it was a red line that threatened to drag us into the conflict in Syria. This time it’s Iraq.

We, the youth of America, have grown up in war, war war. War has become the new norm for our generation. But these conflicts—declared by older people but fought and paid for by young people—are robbing us of our future and we’re tired of it.

There is no future in war.

We, the youth of America, are taking a stand against war and reclaiming our future.

War does not work. Period.

War does not work from an economic perspective

In 2003 US politicians orchestrated the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq based on blatant lies—lies that have cost the American people over $3 trillion.

Imagine what we could have done with this money:

  • With $3 trillion dollars, we could have guaranteed free higher education for all interested Americans. Instead, we are wallowing in over $1 trillion in outstanding college loan debt.
  • With $3 trillion, we could have created a system of universal health care. Instead, affordable health care is still out of reach for many Americans and we have no idea if there will even be a Medicare system when we are old enough to retire.
  • With $3 trillion we could have renovated our decrepit public schools and crumbling public infrastructure, giving us the kind of foundation we need for a thriving nation in the decades to come.
  • With $3 trillion we could have created a national energy grid based not upon environmentally destructive fossil fuels, but upon renewable energy sources–something that our generation cares passionately about.

Our true foes—those endlessly gunning for war—have been waging an economic war against us. Our foes are the ones who say we must increase Pentagon spending while we cut food stamps, unemployment assistance, public transportation, and low-income housing. They are the ones who want to destroy the social safety net that past generations have worked so hard to build. They are the ones who underfund our public schools – which are more segregated today than they were under Jim Crow – and then privatize them. They are the ones who throw hundreds of thousands of young people in prison, thanks to the racist and classist war on drugs, and then privatize the prisons to exploit and profit off of incarcerated citizens who make close-to-zero wages.

Throwing money at war does nothing to address the real issues we face. We, the youth of our country, are the ones who will feel this pain. The cost of war is sucking us dry; it is burdening us with debts we will never be able to pay back.

And war doesn’t even work to create jobs. Politicians say they can’t cut the Pentagon budget because the weapons manufacturers create much-needed jobs. Yes, our generation need jobs. But if members of Congress really wants to use federal spending to help us find employment, the military is the worst investment. A $1 billion investment in military spending nets 11,600 jobs. The same investment in education reaps 29,100 jobs. Whether it’s education, healthcare or clean energy, investments in those sectors create many more job opportunities than the military. The military-industrial complex does a great job lining the pockets of politicians; it does a lousy job creating an economy that works for all.

War does not work from a national security and defense perspective

The war apologists claim war makes our future “safer” and “freer.” But since the tragic 9/11 attack, the US military response has made the world a more dangerous place. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the NATO bombing of Libya, the use of predator drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, and countless other examples of military operations have only increased violence and hatred. Iraqis and Afghans are certainly no safer and freer; we are certainly no safer and freer.

We refuse to let our brothers and sisters, both here and abroad, die for access to cheap Persian Gulf oil. The Iraqis, the Afghans, the Iranians, the Libyans, the Somalis, and the people of any other country our military circles like vultures, are not our enemies. They oppose terrorism more than we do; they are the ones who must bear its brunt. We must oppose US intervention not because we don’t care about them, but because we do.

War does not work from an environmental perspective.

War is not environmentally friendly. It never has been, and it never will be. Bombing destroys the environment. It damages forests and agricultural land. It ravages ecosystems, endangering species, even forcing some into extinction.

Bombing contaminates water and soil, often leaving it unsafe to use for centuries, even millennia. This is especially true with nuclear and chemical weapons, such as those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the missiles containing depleted uranium the US used in Iraq. And because of weapons like these, infant mortality, genetic mutation, and cancer rates are exponentially higher in the civilian areas targeted. Children in Fallujah, Iraq, a city hit hard by these weapons, are born without limbs and missing organs.

The environmental costs of war are clearly not limited to isolated moments; they persist for many lifetimes. Heavy military vehicles, in conjunction with deforestation and climate change, lead to the emission of toxic dust from the ground. Even if their homes and livelihoods haven’t been destroyed by bombs, citizens who inhale these toxins are much more susceptible to a wide variety of diseases and health problems.

The US Department of Defense has long been the country’s largest consumer of fossil fuels. Military vehicles consume obscene quantities of oil for even small tasks. If we truly care about reversing, or at least mitigating, anthropogenic climate change—what many scientists recognize as a literal threat to the future of the human species—eliminating war would be an incredibly effective first step.

War does not work from a human rights perspective

The world isn’t any safer and freer for the million Iraqi civilians who died. How is freedom supposed to come at the tip of a bomb?

The debate rages back and forth; “specialists” fill the TV airwaves, repackaging the same tired excuses we’ve heard for years. Most of these “experts” are old white males. The people actually affected by our bombs and our guns–mostly young people of color–are nowhere to be seen. Their voices are silenced, their voices shouted over by the corporate media, by hawkish politicians, and by the profit-hungry military contractors. <

War does not work from a historical perspective

War has never been about freedom and liberation; war has always been about profit and empire. American historian Howard Zinn once said “Wars are fundamentally internal policies. Wars are fought in order to control the population at home.”

Military intervention gives US corporations free reign in the countries we destroy. We bomb the country, targeting public infrastructure, and our corporations build it back up again. Fat cat CEOs make millions, even billions; the country, the people of the country, are left with mountains of debt. Our corporations own their infrastructure, their industrial capital, their natural resources. War is always a lose-lose for the people. Economic and political elite in both countries will make a fortune; the people of both countries will be the ones who have to pay for this fortune.

Defenders and purveyors of war have always done empty lip service to ideals like “freedom” and “democracy”; they have always repeated tired, vacuous tropes about “assisting,” or even “liberating” peoples.

How can we trust a country that says its brutal military invasion and occupation is “humanitarian,” when, at the same moment, it is supporting repressive dictators around the world? Saddam Hussein was on the CIA payroll since the 1960s. While we were invading Iraq to “overthrow tyranny” and “free” the Iraqi people, we were supporting the King Fahd’s theocratic tyranny in Saudi Arabia, the brutally repressive Khalifa family in Bahrain, and Mubarak’s violent regime in Egypt, among countless other unsavory dictators.

When we invaded Afghanistan to “free” the Afghan people from the Taliban, the corporate media failed to mention that Ronald Reagan had supported the Mujahideen, who later became the Taliban, and the Contras throughout the 1980s. He called the latter “the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers,” while they were disemboweling civilians in a campaign of terror.

These historical events are absolutely pertinent to contemporary discussions of war. We must learn from them, as to not repeat them in the future, as to not fall for the same past political tricks.

Our naysayers say we are against the troops. We are not against the troops. US troops are disproportionately from less-privileged backgrounds. Military recruiters target impoverished communities of color, and there are many recorded instances of them using deceptive tactics to get young citizens to sign long binding contracts. These are the troops that die in US military operations. They are not our enemies. We refuse to let our brothers and sisters be cannon fodder. The real people against the troops are the ones who send our country’s poor to die in rich people’s wars.

How many times do we have to be lied to, how many times do we have to be tricked, how many times do we have to be exploited until we say enough is enough? We are tired of war! War accomplishes nothing. War only fattens the wallets of economic and political elites, leaving millions dead in its wake. War only leads to more war, destroying the planet and emptying the national treasury in the process.

We, the youth of the United States of America, oppose war.
We oppose war not because we don’t care about the rest of the world; we oppose war precisely because we do.
We oppose war not because we don’t care about our security; we oppose war precisely because we do.
We oppose war not because we don’t care about our troops; we oppose war precisely because we do.
We oppose war not because we aren’t concerned with our future; we oppose war precisely because we do.

    


As Memorial Day Approaches Honoring Two Black Men Who Deserve Much More Recognition

            I have been silent here for many months and it took Amy Goodman’s article in NATION OF CHANGE to motivate me to break the silence.  She has written about two extraordinary men who “helped shape modern history,” in her estimation and until I saw the obituary of William Worthy in the NYTimes last weekend I had never heard of him and until her article I had never heard of Vincent Harding.  Both men, as it turns out, could and perhaps next year will, be in the unit I teach at the Smith College Campus School to my 6th graders entitled, African American Contributors to American Culture.
           We begin the unit by discussing why we continue to need such a unit.  One of the key elements of this conversation is the lack of recognition that many of the men and women the students are about to study have suffered from (heaped on top of the gargantuan obstacles they faced due to race and class) and the price we all pay for their going largely unrecognized by our culture – for white people the perpetuation of the belief that our race has done the lion’s share of what deserves to be acknowledged, a heinous injustice in and of itself that allows racism to flourish and for black people the on-going devaluing of their own absolutely extraordinary racial heritage filled with virtually countless contributors throughout American history.  This latter fall-out results in an even bigger struggle to feel the self-worth every individual deserves to feel based on their heritage.
          We study Denmark Vesey, slave rebellion leader along with such luminaries as Nat Turner and Joseph Cinque (thankfully the underviewed and underappreciated film, “Amistad,” affirms his contribution), Matthew Henson, first man to actually make it to the North Pole, not the least of which was a result of his befriending Inuit people, Charles Drew, inventor of the blood transfusion, Robert Smalls who made a daring escape by sea during the Civil War and went on to serve 5 terms in Congress as a senator from South Carolina and on and on ad infinitum!
          Then today I read about two more.  I will not steal Ms. Goodman’s thunder, so suffice to say that learning that Mr. Harding wrote the speech delivered at Riverside Cathedral by Dr. King a year to the day before his assassination was a revelation.  I have posted about the speech on this very blog without ever knowing about Harding’s role in its creation and I think of it as one of the greatest speeches in American history.  In it King connects so many dots, in particular and most significantly for me personally given my work on CALLED TO SERVE, the seemingly self-evident, but until he spoke it not given its due, truism that racism, classism and war are all inextricably interconnected.  This quote spoke truth to power and no doubt could have contributed mightily to King’s subsequent murder: “I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.”  In that one sentence King raised the nation’s consciousness about the Vietnam War, its utter devastation of another country and the effects it had on the “war” we should have been fighting then and still need to wage now, to end racism and  poverty amongst our own citizenry.
          That it is Memorial Day tomorrow also feels important to highlight in this post.  So much of the hype that occurs in memorializing those who have fallen ends up being about the sacrifices those who have died have made for the rest of us to be free.  So little is said about what Dr. King via Mr. Harding’s words was conveying in the Riverside Cathedral speech – that so many of those who have died in our wars of conquest and imperialism, were sacrificed so America could extend its sphere of influence and so the 1% and other war profiteers could get even richer, not so we could be free.  Were this ever part of the message, which would give me hope that we could actually stop going to war for all the wrong reasons, then I would feel that there really was a need for such a day.  In the absence of such acknowledgment of our government’s role in the destruction of the very lives we’re honoring as well as the countless millions of lives our obscene wars destroy, displace and devalue, I choose to memorialize such men as William Worthy and Vincent Harding…
          So if you are so inclined, read about two men whose lives made a difference and who, by your reading and sharing their stories, will receive at least some of the recognition they so richly deserve.
WILLIAM WORTHY AND VINCENT HARDING:
THANK-YOU AND GOOD-BYE
by Amy Goodman
The world lost two remarkable men in May, two African-Americans who helped shape modern history, yet whose names and achievements remain too little known. William Worthy, a journalist, died at the age of 92. Civil-rights activist Vincent Harding was 82. Each was a witness to some of the most pivotal events of the latter half of the 20th century. They led their lives speaking truth to power, working for a better world.

William Worthy became a journalist, working for both CBS News and the Baltimore Afro-American. He reported from the Soviet Union and would go to North Vietnam. As a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, he ignored a U.S. ban on traveling to communist China. As a result, the State Department refused to renew Worthy’s passport. He would later travel to Cuba after the revolution there, where he interviewed Fidel Castro. Upon his return, he was charged with entering the U.S. without a passport. He challenged the charges and was eventually cleared. The federal appeals court opinion stated, “It is inherent in the concept of citizenship that the citizen … has a right to return, again to set foot on its soil.” U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy chose not to appeal to the Supreme Court, Worthy said, because “he and his brother [President John F. Kennedy] were sick and tired of the case. They had had enough embarrassment over it.” He was represented by a young ACLU lawyer named William Kunstler, who later noted that the victory in this case inspired him to continue in his path as a pioneering constitutional attorney.

 

 

Vincent Harding was a close friend and advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. Harding told us on “Democracy Now!,” “King saw the natural connection between what was happening to the poor in the USA, why young men and women were rising up in anger, frustration, desperation, saw that action as deeply related to the attention that the country was paying to the devastation it was doing in Vietnam.” It was on April 4, 1967, one year to the day before King was assassinated, that he delivered a speech drafted by Harding, a powerful statement against the war in Vietnam. Harding said of the speech, “That draft essentially became the speech, sermon, call, cry of the heart that he put forward.” King said that day at New York’s Riverside Church, “I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.”

 

Vincent Harding sought to reflect in his speechwriting King’s enduring concerns: “He was calling us to a way that was very difficult, a way beyond racism, a way beyond materialism and a way beyond militarism.” Harding continued for decades after King’s death to fight against those very problems, as the first director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center (now known as the King Center) in Atlanta, then as professor of religion and social transformation at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver.

 

These two men, William Worthy and Vincent Harding, saw immense social upheaval, revolution, struggle and loss. They dedicated their lives to challenging those in power, and to the pursuit of justice and equality for all.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

 

This article was published at NationofChange at: http://www.nationofchange.org/william-worthy-and-vincent-harding-thank-you-and-goodbye-1400937943. All rights are reserved.

    

CAN ANYTHING BE DONE ABOUT THE UNACCEPTABLE SUICIDE RATE AMONG VETERANS?

It has once again been a considerable passage of time since my last post, but reading the story below about the suicide rate among veterans has deeply moved and saddened me.  I am convinced that the figure of 22 veterans a day taking their own lives is both under-reported, given the limitations of the data gathering, and absolutely unacceptable.  At the same time I have also come to believe that it is yet another effect of war in general and the kind of wars in which we have been engaged since Vietnam.  These are wars that are fought for all the wrong reasons – if there are ever any just wars – that result in soldiers being taught to demonize the enemy, to become numb to atrocities and to have no way to integrate what they’ve witnessed and done with the life they are expected to resume when they return home.  When you add military sexual assault and the attendant stigma along with the underfunded and poorly run veteran’s administration, the statistic of 22 suicides a day becomes much less surprising, but no less disturbing.
Is there anything to  be done?  Certainly a first step is awareness.  That is essentially what has inspired me to break my silence of the last few months.  I came very close to writing a post about an article I’d seen on www.commondreams.org about Obama’s recent reference to American exceptionalism, which rings not just hollowly, but denies our history during the course of which we have made some atrocious mistakes for which we have yet to take full responsibility, including the oppression of Native Americans, black people, women, immigrants, etc…  I see this story in a similar light.  Our misbegotten concept of our exceptionalism is a factor in our refusal to see the terrible error of our way of making war on countries that do not threaten us – pre-emptive wars that become perpetual wars – and the consequences for our national psyche and for our soldiers are catastrophic.  I would turn the word back on itself and us and instead talk about the exceptionally bad decisions that have led to countless injuries and deaths to innocent women, men and children in too many countries where we took it upon ourselves to “fix” governments that we had no business either undermining or propping up while we continue to ignore the exceptionally awful mistreatment of our own people.

The history of these gigantic missteps and the military-industrial-political-media empire(s) that have directed them is incredibly well-documented in James Douglass’s JFK AND THE UNSPEAKABLE that is having a second life as a play written by our own valley treasure, Court Dorsey, who received enormous support from a slew of local social justice activists.  I will hopefully soon post about the significance of Douglass’s and Dorsey’s work, but suffice to say that we have been motivated by selfishness, greed, power and fear for far too long and until and unless there is a sea change we will continue to read about veterans who are so tortured by their military experience that their only way out is to take their own lives.

Why suicide rate among veterans may be more than 22 a day
By Moni Basu, CNN
updated 4:49 AM EDT, Sat September 21, 2013

(CNN) — Every day, 22 veterans take their own lives. That’s a suicide every 65 minutes. As shocking as the number is, it may actually be higher.  The figure, released by the Department of Veterans Affairs in February, is based on the agency’s own data and numbers reported by 21 states from 1999 through 2011. Those states represent about 40% of the U.S. population. The other states, including the two largest (California and Texas) and the fifth-largest (Illinois), did not make data available.

People like Levi Derby, who hanged himself in his grandfather’s garage in Illinois on April 5, 2007. He was haunted, says his mother, Judy Caspar, by an Afghan child’s death. He had handed the girl a bottle of water, and when she came forward to take it, she stepped on a land mine.

When Derby returned home, he locked himself in a motel room for days. Caspar saw a vacant stare in her son’s eyes. A while later, Derby was called up for a tour of Iraq. He didn’t want to kill again. He went AWOL and finally agreed to a dishonorable discharge.Derby was not in the VA system, and Illinois did not send in data on veteran suicides to the VA.

Experts have no doubt that people are being missed in the national counting of veteran suicides. Luana Ritch, the veterans and military families coordinator in Nevada, helped publish an extensive report on that state’s veteran suicides.

Part of the problem, she says, is that there is no uniform reporting system for deaths in America. It’s usually up to a funeral director or a coroner to enter veteran status and suicide on a death certificate. Veteran status is a single question on the death report, and there is no verification of it from the Defense Department or the VA.

“Birth and death certificates are only as good as the information that is entered,” Ritch says. “There is underreporting. How much, I don’t know.”

A homeless person who has no one who can vouch that he or she is a veteran, or others whose families don’t want to divulge a suicide because of the stigma associated with mental illness; they may pressure a state coroner to not list the death as suicide
If a veteran intentionally crashes a car or dies of a drug overdose and leaves no note, that death may not be counted as suicide.

An investigation by the Austin American-Statesman newspaper last year revealed an alarmingly high percentage of veterans who died in this manner in Texas, a state that did not send in data for the VA report.

“It’s very hard to capture that information,” says Barbara van Dahlen, a psychologist who founded Give an Hour, a nonprofit group that pairs volunteer mental-health professionals with combat veterans.

Nikkolas Lookabill had been home about four months from Iraq when he was shot to death by police in Vancouver, Washington, in September 2010. The prosecutor’s office said Lookabill told officers “he wanted them to shoot him.” The case is one of many considered “suicide by cop” and not counted in suicide data.

Carri Leigh Goodwin enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2007. She said she was raped by a fellow Marine at Camp Pendleton and eventually was forced out of the Corps with a personality disorder diagnosis. She did not tell her family that she was raped or that she had thought about suicide. She also did not tell them she was taking Zoloft, a drug prescribed for anxiety.

Her father, Gary Noling, noticed that Goodwin was drinking heavily when she returned home. Five days later, she went drinking with her sister, who left her intoxicated in a parked car. The Zoloft interacted with the alcohol, and she died in the back seat of the car. Her blood alcohol content was six times the legal limit.

Police charged her sister and a friend in Goodwin’s death for furnishing alcohol to an underaged woman: Goodwin was 20. Noling says his daughter intended to drink herself to death. Later, Noling went through Goodwin’s journals and learned about her rape and suicidal thoughts.

A recent analysis by News21, an investigative multimedia program for journalism students, found that the annual suicide rate among veterans is about 30 for every 100,000 of the population, compared with the civilian rate of 14 per 100,000. The analysis of records from 48 states found that the suicide rate for veterans increased an average of 2.6% a year from 2005 to 2011 — more than double the rate of increase for civilian suicide.

Nearly one in five suicides nationally is a veteran, even though veterans make up about 10% of the U.S. population, the News21 analysis found.

The authors of the VA study, Janet Kemp and Robert Bossarte, included many cautions about the interpretation of their data, though they stand by the reliability of their findings. Bossarte said there was a consistency in the samples that allowed them to comfortably project the national figure of 22.

But more than 34,000 suicides from the 21 states that reported data to the VA were discarded because the state death records failed to indicate whether the deceased was a veteran. That’s 23% of the recorded suicides from those states. So the study looked at 77% of the recorded suicides in 40% of the U.S. population.

The VA report itself acknowledged “significant limitations” of the available data and identified flaws in its report. “The ability of death certificates to fully capture female veterans was particularly low; only 67% of true female veterans were identified. Younger or unmarried veterans and those with lower levels of education were also more likely to be missed on the death certificate.”
“We think that all suicides are underreported. There is uncertainty in the check box,” says Steve Elkins, the state registrar in Minnesota, which has one of the best suicide data recording systems in the country.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki requested collaboration from all 50 states to improve timeliness and accuracy of suicide reporting, key to improving suicide prevention. At the time the VA released its last suicide report, at least 11 states had not made a decision on data collaboration.

Combat stress is just one reason why veterans attempt suicide. Military sexual assaults are another. Psychologist Craig Bryan says his research is finding that military victims of violent assault or rape are six times more likely to attempt suicide than military non-victims.

More than 69% of all veteran suicides were among those 50 and older. Mental-health professionals said one reason could be that these men give up on life after their children are out of the house or a longtime marriage falls apart. They are also likely to be Vietnam veterans, who returned from war to a hostile public and an unresponsive VA. Combat stress was chalked up to being crazy, and many Vietnam veterans lived with ghosts in their heads without seeking help.

Even though more older veterans are committing suicide, it’s difficult to predict what the toll of America’s newest wars will be. A survey by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America showed that 30% of service members have considered taking their own life, and 45% said they know an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has attempted suicide.

“There’s probably a tidal wave of suicides coming,” says Brian Kinsella, an Iraq war veteran who started Stop Soldier Suicide, a nonprofit group that works to raise awareness of suicide. Between October 2006 and June 2013, the Veterans Crisis Line received more than 890,000 calls. That number does not include chats and texts.

President Barack Obama says there is a need to “end this epidemic of suicide among our veterans and troops.” In August 2012, he signed an executive order calling for stronger suicide prevention efforts. A year later, he announced $107 million in new funding for better mental health treatment for veterans with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, signature injuries of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    


FORGIVENESS AND HEALING

I knew I wanted to see the film “The Sapphires” when I heard that it was based on a true story about 4 Australian aboriginal women who entertain U.S.  troops in Vietnam.  Last Saturday night we couldn’t get to Amherst Cinema in time to see the film so we saw “The Company You Keep,” Robert Redford’s film of the book with the same title by Neil Gordon about Weather Underground members who go underground after a botched bank robbery ends in the murder of a security guard.  It was a worthwhile film that had echoes of the ’60’s and the anti-war movement as well as an incredible scene featuring Susan Sarandon explaining what motivated her character to join a group advocating ending the war by any means necessary including violence.

In between the two films was “The Draft,” the staged reading of the play based on CALLED TO SERVE.  There were too many highlight moments for me to attempt to chronicle, but Penny Rock journeying from San Francisco to see Peter Snoad’s play was certainly one of the most memorable.  Peter and I got to debrief with her over lunch on Friday following Thursday night’s premiere performance, which played to a full house and received a wonderfully enthusiastic response from the audience and those sending email congratulatory messages.  Penny had many suggestions, but I felt her strongest message was no matter what Peter decides to change based on viewer comments or viewing the videotape courtesy of men’s group member and interview subject, Paul Richmond, he should most assuredly hold onto what the book and play are urging on us all – forgiveness and healing.  The Vietnam War divided our country and those divisions are with us still. The book and play are intended to allow all who read and watch to gain an awareness and ultimately an appreciation for the ways in which we were all victims of the war and the way forward is to recognize the commonality of our experiences, forgive ourselves and one another for what we did and did not do and ultimately continue the healing process that remains so unfinished despite the intervening years.  Penny embodies that work in her own story, which I decided, at the strong urging of my wife Susan who was deeply moved once again by seeing aspects of Penny’s story brought to life in the play, to include in the next version of CALLED TO SERVE.

With such words and thoughts echoing in my mind, watching “The Sapphires” last night provided many new and powerful images having to do with forgiveness and healing.  Without revealing too much, since I strongly urge you to see the film if that is possible in your neck of the woods,  let it suffice to say that there is a moment in the film where a beloved grandparent figure finds it in her heart to welcome a “stolen child,” one who was literally kidnapped by white Austalians who gave themselves license, as was done here in America to our native population, to steal native children, especially light skinned ones, from their homes, communities and cultures in order to raise them in a white world.  The scene where this takes place was overpowering for me.  All of the ways in which our culture has so egregiously failed to welcome our soldiers home, to cleanse them and accept them back into the community, to heal them and affirm them as beloved members of their families, and to forgive them for the awful things they have had to see and do – these failures were what I was keenly aware of as I watched this young woman brought back into the loving embrace of her loved ones.

This is what we must face as a country, community by community.  This film reinforces this fact sensitively and beautifully.

 

 

    

YET ANOTHER HEIGHT OF ABSURDITY – HONORING A WAR CRIMINAL…

Yes, I know there are fellow citizens who are quite convinced that honoring George W. Bush with a  library is somehow fitting, but I could not let the event of its opening go by without commenting on how absolutely absurd and disrespectful such an occurrence feels for many others of us around the world.  This article highlights some of the views of those who see Bush and his cronies, Cheney, Rice, Rove, etc… as perpetrators of war crimes – from starting pre-emptive wars to imprisoning suspected terrorists without trials, from killing countless innocent Iraqi and Afghan citizens to torturing others and, perhaps most disturbingly, being honored for such actions when what should be happening is accountability and trials.  I have felt this way since 2002 when the lies that were being told to us overrode 15 million people world-wide desperately seeking to stop the impending war.  Such events as what occurred yesterday, accompanied by the blindness of such organizations as MSNBC, which gets it right so much more often than so many other news programs, brings it all back – the treachery, the deceit, the utter destruction of the lives, homes, culture of the people whose countries our government authorized the destruction of… The words of Thomas Young, the wounded Iraq war veteran who remains in hospice waiting to die, conclude the piece and are both eloquent and haunting:
My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.
Published on Thursday, April 25, 2013 by Common Dreams

Celebration in Texas Opens New Library for “War Criminal”

George W. Bush Presidential Center opens on the campus of the Southern Methodist University in Dallas

- Jon Queally, staff writer

George W. Bush Library dedication attended By President Obama And former presidents. (Photo: Getty)Responding to the fawning morning coverage of the opening of the George W. Bush presidential library in Texas Thursday, independent journalist Jeremy Scahill mocked the cable news outlet MSNBC by tweeting:

 

 

“This is such a singular moment,” said MSNBC’s David Gregory in the interlude between the presentation of the First Ladies and the subsequent introduction of President Obama and the former US presidents: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter. “It’s not just pomp and circumstance,” Gregory said as the US Army band rolled drums and the trumpets blared.

The Pledge of Allegiance followed.  Shortly thereafter, former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice took the podium to deliver a series of introductions.

MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews set the frame for the network’s coverage by saying, “No one wants to talk about Iraq on a day like this.” Instead Matthews repeated time and again, what people really wanted to know was what Obama and former first lady Barbara Bush, seated next to one another on stage, were chatting and giggling about.

As the ordered ceremony continued—with each former President taking turns with a few remarks—anti-war activists proved Matthews wrong by utilizing the official #bushcenter hashtag to voice their opposition to the Bush legacy and calling the former president a ‘war criminal':

The library, officially called the George W. Bush Presidential Center, is located on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas and was designed to honor—critics argue ‘to re-write’—the legacy of the former US president whose administration led the country into two foreign wars, opened the Guantanamo Bay prison camp as a way to avoid judicial oversight of detainee treatment, initiated rendition and torture programs within a global network of CIA-run black site facilities, oversaw the creation of a vast national surveillance apparatus, and ushered in the largest financial crisis of the modern era.

Outside the event, more than 200 peace activists protested behind police barricades against what they called Bush’s “crimes against humanity”.

In an interview with USA Today earlier this week, George W. Bush repeated what he has often said about his legacy by remarking, “I did what I did and ultimately history will judge.”

For many, however, that judgement deserves no further delay.

Asked in an interview to suggest what the world should remember about the Bush legacy, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange responded by saying:

A good place to start would be laying out the number of deaths caused by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. At Wikileaks, we documented that from 2004-2009, the US had records of over 100,000 individual deaths of Iraqis due to violence unleashed by that invasion, roughly 80% of them civilians. These are the recorded deaths, but many more died. And in Afghanistan, the US recorded about 20,000 deaths from 2004-2010. These would be good facts to include in the presidential library.

And perhaps the library could document how people around the world protested against the invasion of Iraq, including the historic February 15, 2003 mobilization of millions of people around the globe.

And Common Dreams contributors Jodie Evans and Charles Davis write on Thursday:

George W. Bush presided over an international network of torture chambers and, with the help of a compliant Congress and press, launched a war of aggression that killed hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. However, instead of the bloody details of his time in office being recounted at a war crimes tribunal, the former president has been able to bank on his imperial privilege – and a network of rich corporate donors that he made richer while in office – to tell his version of history at a library in Texas being opened in his name.

Kill a few, they call you a murderer. Kill tens of thousands, they give you $500 million for a granite vanity project and a glossy 30-page supplement in the local paper.

They concluded:

Bush’s legacy is reflected not in his library, but in the regular bombings that rock Baghdad, killing dozens at a time. The Connecticut blue blood turned straight talkin’ Texan is of course welcome to tell his side of the story. That’s only fair. But let him do it at the Hague.

Last month, on the tenth anniversay of the start of Bush’s invasion of Iraq, wounded Iraq war veteran Thomas Young, who remains in hospice waiting to die, wrote an open letter to Bush and his vice president Dick Cheney which included:

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

Ending his letter, Young wrote to Bush:

My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.

Back in Texas on Thursday, just as Bush closed his remarks at the library’s opening ceremony, a tear caught his eye and he swallowed a sob as he returned to his seat. There was no apology for the war, the many deaths, or torture. There was no confession or acknowledgement of sin or error.  The military band rose to perform “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah” as the other presidents, their wives, and the crowd sang and applauded.

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