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The Airport

Crumpled green uniform
Ribbons edged with dirt
Scuffed shoes, stubbled face
Eyes rimmed red with fatigue
I emerge from the bird's womb
The returning warrior

The family pounces
Hugs, tears
Backslaps, handshakes
Pride overflows
Soldier-son, hero-brother
I stand tall in their eyes

They think me whole
Grateful I am unscraped by war's steel
I wince at their sympathy
All wounds do not pierce the skin
Control! Control!
I must play my role
With precision
My pain will be theirs
Soon enough

I suppose starting a diary with a poem is not exactly the way to attract the policy wonks' interest. In the seemingly interminable pie wars that have raged over the past several weeks, one of the central defenses offered has been "Well, it's HIS site." Agreed.

So.  This is MY diary.

This is the result of several different strands of thought that have been stimulating me over the past week; not sure I can pull them all together here, but I'm going to give it a shot.

The first was the wonderful diary by Meteor Blades here talking about his experience in the civil rights movement in the sixties.  The second was an article by Ron Kovic here.  For those of you whippersnappers in the audience whose perception of reality does not predate the eighties, Ron is a paraplegic anti-war Vietnam veteran who wrote the book on which Oliver Stone's movie starring Tom Cruise was based. This article by Kovic brought back a whole slew of memories of my life immediately after I returned from Vietnam. Then, there are the reports and diaries here and here detailing the latest screw-the-veterans moves of the the current administration.

A few reminiscences:

I joined the army in the Spring of 1968, shortly after the Tet offensive (young people, read your history books if you don't know what I'm talking about).  I joined in a spasm of working-class patriotism, coupled with a need/desire/determination to "prove" myself worthy of my ancestors.  I mean, both my grandfathers served in WWI, my father and uncles served in WWII; hey, Vietnam was my war; it was a no-brainer.

I came home from Vietnam a changed man, disgusted and disillusioned.  My patriotism had been spent like chump change in a penny arcade, wasted on a futile effort in a dirty war where survival was the only measure of success.  I soon joined the organization Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW).  VVAW was an extraordinary and, at the time, unique organization.  Originally formed by six Viet vets who met one another at an anti-war demonstration in 1967, by 1971, it had grown significantly in numbers (the membership list was over twenty-five thousand, but the majority of those joined from a free ad posted in Playboy magazine, and never did anything but respond to the ad; the actual active membership was never greater than a few thousand) and in impact.  It started off doing guerilla theatre with Operation RAW (Rapid American Withdrawal), a limited incursion into New Jersey. Vietnam veterans and friends marched through the surburban towns of that state, demonstrating through the theatre what it was like when an American infantry platoon marched through a town in Vietnam.

In 1970, VVAW held the Winter Soldier Investigation.  This was in response to the government's assertion that the atrocities of My Lai (check your history books, kids) were the result of the deviant actions of a small group of low-level soldiers (sound familiar?).  Many of you might remember that this investigation surfaced during Kerry's presidential campaign, bandied about by the Swiftie liars as proof that Kerry had branded American soldiers as war criminals and "baby killers". Of course, as usual, this is the exact opposite of what really happened.  It was the government that had branded individual soldiers as "baby killers". The central purpose of the WSI was to show that the atrocities that had happened and continued to happen were not the result of the decisions of individual soldiers, but the result of the POLICY decisions made by the government.  

In 1971, the year I returned from Vietnam, VVAW held perhaps its most famous anti-war action -- Dewey Canyon III -- when about one thousand Vietnam veterans came to Washington DC, camped out on the mall for three days, and climaxed their series of anti-war demonstrations by throwing back the medals they had won in Vietnam to protest the war.  

My absolute favorite newspaper headline of all time happened during this time.  The Nixon administration went into federal court to get an order to remove VVAW from camping on the mall.  It went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in Nixon's favor.  The members of VVAW -- after debating among themselves through half the night -- took a vote, which was extremely close, but the majority voted to stay on the mall.  The Park Rangers refused to go in and remove VVAW.  The Washington Star had this front page headline the next day: "Vets Overule Supreme Court."

All this happened before I joined.  I was in DC at the time of DCIII (April, 1971), but did not participate. I had been back from Vietnam only a month by then, and I was still decompressing.  I joined in the fall of that year, at the college I started to attend.  Our VVAW chapter (about thrity-two members) decided that our first action together would be to march in the Veterans Day parade as VVAW.  We applied to the parade's organizers and they rejected our application.  We threatned to take them to court, and they seemed to agree to allow us to march.  We showed up the night of the parade, and, after additional haggling, they informed us that we could not march in their parade, and if we marched anywhere that night as a group, we would be arrested.  Fuck it. We marched; we got arrested. So, the first time in my life that I was ever arrested was for trying to march in  my first Veterans day parade back from Vietnam.  It was not to be my last.

After that incident, I threw myself into VVAW work.  I was soon elected/selected (no one else really wanted the job) as the state coordinator for VVAW, then in the Spring of 1972, I was elected as one of six national coordinators.  I dropped out of school, and headed to NYC where the national office for VVAW was located.

1972 was a presidential election year, and, by a quirk of fate I don't really remember all the details of, both parties' national political conventions were to be held in Miami Beach.  The local VVAW chapters in Florida were doing the bulk of the on-the-ground organizing for the inevitable demonstrations to take place at the conventions, and I was chosen by my fellow national coordinators to head down to Florida to be the national office liason to the local chapters. I went to Gainesville Florida, where the Florida state coordinator, Scott Camil lived and went to school.  There were a series of meetings concerning the planning of the demonstrations.  Ninety-five percent of the meetings dealt with all the mundane things associated with having large numbers of people in the same place at the same time: what about port-o-sans; do we have parade permits; will the city allow us to sleep in the park; how are we coordinating with other groups planning demonstrations? Etc.  After the meetings were over, and we were all starting to relax (let's not talk about the "means" we used to relax; suffice to say, it was illegal). One of the vets in the room started talking about some of our worst fears, namely, that there would be some kind of a police riot, similar to or worse than what had happened in Chicago in 1968, and started spinning "what if" scenarios.

Now, one of the problems with VVAW was that many other organizations in the anti-war movement tended to see VVAW as the movement's cops, security, or enforcers, and I'm afraid that we tended to see ourselves that way as well. So, when this roomful of altered-state, mellowed-out Vietnam veterans -- most of us having returned from Vietnam within the past two years -- are presented with the scenario "What if the cops block off all the causeways to Miami Beach, and then start shooting the demonstrators, what're we gonna do?", needless to say, as Vietnam veterans, we came up with an appropriate response to that scenario.  

Turns out, the vet posing these questions was an FBI informer (apparently, he had been busted on a drug charge, and they offered him informing as a way to avoid jail).  Turns out, there were a number of other informers in the room at that time, the massive infiltration of VVAW by agents and informers having been Nixon's present to us in return for Dewey Canyon III.

Three months later, during the middle of the Democratic Convention in July, I was indicted along with seven other members of VVAW by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to incite a riot at the Republican Convention, which was yet to happen in August (with conspiracy, you are not charged with actually committing the crime itself, you are charged with PLANNING to commit the crime.  In most criminal cases, conspiracy is a secondary charge to the charge for the crime itself, but the Nixon administration found the "conspiracy" charge on its own -- even if the "planned" crime had never been committed -- to be a convenient tool to use against the anti-war movement).  

Just to give some historical perspective, the meeting from which these charges stemmed occurred in April, 1972, the Watergate break-in happened June 17, 1972.  The first response from the burglars concerning the motive for the Watergate break-in was that the Democratic Party was cooperating with radical organizations which were planning to disrupt the Republican convention with violence. The grand jury that indicted us was convened on July 1, and the indictments handed down on July 13.  I will keep my tin-foil hat on the shelf, but you figure it out.

The case (called the Gainesville 8 case) went to trial in August of the following year.  During the trial, a man I had considered one of my best friends surfaced as an FBI informer who proceeded to testify (and lie) against me.  After a month-long trial, it took the jury four hours to find us not guilty (we understood from talking to the jurors later that it actually took about an hour, but one of the jurors -- a black Vietnam vet -- convinced everyone to stick around a little longer and have one more meal on the government).

Geez, this has gone on way longer than I figured.  Beware of old farts telling stories. Ok, try to pull it all together.

I was struck by two statements that Kovic makes:

I have watched in horror the mirror image of another Vietnam unfolding. So many similarities, so many things said that remind me of that war thirty years ago which left me paralyzed for the rest of my life. Refusing to learn from our experiences in Vietnam, our government continues to pursue a policy of deception, distortion, manipulation, and denial, doing everything it can to hide from the American people their true intentions and agenda in Iraq. The flag-draped caskets of our dead begin their long and sorrowful journeys home hidden from public view, while the Iraqi casualties are not even considered worth counting--some estimate as many as 100,000 have been killed so far.

The paraplegics, amputees, burn victims, the blinded and maimed, shocked and stunned, brain damaged and psychologically stressed, now fill our veterans hospitals. Most of them were not even born when I came home wounded to the Bronx V.A. in 1968. The same lifesaving medical-evacuation procedures that kept me alive in Vietnam are bringing home a whole new generation of severely maimed from Iraq.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which afflicted so many of us after Vietnam, is just now beginning to appear among soldiers recently returned from the current war. For some, the agony and suffering, the sleepless nights, anxiety attacks, and awful bouts of insomnia, loneliness, alienation, anger, and rage, will last for decades, if not their whole lives. They will be trapped in a permanent nightmare of that war, of killing another man, a child, watching a friend die ... fighting against an enemy that can never be seen, while at any moment someone--a child, a woman, an old man, anyone--might kill you. These traumas return home with us and we carry them, sometimes hidden, for agonizing decades. They deeply impact our daily lives, and the lives of those closest to us.

To kill another human being, to take another life out of this world with one pull of a trigger, is something that never leaves you. It is as if a part of you dies with them. If you choose to keep on living, there may be a healing, and even hope and happiness again--but that scar and memory and sorrow will be with you forever.

Some of these veterans are showing up at homeless shelters around our country, while others have begun to courageously speak out against the senselessness and insanity of this war and the leaders who sent them there. During the 2004 Democratic Convention, returning soldiers formed a group called Iraq Veterans Against the War, just as we marched in Miami in August of 1972 as Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Still others have refused deployment to Iraq, gone to Canada, and begun resisting this immoral and illegal war.

In the diaries about the VA underfunding, I've seen a lot of outrage, blame of Republicans, and protestations of how WE support and respect the veterans.  I appreciate that, but I'm sorry to say, respect is a whole lot more than a pat on the back, a yellow ribbon decal on the car, a "welcome home", and a blog post. It's what people DO that counts.

The sad reality of fighting in a war is that many, if not most of those who survive return home with substantial problems.  For some, those problems are physical -- traumatic, life-altering wounds that will never heal, that will require ongoing treatment for a lifetime.  In Vietnam, the life-saving procedures of getting severely wounded men from the front line to the operating room were perfected, and have been reimplemented in Iraq.  Lives are saved, but men (and now women) who would have died on the battlefield in previous wars, are given the "opportunity" to live armless, legless, sightless, brainless lives.  Such lives are a blessing, I suppoose, considering the alternative, but they cost money.  Who will pay?  Sure, we'll all raise our hands now, and demand proper treatment for the returning wounded, but what about ten or twenty years from now, when the war, hopefully, is a distant, painful memory, and the economy is in the tank (given the Bushco economic policies, that seems a reasonable conclusion), and there is real competition for where the federal dollars will be spent?  What will happen then, to the invisible, powerless refuse from the long-forgotten war?

And then there's the other "problems": the PTSD, the lost jobs, failed marriages, broken lives.  As`they say, all wounds do not pierce the skin.  There was a point in the seventies and eighties when twenty percent of the prison population in the US were Vietnam veterans.  Respect?  It's my experience that when a vet is percieved to have become a problem, people don't give a flyin flock about his (or her) service.  When Iraqi veterans start becoming a "burden" on the community, I'm afraid the "respect" of their neighbors will disappear, regardless of which political party they belong to.

Every benefit that Vietnam veterans got, we got because we fought for it, on our own, with little help.  The men and women in today's army, by and large, come from lower socio-economic groups.  As a rule, in our political system that does the bidding of those with the bucks, such people will be cut out of the pie when the time comes. Are you willing to take the money out of your pocket, and put it in theirs for their service, because that's what it's gonna mean? If not, then don't talk to me about respect.

But Kovic also said this:

I have been given an opportunity to move through that dark night of the soul to a new shore, to gain an understanding, a knowledge, an entirely different vision. I now believe I have suffered for a reason, and in many ways I have found that reason in my commitment to peace and nonviolence. My life has been a blessing in disguise, even with the pain and great difficulty that my physical disability continues to bring. It is a blessing to be able to speak on behalf of peace, to be able to reach such a great number of people.

I saw firsthand what our government's terrible policy had wrought. I endured; I survived and understood. The one gift I was given in that war was an awakening. I became a messenger, a living symbol, an example, a man who learned that love and forgiveness are more powerful than hatred, who has learned to embrace all men and women as my brothers and sisters. No one will ever again be my enemy, no matter how hard they try to frighten and intimidate me. No government will ever teach me to hate another human being. I have been given the task of lighting a lantern, ringing a bell, shouting from the highest rooftops, warning the American people and citizens everywhere of the deep immorality and utter wrongness of this approach to solving our problems, pleading for an alternative to this chaos and madness, this insanity and brutality. We must change course.

Kovic speaks for me on this.  I am an anti-war warrior because I can't NOT be.


x posted at Booman

Originally posted to leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 02:52 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm here to talk (4.00)
    Let's hear it.

    Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

    by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 02:59:18 AM PDT

    •  Truth (4.00)
      You speak truth.

      We have been lied to, used and when we no longer are useful and no longer buy in to their lies we are discarded. In Vietnam and again now.

      What happened to America?

      When did what is good for Americans fall away and what is good for Boeing take over?

      When did this nation become a nation of slaves?

      When they demand you stop thinking and take away your right to decide on the goodness of a government they make you a slave.  An idea from Thomas Paine who wrote bout why the Americans should dump the Brits.

      Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their cronies make us slaves by lying to us and then attacking our patriotism for seeking truth.



      "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

      by RetLtCol on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 03:24:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you, sir (4.00)
        Proud to make your acquaintence.

        Guys like us can make a difference, though.

        We need to tell what we know, and stand up for what we believe in.

        WE are the American patriots.  It is OUR flag.  It is OUR ideals that have made this country great.

        Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

        by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 03:38:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  With great respect for you vets... (4.00)
          I think you can make a huge difference if you join together and speak out.

          I don't have any great suggestions for strategy, but your having BEEN THERE gives you tremendous moral authority and expertise as anti-war voices.

          For many wingnuts, hearing/seeing a uniformed, retired officer come out against this war may be the ONLY thing that pierces their mental fog and finally gets through to them.

          In any case, I believe taking care of maimed veterans WELL (i.e., rolling out the red carpet for them as they hobble back) is a moral duty of the highest order, and the cost of doing so is one of the tremendous, ongoing costs that should be laid out before voters whenever our leaders want to take us into war.

          Instead, we just chew em' up and spit em' out.  I've said before that the incompetence, indifference and (with Bush) mendacity with which our government treats veterans also subtly reinforces the public's fear of having the government run healthcare.  If they treat our heroes that badly, how badly will they treat me?
        •  Honored (none)
          To be acquainted with you.

          The service we can give now is to the constitution which is only served by the truth.

          "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

          by RetLtCol on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 08:09:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  A hundred years ago (4.00)
        At least.

        When did what is good for Americans fall away and what is good for Boeing take over?

        It was already well underway when the Scaifes were raping America during The War To End All Wars - Gen. Butler indicts Union Steel by name as among the top corruption he saw in the congressional hearings post WWI, but profiteering on impressive scales was already going on during the Civil War.

        It was already well underway when we invaded the free independent nation of Hawai'i for the benefit of US corporations.

        And Mexico, and Cuba, and the Phillippines, and China, and Russia all by 1925 - "it's still the same old story," - a fight for the bottom line of the wealthy elite. It hasn't changed since the senate sold out the people of Rome to the highest bidder, nor the Highland Clearances enacted, nor at any time in the thousands of years between nor the centuries since.

        The names change, but the Great Game plays on, and we are the pawns.

        "Don't be a janitor on the Death Star!" - Grey Lady Bast (change @ for AT to email)

        by bellatrys on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 12:38:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  thanks (4.00)
      you have a gift for writing - and educating.
    •  LeftVet - The Hottest Part of the Flame (4.00)
      WOW! Good job LeftVet - the pain and the suffering that was Viet Nam is now called Iraq. Nothing has changed for the grunts except that it is now a dry heat.

      I returned to Nam in 2000 for the 25th Anniversary of the Unification. I remember an an old man calling me aside (there are very few old men in Viet Nam because we killed most of them), he whispered to me the question "Nguoi linh My?" (Were you American soldier?) His eyes filled with tears when he said proudly "Viet Nam Conh Hoa!!) (I was an ARVN soldier). He then proceeded to tell me of his work at Dao Phu Quoc prison camp, at Nha Trang, and at Bien Hoa.  He said all his friends are now dead, and he wanted to come to America to visit his daughter who he put on a boat in 1980 after paying in gold for her departure.

      Later that month, I was in Hue, and went to Chua Thien Mu (Buddhist Temple on the Perfume River), and sat for several hours with an old Buddhist Monk. We talked about the American War, and about how we can live in the present. He said that we all have a responsibility to eliminate suffering, and to speak out for those beings who do not have a voice.  He said that a soldier is the hottest part of the flame - no one knows more about life and death than a soldier.  We then talked about the sacrifice on June 11, 1963, of Thich Quang Duc, on a street in Sai Gon.

      In memory of Lt. Le Van Khoa, ARVN, my brother in law,  KIA November 1971. Buried in the Soldiers Cemetery, Da Lat.
      •  There it is! (4.00)
        Thanks for that.

        Methinks you ought to put down a bit of your own history somewhere.  From the little I've read of your stuff, it seems you could melt some steel with that fire.  

        Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

        by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 04:45:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  A Brilliant Piece Of Work (4.00)
      Thank you.  You should shop this around to newspapers, journals of opinion, etc., I'm sure you could get it published, especially if you're a writer of established reputation (which I'm guessing is a possibility since you write so well).

      One copy editor's quibble:  I think you meant to say your father and uncles fought in "WWII," not "WWI."  As to the GOP and the Dems holding their conventions in the same city in 1972, the GOP was supposed to hold theirs in San Diego, but it was discovered that they'd arranged for ITT to pick up the tab for the RNC (my memory of this is hazy, but an ITT lobbyist named Dita Beard wrote a memo which I believe became public, then when she was in the hospital for some reason or other, she received a visit from a peculiar looking man wearing an ill-fitting red wig and a voice modulating device who turned out to be E. Howard Hunt).  Anyway, a minor scandal ensued, and they ended up shifting it to Miami.

      Nothing more to say except that this is a fantastic bit of writing that deserves the widest possible circulation.  As someone (Arthur Koestler?) once said in a similar context, you have not come back from hell with empty hands.  Great work.

      "L'enfer, c'est les autres." - Jean Paul Sartre, Huis Clos

      by JJB on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 06:28:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Fixed the typo (4.00)

        Also, thanks for the compliments on the writing.  I've had a few things published here and there, mostly op-ed stuff, but I'm not "established" in any way.  When the muse moves me, the words flow.  Unfortunately, she doesn't move me very often.

        Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

        by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 06:51:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  This is "best of Kos" (4.00)
      and, as others have suggested below, I don't think Americans can fight dishonest wars. Most of our heavily immigrant experience tells us that individuals will do most anything, in Tennyson's words: "to seek a newer world..", and that quest does not involve violence against another human being.

      your cogent insights into what war does to a man should be read everywhere.

      "If you don't get this female mutt out of here I'll rip her to shreds." Sheila Devore

      by Miss Devore on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 07:54:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  VVAW and my dad (4.00)
      My dad was active in VVAW, and a friend of Ron Kovic's, whom I remember very well, wheeling along the boardwalk, chatting with my dad about this book he had just finished writing...

      My dad had a lot of problems, and my childhood was extraordinarily turbulent and often painful, in large part because of the havoc wreaked on our family by his issues (he has since worked through many of them).  But, I can say unflinchingly that he remains a true hero to me, and it is because of the courage and integrity of his VVAW experience.

      Every once in awhile someone here will ask, "What do you think made you a liberal/Democrat/etc.?"  That question is always very easy for me.  More than anything else, my experience as a young child on the periphery of VVAW, watching my dad work and rage and stand strong in the face of bitter threats, opposition, and taunting, molded me into the person I am today, with the values I prize above all others: courage, integrity, justice, dissent, compassion.

      There are thousands of me out there -- the children of VVAW -- continuing the work of their fathers, in one way or another.  Among the many priceless sacrifices you made and gifts you gave, you all seeded a generation of teachers, doctors, bus drivers, bankers, secretaries, and factory workers with a new kind of warrior.

      There are many reasons to call the courageous members of VVAW heroes, but this is one I rarely hear spoken, and it's one very near to my heart.

      Thank you for telling your story here.  The VVAW story has never stopped being relevant, but the fact that Vietnam is not foremost in the American conciousness right now, as we toss even more of our sons and daughters into the fire, is absolutely criminal.
      •  Thanks, HPE (4.00)
        I'm workin on a younger generation of VVAW kids, mine are 8 and 10 (got into fatherhood late in life).

        Here's hopin I do my job as well as your father seems to have done with you.

        Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

        by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 05:10:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I'm one too (none)
        I know what you mean.  

        Am I allowed to shamelessly plug my little blog?

        by ChuckLin on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 06:23:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  You have made my day, HPE (none)
        My kids also grew up surrounded by the legacies of Vietnam: the parade of wheelchairs, guy sleeping in the guest room with their legs standing next to the bed, the angry strategy meetings to deal with the latest outrage from the government, the threatening phone calls from right wing assholes, and I was often fearful about the effects that this was having on them.  It is extremely hard to teach the values that you describe, and in the same breath make certain that they understand that their government is not to be trusted, and that they should instinctively question authority.

        All indications are that they absorbed it in fine fashion, but there is always that nagging doubt that their views of the world and their place in it have been skewed by those experiences.  Your post has affirmed for me that it is possible to do what I attempted, and I truly thank you for your words.

        I am a warrior for peace. And not a gentle man ..Steve Mason, 1940-2005

        by Wayward Wind on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 01:52:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Left Vet (4.00)
      Your diary left me crying.  Not just the story but the amount of guilt I have for not doing my time.  My greatgrandfather WWI, Grandfather& Greatuncle WWII,Uncle and Father Vietnam. All democrats by the way!!  I also come from a working class family but fortunately I went to college and now in grad school. My dad flunked out of college and was drafted.  When he came back...My dad's name appeared on the dean's list.   I was interested in the military after highschool primarily due to guilt about my life to that point .My father would  not allow me.  He tells me they just want to fill body bags.  He threw all military related mail in the trash.    I still have guilt about not serving, especially now.  I would like your advice....What should I do to get over my guilt?  Also, How do I get my dad to start healing himself.  I know it has affected him, I can tell.    
      •  Harry (4.00)
        If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm not about encouraging young people to join the military, particularly at this point in time. There's nothing to be guilty about.  There are numerous ways one can provide service to one's country other than serving in the military.  I totally support what your father did.  It is what I am doing and will do for my children.  You are the pioneer, the first in four generations not to become a soldier.  That's something you should be proud of.

        Sorry, Harry, but I'm not an on-line shrink.  I know nothing about your father, and couldn't begin to recommend how he heal himself.  I'd say offhand that the fact that he kept you from joining the military means he has something going for him already.


        Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

        by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 05:20:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  soldiers (none)
      you are correct,soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs. Very few realize the cause and effect relationship there.Even to the minutea of it.I remember(a few years ago) one night(0200hrs) in an OP in a 'quiet sector" hearing a radio we didnt have that the government was planning a reduction were we were.It didnt really please us.We thought about heading for the bunker because we knew the next little while was going to suck as the local factions demonstrated a reason for us to stay.

      it tastes like burning...

      by eastvan on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 12:31:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I've been avoiding this diary. (4.00)

      Somehow I knew it would be painful.

      My father was killed during Tet, February 8, 1968. He was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Third Marine Division.

      Reading his letters home... the closer the dates came to the day of his death, the more disillusioned his tone and, eventually, turns of phrase became. What began as a correspondence comprised mostly of love poems to his unborn child -- me -- and surprisingly erotic reminiscences of his all-too-short new marriage... became tinged with bitterness and regret. A man who had always seen himself a lifetime Marine spoke of leaving the service and never looking back.

      My stepfather did three tours as a Marine. Due to inside information, I somehow doubt Vietnam did much to change him -- I think he went in as warped as he came out.

      But I've often wondered what my life might have been, had my father returned alive, rather than in a body bag. For years, I imagined an idyllic childhood replacing the, um, not-so-idyllic one I had.

      But lately, it occurs to me that he might have returned a wholly different man than he went in. And considering the descriptions I have of him, of his vitality, his humour, his decency, his way of imbuing anyone around him with the solemn dignity and lighthearted goodness he himself embodied... I'm not so sure, now, that I would have wanted to know him as the changed man he must surely have become had he lived.

      Of course, I do. I do want to know him, regardless of personality changes. I never got the chance; he was killed three months before I came into the world. He never knew I was a girl, never knew the joy of a new father witnessing his child's entrance into the world. And I never knew the joy of having a father. I was born a fatherless child, thanks to the monstrous machinations of the predatory predecessors of George W. Bush and his ilk. Men who cared nothing for the lives they ruined, let alone the lives they obliterated from the face of a planet in which they saw only treasure to be looted and multiplied, power to be grasped and multiplied.

      I know McNamara lived to regret his folly. But for the most part, those men lived on to see only their enemies' supposed victories, to regret only their failure to seize all the treasure and power. These men spawned more men like them. Men who seem designed only for destruction, for whom success is defined merely in dollars and seats on boards of directors, in stock options and taxes avoided.

      I don't know where I'm going with this. The topic of Vietnam has always been something of an open wound for me - at times less searingly painful because I anaesthetised it well, with Scotch or sex or shopping or escapist movies... But even if I wanted to be numb now (and I don't - I have reached a point in life where I want to see and know and understand the truth), there would be no such respite; the architects of "Vietnam" live on in their foul descendants, these architects of "Iraq," a word which will take its place next to "Vietnam" in the annals of American folly begotten by American greed. Honestly, if pressed for my remarks to these iniquitous vermin, these grotesque mockeries of humanity, I can only offer them one word of advice, a directive in a solitary word:


      Rage, rage, against the lying of the Right.

      by Maryscott OConnor on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 12:54:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  email (none)
      Thank you for such a moving post. I can't say that after the experience you have gone through that I would have been strong enough to survive. The thought of this happening to another generation of young people breaks my heart and turns my stomach.

      I didn't see any contact info when I clicked your name.

      Would you please email us at
      yearlykos at gmail dot com


      YearlyKos...What's your AGENDA

      by gina on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 08:54:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for sharing leftvet (4.00)
    and Welcome Home.

    US Army (ret)

    L'Audace, L'Audace, Toujours L'Audace" "Audacity, Audacity, always with Audacity" (Georges Jacques Danton)

    by ParaHammer on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 03:39:05 AM PDT

  •  I was beginning to wonder when you would (4.00)
    write this diary...and am really glad that you have, because I believe that it vivdly demonstrates the lengths to which a government will go when it perceives itself to be under siege by the "left."  As more and more Americans wake up to what this administration is doing in our names, their anger will increase, and I believe that the government tactics of yesterday will be used again.  And we will, once again, have to take them to task with everything that we have.

    I am a warrior for peace. And not a gentle man ..Steve Mason, 1940-2005

    by Wayward Wind on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 03:55:23 AM PDT

    •  You were (4.00)
      the inspiration for this.  You kept pushin, and I finally spent an afternoon in this Manila hotel room and put it all down.

      I pu a lot of work into it.  Hope it has a bit more than 15 minutes of fame here.

      Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

      by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 04:22:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sorry for the nagging, Lt., (4.00)
        but it is extremely important.  What you went through is one of the sorriest chapters in our history, and folks need to understand that some of these bastards will stop at nothing to destroy dissent.

        I got out in late 71, and the next spring got involved in setting up one of the VETS projects, which later led to involvement in the early days of VVA/VVAF.  Lots of the folks you crossed paths with were involved, and I found their stories of the "old days" fascinating.  

        Keep on truckin', and if you ever get over to Europe in your travels, there are a whole bunch of cold beers waiting on you..

        I am a warrior for peace. And not a gentle man ..Steve Mason, 1940-2005

        by Wayward Wind on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 04:59:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It was very very good (4.00)
        Thank you, sir.  Peace be with you.

        It's silly but thanks for using whippersnappers too.  I love that word; it's one of my favorites.
      •  How can we help? (4.00)
        Leftvet, thanks for your post.  Perhaps you could let us know how best we can help and honor our vets.  Volunteer at your local VA hospital?  Donate to the Diabled American Veterans (DAV)?  

        What can we do, and where can we make the most difference?
        •  Ummm... (4.00)
          lv will have his own recommendations, but you might want to read the DAV Form 990 before you consider donating to them. The traditionals have a well deserved reputation for taking in hundreds of millions of dollars annually, and not putting much back where it is most needed.

          There are several organizations which focus on Iraq veterans, and I am confident that donations will be put to far better use in their smaller pots than with the larger traditional organizations. Operation Truth is one; Iraq Veterans Against the War is another.

          I am a warrior for peace. And not a gentle man ..Steve Mason, 1940-2005

          by Wayward Wind on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 06:23:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  One of the best ways (4.00)
          I know is to contribute to the wounded warrior project.  I have done it twice.  For $99, they provide each returning wounded soldier a backpack with fresh clothes, a CD player, a telephone card, and toiletries.  A lot of times, these people arrive at Walter Reed with very little.  The backpack makes it easier.

          LeftVet, thanks for the diary.  One of my best friends is a Vietnam Vet.  He came home in one piece, physically, and gradually got his life back.  Now, over thirty years later, he has been diagnosed with a rare, virulent cancer that only could have come from Agent Orange exposure.  He just had his third surgery.  I used to have sleepless nights when he was over there; now, I have sleepless nights worrying he won't survive this. Bastards.

          We do not rent rooms to Republicans.

          by Mary Julia on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 09:43:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  good post. (4.00)
    Being a kid of a Vietnam combat vet(Ranger/1st Cav) I like the tone you use to break it down.  War is a fucked up undertaking.  Unfortunately it's an undertaking initiated by clueless politicians and an even more clueless electorate who think of war as some abstract thing to be intellectualized.  

    Fuckers.  No lessons learned.  

    As a kid, I used to wonder how fucking stupid that generation was to get suckered into a bullshit war.  Of course hindsight is 20/20, but it amazed me how your generation and your parents generation could be so blind to political manipulation by the military industrial complex.  But eventually I just rationalized(bullshitted) it out and figured that the people during that time just didn't know any better.  I thought that at least something like that would never happen again.  I thought that American families with a veteran in the household would not have to go through the same hell my family went through in having a PTSD'd parent (it's amazing how well you learn how to walk on eggshells.  To this day, and I'm 32, I have this really creepy but cool ability to sneak up on anyone without comprimising my position.)

    But I was wrong. It boggles my fucking mind how we ended up doing the same fucking dance again.  Well, I no longer wonder how the American public got suckered into the Vietnam conflict.  I saw it first hand.

    Thank God that my old man, PTSD'd out as he was, "ordered" me to never join the military.  He would tell me that no one in this family line should ever have to go fight for causes of "Rich white men" ever again.  He said he had killed enough, been wounded enough, and seen enough evil to last generations.  Eternal wisdom from one who's seen the shit.

    I just hope that we don't leave the Veterans and their families (because their battle will just begining)hanging out in the cold this time too.

    So yeah, this time we have to proactively DO something for our veterans and families because Americans have a fucked up tendency brush our Veterans under the rug long after the last bullet has been fired.

    Kossacks better be making a BIG FUCKING DEAL about giving vets and families a helping had long after the AWOL administration has left the building.
    •  Thanks, Meta (4.00)
      I got a ten-year old son (I got into the fatherhood thing rather late in life; didn't know if I could handle it -- still don't).  At first, he couldn't understand why I wouldn't let him play with toy guns, or watch war movies, or play war-related video games.  He's startin to get it now.  A few week ago, we were watching the news together -- more of the endless carnage comin out of Iraq -- and he turned to me and said, "Daddy, Bush sucks, doesn't he?"

      Chip off the old block.

      Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

      by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 04:18:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Made it real. (4.00)
    I am one of the young whippersnappers you speak of.
    Everything I know about the Vietnam war comes from dispassionate history books and documentaries.
    It's easy (for me at least, and I imagine many youth) to forget the individuals in this, too easy to know a statistic and forget the humanity.
    Thank you for sharing, for making it real. Thank you for everything you've done.

    I am blown away.

    "Fifty percent of people won't vote, and fifty percent don't read newspapers. I hope it's the same fifty percent." - Gore Vidal

    by spasticbean on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 05:03:41 AM PDT

    •  Thanks (4.00)
      If I can feel that something I wrote has helped others to find some clarity, it makes my day.

      Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

      by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 05:14:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Clarity (4.00)
        Leftvet, you helped me to better understand whats needed beyond the easy stuff in your first diary at Booman. Thanks again for that.

        Your kid sounds like my kids. They need that broader perspective (Bush sucks, doesn't he?)! Thats perfect. Great diary.
      •  Some memories (4.00)
        Growing up in New Mexico, several of my friends had dads who had been in the Bataan Death March. There's a Bataan Hospital in Albuquerque. Anyway, these guys were messed up physically. One of my friend's dads loved the TV show "Combat" (I think that was the name.)
        Fast forward a few years to scenes of the jungle in Viet Nam every night at dinner, every night on the news, and I didn't understand the difference between that war and the one the dads were in.
        Then, junior high, and a returned vet comes to speak to us about his experiences in Viet Nam. We had an assembly. All I remember is him telling us about having prisoners up in a copter, and asking questions. When they didn't answer, they threw one prisoner out. "You shoulda seen how fast the rest of them talked, man..."  That's when I knew this was an entirely different war.
        Then we went to Phoenix to visit relatives, and on the way I saw a truck with metal boxes. It was a caravan, rather, of these trucks. I asked my dad what they were.  "Coffins on their way to the Coast for our soldiers who died in Viet Nam."

        Life-changing moment right then.

        Then on a trip to the East by train with a church choir, I got to talking with some young men (I was maybe 15) and they were just coming back from war. One kept telling me about how he got his knife wound, how the enemy had stabbed him and he stabbed the enemy to death. He told me that story over and over. I think it did him good. He had to get it out.  I've often thought we needed a ritual, like the Beauty Way sing, to cleanse people after they come home, to ritualize their hurting and help to heal them.  Just a thought....
        His friend was special, I really liked him. I told him to come see me someday. He said he had a job waiting for him at the Hallmark company in Kansas or Missouri.  But after I got home?  He came out by train.  Bless his heart.  He wrote me to say he reupped and I didn't know exactly what that meant. But I guessed...and it was the right guess. I never heard from him again.
        Started going to Friends Meeting. Marched in protests. Got maced. Got to meet some VVAW guys on campus.
        I took care of guys who had gotten injured in that war.  Later, in the 70s, early 80s. They were there for sores, for operations to fill the sores, they were paraplegics or quads.  
        I never ever ever thought I'd see the whole awful thing played out again.  Thank you for your diary. And thank you for serving.  

        War is not an adventure. It is a disease. It is like typhus. - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

        by Margot on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 09:49:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  You make the parallels clear (4.00)
    Those of us who were of age, and politically aware at the time of the Vietnam war thought that surely the US would never make those same mistakes again.   It has too long to reach a wider audience with the news that, in essential ways, we have "another Vietnam."  

    Your diary should be required reading for everyone, particularly anyone who still supports this war.   Thank you.
  •  You are a talented writer (4.00)
    I was glued to the screen reading it. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, and Kovic's words as well. Made me think, "What the hell am I doing just sitting here at my computer?"
  •  Thank you (4.00)
    IMO, diaries like yours are the best thing at Kos. Yours particularly so. Thank you.
    •  Angel and Debra (4.00)
      Thanks for coming by and offering your kind words.

      Don't let me stop you, Angel.  Git on out there.

      Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

      by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 05:45:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  perceptions of war (4.00)
        Two questions:  at what point did you feel the shift in the American public's perception, and at what point did you feel the shift in vets' perceptions?
        •  Both tough questions (4.00)
          The shift in public perception took place over a relatively long period of time.  Probably the Tet offensive in 1968, happening on the heels of all this government propoganda about "the light at the end of the tunnel" was probably the closest thing to a "turning point".

          As far as vets' perceptions, it was very individual.  Different guys "got it" at different times.

          AS witnessed by the Swifties, some guys never got it.

          Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

          by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 06:34:47 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  disconnect (4.00)
            What was it like at the tipping point for vets (Swifties excluded)if the American public's tipping point differed?  I'm imagining that it would be difficult in both directions, if the public perception led or if the vets did.

            I'm curious to know what either does to the troops.
  •  one of most important diaries I have seen (4.00)
    some of things that stand out

    •  in My Lai, only underlings were blamed, and no one higher than Calley was convicgted

    •  use of government agents to foment conspiracy and use it as a basis to charge people

    • jury nullification when you were charged with violating the law by camping on the Mall

    this last reminds me that the first known jury nullification case in English jurisprudence involved William Penn and another man who refused to give "hat honor"  --  the judge instructed the jury to convict, and even threatened them with jail, but they refused to convict.

    When people are in sympathy with those being charged, often they will refuse to convict, to nullify the charges, as is their right.  Prosecutors as a result will attempt to exclude any evidence that makes the defendents appear in a sympathetic fashion

    I did not go overseas, but even in my brief period in the Marines in the mid 1960's I saw people returning from Vietnam with PTSD.  In the late 60's and early 70's I encountered more than a few who had been traumatized by thier experiences, and came to understand that the vast majority of us had little idea of what they had been through.  I went back to Colleget at age 25, where one of my friends once confided to me his part in the secrte bombings as an air force an stationed at Udron in Thailand, how they had been threatened with prosecution if even after they were discharged they discussed what they had done.  

    I accept that for many who served, to have to acceptthat what they did was wrong, violated international law, and/or represented war crimes, would destroy them:  it would mean they -- and the buddies they had left behind -- had been fools, had wasted their sacrifices.   Thus they were ferocious in attempting to suppress any criticism of what happened.

    Perhaps in this cycle (and why does we have to go through these things repeatedly) those who have served will be more willing to speak up openly more quickly.   We need our Ron Kovics and John Kerrys from this conflict.  Perhaps they can help us from continuing to make similar mistakes.

    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

    by teacherken on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 06:03:37 AM PDT

  •  Welcome home brother (4.00)
    The following is from one of my VFP chapter members. He was at Dewey Canyon III along with another member, Sean Slattery, who sang a few songs to the gather vets there. We need a Dewey Canyon IV.

    It was my last day in Vietnam. I was at An Hoa, West of Da Nang, and had my orders to go home but had no way to get there. An Hoa had been under attack for several days and there was no normal transportation in or out. A friend suggested I hitch a ride on a medevac chopper so that's what I did.

    The helicopter carried 12 wounded. Many of them had been stripped naked to allow the doctors at the field hospital where they were to land to more quickly find and treat their wounds. The most seriously wounded were in the rear of the helicopter so as to be the first unloaded. One of them was being given mouth to mouth resuscitation by one of the helicopter's crewmen. There was much screaming. One Marine screamed "mama" continuously. Another thrashed in a semi-unconscious state and every time he touched the burned body of the Marine lying next to him that Marine screamed so loudly that it seemed to drown out every other sound. The crewman assisting with the mouth to mouth motioned for me to check on a Marine lying naked and muddy on his stomach motionless near where I was sitting. I touched him on the back and was shocked when he turned and looked up at me. His face expressed fear but also relief that he was not as seriously hurt as the others. I gave the crew chief the thumbs up, returned to my seat and almost as an afterthought took out my camera and snapped a picture. I expect that had I not taken that picture I might not now be able to recall that day at all.

    After the helicopter landed and the wounded were unloaded I stepped off last and was confronted by a medic who shouted: "Where are you hit?" I shouted in reply: "I'm not wounded, I'm going home." As if he didn't believe me he patted down my body and shouted: "Are you sure?" At last satisfied he let me pull away.

    The following week in the middle of a bright sunny day I sat alone in a dark basement bar in San Diego. Two Mexicans along with the bartender were huddled in front of the television in awe as Walter Cronkite announced: "The Eagle has landed." I began to feel an intense loneliness as if I were an alien stranded away from my home planet.

    Self destruction is a terrific remedy to fear.
    Mike Mullane March 2003

    We can't let this happen again

    Impeach the bastard

    Flags don't kill people, governments do.
    Take back the flag, take back the government.

    by BOHICA on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 06:07:29 AM PDT

    •  Thanks, Bohica (none)
      I need all the help I can get to tell the story.

      Good post.

      Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

      by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 06:24:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Clifford: Set a Date and Get Out (4.00)
      Some lessons for today:

      Note what it says in the upper right hand corner of the Life magazine cover (May, 1970, by the way...right after Nixon invaded Cambodia, college campuses started a nationwide Strike against the War, and 6 student war protesters were killed at Kent State and Jackson State):

      "Clark Clifford on Vietnam---Set a Date and Get Out"

      Clark Clifford was an advisor to Democratic presidents, most notably Harry Truman and LBJ. He was appointed Secretary of Defense by LBJ in 1968, right after the Tet Offensive and Robert McNamara's resignation after McNamara decided he no longer could support the war.

      Clifford was no radical. He was very much a mainstream, establishment Democrat. He was expected to support LBJ's war, but almost immediately urged Johnson to end the bombing of North Vietnam, and to rapidly seek a peace agreement.

      Johnson followed Clifford's advice...reluctantly. He announced an end to the bombing of North Vietnamese cities, and he withdrew from the presidential race. But Clifford's turn against the war--remarkable for a Secretary of Defense---marked the beginning of the end of our war on Vietnam.

      Of course, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, ad the perfidy of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger caused the war to drag on for another seven years. During that time, tens of thousands of Americans died, as did many, many more Vietnamese.

      And Clifford was left on the outside of a Republican administration in 1970, urging that the only course out of a disastrous war, was to "set a date and get out."

      It is time to do the same thing in Iraq.

      Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

      by willyr on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 06:24:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Amazing post (4.00)
    Linked it from our site. I am glad to see more vietnam vets standing up and speaking out. We need more of you guys to speak up. You were the last group to really understand first hand what is going on today. Thank you for this diary. I have emailed the link to every vet I know. Hopefully it will inspire more of them to speak out.

    Have you told a veteran thank you today?

    by just another vet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 06:08:11 AM PDT

  •  Great Diary, leftvet (4.00)
    One comment, and one question.  Comment - I know that 'young whippersnappers' have a bad rep in America as being complete f'ing ignorami when it comes to pre-1980s history, but a lot of the 30 and under crowd here at Kos are different.  We know our history pretty well and especially, considering what's going on in Iraq, we have studies Vietnam.  I'm not 30 yet and I would have followed your references to My Lai and Tet just fine without the 'check your history books' insertions.  Of course, I had two uncles who served in Vietnam as well so I might be an exception, but I suspect not.

    That said, you've written a very good diary and I'm proud that you are part of the Kos community, and I'm proud there are Vietnam Vets like yourself speaking truth and wisdom.  And Kovic is correct - the same tragic mistakes are being made three/four decades later after Vietnam on so many different parameters.  

    Which brings me to my question, leftvet.  Did you know Ronny Kovic very well?  It seems you probably did considering you guys were both doing the same things at the same time in the same places with the same organization, but I thought I'd ask.  If so, do you think he'd ever post over here with you as well?

    Thanks again for the diary, very important perspective (and I liked the poem).

    Can I get another Amen? (Amen!) There's a flag wrapped around a score of men (Hey!) A gag, a plastic bag on a monument

    by iowasteele on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 06:19:19 AM PDT

    •  Didn't mean to offend,, Iowa (4.00)
      by the whippersnapper remarks. Sometimes, I feel real old, and nobody understands me.  

      I crossed paths with Kovic on several occasions, most specifically at the Repug convention in 1972.  We know one another, but are not close.  He's west coast, I east cost.  Haven' spoken to him in probably thirty years, so I'm probably not the one to answer your question.

      Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

      by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 06:30:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No offense, taken ... (4.00)
        whatsoever.  This was a great diary, reminding me of some of the diaries we had floating around here during the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon back in April.  The parallels between Iraq and Vietnam NEED to be exposed, IMHO, and statements like yours, with your service as a veteran who has seen war, have much more credibility than anything said by the chickenshit assholes who are now running our country.  

        Can I get another Amen? (Amen!) There's a flag wrapped around a score of men (Hey!) A gag, a plastic bag on a monument

        by iowasteele on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 06:35:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Second time this morning, (4.00)
    that I have read this diary, second time this morning that I have cried.
    Being one of the Old Fart  Brigade who remembers the   Great Vietnam Clusterfuck, it has been agonizing to watch, aghast, as it all happens again.
    Unprecedented marches by millions, all over the world, PRIOR, to the invasion, didn't make a dime's worth of difference to the SOB's that were determined to make a vanity war. That's what I think it is, a vanity war.Despicable.
    Thanks for your vivid eloquence, leftvet.
  •  I found an old report (4.00)
    online, from the CIA on the Vietnam War.

    I had to stop reading the report as I was getting so mad I counldn't se the words.

    Add to your post the front page post here on the Young Republican convention, and how many Gopers are signing up.  They think they are too important "here" to fight, yet the cause is good enough to put someone else in danger?

    "September 11, 2001, already a day of immeasurable tragedy, cannot be the day liberty perished in this country." Judge Gerald Tjoflat

    by SanJoseLady on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 06:41:30 AM PDT

  •  Thank you, leftvet (4.00)
    I think this diary should be front paged.

    I was born after the war, but I remember vividly its after effects. When I was a kid my dad's bouts of drunkenness seemed truly terrifying, like a hurricane blowing in from as blue sky. I remember my mom rushing in to do damage control - the door to my parents' room closed, the sounds of agony coming from within, my mom telling me to take my sister outside and play - I recall how the short hallway to my parents' room seemed miles long, and how what was happening behind it was something I was being kept from understanding. I knew it had something to do with the war, but I was a kid and I couldn't fathom how or why. It wasn't until after my parents divorced that my dad started to talk with me about it, so I could at least appreciate it on some level. I'll never be able to fully understand it.

    AA and counseling helped my dad put some, but not all, of the pieces back together. He remarried and today's he's able to hold a job. Many years ago he bought a sailboat and spends virtually every free minute on the water. It relaxes him. He even met his second wife in a marina. There are some things I know he's still not telling me about his time in Vietnam, but I'll have to wait until he's ready. I've often thought they should build a second wall for the survivors of that tragedy.

    Thanks again for writing this.

    The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

    by movie buff on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 06:46:04 AM PDT

    •  It's why it took me so long (4.00)
      to become a father.  I actually thought I was destined to remain an uncle all my life.  Didn't think I could handle fatherhood.  Still not sure, but there's no tirnin back now.

      Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

      by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 07:09:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Reading with tears (4.00)
    running down my face.

    My husband is a Vietnem vet. Thanks.

    "Environments are invisible. We don't know who it was that first discovered water, but we can be pretty sure it wasn't a fish." -- Marshall McLuhan

    by marylrgn on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 06:55:53 AM PDT

  •  I saw my first soldier (4.00)
    I am a LCSW in private practice but I occasionally fill in at a free-standing, for profit, psychiatric facility.

    When I am there, I usually work on the CD unit.  Sometimes we have acute mood disorder patients come over from their unit to sit in on our groups if there is also substance abuse involved with anxiety or depression.  A few weeks ago, I met my first soldier, a marine, back from Iraq.

    His diagnosis included PTSD, homocidal and suicidal ideation (Major Depression) and polysubstance abuse.  He is a very good looking, healthy appearing, 22 year old guy who's view of himself before going overseas was that of a guy that other people could depend on.  He had felt competent, capable and was generally happy with his life.

    My heart ached as I interviewed this guy.  He told me how he had grown particularly close to one of the other marines and over time, they laughed, supported and eventually fought together, side-by-side in Iraq.  That is, they did, until his friend "took a bullet that was meant for me" and had his face blown off, two feet in front of my patient.  My patient explained to me that they had been attacked outside of Baghdad on the road in what was to become a 3 day battle.  He complained, "You won't hear about these battles because the government covers these things up.  They don't want you to know just how bad it is and how hard we have to fight."  My patient was extremely angry and bitter about his government as he they had "lied about how my friend died, this time saying it was friendly fire.  He didn't get the honor he deserved."  Lastly, "I hate my government, they're a bunch of liars.  I'll never trust them again."

    What is troubling is that my patient still believes, more strongly than ever, that we should be fighting in Iraq.  Why?  Because he has to justify, more strongly than ever, a reason why all of this has happened.  To undo his defenses, at this time, would be to render him completely vulnerable.  It would have been cruel and sadistic on my part or any other mental health provider to dig into this at this time.

    I usually keep my time at the hospital quite limited as my private practice is usually full.  However, I visited him every time I was at the hospital, if only for a few minutes, until he was discharged.  They only kept him a few days and, as I don't do discharge planning, I don't know where he went or if he had continued follow up care.  I pray he did and that it was of the best quality he can get.

    I saw my first soldier but I know he won't be my last.
    •  It is no easy task, (4.00)
      as I am sure you are aware, to maintain a pride in one's service when one feels compelled to reject the cause in which that service was rendered.  It has been a constant and -- I would say -- unresolved battle for those of us who consider ourselves "anti-war veterans".  Many guys can't disconnect the two, and become apologists for war, because it is the only way they can justify to themselves what they have done.

      Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

      by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 07:25:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't know if this can help (4.00)
        If you view the soldier's role in war as a firefighter's role in a fire, then you may be able to accept that you deserve respect for your service in this unnecessary war the same way you would respect a firefighter who puts out a fire set by an arsonist.

        It's the arsonist - the one creating the unnecessary danger - who is the problem.

        The brave people who are sent into danger by the arsonist can still be proud of their bravery and their willingness to put their lives on the line in the service of their community.

        Beware the everyday brutality of the averted gaze.
        What is the White House Hiding?

        by mataliandy on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 07:34:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you, Mataliandy (4.00)
          But I think I have a better way, at least one that works for me. If I can teach people, especially young people, from my experience, if I can help them learn what I know without having to go through what I did, then I am proud of that experience, and it will not have been in vain.

          Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

          by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 07:48:11 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  PTSD (4.00)
    We had a vet who has doen PTSD counseling for decades, now, come speak to our local Peace & Justice group (

    He had an one important warning:

    Many Vietnam vets' PTSD episodes are triggered by environment - by walking in or past a wooded area, they may be suddenly, and unexpectedly overwhelmed by debilitating fear and flashbacks.

    Iraq is an urban war.

    This means that many of the vets coming back now will experience the terror of PTSD by simply walking down the street in their hometowm.

    We need to be ready to support these people in very, very real ways as they come home. Too many will not find their homes to be refuges from the hyper-alertness that is required in the war zone, because home will be very much like the war zone.

    Beware the everyday brutality of the averted gaze.
    What is the White House Hiding?

    by mataliandy on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 07:25:30 AM PDT

  •  Looks like Veterans Day here (4.00)
    I posted this in a diary but it need to be here too.

    With 2 recommended diaries on veterans issues, Veteran Groups Call Democrats More Supportive by BarbinMD and Coming Home: A Vietnam Veteran Remembers by leftvet, the vets in the dKos community are coming out in force with responses, myself included. Looks like there is a large contingent of vets here wanting to speak out more and more. Time to organize all of us into a network, the "dKos veterans network" or some such entity.  

    How can we do this? I'm open to suggestions. This site is a big megaphone and we should use it. Its time for an "OD Revolution".

    VFP National is calling for the Impeachment of GWB and need all the help they can get. Join your local VFP chapter if you haven't already and get them involoved in dKos by linking to diaries here on their list serves. Support Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW),  they are a new voice speaking truth to power. Keep each other on your "hotlist" or "Diary Watchlist" and communicate.

    I'm rambling here so I must get more coffee, give me your ideas on how to organize the vets of dKos.

    Flags don't kill people, governments do.
    Take back the flag, take back the government.

    by BOHICA on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 07:39:46 AM PDT

  •  I would send this to Harper's (4.00)
    with the suggestion that you'd be willing to turn this into a longer piece if they wish, or simply have them publish it "as is" in their introductory segment "Readings" which comes before the features.

    It is a very mixed blessing to be brought back from the dead.

    by Steven D on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 07:43:54 AM PDT

  •  This diary should be the organizing (4.00)
    principle of the Democratic Party. This diary is one of the most eloquent statements of why we must articulate forcefully the proposition that war must always only be the last resort. (The REAL last resort, not the FAKE last resort, as Bush pretended to do.

    There have been two things going on in our foreign policy: There are genuinely good things that happened as a result of our foreign policy, even under Nixon's administration. At the same time, there has always been a cabal of very right-wing people in our government and in some of its agencies. (The continunity of personnel from the Nixon years to the present administration is stunning.) They were hidden from site thirty years ago, but since the election of Reagan in 1980 they have BECOME the face of the Republican Party. Some of the VERY SAME PEOPLE have been carrying on a clandestine foreign policy for forty years for their own enrichment and empowerment, using other people's children as cannon fodder, and posing it as for the good of the nation under the umbrella of the Cold War and now the War on Terrorism.

    What has changed now? What used to be the background foreign policy is now the foreground foreign policy (and there is a new background foreign policy which I suspect has some interesting geopolitical goals that the American people and most of the U.S. government have never heard about).

    There is possibly an upside to the "War on Terra" in international co-operation on counteracting terrorism, but the upside is almost negated because of the manner in which Bush is conducting his war on terror. There were upsides to the Cold War, but I have recently come to the realization that one of its primary purposes was to keep the American people in perpetual fear and justify continuously the expenditure of massive sums of money on defence spending. This was supposed to keep us safe, but in the end it was an extremely effective way of stealing from the American People. Sound familiar?

    For twenty-five years or more, these same people, or their fathers, have been engaged in creating conditions that destabilize the world, undermine GENUINE liberation movements and movements toward real democracy. It is their ruinous policies that provided much of the motivation for terrorism.

    As a nation, we have been given a false set of choices between the supposed "real man" foreign policy and the "girlie man" foreign policy. What Rove did the other day is a continuation of what they did to McGovern. (That does not make it any less heinous. We should pound him until HE cries publicly. He is a despicable coward. It is clear that he has no clue what real courage is.)

    There is a deeply false set of arguments that have been presented to us as the essential choice we must make for our foreign policy. If we do not deconstruct and debunk this false dichotomy, the Democrats will always lose. I am just beginning to see the outlines of it and I have to think about it more.
  •  my favorite quote (4.00)
    Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children....This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from an iron cross. -- Eisenhower
    •  Whenever I go to the Wall in DC (4.00)
      and contemplate those 58,000 or so names (and think also of the hundreds of thousands of South East Asians whose names are nowhere but in the hearts of those who remember them), and I wonder how many doctors, how many scientists, how many poets and playwrights, how many political leaders, how many fathers who never were are among those names? The human loss is unfathomable.

      Let us pray that the Iraqi war memorial is smaller than the Vietnam one.

      Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

      by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 08:14:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  PTSD and the Betrayal of Right (4.00)
    "We begin in the moral world of the soldier -- what his culture understands to be right -- and betrayal of that moral order by a commander."
    --from Achiiles in Vietnam by Jonathan Shay

    The Vietnam war inflicted wounds of a sort that have not been experienced by any other veterans alive in the United States -- until recently. In his compelling book, Shay describes the combination of factors that underlie PTSD, the most significant of which is the betrayal of that which is right. War places extreme demands on the soldier. In order to cope with these demands, the soldier must place trust in the chain of command and in the codes of conduct communinicated by that command. When these fail the soldier, the betrayal is profound, as is the consequent rage.

    Going beyond Shay, I will offer a political analysis. Those who are betrayed can respond in a number of ways. They can direct that rage towards the failure that gave rise to the betrayal, they can turn the rage inwards upon themselves, they can turn the rage towards those who will not help them deny the real nature of their betrayal, they can direct their rage towards a scapegoat. All these things happened with the rage of Vietnam.

    I will offer the further observation that it was not only the soldiers who were betrayed by the Vietnam war, though they are by and large the ones who ended up with the scars. There are a few other scars, though. There will be those this summer who still will hear them callling, and the echoes will be louder than they have been for many years.

    So the question before us now is what we will do with the rage. What will we do with both the old rage that has come up like bile from the gut and the new rage that is even more caustic? I believe the very future of America may depend on the answer to this question.

    I used to live in the United States of America. Now I live in a homeland.

    by homeland observer on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 08:14:58 AM PDT

  •  Two years...four months....and sixteen days.. (4.00)
    Was the amount of time I spent in country. We were brought home to San Diego in the wee hours of the morning, supposedly to avoid the protestors, but we found out later that it was to hide the wounded/disabled that were with us.

    I was a corpman attached to 1st marines...when my first tour was up and I was due to be rotated out, I volunteered to return, not once, but twice.

    That may seem insane to some of you but you have to understand...those were my brothers, my friends, and sometimes we medics/corpsmen were the first line of keeping them alive. I couldn't leave...something in me said I had to stay and do my job.

    Now....I'm 55 years old..been married four times..haven't had a decent real job in my entire life nor one that lasted more than 2 years. Last year I was diagnosed with 2 debilitating brain problems which required surgery and am completely unable to drive a car or do much of anything physical, yet, we now have to fight with the SS people to prove I am worthy of recieving help.

    Please, please...don't let these things happen to our children than return from Bush's war. I don't know what to do...have felt used up for many years and take medication to fight the tremendous depression that I have had for over 30 years.

    An excellent rendition of my recollection of the events at the end of Viet-Nam. I too was on the mall in 1971.

    Bless you.

    "If you want to kick the tiger in his ass, you'd better have a plan for dealing with his teeth"....Tom Clancy

    by DCSullivan on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 08:31:10 AM PDT

    •  DC, you have a story (4.00)
      A much tougher one than mine.  

      Tell it.

      Sit down like I did, and fuckin pound it out, and toss it out there.

      What you've done is WORTH something.

      It'll do you good, it'll do others good.

      Tell your story.

      Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

      by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 08:42:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I second this motion (4.00)
        Testify brother, we all need to tell it like it is/was. It will do you good. Another story from my chapter.

        It was 1970.

        He was crying. I don't remember his name. He was just a kid less than a year out of high school. He'd been in the Air Force maybe 6 months. He sat at my desk in the Consolidated Base Personnel Office while I cut his orders to send him to Viet Nam. As much as I wanted to, there was nothing I could do to get him out of his tour. He was crying and I wanted to.

        I realized I was part of the war machine. I requested a transfer to another office in the CBPO because I couldn't send kids to Viet Nam any more. I was given another position and buried the incident, I thought, forever. I told myself that I was no longer part of the war machine because I wasn't sending guys to Viet Nam any more. I was wrong, but it got me through the days and weeks and years of my Air Force enlistment. I got on with life.

        Many years later, the traveling Viet Nam Memorial Wall was on display in Salem, Oregon. For reasons that I could not figure out, I had to go see it. I was not prepared for the scope or size of this 'mini-wall' nor the emotional reaction I had. As I sat there looking at the names, that kid and his tears came back. I wanted to remember his name to make sure it wasn't there in front of me. I couldn't. The questions and guilt raced around inside my brain. Was he there? Were any of the other guys I cut orders for on that wall? How many names did I contribute?

        That day back in the CBPO in the Air Force came back at all hours of the day and night for a very long time. Many nights I couldn't sleep because of the tears running down his cheeks. And the tears that ran down mine. I cried for him and I cried for all the others like him. I cried for all those on the wall. I cried for me. Always alone.

        I don't see his face anymore and that's probably a product of time. But I still see his tears. They come back with each little adventure that some administration takes on. Panama, Grenada, Gulf War I, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Gulf War II. They come back each time I read or hear about yet another troop being killed in war. They come back with each civilian that dies as a result of war.

        I spent no time in Viet Nam. I saw no combat. I have no medals. I carry no scars. I just carry his tears.


        Rich Ellermeier

        Flags don't kill people, governments do.
        Take back the flag, take back the government.

        by BOHICA on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 08:49:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I just can't do it... (4.00)
          anymore..I'm me a coward if it helps but I cannot go back and relive this again. I have kept diarys of my life for about the last 20 years in an effort to try and understand myself.

          Last year, my 27 year old son was killed in Iraq, fighting for a cause we now know was all lies. It almost killed me. My wife, children and grandchildren were all that kept me from joining him.

          It is and will always be the saddest time in my life. He called me and said they would let him come home during my brain surgery or for the birth of his first child. I strongly encouraged him to save it for his child....he was killed 3 days later.

          I just can't do it anymore. I'm sorry.

          "If you want to kick the tiger in his ass, you'd better have a plan for dealing with his teeth"....Tom Clancy

          by DCSullivan on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 08:58:07 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You just did it (4.00)

            Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

            by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 09:03:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  It's OK to not want to revisit the past (4.00)
            Some of us can. I don't have a lot of VN baggage, just a small case of survior guilt, so I can keep it going when the other members of my chapter get pretty stressed out.

            I was at a meeting the other day when one of the participants was apologetic about getting emotional during his talk because he had three sons who were of draft age. When I got up to speak I said there was no reason to apologize, he should be emotional about it. I then said I get emotional about it because I have a billion children waiting for a better world. We all have a billion children counting on us. We all should be emotional about it. I try to turn that emotion into action.

            I will continue to wage peace for you and your family while you try and find some peace for yourselves. Keep your grandchildren close, they can give you strength.

            Flags don't kill people, governments do.
            Take back the flag, take back the government.

            by BOHICA on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 09:26:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Christ, I hope this doesn't sound presumptuous, (4.00)
            but the pain you so clearly still feel speaks louder than a post pages and pages long.  It's as much the story you can't put into words as if you'd typed for days.

            I'm sorry--for you, your son, your family, for everything you've suffered on our behalf.  Incredibly inadequate word, sorry.  But I can't think of a better one--hopefully, you understand.

            Thanks for sharing, however the words or feelings come.

            And thanks for being there, and coming home.

            i've lived all my life in red states, and it's made me blue.

            by br00mhiLdA on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 09:38:48 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  DCSullivan (4.00)
            You are more worthy than you know. Your words already written mean something. Heartfelt. Deeply felt. Internalized. Externalized. You are more worthy than you know, DCSullivan.
          •  Dear god, what have we done? (none)
            Thousands of years since man first picked up the first thing he saw lying around and used to it hurt another man...

            Hundreds of generations later and we're still killing each other -- only now we're much more organized, much more sterile, much more "civilized," with our "rules of engagement" and "Geneva Conventions." Hell, most of the time we don't even have to see more than the vague outline of the enemy through a night vision scope -- let alone see the whites of their eyes.

            It took my mother almost 30 years to be able to speak of my father without reservation, without fear of the visceral pain of his loss rendering her incapacitated. To lose a son -- my god, we can't quantify the pain of losing loved ones to senseless violence, but I have a son... I have a son and I simply cannot imagine, not without teetering on the brink of madness, the unrelenting agony losing him would mean.

            There simply isn't an adequate way to express my sympathy and my empathy, nor my gratitude for the courage and fortitude it took to write what you've written to us.

            Thank you, and I pray (in my atheistic way) you find some balm for your wounds.

            Rage, rage, against the lying of the Right.

            by Maryscott OConnor on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 09:17:03 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Amen (4.00)
        and bless you, bless you both, bless you all.

        What you gave was more than anyone should be asked to give. What was taken away was more than should ever be taken.

        Saying thank you seems so inadequate...but thank you.

        I can't explain myself...because I'm not myself, you see. - Alice

        by SisTwo on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 09:57:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  You've given me an idea for action (4.00)
    As you've moved me and everyone else who's read this, I believe that a similar display may move former Secretary Powell, so I suggest vets shadow Colin Powell.  I believe that he was being the good soldier with the Bush administration, but he left ultimately because he couldn't stomach what they were doing.  I think his heart is strong with the soldiers and vets.  So my idea would be to try to have a few quiet, respectful wounded vets be everywhere he goes with signs simply asking if we did this for the right reasons.  It's my thought that Mr. Powell has genuinely true feelings for the soldiers and vets, way beyond anyone else associated with the administration, and that constant exposure to the harm inflicted on them, may finally bring him around to speaking the truth of what we've done.  Thoughts?  Doable?  
    •  GREAT IDEA! (none)
      I Think that is a great fabulous idea,I'll be it could be worked out logistically too.There are tons of politicians running around Washington that could be followed. That's the kind of harassment or aggravation protestors need to cause. It needs to be physical, felt, real not ideas alone.

      Great thinking.
    •  Powell may not be beyond saving (4.00)
      He's been a huge disappointment, showing all that belly at the UN, but I think he feels it too. I suspect he may still have his integrity, though bruised, and may be able to emerge from what he's done and not done, and do something to make amends. He's certainly positioned to do it. If Colin Powell came out and started campaigning against the war, and confess to having participated in the planning, the entire world would listen.

      I may be overestimating him, but not his potential for impact.

      He's a Viet-vet - Vets can maybe get to him. He would be able to shorten the war.

      You all want an impeachment? This is the only suggestion I've ever heard that I think may lead to one.

  •  This post (4.00)
    was amazing.  I usually don't check out dKos on Saturdays--so glad I decided to procrastinate today.  :)

    It's so very hard for me, born the year you came back from Vietnam, to understand how we could do this to another generation of soldiers.  It's hard to understand how anyone could think it's worth whatever-it-is-we-went-there-to-do, at the price of soldiers' physical and mental well-being, at the price of their lives.

    I was one of the lucky ones--because you all fought, there and here, to keep the rest of us home.  It's easy for me to appreciate and honor the sacrifices you all made, because I was born too late to be influenced by the government that tried to use you all as its punching bag.  Maybe it was too easy for me, and people like me, because we learned the lesson so well that most of us have taken too long to stand up and prevent it all happening again.

    It's time for the rest of the lucky ones to take their stand and prevent this happening to anyone else.  Most of us haven't fought, as you did.  We didn't have to, because you did.

    But now the tables have been turned again, and it's (long past) time we took our stand, with you, for you, and for the men and women fighting on our behalf today.

    Thank you, for the touching post and for the reminder that what we value isn't just talk, and it's not free.  It has a price, and it's high, but it's well worth the cost.

    Thanks again!

    i've lived all my life in red states, and it's made me blue.

    by br00mhiLdA on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 09:18:36 AM PDT

  •  Thank you LeftVet (4.00)
    For your service, your wisdom, and for telling your story so clearly and eloquently.

    My opposition to this senseless war is why I became involved in politics for the first in my life last year, and I'm moved by your story to redouble my efforts to end both the Iraq war and the political careers of the fools and charlatans who started it.

    I, for one, would appreciate any other thoughts or suggestions you have about what I (and others) can do to help vets and help end the war.


     - Trendar

    Visit The Blog Roundup - the Best of Politics on the Web.

    by Trendar on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 09:23:35 AM PDT

  •  Leftvet: Why are there no Street Protests? (4.00)
    I have a question at the end if you could answer, I would appreciate it.

    You mentioned the many.many street protests and even theater that took place.

    These street protests casued people to choose sides as in the case of the Park Ranger who refused to arrest you.

    There were protests by veterans and of course the public at large. They were frequent.

    I have said that stteet protests are physical. They are a physical confrontation, a potential threat to whoever you are protesting against. They are basic. They are felt by everyone, there is an element of danger and the government does not like them...all the more reason for their effectiveness. It makes politicians nervous to see people outside their residence of office protesting-even if it's only a handful.

    But today everyone is concerned about media coverage. The organizers are concerned about their image more than protestation. Witness Move on who farmed out the latest protest in March to church group that instead of protesting, organized a "vigil".

    Now there is no protesting.

     Do you think it would make a difference if people got physically active, not just blogging, but appearing physically in front of the police guarding the government?

    I do.

    What does it say about American People that they are not protesting the war actively?
    •  I've been to a few (4.00)
      There have been a few major demonstrations against the war and the administration, and many more minor and quite creative displays.

      I'm always up to join in, but I do admit to some ambivalence regarding their effectiveness. I felt crushed back in January 2000, when thousands upon thousands of average citizens who would not accept the Supreme Court ruling annointing Bush turned out in the bitter cold to protest the inauguration. The numbers were stunning, the anger and energy were palpable, and the message was clear. But then there's that business of the media. We were largely ignored, and when we were covered, we were mocked and marginalized. Did the Bushes feel the heat of our presence? I don't know. But most of America has no idea we were there. And I do believe in this day and age: if it didn't happen on TV, it didn't happen.

      The same story played out again and again with those massive protests in NYC and SF. Hundreds of thousands of people have turned out to take a stand. Has it made a difference? I don't know. I just know that despite the discouragement of a hostile media, I couldn't consider NOT marching.

      That said, when I went out to protest against Arnold last week in Santa Monica, I definitely saw something click in the faces of some kids walking past and taking in the scene. Something along the lines of "Oh. So this is what democracy looks like! You can still take to the streets in America!" And that felt inspiring.

      Of science and the human heart, there is no limit. -- Bono

      by saucy monkey on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 04:33:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  No coverage (4.00)
      I can vouch that coverage mattered during the Vietnam era protests.  I remember particularly one in Austin TX in the early 70's that dissolved when it was time for the evening news as we all rushed to see how it played on TV.

      Media coverage -- or the lack of it -- is even more crucial today.

      You do not know that the "American people ... are not protesting the war actively" -- all you know is that you're not seeing it on TV or wherever you get your news.

      There is an awful lot going on -- including protests -- that you will never hear about on the corporate media.  That is not an accident.

      It's my belief that neither the civil rights movement nor the anti-war movement would succeed today because no one would know that they were happening.  Unless they read it on the net.

      What did you hear/see of the massive protests at the Republican convention?

      •  Pre-War Protests (4.00)
        - were huge, internationally and in the USA. Unprecedented.

        No coverage.

        Or even worse: "balanced" coverage, that portrayed 15 Young Republicans as equivalent to 15,000 protestors, complete with deceptive camera work. It must be hard work to make that look real, but they did it.

        Mass protest is an old technique, and they've figured out how to handle it - intimidation, targeted arrests, illegal detention, non-lethal weapons (no bodies, no headlines), media "balance".

        So I agree about the civil rights movement - I don't know what will work, but marching is obsolete.

        •  Exactly (none)
          Government and Corporate Media have quieted mass protest. No Matter, the latest polling has 60% of Americans against the Iraq War. In the last go around, polling didn't get this high until after the Vietnam War was lost and the troops withdrawn.
  •  Non Vet from That Time (4.00)
    Thank you so much for this story.

    As a college student in those times at a very large university, I saw vets returning with perspectives like yours by the hundreds and worked along side them in sizeable recreation clubs.

    We boomers grew up enthralled with war. You don't hear this from the distinguished baby boomer Mr. Limbaugh. We were watching world war TV and movies, and playing world war out the neighborhoods--both directly in the war guise and indirectly in the western cowboy guise which are almost always staged as thinly disguised military scenarios.

    But as we grew older we learned that many of our athletic coaches, Boy Scout leaders and other mentors were oddly silent and distant about aspects of our war playing, especially shy about our increasingly mature questioning of what it was really like.

    As a teen Boy Scout in the mid 60's, while Viet Nam began to fester, I would hear combat stories very, very late at night when a vet would feel safe enough to leak a little to boys they felt needed some warnings. More usually though, after an admonishment to kids glorifying war, there would be knowing glances among several men, one of whom would chime in that the last place anyone ever wanted to go on this earth was into combat, and the subject would be closed.

    It was only a few years a few dead Kennedies and civil rights leaders later that our Viet Nam veteran peers came back showing all the same stresses but magnified a thousandfold by the immediacy. Certainly most boomers didn't grasp what they were seeing in these vets. On the other hand, in those post Summer-of-Love times there seemed to be some among us who respected the severity of the combat experience and appreciated that vets had to be helped back into daily life and allowed time and opportunity to find their way.

    Thank you so much for mentioning the planted agent. I encountered some on campus during the 1972 election, so the moment I read your first words of his questions about police trouble, I told my wife that this was the kind of action that so often identified the narcs and other agents the more alert among us had become accustomed to coping with.

    Remember folks, war has always done this to soldiers. It did it to Washington's troops, it did it to Lincoln's troops, as it did it to the World War, Korean, Viet Nam troops, and is doing to those in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    And government has always spied on and infiltrated thinkers and dissenters. It did it much more than we popularly recognize during Viet Nam.

    And I'll leave the implications to the readers.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 09:53:30 AM PDT

  •  FRONT PAGE THIS. (4.00)
    I really would like to see this front-paged.  People need to be reminded.  This story needs to be told now more than ever.  If I could go to every Kossack here and plead with them, you must read this, whether you're comfortable with it or not, whether you see the urgency or not I would.

    I see no pressing reason not to front page this, frankly.  It's a weekend, so Congress isn't getting up to any hijinks that needs to be covered on-the-spot.  Give this the front page real estate it deserves.

    Armando, Page, Kos, Hunter... please.
  •  Thank you (4.00)
    This is the most sane and calm retrospective I have read about the similarities between what is happening now and 35 years ago in Vietnam.  I appreciate that you didn't make it shrill.  I think that often we become so shrill that the opposition has to plug their ears to keep out the awful noise.  We need to get your diary out for others outside the kos community to read.  Have you sent it to your local paper?  Perhaps any papers in your state that have a large distribution?  I appreciate your voice and willingness to share the truth.
  •  bright shining lie (3.88)
    We are in the middle of it again. Leftvet makes it real, but the history (and the precognition it gives) is out there, but still we are repeating the tragedy of Vietnam.

    Bright Shining Lie
    Best and the Brightest
    Fire in the Lake
    River of Time

    you'll read the history and the future.

    And if you read these books you'll see that despite the hubris and arrogance that occured then, the lies, the obfuscation, the self-denial/delusion among the politcal class -- our leaders, there was some modicum of decency (except maybe Kissinger) that is completely lacking in the current war-making class.

    Craven, evil souls rule the roost now.
  •  I remember (4.00)
    when the flag, apple pie, and the Nixon lies all came home to me somewhere on the edge of the Ashau Valley.
    It's hard to accept the truth of reality, but sitting in the mud, and blood and tears, my eye's were opened and the truth sank in in spite of my helmet....The fuckin liers!
    Now, more lies.....all my life they have been feeding me lies, tell me when to live...tell me when to die.
    My hands shake as I write, thanks for the piece, leftvet.
    I'm gonna lock and load, the war is on for our freedom, not with guns and bullets but with the simple truth....didi mau George, were coming!
  •  Thank you. (4.00)
    I was born in 1967, so I only experienced the echoes of that war as a very recent looming ghost that strongly affected all the adults around me.  I have a good memory, I even remember my parents getting me out of bed to see the first man on the moon (and wondering what the big deal was) but I was too small to get much, obviously.  And all the men in my family got out of combat service (flat feet, bad eyes, peace corps, babies), and many vets don't want to talk about it at all (understandably), so your willingness to publically tell this story is very very valuable to me.  

    Okay, the war did have one direct effect on me.  It's trivial - but when I was 13 and my school was hit with a wave of teenage Hmong, Laotion, Cambodian, and Vietnamese immigrants, and I was one of the many kids pulled in to tutor ESL, I came home and asked my mom if there was any reason why it would be easier to see those people dead, if there was something about that kind of face that looked more like a dead person?  I kept flashing on dead faces, looking at them, it was nightmarish, and I couldn't figure out why it would be.  She stared at me, and thought about it and said, well, it might have something to do with seeing people who looked like that dead on the nightly news and in magazines etc every day for a few years when I was little.  She didn't think I was really watching.

    The effect wore off after a year or two of being surrounded by very alive kids my own age with those faces.  But I still remember the queasy effect, it's not something I forget, and I know I can't begin to really know what is in the head of any veteran, as a result.  I respect and feel for all vets, even if we disagree on politics.

    I will pay, in ten, twenty, thirty years.  I know what harm war can do to people long term, I had friends whose fathers and stepfathers were vets, and weren't getting support and treatment, and I saw what happened in some of those families, and how those vet's sons are still affected now.  That war is still with us, in the flesh.  Neglecting vets harms us all in the long run, just as neglecting any other group that needs extra help hurts us.  A burden?  Children are a burden, our elderly are a burden, if you want to be so stingy and self centered as to look at them that way.  We are family, and some of us need an extra hand so that we all can go on through life together as best we can.  If my dad had joined the air force in 1963, as he considered doing, he might be that guy in the wheelchair with the dove and flag decals in front of Kmart last week, getting signatures on his antiwar petitions.  Or who knows if he or I or my four year old son (who I don't let see the TV news) would even be here now.

    "Virginia Woolf's idea of a room of one's own has never been the place for middle- and working-class women. We work with interruptions." - Ananya Chatterjea

    by sarac on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 10:33:08 AM PDT

    •  Experiencing the "echos" of war (4.00)
      That's a great way to put it. I grew up much like you, with no one in our family in the Vietnam war, just some older relatives who had been in WWII and the Korean war. They didn't talk about war much.

      There were people who talked about dads and uncles who had fought in Vietnam, but none of it really hit home. Lots of people worried about being around the vets because of the PTSD. The impression was that they might go crazy on you any second, for no apparent reason.

      Many years later, I find myself feeling some empathy with those with PTSD. It's much better now, but since finding our baby daughter dead in her crib, I've had flashbacks similar to those that vets are said to experience. The suicidal thoughts, wanting to escape the memories, all those feelings seem to wax and wane with the seasons.

      Lately, the words of old war protest songs keep running through my head.

      Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
      Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?
      Gone to graveyards, every one.
      When will they ever learn?
      When will they ev-er learn?

      Now there is a whole new batch of injured vets who will send echos into future generations. When will we ever learn?

      I can't explain myself...because I'm not myself, you see. - Alice

      by SisTwo on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 11:41:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh, god, I'm so sorry. (none)
        I can't truly imagined it, even though I DID imagine it, day after day -- a new mother's worst fucking nightmare. I think you've mentioned this before, but even if you did, it hurts to read it as much this time as the last.

        I am SO sorry you lost your daughter. God, it hurts just thinking about it. There aren't any words adequate to this...

        I'm just so, so, so sorry.

        Rage, rage, against the lying of the Right.

        by Maryscott OConnor on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 01:02:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm sorry too (4.00)
          if it hurt anyone.

          It helps to talk about it. Lots of people who have had a child die of SIDS just bury it and don't talk about the child they lost. I can't. I talk about my other children all the time. It seems wrong not to talk about her too. Maybe I shouldn't have, but it seemed appropriate.

          To look on the face of death is a curse and a blessing. It takes away a piece of you, but if you survive, it makes you strong. I worry about some of the people who come back from war, especially a war they realize is unjust. They might have lost so many pieces of themselves that it is hard to function.

          Writing things down really helps, and if that writing is shared, perhaps understanding can follow.

          Thank you for your understanding Maryscott.

          I can't explain myself...because I'm not myself, you see. - Alice

          by SisTwo on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 08:58:14 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Not quite the same, but... (4.00)
      1969 baby here...

      I kept flashing on dead faces, looking at them, it was nightmarish, and I couldn't figure out why it would be.  She stared at me, and thought about it and said, well, it might have something to do with seeing people who looked like that dead on the nightly news and in magazines etc every day for a few years when I was little.  She didn't think I was really watching.

      For me, it's always been the sight of military helicopters on TV. And body bags. My mom didn't think I was really watching, either.

      The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion. - Treaty of Tripoli, 1797

      by OhioLen on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 06:12:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you, LeftVet (4.00)
    You speak eloquently for many of us that were there and do remember.  The sinking the drumbeat starts, the anxiety level rises and the realization that the lessons were not learned...the sinking feeling is eased by your truthful words.    
  •  About the health care system: (4.00)
    There is a front-paged diary about our broken health care system showing that medical insurance premiums are rising at a rate faster than our wage growth. If an average family of 4 who is making $50,000 a year has trouble paying exorbant medical premiums, how much more trouble would a Vietnam or Iraq War veteran have in attempting to pay their health-care costs given the fact that many have to get good mental health care in order to function?
  •  Reunion/March Being Planned (4.00)

    Some of your old friends and hopefully a lot of new ones are planning on getting together to commemorate the Rapid American Withdrawal March of 1970 and our position on this war.

    Everyone is welcome!!!

    We are planning it on the 31st anniversary of your first march/arrest.

    The get together will be at a Very Famous site outside the town, where you can stand on the "Hippest Street in Town," have a cheese steak and Boo Santa Claus if he goes by.

    We don't want to give out any details so we are keeping the location a secret.

    Would you mind if we posted your Diary to our website Americans for Shared Sacrifice?

    We will post more information on the March/Reunion as the planning progresses in our Forum.
  •  tears and anger (4.00)
    Thank you, leftvet, for your brave and moving essay.  

    I'm just about the same age as you -- graduated from high school in 1968 -- but lived through the Vietnam era in a very different way.  I went to college, drew #149 in the lottery, and kept myself as far from military service as I could.  I opposed the war even in high school, worked for Gene McCarthy, thought seriously about going from my New Jersey home to Chicago to protest at the Democratic convention.

    I'm probably pretty unusual for a kid growing up in those days ... I can't think of a single person I knew well who served in the military (much less went to Vietnam).  In my upper-middle-class suburban high school and elite college, it was possible to keep away from all that grubbiness.

    So I tried to serve my country by protesting, by signing petitions, by going to demonstrations, such as these: (Source)
    On 15 October, 1969, the 'Moratorium' peace demonstration was held in Washington and other US cities. Millions of Americans, throughout the country, participated.

    One month after the 'Moratorium', on 15 November, 1969, the 'Mobilization' peace demonstration in Washington DC had a crowd estimated at from 250,000 to 500,000. This event remains the largest single anti-war protest in US history.

    That day's demonstration came immediately after the completion of a 40-hour 'March Against Death', in which 40,000 individuals filed past the White House, each bearing the name of a United States soldier who had died in Vietnam.

    A solid row of municipal buses was parked along the curb between the marchers and the White House. Hundreds of armed troops guarded national landmarks in the city. Neither they nor the members of the Washington DC Police Department found any cause for immediate alarm.

    The march along Pennsylvania Avenue was kept peaceful and on the scheduled route by a hand-to-hand line, doubled in some places, of marshals. One protester said that the marshals were 'more officious than the police'.

    I wish I still had the slip of paper with the name of the killed soldier I was memorializing on that March Against Death to the White House.

    What I'm getting at is that there is no way I would ever have thought to spit on a soldier during the Vietnam war.  I knew it wasn't their fault, that they were closer to victims than perpetrators, that the villains of the piece were the politicians and generals who had entangled us in that quagmire.

    Sounds familiar, no?

    You're only young once, but you can be immature forever -- Larry Andersen

    by N in Seattle on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 01:11:59 PM PDT

  •  thank you left vet. wow! (4.00)
    How many roads must a man walk down
    Before you call him a man?
    Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail
    Before she sleeps in the sand?
    Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly
    Before they're forever banned?
    The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
    The answer is blowin' in the wind.

    How many times must a man look up
    Before he can see the sky?
    Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
    Before he can hear people cry?
    Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
    That too many people have died?
    The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
    The answer is blowin' in the wind.

    How many years can a mountain exist
    Before it's washed to the sea?
    Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist
    Before they're allowed to be free?
    Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head,
    Pretending he just doesn't see?
    The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
    The answer is blowin' in the wind.

  •  Wow. Thank you. (none)

    Since I can't say anything else, I'll just ask:
    Who was the poem by?
    (It was great too.)

    Thank you.

    Life is like this analogy...

    by shock on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 02:57:26 PM PDT

    •  Me (4.00)

      Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

      by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 04:16:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Holding Court in The PI? (4.00)
        If so, I can relate.

        I often feel like the old timer here, so it was nice to read an article I related to at once.

        Maybe the best thing from the Nam, for us, was to be around to educate the youth of today about the shit.  We really didn't have that resource; our dads all had been in the big One or Korea.  For us, doing your bit was the main duty.

        I've had to counsel my own against joining the military at this time.  I just cannot trust Bush and the Republicans with our sons lives.  That is a horrible thing to say about our own government, but it is the truth.

        I hope that all who read your diary, and it was a top notch recall of the times, will sit down and think about how important their votes are, and how critical it is our leaders are true caretakers, not warmongers.

        Stay off the beach over there old friend.

        Best to ya' from the 11B side.

  •  Thank You (4.00)
    For writing this

    For all who were there
    For those who came after
    May you find peace

  •  Thak you, leftvet and DC and all the others (none)
    that have shared.

    Truth hurts.

    Pain, your pain, hurts.  How much pain must be shared until we all hurt enough to stop all this hurting.

    I wish the pols -- who've never been in war, could see - know - how much damage is done to our own troops whether "victorious" or withdrawn.

    Such insanity. We must get our country back then fight always to keep it sane and peaceful.

    Leftvet, your writing is so beautiful and heart rending that I am overwhelmed with emotion. I know how hard writing can be and then the joy (and exhaustion of having something great just flow out. You have made a major contribution to peace with this and I join in urging you to seek publication to a wider audience. The Atlantic may be interested.

    Thank you, all.

    aka First IED of Warm Humanitarianism

    by samddobermann on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 03:25:25 PM PDT

  •  It's very sad how all those anti Vietnam songs... (3.50)
    ring true again now.  The whole time I was growing up, and until this war, they sounded kind of dated.     I wish they still did.

    "Virginia Woolf's idea of a room of one's own has never been the place for middle- and working-class women. We work with interruptions." - Ananya Chatterjea

    by sarac on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 03:29:32 PM PDT

  •  Lessons unlearned (4.00)
    Tremendous post, Leftvet. Thank you.

    Veterans can do a lot to communicate what war is to the people, and to the leaders. The "war supporters" aren't that much different from the "war resisters", that they can't be shown what war is.

    Please do consider getting your words broadly published. We could use more voices of real vets, to set the record straight.

    I suspect that a great part of the active military is as upset with the Iraq war as anyone in the peace movement. They know better than anyone how well their mission is or isn't going.

    - - - - - - -

    The brutal thing is, these lessons were learned after Vietnam. Learned by the public, by the military, by the Pentagon, and in Washington DC.

    America was tired of war after Vietnam. The people and the soldiers understood that war was based on lies and stupidity, and mis-use of political power. The leadership learned the costs in blood, treasure and politics.

    But the chickenhawks called it "The Vietnam Syndrome", a disease that affected our country's willingness to wage senseless wars. And they set about "curing" it with "pride" this and "flag" that, and lies and jingoistic Rambo bullshit. They worked hard ever since Vietnam to rehabilitate us, and we have forgotten the lessons.

    The lessons were deliberately un-learned, so that chickenhawks could go back to using war for global economics, and for domestic political advantage.

    Colin Powell, for one, talked explicitly about the lessons learned. The "Powell Doctrine" (in bad paraphrased summary) is:

    Use overwhelming force
    Fight a single campaign
    Achieve specific, pre-identified goals
    Then Exit.

    Sun Tzu wrote the same thing a million years ago, in The Art of War.

    Vietnam was not lost at home; it was not lost in the media; it was not lost on the battlefield.

    Viertnam was lost from its conception, on the planning tables, by "intellectuals", because the military was asked to do things that the military should never be asked to do:

    Disperse its force amongst a hostile civilian population
    Sustain an unfocused campaign
    Achieve political goals instead of miltary ones
    Stay until successful

    One can be against war, and not against having a military. War is a serious matter. There are wars that must be fought, and wars that must not be fought (more Sun Tzu). War is always a tragedy, but sometimes it's unavoidable.

    Our military is the most professional, best trained, best equipped force ever organized. As the strongest military in the world, we should never have to fight. We should especially never have to fight an avoidable war.

    So it is intensely and unforgivably disgusting to see our military (who are our children!) sent to war again by chickenhawk politicians, for chickenshit reasons, and ordered to:

    Disperse its force amongst a hostile civilian population (in Iraq)
    Sustain an unfocused campaign (in Iraq)
    Achieve political goals instead of miltary ones (in Iraq)
    Stay until successful (in Iraq)

    It truly is Vietnam all over again.

  •  I could read these all day long (4.00)
    Beware of old farts telling stories.

    I could read stories like yours forever. We should add this story to the dKospedia because antiwar protesters should learn from the past, even if the Pentagon doesn't.

    Leftvet, Would you mind if I slip this in the dKospedia, or do you want to?

    •  I'm still kinda new (4.00)
      here at dKos, so I must admit I have no idea what dKospedia is or what the criteria are for putting something there.  I assume you do, so, if you think this belongs there, then by all means "slip it in".

      Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

      by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 07:10:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Pentagon is NOT the Problem (none)
      There were generals there like Shinseki who accurately foretold the Iraq debacle.

      The 'war gamers' at the Pentagon had several scenarios run and the opposition won. But they 're-gamed' the war, with more constraints on the Iraq side, until they got what they wanted.

      The problem is the Rethugs and Neocons who fired those generals, called the pre-Iraq-Debacle protestors 'Focus Groups', and held their hands over their ears and said 'La-La-La' to every bit of advice and information that stood in the way of their war.

      Yep, the Conservatives 'girded for war', another war that they would not fight themselves. But one where they can make some megabucks.  

      And, make no mistake, they want to game our elections so they can keep vacuuming our wallets as long as they can.


      Lefty Limblog - It is time to WIN instead of "Appease and Cringe". Fight the Rethugs!

      by LeftyLimblog on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 08:25:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They're PART of the problem. (none)
        If the Pentagon flat out defied the imbeciles making military decisions thay have no business making, we'd have been spared this nonsense.

        But in service to the archaic notion of following orders, we have witnessed war crimes perpetrated not only "on the ground" at Abu Ghraib, but in the upper-most reaches of the military hierarchy. Mustn't rock the boat -- better to let thousands upon thousands die needlessly.

        Colin Powell should be permanently burning with shame, too -- State Dept. doesn't get any free passes, either.

        They're ALL culpable. Sorry -- you can't tell me the Pentagon doesn't have a hefty share of the blame for this fucking nightmare -- even if the concept of "accountability" has been reduced to a sick joke by this Administration...

        Rage, rage, against the lying of the Right.

        by Maryscott OConnor on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 09:28:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  p.s. (none)
        Which is not to say the REST of your post wasn't 100% valid -- it was, and then some (mathematically impossible? Pshaw. Of course there's always more where 100% came from...).

        Rage, rage, against the lying of the Right.

        by Maryscott OConnor on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 09:29:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  MSOC, Another Thought (none)
          The Pentagon IS NOT the problem, it exists to implement the policies of our government, which IS the problem. The Pentagon was built up to win WWII, and still sits there 'to fight and win wars'.

          The constitution provides for our common defense, not premptive strikes on nations that have done nothing to us. Remember that Thomas Jefferson scrapped much of our Navy to prevent us from getting involved in foreign conflicts.

          But 'modern' presidents have been making war more and more often on the basis of 'Resolutions' which is not constitutional. Your father died in Vietnam on the basis of a 'Resolution', not a constitutional 'Declaration of War'. America's soldiers are now dying in Iraq on the basis of another unconstitutional 'Resolution'.

          I'd like to see a constitutional amendment to force a 9/10ths vote of both the House and Senate on a Declaration of War before the US president can commit any troops outside of our borders for more than 30 days.  

          Instead we are treated to the US government asking the Japanese government to extend their unconstitutional troop deployment in Iraq.

          We have civilian control of our military. Any other arrangement is a military dictatorship, which is worse in my opinion.

          The problem rests where it has rested every time the country has gone south. It rests in our civilian government and 'representatives' who now represent corporations instead of "We, the People".

          The White House "Civilian" CHICKENHAWKS, like George W.easel Bushiter, Dickless Cheney, and Karl 'Fat Fuck' Rove (who all ran from serving in our military) replaced the generals that stood up to them.

          There is a management style in which the STUPID manager with a 'brilliant idea' (like... Let's invade Iraq!) upon receiving a 'No, Not a Good Plan' from some underling, simply shops until they find somebody else crack-brained enough to say 'Yes'. Then they promote their fellow crackbrain to the position of the newly disposed-of nay-sayer.

          That is just what George W.eakbrain Bushiter and his cronies did.

          I am going to point out something else.

          I am sure Georgie is 'sorry' he went into Iraq... NOW. But it is not for the reason we (normal humans with a properly-functioning conscience) might think. Georgie, et al, are sorry because they are coming to realize they have brought about the destruction of a great country and there is a life of public humiliation and hatred awaiting them.

          I believe that, if there is an afterlife, an afterlife of eternal magma enemas await these souless, brainless bastards beyond the disgust of decent people while they live.


          Lefty Limblog - It is time to WIN instead of "Appease and Cringe". Fight the Rethugs!

          by LeftyLimblog on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 10:20:37 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  9/10ths... (none)
            I like it.

            Then again, don't we have a LAW that says only Congress can declare war? The Executive has found its way around that, doubtless they'd weasel out of just about any restriction, short of relieving the President of the title CiC...

            Rage, rage, against the lying of the Right.

            by Maryscott OConnor on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 10:33:45 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Maryscott (none)
              Thanks for showing up and contributing, although since I'm in Manila right now, the time difference did not allow me to respond before this diary dropped off the list.

              I was hoping you'd come by, but feared after your semi-GBCW post the other day that you might be away for awhile.

              Hope you're feeling better from that flu.

              It was extraordinary for me to see the outpouring of personal stories that this diary seemed to have stimulated.  I was totally blown away by DCSullivan's story.  I know very well the mentality of corpsmen, how they are TOTALLY focussed on saving the lives of others in war.  Then to lose your son in war, and feel that maybe you could have done more... I wouldn't be able to live with it.

              I don't know if a diary like this does any good, whether each of us telling our stories and sharing our pain makes any difference.  And of course, in the fifteen minutes of fame that is the blog-o-sphere, this diary is already ancient history.  But in the brief time it existed, this diary, and all those who contributed to it, made me feel proud.

              Thanks for being a part of it.


              Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

              by leftvet on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 06:13:14 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks buddy. (4.00)
    Inspiring. Much of what you wrote struck home with me...same period in Nam, WWI grandfathers and WWII father and uncles...the whole family military tradition. I have much inside that I hope to someday be able to articulate in some way even close to how you and others have here. Most likely I'll focus on the absurdities of that (all) war, with chapter titles like "We Kill for Ice Cream" and "Pin the Airstrike on the Donkey".

    We have so much work to do still.

    •  Just sit down and pound it out (4.00)
      While I could probably develop a VERY big head from all the comments on how well I write, I can tell you that putting down the words -- especially about these particular times in my life -- is one of the most excruciatingly difficult things for me to do. When I try to start, the images, impressions, conflicting emotions, phobias all explode in my head, and most times I just become paralyzed at the keyboard.

      Don't try to tell everything in one story.  Tell it like you're tellin a friend over a beer.

      You're right, we still have a lot of work to do.

      Birdman, just do it!

      Soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs

      by leftvet on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 08:40:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks again brother. n/t (none)
        •  Agree with leftvet (none)
          Your chapter titles remind me of the ones in "Everything We Had", a book produced by VVA in 1979 by having a guy travel the country to record memories from a range of Vietnam veterans.  We saw it as a chance to maybe make a few bucks, maybe pay up the long overdue phone bills.  Ultimately it came out as a collection of 33 (who can forget Ba Moui Ba?) personal stories - painful, humorous, though-provoking, horrific - it was all there.

          We grossly underestimated the appetite for information. The book spent 17 weeks at the top of the NYT best seller list, and caused an explosion of interest in the then infant organization. It is still selling today through Amazon, BN, etc.

          Get your memories out there, Birdman.  There is a whole generation of Americans with a lot of questions as to why Vietnam matters today, and all too few places to get straight answers and apply that information to what they see going on in the world around them.

          I am a warrior for peace. And not a gentle man ..Steve Mason, 1940-2005

          by Wayward Wind on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 01:07:14 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent Diary and Comments. (4.00)
    The hardest part of being a Vietnam Vet is that it is never really goes away. Almost everyday, thanks to the Iraq War and President Bush, something pops me right back.  

    Today, reports of eleven woman Marines killed and wounded in the middle of a destroyed Muslim city trying to stop the infiltration of weapons and bombs. Complete Total Deadly Futility!  How in the hell could their chain of command get them in such a god forsaken situation? The frustration is that I know it is All for nothing; again.

  •  Wow (4.00)
    Thanks for sharing and educating. I don't have the words to express my gratitude, so I'm just going to make some random comments.

    "Vets Overule Supreme Court."

    That gave me a twinge of patriotism. I wasn't even born here, but this is my country now.

    a black Vietnam vet -- convinced everyone to stick around a little longer and have one more meal on the government.

    Great story. Incidentally, were the FBI informers ever prosecuted (or persecuted) for providing false testimony? Did vets ever run into those bastards?

    the seventies and eighties when twenty percent of the prison population in the US were Vietnam veterans.

    UNBELIEVABLE!! What a messed up country. Jesus, that is shocking. What's worse it that we haven't learned (I mean, as a country).

    I got a ten-year old son (I got into the fatherhood thing rather late in life; didn't know if I could handle it -- still don't). (...) and he turned to me and said, "Daddy, Bush sucks, doesn't he?"

    Looks to me like you gave the answer to whether you can handle it. You and your son are lucky to have each other. Can't wait to have kids. I've always sworn to never give my kids everything the way my relatives have; spoiled them all. We need to somehow teach compassion to kids born in normal times.

    I wonder how many doctors, how many scientists, how many poets and playwrights, how many political leaders, how many fathers who never were are among those names? The human loss is unfathomable.

    We're on the same wavelength there. I read a lot about war, but always about soldiers' personal stories, and I invariably think of the parents, wife and kids torn by death. One PBS documentary was really painful in that respect. They read a letter from a soldier (WWII) giving advice to his newborn son. The soldier was killed.

    Anyway, I've been thinking of "adopting" a homeless vet, "big" brother type thing. Not sure how to go about it. Once I'm done with my studies, I'll head down to the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans.

  •  Wow (4.00)
    From the beginning of our history, the details, the reality of war have always been (and will always be) the same regardless of who's right and who's wrong, who wins and who loses.  Atrocities are committed by all that are involved, none are left victorious, virtuous and unscathed. War is not an adventure, it is not a coming-of-age ritual, it is not emblematic of the honor and glory of the victor nor the evil nature or disgrace of the defeated.  It is the ultimate human tragedy, grief, dismemberment, bereavement, death, brain-damage, people shitting on themselves and losing their children, peoples' lives destroyed beyond repair, physical and emotional desolation for those who have done the damage as well as the damaged.

    War is an abomination.

    Goddammit, that's why we have to do everything in our power to avoid it.  And, for some reason, this is what so many people in this country don't yet realize.

    I am of your generation. I had friends from high school in Vietnam, my boyfriend was going to Kent State University at the time of that incursion.  My boyfriend was not hurt and I knew guys who died or were maimed but was not really close to any of them. However, the entire era was the nuture of the person I have become.

    Thank you for this diary.

  •  Thank-you Leftvet and others (4.00)
    Reading all your stories has left my once full Kleenex box now almost empty.

    On another note, a poster mentioned above the Powell Doctrine

    Colin Powell, for one, talked explicitly about the lessons learned. The "Powell Doctrine" (in bad paraphrased summary) is:

    Use overwhelming force
    Fight a single campaign
    Achieve specific, pre-identified goals Then Exit.
    ( sorry, I don't know how to put the grey box around quotes)

    I always believed that you give credit where credit is due. It has always peeved me when the media and others refer to the "Powell Doctrine" as if it was then Brigadier General Colin Powell who wrote the doctrine himself -- it wasn't -- it was written by his top aide at that time -- Lieutenant Colonel Wesley K. Clark

    In Jan 2009 it will be the "Wes Wing"

    by Best in Show on Sat Jun 25, 2005 at 09:43:50 PM PDT

  •  Woman from Centralia WA, Killed in Fallujah (none)
    this thursday. The news said she was Navy Reserve, she was with the group of female Marines killed.

    The news interviewed her son and one of her co-workers at the grocery store she worked in for 14 years.  

    This is so sad.


  •  Excerpt from diaries of DCSullivan (4.00)
    He wrote this today after reading your diary and I wanted to share it with all of you. I'm sure he will find this, because I will tell him, and I know he will understand.

    When I read a story earlier today, and added my comments, I swore to myself that I would not offer any more. My wife, who is someone I wish I had met 30 years ago, read it all and wept. She told me, "See, you're not alone"...and I wept with her once again.

    We sat and looked, once again, thru the pictures we have of all our children, and remembered the wonderful times we had had, remembered all the little things in our life that had brought joy and sadness...and we talked about my son. She is not his mother...but he called her Mom and sent her mothers day cards every year. She is not his mother....but when things were down or he needed some advice, he would call and talk to her.

    Now, with a sadness that is almost as overwhelming, I sit and watch as my country...this IS my being torn apart, once again in the name of money.

    I read there almost every day. It is one of the best places to find what I believe to be the truth. Yet I am at the same time afraid and ashamed of the tone at times. Are we all not countrymen and women? Do we have to resort to name calling, lies and deceit to try and accomplish the right things? Do we no longer even know what the right thing to do is?

    Some have said they will leave this country, in fear, I assume, for our current conditions. I will not leave, this is my country and I am damn proud of it. I will stay and, perhaps, add my small voice to something of value. I will stay and defend my right to live as we have for over 200 years. I will not run.

    If there is a god, and he truley does watch over can you not believe how pissed off he must be?

    When Sean came to me and said he wanted to join the army, I did not discourage him, nor did I encourage him. We sat and talked for several hours on the pros and cons of being in the military. But ultimately, as with all our adult children, the decision had to be made by him. I cannot live his life for him, nor would I want to be responsible for running his life. Now, I look back and wish, just one last time, that I had been more discouraging instead of neutral. I love you, Sean, and I will miss you for the rest of my life.

    "If you want to kick the tiger in his ass, you'd better have a plan for dealing with his teeth"....Tom Clancy

    by DCSullivan on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 02:14:11 AM PDT

  •  Damned hell of a diary (none)
    and the comments as well....

    Being too young to understand any of the political ramifications of the time (born in 1961) I have no anecdotes to tell of Vietnam other than the following 2 repeated sights:

    Living near Westover AFB in Chicopee, Mass., I would stand in awe at the massive site and sound of the B-52 bombers roaring overhead.  Without fail it was always impressive to me- the same as the very first time I ever witnessed one.  And they were very, very busy for a time.

    I will also never forget another repeated sight- the 21 gun salute.  I got to witness many, many military burials as there was a large Catholic cemetery immediately adjacent to my house, and the newer plots were in the section nearest to us.  Ever impressive to a young boy- we would interrupt our play to watch taps played and the 21 gun salute (3 times seven guns).  This happened for what seemed like at least once a week for a while.

    Hope this adds some dimension for those who didn't live it.

N in Seattle, Bob Johnson, Jim S, Rumblelizard, daniel mark, paradox, Madman in the marketplace, vicki, Best in Show, Go Vegetarian, JJB, daria g, MadRuth, chrischross, matt n nyc, copymark, hyperbolic pants explosion, sheba, teacherken, Trendar, lipris, Margot, chrisinbkkk, peggy, Gooserock, Robert Ullmann, sen bob, Unstable Isotope, sarac, BigOkie, MikeHickerson, BooMan23, ParaHammer, Shockwave, Bernhard, just another vet, wu ming, Heimyankel, AngelinNC, The Bartender, egoldstein, ARingMD2B, cotterperson, SanJoseLady, shumard, shycat, Ralfast, greatbasin2, martianchronic, Stein, willyr, movie buff, YankInUK, Rescate, x, sersan, Momagainstthedraft, AllOrNothing, TarheelDem, theran, Luam, SallyCat, Newsie8200, object16, jedc, bumblebums, dakota, Jerome a Paris, 22state, redtravelmaster, Predator Saint, Florida Democrat, shermanesq, mrsdbrown1, Miss Devore, ReneInOregon, bronte17, indybend, Raddark, Mary Julia, starkness, Loquatrix, ask, stevetat, shock, high5, chechecule, marylrgn, terribfromMA, nargel, k2winters, Miss Blue, maven98, lpettit4662, Shaniriver, Nate Roberts, lilnubber, Tony Seybert, arkdem, Cedwyn, debraz, iowasteele, AnneofGreatHope, HairOnFire, kredwyn, pshaw, BurnetO, oldjohnbrown, coldwynn, Febble, TXsharon, Clever, wont get fooled again, Caldonia, Jill Lehnert, newore, Rigjob, auntdeen, old coast, applegal, Endivedual, FLDemJax, br00mhiLdA, lecsmith, sommervr, East Bay Molly Girl, BlogDog, Wayward Wind, dcookie, Noisy Democrat, seanleckey, Sembtex, eleanora, llin123, Man Eegee, DrReason, Marianne Benz, Columbus Lee, Steven D, MetaProphet, txredd, lukyluke, Flann, We hold these truths, Shapeshifter, NorthDakotaDemocrat, supersoling, Sylvester McMonkey Mcbean, Skennet Boch, Fabian, glenj, SisTwo, DCSullivan, deepintheheartoftx, who threw da cat, im wide awake, b tex, Chinton, ignorant bystander, RetLtCol, ejmw, keschen, saucy monkey, IlGreven, Cmyst, surgo, trinityfly, spasticbean, fnord, Morrigan, pagan dancer, Agnostic Jihad

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