Waking The Dead, Redeeming The Living

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Waking The Dead, Redeeming The Living

“They make a wasteland, and call it peace.”
— Cornelius Tacitus

“Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice will not
sleep forever.”
— Thomas Jefferson

Noam Chomsky,
Christopher Hitchens,
Robert Bly,
Thich Nhat Hanh.

From the exact to the sublime,
the timely to the timeless,
the perceptive to the transcendent,
my mind begins to awaken to the magnitude of the crime,
my mind begins to open to my complicity in the evil —
Vietnam…

The Black Wall in Washington
is not a monument to dead soldiers,
it is a continuous dirge to a nation’s lost honor,
an innocence lost over and over again,
a loss of soul.
Nothing can ever be right until we expiate that crime,
a crime that continues
by the willful ignorance, the convenient unknowing
of we who enjoy the bounty of this American life.

Oh, dear God, don’t call us to accounts for a thousand years!
for it would take at least that long — even if we tried —
to compensate for the enormity we have created;
and yet,
how sad to think our gods could be so cold,
our universe could be so empty and soulless,
that retribution for such evil could not possibly arrive —
even tomorrow.
What other comfort can the peasantry of the world have
as they shiver under the lengthening shadow
of our remorseless empire?

Monsoon-soaked ground bubbles up mines like a deranged apocalypse —
playthings for children —
and rivulets of poison trickle out of air-dropped wastelands
to seep into the veins of a new generation
and wither its fruit in the womb;
and here, in Jefferson’s land of the “ignorant and free,
in a state of civilization” that “never was and never will be,”
reflection on a withering career bubbles up memories,
fresh, gnawing, immune to time’s erosion,
buoyant against convenient forgetting,
stinging in their rebuke against my compliance to the course of evil.
Yes, even us little nobodies are faced with moral challenges,
inconveniently, unfairly, when we are young, when we are fragile.
We survive, we connive, we comply,
we feed our children and make our way,
but dare not hold out a cupped hand of water
to Jesus on his way to Golgotha.
My God, think what it would do to your career —
our future.
So we let others stretch out their hands
and we survive, quietly, into this future —
are we proud of it?
Now,
what great truth and what measure of courage
do you pass onto your children setting off on their own?
“Do you remember the Vietnam War, dad?”

We tell our children nothing about this,
we lie, we deny,
we glorify garbage myths for commercial exploitation,
we honor our greatest living war criminals
with prizes, bank presidencies, book contracts, speaking fees,
and we honor our greatest dead war criminals
by naming airports for them, by entombing them in televised temples.

Yes, I remember the Vietnam War.
I was not brave,
I did not challenge evil,
I looked out for myself,
and I am here.
All I can offer you is the truth,
and hope in that to find some redemption for my moral weakness,
and some grace in awakening you to greater good,
to deeper meaning,
to honest judgment that unfolds in your actions.

I want to cleanse my children’s country,
I want to cleanse my soul — in this world;
let the trials begin.

25 June 2001

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Memorial Day 2017, Unfiltered.

John Kennedy’s grave, April 1964

Thank God!, Betsy DeVos (US Secretary of Education, and fanatical crusader for school privatization) realizes that what American parents really want is what the State of Israel has now: the US government-subsidized apartheid of their choice.

The American people do not have the right to healthcare, or job security, or food, or childcare, or a good education, or housing security, or clean water, or truth-in-advertising, or climate security, or internet access, or public transportation, or respect from police, or fiscal equality before the law, or protection from corporate monopolies, or privacy, or equality of treatment based on gender, or the freedom to choose which toilet room to pee and poop in. But, the American people do have the right to their bigotries, and the right – proportional to their wealth – to have them subsidized by the US government. This is what we mean by “freedom” in America: the freedom to exercise the bigotry of your choice without government interference!

Kissinger is still unindicted, Bush is still unindicted, Colin Powell (the officer in charge of keeping the My Lai massacre under wraps) is still unindicted, Elliot Abrams is still unindicted (again), Oliver North is still unindicted, Bush is still unindicted, Cheney is still unindicted, Condoleezza Rice is still unindicted, and many more. America certainly must hold the record for hosting the largest number of unindicted war criminals, in lives of comfort and even luxury.

“War is a racket. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.” (Smedley Butler 1881-1940)

America lost the Vietnam War, but its war criminals got away with it.

An Iraq War veteran, on being thanked for his service: “I didn’t serve, I was used.”

So many graves with American flags flying over them are, sadly, burials of used soldiers, and also of this nation’s morality.

PBS will air a Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War this fall. I’m sure it will be infotaining. To what extent it will expand the public mind, and elevate the American public’s moral character, is hard to say. The PBS promo trailer prompted these thoughts:

“Those who have forgotten the past are condemned to repeat it.” As are those who only remember their illusions, preferences and prejudices about past and present reality. There is a great deal the American people (and their “leaders”) could learn about themselves and their (not very equitably shared) country, by absorbing the many painful lessons of the Vietnam War. However, that has not happened, and I doubt it can happen for quite some time (ever?). Having lived through the period, I look at America today and I think: hopeless. If ignorance is bliss then America is paradise.

My own shrine to the victims and the truly noble of that war is here:
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2015/02/22/haunted-by-the-vietnam-war/

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Haunted by the Vietnam War

Perhaps the period in my life during which I experienced the greatest amount of dread were the years 1968-1969, when I was being called by my draft board to be inducted into the United States military for service in the Vietnam War. Ultimately, that never occurred and I have no dramatic stories to tell, either of suffering and heroism or criminality under fire, or of stirring anti-war resistance and subversion. But, I have vivid memories of that time and believe my dread of the Vietnam War has cast a long shadow onto my consciousness. Whenever I hear or read about people in their later years saying about the disinterest by current youth in the formative experiences of these elders “you have no idea what it was like in those times,” I now understand what they are feeling, based on my own relatively easy survival of the Vietnam War, and the ease with which I am taken as obsolete today.

War is horrible, obviously, and to be avoided at almost any cost. I say “almost” because I have reluctantly come to believe that in rare circumstances the necessity to prosecute a war can arise. The difficulty here is in choosing when a situation truly deserves to be recognized as one of those rare occasions that is worthy of justifying war. There is no formula nor algorithm for making such determinations, the justification for going to war is beyond pure logic. Such justification must not only be seen intellectually as rigorous, but emotionally as essential to the self-definition of the people going to war, both as a society and as individuals. Such a broad and deep consensus could only arise in reaction to the most dire of existential threats, which I can only imagine to be truly rare. When greed, ego, religious fanaticism and lust-for-power are denied protection by military force, then no problem of popular freedom and resource allocation is beyond negotiated settlement. We can live without war if we cast away the irrational absolutes that drive us to it.

Unfortunately in our world today, it is still possible for one group of people to face the hostility of another group of people motivated so viciously by their irrational absolutes that the effort required for a necessary defense amounts to a war. The dreadful work of prosecuting such a war inevitably falls on the young and strong members of a society, despite the fact that the policy imperatives and political disputes precipitating the war were carried out by the older, more prosperous and most secure members of that society. How can the sacrifices of war be justified to its young warriors?

I can think of only two justifications: the war is necessary for the survival and self-respect of the society, and the society is worthy enough to merit the sacrifices made by its warriors for its continuation.

I do not believe that either of these conditions were met in regard to the Vietnam War. Yes, I am not very “patriotic.”

But what about today, with crises in the Middle East, and the threat of “terrorism?” The discussion of war becomes murky when we begin considering militarized police actions in response to terrorist attacks, bombings and massacres carried out by non-state gangs operating internationally. The militarized policing forces called upon to hunt down and eliminate such gangs would be (or should be) troops of highly trained professional soldiers-agents with extensive technical support, not masses of conscript soldiers. A “people’s army” is what you call upon to save an entire society under existential threat; a group of professionals – volunteers well-trained and reasonably subsidized by society like King Louis XIII’s Musketeers – is what you call upon to counter violent threats to social peace and tranquility that rise above the level of common criminality. But even though such professional soldiers are volunteers who may be called upon to earn their socially subsidized living by occasionally confronting danger, they are still our brothers and sisters, and our society must never be hasty or casual about sending them into harm’s way.

So, the two justifications for war remain: is the situation truly such a threat to the survival of our society and our worthy concepts of ourselves that it requires an armed response?, and does our society deserve the inevitable sacrifices of our warriors?

What do I mean by “worthy concepts of ourselves?” Primarily, our vision of a free and equitable society, and a solidarity with people in other nations regarding basic human rights. Again, this is a topic that can be made as murky as one wants, but the fundamental point about solidarity here is that: “to maintain my self-respect, I see it in my interest that people elsewhere be free from threats to their lives, dignity and freedom, and I would wish that they could feel the same toward us.”

Of course, the devil-in-the-details with “solidarity” is in what practical steps one society takes in response to the problems of another. Again, the judgments here go beyond logic and rest upon who we think we are, or want to be. As one specific example consider Cuba’s military response to the threats to Angolan and Namibian independence in the 1980s, and its medical response to the threat of the Ebola epidemic in Africa in 2014-2015.

As always, the enemy in our minds is humanity’s various irrational absolutes. “In politics the choice is never between good and evil but between the preferable and the detestable” (Raymond Aron). Does our society deserve the sacrifices required by this war? “This war” is whatever war is now being promoted. Any call to war, on terror, drugs or whatever, should be taken as a call to thoroughly examine American society and rectify its many glaring inequities, to make this society much more deserving of the sacrifices of its potential future warriors. Americans who might be sent out to fight and die for their country in future wars must be given a justification sufficient for their sacrifices, a justification which can be experienced daily as the living reality of our society. This goes far beyond the superficiality and commercialism of our time, and which even the word “socialism” cannot illuminate sufficiently in our imaginations.

What follows are my notes about the Vietnam War, which was frothed up in my memory by several recent encounters and e-mail messages. There is nothing earth-shaking here, just my own thoughts that echo the title of Staughton Lynd’s recent fine article:

Haunted by Vietnam
by STAUGHTON LYND
http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/02/20/haunted-by-vietnam/

Beware, there will be a great deal of hype later this spring about the 40th anniversary of the “end” of the Vietnam War, with the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. Don’t fall for the phony patriotism, instead ask for a transformative politics making this a much more deserving nation. There are still many people living with their personal consequences of the Vietnam War. The movie Same Same But Different (more below) is all about that. Not thinking about it is not an end.

My notes, referred to above, were originally sent out as e-mail, and now follow.

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15 February 2015 [Presidents’ Day weekend]

Hello,

I can’t help sending out this broadcast message, as I have been moved to think back to the time of the Vietnam War. I myself was not in it, by the luck of the draft lottery of December 1, 1969, and prior lucky bureaucratic congestion from early 1968.

The most important part of this message is for you to see this one hour documentary about American veterans of that war, who returned to Vietnam to work on constructive and humanitarian projects. In the documentary, they tell why they have chosen to do this. Watch, and listen carefully.

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Same Same But Different
https://vimeo.com/68704406

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I am grateful to Louis Proyect (http://louisproyect.org/) for bringing this film to my attention. You can read his commentary about this film (see it first!) at his blog, at this webpage:

Two Documentaries on Vietnam
http://louisproyect.org/2015/02/13/two-documentaries-on-vietnam/

Louis’ blog entry has embedded trailer videos of the documentaries he comments on, and soon leads to his complete commentary article at Counterpunch, here:

The Mirror of Vietnam
http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/02/13/the-mirror-of-vietnam/

The second documentary Louis comments on is “Last Days in Vietnam” by Rory Kennedy, the youngest daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, and her documentary has been nominated for Best Documentary in the upcoming Academy Awards. Don’t see this, it’s a piece of shit aimed at the head-up-the-ass stupidity that swallows garbage like “American Sniper” with reverential awe.

To see real heroes, see Same Same But Different.

My daughter, Ella, had asked me about my recollections of the times of the Vietnam War, for a high school project, and while I told her about my own slight experiences of that time, I could see that any real transmission of the living experience was impossible. Seeing Same Same But Different is perhaps the best I could offer her, now, to answer her questions most usefully (for her own future).

Another prod to my recollections of the times of the Vietnam War was a group e-mail I received last Christmas, about “remembering those [US soldiers] who served” and died. I reproduce that e-mail (names deleted) and my response to it, down below, to add to my overall comments about this topic today.

By chance, there are some other articles on the Vietnam War in this weekend’s edition of Counterpunch:

Vietnam: Some Real History
by ANDY PIASCIK
http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/02/13/vietnam-some-real-history/

Revising the Meaning of the Vietnam War
by MICHAEL UHL
http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/02/13/revising-the-meaning-of-the-vietnam-war/
[A critical review of “Last Days in Vietnam,” by a Vietnam War veteran.]

Michael Uhl is a writer associated with Vietnam Full Disclosure, a website dedicated to publicizing truthful history about the Vietnam War (Pentagon-produced history is unreliable in this regard), and produced by a group of veterans of that war (including a woman nurse who treated combat wounded). See that site for many articles and commentaries:

Vietnam Full Disclosure
http://www.vietnamfulldisclosure.org/

Robert S. McNamara (Kennedy and Johnson Administrations’ Secretary of Defense) had publicly estimated that 3.5 million people, from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, died as a result of the American prosecution of the war in Southeast Asia.

If any of you still enjoy reading books (as in paper), you can learn the historical background to the Vietnam War from

The Untold History of the United States
by OLIVER STONE and PETER KUZNICK
[A good library or bookstore can get a copy for you.]

Oliver Stone, the filmmaker, is a combat veteran of the Vietnam War.

The most complete detailed [and truthful] history of the Vietnam War is

Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, the United States, and the Modern Historical Experience
by GABRIEL KOLKO
[Kolko, a Canadian and historian, interviewed leading figures in the war during its course, in the U.S., South Vietnam and North Vietnam.]

A recent book on the nature of American military operations in Vietnam (a.k.a. war crimes) is

Kill Anything That Moves
by NICK TURSE

I say more about Nick Turse’s book in the appended e-mail commentary, down below.

An incredible 1971 book of photographs of the war, which was republished in 2001 by Phaidon Press is

Vietnam, Inc.
by PHILIP JONES GRIFFITHS

I think Philip Jones Griffiths’ book ranks with Euripides’ “Trojan Women.”

One of the most affecting books I have ever read was Noam Chomsky’s deeply moral intellectual protest of 1970, against the aggregated atrocities we now label as the Vietnam War, and is

At War With Asia
by NOAM CHOMSKY

This book is specifically about the American bombing of Laos (the country that has suffered the highest amount of bombing per capita, ever, and also subjected to defoliant chemical warfare by the U.S.). One of my best blog entries is about this book, its sources, and its effect on me.

On Reading “At War With Asia,” by Noam Chomsky
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2012/06/20/on-reading-at-war-with-asia-by-noam-chomsky/ 

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For Ella’s benefit:

The way I “remember” the Vietnam War today, and “honor those who served” is to buy you-know-who a chocolate milkshake every now and then, and to try to get us out into the country with him for a plant-identification ramble on some summer day.

I remember the story our friend told me about his time during the First Battle of Khe Sanh (the “Hill Fights” of 1967). The Marines were under such intense shelling for so long that they were starving (being cut off from resupply), and conditions in the camp were horrible because of the destruction, carnage (piles of dead) and the tropical rain turning ground into mud. He says he lost count of the barrages after about seventy-something, and the many concussions he experienced made him deaf in one ear. After a long stretch of this punishment, a brief and welcome relief came in the form of some hours of clear sunny weather without any shelling. As he sat in his spot, he noticed that a grasshopper had alighted near him, probably also seeking relief in sunshine without explosions. In an instant, he flashed out his arm, grasped the grasshopper, popped it into his mouth whole, crunched and swallowed. That was food. He told me he had done this without any thought whatever, and afterwards he realized what amazing things we can do when motivated by starvation. From what he’s told me, I have been able to identify the battle he was in as that for Hill 881, the First Battle of Khe Sanh (articles below).

Battle of Hill 881
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Hill_881

Battle of Khe Sanh
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Khe_Sanh

The Hill Fights: The First Battle of Khe Sanh
by EDWARD F. MURPHY
http://www.amazon.com/The-Hill-Fights-First-Battle/dp/0891418490

About E. F. Murphy’s book:
“While the seventy-seven-day siege of Khe Sanh in early 1968 remains one of the most highly publicized clashes of the Vietnam War, scant attention has been paid to the first battle of Khe Sanh, also known as “the Hill Fights.” Although this harrowing combat in the spring of 1967 provided a grisly preview of the carnage to come at Khe Sanh, few are aware of the significance of the battles, or even their existence. For more than thirty years, virtually the only people who knew about the Hill Fights were the Marines who fought them. Now, for the first time, the full story has been pieced together by acclaimed Vietnam War historian Edward F. Murphy.”

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My wife chides me about “old man ranting,” which is to say complaining angrily, or at all, about the political and social stupidities of our time. Who cares what I think?, nothing is going to change, and if there is any slight change it will not be because of anything I have said or written. True enough, amen. So, I don’t plan to write any more in this vein. But, every now and then I have to let out some steam, and this whole “remember the Vietnam War” meme is one, of I hope very few, such occasions. MG,Jr.

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APPENDIX

XXXXXXXX sometimes sends me items from “right wing news” sites, and the item below about the Black Wall is one such message. My response to it, on “remembering” Vietnam War veterans, is further below.

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On Dec 27, 2014, XXXXXXXX wrote:

At this Christmas time, I thought we should take a bit of our time to remember those who never made it back from Vietnam, those men and women who should never be forgotten. Merry Christmas to one and all…….

The Wall

A little history most people will never know.

Interesting Veterans Statistics off the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

There are 58,267 names now listed on that polished black wall, including those added in 2010.

The names are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us by date and within each date the names are alphabetized. It is hard to believe it is 57 years since the first casualty.

The first known casualty was Richard B. Fitzgibbon, of North Weymouth, Mass. Listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having been killed on June 8, 1956. His name is listed on the Wall with that of his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, who was killed on Sept. 7, 1965.

There are three sets of fathers and sons on the Wall.

39,996 on the Wall were just 22 or younger.

8,283 were just 19 years old.

The largest age group, 33,103 were 18 years old.

12 soldiers on the Wall were 17 years old.

5 soldiers on the Wall were 16 years old.

One soldier, PFC Dan Bullock was 15 years old.

997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Vietnam

1,448 soldiers were killed on their last day in Vietnam

31 sets of brothers are on the Wall.

Thirty one sets of parents lost two of their sons.

54 soldiers attended Thomas Edison High School in Philadelphia. I wonder why so many from one school.

8 Women are on the Wall, Nursing the wounded.

244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War; 153 of them are on the Wall.

Beallsville, Ohio with a population of 475 lost 6 of her sons.

West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per capita in the nation. There are 711 West Virginians on the Wall.

The Marines of Morenci – They led some of the scrappiest high school football and basketball teams that the little Arizona copper town of Morenci (pop. 5,058) had ever known and cheered. They enjoyed roaring beer busts. In quieter moments, they rode horses along the Coronado Trail, stalked deer in the Apache National Forest. In the patriotic camaraderie typical of Morenci’s mining families, the nine graduates of Morenci High enlisted as a group in the Marine Corps. Their service began on Independence Day, 1966. Only 3 returned home.

The Buddies of Midvale – LeRoy Tafoya, Jimmy Martinez, Tom Gonzales – were all boyhood friends and lived on three consecutive streets in Midvale, Utah on Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues. They lived only a few yards apart. They played ball at the adjacent sandlot ball field. And they all went to Vietnam. In a span of 16 dark days in late 1967, all three would be killed. LeRoy was killed on Wednesday, Nov. 22, the fourth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Jimmy died less than 24 hours later on Thanksgiving Day. Tom was shot dead assaulting the enemy on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

The most casualty deaths for a single day was on January 31, 1968 ~ 245 deaths.

The most casualty deaths for a single month was May 1968 – 2,415 casualties were incurred.

For most Americans who read this they will only see the numbers that the Vietnam War created. To those of us who survived the war, and to the families of those who did not, we see the faces, we feel the pain that these numbers created. We are, until we too pass away, haunted with these numbers, because they were our friends, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters. There are no noble wars, just noble warriors.

Please pass this on to those who served during this time, and those who DO Care.

I’ve also sent this to those I KNOW do care very much, and I thank you for caring as you do.

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MG,Jr. response to XXXXXXXX

Here are 2 of my (MG,Jr.’s) articles on history, which each describe many overall facts about the Vietnam War. I registered for the draft the day after Lyndon Johnson’s “I will not run” speech, and I was drafted in late ’68 and 1A all through 1969. In December 1969, I was finally released from the call-up (because of the first draft lottery). The entire experience formed much of my thinking about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” since.

A good friend of mine here is a 1966-1968 ex-Marine, who survived 3 helicopter shoot-downs (surviving 1 was unusual), and a siege at Khe Sanh (there was more than one). He lost hearing in one ear due to concussions sustained by the constant artillery barrages he had to hunker down under (which cut off food and ammunition resupply by land, and made it infrequent, inadequate and inaccurate by air). A Puerto Rican veteran of the Vietnam War [a different Marine from the previous one], who I met in college in 1970-1971, told me how the platoon commanders would send the Puerto Ricans (or “Mexicans”) out “on point” for the patrols. By 1968, half of US casualties (ground troops) were Black and Latino (“Hispanic”). After that the US military made an effort to balance out the hazardous duty, so by the end of the war the casualties fell in close to the proportions of ethnicities/race as they occur in the general US population. In 1968 I was convinced that had I been inducted (as an 18 year old) I’d never get to be 21, and I’m still convinced that was most likely.

Much of the reason the Nixon Administration decided to pull the US ground troops out of the Vietnam War was that by 1969 mutinies were routine (disregard of orders, such as to go out on patrol, and massive drug use, even though the military did give pilots amphetamines to pump them up for missions; also “fragging” was frequent). There were major mutinies of career military officers – whole squadrons of Navy fighter pilots (launching off carriers), and B-52 (Air Force pilots) – in 1972, and entire operations had to be scrubbed as an alternative to mass courts martial. Books have been written about that, as well as the “Winter Soldier” movie (where veterans share their stories, mainly about seeing and participating in atrocities).

A very recent book on the war is Kill Anything That Moves (by Nick Turse) and it draws its material from the “war crimes” files from the US military (which kept track of such things to quash potential prosecutions — Colin Powell was largely responsible for limiting the exposure of the My Lai story — saving the asses of Lt. Calley’s superiors right up to the Pentagon — and its much larger potential fallout: most operations were similar), which are stored at the US Archives (Wash. DC). Nick Turse (researching other history) was shown the material by an archivist, who noted that few people (historians) had bothered to look into it since the ‘60s; every effort had been made by the US military to bury it, and that effort has been a success.

People of my time and age, who were drawn into the War to one degree or another, knew about the things described in Turse’s book, but such stories were not widely reported by the mainstream media; and official government policy coupled with much popular sentiment was to bury the truth. My buddy, the ex-Marine (helicopter gunner) even had to fight to get his veteran’s benefits. A records center in Kansas City had burned and the paperwork about many vets’ service records was destroyed. The government had hired people to interview veterans claiming benefits, but those interviewers were charged with doing their utmost to deny such benefits. My pal had to point out names on the Black Wall and describe in detail where those individuals had been “in country” and how they had actually died (the reports made to families back home were often sanitized). My buddy obviously knew too many “classified” details not to be who he said he was, and to have experienced what he said he had. He told me these interviewers would try to “mess with your mind” to make you hysterical and go away, like “you just killed people, don’t you feel guilty?” My buddy’s wife (who was present as she herself told me, and is part American Indian) screamed at this interviewer and showed sufficient intent to “escalate” her intervention that the guy gave in and approved my buddy’s status as a veteran. My pal had described missions and deployments of specific units at specific times and places that were still officially denied by the USG. So, the combination of factual (and officially embarrassing) testimony, as well as the interviewer’s fear of probably being scalped otherwise, got my buddy recognized as a vet of the unit he had served in (during the years 1966-1968).

My own articles are straightforward history taken from public sources; though I remember the events very well as “news” and “current events” from those times, which I was focused on.

The U.S. may have lost the Vietnam War, but its war criminals got away with it.

My ex-Marine buddy is (now) recognized by the Marine Corps as a member on permanent disability. He spends some of his time helping out other old guys who are on downhill slides to their final exits. He saw many of his contemporaries (including best friends) fall in the war, and numerous others survive the war to get “screwed by the system” and then disappear in one way or another from the good life “back home” (saving tax dollars, I guess). Like my godfather, who was a veteran of the Normandy landings of June 6, 1944, my ex-Marine buddy does not tell war stories, nor does he see “war” and “action” movies, nor go to museums with “Vietnam War” exhibits. It’s best not to trigger dreams. He’s a happy fun-loving guy (like my godfather) because he’s happy to be alive, every day. He’s also a peacenik, and since the war has become an expert botanist. He has lots of metal plates, bolts and rivets in his body, as well a many healed fractures (including spinal) and replacement joints, and a permanent set of aches and pains.

Fifty-Year Look Back 1963-2013, Part I: 1963-1968
MG,Jr.
18 November 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci75.html

Fifty-Year Look Back 1963-2013, Part II: 1968-2013
MG,Jr.
4 December 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci76.html

Kind regards.

22 February 2015, George Washington’s 283rd birthday.

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ADDENDUM, 17 March 2015

The My Lai massacre occurred 47 years ago, on March 16, 1968.

My Lai (massacre)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Lai_Massacre

Hugh Thompson, Jr., 47 years ago

Hugh Thompson, Jr., 47 years ago

Hugh Thompson, Jr., with the help of his crewmen Glenn Andreotta and Lawrence Colburn, were responsible for limiting the extent of the massacre (to 504) by landing their helicopter between advancing US troops and fleeing Vietnamese villagers, with Thompson ordering Andreotta and Colburn (manning the helicopter’s machine gun) to shoot the advancing Americans if they attempted to kill any of the fleeing civilians.

“Initially, three U.S. servicemen who had tried to halt the massacre and rescue the hiding civilians were shunned, and even denounced as traitors by several U.S. Congressmen, including Mendel Rivers, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Only after thirty years were they recognized and decorated, one posthumously, by the U.S. Army for shielding non-combatants from harm in a war zone.”

I still cry when I read the wikipedia article on Hugh Thompson. I did just now, again.

Hugh Thompson, Jr.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Thompson,_Jr.

Ron Ridenhour, a US soldier in Vietnam, heard about the massacre from his acquaintances who participated in it, investigated it on his own while still on active duty, and on being discharged from the Army began a letter-writing campaign in 1969 to have the US Congress open an investigation. It was through Ridenhour’s efforts that independent investigative journalist Seymour Hersh learned of the event, and eventually broke the Mỹ Lai story to the public on November 12, 1969.

Ron Ridenhour
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Ridenhour

Ron Ridenhour’s letter
to congressional representatives, begging for an investigation of “Pinkville.”
http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/mylai/ridenhour_ltr.html

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Four Hours in My Lai (1989)

This one hour documentary by Kevin Sim and Michael Bilton can be seen as a sequence of seven video segments, listed below. Note that in segment 4 Hugh Thompson, Jr. and Lawrence Colburn describe their actions to stop the My Lai massacre by aiming their own weapons at the rampaging American troops of Charlie Company, to protect a group of Vietnamese villagers. In segment 6, Ron Ridenhour (1946-1998) describes his own discovery of the event, months later, and his subsequent letter to Congress as an act of moral outrage.

The Hugh Thompson, Jr. (1943-2006) and Lawrence Colburn seen in this documentary were men who had yet to receive any public recognition of a positive nature for their actions on March 16, 1968, and subsequently. This documentary, which went on to win a British Academy Award and an International Emmy in 1989, began to change that. Sim and Bilton continued researching the story and conducted further interviews with Thompson and Colburn. They published a book in 1992, “Four Hours in My Lai,” based on the totality of the documentary material they had gathered. It was this book that sparked both public and official interest in honoring Thompson and Colburn. The third member of Thompson’s helicopter crew, Glenn Andreotta had died during military action in Vietnam in 1968. “Exactly 30 years after the massacre, Thompson, Andreotta, and Colburn were awarded the Soldier’s Medal (Andreotta posthumously), the United States Army’s highest award for bravery not involving direct contact with the enemy.”

Four Hours in My Lai 1/7
(60 minute video in 7 segments)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nr3L501DFgg

Four Hours in My Lai 2/7
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWDEk0Zr83k

Four Hours in My Lai 3/7
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjH3N67Ptko

Four Hours in My Lai 4/7
(Hugh Thompson, Jr.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wew4WoCJ7ZY

Four Hours in My Lai 5/7
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0UK3wNRObk

Four Hours in My Lai 6/7
(Ron Ridenhour)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ih01m7JG-I

Four Hours in My Lai 7/7
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ausfYUkCUbc

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Hugh Thompson, Jr. (1943-2006)
http://hughthompson.org/hugh.htm
(hughthompson.org is the foundation organized by Larry Colburn to honor the memory of Hugh Thompson by addressing his chief concerns.)

“Hugh Thompson’s courage and integrity brought the My Lai massacre to a halt. Today he remains a true inspiration for young people everywhere but especially those in the military. Hugh was living proof that doing what is right, without weighing up the personal cost, is the hallmark of great nobility.” – Michael Bilton, author of Four Hours in My Lai

To Swing Wide the Gates of Mercy (~2002)
(Hugh Thompson, Jr. and Lawrence Colburn, together before students)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xadOE9fCzX4

BBC interviews Hugh Thompson Jr.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkFa2lSNAGc

American Experience My Lai PBS Documentary (2010)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H69nExfUh34
(Good presentation of the Army’s coverup and Nixon’s political undermining of justice.)

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The Scene of the Crime
A reporter’s journey to My Lai and the secrets of the past.
By Seymour M. Hersh
March 30, 2015 issue of The New Yorker
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/30/the-scene-of-the-crime

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The Other Conspirator
(The Secret Origins of the CIA’s Torture Program and the Forgotten Man Who Tried to Expose It )
Barbara Myers
May 31, 2015

“The witness reported men being hung by the feet or the thumbs, waterboarded, given electric shocks to the genitals, and suffering from extended solitary confinement in what he said were indescribably inhumane conditions. It’s the sort of description that might have come right out of the executive summary of the Senate torture report released last December. In this case, however, the testimony was not about a “black site” somewhere in the Greater Middle East, nor was it a description from Abu Ghraib, nor in fact from this century at all.

The testimony came from Vietnam; the year was 1968; the witness was Anthony J. Russo, one of the first Americans to report on the systematic torture of enemy combatants by CIA operatives and other U.S. agents in that long-gone war. The acts Russo described became commonplace in the news post-9/11 and he would prove to be an early example of what also became commonplace in our century: a whistleblower who found himself on the wrong side of the law and so was prosecuted for releasing the secret truth about the acts of our government.

Determined to shine a light on what he called “the truth held prisoner,” Russo blew the whistle on American torture policy in Vietnam and on an intelligence debacle at the center of Vietnam decision-making that helped turn that war into the nightmare it was. Neither of his revelations saw the light of day in his own time or ours and while Daniel Ellsberg, his compatriot and companion in revelation, remains a major figure for his role in releasing the Pentagon Papers, Russo is a forgotten man.

That’s too bad. He shouldn’t be forgotten. His is, unfortunately, a story of our times as well as his.”

Barbara Myers continues, and tells that story here:

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176004/tomgram%3A_barbara_myers%2C_the_unknown_whistleblower/

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1965-1975, Another Vietnam
unseen images of the war from the winning side
5 February 2015
http://mashable.com/2016/02/05/another-vietnam-photography/?utm_cid=mash-com-fb-main-link#X66iJAUgqkqS

http://www.anothervietnam.com/photos.html

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Addendum, 22 February 2017 (George Washington’s birthday).

The following three videos are about the G.I. Anti-War Movement. Profound.

John Pilger – The Quiet Mutiny [1970]
https://youtu.be/I-eVbJbgUpE

Listen to and watch Rita Martinson sing this song of hers. This is a beautiful example of art in a social cause. The audience was American soldiers in the war. This choked me up, brought tears to my eyes.

Soldier, We Love You
https://youtu.be/7iMusPYq83g

“Soldier, We Love You” (Rita Martinson) is near the end of this documentary. This video also brought me to tears.

Sir No Sir (2005) Documentary
https://youtu.be/3nPJgeg6hpA

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30 May 2017

Stan Goff speaks:

Remembering Lived History 1963-2013

Fifty-Year Look Back 1963-2013, Part II: 1968-2013
2 December 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci76.html

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Part I of the two-part “Fifty-Year Look Back 1963-2013,” was published two weeks ago:

Fifty-Year Look Back 1963-2013, Part I: 1963-1968
18 November 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci75.html

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Four earlier articles connect to the above to form a “remembrance” series:

The Promise Of Remembered Soundtracks
7 October 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci72.html

Overtones Of Awareness
8 September 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci70.html

Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate
23 April 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci46.html

Libya 2011: The Human Right To Political Freedom
3 May 2011
http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/05/libya-2011-the-human-right-to-political-freedom/

The Promise Of Remembered Soundtracks

How do you tell your teenager about your past, when you were their age, and not bore them to exasperation within thirty seconds with your sloppy nostalgia? I don’t know. Nevertheless, that was the impetus for writing my article published today.

The Promise Of Remembered Soundtracks
7 October 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci72.html

In Tony Judt’s essay “Hannah Arendt and Evil” (1995), which is included in his book Reappraisals, Judt described the drive of people like Arthur Koestler, Primo Levi, Manès Sperber and Hannah Arendt to keep an accurate memory of the past, which they experienced, alive in the present:

“They were all ‘chance survivors of a deluge,’ as she [Hannah Arendt] put it in a 1947 dedication to [Karl] Jaspers, and wherever they ended up, in New York, Paris, or Rome, they were constrained, like Camus’s Sisyphus, to push the boulder of memory and understanding up the thankless hill of public forgetting for the rest of their lives.”

I am an incidental survivor of the Vietnam War, and “The Promise Of Remembered Soundtracks” is about that and popular music. For some readers it will also be about children and continuity. I am not claiming profundity or great insight here, merely truthfulness in recollection. I have been remembering the past, and my past, spurred by the questioning of a child of today emerging as an adult. I hope you listen to the music I cite in this article (skip the ads).

The first installment of my reminiscences (no music) was:

Overtones Of Awareness
8 September 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci70.html

I’ll end here with this from 1971 (the best year of my life):

“Blue Sky”, Duane Allman’s Solo, at Stonybrook, 1971-09-19
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSDf2Usd8n4

Thanks, Skydog.

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