[The title of Michael Ware’s documentary on the Iraq War is Only the Dead See the End of War. Ware is an Australian journalist who covered the war for Time magazine and was a frequent on-air correspondent for CNN. Ware suffers from PTSD and no longer covers war zones.]
The first spoken words in Michael Ware’s HBO documentary are: “We all have dark places buried within” from which he deduces about himself, (I have) “a place inside me I never knew I had.”
It irks me to hear guys, particularly those about my own age, say what they “would have done” in combat, if they were in fact in combat. The veteran does not have the luxury of the subjunctive “could haves” and “would haves.” In Ware’s words, combat infantry veterans (and war correspondents) have been to the dark places.
Who is this man? Former prosecutor (“tough on crime”), former mayor, former presidential candidate, and, post 9/11, charlatan. Who is he, and why should anyone care what he has to say about anything?
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks during an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 6, 2011.
Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty
After the tragic events of 9/11, Giuliani was handing over the mayoralty of New York to Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg demurred when Giuliani went on a PR parade, including TV interviews, in an effort to have his term extended so that he could handle the crisis. He ain’t Jewish, but that sure is chutzpah.
[The thought of being captured and tortured scared me more in Vietnam than the thought of being killed in combat. It drives me crazy when politicians use the word so glibly. Excerpts fromThe Nation Magazine’s Sasha Abramsky below demonstrate what I mean. When the leading GOP candidate for the presidential nomination says he would “do a lot more than waterboarding,” it gets Abramsky upset. I get upset too. So should you. A comment to anyone in power in America, now or ever: Do not torture in my name.]
Abramsky: Donald Trump plays the tough-guy well; he’s like the Mafia-type cinema figure who intimidates and thrills his audiences by talking about his enemies’ “sleeping with the fishes.” But he never actually gets down and dirty and explains to those audiences exactly what he’ll be asking them to do, when, as president and as commander in chief, he authorizes “the torture,” and a “lot worse than waterboarding.”
I wonder …
Will he make them dismember ISIS recruits limb from limb? Will he order them to impale them, slowly, on spikes? Will he, as did the Nazi Gestapo with their victims, have them hang terrorism suspects from meat hooks? Will he, as did partisans during the brutal Russian Civil War that followed the 1917 revolution, strip the skin from the hands of victims? Will he order psychiatrists to use their skills to break the minds of dissidents and terrorists, as did Soviet medics under Stalin? Will he order soldiers to throw young men and women out of helicopters and planes, some to plunge into the ocean, others into volcanoes, as did the juntas of Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s? Will he, as did Saddam Hussein, order soldiers and intelligence officials to pour acid onto victims, or drill holes in their feet and hands?
Enough. Abramsky’s interrogatory point is made. The word torture is easy to say. The very thought of tortuous acts is unthinkable. And so, Abramsky asks the candidate a non-rhetorical question:
What is it, exactly, that you want to make a project of the American state? What lengths are you willing to go to? Down what twisted, sadistic, paths do you want to lead the American people?
He might also ask which villains of history he would most like to emulate: Nazi Gestapo, Russian Civil War Partisans, Stalin, Juntas of Latin America … Is this list really one on which we would like to add the name of the next American President? It’s demeaning enough that former Vice President Dick Cheney already resides there.
Bombast has reached unprecedented heights in this election season’s debates among GOP candidates. At the same time subject matter has fallen into the lowest depths of the human condition. Remember, we are talking about torture here. I challenge anyone to associate anything good coming from any of Abramsky’s examples (or ones of your own choosing). Further, I challenge any candidate who fosters torture, and the continuance of Gitmo for that matter, to describe, exactly, the methods he/she would authorize. And please tell us that you would witness the torture yourself.
Lift the veil off their words, folks, and think deeply about what they mean. Whoever you are, president-in-waiting, do not, I repeat, do not torture in my name.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs published the article below. It honors Vietnam Vets but also provides links to sites that can be helpful to all vets.
On March 29th, VA pauses to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. We are forever grateful for the heroism, devotion and courage of the more than 9 million Veterans like you who served during the Vietnam War.
Every day, VA’s employees honor your service by keeping the promise President Abraham Lincoln made, to care for those “who shall have borne the battle” and for those they leave behind. We serve you and we honor you not only with words, but also with deeds by providing world-class benefits and services like health care, disability compensation, and memorial care with VA cemeteries and private burials.
As we pay tribute to your service, we encourage you to find out more about the benefits that may be available to you and your loved ones. Explore VA today.
[I was a teenager during the Cuban Missile Crisis, not a kid, and I was still a teenager when I got drafted into the Army in 1965. In my amateur way of trying to discover how my brain works–and how it got knocked out of whack–I look to incidents like this. Although we prayed for peace in school, I remember being proud that my country, my president, stared down the godless communists. Was I pro-war then: this war, any war, all war? Did I know the difference among right, moderate, and left? With 50 years of life experiences tacked on to my curriculum vitae since then, have I grown intellectually, morally? I don’t know.]
It sure was a confusing time for me in March, 1958, when Nikita Khrushchev became Premier of the Soviet Union. I was in 7th grade. Although too young to remember the McCarthy witch hunts for commies in America just a few years earlier, I was old enough to know that the “Cold War” was on. We were reminded of it first thing in the morning as the entire student body of Holy Cross School recited the Pledge of Allegiance and then said a prayer for world peace.
Kind of a vague concept for young teens: world peace. Our parents knew the horrors of WWII, and we had cousins and uncles who served in Korea. By the late ’50s technology had advanced to the point that there was a “space race” and nuclear war was not simply, in today’s jargon, an existential threat. We and the Soviets knew each other’s missile launching capabilities at the time and feared that one or the other would be foolhardy enough to drop the bomb.
Now, here’s a laugh. Just as schools run fire drills on a regular basis, once Khrushchev came to power, we started having drills in the event of air raids. Here’s how silly that was:
If we heard the air raid warning siren, we were to walk quietly single-file down the stairwell to the basement (my classroom was on the third floor).
In the basement we and the entire student body would face the inner walls for protection.
If the siren was too late and we actually saw or heard the bombers, we were to tuck ourselves tightly under our desks and place our heads between our legs.
Presumably–but never mentioned–from that position we could kiss tomorrow goodbye.
Two men, Nikita Khrushchev and John Kennedy defined that era.
Vietnam, the war, was waged and escalated based on a lie. The American public as well as the world at large were flat out lied to. Excerpts below from www.history.com highlight key portions of the ruse, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, under which President Johnson assumed unprecedented unilateral power to escalate hostilities. The question is, why did he think he needed such power? And why did so many military and civilians on both sides have to die or have their lives changed forever?
It took Vietnam veterans a long time after their return from Southeast Asia to even acknowledge the loose marbles that were scattering around their brains. The injury of PTSD has smitten thousands upon thousands of vets; the insult related to it is the knowledge that the war did not have to be waged in the first place. Yeah, wrestling with that in my head leaves me loopy sometimes. Continue reading 3-26: Gulf of Tonkin Resolution Based on a Lie
This picture, courtesy of PBS, should scare all of us; it does me. The story is by Walter Einenkel and I plucked it from http://dailykos.com. Its heading included the words:
Although she clearly wants to “make America great again,” it is unclear which decade/century she would have us return to. You see,
This is a second-generation American family living in North Carolina. Grace Tilly is married to a veteran, her father is a U.S. veteran who immigrated to America from Canada decades ago.
The PBS piece quotes patriarch Pete Tilly saying this:
All these protestors and all this stuff, and people saying he’s racist and the Black Lives Matter, well, you what? Red lives matter. Because when you bleed, we all bleed red.
For the life of me I can’t make sense of that quote. But it does reek of racism. Too bad Grace’s husband and father didn’t have the honor to serve with the men of color that I did.
The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach; two benefits: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.
The History Channel at, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-plane-shot-down-over-laos, reports of a United States intelligence gathering plane being shot down over central Laos in 1961. Its mission “was flown in an attempt to determine the extent of the Soviet support being provided to the communist Pathet Lao guerrillas in Laos.”
President John F. Kennedy went so far as to make a television address to the American public. In it he warned of communist expansion in Laos …” The fear of communism was real. The night before Kennedy was to be sworn in as President of the United States, he and key members of his staff met with outgoing Dwight D. Eisenhower and a few of his aides. It was at that meeting that the term “Domino Theory” was popularized to describe what Eisenhower believed would happen if Vietnam turned to communism. From there Laos and Cambodia would quickly do the same and, eventually, all of southeast Asia would be communist. Continue reading Government Lies
When a man who doesn’t usually drink gets tipsy on three beers on St. Patrick’s Day, that does not qualify him for the designation “alcoholic.” Likewise, a girl who finds herself in an awkward social situation where she takes a toke on a joint doesn’t make her a junkie. Too many of us are too quick to name call and assign quilt by association to folks who clearly do not deserve such self-righteous generalizations.
Such is also the case with veterans, in particular Vietnam veterans. From Korea on back, when men fought in our nation’s wars it was for an undetermined amount of time. All that changed with Vietnam where a normal tour was one year. Until now, in 2016, that was America’s longest war. Thus, guys rotated in and out literally for ten years. Folk singers of the ’60s had it right: When will we ever learn? Continue reading My Lai Does Not Define the Soldier