1-23: What did you do during the war, daddy?

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from history.com for January 21.]

[Wars Cause PTSD. Whether tomorrow, a decade from now, or 30 years down the line, the war experience today will torture a soldier’s mind. It is not necessary to argue, debate, or fight about our reason(s) for going to war; it is the act of war that attacks the psyche. End the wars, end the suffering.]

President Carter Pardons Draft Dodgers

On this day in 1977, U.S. President Jimmy Carter grant[ed] an unconditional pardon to hundreds of thousands of men who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War.

The not-quite-existential question today is, if the president reinstituted the draft, would women be included?

Bon jour, Canada.

In total, some 100,000 young Americans went abroad in the late 1960s and early 70s to avoid serving in the war. Ninety percent went to Canada, where after some initial controversy they were eventually welcomed as immigrants….

Although I long ago concluded that the U.S. Army had no business in Vietnam, I have never been convinced that all draft dodgers actually, philosophically opposed the war. I believe that, for me, an unquantifiable number just flat-out didn’t want to go to war. At least Muhammed Ali claimed, “I ain’t got nothing against them Viet Cong”; and he suffered the loss of his title, World Champion, and the license to ply his trade.

For its part, the U.S. government continued to prosecute draft evaders after the Vietnam War ended. A total of 209,517 men were formally accused of violating draft laws … If they returned home, those living in Canada or elsewhere faced prison sentences or forced military service.

A word about that. There were judges throughout the country who, when sentencing draft-age offenders, gave them the choice of going to jail or entering the military. I can aver, first-hand, that these individuals did not make good soldiers. Those judges did not serve their country well.

A promise is a promise.

During his 1976 presidential campaign, Jimmy Carter promised to pardon draft dodgers as a way of putting the war and the bitter divisions it caused firmly in the past. After winning the election, Carter wasted no time in making good on his word. Though many transplanted Americans returned home, an estimated 50,000 settled permanently in Canada …

Back in the U.S., Carter’s decision generated a good deal of controversy. [He was] heavily criticized by veterans’ groups and others for allowing unpatriotic lawbreakers to get off scot-free …

A word about that. If submission to the draft is the chief criterion for one’s proof of patriotism, there were millions of unpatriotic law abiding young men who absolutely “got off scot-free” by wriggling deferments out of their local draft board. Scuzzball war mongerer Dick Cheyney did it five times, claiming later when he got promoted to chicken hawk that he had “other things to do.”

Yes, I still have a chip on my shoulder. No, I will not get over it.

*****

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.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

1-6: Spoils of War

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me.]

[Wars Cause PTSD. Whether tomorrow, a decade from now, or 30 years down the line, the war experience today will torture a soldier’s mind. It is not necessary to argue, debate, or fight about our reason(s) for going to war; it is the act of war that attacks the psyche. End the wars, end the suffering.]

Cathy Breen, Co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence asks:

What will Baghdad face in 2017?

This bold-faced question gave me pause because it reminded me of ill-formed questions that began to form somewhere in the back of my brain upon my departure from Vietnam. First, Ms. Breen’s story.

Iraq in Rubbles

… [One Monday in December] a woman journalist, Afrah Shawqu al Qaisi, was kidnapped from her home in the Saidiya district of Baghdad by men claiming to be security personnel. She had written an article expressing anger that armed groups could act with impunity (BBC News Dec. 27, 2016).

“How do you get up in the morning?” I gently asked a young woman from Baghdad. “How do you manage?”

Despair

“With no hope” she replied.  “Each morning I get up with no hope.”  Her mother is ill and worries each day that her daughter will not get home safely from work. “All Iraqis want hope,” she added, “but they are resigned to bad conditions.”…

[Breen and a friend] one day went to the site of the horrific suicide bombing of July 3, 2016, only two blocks away from the family’s apartment … The night of the bombings was on the eve of Eid, ending the fasting month of Ramadan. Many people were out doing the final shopping for this celebration. Vendors with their wares on the sidewalks, children eating ice cream in the blistering heat of summer. It was about 10:00 p.m. The blasts took the lives of over 300 people, many of them children. Over 200 more wounded….

A Question of Morality

While in Baghdad I (Breen) stayed with a gracious couple who made the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Haj, this past year. In one of our many conversations, my host asked somewhat mischievously, “Which of the four do you think is the greatest sin in Islam?  Theft, illicit sex, drinking or lying?” I mulled this over not really knowing, but enjoying the exercise. The answer turned out to be “lying” and, curiously, I got it right.

But then the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq was based on lies and deceit….

Which brings my mind back to Vietnam, another war based on lies and deceit.

In-Country Conundrums

When my outfit patrolled black zones for days on end on search and destroy missions, we operated under a standing order that any Vietnamese person encountered was suspected to be the enemy or, at least, an enemy sympathizer. Black zones were also known as free fire zones, meaning that we had full authorization to shoot on sight anyone not wearing a GI uniform. The lame excuse for this carte blanche given to us grunts from somewhere up the chain was that “they were warned we were coming” (and instructed to leave).

Where they were supposed to go I could never figure. How they were supposed to get to wherever they were supposed to go I never figured either. What about what few belongings they had? What about the water buffalo?

Back-Home Blues

It was literally years after I returned to the states that I heard the term “survivor’s guilt.” I had it but didn’t know it. First, I was plagued with flashbacks of buddies falling close by, while bullets and shrapnel miraculously missed me. Why them? Why not me?

Then came thoughts of what we had done (what I had participated in). We bombed their rice paddies, we decimated their jungle with napalm and Agent Orange, and we forced them to flee their homes. To this day I still ask, where were they to go? Where did they go?

I am conflicted about the deployment of American fighters around the world today. But I never bought the lies and deceit that catapulted us into Iraq. Cathy Breen’s slice of life vignette should sound alarum bells for our country. I know it won’t, just as I know that in years to come Veterans will ask themselves: Why them and not me? Where did they go?

The website for Voices for Creative Nonviolence is

www.vcnv.org

*****

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.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

11-29: Vietnam, in the Beginning

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece which comes from History.com for November 27, 1965.]

[Wars Cause PTSD. Whether tomorrow, a decade from now, or 30 years down the line, the war experience today will torture a soldier’s mind. It is not necessary to argue, debate, or fight about our reason(s) for going to war; it is the act of war that attacks the psyche. End the wars, end the suffering.]

As frequent visitors to this space know, I was drafted in October 1965. Thus, the events reported below, which occurred November 27, 1965—more than a month-and-a-half later—intrigue me.

Pentagon Wants More Men in Vietnam

The Pentagon informs President Johnson that if General Westmoreland is to conduct the major sweep operations necessary to destroy enemy forces during the coming year, U.S. troop strength should be increased from 120,000 to 400,000 men [worldwide].

Dates Don’t Jive

When I and the 196th Light Infantry Brigade landed at Vung Tau during summer 1966, U.S. troop strength in-country ballooned to about 50,000. By summer 1967 the number bloated to about 500,000. Virtually all of the grunts in the 196th were draftees, having been plucked from the so-called real world and assembled at Fort Devens, Massachusetts in October. Somebody knew something before November 27.

VC Release Hostages

Also on this day: The Viet Cong release two U.S. special forces soldiers captured two years earlier during a battle of Hiep Hoa, 40 miles southwest of Saigon.

That puts U.S. special forces soldiers in Vietnam in 1963.

At a news conference in Phnom Penh three days later, the two Americans, Sgt. George Smith and Specialist 5th Class Claude McClure, declared that they opposed U.S. actions in Vietnam and would campaign for the withdrawal of American troops. Although Smith later denied making the statement, U.S. authorities announced that the two men would face trial for cooperating with the enemy.

How about that? We had an “enemy” even before we had a war … and freed American POWs “would face trial for cooperating with the enemy.” Where was the outrage?

Protests Begin

Also on this day: In Washington, nearly 35,000 war protestors circle the White House for two hours before moving on to the Washington Monument. Dr. Benjamin Spock, Coretta Scott King, and activist Norman Thomas were among those who gave speeches.

Funny, we troops didn’t hear about this while training for war in the jungles of the Great American Northeast … in the fall/winter. I can say unequivocally that on this day in history I was in the middle of basic training: no newspapers, no radio or TV, no phone calls home. We were preparing for a war not yet declared—and never to be declared—while citizens were already protesting.

Many of my fellow “Chargers” find pride in knowing that the 196th was the first full brigade to deploy to Vietnam and was the last to leave in 1975. I feel more numbed than chest inflated. Nearly 60,000 names are etched into the “Wall” on the mall in Washington, D.C. None of them got to hear Spock, King, or Thomas. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. We/they had an enemy to defeat.

 

*****

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.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

11-21: The Draftee

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece by Caroline Bologna, Parents Editor of the Huffington Post: “What I Learned about Patriotism from My Dad, A Vietnam War Draftee.”]

Most of my Army buddies and those I hang out with at reunions were, like myself, drafted in 1965. The story below sums up pretty well our role in U.S. military history. It does not mention PTSD … so I will.

It is my experience that PTSD does not discriminate. Whether a person joined or was drafted, the actual combat experience—and its after effects—can neither be predicted nor anticipated.

“We shouldn’t forget the other veterans, the ones who didn’t have the choice,” writes Caroline Bologna.

When my father was 22 years old, he was drafted into the United States military. The year was 1968, the Vietnam War was in full swing, and he was a recent college graduate with a wife and newborn baby.

My dad did not want to go to Vietnam for many reasons, which were obvious at the time but may be less apparent to people my age.

Vietnam was one of the longest and most unpopular wars in American history. The death toll reached over 58,000 U.S. military casualties by the conflict’s end. Servicemen were reportedly committing senseless acts of violence against civilians. Anti-war protests were rampant, and anti-war sentiment was not limited to fringe left-wing communities.

But this was the era of the draft, so how a soldier felt about participating in the war didn’t really matter.

The letter we all received from the Government bore the ironic salutation “Greetings.”

“I didn’t have a choice,” my dad told me … when I asked about his military experience. “I was just another draftee. It was something I had to do. Something a lot of us had to do.”

On Veterans Day, we honor soldiers who pledged to give their lives in the service of their country. But living in this age of military worship, I think my generation can’t fathom the experience of being a veteran who didn’t want anything to do with the fight and received nothing but disdain from the public. These are the veterans for whom the notions of patriotism and service are very complicated.

But they are veterans nonetheless, and their stories deserve to be told.

My dad’s … reflections are extremely matter of fact. There’s no fanfare, no sense of nostalgia, no evocations of glory.

“I think I made the best of it,” he says.

… After basic training and advanced individual training, he qualified for Officer Candidate School, where he learned to “square” his meals and engineer roads and bridges.

He ultimately accepted a post as a personnel officer and rose to the rank of first lieutenant. The job involved lots and lots of paperwork, a responsibility that would prepare him well for his future career as an attorney.

“I had no desire to be involved in the military at its core level: People with guns shooting each other,” he told me….

When I ask my dad if his veteran status makes him proud, he has a complicated answer. He said he’s never been able to say he was “proud” of his military service. But he doesn’t feel shame either. I think he just never really had the option to feel anything about it.

“I’m a Vietnam-era veteran. I was there because my country ordered me to be there, and I didn’t have any real choices,” he says. “That’s it.”…

That’s it.

*****

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.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

11-16: What Did You Do during the Moratorium?

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from History.com for November 15.]

Within the context of nation-wide protests against the Vietnam War, the “second” so-called moratorium occurred 47 years ago, yesterday, mainly in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco; the first took place just a month before on October 15, 1969.

Sowing the Seeds of PTSD

I haven’t a clue as to when PTSD began taking root in my psyche. I can point to many horrific assaults on my senses, any one of which could qualify as the first germ. Or, I can look back on the entire combat experience, starting as the empty vase of my brain and then adding fertilizer to it, day after rotten day, with sights, sounds, and actions all foreign to me before Vietnam.

I mustered out of the Army in July 1967. I returned to college and finished my bachelor’s degree between September 1967 and May 1970. These dates are important to me because, although I was getting on with my life, the war continued and there was nothing I could do about that.

Truth be told, I didn’t know then what to think of war protestors. I’m still not sure. But the point is: I did not participate. This is how History.com records the events of November 15, 1969.

Vietnam War

Second moratorium against the war held

Following a symbolic three-day “March Against Death,” the second national “moratorium” opens with mass demonstrations in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Mood in D.C. at the beginning …

Organized by the New Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (“New Mobe”), an estimated 500,000 demonstrators rallied in Washington as part of the largest such rally to date. It began with a march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Washington Monument, where a mass rally and speeches were held. Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and four different touring casts of the musical “Hair” entertained the demonstrators.

Mood in D.C. as it evolved …

Later, violence erupted when police used tear gas on radicals who had split off from the main rally to march on the Justice Department. The crowd of about 6,000, led by members of the Youth International Party (“Yippies”), threw rocks and bottles and burned U.S. flags. Almost 100 demonstrators were arrested.

“violence,” “tear gas,” “radicals,” “threw rocks and bottles,” “burned U.S. flags,” “arrested” — In Vietnam, parallel words implied, to me, confusing yet familiar vocabulary: “combat,” “cyanide hand grenades,” “Viet Cong,” “snipers,” “napalm,” “captured.”

Elsewhere …

The largest protest outside Washington was held in San Francisco, where an estimated 250,000 people demonstrated. Antiwar demonstrations were also held in a number of major European cities, including Frankfurt, Stuttgart, West Berlin, and London. The largest overseas demonstration occurred in Paris, where 2,651 people were arrested.

So, I don’t know exactly when darkness began to creep across my grey matter. To recall virulent days such as November 15, 1969, however, I can make an educated guess that one of the skills I learned to develop during my college years was the ability to bury—at least for then—the gory loss of my innocence. What I have learned since those days is that moratoria offer only temporary relief from deep-seated demons. But the search continues.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner 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.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

 

 

11-11: Veterans Day

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. I have chosen for Veterans Day to cite myself–to share an excerpt from my book, After the Storm.]

Putting Lipstick on a Pig

I do not believe the artificial rhetoric I have heard since the election about how the President-Elect will govern so much differently than he campaigned. I do not sincerely believe he can be magnanimous or gracious. And does he still believe that the election system is rigged? I believe we are in for a bumpy, humiliating, disastrous ride.

Yes, I am cynical. What came to my mind in thinking about an appropriate Veterans Day blog was our nation’s naiveté. I get that many, many voters simply dislike Hillary Clinton; I don’t understand it so much, but I get it. What I don’t get is the acceptance of Donald Trump as the alternative. I am honestly afraid of what his presidency will bring, the damage it will inflict on our culture, and the humiliation—at the least—we will suffer around the globe.

“Before” the Storm

As a way of introducing and summarizing Chapter 14 of After the Storm, “Pulling the Pin,” I cite a line from William Butler Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming”:

The ceremony of innocence is drowned.

That’s how I feel about America today. In my view the electorate has “pulled the pin” and thus triggered a tumultuous, vindictive, dangerous bomb called Trump. It is impossible for me to imagine that our next commander-in-chief can in any way relate to the 20-year-old infantryman described hereunder.

“Pulling the Pin”

Not long after our first encounter with death …the platoon went out on patrol in a free fire zone … we found the terrain relatively easy to navigate …

We saw a small clearing ahead … Plunging straight ahead could be suicide for (my) squad … The plan came down that the squads on either flank would skirt the edges of the wood line, thereby establishing some lateral security, and (my) squad would advance cautiously across the open stretch: run a few steps one fire team at a time, hit the dirt, run a few steps, hit the dirt until we reached the other side.

As we dropped to the ground maybe twenty yards or so into the clearing, I saw a flash of movement behind a pile of dirt at the far left corner, that is, at the beginning of the woods we were headed toward. The mound itself looked suspicious because it appeared from the color of the dirt to be freshly dug. A bunker, perhaps; a foxhole; a grave?

Without much thought, I signaled to the rest of the squad and both flanks to stay down. Then I detached a hand grenade from my harness and low crawled directly toward the target. When I got close enough to feel comfortable that I could lob the grenade just over the berm thereby causing maximum destruction to whomever or whatever lay behind it, I pulled the pin, tossed the grenade, and still on my belly tried to squeeze my entire body inside my steel pot for protection, in case the shrapnel blew through or over the mound. Bulls eye…. I now had to inspect the result of my first deliberate belligerent act.

I’m not sure what I expected….

Over the years, I have remembered and thought sometimes very deeply about this incident…. I know that part of me died that day. For I knew from that instant what I am capable of. Without emotion, without hesitation, with no sense of guilt at the moment, I could kill. I could kill someone I never met and didn’t hate. My innocence lay shattered that day….

A paradox of war is that, within the context of this basest of human activities, individuals often discover in themselves and others the highest of human qualities: patriotism, honor, loyalty, courage, comradeship, dignity, love of life. The moment I pulled that pin, however, I discovered the nadir of my humanness….

In my very humble opinion, I do not believe we have yet witnessed the worst of Trump.

*****

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.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.e is an author and past Chaplain

 

 

11-9: Show Me

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

Show me,

Mr. President-Elect Trump, the American greatness you never identified or defined during your campaign. We are the same age, but somehow I missed “again’s” antecedent. Maybe it happened while you were getting your military training at boarding school and I was getting mine in the mud … while you got your three square meals a day in a dining hall and I was lucky to open a WWII-Era C-Ration can with a rusty P-38.

Show me the first brick with which you intend to build the wall. I will show you the names of nearly 60,000 bricks on “The Wall” in Washington, D.C. You remember them, don’t you? They were the losers who died fighting a war you avoided. I wonder, Mr. Trump, whom you dislike more: soldiers who die or the ones who merely got captured.

Show me how it is that “no one respects women” as much as you do.

Show me how you intend to deport millions of souls without papers.

Show me how you are going to lower my taxes in the same proportion you lower your own.

Show me how you are going to deal with nuclear proliferation. Oh, no, I forgot; you believe there should be more countries wielding nuclear capability.

Show me how a weaker NATO makes for a stronger USA and a more stable world.

Show me the jail cell which will house Hillary Clinton after, of course, you show me the court in which she will be tried.

I shall respect the office of the President of the United States. Show me you deserve to be there.

 

*****

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.com; two points: 1) it is free, and 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.e is an author and past Chaplain

 

10-7: Michael Moore Voting for Clinton

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece bounces off one of my favorite bloggers, The Rude Pundit.]

The Necessity of Michael Moore: Live Talk Edition

Last (Thursday) night, with about a day of advance notice, shambling filmmaker and … provocateur Michael Moore came to my place of work, a college, to give a talk about the current election…. I’ve been a fan of Moore’s … because, agree or disagree with him, he is sincere behind his snide attacks on stupidity, complacency, and cruelty. He believes, perhaps naively (although, at 60, it’s hard to call him that), that we can toss aside the (stuff) that divides us and we can make the country better….

Yes, we can!

Moore gave the starkest, most frightening explanation of how Donald Trump could end up winning the presidency against Hillary Clinton. For him, it all comes down to Rust Belt (mostly white, male) Americans in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin….

For them, Trump is a voice they needed to hear, Moore said, someone who isn’t afraid, someone who can say, “(screw) you” without consequences, someone who can say to Ford that he’ll put a 35% tariff on cars not made in the United States or that he’ll compel Apple to make iPhones in this country. It doesn’t matter whether or not he can do it.

He can’t! He knows it and so do we … and so does running mate Mike Pence.

The truth doesn’t matter.

What matters is that these isolated, angry white men hear this and it gives them irrational hope that they can get back some of what they’ve lost or that they’ve perceived they’ve lost, a little power and a decent amount of cash.

Is this what it means to “make America great again”? Even during the vice-presidential debate Pence could only mouth words like “that isn’t true” or “nonsense” when confronted with verbatim comments from Trump.

Voting for Trump turns Americans into “legal terrorists,” Moore said, and their votes “are Molotov cocktails thrown into a machine they want to blow up,” … Moore concluded, a few months later, they’ll understand that Trump isn’t gonna do any of (what) he said he would. Betrayed again.

We can’t take that risk.

Moore Addresses Voting 3rd Party 

… “Voting that way just makes you kind of like Trump. You’re being narcissistic. You’re only voting that way because it makes you feel good to say you didn’t vote for Trump or Clinton.” Sometimes, Moore continued, “you just gotta suck it up and vote for the good of the country.”

Connection to PTSD

The first book manuscript I submitted to publishers bore the title Betrayed. [Hellgate Press asked if they could change the title to After the Storm.] I wrote this book with hostile intent, specifically aimed at former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who had just released In Retrospect, his memoir of the Vietnam War. Our points of view differ.

Moore claims that Trump, if elected, will betray his supporters, particularly rust belt workers who are now either unemployed or under-employed. Trump has no clue what it means for a worker to be tethered to a factory or a mine and then cut loose. All he has to offer are words–I wouldn’t call the blather he spews rhetoric.

So it is Moore’s use of the word “betrayed” that riles me. At 19-years-old, I had left college and gone to work in a factory. Poof, just like that, I was drafted (1965) to fight in a war that no one, including the SECDEF believed in.

For me, Trump eats from the same trough McNamara dined at and orally excretes the same bile.

 

9-23: “They (Wells Fargo) Ruined My Life

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Today’s piece’s concept comes from Walter Einenkel’s blog.]

Life Altering Events in the Work Place

Walter Einenkel quotes former Wells Fargo banker, Bill Bado, who said, “They ruined my life.” Einenkel continues:

Bado not only refused orders to open phony bank and credit accounts. The New Jersey man called an ethics hotline and sent an email to human resources in September 2013, flagging unethical sales activities he was being instructed to do.

Now, how do we–Americans, that is–feel about whistle blowers? This is how the largest bank in the world deals with this annoyance.

One former Wells Fargo human resources official … said the bank had a method in place to retaliate against tipsters. He said that Wells Fargo would find ways to fire employees “in retaliation for shining light” on sales issues. It could be as simple as monitoring the employee to find a fault, like showing up a few minutes late on several occasions.

“If this person was supposed to be at the branch at 8:30 a.m. and they showed up at 8:32 a.m, they would fire them,” the former human resources official told CNNMoney, on the condition he remain anonymous out of fear for his career.

And so, over the past five years Wells Fargo fired more than 5,000 employees, not necessarily as whistle blowers but as sub-par performers, where par was somehow having every Wells Fargo client have eight separate accounts with the bank. The lowest level employees scrambled, even cheated with a wink and a nod from managers, to bloat the corporate spreadsheets which, in turn, larded the fat cats with multi-million dollar bonuses.

Gee, too big to fail? Nope, let’s keep growing, even if our growth spurts are as fictitious as Jack’s bean stalk seeds.

Two Other Cases to Consider

Edward Snowden

Is former National Security Agency contractor a whistle blower or a traitor?

Chelsea Manning

Is former U.S. Army Private Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, a whistle blower or a traitor?

Whether you decide whistle blower for both or traitor for both or any combination of the two, perhaps you will acknowledge that Snowden and Manning wrestled with the same ethical dilemma before they decided to act against established protocol. Who is more evil, if evil at all, the whistle blower or the perpetrator of egregious acts?

Connection to PTSD

A combat soldier knows that every step taken while on a mission carries the possibility of the soldier having to make a moral decision … in an instant. If that soldier fires a shot–and the shot is proved unnecessary–the military institution might justify it as “training.” Training therefore becomes a blanket authorization for soldiers in combat to fire their weapons while ethical questions are supposed to disappear. As I type these words, they ring hollow; so I will be more specific.

In Vietnam we often patrolled what were called “free fire zones,” which meant that anyone encountered who was not wearing GI jungle fatigues was categorically suspected to be the enemy … and therefore could be shot just for being there. In every instance I can remember, inhabitants of free fire zones were warned days in advance, usually by air-dropped leaflets, that we were coming.

The question I always asked myself was, where were these subsistence farmers supposed to go? And so I encountered numerous indigenous Vietnamese people in free fire zones. (They may or may not have been Vietcong.) If there was no weapon visible, not a shot was fired. But sometimes these areas were bombed before we grunts had to make our way through elephant grass, jungle, and rice paddies and we found hooches and the families in them destroyed.

They were warned.

Where were they supposed to go?

A soldier confronting an unarmed person, enemy or not, does not/should not follow the blanket order to shoot. Employees must also make difficult moral and ethical decisions when it comes to dubious tasks they are expected or directed to perform. None of this is easy. What I know is that neither military ineptitude at the flag level or corporate corruption in the board room will end until generals and company leaders are fired, lose their pensions, and when appropriate go to  prison. Until then, the little guys and gals will continue to bear the brunt of bad situations they did not create.

Let’s start with John Stumpf, Wells Fargo CEO.

8-5: Advertisement

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

After the Storm, Paul Drew

Because I still get requests for this memoir of the Vietnam Era and my participation in it, I have ordered a second printing. It has arrived.

Colonel David Hackworth, the most highly decorated soldier in Vietnam, now deceased, was kind enough to read my manuscript and then endorse this book. He wrote:

The Vietnam War betrayed a generation of Americans who fought the war in the trenches and in the protest rallies and homecomings. Drew tightly captures it all and beautifully sums up for those of that doomed generation: “We, the people, must never let that happen again.” A powerful and important book. A must-read to understand what went wrong during a very bad war.

How to Order

To order After the Storm or any of the titles listed on the side of this blog, simply send an e-mail with your name and address. I will send you the book(s) C.O.D. with my mailing address. E-mail address is:

charleson@optonline.net

Publisher’s Summary

I submitted my manuscript under the title Betrayed. That is the way I felt, and that is what I thought the book was about, betrayal of a generation. After having a professional reader look at the ms., the publisher asked if it was OK to change the title to After the Storm. Here is the back cover blurb:

As a 19 year-old draftee, Paul Drew could never have predicted the impact that combat and the underlying mood of the nation would have on himself and his fellow soldiers. These were soldiers who fought not directly for their families, homes, or to enhance their professional military careers, but principally to just get back home.

Thirty-five years later, the social stigma still stings for most Vietnam vets, “they were drug-addicted baby killers–drones behind a war that was an embarrassing mistake and failure.”

After the Storm is not Drew’s diary from combat, but honest observations about his generation, the career politicians and those responsible for the conduct of the war, and the events that laid the groundwork for the state of the nation today–a nation that still has yet to learn to hate war but respect its warriors.

Drew examines the strategy and the policy that unfolded. The arrogance of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who in his self-proclaimed brilliance reduced soldiers into business-like assets. Drew confronts his continued feelings of betrayal and the consequences of still trying to catch up and emerge once again as American citizens.