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Jan. 26, 2018. From the Peace and Justice Works (pjw.info) Iraq Affinity Group:
To Oregon’s Congressional delegation: Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader and Greg Walden and Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden:
We are writing to urge you to put an end to the US war in Yemen and support for the Saudi-led war there.
In December, all five members of Oregon’s House delegation voted to support H. Res. 599, calling for a political solution and pointing out that there is no Authorization for Use of Military Force in Yemen. That Resolution passed 366-30.
In June, both Senators voted on S. Res. 42, which called to stop the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia which allow it to continue conducting the war. Unfortunately, that Resolution failed 47-53.
You are all aware that the war in Yemen has brought about one of the worst humanitarian crises on the planet. Our group watched for many years as Iraq suffered a similar fate under sanctions and bombs– in that case, launched by a coalition led by our own country.
Jennifer Newstead, a nominee for legal advisor to the State Department, admitted that US law prohibits American assistance to countries which block the flow of humanitarian aid (Foreign Policy, December 19). Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Tim Lenderking said there is no military solution to the war in Yemen, calling instead for “aggressive diplomacy” (Al Jazeera, December 22).
Since our entire delegation has already shown its support for the people of Yemen, Peace and Justice Works calls upon all seven of you to take the following steps:
1) Make this matter a focus of any public appearances, especially media appearances.
2) Take steps to strengthen the resolutions by creating or supporting legislation (such as H. Res. 81) that would stop:
a) the flow of arms to Saudi Arabia,
b) the use of American aircraft to help refuel Saudi planes,
c) the use of US drones and ground troops (confirmed by NBC on December 20), which only add more fuel to the flames of conflict in Yemen.
3) Ensure humanitarian aid is supported financially and can find its way to the Yemeni people.
We look forward to your prompt responses.
Dan Handelman, Wayne Haythorn and other members of
Peace and Justice Works
Lecture on Eliminating Nuclear Weapons at Oregon State University.
“The Future of Nuclear Weapons: Can They Be Eliminated?”
Jan. 29, 3pm, OSU Memorial Union, Journey Room 104
Lecture by Ambassador Tom Graham Jr. At a time when North Korea and the United States confront one another, and their leaders threaten the use of their “nuclear buttons,” is there a way to end the nuclear threat?
Ambassador Thomas Graham Jr. is a former senior US diplomat and Acting Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Lightly Catered. Free and open to all.
Hosted by OSU School of History, Philosophy & Religion.
The duopoly succumbed to the war machine, while organized resistance got pushed to the fringe.
“Imagine there’s no heaven…and no religion too.”
A more useful line when it comes to our current wars may be “Imagine there’s no duopoly.” It’s hard to fault John Lennon for his idealism, of course. In his day, many blamed religion on the wars of history. But a much bigger obstacle right now, at least in the U.S., is partisanship. The two major political parties, in power and out, have been so co-opted by the war machine that any modern anti-war movement has been completely subsumed and marginalized—even as American troops and killer drones continue to operate in or near combat zones all over the world.
Aside from the very early days of the Iraq war, the anti-war movement has been a small, ineffectual pinprick on the post-9/11 landscape. A less generous assessment is that it’s been a bust. After liberals helped elect the “anti-war” Barack Obama, the movement all but disappeared, even though the wars did not. By putting a Nobel Peace Prize-winning Democratic face on his inherited wars, Obama expanded into new conflicts (Libya, Syria, Yemen) with little resistance, ultimately bombing seven different countries during his tenure. By 2013, Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin lamented, “We’ve been protesting Obama’s foreign policy for years now, but we can’t get the same numbers because the people who would’ve been yelling and screaming about this stuff under Bush are quiet under Obama.”
It’s easy to blame the military-industrial complex, the corporate media, and the greed and malleability of politicians. But what about the anti-war movement itself? Why has it failed so miserably, and can it revive as President Donald Trump continues the wars of his predecessors and threatens new ones?
The rallies and protests in the early 2000s attracted significant numbers but they were weighed down by far-left organizations like the World Workers Party, which brought with them myriad other issues beyond war like global warming and poverty. There was also long-held and fairly broad skepticism about the intentions of United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, which organized most of the big protests over the last 17 years. This was due to the “big tent” affiliations of some of their steering committee members, which critics say led to a dilution of the message and drove the anti-war movement further from the mainstream.
Perhaps the movement’s biggest weakness was that it shied away from directly attacking its own—the liberal Democrats who voted for the war in Congress.
In a sense, Democrats did emerge as the de facto anti-war party during the Iraq war, but that was only because a Republican—George W. Bush—was commander-in-chief. And what of the Democrats who voted for the war and continued to fund it? Out of 77 senators who supported the resolution authorizing military force against Iraq in 2002, 20 are still in office and roughly half are Democrats, while out of the 296 votes in favor in the House, 90 are still in office and 57 of them are Democrats. Some of them, like Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, went on to become party leaders. Two others, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, went on to become secretaries of state and their party’s nominees for president in 2004 and 2016 respectively. All went on to support new military interventions and regime changes, albeit under a new, liberal interventionist, Democratic banner.
Conversely, steadfast non-interventionist Democrat Dennis Kucinich, who voted against the resolution, failed badly in both his 2004 and 2008 attempts at his party’s presidential nomination. Bottom line: Support for the war was hardly a deal-breaker for voters, any more than opposition to it was a dealmaker.
Reaction to war is just a microcosm of the political landscape, a manifestation of partisan-driven, short-term memory. Sure there might have been momentary disapproval, but when it came time to decide whether supporters of the war stayed or went, the sins of one’s party leaders meant very little in the zero-sum game of electoral politics. Parties outside the duopoly be damned.
The same thing happened to the anti-war right, as the Ron Paul movement took off in 2008 with an immense level of grassroots energy. One of the singular successes of his movement was the ability to reach people on an intellectual and practical level about the folly of our foreign interventions and the waste, fraud, and abuse of tax dollars. Paul didn’t shy from criticizing his own party’s leaders and actions. He explained the Federal Reserve’s relationship to the monetary costs of war.
Ultimately, media blackouts and distortion of Paul’s message (for example, conflating his non-interventionist foreign policy views with “isolationism”) helped kill his campaign. After Paul’s 2008 defeat, conservative political activists seized upon the Texas congressman’s libertarian-leaning revolutionary momentum and channeled it into the Tea Party—while leaving the non-interventionist impulses behind. By 2011, national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin acknowledged, “On foreign policy probably the majority [of Tea Party Patriots] are more like [hawks] Michele Bachmann or Newt Gingrich.”
And don’t underestimate how the escalation of drone warfare during the Obama presidency muted the anti-war effort. Drone attacks made fewer headlines because they supposedly caused less collateral damage and kept U.S. troops out of harm’s way, which was portrayed by administration officials and the war establishment in Washington as progress.
What the drone program did, in essence, was to create the illusion of “less war.” Nevertheless, studies showing an increase of terrorism since the beginning of the “war on terror” indicate precisely the opposite: Civilian drone deaths (not always reported) create more enemies, meaning more of our troops will be put in harm’s way eventually.
So where should the anti-war movement go from here? Perhaps it should begin by tempering its far-left impulses and embracing its allies on the right who have been made to feel unwelcome. They could take a lesson from right-leaning places like Antiwar.com and TAC that have long been open to writers and activists on the left.
Meanwhile, flying “Resist Trump” signs at rallies not only misses the mark by suggesting that our needless wars aren’t a bipartisan, systemic problem, but creates a non-inclusive atmosphere for anti-war Trump voters. Ironically, not much “resistance” was heard when Democrats recently helped pass Trump’s $700 billion 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and failed to repeal the original post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force, as was advocated for by Senator Rand Paul this year.
In addition, the few on the anti-war left who oppose war based on pacifist or religious reasons need to acknowledge that the majority of Americans believe in a strong national defense as outlined in the Constitution. Most people are willing to accept that there’s a big difference between that and the terrible waste and tragedy that comes with waging unnecessary wars overseas.
They are also averse to their lawmakers doing favors for special interests. Focusing on the money and influence that giant defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Boeing have on Capitol Hill—essentially making war a business—makes the anti-war point by raising the issue of crony capitalism and the cozy relationship between politicians and big business, which increasingly leaves the American public out of the equation.
These corporations, along with Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, have accounted for $42 million in contributions to congressional candidates since 2009, with $12 million in the 2016 cycle alone. The majority of these funds have targeted Armed Services Committee members, such as perennial war hawk John McCain. In addition, influential neoconservative think tanks have received millions in grants over the years from “philanthropic” organizations such as the Bradley Foundation and the Olin Foundation, which have corporate backgrounds in the defense industry. The conservative Heritage Foundation is reportedly considering the vice president of Lockheed as its new president.
Furthermore, mantras and slogans like, “you’re either with us or against us” and “support our troops” have been used as powerful psy-ops to create a false dichotomy: you either support the war policy or you’re not patriotic. Debunking this by pointing out how these wars profit the elite while serving as a pipeline that puts more American military servicemembers—often from working-class backgrounds—into harm’s way should appeal to the current populist spirit on both sides of the political fence. In fact, it could begin to draw new, disenchanted voters into the movement.
Americans today are tired of war, which is good, for now. Unfortunately, without a strong anti-war movement, there won’t be much resistance when the next “big threat” comes along. The two major parties have proven to be false friends when it comes to opposing war—they only do it when it suits them politically. Moving beyond them and becoming stronger with allies and numbers—imagine, there’s no parties—is the best way to build a real opposition.
Daniel Martin is an anti-war activist, musician, and rock journalist from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter @MartysInvasion.
Viet Nam Full Disclosure
VFP Discussion Session, Odd Fellows Hall, Corvallis
4 October 2017
Veterans For Peace, Linus Pauling Chapter, Corvallis and the Odd Fellows World Forum hosted a discussion about the American War in Vietnam following the airing of the Ken Burns documentary series on PBS. We invited the public, but especially veterans who had spent time in country or in direct support of the war and those who were active in the antiwar movement during the war.
The Corvallis Gazette-Times covered the discussion in their October 5 edition here.
We set up the forum as a “Fish Bowl” discussion, with chairs arranged in two concentric circles. The inner circle was initially reserved for vets and resisters who began the discussion. Later, other attendees were invited to join the inner circle and the discussion.
Bart Bolger of VFP Corvallis (vfpcorvallis.org) began by introducing the purpose and procedures for the forum.
The Veterans For Peace national project, Vietnam Full Disclosure began in response to the US government “commemoration” of 50th anniversary, started in 2008 under President Obama and scheduled to run through 2025.
The Ken Burns documentary has brought the topic into the public and afforded an opportunity to examine veterans’ personal experiences, the war resistance, and US foreign policy and national leadership then and now. The “Full Disclosure” 28-page newspaper published and recently updated by VFP is an excellent resource. Copies were available for handout at this forum. More are available on request from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Introductions began with Vietnam vets, conscientious objectors, and war resisters in inner circle, followed by all participants in outer circle, many of whom had very close ties to the American War in Vietnam…parents, deferments, etc., or other wars.
The following are very brief highlights of some of the participant’s comments. They will not be attributed by name, for privacy reasons.
The military draft during the war was a disruption of the entire society, not just individual lives. Before there was a lottery, no one of a certain age knew what was going to happen. Nerve wracking for everyone.
Many participants admitted to being uninformed about and unengaged with the war as it was being conducted and event since then. It was very common among the general public that most people didn’t know much about what was going on, or don’t have strong memories.
Many Vietnam vets were reluctant to watch the Ken Burns series—too painful. But the Burns series did explain—to a very limited degree, according to several participants—what was going on with the government leaders and the politics involved, e.g., the history of our early involvement in SE Asia.
Discussion of what was an “imminent” threat—whether the Vietnam was really justified.
Don’t have regret or guilt if you didn’t serve. Biggest problem is with government, not fellow peers.
Need to demand integrity from elected officials. We have the power, but must demand and use it to pressure elected officials to follow public will.
Moderator offered this quote from the narration of Burns’ episode one for comment:
America’s involvement in Vietnam began in secrecy. It ended 30 years later in failure, witnessed by the entire world. It was begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War miscalculation.
The war was something that very rich people made others do so that they could profit. Started waking up after he was in country. Felt bamboozled. Why are we here? Parallels to today.
Saw heroin addiction, homicides, suicides—what he really saw was that the war was a lie. When he came back, people didn’t believe what he said about Laotians, Cambodians, and other attempts to bear witness. When you give information that threatens someone’s core belief, there arises an instinct to disbelief.
Amount of combat is inconsequential when you talk to the civilian South Vietnamese. If you want to know the truth, you have to break your own heart. Saw many atrocities—war itself is an atrocity. War was mass murder.
Since end of WWII, U.S. has bombed 30 different countries. Citizens don’t want to know, and will not believe it is true because it violates their core beliefs. My Lai was not an aberration. In a war without aim, you tend not to aim.
Felt fortunate that he was actually fighting Viet Cong in the DMZ, and not civilians in the south. There was more than one Vietnam. Country is as divided now (then?) as it was during the Civil War. Sees things more in grey than black and white.
As a protestor, view of the country divided. His CO decision divided his family. Had to get letters of support to prove to the draft board that you were a CO. Could not get letters from his parents or friends. Later parents changed their opinion. Lost friends. He was protesting, but not radical. Investigated by government—basically kidnapped—taken away by 6 agents in unmarked car. Thinks the country is still divided. There is no resolution. Still fighting about that war.
Enter into a war in “good faith.” He had good faith when he entered. Senior NCO sent the message about Gulf of Tonkin. If they’re dead they are VC. Same thing that Iraq vets say now.
COs had to be opposed to all wars, not just some wars. There has never been a good war.
Lot of omissions in Burns series. No mention of opium. Kept pounding “Communists” as something evil—not just N Vietnam, but also Russia, China, etc. Money was the driver in continuing the war. Wasn’t discussed at all in the film. Everyone has a voice, but we have to use them to express our power.
The notion that they combatants are equals is false. There are predators and there are victims. When you plan to invade, first send in the missionaries, then protection for missionaries…mission creep.
Repetition. Politicians lie. People die. Now in Iraq, Afghanistan, more people die.
What are the tools we use to keep these things from happening again? Must speak up.
Enter wars even knowing that they can’t be won. Vietnam and Afghanistan…?
[VFP newspaper] Vietnam Full Disclosure is still echoing the lie that Kennedy was no different from Johnson. CIA assassinated Kennedy and rolled back all of Kennedy’s policies. JFK signed an executive order to prepare to pull out of Vietnam.
Criminalize the dissenters. Good protesters and bad protesters. Vietnam vets were not spit on—that was a myth. Not a single documented case, except by construction workers spitting on dissenters in Boston and NYC. In Corvallis, Vietnam vets were at the heart of the antiwar efforts. Try to divide natural allies. Vietnam vet recruiters on campus [OSU] were abused. There was a subtle distancing from Vietnam vet. Only one or two old friends even wanted to talk. Suicidal tendencies make it a lot worse. Launched rounds randomly. Killed couple hundred people—feels guilt and has been suicidal. But very disheartening for vets who kill people with no good reason. Takes your soul away.
The military-industrial complex is self-perpetuating machine. Have to consume product to keep it going.
Ego of president was also a driver of the war.
Does Burns ever talk about the Hmong people? Another omission. Didn’t’ cover the draft either, which had a lot to do with the ending of the war.
Mistreatment of Vietnam vets was more by conservatives who were angry that the veterans didn’t “win.” [Participant’s father was a Vietnam vet.] Her anger is directed not at the soldiers, but at the civilian leadership.
Agent Orange—was illegal to use in the U.S. [for agricultural purposes] at the same time it was used in Vietnam because the dangers were well known.
Young person: three things. Father did not have close relationship with his father, but had a clear memory of conversation of him saying “it’s all about the tin.” [referring to natural resources in SE Asia] Second: On C-Span recently heard proposal that non-mandatory service the civilians of the country do not have enough of a stake to really care. Draft would actually be a deterrent. One thing the government learned is that the draft does not work. Now the strategy is to encourage the narrative of honor and duty. How do we make civilians feel like they have a stake in war? Third: Connection to war has been as a student—to vets: how can we best support you? Take care of the vets coming home now.
Strategy to keep public quiet—don’t televise.
People don’t know that 18 year old men still have to register for selective service.
Worried that highest levels of our current government are being held by former high-ranking military officers.
Does the Burns documentary tell the full story…accurately?
Beginning September 17, 2017, PBS (Oregon Public Broadcasting here) will air the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick series on the American war on Vietnam or as they call it, “The Vietnam War.”
Based on the film trailers and interviews with Mr. Burns, it appears that he will paper over some of the worst foreign policy decisions, lies intended to deceive the American public, and military atrocities ever commited by the US government.
The Corvallis Linus Pauling Chapter joins many other VFP chapters across the country to push back against the Burns narrative by conducting a public forum on October 4 to discuss what could have been more accurately represented and how to create a more enduring, accurate record of the war. See the flier for that forum at the bottom of this page and please visit our Facebook event, especially if you are near Corvallis and can participate and invite your friends to do so.
We are led in this effort by several VFP Vietnam veterans who have compiled a list of initial talking points for use while watching and discussing the documentary series. The cover letter for those talking points follows here and this is a link to the full talking points paper.
VFP Talking Points
August 20, 2017
To VFP members:
[Follow this link to] PBS’ brief descriptions of the 10 episodes along with concise, documented talking points you can use when participating in local PBS panels, making public statements or doing news interviews. In addition to the brief talking points and discussion questions, we’ve provided excerpts from important publications that provide deeper insight and further documentation.
This paper will help you authoritatively address issues raised in the PBS series and answer fundamental questions about the war, such as:
• What was the US motive?
• What was the motive of the Vietnamese enemy?
• Did the US mistakenly stumble into the war?
• Were US intentions honorable?
• Who was most responsible for the suffering of the civilian population?
• Why did the US lose?
• What are the basic lessons of the war?
VFP’s role in this national discussion is extremely important.
We need to explain that VFP, and hopefully much of the nation, is moving beyond the important but noncontroversial “healing and reconciliation” suggested by Burns’ and Novick’s series to an understanding that we must face uncomfortable truths that will challenge the myth that America is exceptional and always on the good side [emphasis added]. If those truths are ignored, any discussions on Vietnam will be hollow. Review VFP’s Statement of Purpose. It will help guide your discussions.
VFP has created a second set of talking points, not to replace those above, but to augment them.
This project is bigger than a documentary series.
The US government is conducting a series of events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war. You can be sure, with #45 in the White House, the history of the war will be revised significantly. This may be the last chance for Vietnam veterans to set history and future generations straight on what really went down.
Veterans For Peace also produces a newspaper called Vietnam Full Disclosure, which has just been updated. It is available for download and purchase here and will be available in hard copy at our October 4th Corvallis forum.
The Vietnam Full Disclosure site is a great resource with the most recent updates on the Burns film, news, and historical data.
If you would like to engage more fully in the Vietnam Full Disclosure discussion, please join the Full Disclosure google group by logging into a valid Google account, visiting the group here, and asking to join. They are very responsive.
Use the hashtag, #VietnamTruths.
Flier for the Corvallis forum, October 4, 2017:
Linus Pauling chapter, Corvallis is trying to put together a public forum to discuss the film series. Please stay tuned.
Vietnam will be revisited starting September 17th by a Ken Burns documentary series. Greg Laxer is a Vietnam-era army veteran who refused to go to Vietnam on principal, and was subsequently court-martialled for this. It affected his entire life, and even as he ages, he has not softened his critical views of state misuse of power. Now he has observed how our country has made war a perpetual venture in bringing “peace and democracy” to all parts of the world….- but it is still the same old war. In this discussion he shows his concern that Burns may use his prestigious reputation as a documentary film maker to obfuscate the real disaster that war was.
Many of our readers are Vietnam veterans and this is an invitation to hear from them and other veterans on what their assessment of post-Vietnam official policy is. As a veteran of WW II…
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