Vietnam Full Disclosure Discussion Notes

Viet Nam Full Disclosure
VFP Discussion Session, Odd Fellows Hall, Corvallis
4 October 2017

Vietnam Full Disclosure discussion in Corvallis, Oregon, Oct. 4, 2017. photo: Bart Bolger

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 info@vfpcorvallis.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.

Participant comments:
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.

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Vietnam Full Disclosure

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:

VFP Burns Viet Nam Flier Full

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Vietnam Redux: An Open Letter to Ken Burns

Linus Pauling chapter, Corvallis is trying to put together a public forum to discuss the film series. Please stay tuned.

The Contrary Perspective

ken-burns-vietnamVietnam 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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No War 2017: War and the Environment

You can give a boost to peace, the environment, and the collaboration of movements for both.

VFP Linus Pauling Chapter is an affiliate organization of World Beyond War and Veterans For Peace is a national co-sponsor of the event. Our chapter member, Leah Bolger, is helping to organize and will participate in the #NoWar2017 conference.

Please forward the following information to everyone you can:

**********

No War 2017: War and the Environment

September 22-24 Conference in Washington, D.C.

Just following the International Day of Peace, and in the tradition of No War 2016: Real Security Without Terrorism, and the best speech any U.S. president ever gave, this year’s conference will focus on activism, including activist planning workshops, addressing how the antiwar and environmental movements can work together.

WHO: Speakers will include: Medea Benjamin, Nadine Bloch, Max Blumenthal, Natalia Cardona, Suzanne Cole, Alice Day, Lincoln Day, Tim DeChristopher, Dale Dewar, Pat Elder, Bruce Gagnon, Philip Giraldi, Will Griffin, Tony Jenkins, Larry Johnson, Kathy Kelly, Jonathan King, Lindsay Koshgarian, Peter Kuznick, James Marc Leas, Annie Machon, Ray McGovern, Rev Lukata Mjumbe, Elizabeth Murray, Anthony Rogers-Wright, Alice Slater, Gar Smith, Susi Snyder, Mike Stagg, Jill Stein, David Swanson, Robin Taubenfeld, Eric Teller, Brian Terrell, Brian Trautman, Richard Tucker, Donnal Walter, Larry Wilkerson, Diane Wilson, Emily Wurth, Kevin Zeese. Read speakers’ bios.

Music by The Irthlingz Duo: Sharon Abreu and Michael Hurwicz, and by Emma’s Revolution, and by Bryan Cahall.

WHERE: American University Katzen Art Center

4400 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016

All events in the Recital Hall. Workshops on Sunday in the Recital Hall, and in Rooms 112, 115, 123, and 128. How to get there.

Lodging and rides board.

WHEN:
Friday, Sept 22: 7-10 p.m.

Saturday, Sept 23: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Sunday, Sept 24: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Click here to register (includes 2 catered vegan meals and a copy of the new 2017 edition of A Global Security System: An Alternative to War).

Click here to become a sponsor (includes a literature table and free registrations if desired).

LIVESTREAM:

We will use Facebook Live to stream this conference. To watch the livestream simply visit facebook.com/worldbeyondwar at the time of the conference. If you miss it you can watch it anytime later at the same page. Numerous groups around the world are organizing events to watch the livestream. You can do the same and let us know to help promote your event.

Use this flyer to spread the word about this conference: PDF.

Share on Facebook as a graphic or as a Facebook event and on Twitter.

Or share this video.

You might also like to join the flotilla for the environment and peace in front of the Pentagon on the Potomac on September 17, 2017.

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Drones Quilts Exhibited at 3 Conferences

drones quilt project


The Drones Quilt Project exhibited recently at the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Congress in Chicago, the Democracy Convention in Minneapolis, and the Veterans For Peace (VFP) Convention in Chicago. There are now 12 completed quilts, so there are enough to be displayed in more than one location at once.

Future showings are scheduled for Minneapolis, Dallas, and for the first time, outside the U.S. in London.

There are many openings in the 2018 schedule–contact Leah Bolger if interested in hosting the exhibit. leahbolger@comcast.net

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Uncle Sam’s Grisly Record of Murder and Mayhem Since 1945 by Paul Street

by Paul Street
Writer, Dandelion Salad
The Official Website of Paul Street, July 30, 2017
August 1, 2017

The United States has killed, maimed, displaced, and otherwise harmed an astonishing number of people in its 241-year record of murder and mayhem – including more than 20 million killed in 37 nations since 1945.

Direct Assault

A grisly distinction exists between those Uncle Sam has directly assaulted and those he has more indirectly attacked. Examples of direct assault are numerous and horrible to contemplate.

The history of direct U.S.-military mass killing since 1945 includes:

* The firebombing of Tokyo: roughly 100,000 Japanese civilians incinerated when U.S. bombers created the greatest firestorm in history.

* Hiroshima (146, 000 killed with a single bomb – what U.S. president Harry Truman called “the greatest thing in history”) and (80,000) Nagasaki: savagely unnecessary and arch-criminal atom-bombings carried out even though the U.S. high command knew that Japan was defeated and ready to accept U.S. surrender terms).

Read the full srory: Uncle Sam’s Grisly Record of Murder and Mayhem Since 1945 by Paul Street

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Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases

Please visit this page, sign, and share:
NoForeignBases.org

UNITY STATEMENT ENDORSEMENT FORM
Please Click Here to Add Your Signature

SEE THE LIST OF ENDORSERS

 
Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases
Unity Statement
We, the undersigned peace, justice and environmental organizations, and individuals, endorse the following Points of Unity and commit ourselves to working together by forming a Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases, with the goal of raising public awareness and organizing non-violent mass resistance against U.S. foreign military bases.
While we may have our differences on other issues, we all agree that U.S. foreign military bases are the principal instruments of imperial global domination and environmental damage through wars of aggression and occupation, and that the closure of U.S. foreign military bases is one of the first necessary steps toward a just, peaceful and sustainable world. Our belief in the urgency of this necessary step is based on the following facts:
1 While we are opposed to all foreign military bases, we do recognize that the United States maintains the highest number of military bases outside its territory, estimated at almost 1000 (95% of all foreign military bases in the world). Presently, there are U.S. military bases in every Persian Gulf country except Iran.
2 In addition, the United States has 19 Naval air carriers (and 15 more planned), each as part of a Carrier Strike Group, composed of roughly 7,500 personnel, and a carrier air wing of 65 to 70 aircraft — each of which can be considered a floating military base.
3 These bases are centers of aggressive military actions, threats of political and economic expansion, sabotage and espionage, and crimes against local populations. In addition, these military bases are the largest users of fossil fuel in the world, heavily contributing to environmental degradation.
4 The annual cost of these bases to the American taxpayers is approximately $156 billion. The support of U.S. foreign military bases drains funds that can be used to fund human needs and enable our cities and States to provide necessary services for the people.
5 This has made the U.S. a more militarized society and has led to increased tensions between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Stationed throughout the world, almost 1000 in number, U.S. foreign military bases are symbols of the ability of the United States to intrude in the lives of sovereign nations and peoples.
6 Many individual national coalitions — for example, Okinawa, Italy, Jeju Island Korea, Diego Garcia, Cyprus, Greece, and Germany — are demanding closure of bases on their territory. The base that the U.S. has illegally occupied the longest, for over a century, is Guantánamo Bay, whose existence constitutes an imposition of the empire and a violation of International Law. Since 1959 the government and people of Cuba have demanded that the government of the U.S. return the Guantánamo territory to Cuba.
U.S. foreign military bases are NOT in defense of U.S. national, or global security. They are the military expression of U.S. intrusion in the lives of sovereign countries on behalf of the dominant financial, political, and military interests of the ruling elite. Whether invited in or not by domestic interests that have agreed to be junior partners, no country, no peoples, no government, can claim to be able to make decisions totally in the interest of their people, with foreign troops on their soil representing interests antagonistic to the national purpose.
We must all unite to actively oppose the existence of U.S. foreign military bases and call for their immediate closure. We invite all forces of peace, social and environmental justice to join us in our renewed effort to achieve this shared goal.
Signed (in alphabetical order):
— Bahman Azad, U.S. Peace Council
— Ajamu Baraka, Black Alliance for Peace
— Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK
— Leah Bolger, World Beyond War
— Sara Flounders, International Action Center
— Bruce Gagnon, Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space
— Tarak Kauff, Veterans For Peace
— Joe Lombardo, United National Antiwar Coalition
— Alfred L. Marder, U.S. Peace Council
— George Paz Martin, MLK Justice Coalition; Liberty Tree Foundation*
— Nancy Price, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom*
— Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
— David Swanson, World Beyond War
— Ann Wright, CODEPINK
— Kevin Zeese, Popular Resistance
______________
* For identification purposes only.

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