Left Justified: Democrats and veterans in Boston

Well, I'm going to be in Boston at the start of the Democratic convention. I'll be going to the national Veterans for Peace convention that just happens to start four days before the Democrats get into town. Veterans for Peace is what its name implies—a group of ex-soldiers and sailors who don’t like war. They don’t like war because they’ve been in one too many of them. I know what you’re thinking—it’s just another peace group. You are wrong! Really, these men and women have a whole different attitude toward war, born of the sight of blood and guts.

Some of the guys are veterans of World War II, the last “good” war. They mainly fought a long, terrible fight, and most don’t want another one, which this time might start the end of the world. There’s a whole host of folks my age, men and women who were sent to Southeast Asia. The Vietnam War was probably the most divisive war in our history. Heck, 50 percent of those returning soldiers were against that war, and the ones who were for it thought it was poorly managed, had little justification and no end gain.

The organization, Vets for Peace, has been around for quite a while, but it’s gotten a new lease on life, especially from the Iraqi veterans returning home. Some of them don’t like the war the way it’s being fought now, and a few think we never should have gone in. Let me tell you, it takes a bit of gall and courage to stand up and oppose your government during wartime. It wasn’t too long ago that they would’ve been called traitors and thrown into jail, and I’m sure there are some people today who feel the same way. But thank God, this is still a democracy, and we have freedom of speech. And when the veteran speaks, a lot of people listen.

So we Vets for Peace are going to be meeting in Boston, trying to figure out how to oppose the Iraqi war without sounding like a bunch of terrorist supporters. And we’re going to be doing that just before the Democrats come into town and nominate an ex-veteran for president who protested the Vietnam War, the very same war where he earned three medals of honor. Times sure have changed!

I don’t expect much change with any change of regime here at home. I think John Kerry will have to run Iraq pretty much how it’s been run right now. Maybe he can bring in the international community. Maybe he can convince the Iraqi people that we aren’t just after their oil. Maybe he can convince the Arab world we’re not out to kill all the Muslims. Then again, maybe we’ve gotten ourselves into a terrible jam, and nobody will have a good answer outside a million soldiers for occupation, or nuclear weapons.

So I’ll be in Boston during the hottest part of the summer. It’s not as colonial a town as the history books make it out to be. A lot of concrete and steel surround the historical buildings of the Revolution. There is a modicum of public transportation, and I’ll be housed at Emerson College in the midst of where all the action will be. People have been very supportive. It’s going to be an expensive trip, and I’ve gotten funds through Rockford Urban Ministries, from family and friends (Thanks, all!).

I hope to write a report from Boston and get it to this newspaper in time for next week. Otherwise, you’ll hear from me in two weeks. Please have a safe and happy summer, and keep an eye on the television screens for any outside peace agitators. I might be one of them.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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