For my summer vacation, Im visiting veterans conventions. Not the normal beer-bashing, right-wing parties presidential candidates are trying to get into. No, the conferences I go to are with veterans who are still fighting. They are still fighting TO END WAR!
In Chicago, I reminisced with Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). VVAW was founded by Jan Barry and a dozen vets who opposed that war and wanted to bring their buddies home. Extricate their behinds, so to speak. In 1967, protests were flaring up on college campuses. Many of these troopers marched with, and were welcomed by, the anti-war demonstrators.
Support came from some World War II and Korean veterans who hadnt given up on a world without war. Support each other, and find a voice, older vets said. Soon, there were thousands, and demands were easy: end the war, bring their buddies home, and take care of the woundedboth mentally and physically. Tactics varied from leaflets, letters to the editor, campaigns and elections, to demonstrations, patrols where vets went into American towns on search and destroy missions to give a taste of what the Vietnamese lived under.
John Kerrys congressional testimony and soldiers throwing their medals back at Congress were the most vivid images Americans may have of the GI Movement to End the Vietnam War (Google that).
So these old farts (now in their 50s and 60s) were in Chicago celebrating the 40th anniversary of the founding of VVAW, patting themselves on the back, but also apologizing to the 30 or so Iraq vets who were there.
Thats right, there are American soldiers returning from Iraq who think their war stinks, and we should extricate their buddies ASAP. A panel of these angry young veterans said theyre using tactics we Vietnam vets used, and were more than happy to help.
Heres something else you can Google: Iraq Vets Against the War. They face the same flag-waving politicians who wrap yellow ribbons around the billions of dollars for war, and forget about the soldiers when they return.
Ill be going to St. Louis in a week, where the largest peace veterans organization will meet. Vets for Peace include soldiers from all the wars, especially from Iraq.
You see, our leaders should have used brains to go after the bad guys who brought down those New York City buildings. Our president could have worked harder to catch the criminals, investigate the crimes, capture the fugitives, dragged them before legitimate courts, and restored some civility to this world. Instead, they did the lazy thing and sent in the military. They sent soldiers into Iraq to bomb and kill people who had nothing to do with the Twin Towers, but who had a lot of oil under their sand.
The soldiers are now returning home despite stupid attempts of Bush and Congress to extend their tours. Most vets just want to get on with their lives, but some are going to St. Louis with other vets of other stupid wars (and some not so stupid).
They will imbibe, and tell war stories, and make new friends and toast those left behind. But these veterans will also try to stop what made them veterans. Former soldiers will go into battle one last time to end the most destructive habit of humans.
We wont see the end of war. Hell, we might not even stop this mess Bush and our congressman have gotten us into. But this is the beginning of the end, and those who scoff are like the supporters of slavery, who scoffed at Frederick Douglass or Susan B. Anthony. At least, we hope so.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.
from the Aug 8-14, 2007, issue