Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Lieberman, Lamont, Bush, Israel, Iraq, Vietnam, Justice: Part Three

Lieberman, Lamont, Bush, Israel, Iraq, Vietnam, Justice: PART THREE

It soon became apparent after I returned to the US in July 1964 from my stint in the Peace Corps in India that I was going to be drafted into the Army. I found work as a graphic designer at Dow Jones but by January 1965, I had to go into military service. I was inducted on January 20, 1965, the day of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s inauguration as President. He had defeated Barry Goldwater in the November 1964 elections. In his campaigning, Johnson promised to get out of Vietnam. Yeah, right!

Educated, affluent young men were running for cover to avoid the draft and going to Vietnam. Men like President Bush, Vice President Cheney and former President Clinton. When in the Peace Corps, volunteers like myself were made to understand that serving in the Peace Corps was no substitute for the draft and possible induction into the military after serving as a volunteer was possible. The Peace Corps was only four years old in 1965 and I felt I didn’t want to dishonor my PC service by dodging the draft. Many told me I was being foolish.

I went through basic and signal school, both at Fort Gordon, Georgia. I was almost strangled to death by a devotee of Haiti’s Papa "Doc" Duvalier in basic. I found it funny that in Peace Corps training, we had to run the mile in seven minutes, but in Army basic training, we had to do it in eight minutes. Signal school was eight weeks long with a class graduating every week. For the first six weeks, the graduating classes went to Korea. For the seventh week they announced that they didn’t know where this class was going. In everyone’s mind it was Vietnam. And sure enough, after I graduated I learned that that class did go to Vietnam. At the graduation ceremony for my eighth week, they announced we were going to Germany, if you can believe that.

I found the military to be just as educating as the Peace Corps, populated by some very dedicated soldiers. These were people that would defend us, and I found them impressive, draftees and enlisted men particularly. The non-commisioned officers at the E-6 and E-7 level and up were very dedicated to their jobs. Men like First Sergeant Russell Pearl Painter, Jr. served us well. The officers at the second and first lieutenant level were like children. I still remember Lieutenant Huber leaning against the wall reading his comic books. He did it all the time.

In the Army I learned small and very important lessons. An example of a small lesson is that when crossing the choppy Atlantic in a troop ship and you hear someone beginning to throw up just behind you in a ship’s corridor, walk faster. The biggest lesson of all was that almost none of the enlisted men had gone to college or graduated from college. In my company of 150 enlisted men in Germany, only one was a college graduate. Me. I felt that these youngsters were being sacrificed by those college kids that had run like cowards to avoid serving in the military.

I was stationed in Darmstadt, Germany. If I sat on a park bench in the town square, invariably an elderly German would get up and move away. American soldiers were that popular with them. German men about our age would attempt to pick fights with us on trains because American soldiers didn’t speak German. I dated an American woman for a while and I took her to a chamber music concert in downtown Darmstadt. The Germans in the audience were very pleased to have us there. We were the only Americans in the audience. You just can’t take the Peace Corps out of a former volunteer.

The Enlisted Men’s Club was up a steep hill through the woods. Almost every night we would attempt to navigate ourselves down that hill carrying a glass of beer. Most of those glasses never made it. For Thanksgiving 1965, we held a party in my five man barrack’s room. It was all drinking, no cranberry sauce in sight. Suddenly a taxi pulled up and the company drunk, Joe, weaved out of the cab and yelled up to our second floor windows: "What’s happening?" Someone yelled down about the party and told him if he wanted to come, he had to bring something. Joe brought several Mince Meat pies. Every man at that party threw up that night, some on their pillows. I have not eaten a Mince Meat pie since.

The Vietnam War was in full swing while I was in Germany. Several young troops in my company and battalion volunteered to be transferred to Vietnam. The usual reason was that someone was making time with his girlfriend back home, and if he volunteered to leave Germany to report to Vietnam, he got to go home for 30 days first to kick that guy’s butt. I always yelled at them: "Yah, but after the 30 day leave, you go to Vietnam.!!!" I never persuaded any of them not to do it. Even though I didn’t know their names then, I wanted the Bushes, Cheneys and Clintons to go to Vietnam. Not the 18 year-old soldiers safely tucked away in Germany.

I made Sergeant E-5 about three months before my tour of duty was over. I also made some good friends as I had in the Peace Corps. One of my Army buddies was my best man at my wedding in 1972.

By December 31, 1966 when I was released from active duty at Fort Dix, transported to Grand Central Station in New York City and asked how many babies I had killed in Vietnam on the train home, I knew that I had a unique perspective on serving your country. That ultimately led me to found Southfarm Press to publish military history and memoirs and be an advocate for soldiers and veterans.

By the way, did you know that yesterday, August 15th, was the 61st anniversary of V-J Day? Did you also know that none of our POWs, our guys held for years as slave laborers by the Japanese for three to four years, never received compensation from the Japanese or the American government. POWs of the Japanese from Canada, the Netherlands, Australia and Britain were all compensated by their home governments because the Japanese wouldn’t. Not our government, the bastards. I’ll wrap this up in my fourth and last installment, tying in Lieberman, Lamont, Iraq and Israel. Most of all I want you to understand what I mean when I say justice..—Walter Haan,

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Lieberman, Lamont, Bush, Israel, Iraq, Vietnam, Justice: Part Two

Lieberman, Lamont, Bush, Israel, Iraq, Vietnam, Justice: PART TWO

Because of the poverty that I witnessed in the Rochester, New York neighborhood where I went to college, I became interested in joining the Peace Corps. I applied for and took the Peace Corps test early in my senior year at RIT. Within two weeks of graduation, I was accepted as one of the first 5,000 volunteers.

Approximately three months after graduation from RIT, I found myself in India after a short training session in Illinois. I had never before been outside of New York State.

My two years in India was to become my important education. I taught printing production and graphic design at a government of India Printing Technology College in Allahabad, India. But my life in India taught me about the real world for most of its people.

Like many Peace Corps volunteers in an undeveloped country, I battled heat and disease and witnessed poverty on an unprecedented scale in my life. When two PC Volunteers would get together, the first question was usually about how our bowels were. We seemed to always have dysentery. I dropped from 145 pounds to 110 pounds in three months and stayed at that weight for the rest of my stay in India.

By my second year there, I found I could visit Indian friends and students in their homes and villages and not request special treatment concerning food and water. By the third day of my visits the gas pains would start and I’d say that I needed to get back to work at my school in Allahabad. That way my hosts wouldn’t be embarrassed to learn that I had become sick in their homes.

On trains I slept in luggage racks and on the floors or tables of train stations like everyone else. I was attacked by a coolie on the train platform at Margao, Goa. Jawans (Indian soldiers) came to my rescue. On one nine hour train trip from Allahabad to Jabalpur, I rode standing up for the whole trip. On another trip in second class, I heard Indians complaining that as an American I should be in first class so as to not contribute to the crowding in second class.

While traveling on trains doing 60 miles an hour, someone would invariably knock on the doors from the outside begging to be let in. Crowds of people would travel on top of the trains and hang onto the sides of coaches. Train compartments, clearly marked for 60 person occupancy, would hold at least double that amount. Itinerant salesmen would climb through windows at train stations and hold the occupants of the compartments hostage for their pitches. If I was lucky, I was in a luggage rack.

I rode my bicycle everywhere in Allahabad, passing elephants, cows (sacred in India), millions of bicycles, tongas, bicycle rickshaws, the occasional car and numerous speeding trucks and buses. At night I had to be careful not to hit Indians squatting on the roads in the darkness. There were no streetlights.

When I went to Calcutta, I stepped carefully over the families sleeping on the sidewalks at night. The trolleys didn’t seem to ever stop in Calcutta. They just slowed down at stops to allow passengers to jump off or to take a running leap to get on. Otherwise they would have been swamped with people.

I visited many Hindu temples, big and small. I was invited to worship in a Muslim mosque and did my best to be respectful.

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963 while I was in Allahabad . Everyone was understanding and supportive. In spite of their circumstances, I found Indians to be friendly and helpful.

When I returned to the USA in July 1964, my life and opinions about the world, world problems such as the Arab-Israeli conflicts and justice for all were changed forever. (Continued) –Walter Haan,

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lieberman, Lamont, Bush, Israel, Iraq, Vietnam, Justice: Part One

Lieberman, Lamont, Bush, Israel, Iraq, Vietnam, Justice: PART ONE

Today is a big day in Connecticut. Ned Lamont beat Senator Lieberman in the Democratic primary held yesterday on my birthday. It is a great birthday gift. Back in 1974 I received an equally nice birthday gift when President Richard Nixon announced on August 8th he would abdicate the presidential throne on August 9th.

I’ve been taking a lot of flack recently about my positions regarding the Israel-Hezbollah War and the United States war on Iraq and our occupation of it. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to explain where I’m coming from concerning my views.

My opinions had their birth while I attended college from 1958 to 1962 in Rochester, New York.

I graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1962. At that time, RIT was an urban college, located in the western slums of the city. The police were always around, busting the mostly minority local population for a variety of offenses. RIT students were occasionally mugged and RIT’s buildings were a hodgepodge of old buildings. The men’s dorm, for example, was the old Manger hotel on the corner of Main Street and Plymouth Avenue.

In my last two years there, a debate developed concerning the future of RIT. Should it stay in downtown Rochester? The city was willing to take over everything by way of eminent domain to give to the school for a rebuilding program. Or, should the college pick itself up and move away to ten rolling acres of land ten miles south and build a new college? The school chose the second choice.

I lived in broken down apartments during that time. We were awakened nightly in one of them by a light that would suddenly come on. It was caused by the refrigerator door opening on its own because the kitchen floor slanted at such a sharp angle. While living in these apartments, I became acquainted with Loretta Williams, a woman in her sixties who worked for the police department as a clerk.

Several years later, long after I had graduated, Mrs. Williams wrote me about what had happened after RIT moved its last equipment from the neighborhood. A riot broke out. The people left behind looted buildings and attacked people indiscriminately. Mrs. Williams son came, helped her retrieve her possessions, and moved her to safety.

That is what happens when you abandon people, leaving them no hope. I went back to Rochester in 1997 for a wedding and took a drive to the old neighborhood. The hotel/dorm was still there, taken over to house homeless people, who were congregating on the sidewalks. Most of the other buildings were gone. After 25 years, there was no improvement in the neighborhood. It had gotten worse. The same is true in Palestine, Lebanon and Israel. (Continued in PART TWO)---Walter Haan,

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Don't believe everything you read in The New York Times

Don't believe everything you read in The New York Times or on its Web Site. Yesterday on the Web Site it ran an article about NATO taking over in southern Afghanistan. I wrote them a correction for the piece but it's not going to run it. So I'll publish it here:

"Regarding today's AP article on your Web Site about NATO taking over in southern Afghanistan, AP wrote: "The NATO alliance's southern deployment includes some U.S. troops, effectively making (British) Lt. Gen. Richards the first non-U.S. general to command American forces in combat operations, officials said." Not true. In early 1942, British and Dutch military leaders commanded American forces in combat. British Field Marshall Sir Archibald P.Wavell was in overall command of ABDA Forces (American, British, Dutch, Australian) fighting the Japanese. British Air Chief Marshall Sir Richard Peirse was in command of all Allied air forces and Dutch Vice Admiral Conrad Helfrich was in charge of the Allied navies beginning February 15, 1942. Dutch Rear Admiral Karel Doorman commanded the Allied fleet (which included the USS Houston and four American destroyers) in the Battle of the Java Sea on February 27-28, 1942."

The New York Times frequently prints inaccuracies or shows its bias when reviewing books and movies. --Walter Haan,