Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Abuse of our military

By Walter Haan,

As I mentioned in my last post, I have read many manuscripts by veterans about their experiences. One that stands out was written by a young Puerto Rican veteran where he describes what happened to him when he first landed in Vietnam for the first time during the Vietnam War.

Having gotten off the airplane in South Vietnam, this young man was standing outside the terminal wearing his combat fatigues and carrying his rifle, probably an M-16. He was suddenly confronted by an officer who ordered him to go around to the side of the terminal building where other new arrivals were lined up facing a tall, long wall made of hedge. Ordered to get in line with the rest of the troops, he did so. All of the soldiers had their weapons and they could not see over the thick hedge or through it.

The line of soldiers was suddenly ordered to face the hedge, raise their rifles as if to fire at the hedge and then ordered to fire at the hedge until ordered to stop. All opened fire.

By this time he realized that there were Viet Cong lined up on the other side of the hedge and they were being mowed down. Upon being ordered to stop firing, our soldiers were marched away.

And this was the author's introduction to the Vietnam War.

I didn't publish the young man's memoir because it was poorly written and would have required a complete rewrite to make it publishable. But I have never forgotten this scene. I have been haunted by it ever since. The author was certainly haunted by it.

Now that we're mired in Iraq and Afghanistan and have been flooded with stories of abuse against innocent Iraqis and Afghanis by members of our Armed Forces, I can't help but be angry that our young men and women have been put in such positions. They receive no cultural education about the peoples and countries they find themselves thrust into. And so they consider everyone around them in the foreign country as a potential enemy, a Raghead, instead of being thought of as humans like us with the same concerns, likes and worries that we have back in our civilian worlds.

Two days ago, Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced 35 articles of Impeachment in the House. When he started to speak, there was audibly noticeable conversations and shuffling nearby. Kucinich had to point out to the Speaker that the house was not brought to order. Speaker Pulosi pound her gavel again and finally quiet was achieved. This is a symbolic moment that speaks volumes about Americans not paying attention, not attempting to bring President Bush to the dock for his crimes that have put our young people in peril based on lies.

On Saturday night, June 7th, I attended a rally for Ralph Nader in Middletown, Connecticut. There were only about 50 people in the audience but Nader gave a rousing one hour speech and took questions afterwards. He quoted Cicero: "Freedom is participation in power."

But we seem powerless to stop our participation in the armed conflicts in Iraq. The Bush government right now is attempting to force Iraq to accept 57 permanent American bases in Iraq. And so, our government will continue to expose our military young men and women to unnecessary danger for who knows how long. This is a further abuse of our military and its members. --Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,


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