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Veterans Day, and the Attempted Erasure of Our Vietnamese Brothers & Sisters

Veterans Day, 2023

The renowned historian Howard Zinn was a brilliant and inspiring man who was also a great teacher. He taught me to question, and then helped to change the way that I see the world. 

Yesterday was Veterans Day in the United States, and like Independence Day, I really felt nothing other than shame, sadness, and anger. Although feelings of outrage can never be sustainable, they can be useful. During times of pure madness, which are becoming more routine, thanks to apathetic Americans, and the abhorrent US War Machine, I often turn to great teachers for guidance. 

Here is a part of what Howard Zinn had to say on the subject of Veterans Day (from 2002):
“The first World war was sold to the American public as “the war to end all wars.” But twenty-one years later came World War II, in which fifty million people were killed. The United Nations was formed, as its Charter says, “to end the scourge of war which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.” But no, it’s been war after war for the United States: Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Yugoslavia. All accompanied by claims that we were at war for some good cause, all resulting in the loss of human life, all demanding acceptance of the government’s reasons for war, most of which turned out to be lies. We should have learned from Vietnam that true patriotism does not mean marching off to war just because the government tells you to. Those 58,000 names on the Washington memorial should make that clear.

As a veteran of World War II, as a student of the history of our wars, and contemplating still another war, I suggest we keep certain things in mind. First, that we must be extremely skeptical of whatever government officials tell us about the reasons for going to war. Second, that what is certain about war is that large numbers of innocent people will die, including many children, and what is uncertain about war is that any good will come of it. Finally, that when you go to war, you assume that the lives of people in another country are not as valuable as the lives of your own countrymen. If we really believe, as our most fundamental moral principles demand we believe, that the children in other countries have as much right to live as our children, then we must refuse the call to war. It is time, by public demand, by general outcry, to end “the scourge of war.” The best thing we can do for Veterans Day is to pledge: “No more War Veterans.”
Click here for the entire piece from Howard Zinn.

Have you ever heard of the US military’s propaganda program called “The Wall That Heals, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Replica and Mobile Education Center”? Apparently, it is a 53 foot trailer that is a self-described “mobile education center.” I had never heard of it, but I recently encountered this monstrosity in a New York City public park. While 1 in 5 US households are food insecure, and 60% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, the bloated US military budget ($1.1 trillion, or 62% of our federal discretionary budget that is designated for militarized programs), allows for a ton of money to be spent on propaganda in an effort to re-write history, and glorify war. The mobile unit should be called, “The Wall that Steals, Vietnam Veterans Re-Education Center”, as it is an absolute sh*t show that distorts the truth, and completely dishonors the millions of Vietnamese people who were killed (and continue to suffer and die), due to the lies and criminal actions of the US War Machine. How so? The millions of  Vietnamese people who were murdered or injured are not even mentioned!

The United States is “The Greatest Purveyor of Violence in the World Today” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Why are so many Americans dangerously dense, and indifferent, when it comes to history, and the criminal actions of the United States? Disinformation campaigns like “The Wall that Heals”, or rather steals, provides insight.  

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” – Nazi politician, and war criminal, Joseph Goebbels

I.F. Stone famously said that “All Governments Lie”, and the United States, never missing a beat, has turned lying into an art form. President Joe Biden is not just a war criminal, but a chronic liar too. I found it funny when he suggested during a recent speech that the Palestinians were inflating the casualty numbers in order to gain more sympathy. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up.

I learned only 10-12 years ago that the estimated number of Vietnamese civilians killed during the Vietnam War ranged as high as 2 million, which directly contradicted the official US government estimates of 30,000 (the huge difference in actual/official numbers is true with Iraq too). I knew that all governments lied, and just chalked it up to another egregious and offensive example. I didn’t realize however, until I read the excellent book, Scofflaw: International Law and America’s Deadly Weapons in Vietnam, by Ariel S. Garfinkel, that the Vietnam War has not ended for the people of Vietnam.

According to Ms. Garfinkel, in its decade of participation in the War, the U.S. dropped 7.66 million tons of bombs in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia combined), which is 3 times the amount that was used on Europe and the Pacific during WWII. Of the five million tons dropped on Vietnam itself, a notable percentage failed to detonate (estimates put the range between 10-30%), and they continue to maim and kill civilians to this day. The U.S. also planted the soil of Vietnam with landmines and other ordnance, many of which never detonated, and remain live, often exploding on human contact. The injuries and deaths that continue to occur go largely unrecognized by the international community.

The U.S. Air Force also sprayed more than 20 million gallons of biocides throughout Vietnam in an effort to destroy crops that could be used for food, and to remove forest cover (two-thirds of the toxins were Agent Orange). This exposed close to 5 million Vietnamese to dioxin, which is recognized as one of the most toxic substances known to science. Dioxin impacts people by altering their DNA, and civilians can be indirectly exposed through contamination of crops and seafood.

The U.S. pulled its military abruptly in the mid 70s, but the remaining ordnance and biocides have continued to kill Vietnamese civilians (many of whom are children), to this day. Since the final departure of the U.S. from Vietnam in 1975, more than 100,000 Vietnamese civilians have been injured (60,000) or killed (42,000) by UXO (unexploded ordnance) explosions. U.S. military deaths for the entire War are estimated to be over 58,000.

The United States has been denying, and to a large extent ignoring international and moral laws. In fact, according to Ms. Garfinkel, so prevalent is the presence of UXO in Indochina that at the current rate of cleanup, it would take 3 centuries to clear the land of explosives. The US has mostly avoided responsibility (refusing to remove its live weapons from Vietnamese soil and even consider reparations responsibilities), and has so far, contributed far less than 1% of what would be required financially for such a serious undertaking (the small amount of money that has been appropriated by the US is largely due to the efforts of Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont).

Considering both treaty law, and international law, Ms. Garfinkel explains that the overwhelming evidence is that the US violated International laws of war with the types of weapons it deployed in Vietnam, and with their indiscriminate use against civilians. Think about that for a second. Indiscriminate use against civilians. And the U.S. response? Nothing.

Keep Sleepwalking America. Silence is Violence, and Some Things Never Change

“As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.” – Noam Chomsky

I was lucky enough to visit our Vietnamese brothers and sisters a few years ago, and they could not have been kinder or more friendly. Many parts of Vietnam were as beautiful as its people. And the plant-based food? Amongst my favorites of all time. Wow, indeed. And yet, the suffering, and War itself continues in Vietnam (some 50+ years later), and unsurprisingly, most Americans don’t care. And another occupant in the White House is lying, and once again picking fights with other countries, including Russia, China, Iran, and even Palestine, in an effort to manufacture even more profitable wars for the wealthy few.

If we lived in a just society, US President Joe Biden would be hanged for “complicity in genocide”, in addition to his other war crimes, and crimes against humanity. According to professor and attorney, Marjorie Cohn, “Netanyahu, Gallant and other Israeli leaders should be charged with genocide in national courts and the ICC. Biden, Blinken, Austin and other U.S. leaders should be charged with complicity in genocide.”
Click here to learn more on why Israeli and US leaders must be held accountable for the genocide of Palestinians.  

Joe Biden is a WAR CRIMINAL, and he is going to get away with it because America really has no soul. He could end Israel’s US backed genocidal massacre of Palestinians at anytime. We know it, and he knows it, but he still chooses to lie, and pretend, and say that there is “no possibility” of a Gaza cease-fire. Think of the level of detachment and arrogance it takes to be responsible, like Joe Biden, for the ongoing mass murder of more than 10,818 Palestinians, including 4,412 children (as of this writing), and still make that kind of statement. 4,412 CHILDREN, and counting! Let’s not forget too that Genocide Joe (Biden) was also one of the architects of the illegal US invasion and occupation of Iraq, which killed millions of innocent people. And speaking of millions, there should be millions of US citizens in the streets demanding a change, but it will likely never happen. Too many Americans love consumerism, celebrity worship, their favorite sports teams, and hating on others, way too much to be bothered.

When will we learn?

“Never in history has violence been initiated by the oppressed. How could they be the initiators, if they themselves are the result of violence? Violence is initiated by those who oppress, who exploit, who fail to recognize others as people – not by those who are oppressed, exploited, and unrecognized.” – Paulo Freire

According to Vijay Prashad, the latest US military budget is not $858 billion, but actually $1.5 trillion, when we add in the money that goes towards nuclear weapon development and maintenance (war expenditures that are conveniently left out of the military budget). These enormous “nuclear” costs are instead buried in the Department of Energy budget. Can you imagine? The US government spends more than $1.5 trillion each year, on both weapons and its 800 military bases around the world (the US outspends the next ten countries combined on its military, including both Russia and China). “The U.S. Department of Defense”? Please. As per Vijay Prashad, “You can’t tell me that the US government is spending this kind of money on Arms for no reason.”

The United States scares me more than any other country on the planet, and it is not even close. It is by far the biggest threat to the survival of our species. Shame on the United States of America. I am not religious, but I “pray” for our brothers and sisters in Vietnam, Iraq, Palestine, and everywhere else, who in the past, present, or future, have been, or will be, ravaged by the US War Machine. In the words of Howard Zinn, “the best thing we can do for Veterans Day is to pledge: No more War Veterans.”

Until next time…

*Main Image: Family – My Lai Massacre, Vietnam 
*Animated Images: Carlos Latuff & CODEPINK (Genocide Joe portrait)

Click here for a link to the game changing book, Scofflaw: International Law and America’s Deadly Weapons in Vietnam.
Click here to learn more about Ariel S. Garfinkel, and human rights.
Click here to learn more about how the bombs remain in Vietnam.
Click here for Noam Chomsky & Vijay Prashad’s superb book, Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of US Power.
Click here to learn more from Noam Chomsky.
Click here to learn more about the connections between animal consumption and wars. 
Click here to learn more about the Vietnam Veterans against the War.
Click here to learn more about Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech against the Vietnam War. 

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