Tag Archives: Vietnam War

Ten Years In Afghanistan


The U.S.-led Afghanistan war is 10 years old today. As Americans protest on Wall Street and even Wichita, the longest war in our history passes quietly.

On Oct. 7, 2001, President George W. Bush told Americans that “their patience would be tested in the months ahead.”

Ten years on, there are more than 10 times as many U.S. troops there as when the war began. And a majority of Americans now say the war is not worth fighting.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Almost half of the population of Afghans is younger than 15 and have little or no firsthand memories of the day. Older Afghans seem to feel the war, which ended Taliban rule, has moved beyond its original intent.”

Although President Obama plans to withdraw 10,000 troops this year, few people know the facts.  Numbers like these;- $1.28 trillion,- 1,801 U.S. troops killed, 11, 200 Afghan civilians killed. These numbers, even when seen and heard, have little effect on people today.

Are we so desensitized by ongoing war, political bickering, and the world’s poor economy that we forget? 

Didn’t we go there with intentions to make the world a better place and help those oppressed by the Taliban?

Of course, I do not have the answers, only doubts and questions. I do know one thing in my heart; might, power and money do not make anyone’s point of view more correct than another’s, but only serve to hide the truth…. and, history repeats itself.

PRAY FOR PEA CE

This is a poster that hangs in my bedroom. It’s the real thing, printed in 1969.

For those readers who are not old enough to remember, there was something you don’t see today; real, honest reporting directly from the war-front & great journalism by people like Walter Cronkite, always accompanied by the nightly “body count”.

vietnam

Printed at the bottom: All statistics from Department of Defense – March 1, 1969

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10 Years of 9/11 Wars is Enough


Media caution and skepticism are in short supply.

Peter HartBy Peter Hart

The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is sure to bring televised images of somber reflection. Looking back is, in some ways, easier for commentators and pundits than wrestling with the current state of Washington’s so-called “war on terror.”

The United States is mired in two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with undeclared drone bombing campaigns in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Launching these wars was fairly easy for the White House, with or without congressional approval. How any of them ends, though, remains unclear. Even the NATO war in Libya, which by many accounts has “ended,” could become more chaotic and bloodier in the very near future.

(Defence Images / Flickr)

The shift from Washington’s time-limited military adventures that followed the Vietnam War — the relatively brief conflicts in Grenada, Panama, Somalia, and Kosovo, for example — to today’s seemingly interminable and endlessly multiplying military commitments is one of the most notable, yet little noted, features of the post-9/11 landscape. Regrettably, too many mainstream journalists seem all too willing to encourage Washington’s new “permanent war” footing.

The Iraq War, we’ve been led to believe, is the one that’s ending, if it’s not already over. Last summer’s withdrawal of combat troops was treated in the press as the conclusion of a very long war. But this summer the news tells a different story: Obama administration officials are lobbying the Iraqi government to hammer out an agreement that would allow U.S. troops to stay beyond the end of the year.

One newspaper called this a “vexing problem” for President Barack Obama, since he’ll have to explain why he’s extending a war he vowed to end. And recent upticks in bombings in Iraq inevitably trigger worry about how dangerous it will be for U.S. troops to leave. This is a strange conclusion, given that this violence is happening while troops are on the ground, and, of course, much of the violence in Iraq is a result of U.S. troops being there in the first place.

Similarly confused rhetoric defends the U.S. war in Afghanistan, where readers are asked to wonder what sort of horrors would take place if U.S. troops were to leave. The White House has a “withdrawal” plan, we’re told; “Obama Moves toward Exit from Afghanistan” was one headline after he gave a speech this summer. A newspaper article called it the “beginning of the end” of the war.

But the facts tell a different story: Even if the White House withdraws troops according to its proposed schedule, by 2012 the number of U.S. troops still fighting that war will be higher than when Obama took office. It’s downright strange to call that the “end” of anything.

Never-ending war has a domestic component too, of course. Massive police and law enforcement resources have been dedicated to racial and ethnic profiling, along with dubious terror “busts” that often turn out to be little more than schemes to goad people into talking about taking actions they probably wouldn’t undertake on their own. As Mother Jones magazine recently revealed, many of the domestic terror prosecutions since 9/11 have been the result of a dramatic increase in the use of informants and undercover operatives posing as would-be terrorists seeking to incite others to action. But each new “terror bust” is treated as big news, one more victory in the “War on Terror.”

After a decade of false alarms and fizzling terror plots, you’d think the media would be more skeptical of government warnings — and perhaps even exercise a little restraint. But then in July came word of a new al-Qaeda threat: terrorists who will sew explosives inside themselves. It was dubbed a “nightmare scenario” on NBC Nightly News. More cautious analysts pointed out that the difficulties in actually pulling off such a stunt would be considerable. But in a seemingly endless war on terror, media caution and skepticism are still in short supply.

Peter Hart is FAIR’s activism director. www.fair.org

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OLD THINGS part 2


 This “old thing” is a poster that I’ve had since I was a kid. I’m not sure where it came from. For those readers who are not old enough to remember the draft, be very glad. I was 15 years old when the Vietnam War finally came to an end. The thing I will always remember is something you don’t see today. Real, honest reporting directly from the war-front. Great journalism by people like Walter Cronkite, and of course….the nightly “body count”.

vietnam

Printed at the bottom: All statistics from Department of Defense – March 1, 1969

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Vonnegut’s Blues for America – by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


Editor’s note: This was written during Geroge W. Bush’s Presidency (2006). We will never know what Kurt would have written about our current administration, or especially the global depression caused by the greed and selfishness of America’s ‘ruling class’. Sadly, Kurt passed away on April 11, 2007. Though he was a dissident to the end, Vonnegut held a bleak view on the power of artists to effect change. “During the Vietnam War,” he told an interviewer in 2003, “every respectable artist in this country was against the war. It was like a laser beam. We were all aimed in the same direction. The power of this weapon turns out to be that of a custard pie dropped from a stepladder six feet high.” ~~~~~~~~

No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious and charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.  

Drawing by Vonnegut

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED

FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

WAS MUSIC

Now, during our catastrophically idiotic war in Vietnam, the music kept getting better and better and better. We lost that war, by the way. Order couldn’t be restored in Indochina until the people kicked us out.  

That war only made billionaires out of millionaires. Today’s war is making trillionaires out of billionaires. Now I call that progress.  

And how come the people in countries we invade can’t fight like ladies and gentlemen, in uniform and with tanks and helicopter gunships?  

Back to music. It makes practically everybody fonder of life than he or she would be without it. Even military bands, although I am a pacifist, always cheer me up. And I really like Strauss and Mozart and all that, but the priceless gift that African Americans gave the whole world when they were still in slavery was a gift so great that it is now almost the only reason many foreigners still like us at least a little bit. That specific remedy for the worldwide epidemic of depression is a gift called the blues. All pop music today – jazz, swing, be-bop, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Stones, rock-and-roll, hip-hop, and on and on – is derived from the blues.

A gift to the world? One of the best rhythm-and-blues combos I ever heard was three guys and a girl from Finland playing in a club in Krakow, Poland.  

The wonderful writer Albert Murray, who is a jazz historian and a friend of mine among other things, told me that during the era of slavery in this country – an atrocity from which we can never fully recover – the suicide rate per capita among slave owners was much higher than the suicide rate among slaves.  

Murray says he thinks this was because slaves had a way of dealing with depression, which their white owners did not: They could shoo away Old Man Suicide by playing and singing the Blues. He says something else which also sounds right to me. He says the blues can’t drive depression clear out of a house, but can drive it into the corners of any room where it’s being played. So please remember that.  

Foreigners love us for our jazz. And they don’t hate us for our purported liberty and justice for all. They hate us now for our arrogance.  

When I went to grade school in Indian apolis, the James Whitcomb Riley School #43, we used to draw pictures of houses of tomorrow, boats of tomorrow, airplanes of tomorrow, and there were all these dreams for the future. Of course at that time everything had come to a stop. The factories had stopped, the Great Depression was on, and the magic word was Prosperity. Sometime Prosperity will come. We were preparing for it. We were dreaming of the sorts of houses human beings should inhabit – ideal dwellings, ideal forms of transportation.  

What is radically new today is that my daughter, Lily, who has just turned 21, finds herself, as do your children, as does George W Bush, himself a kid, and Saddam Hussein and on and on, heir to a shockingly recent history of human slavery, to an Aids epidemic, and to nuclear submarines slumbering on the floors of fjords in Iceland and elsewhere, crews prepared at a moment’s notice to turn industrial quantities of men, women, and children into radioactive soot and bone meal by means of rockets and H-bomb warheads. Our children have inherited technologies whose by-products, whether in war or peace, are rapidly destroying the whole planet as a breathable, drinkable system for supporting life of any kind.  

Anyone who has studied science and talks to scientists notices that we are in terrible danger now. Human beings, past and present, have trashed the joint.  

The biggest truth to face now – what is probably making me unfunny now for the remainder of my life – is that I don’t think people give a damn whether the planet goes on or not. It seems to me as if everyone is living as members of Alcoholics Anonymous do, day by day. And a few more days will be enough. I know of very few people who are dreaming of a world for their grandchildren.  

Many years ago I was so innocent I still considered it possible that we could become the humane and reasonable America so many members of my generation used to dream of. We dreamed of such an America during the Great Depression, when there were no jobs. And then we fought and often died for that dream during the second world war, when there was no peace.  

But I know now that there is not a chance in hell of America becoming humane and reasonable. Because power corrupts us, and absolute power corrupts us absolutely. Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many lifeless bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.  

Human beings have had to guess about almost everything for the past million years or so. The leading characters in our history books have been our most enthralling, and sometimes our most terrifying, guessers.

May I name two of them? Aristotle and Hitler.

One good guesser and one bad one.

And the masses of humanity through the ages, feeling inadequately educated just like we do now, and rightly so, have had little choice but to believe this guesser or that one.  

Russians who didn’t think much of the guesses of Ivan the Terrible, for example, were likely to have their hats nailed to their heads.  

We must acknowledge that persuasive guessers, even Ivan the Terrible, now a hero in the Soviet Union, have sometimes given us the courage to endure extraordinary ordeals which we had no way of understanding. Crop failures, plagues, eruptions of volcanoes, babies being born dead – the guessers often gave us the illusion that bad luck and good luck were understandable and could somehow be dealt with intelligently and effectively. Without that illusion, we all might have surrendered long ago.  

But the guessers, in fact, knew no more than the common people and sometimes less, even when, or especially when, they gave us the illusion that we were in control of our destinies.  

Persuasive guessing has been at the core of leadership far so long, for all of human experience so far, that it is wholly unsurprising that most of the leaders of this planet, in spite of all the information that is suddenly ours, want the guessing to go on. It is now their turn to guess and guess and be listened to. Some of the loudest, most proudly ignorant guessing in the world is going on in Washington today. Our leaders are sick of all the solid information that has been dumped on humanity by research and scholarship and investigative reporting. They think that the whole country is sick of it, and they could be right. It isn’t the gold standard that they want to put us back on. They want something even more basic. They want to put us back on the snake-oil standard.  

Loaded pistols are good for everyone except inmates in prisons or lunatic asylums.

Kurt Vonnegut

  That’s correct.  Millions spent on public health are inflationary.  That’s correct.  Billions spent on weapons will bring inflation down.  That’s correct.  Dictatorships to the right are much closer to American ideals than dictatorships to the left.  That’s correct.  The more hydrogen bomb warheads we have, all set to go off at a moment’s notice, the safer humanity is and the better off the world will be that our grandchildren will inherit.  That’s correct.  Industrial wastes, and especially those that are radioactive, hardly ever hurt anybody, so everybody should shut up about them.  That’s correct.  Industries should be allowed to do whatever they want to do: bribe, wreck the environment just a little, fix prices, screw dumb customers, put a stop to competition, and raid the Treasury when they go broke.  That’s correct.  That’s free enterprise.  And that’s correct.  The poor have done something very wrong or they wouldn’t be poor, so their children should pay the consequences.  That’s correct.  The United States of America cannot be expected to look after its own people.  That’s correct.  The free market will do that.  That’s correct.  The free market is an automatic system of justice.  That’s correct.  

I’m kidding.

And if you actually are an educated, thinking person, you will not be welcome in Washington, DC. I know a couple of bright seventh graders who would not be welcome in Washington, DC. Do you remember those doctors a few months back who got together and announced that it was a simple, clear medical fact that we could not survive even a moderate attack by hydrogen bombs? They were not welcome in Washington, DC.  Even if we fired the first salvo of hydrogen weapons and the enemy never fired back, the poisons released would probably kill the whole planet by and by.  What is the response in Washington? They guess otherwise. What good is an education? The boisterous guessers are still in charge – the haters of information. And the guessers are almost all highly educated people. Think of that. They have had to throw away their educations, even Harvard or Yale educations.  If they didn’t do that, there is no way their uninhibited guessing could go on and on and on. Please, don’t you do that. But if you make use of the vast fund of knowledge now available to educated persons, you are going to be lonesome as hell. The guessers outnumber you – and now I have to guess – about 10 to one.  I’m going to tell you some news.  No, I am not running for President, although I do know that a sentence, if it is to be complete, must have both a subject and a verb.  Nor will I confess that I sleep with children. I will say this, though: My wife is by far the oldest person I ever slept with.  Here’s the news: I am going to sue the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company, manufacturers of Pall Mall cigarettes, for a billion bucks! Starting when I was only 12 years old, I have never chain-smoked anything but unfiltered Pall Malls. And for many years now, right on the package, Brown and Williamson have promised to kill me.  But I am now 82. Thanks a lot, you dirty rats. The last thing I ever wanted was to be alive when the three most powerful people on the whole planet would be named Bush, Dick and Colon.  Our government’s got a war on drugs. That’s certainly a lot better than no drugs at all. That’s what was said about prohibition. Do you realise that from 1919 to 1933 it was absolutely against the law to manufacture, transport, or sell alcoholic beverages, and the Indiana newspaper humourist Ken Hubbard said: “Prohibition is better than no liquor at all.”  But get this: The two most widely abused and addictive and destructive of all substances are both perfectly legal.  One, of course, is ethyl alcohol. And President George W Bush, no less, and by his own admission, was smashed, or tiddley-poo, or four sheets to the wind a good deal of the time from when he was 16 until he was 40. When he was 41, he says, Jesus appeared to him and made him knock off the sauce, stop gargling nose paint.  Other drunks have seen pink elephants.  About my own history of foreign substance abuse, I’ve been a coward about heroin and cocaine, LSD and so on, afraid they might put me over the edge. I did smoke a joint of marijuana one time with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, just to be sociable. It didn’t seem to do anything to me one way or the other, so I never did it again. And by the grace of God, or whatever, I am not an alcoholic, largely a matter of genes. I take a couple of drinks now and then and will do it again tonight. But two is my limit. No problem.  I am, of course, notoriously hooked on cigarettes. I keep hoping the things will kill me. A fire at one end and a fool at the other.  But I’ll tell you one thing: I once had a high that not even crack cocaine could match. That was when I got my first driver’s licence – look out, world, here comes Kurt Vonnegut!  And my car back then, a Studebaker as I recall, was powered, as are almost all means of transportation and other machinery today, and electric power plants and furnaces, by the most abused, addictive, and destructive drugs of all: fossil fuels.  When you got here, even when I got here, the industrialised world was already hopelessly hooked on fossil fuels, and very soon now there won’t be any left. Cold turkey.  Can I tell you the truth? I mean this isn’t the TV news is it? Here’s what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial. And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we’re hooked on.  I turned 82 on November 11, 2004. What’s it like to be this old? I can’t parallel park worth a damn any more, so please don’t watch while I try to do it. And gravity has become a lot less friendly and manageable than it used to be.  When you get to my age, if you get to my age, and if you have reproduced, you will find yourself asking your own children, who are themselves middle-aged: “What is life all about?’” I have seven kids, three of them orphaned nephews.  I put my big question about life to my son the pediatrician. Dr Vonnegut said this to his doddering old dad: “Father, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”Extracted from –  A Man Without A Country: A Memoir Of Life In George W Bush’s America.

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