From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Sat May 12 2001 - 18:31:57 EDT

  • Next message: radman: "[sixties-l] Vietnam! by Ted Glick"

    May 10, 2001
    issue of Workers World newspaper



    By Stan Goff

    I don't know whether former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey of
    Nebraska ordered the execution of 15 Vietnamese women and
    children in 1969. I suspect he is dissembling with the story
    that they were caught in the crossfire.

    My own military experience tells me that 15 people don't get
    killed outright in the crossfire of a single, short, small-
    scale firefight. The odds against it are astronomical. Most
    times when everyone on the losing side dies in a combat
    engagement--combat veterans who are honest will tell you--
    executions likely took place after the outcome of that
    combat was already resolved.

    On April 23, 1971, as a member of Vietnam Veterans Against
    the War, future Massachussets Senator John Kerry, whose name
    and background are so similar to Kerrey's that it had me
    confused for a day about the Kerrey story, testified to the
    U.S. Senate that U.S. troops he knew "had personally raped,
    cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable
    telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut
    off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians,
    razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, shot
    cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally
    ravaged the countryside" and that "[t]hese were not isolated
    incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with
    the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."

    (It helps to be there, for it to be tactile, visceral.
    Kerry's repugnace for violence against civilians was swept
    away by--what? Democratic Party loyalty?--when he supported
    the bombing of Yugoslav civilian targets during the NATO
    aggression in the Balkans. Life on the inside of bourgeois
    politics is a slippery slope for a conscience. Pragmatism
    and opportunism become unfocused and indistinct.)

    So I don't know whether Bob Kerrey is telling the truth
    today, but I can assure you that John Kerry told the truth
    on April 23, 1971. I was a machine gunner with the 173rd
    Airborne Brigade in a mountain range we called the Suikai on
    that day. All that he was describing to the comfortable
    white men of the U.S. Senate was still taking place in
    Vietnam at the very moment of his description.

    Bob Kerrey says he is ashamed. I have to believe that, too.
    But I don't think our shame is enough. Military people,
    especially that minority who have actually been the
    combatants, who take that first baby step of comprehending
    the poisonous lies of the American military fetish, have a
    duty to go beyond mere shame. We must witness. And we must
    interpret. Kerrey's foray into the Mekong, and the My Lai
    massacre, and No Gun Ri in Korea, and the current lethal
    sanctions against Iraqi civilians, and the violation of
    Yugoslav sovereignty, and the financing and advisement of
    the bloodthirsty Colombian Army and their drug-trafficking
    paramilitary allies.... These are "not isolated incidents
    but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full
    awareness of officers [and political officials] at all
    levels of command."

    The truth has ever been the same. The cover stories have
    ever been the same. The job of penitent veterans must be to
    assault the denial that these cover stories market to the
    public consciousness and conscience.

    Even as many of our own people go without, we have
    acquiesced before a government in the thrall of corporate
    money and power that has appropriated $300 billion for what
    is euphemistically referred to as "defense." The U.S.
    military establishment is a monstrous thing, put to
    monstrous purposes, and we who were the instruments of that
    establishment--if we are to reclaim our own humanity--must
    come forward and help Americans understand what is done in
    their name.

    We must be the blasphemers, because that gives others
    permission to confront the orthodoxy of reverence before
    "warriors." Your children who go, as I did, into the armed
    services, are being made tools--or worse--for an
    organization whose sole purpose is to employ violence
    against those who threaten the dominance of those who are
    dominant, and against those who would tell the submissive
    that they need not submit.

    We often worry about sending our children to die, but we
    should also worry about sending our children to kill.

    I hope Bob Kerrey can find it within himself to explain
    this. I hope he can come to terms with it.

    The women and children who died in the Mekong on February
    25, 1969, do not have the living luxury of shame and
    reassessment. The most any of us can do for them now is tell
    their story, in all its truthful brutality, and tear down
    the walls of denial that stand between a people and their
    [Stan Goff is a Vietnam veteran living in Raleigh, N.C. He
    served for 24 years in the military, largely in the Special
    Operations field. He worked in Vietnam, El Salvador,
    Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Grenada,
    Somalia and Haiti. He is the author of "Hideous Dream: A
    Soldier's Memoir of the U.S. Invasion of Haiti" (Soft Skull Press, 2000)].

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