“They watch the news, see young men dyin’,
They watch ‘em bleedin’ Lord ‘n’ listen to ‘em cryin’,
And if they’re normal, if they can see,
They just reach out and change the channel on their TV”
—Bob Seger, “Lookin’ Back”
Trump is a coward. I took his place in Vietnam, so I should know.
I have marched for peace many times with friends who are war veterans, and others who are long veterans of the peace movement.
During the Vietnam War, when Trump faked “bone spurs” to evade the draft, the National Security State found itself to be one short on cannon fodder, so they sent me. A member of the peasant class, I was expendable. Trump loved the war up to the point of actually risking his own leisure class ass.
Although Trump now says he opposed the war, I can find no evidence of his taking that position during the most unpopular war in US history. He says he didn’t protest the war because “I had other things to do.” Ostensibly, peasants such as myself do not have other things to do, so we can be sent to be blown to bits in support of the Trumpian plutocrats who are the only ones who actually want and benefit from war.
Trump lies that he also opposed the Iraq War, but NBC News says he supported that war in 2002 and again in 2003, before it was widely discovered that the war was based on lies (My own daily email, LUV News, reported that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the illegal invasion, citing the world’s foremost experts on Iraqi weapons, as the entire mainstream press stuck to the martial deception).
Trump has appointed the most militaristic national security team the USA has ever had. Bolton and Pompeo are war mongers who are deceptively leading us toward war with oil countries Venezuela and Iran.
Tom Engelhardt explains, “Trump is expanding America’s wars, not ending them. He’s failed to deliver his promised withdrawals from Afghanistan and Syria, vetoed an order to get out of Yemen, and expanded the U.S. bombing of Somalia, all while eyeing Iran.”
Press coverage has been on Trump’s calling off his own attack on Iran, but more should be made of his threat to “completely obliterate” Iran. What could possibly be a reason to do such a thing to any country?
My heroes are those who oppose war, which is the only sane approach to it. Those who stand up to the warmongers have suffered greatly, often beaten and jailed, and sometimes murdered for that position.
Martin Luther King Jr. appeared to know where it would get him when he said, “I may not get there with you.” He had called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” not long before the bullet tore into his flesh. He opposed the Vietnam War and the massive military spending, eloquently. His own family never believed the official explanation of who murdered him, and neither do I.
Muhammad Ali was a hero of mine for refusing to be drafted and go to Vietnam. He was a hero because he legitimately opposed the war, and because everybody knew he could have had an easy two years in the military. The Army would not risk having someone as famous as Ali get shot (imagine the blow to recruiting), so he would have served in promotions, doing exhibition fights with other boxers, perhaps appearing in USO shows with the likes of comedian Bob Hope.
“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America,” he said. “And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. … Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people?”
“There are only two kinds of men,” Ali said, “those who compromise and those who take a stand.” For taking this courageous stand, he was stripped of his Heavyweight Champion of the World title and left with great difficulty of taking care of his family.
What bothers me is the ruling class people who support wars—people like Trump—as long as the peasants do the dying. Vietnam was fought for the plutocrats, after all. But Trump, who inherited wealth to become a part of the American ruling class, wouldn’t risk war himself. Trump now rattles the saber at Venezuela and Iran, nations that have done absolutely nothing to deserve such threats.
I was an ignorant kid who knew almost nothing about what was happening in Vietnam when I was sent into the meat grinder. Nothing in my life had prepared me for understanding. My working class father voted Republican, because Eisenhower was a Republican and like he, a World War Two vet. I didn’t even know there was a peace movement, as I was sent before it surged, in 1966.
The Stars and Stripes newspaper in Vietnam was so full of propaganda that by comparison the Wall Street Journal is objective on national security matters. I didn’t know that the South Vietnam government was a corrupt cesspool hated by its people and forced down their throats by old fashioned imperialism. Most of us went in order to avoid prison (we also had the choice of suicide, taken by thousands of vets of that war since, and if you’ve seen the horror, you know why, as you can never get it out of your head).
My old friend Tony Russo, who went to prison for his role in producing the Pentagon Papers that he always said brought down the Nixon regime, used to give me his position on what the Vietnam war was all about. I had lunch with Tony weekly for years, during which time he would opine about the roots of the war, of which few Americans are aware.
Tony was in Vietnam when I was there, in 1966, but we never met there (by 1967, when I left, there were nearly 500,000 troops there). Congress was unaware, the military cheated on strength figures, I kept them and knew about the lies. With such numbers people didn’t know each other, and troops constantly rotated back to the States and to other oversea bases, so during the course of the war there were about three million Americans in Vietnam all told, counting people like Tony, who worked then for the Rand Corporation.
Tony’s take was that the mistrust between the USA and Vietnam began with World War Two, when the Vietnamese fought with the US against Japan. By war’s end, the Vietnamese expected the US to take their side and recognize their independence. Instead, the US betrayed them and accepted a return of French colonialism over them.
By the 1950s, the UK, France, the USSR and China agreed to temporarily divide Vietnam into what became known as the Democratic People’s Republic (North) and the Republic of Vietnam (South), after which it was agreed there would be elections and the country would be unified.
The United States, as an observer to this, did not like the agreement, because everyone knew that if such an election were held, Ho Chi Minh would have won, as he, along with his masterful general Giap, was the leader who’d defeated the French Foreign Legion at Dien Bien Phu, creating the potential for Vietnamese independence.
Ho, betrayed by the West, had found allies in China and the USSR, without whom none of the Vietnamese people probably would have achieved their freedom. So, in effect, Tony thought the US, ironically, had forced Vietnam into the “communist” camp.
In any case, a corrupt government was propped up in the South, and the US faked an attack in 1964 on one of its naval ships in the Gulf of Tonkin as a casus belli for war. The whole thing was a lie preventing an outbreak of Vietnamese democracy.
Make no mistake about it, wars against socialism are fought on behalf of the plutocrats, those billionaires who finance our elections and control the mainstream press. If we were attacked by a socialist nation and conquered, our poor and working classes would likely be better off when one considers that one in five children go hungry part of every year in the USA, and it takes the largest prison population on earth for American capitalism to function.
Clearly, it is the wealthy who fear socialism. They are wealthy because they do not share, and they are generally filled with hatred and delusion, willing to kill millions, as they did in Vietnam, in order to keep socialism from having a chance to compete. The likes of Trump are the biggest supporters of such wars.
Billionaires like Trump are vampires on our people, sucking dollars away from the homeless, hungry and working class (whose wages peaked in 1973). When will they have enough? When one of them has all the money and the rest of us starve to death? If all the billionaires and their heirs died today, the world would be a better place for most tomorrow. Without these greedy bastards we wouldn’t need a military larger than the next ten nations combined, and we could settle differences without war, since the pressure for war comes from them and the government-heading butt-kissers they rent with campaign financing.
In Vietnam, I was under fire often, with such fear beyond fear that it really requires a new word. Those who order wars never see the bleeding or hear the screams. I have given thanks for the insane roar of battle when it hid the screams of my comrades, to keep me from going entirely mad.
The Democrats seem unable to locate an issue with which to oppose Trump. May I suggest the truth? The single image Trump has promoted is flag-waving hero of the Republic. The evidence proves he is a coward for avoiding a war that benefited his class. When he calls out “Crazy Bernie” or “Pocahontas,” they should return a “Brigadier Bone Spurs.”
Most of that which the American people see of political candidates flows in capitalist-controlled propaganda, so the best chance to beat Trump is with a tweak of the variance permitted. Logical debates are not allowed, the truth would bring down the system. You can’t beat Trump with anything more advanced than disparaging fourth grade rhetoric—it is the way of things now.
Jack Balkwill has been published from the little read Rectangle, magazine of the English Honor Society, to the (then) millions of readers USA Today and many progressive publications/web sites such as Z Magazine, In These Times, Counterpunch, This Can’t Be Happening, Intrepid Report, and Dissident Voice. He is author of “An Attack on the National Security State,” about peace activists in prison.