What Should We Do?
Veterans have failed to stop or even slow this horrible war. Is it
time for something new?
As veterans we have marched against this war, joined nonveterans at
demonstrations, lobbied Congress, held a symposium in the nationís
capital, given speeches throughout the country, argued on a zillion
Internet forums and wrote endless articles for websites as well as
newspapers, all to no effect. Now almost two years into this horrible
war, Americans remain indifferent about what we have to say, even as
the war turns bloodier.
In May 2003 when President Bush proclaimed an end to major combat
operations there was an average of 17 U.S. combat deaths a month, now
the average is up to 82 U.S. combat deaths per month. We have no
averages for Iraqis, but we do know many, many thousands have died, and
continue to die everyday, and die in much larger numbers than our
Although the Bush Administration is hyping the recent elections as the
beginning of the end, Iraq is not a developing democracy, it is an
escalating war: from only a war against foreign occupation to one that
includes a full-blown civil war. In war power resides not with the
ballot but with the gun, and in Iraq the gun is demanding a wider, more
So what can American military veterans do? Or, maybe, we canít do
anything? We do know that what we have been doing has been ineffective.
The nation media has essentially ignored us, except for token
appearances of the rare vet. Retired generals, paid by the media
corporations, monopolize the voice of veterans on television networks
and cable news. Sure newspapers consult us on Post Traumatic Stress and
contact us on Veterans Day, but not on the explosive issue of war and
peace. National radio is mostly right-wing and pro-war, it has no time
for us anytime.
Our military experience means nothing to those who control the media,
we now know this. And our wisdom learned in past wars and this war will
continue to be ignored by the public. Without the national media
amplifying our voice, without it delivering our message to the public,
we are talking to only ourselves. So why have more demonstrations, give
more speeches, write more pleading letters -- why do anything when
Americans are not hearing?
And yet, we canít forget. Nor erase the nearly 1,500 Americans
soldiers killed in this latest unnecessary, immoral war. The more than
10 thousand Americans wounded. And, we are told, the 100,000 Iraqis
killed. Isnít there something veterans can do?
There might be one thing. In the past -- the Civil Rights and
Anti-Vietnam War movements in particular -- this was successful for
breaking through the wall of corporate media and shaking Americans out
of their sleep. Iím talking about civil disobedience. Acts of
nonviolent resistance to get ourselves arrested. Veterans arrested at a
sit down on a Washington street; veterans arrested outside the
Pentagon; veterans arrested in small towns throughout this country.
Then photos of veterans would then appear on the front page of
newspapers and film footage would be shown on the evening news,
veterans demanding our troops be brought home. It wonít make us
popular, many Americans will be angry, but being arrested will grab the
national headlines and our voice will then be heard, unlike now.
And this just might shake Americans out of their current stupor. How?
By raising the ugly specter of Vietnam. By linking what tore America
apart and ended in utter failure over three decades ago, the Vietnam
War, to the floundering Iraq War. By making clear to Americans that
serious trouble is now brewing in the homeland, the war has come home.
By bringing back the memory that when America kills its sons and
daughters for a war that is immoral, then military veterans will not
stand idly by. They will come into your living rooms demanding we bring
our troops home.
Our message will remain the same, the same as it has always been, but
arrested in acts of civil disobedience will give wings to our demand to
bring the troops home now!
What do you think?
=1006 If you would like to reply to this commentary, please send an
email to [email protected]:
Stewart Nusbaumer is editor of Intervention Magazine. He served with the U.S.
Marine Corps in Vietnam on the DMZ. You can email Stewart at [email protected]
Posted Sunday, February 6, 2005