You are hereVeterans
Theme: Abolish War on the Planet and the Poor
Hosted by VFP Chapter 099 Western North Carolina on July 23rd -27th 2014
The University of North Carolina at Asheville
all videos by Dan Shea
Dan Shea tells a personal story of how Agent Orange affected his life and took his son Casey and introduces an Agent Orange Facebook Page for other survivors to tell their stories and keep informed https://www.facebook.com/
Paul Cox giving update overview of our work, legislation & AO hotspots remediation clean up work being done. Paul is a Vietnam veteran and a founder of VFP chapter 69 in San Francisco. He has been working on Agent Orange since 2005 with the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign (VAORRC), a VFP National Campaign. He has been back to Vietnam thrice in recent years to investigate the lingering, disturbing effects of AO on the Vietnamese people and the environment. Susan Schnall: AO Workshop (2) VFP Convention July 2014 Susan Schnall served as a Navy nurse during the Vietnam conflict, caring for returning soldiers and marines at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital. She was tried and convicted by a general court martial for anti-war activities in 1969. She been working with the VAORRC for the past several years and has vistied Viet Nam several times. Two years ago she brought a delegation of science/public health professionals to meet with families affected by the U.S. use of Agent Orange/Dioxin during the conflict and to survey the diozin contaminated land and remediation efforts. Susan is vice president of the NYC chapter of VFP. Chuck Searcy: AO Workshop (3) Community Base Rehabilitation Chuck Searcy enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966 & served in the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion in Saigon 1967-1968. He has been living and working in Vietnam since January 1995, currently as International Advisor for Project RENEW, a mine action program in Quang Tri Province to clean up cluster bombs, landmines and other unexploded ordnance remaining along the DMZ. Q & A Discussion: AO Workshop (4)
Paul Cox giving update overview of our work, legislation & AO hotspots remediation clean up work being done. Paul is a Vietnam veteran and a founder of VFP chapter 69 in San Francisco. He has been working on Agent Orange since 2005 with the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign (VAORRC), a VFP National Campaign. He has been back to Vietnam thrice in recent years to investigate the lingering, disturbing effects of AO on the Vietnamese people and the environment.
Susan Schnall: AO Workshop (2) VFP Convention July 2014
Susan Schnall served as a Navy nurse during the Vietnam conflict, caring for returning soldiers and marines at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital. She was tried and convicted by a general court martial for anti-war activities in 1969. She been working with the VAORRC for the past several years and has vistied Viet Nam several times. Two years ago she brought a delegation of science/public health professionals to meet with families affected by the U.S. use of Agent Orange/Dioxin during the conflict and to survey the diozin contaminated land and remediation efforts. Susan is vice president of the NYC chapter of VFP.
Chuck Searcy: AO Workshop (3) Community Base Rehabilitation
Chuck Searcy enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966 & served in the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion in Saigon 1967-1968. He has been living and working in Vietnam since January 1995, currently as International Advisor for Project RENEW, a mine action program in Quang Tri Province to clean up cluster bombs, landmines and other unexploded ordnance remaining along the DMZ.
Q & A Discussion: AO Workshop (4)
By John Grant
At a birthday dinner with friends last night, the Israeli assault on Gaza came up. One friend said having to helplessly watch the violence infuriated him and made him ill. Another said it made him want to cry.
Stop the Slaughter of Palestinian Civilians in Gaza!
Members of Veterans For Peace will deliver a letter to Israel's Embassy, 3514 International Dr. NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, at 1:30 pm Monday afternoon, July 21. The letter calls on the government of Israel to immediately halt the bombing of Palestinian civilians and to withdraw all its troops and military assets from Gaza. Colonel Ann Wright, who has visited Palestine and Israel several times, will head up the delegation.
The letter reads as follows:
To: Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer
From: Veterans For Peace National Board of Directors
Dear Ambassador Dermer,
As veterans who have witnessed the horror of war, we are deeply outraged by the state of Israel's slaughter of many innocent civilians in Gaza. The military assault against children, women and men, by air, by sea and now by land, is a clear violation of international laws of war and of human rights. More than 300 Palestinians have been murdered, almost all of them civilians, nearly a quarter of them children. Thousands are wounded, including nearly 1,000 children.
Veterans For Peace joins millions of people all around the globe who are shocked by this vicious, one-sided slaughter. We understand the huge injustice of the Israeli occupation. Palestinians have been ethnically cleansed from their homes and forced to live in the Occupied West Bank, or in the open-air prison that is Gaza.
Mr. Ambassador, please tell the government of Israel to stop the massacre now! There should be an immediate end to all bombing and an immediate withdrawal of all Israeli military from Gaza.
Mr. Ambassador, please remind Prime Minister Netanyahu that you can bomb the world into pieces, but you cannot bomb it into peace.
Veterans For Peace calls for an end to the 8-year blockade of Gaza, so that normal trade and travel can occur.
Mr. Ambassador, please remind the government of Israel of the billions of dollars in aid that is provided to Israel by the United States. Veterans For Peace will push for an end to all military aid to Israel until such time as the Israeli occupation gives way to real peace negotiations based on the human rights of all the people concerned.
Veterans For Peace recommits itself to participating in the international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel and Israeli products.
We encourage all parties to search for a nonviolent path to peace. We urge both Hamas and the government of Israel to refrain from targeting civilians. We especially call on the state of Israel to stop its massive violence now. It is time to recognize the human rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to return to the homes from which they were forced to flee in 1948.
Mr. Ambassador, the peoples of Palestine, Israel and the world deserve to live in peace and harmony. The ultimate goal of Veterans For Peace is to abolish war. In the meantime, we stand ready to assist those Israelis and Palestinians who seek peace and reconciliation.
[signed] Patrick McCann, President
for National Board of Directors
VETERANS FOR PEACE
By John Grant
When lo! An angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad, . . .
Press Advisory from Veterans For Peace
216 S. Meramec Avenue St. Louis, MO 63105 (314) 725-6005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
IRAQ VETERANS WARN OBAMA AGAINST MILITARY ACTION
WHEN: Thursday June 19, 2014 (tomorrow) at 1 pm EDT
Ross Caputi is a Marine Corps veteran of the 2nd siege of Fallujah. Today he is on the Board of Directors of ISLAH (www.reparations.org) and he is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Matt Southworth is an Army veteran of the Iraq War. He currently works in Washington, DC for Friends Committee on National Legislation and he is a member of Veterans For Peace.
Tim Kahlor is the father of medically retired Sgt. Ryan Kahlor. His son served over 24 months in 2 tours in Iraq. He is a member of Military Families Speak Out.
Ray McGovern served as an Army infantryman/Intelligence officer in the early Sixties and was then a CIA analyst for 27 years. He a co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
SPONSORS: Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) , Veterans For Peace (VFP), Military Families Speak Out (MFSO)
Attention Media: On camera interviews will be available with various Iraq veterans and family members.
* Veterans For Peace is a 29-year-old U.S. based nonprofit educational organization with chapters in over 100 US cities and several international chapters. VFP members include veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as non-veteran allies. The mission of Veterans For Peace is to abolish war as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy.
Veterans For Peace, 216 S. Meramec, St. Louis, MO 63105, 314-725-6005
On ThisCantBeHappening! radio: Dave Lindorff and Vietnam Vet and Long-Time Peace Activist John Grant Discuss the Bowe Bergdahl
By Dave Lindorff
Bowe Bergdahl, the POW held for five years by the Taliban in Afghanistan who was recently traded for the release of five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, has been convicted in the halls of Congress and in most of the media as a deserter -- even a traitor or a Taliban convert -- all without any trial or even any evidence. John Grant, a veteran of the Vietmam War, where desertions were common, says it's an old story: As America's losing wars wind down, those who advocated the in the first place and pushed for their continuation try to create a "stabbed in the back" narrative to explain the humiliating defeat of US military forces.
By John Grant
I met Janet Burroway when I was a Vietnam veteran on the GI Bill at Florida State University and I signed up for a creative writing workshop she was just hired to teach. She was a worldly, published novelist seven years older than me. She had just left an oppressive husband, a Belgian, who was an important theater director in London where she’d been to parties with the likes of Samuel Beckett. I graduate in 1973, and in a turn of events that still amazes me, I asked her out and ended up living with her for a couple years. She had two beautiful boys, Tim, 9, and Toby, 6, who I grew to love.
In a campaign reminiscent of Vietnam War days, military veterans and family members will travel to ten west coast cities promoting GI outreach centers in Texas, Washington state, and Germany. The GI Coffeehouse Tour will begin in San Diego on Thursday, February 13 and end in Seattle on Saturday, March 1.
Local communities will welcome the GI Coffeehouse Tour with special eventsfeaturing poets, artists and musicians.Participants at tour stops will learn about GI coffeehouse history, find out what current-day coffeehouses do to support the troops, and join in conversations about the current state of the military and what that means for service members and their families
The GI Coffeehouse Tour will feature the work of Under The Hood Cafeand Outreach Centernear Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, Coffee Strong near Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Lakewood, Washington, and The Clearing Barrel GI Bar and Coffeehouse in Kaiserslautern, Germany, the center for U.S. military installations in Europe.
The tour will raise much needed funds for the three GI outreach centers, which provide counseling on military discharges, veterans benefits and conscientious objection to war, as well as safe spaces for soldiers to share their experiences and begin healing the psychological wounds of war.
Iraq veteran and artist Malachi Muncy will represent Under The HoodCafe & Outreach Center, along with Ryan Holleran, recently discharged from the Army at Ft. Hood. Coffee Strong will be represented by its coordinator, Alex Bacon, a Coast Guard veteran.
The Clearing Barrel GI Bar and Coffeehouse will be represented by German peace activist Meike Capps-Schubert, who is flying to California from Germany. Since 2003, Capps-Schubert has worked for the Military Counseling Network - the overseas branch of the GI Right Hotline.
“This unique tour reminds us of the key role GI's have played in ending wars,”said Iraq veteran Malachi Muncy. “It is critically important to address the complex needs of today's veterans, active duty GI's, and family members, who have suffered much from multiple deployments to the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Tour stops include San Diego (Feb. 13), Fountain Valley (Feb. 14), Los Angeles (Feb. 15), Oxnard (Feb. 16), San Jose (Feb.19), San Francisco (Feb. 21-22).; Talent, Oregon (Feb. 25), Portland (Feb. 28); Olympia, Washington (March 1) and Seattle (March 1).
Sponsors of the GI Coffeehouse Tour include Veterans For Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, War Resisters League, Military Law Task Force, Center for Conscience and War, Courage To Resist, March Forward, Center for Conscience in Action, Catalyst Project, and GI Rights Network.
For a complete tour schedule, speaker bios and photos, along with information on the three GI coffeehouses, go to the website of the GI Coffeehouse Tour.
To arrange for interviews, please contact Alex Bacon, 206-604-2285, email@example.com
or Gerry Condon, 206-499-1220, firstname.lastname@example.org
They teach you to yearn to kill, says this U.S. soldier. We would have killed lots of innocent people if we could have gotten away with it, he says. Jump to 36:23.
Are you a soldier or veteran who is supposed to have a ‘mental health’ issue such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or PTSD? If you are, then I have some suggestions for you to consider.
By John Grant
US military history from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan is too often a combination of destructive stumbling around followed by an effort to sustain and project forward the notion of US power and exceptionalism. To forge another narrative is very difficult.
By John Grant
It’s that time of the year again. Ho. Ho. Ho. There’s the urge to celebrate the Winter Solstice (AKA Christmas) with family and friends. It’s also time for end-of-the-year assessments concerning the absurdities of life in a fading empire in denial.
I'm a huge fan of peace studies as an academic discipline that should be spread into every corner of what we call, with sometimes unclear justification, our education system. But often peace studies, like other disciplines, manages to study only those far from home, and to study them with a certain bias.
I recently read a book promoting the sophisticated skills of trained negotiators and suggesting that if such people, conversant in the ways of emotional understanding, would take over the Palestine "peace process" from the aging politicians, then ... well, basically, then Palestinians would agree to surrender their land and rights without so much fuss. Great truths about negotiation skills only go so far if the goal of the negotiation is injustice based on misunderstanding of the facts on the ground.
I recently read another book discussing nonviolent resistance to injustice and brutality. It focused on a handful of stories of how peace was brought to various poor tribes and nations, usually through careful, respectful, and personal approaches, that appeased some tyrant's ego while moving him toward empathy. These books are valuable, and it is good that they are proliferating. But they always leave me wondering whether the biggest war-maker on earth is left out because war isn't war when Westerners do it, or is it, rather, because the military industrial complex requires a different approach. How many decades has it been since a U.S. president sat down and listened to opponents of militarism? Does the impossibility of such a thing remove it from our professors' consideration?
Here in Virginia's Fifth District, a bunch of us met with our then-Congressman Tom Perriello a few years back and sought respectfully and persuasively to bring him to oppose and stop funding the war on Afghanistan. Perriello was and is, in some quarters, considered some sort of "progressive" hero. I've never understood why. He did not listen. Why? We had majority opinion with us. Was it because we lacked the skills? Was it because of his sincere belief in so-called humanitarian wars? Or was it something else? The New York Times on Friday reported on the corruption of the organization where Perriello was hired immediately upon his electoral defeat. The Center for American Progress takes funding from weapons companies and supports greater public funding of weapons companies. The Democratic National Committee gave Perriello's reelection campaign a bunch of money just after one of his votes for a bill containing war money and a bank bailout (he seemed to oppose the latter). White House officials and cabinet secretaries did public events with Perriello in his district just after his vote.
I know another member of Congress who wants to end wars and cut military spending, but when I ask this member's staff to stop talking about social safety net cuts as if they only hurt veterans rather than all people I can't even make my concern -- that of glorifying veterans as more valuable -- understood. It's like talking to a brick military base.
My friend David Hartsough was one, among others, who spoke with President John Kennedy when he was President, urged him toward peace and believed he listened. That didn't work out well for President Kennedy, or for peace. When Gorbachev was ready to move the Soviet Union toward peace, President Ronald Reagan wasn't. Was that because of sincere, well-meaning, if misguided notions of security? Or was it senility, stupidity, and stubbornness? Or was it something else? Was it a system that wouldn't allow it? Was something more than personal persuasion on the substance of the matter needed? Was a new way of funding elections and communicating campaign slogans required first? Would peace studies have to revise its approach if it noticed the existence of the Pentagon?
Of course, I think the answer is some of each. I think reducing military spending a little will allow us to be heard a little more clearly, which will allow us to reduce military spending a little further, and so on. And part of the reason why I think it's both and not purely "structural" is the opposition to war that brews up within the U.S. military -- as it did on missile strikes for Syria this past summer. Sometimes members of the military oppose, protest, or even resist wars.
Another type of book that has proliferated madly is the account of military veterans' activism in the peace movement during the Bush presidency -- with always a bit on what survived of that movement into the reign of the Nobel Peace Laureate Constitutional Law Professor President. I've just read a good one of these books called Fighting For Peace: Veterans and Military Families in the Anti-Iraq War Movement by Lisa Leitz. This book, as well as any of them, provides insights into the difficulties faced by military and veteran peace activists, and military family member peace activists, as well as the contributions they've made. I've become an associate (non-veteran) member of Veterans For Peace and worked for that group and with other groups like Iraq Veterans Against the War and Military Families Speak Out because of the tremendous job they've done. The non-military peace movement needs to work ever harder at welcoming and encouraging and supporting military and veteran peace activism. And vice versa.
Different risks are involved. Different emotions are involved. Would you march against a war if it might ruin your own or a loved one's career? To stretch the definition of war-maker a little, would you take a job with Lockheed-Martin if you oppose war? What if you oppose war but your child is in the military -- would you be proud of his or her success and advancement into an elite murder team? Should you not be proud of your child?
The contributions of military and former military peace activists have been tremendous: the throwing back of medals, the memorials and cemeteries erected in protest and grief, the reenactment of war scenes on the streets, the testimony confessing to crimes no one wants to prosecute. New people have been reached and opinions changed. And yet, I want to say there is a downside.
Most peace activists have never been in the military. Most books about peace activists are about the military ones. This distorts and diminishes our understanding of what we're doing. Most victims in our wars -- and I mean statistically almost all of them -- are on the other side, but most writing done about victims is about the U.S. military ones (assuming aggressors are victims). The giant cemeteries representing the dead in Iraq are orders of magnitude too small to be accurate. This severely distorts our understanding of one-sided slaughters, allowing the continuation of the myth of war as a contest between two armies.
Eliminating war would logically involve eliminating the war-making machine, but veteran and military opponents of war, more often than others, want the military preserved and used for good ends. Is that because it makes sense or because of personal identification? Nationalism is driving wars, but military peace activists tend, more than others, to favor "good patriotism" or "true patriotism." Must a peace movement that ought to celebrate international law and cooperation follow that lead?
Leitz quotes Maureen Dowd claiming that veterans have "moral authority" to oppose war, unlike -- apparently -- those who have opposed war for a longer period of time or more consistently. Imagine applying that logic to some other offense, such as child abuse. We don't suggest that reformed child abusers have the greatest moral authority to oppose child abuse. What about shoplifting? Do reformed shoplifters have the greatest authority to oppose shoplifting? I think that in any such situation, the former participants have a particular type of perspective. But I think there's another valuable perspective in those who have opposed a crime. Some veterans, of course, were in the military before I was born and have worked for the abolition of war longer than I've breathed. I don't think their past diminishes them in any way. I also don't think it does what Dowd thinks it does.
Dowd's idea may be that some wars are good and some bad, so we should trust those who've taken part in wars to make the distinction. I'd disagree with the conclusion even if I agreed with the premise. I don't think it's a premise the peace movement should accept. Peace is as incompatible with some wars as it is with all wars.
Accounts like Fighting for Peace bring out the segregation of military from civilian culture in the United States, a product of standing armies and standing foreign bases. I once spoke on a panel with a Democratic veteran candidate for Congress who thankfully lost but who advocated for everyone joining the military so that everyone would be familiar with what the military was. I have another proposal: everyone join civilian life, close the bases, dismantle the weapons, disassemble the ships, put solar panels on the runways, and give the Pentagon a new role to play. I think it would make a fine roller skating rink.
In the meantime, we should try to understand and work with each other to reduce the military, and that requires doing so without promoting it or joining it.
Veteran’s Day is over. The sparkling parades are a vague memory, and the soaring oratory has passed. The citizenry can now return to its complacency, tossing the bright, red, plastic poppies into the trash, and picking up new ones next year.
[The illustrations in this piece come from Joe Sacco’s The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme with the kind permission of its publisher, W.W. Norton, and the slightly adapted text, which also appears in that book, comes originally from Adam Hochschild’s To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 and is used with the kind permission of its publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.]
In a country that uses every possible occasion to celebrate its “warriors,” many have forgotten that today’s holiday originally marked a peace agreement. Veterans Day in the United States originally was called Armistice Day and commemorated the ceasefire which, at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, ended the First World War.
Up to that point, it had been the most destructive war in history, with a total civilian and military death toll of roughly 20 million. Millions more had been wounded, many of them missing arms, legs, eyes, genitals; and because of an Allied naval blockade of the Central Powers, millions more were near starvation: the average German civilian lost 20% of his or her body weight during the war.
A stunned world had never experienced anything like this. In some countries for years afterward, on November 11th, traffic, assembly lines, even underground mining machinery came to a halt at 11 a.m. for two minutes of silence, a silence often broken, witnesses from the 1920s reported, by the sound of women sobbing.
Like most wars, the war of 1914-1918 was begun with the expectation of quick victory, created more problems than it solved, and was punctuated by moments of tragic folly. As the years have passed, one point that has come to symbolize the illusions, the destructiveness, the hubris, the needless deaths of the entire war -- and of other wars since then -- has been the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
The preparations for that battle went on for months: generals and their staffs drew up plans in their châteaux headquarters; horses, tractors, and sweating soldiers maneuvered thousands of big 13-ton guns into position; reconnaissance planes swooped above the German lines; endless trains of horse-drawn supply wagons carried artillery shells and machine gun ammunition up to the front; hundreds of thousands of soldiers from across the British Empire, from the Orkney Islands to the Punjab, filled frontline trenches, reserve trenches, and support bases in the rear. All was in preparation for the grand attack that seemed certain to change the course of the war. And then finally on the first day of July 1916, preceded by the most massive bombardment British artillery had ever fired, the battle began.
You can see the results of the battle’s first day in dozens of military cemeteries spread out across this corner of France, but perhaps the most striking is one of the smallest, on a hillside, screened by a grove of trees. Each gravestone has a name, rank, and serial number; 162 have crosses and one a Star of David. When known, a man’s age is engraved on the stone as well: 19, 22, 23, 26, 21, 20, 34. Ten of the graves simply say, “A Soldier of the Great War, Known unto God.”
Almost all the dead are from Britain’s Devonshire Regiment, the date on their gravestones July 1, 1916. Most were casualties of a single German machine gun several hundred yards from this spot, and were buried here in a section of the frontline trench they had climbed out of that morning. Captain Duncan Martin, 30, a company commander and an artist in civilian life, had made a clay model of the battlefield across which the British planned to attack. He predicted the exact place at which he and his men would come under fire from the machine gun as they emerged onto an exposed hillside. He, too, is here, one of some 21,000 British soldiers killed or fatally wounded on the day of greatest bloodshed in the history of their country’s military, before or since.
Dreams of Swift Victory
In almost every war, it seems, the next planned offensive is seen as the big breakthrough, the smashing, decisive blow that will pave the way to swift victory. Midway through the First World War, troops from both sides had been bogged down for the better part of two years in lines of trenches that ran across northern France and a corner of Belgium. Barbed wire and the machine gun had made impossible the war of dramatic advances and glorious cavalry charges that the generals on both sides had dreamed of.
To end this frustrating stalemate, the British army planned an enormous assault for a point near where the River Somme meandered its slow and weed-filled way through French wheat and sugar-beet fields. A torrent of supplies began pouring into the area to equip the half million British Empire troops involved, of whom 120,000 would attack on the first day alone. This was to be the “Big Push,” a concentration of manpower and artillery so massive and in such a small space that the German defenses would burst open as if hit by floodwaters.
After the overwhelmed Germans had been bayoneted in their trenches, it would be a matter of what General Douglas Haig, the British commander in chief, called “fighting the Enemy in the open,” and so battalions were trained intensively in maneuvering across trenchless meadows. Finally, of course, streaming through the gap in the lines would come the cavalry, three divisions’ worth. After all, hadn’t glorious charges by men on horseback been a decisive element in warfare for millennia?
Troops unrolled 70,000 miles of telephone cable. Thousands more unloaded and piled ammunition in huge dumps; stripped to the waist and sweltering in the summer heat, they dug endlessly to construct special roads to speed supplies to the front. Fifty-five miles of new standard-gauge railway line were built. With as many British soldiers crammed into the launching area as the population of a good-sized city, new wells had to be drilled and dozens of miles of water pipe laid. No detail was forgotten.
British troops, the plan went, would move forward across no-man’s-land in successive waves. Everything was precise: each wave would advance in a continuous line 100 yards in front of the next, at a steady pace of 100 yards a minute. How were they to be safe from German machine gun fire? Simple: the pre-attack artillery bombardment would destroy not just the Germans’ barbed wire but the bunkers that sheltered their machine guns. How could this not be when there was one artillery piece for every 17 yards of front line, all of which would rain a total of a million and a half shells down on the German trenches? And if that weren’t enough, once British troops climbed out of their trenches, a final “creeping barrage” of bursting shells would precede them, a moving curtain of fire riddling with shrapnel any surviving Germans who emerged from underground shelters to try to fight.
The plan for the first day’s attack on July 1, 1916, was 31 pages long and its map included the British names with which the German trenches had already been rechristened. Preparations this thorough were hard to conceal, and there were occasional unnerving signs that the German troops knew almost as much about them as the British. When one unit moved into position, it found a sign held up from the German trenches: WELCOME TO THE 29TH DIVISION.
Several weeks before the attack, 168 officers who were graduates of Eton met for an Old Etonian dinner at the Hotel Godbert in Amiens, a French city behind the lines. In Latin, they toasted their alma mater -- “Floreat Etona!” -- and raised their voices in the school song, “Carmen Etonense.” Enlisted men entertained themselves in other ways. A haunting piece of documentary film footage from these months, taken from a Red Cross barge moving down a canal behind the lines, shows hundreds of Allied soldiers stripped completely bare, wading, bathing, or sunning themselves on the canal bank, smiling and waving at the camera. Without helmets and uniforms, it is impossible to tell their nationality; their naked bodies mark them only as human beings.
Riding a black horse and with his usual escort of lancers, General Haig inspected his divisions as they rehearsed their attacks on practice fields where white tapes on the ground stood for the German trenches. On June 20th, the commander in chief wrote to his wife, “The situation is becoming more favourable to us.” On June 22nd he added, “I feel that every step in my plan has been taken with the Divine help.” On June 30th, as the great artillery barrage had been thundering for five days, Haig wrote in his diary, “The men are in splendid spirits.... The wire has never been so well cut, nor the Artillery preparation so thorough.” For good measure, the British released clouds of deadly chlorine gas toward the German lines.
As it grew close to zero hour, 7:30 a.m. on July 1st, men detonated 10 enormous mines planted by British miners tunneling deep beneath the German trenches. Near the village of La Boisselle, the crater from one remains, a stark, gaping indentation in the surrounding farmland; even partly filled in by a century of erosion, it is still 55 feet deep and 220 feet across.
When the artillery barrage reached its crescendo, 224,221 shells in the last sixty-five minutes, the rumble could be heard as far away as Hampstead Heath in London. More shells were fired by the British this week than they had used in the entire first 12 months of the war; some gunners bled from the ears after seven days of nonstop firing. At a forest near Gommecourt, entire trees were uprooted and tossed in the air by the shelling and the forest itself set on fire.
Soldiers of the First Somerset Light Infantry sat on the parapet of their trench, cheering at the tremendous explosions. Officers issued a strong ration of rum to the men about to head into no-man’s-land. Captain W.P. Nevill of the Eighth East Surrey Battalion gave each of his four platoons a soccer ball and promised a prize to whichever one first managed to kick a ball into the German trench. One platoon painted its ball with the legend:
THE GREAT EUROPEAN CUP
EAST SURREYS V. BAVARIANS
Throughout the British Isles, millions of people knew a great attack was to begin. “The hospital received orders to clear out all convalescents and prepare for a great rush of wounded,” remembered the writer Vera Brittain, working as a nurse’s aide in London. “We knew that already a tremendous bombardment had begun, for we could feel the vibration of the guns... Hour after hour, as the convalescents departed, we added to the long rows of waiting beds, so sinister in their white, expectant emptiness.”
“God, God, Where’s the Rest of the Boys?”
Haig waited anxiously in his forward headquarters at the Château de Beauquesne, 10 miles behind the battlefield. Then, after a full week of continual fire, the British guns abruptly fell silent.
When whistles blew at 7:30 a.m., the successive waves of troops began their planned 100-yards-a-minute advance. Each man moved slowly under more than 60 pounds of supplies -- 200 bullets, grenades, shovel, two days’ food and water, and more. But when those soldiers actually clambered up the trench ladders and over the parapet, they quickly discovered something appalling. The multiple belts of barbed wire in front of the German trenches and the well-fortified machine gun emplacements were still largely intact.
Officers looking through binocular-periscopes had already suspected as much. Plans for any attack, however, have tremendous momentum; rare is the commander willing to recognize that something is awry. To call off an offensive requires bravery, for the general who does so risks being thought a coward. Haig was not such a man. Whistles blew, men cheered, Captain Nevill’s company of East Surreys kicked off its four soccer balls. The soldiers hoped to stay alive -- and sometimes for something more: troops of the First Newfoundland Regiment knew that a prominent young society woman back home had promised to marry the first man in the regiment to win the Empire’s highest medal, the Victoria Cross.
The week-long bombardment, it turned out, had been impressive mainly for its noise. More than one out of four British shells were duds that buried themselves in the earth, exploding, if at all, only when struck by some unlucky French farmer’s plow years or decades later. Two-thirds of the shells fired were shrapnel, virtually useless in destroying machine gun emplacements made of steel and reinforced concrete or stone. Nor could shrapnel shells, which scattered light steel balls, destroy the dense belts of German barbed wire, many yards thick, unless they burst at just the right height. But their fuses were wildly unreliable, and usually they exploded only after they had already plummeted into the earth, destroying little and embedding so much metal in the ground that soldiers trying to navigate through darkness or smoke sometimes found their compasses had ceased to work.
The remaining British shells were high-explosive ones, which could indeed destroy a German machine gun bunker, but only if they hit it with pinpoint accuracy. When guns were firing from several miles away, this was almost impossible. German machine gun teams had waited out the bombardment in dugouts as deep as 40 feet below the surface and supplied with electricity, water, and ventilation. In one of the few places where British troops did reach the German front line on July 1, they found the electric light in a dugout still on.
Unaccountably, an underground mine had exploded beneath the German lines 10 minutes before zero hour, a clear signal that the attack was about to begin. Then, like a final warning, the remaining mines went off at 7:28 a.m., followed by a two-minute wait to allow the debris -- blown thousands of feet into the air -- to fall back to earth before British troops climbed out of their trenches to advance. Those two minutes gave German machine gunners time to run up the ladders and stairways from their dugouts and man their fortified posts, of which there were roughly a thousand in the sector of the line under attack. During the two minutes, the British could hear bugles summoning German riflemen and machine gunners to their positions.
“They came on at a steady easy pace as if expecting to find nothing alive in our front trenches,” recalled a German soldier of the British advance. “...When the leading British line was within 100 yards, the rattle of [German] machine guns and rifle fire broke out from along the whole line... Red rockets sped up into the blue sky as a signal to the artillery, and immediately afterwards a mass of shells from the German batteries in [the] rear tore through the air and burst among the advancing lines.”
The Germans, like the British, had plenty of artillery pieces; these were under camouflage netting and had simply not been used during the preceding weeks, so as not to reveal their positions to British aircraft. Now they fired their deadly shrapnel, whose effects the Germans could see: “All along the line men could be seen throwing their arms into the air and collapsing never to move again. Badly wounded rolled about in their agony... with... cries for help and the last screams of death.”
Plans for the orderly march forward in line abreast were quickly abandoned as men separated into small groups and sought the shelter of hillocks and shell holes. But there was no question of the hard-hit British troops turning back, for each battalion had soldiers designated as “battle police,” herding any stragglers forward. “When we got to the German wire I was absolutely amazed to see it intact, after what we had been told,” remembered one British private. “The colonel and I took cover behind a small bank but after a bit the colonel raised himself on his hands and knees to see better. Immediately he was hit on the forehead by a single bullet.”
Because the artillery bombardment had destroyed so little of the barbed wire, British soldiers had to bunch up to get through the few gaps they could find -- making themselves an even more conspicuous target. Many soldiers died when their clothing, especially the loose kilts of the Scotsmen, caught on the wire. “Only three out of our company got past there,” recalled a private of the Fourth Tyneside Scottish Battalion. “There was my lieutenant, a sergeant and myself.... The officer said, ‘God, God, where’s the rest of the boys?’”
The vaunted “creeping barrage” crept forward according to the timetable -- and then continued to creep off uselessly into the far distance long after British troops who were supposed to be following behind its protective cover had been pinned down by the tangles of uncut German wire. The cavalry waited behind the British lines, but in vain. Some of those who had survived in no-man’s-land tried, after dark, to crawl back to their own trenches, but even then the continual traversing of German machine gun fire sent up showers of sparks as bullets hit the British barbed wire.
Of the 120,000 British troops who went into battle on July 1, 1916, more than 57,000 were dead or wounded before the day was over -- nearly two casualties for every yard of the front; 19,000 were killed, most of them within the first disastrous hour, and some 2,000 more would die in aid stations or hospitals later. There were an estimated 8,000 German casualties. Because they led their troops out of the trenches, the toll was heaviest among the officers who took part in the attack, three-quarters of whom were killed or wounded. These included many who had attended the Old Etonian dinner a few weeks before: more than 30 Eton men lost their lives on July 1st. Captain Nevill of the East Surreys, who had distributed the soccer balls, was fatally shot through the head in the first few minutes.
The First Newfoundland Regiment, awaiting its Victoria Cross winner and the young woman who had promised herself as his reward, was virtually wiped out. There were 752 men who climbed out of their trenches to advance toward the skeletal ruins of an apple orchard covered by German machine gun fire; by the day’s end 684 were dead, wounded, or missing, including every single officer. The German troops the Newfoundlanders attacked did not suffer a single casualty.
Attacking soldiers had been ordered not to tend injured comrades, but to leave them for stretcher bearers who would follow. The dead and wounded, however, included hundreds of stretcher bearers themselves, and there were nowhere near enough men to carry the critically injured to first aid posts in time. Stretchers ran out; some wounded were carried off two to a stretcher or on sheets of corrugated iron whose edges ravaged the bearers’ fingers. Many wounded who lived through the first day never made it off the battlefield. For weeks afterward their fellow soldiers came upon them in shell holes, where they had crawled for shelter, taken out their pocket Bibles, and wrapped themselves in their waterproof groundsheets to die, in pain and alone.
In other ways as well, the terrible day took its toll after the fact. One battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel E.T.F. Sandys, having seen more than 500 of his men killed or wounded during that day, wrote to a fellow officer two months later, “I have never had a moment’s peace since July 1st.” Then, in a London hotel room, he shot himself.
A Quiet Trench
Engraved on a stone plaque in the small cemetery holding the Devonshire Regiment’s casualties from this day are the words survivors carved on a wooden sign when they first buried their dead:
The Devonshires held this trench
The Devonshires hold it still
In the cemetery’s visitors’ book, on a few pages the ink of the names and remarks has been smeared by raindrops -- or was it tears? “Paid our respects to 3 of our townsfolk.” “Sleep on, boys.” “Lest we forget.” “Thanks, lads.” “Gt. Uncle thanks, rest in peace.”
Only one visitor strikes a different note: “Never again.”
Joe Sacco, one of America’s foremost political cartoonists, is author of the new book The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme, from which the illustrations in this piece are taken. His books include Palestine, winner of the American Book Award, Footnotes in Gaza, winner of the Ridenhour Book Prize, and Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, co-authored with Chris Hedges. His Safe Area Goražde was named best comic book of the year by Time magazine. His drawings are reproduced by permission of W. W. Norton & Co.
Adam Hochschild is the author of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918, from which this text, used in Sacco’s book, is drawn. It won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His previous books include Half the Way Home: A Memoir of Father and Son, and Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves, a finalist for the National Book Award. This text is reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Illustrations reprinted from The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme by Joe Sacco. Copyright © 2013 by Joe Sacco. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Copyright 2013 Joe Sacco and Adam Hochschild
By Buzz Davis
Sergeant Evans was a good man with a horrible secret who fought through the Pacific islands during WWII. One island after another, beach landing, attack, fight across and clear island of Japanese troops, and repeat at next island.
I never asked him about what it was like to fight in the islands in the infantry even though I was trained as an infantry officer. I had a feeling he had been through a lot. The Vietnam War was "hot" and there were news reports of lots of people dying there.
It was 1968, he was "old" (48 or so) and I was young (25). I was his lieutenant, he was my sergeant. For 9 months, we worked extremely well together leading the communications program of a 500 person brigade at Fort Bragg, NC.
When walking to a meeting at day break, we were discussing the training we were going to have the men do that day.
Ann Jones discusses her new book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars -- The Untold Story. Jones is an independent journalist and photographer and the author of 8 books, contributor to 15 others, and author of countless articles. Her work has been translated into 10 languages. She now lives in Norway.
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Ann Jones' new book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars -- The Untold Story, is devastating, and almost incomprehensibly so when one considers that virtually all of the death and destruction in U.S. wars is on the other side. Statistically, what happens to U.S. troops is almost nothing. In human terms, it's overwhelming.
Know a young person considering joining the military? Give them this book.
Know a person not working to end war? Give them this book.
Jones presents the choice before us in the clearest terms in the introduction:
"Contrary to common opinion in the United States, war is not inevitable. Nor has it always been with us. War is a human invention -- an organized, deliberate action of an anti-social kind -- and in the long span of human life on Earth, a fairly recent one. For more than 99 percent of the time that humans have lived on this planet, most of them have never made war. Many languages don't even have a word for it. Turn off CNN and read anthropology. You'll see.
"What's more, war is obsolete. Most nations don't make war anymore, except when coerced by the United States to join some spurious 'coalition.' The earth is so small, and our time here so short. No other nation on the planet makes war as often, as long, as forcefully, as expensively, as destructively, as wastefully, as senselessly, or as unsuccessfully as the United States. No other nation makes war its business."
Jones begins her book with that distinguishing feature of war: death. The U.S. military assigns specialists in "Mortuary Affairs" to dispose of the dead. They dispose of their own sanity in the process. And first they dispose of their appetite. "Broiled meat in the chow hall smells much the same as any charred Marine, and you may carry the smell of the dead on a stained cuff as you raise a fork to your mouth, only to quickly put it down." Much of the dead is -- like the slop at the chow hall -- unrecognizable meat. Once dumped in landfills, until a Washington Post story made that a scandal, now it's dumped at sea. Much of the dead is the result of suicides. Mortuary Affairs scrubs the brains out of the port-o-potty and removes the rifle, so other troops don't have to see.
Then come, in vastly greater numbers, the wounded -- Jones' chapter two. A surgeon tells her that in Iraq the U.S. troops "had severe injuries, but the injuries were still on the body." In Afghanistan, troops step on mines and IEDs while walking, not driving. Some are literally blown to bits. Others can be picked up in recognizable pieces. Others survive. But many survive without one or two legs, one or two testicles, a penis, an arm, both arms -- or with a brain injury, or a ruined face, or all of the above. A doctor describes the emotion for a surgical team the first time they have to remove a penis and "watch it go into the surgical waste container."
"By early 2012," Jones writes, "3,000 [U.S.] soldiers had been killed by IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 31,394 wounded. Among the wounded were more than 1,800 soldiers with severe damage to their genitals." Doctors treat an injured soldier's limbs first, later their genitals, later still their brains.
Back in the states, two young parents and "two pretty adolescent girls," step up "to sit on the padded platforms in the center of the room. They move with the tentative sobriety of shock. Aides wheel in a gurney that bears a bundle in a flannel sheet. They gather the edges of the sheet and swing the package over the platform into the very heart of the family. Carefully they lower it and then begin to peel away the wrapping. There, revealed, restored to the family, is the son, their boy, not dead, but missing both arms, both legs, and some part -- it's impossible to tell how much -- of his lower torso. The director calls out a cheery greeting, 'Hi Bobby! How are you doing today?' Bobby tries to answer but makes no sound. He flops on the platform, an emaciated head, eyes full of fear, his chest all bones under a damp grey ARMY tee shirt. . . . "
Be all that you can be.
In training you're ordered into a poison gas chamber and exposed to a bit of it. If Assad trained his troops that way, we'd murder a half million Syrians to get even. But U.S. military training is training in blind subservience, usually properly resented when it's too late. Up goes your chances of being dead, injured, guilt-ridden, traumatized, homicidal, and suicidal. Jones recounts the story of a soldier who murdered two Iraqi prisoners, came home convinced he was a murderer, laid out the two dead Iraqis' dog tags, wrapped a hose twice around his neck, and hung himself. Twenty-two a day: that's the count of U.S. veteran suicides according to the V.A. The rate is 4.7 times higher than normal, according to the Austin-American Statesmen's investigation of Texas veterans. That doesn't count recklessly crashed cars and motorcycles. And it doesn't count the epidemic of overdoses of the drugs meant to solve the problem.
How to help such suffering? Therapists used to ask people to talk and now ask them to take drugs. In either case, they don't ask them to honestly deal with their guilt. Between 2001 and 2007 homicides committed by active duty and veteran U.S. troops went up 90 percent. The military looks for problems in soldiers' family lives to explain such troubles, as if they all suddenly began marrying the wrong spouses just when their country deployed them into the stupidest war yet waged. Jones tells the story of one Marine who killed his wife but kept her body on the couch to watch TV with him for weeks. "I killed the only girl who ever loved me," he later lamented. Chances are good he had killed other people who were loved as well -- he'd just done so in a context in which some people praised him for it.
One wounded warrior tells Jones he loves war and longs to get back into it. "Blowin' shit up. It's fucking fun. I fuckin' love it." She replies, "I believe you really mean that," and he says, "No shit. I'm trying to educate you." But an older Army officer has a different view: "I've been in the army 26 years," he says, "and I can tell you it's a con." War, he believes in rather Smedley Butlerish fashion, is a way to make a small number of people "monufuckinmentally rich." He says his two sons will not serve in the military. "Before that happens I'll shoot them myself." Why? "War is absurd," he says. "Boys don't know any better. But for a grown man to be trapped in stupid wars -- it's embarrassing, it's humiliating, it's absurd."
Stephen Canty, once a Marine deployed to Afghanistan, now a filmmaker, is creating a film -- called Once a Marine. -- about the struggles of war veterans coming home. You can see a preview and fund the film's production on Kickstarter at
Total run time: 29:00
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For a timely explanation of the crisis of the militarization of America, days after popular opposition, in a historic first, blocked a US war -- in this case against the sovereign nation of Syria -- check out this film by Lanny Cotler and Paul Edwards of Class War Films
To view the film, please go to: www.thiscantbehappening.net
Veterans For Peace, a leading antiwar organization with chapters in every U.S. state and several other countries, will hold its 28th national convention in Madison, Wisconsin, August 7-11, 2013, at the Concourse Hotel at 1 Dayton Street.
The convention, open to veterans and non-veterans, will feature speakers, entertainers, and workshops on a wide variety of topics related to the advancement of peace and the abolition of war.
Free public events include:
Lanterns for Peace, commemorating Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Aug. 6, 7-9:30 p.m. Tenney Park Shelter
Poetry Night, Aug. 7, 8-10:30 p.m. Room of One's Own Bookstore, 315 W Gorham Street
Activist Night with national and local speakers, open mic, music, Aug. 8, 7-10 p.m., Concourse Hotel Ballroom
Rally and Peace Parade, families invited, bring peace banners, Aug. 10, 4 p.m., State Street and Capitol Square
Tribute to Lincoln Grahlfs, Aug. 11, 9-11 a.m., Capitol Lakes Retirement Center, 333 West Main Street
Iraq Veterans Against the War Art Exhibit, Aug 7-11, Rainbow Bookstore, 426 W. Gilman Street
Speakers at the convention (and available for interviews) include:
Nick Turse, journalist, historian, and author.
Diane Wilson, Vietnam veteran, author, activist, fisherwoman, hungerstriker for Gitmo.
James Yee, former U.S. Army chaplain, falsely accused of "aiding the enemy."
Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
John Peck, executive director of Family Farm Defenders.
Paul Chappell, Iraq War veteran, author, peace leadership director at Nuclear Age Peace Fdtn.
Ben Griffin, UK war resister.
S. Brian Willson, Vietnam veteran, author, activist, hungerstriker for Gitmo.
John Kinsman, president of Family Farm Defenders.
Paul Soglin, mayor of Madison.
Mike Wiggins Jr., tribal chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe.
Carlos Arredondo, Costa Rican-American peace activist and American Red Cross volunteer.
David Newby, founder of U.S. Labor Against the War and former President of WI AFL-CIO.
Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine.
Scott Olsen, Iraq War veteran, shot in the head at Occupy Oakland.
Entertainers at the convention:
Lem Genovese, Ryan Harvey, Solidarity singalong, Forward Marching Band, Madison Raging Grannies, Watermelon Slim, Honor Among Thieves, Jim Walktendonk.
Some of the topics will be: Veterans farming, Creating a culture of peace, Educating the community, Agent Orange, Nonviolent bioregional revolutionary strategies, Debt and death: making clear the costs of war, Labor's role, Environmental disaster, the United Nations, Helping homeless veterans, Palestine, Veteran suicide, Military sexual trauma and suicides, Voices of Iraq: resolution, reconciliation, reparation, The written word for peace and reconciliation, Bradley Manning and G.I. resisters, The perversion of just war reasoning, U.S. policy in the Middle East, The long war for central Asia, Building peace in Vietnam, and Abolishing war as an instrument of national policy.
The full program is available at http://VFPNationalConvention.org
Veterans For Peace is a national organization, founded in 1985 with approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.
This summer three national gatherings of activists will converge on Madison, Wisconsin, allowing for cross-fertilization and creative planning of future actions for peace and justice in the United States. YOU are invited.
Talk Nation Radio speaks with Roshan Bliss of the Student Power Convergence, Ben Manski of Democracy Convention, and Doug Rawlings of Veterans For Peace.
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Close the US Prison at Guantanamo!
End Indefinite Detention and Torture of Innocent Prisoners!
Join the June 26 Action in Washington, DC
By Gerry Condon
Four members of Veterans For Peace have been fasting in solidarity with the hunger striking prisoners at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Diane Wilson, co-founder of Code Pink and a VFP member, has not eaten for 44 days. She has been on a water-only fast for most of that time, but included juice while attending to the death of her sister in Texas. Diane has lost over 40 pounds.
Brian Wilson, fasted publicly in Portland, Oregon for 28 days, taking in less than 300 calories a day, and losing 24 pounds. Last week, Brian was hit by a car while riding his hand-powered bicycle, and he is following doctor’s orders to suspend his fast and eat while healing from his physical and psychological wounds. Brian will consider re-joining the fast at a later time.
Elliot Adams, former VFP national president, is currently on day 29 of his hunger strike. He is also taking in less than 300 calories a day, and has lost 30 pounds.
Tarak Kauff, VFP Board member, is on day 7 of his hunger strike.
Mass Rally at Ft. Meade, Maryland, Saturday, June 1
Court Martial Begins on Monday, June 3,
Military veterans are turning out in force to show support for PFC Bradley Manningthis Saturday, June 1, 1 pm at Fort Meade, Maryland, on the eve of his historic court martial, which begins on Monday. The diminutive 25-year-old Manning, who has acknowledged giving classified Army documents to Wikileaks about U.S. conduct of the wars Iraq and Afghanistan, is facing the possibility of life in prison. In what many people see as “overkill,” the Army has charged him with “Aiding the Enemy,” the most serious of 22 charges.
Veterans For Peace is also organizing local marches and rallies on June 1, including in Seattle,Washington, (2 pm at Westlake Park, march to Victor Steinbreuck Park) and London, England (2 pm rally outside of US Embassy). See contact info for Seattle and London, below. Veterans For Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War will also participate in International Days of Action, June 1-8, in over 100 cities around the U.S. and worldwide, to demonstrate widespread support for PFC Manning.
What Manning released through Wikileaks was evidence of the routine killing of civilians by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the routine cover-up of these war crimes. The Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Diaries also revealed that military and civilian leaders were lying to the U.S. people when they presented rosy assessments of the progress of those wars.
“Bradley Manning is a hero who wanted to aid the public, not a traitor who wanted to aid the enemy,” said Gerry Condon, a spokesperson for Veterans For Peace. “It is a shame that our nation did not pay more attention to the information he shared with us three years ago. Many lives could have been saved -- hundreds of Afghani civilians and hundreds of U.S. soldiers.”
PFC Manning has been held in prison for over three years, much of it in solitary confinement and under other abusive treatment, as documented by the United Nationsl Special Rapporteur on Torture.
The Army's court martial of Manning, which begins on Monday, is expected to continue throughout the summer, with the prosecution presenting over 100 government witnesses, many of them in secret testimony. Veterans For Peace will participate in a daily vigil outside the front gate of Fort Meade.
The Army's presecution of Bradley Manning coincides with the Obama Administration's crackdown on whistle-blowers and journalists alike. Over twice as many people are being prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act than in all previous administrations combined.
On Thursday, February 28, Bradley Manning detailed how he released classified military and government documents to Wikileaks, and he explained why he did so.
“I believed if the public, particularly the American public, could see this it could spark a debateon the military and our foreign policy in general as it applied to Iraq and Afghanistan. It might cause society to reconsider the need to engage in counter terrorism while ignoring the human situation of the people we engaged with every day.... I felt I accomplished something that would allow me to have a clear conscience.”
One of the most moving aspects of Manning’s testimony was his explanation as to why he released the so-called “Collateral Murder” video, which shows the gunning down in Baghdad of two Reuters journalists and bystanders by American soldiers in a US Apache helicopter. Manning described being deeply troubled by the video, especially the crew’s “lack of concern for human life” and lack of “concern for injured children at the scene.”
Veterans For Peace, an international organization with chapters in over 100 cities, demands that the US Army drop all charges against Bradley Manning and release him from prison immediately.
I'm standing on a sidewalk
In Pleasantville, New York. It’s1959,
And I’m holding the American flag in my hand.
It’s really hot in the bright sunshine,
But I stand at attention, like a good soldier,
And salute my father, who smiles and waves
In this home of the free, this land of the brave.
Dad’s with the World War Two veterans. They’re marching to the beat
Of the fire department band sweeping down the street:
The horns blare, the drums pound, the cymbals crash -
And my consciousness cracks like shattered glass.
The band's overtaken by soaring boys on bikes.
Their spokes are woven with red white and blue crepe paper,
And the fluttering streamers on their handle bars
Make them look like firecrackers on wheels.
It’s so damn dazzling I have to look away,
Down at my feet, and I'm starting to sway
From the glare reflecting off the concrete.
I squint, and swoon, and look up at the sky
Where the light on the leaves of the sugar maple trees
Reflects off the chrome of the cars on the street.
I'm breathless, and dizzy, and overdone.
The one thing I know, this isn't fun.
"Don't you ever let that flag touch the ground!"
Snaps a mean old man, twisting my arm up so it hurts.
Disapproving town folk stare.
I feel their looks in the depths of my soul.
What else can a ten year old boy do but slink away
And chuck that fucking flag over the first privet hedge?
It was there and then that I knew that being
A good citizen was too much responsibility
For anyone as weak and as young as me.
To this day my favorite part of the Memorial Day Parade
Is the sound of the street cleaner
Pushing the star spangled flakes of confetti
Into his pan and pouring them,
With a soft sweet swoosh, into his pail.
What have we done to our daughters and sons,
What secret sent them to find?
Something written on a stone, we could not find on our own,
Our eyes open but blind.
They were husbands and wives when they laid down their lives,
They took a number and gave up a name.
They fought to the end for their families and friends,
For country, not fortune or fame.
Someone told a lie and they volunteered to die,
To lay down body and bone,
They left a family crying when they stumbled on a mine,
Now they're wrapped in a flag, flying home.
Why must they pay the price, can we share the sacrifice?
Is there courage we might find?
It's time to tell the truth, we envy them their youth,
Their future is all we leave behind.
From dust unto dust, in God we put our trust.
There is a lesson we must learn.
From the moment of our birth, we are children of this Earth,
To this Earth we shall return.
Craig Baumberger, aka, Banjohova Witness,