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FATTENING WALL STREET — Mike Whitney reports on the rapid metamorphosis of new Fed Chair Janet Yallin into a lackey for the bankers, bond traders and brokers. The New Religious Wars Over the Environment: Joyce Nelson charts the looming confrontation between the Catholic Church and fundamentalists over climate change, extinction and GMOs; A People’s History of Mexican Constitutions: Andrew Smolski on the 200 year-long struggle of Mexico’s peasants, indigenous people and workers to secure legal rights and liberties; Spying on Black Writers: Ron Jacobs uncovers the FBI’s 50 year-long obsession with black poets, novelists and essayists; O Elephant! JoAnn Wypijewski on the grim history of circus elephants; PLUS: Jeffrey St. Clair on birds and climate change; Chris Floyd on the US as nuclear bully; Seth Sandronsky on Van Jones’s blind spot; Lee Ballinger on musicians and the State Department; and Kim Nicolini on the films of JC Chandor.
The Lingering Aura of the Dead

The Wall

by MICHAEL UHL

I knew two of the men whose names are engraved on the Vietnam Veteran Memorial. The first, Artie Klippen, I saw a lot of that season in ‘63 when we both played Lacrosse at Georgetown. We had one of those anarchic undergraduate arrangements where we briefly shared a car, a beat-up old Chevy with the gear shift on the steering column. Compared to so many guys at that age who are callow and two-faced, Artie was a straight-up, warm and friendly guy, qualities that make him to continue to stand out in my memory, even though we never got to know each other well. After that year, I seldom saw Artie again. I had been in Brazil all of ‘64, but came back with too few credits to graduate with my class in ‘65, the year Artie did. Having completed ROTC, Artie got his lieutenant’s butter bar along with his sheepskin. I was still at Georgetown, having stuck around an extra year in ROTC myself to avoid the draft, when I heard Artie had bought it in Nam as a platoon leader with a leg unit.

I read somewhere that the odds to survive a tour in Nam were a thousand to one. On average. The life expectancy for a grunt LT like Artie was averaged against that of a chaplain’s assistant in the rear, a two-star general well behind the wire in his air conditioned trailer, a spoon in the mess hall who hugged an M-16 at night in a bunker to guard the perimeter, or a spook like me patrolling in harm’s way by day, but generally secure overnight in a base camp. So Artie already faced poorer odds compared to most of us. But a soldier’s superstition held that, no matter where you found yourself in Nam, if there was a bullet in Hanoi with your name on it, you weren’t coming home. We called that blind luck, and Artie didn’t have it.

I don’t recall how Artie died exactly. It might have been a bullet; more likely a booby trap. Out on patrol where you stepped, and where you didn’t, made all the difference. But given the routinely barbarous acts American GIs perpetrated on innocent Vietnamese civilians, I feel confident that Artie made his unit play by the rules of engagement to whatever degree that was even possible in a peoples’ war. He would not have been gung ho or reckless. Artie would have put a premium on the welfare of his men, even as he had the moxie to lead them in a deadly encounter. And if I were to learn Artie died bravely to ensure someone else might live, that would be consistent with the character...

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