FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Advice from a Vietnam Vet

by Dr. Shepherd Bliss

I come from a fighting family. We gave our name to Ft. Bliss, Texas. I enlisted and became on officer in the U.S. Army during Vietnam.

When you kill someone, it is forever. They die, but the killing continues–inside you. When your nation kills people, especially innocent women and children, it is forever. The killing can continue, within you, when it is done in your name.

Our nation is still not over Vietnam, the war of my generation, or Iraq, the war of another generation. Now your generation, those of you of fighting age, has its own war.

You will be defined by that war and what you do during it, as my entire life was defined by the Vietnam War, and what I did during it. What you do in the days to come in response to this war will determine who you will become.

You can support the war, try to deny it, or work for peace with justice. Whatever you do, you will live with it for the rest of your life–your choice.

I implore you not to make the same mistake that I made and enlist in a war that kills innocent civilians. Don’t get caught up in a war hysteria that you could regret for the rest of your life. War trauma creates guilt, shame, and post traumatic stress syndrome.

At my vets group I listen to combat vets, which I am not. 30 years later, they are still trying to heal from the people they killed, still haunted by those they murdered. War wounds go deeply.

Since Sept. 11 we Americans have felt vulnerable, helpless, fearful, and angry. But America’s appropriate grief after the Sept. 11 attack was transformed into a war frenzy.

I have no sympathy for the unjustifiable Sept. 11 suicide attack, nor for the ruthless Taliban, nor for any terrorism. But I am concerned about killing innocent people. I think our focus should be on finding the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 crime and bringing them to justice.

As a young man, testosterone pumping through my body, the thought of war was exciting. It was a challenge–something big enough for my big energy. I’m an old man now, as are those who would send you into war. War is no longer exciting to me. My main message to you is simple–War is Hell.

I will be forever grateful to the Student Peace Union that finally reached this young soldier. The SPU organized me out of the army. They saved my soul, before I killed anyone, but I came so close. Don’t lose your soul.

During Vietnam the enemy was “the communists.” Now it is “Terrorism.” But terrorism is a symptom. Terrorism has no country. You cannot wage war on terrorism, because it is a methodology. Terrorism is transnational and global. You cannot use terrorism to end terrorism.

The U.S. did not win the Vietnam War and will probably not win in Afghanistan. Most scenarios would probably not lead to a moral or political victory for the U.S.

The U.S. military attack on foreign soil that has killed civilians will worsen rather than improve our national security, uniting more people against us. What we need is real defense. Our Department of Defense has too often been a War Deptartment on other people’s soil.

Lets focus on defending ourselves. Our security system failed. It is focused too much out there, rather than here at home. We need protection, not provocation.

May we mourn the innocent dead, wounded, and homeless and see beyond our borders to develop a species-wide identity that transcends narrow nationalism.

May the innocent people who happen to live in Afghanistan and the Middle East not be punished for the crimes of others.

May this tragedy open our eyes to our larger international context and our responsibilities as U.S. citizens to work for peace. May we condemn without reservation all terrorism, including that used by governments.

May this tragedy not shut us down, which terrorism too often does. A broken heart can be an open heart.

I would like to close with two brief poems–the first from Deena Metzger– “There are those who are trying to set fire to the world,/ we are in danger,/ there is time only to work slowly,/ there is no time not to love.”

The second is from Rumi, a Muslim poet who was born in what is today Afghanistan, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,/ there is a field./ I’ll meet your there.”

And as the old book says, “Thou shalt not kill.” CP

Shepherd Bliss is a Vietnam Era vet and peace activist. He taught college for 20 years, is now an organic farmer, and can be reached at sb3@pon.net.

Shepherd Bliss teaches college part time, farms, and has contributed to two-dozen books. He can be reached at: 3sb@comcast.net.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail