FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Advice from a Vietnam Vet

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.

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
July 10, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Lynnette Grey Bull
Trump’s Postcard to America From the Shrine of Hypocrisy
Anthony DiMaggio
Free Speech Fantasies: the Harper’s Letter and the Myth of American Liberalism
Rob Urie
Democracy and the Illusion of Choice
Jeffrey St. Clair
“I Could Live With That”: How the CIA Made Afghanistan Safe for the Opium Trade
Vijay Prashad
The U.S. and UK are a Wrecking Ball Crew Against the Pillars of Internationalism
Melvin Goodman
The Washington Post and Its Cold War Drums
Richard C. Gross
Trump: Reopen Schools (or Else)
Chris Krupp
Public Lands Under Widespread Attack During Pandemic 
Paul Street
Imperial Blind Spots and a Question for Obama
Alda Facio
What Coronavirus Teaches Us About Inequality, Discrimination and the Importance of Caring
Eve Ottenberg
Bounty Tales
Andrew Levine
Silver Linings Ahead?
John Kendall Hawkins
FrankenBob: The Self-Made Dylan
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Deutsche Bank Fined $150 Million for Enabling Jeffrey Epstein; Where’s the Fine Against JPMorgan Chase?
David Rosen
Inequality and the End of the American Dream
Louis Proyect
Harper’s and the Great Cancel Culture Panic
Thom Hartmann
How Billionaires Get Away With Their Big Con
REZA FIYOUZAT
Your 19th COVID Breakdown
Danny Sjursen
Undercover Patriots: Trump, Tulsa, and the Rise of Military Dissent
Charles McKelvey
The Limitations of the New Antiracist Movement
Binoy Kampmark
Netanyahu’s Annexation Drive
Joseph G. Ramsey
An Empire in Points
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
COVID-19 Denialism is Rooted in the Settler Colonial Mindset
Ramzy Baroud
On Israel’s Bizarre Definitions: The West Bank is Already Annexed
Judith Deutsch
Handling Emergency: A Tale of Two Males
Michael Welton
Getting Back to Socialist Principles: Honneth’s Recipe
Dean Baker
Combating the Political Power of the Rich: Wealth Taxes and Seattle Election Vouchers
Jonah Raskin
Edward Sanders: Poetic Pacifist Up Next
Manuel García, Jr.
Carbon Dioxide Uptake by Vegetation After Emissions Shutoff “Now”
Heidi Peltier
The Camo Economy: How Military Contracting Hides Human Costs and Increases Inequality
Ron Jacobs
Strike!, Fifty Years and Counting
Ellen Taylor
The Dark Side of Science: Shooting Barred Owls as Scapegoats for the Ravages of Big Timber
Sarah Anderson
Shrink Wall Street to Guarantee Good Jobs
Graham Peebles
Prison: Therapeutic Centers Or Academies of Crime?
Zhivko Illeieff
Can We Escape Our Addiction to Social Media?
Clark T. Scott
The Democrat’s Normal Keeps Their (Supposed) Enemies Closer and Closer
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
In 2020 Elections: Will Real-Life “Fighting Dems” Prove Irresistible?
Dave Lindorff
Mommy, Where Do Peace Activists Come From?
Christopher Brauchli
Trump the Orator
Gary Leupp
Columbus and the Beginning of the American Way of Life: A Message to Indoctrinate Our Children
John Stanton
Donald J. Trump, Stone Cold Racist
Nicky Reid
The Stonewall Blues (Still Dreaming of a Queer Nation)
Stephen Cooper
A Kingston Reasoning with Legendary Guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith (The Interview: Part 2)
Hugh Iglarsh
COVID-19’s Coming to Town
July 09, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
COVID-19 Exposes the Weakness of a Major Theory Used to Justify Capitalism
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail