FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

4F and Other Heroes

I was there. I read the book. Denied secular conscientious objector status, I fasted for months as I traveled the nation’s highways by thumb. By the time I reported for my induction physical, I weighed less that 85 pounds, which at a height of 5’9″ met the criterion for disqualification from military service: 4F.

Like the president and the vice president, I was a draft dodger. Unlike our nation’s leaders, my actions were a matter of principle. I believed then, as I believe now, that our leaders had led us into an immoral war. I believed that the true metaphor for Vietnam was Native American genocide. I did what I had to do to avoid serving in a cause I considered nothing less than sanctioned mass murder.

It was 1972. The option that Dick Cheney exploited five times (student deferment) was no longer available. The National Guard was booked. Only the elite could excuse themselves from a low lottery number. Mine was 31–until then, it had been my lucky number. In 1972, it became my ticket to hell.

Some shot themselves. Others refused to step forward and accepted the legal consequences. Some went to Canada. Others went to jail. Some ended up in Nam. Some fought and others got high. Some were wounded and others died.

In the early days of the war, volunteering was understandable. We were Americans. Our values were defined by coaches and cheerleaders. Our history books glorified war. America was always right. Our soldiers only fought for freedom and democracy, never for lesser motives. By 1972, however, that façade had fallen. The truth was a neon sign on every corner. It screamed from every college campus. It marched in the streets and declared itself in music, theater, culture, politics, books and lifestyles. By 1972, the deeply disturbing reality of Vietnam was clear for all to see.

I was in the army of resisters and not one of us was a coward. We were young and angry. Our government had betrayed us. We knew better than to kill for all the wrong reasons. Vietnam was neither our country nor our cause. If we were Vietnamese in those tragic years, we would have fought against the foreign invaders. We knew about Operation Phoenix (20,000 South Vietnamese rounded up and executed in a CIA black op). We knew about My Lai. We saw soldiers come home unfit to live in civil society. It was not because the country had turned its back. It was because they were trained killers in a world where killing human beings differed little from killing cockroaches. So many of the Vietnam veterans were disturbed because what they had done in the name of their country was disturbing.

Was it a crime for John Kerry to testify about the crimes against humanity that clearly happened in Nam? Or was it a crime that our government sanctioned them? Like Abu Ghraib squared, Vietnam was the ultimate modern-day demonstration of the dehumanization process. What began as dehumanizing the enemy ended up dehumanizing our own.

When the troops came home, we did not treat them as heroes because neither they nor we regarded what they had done as heroic. Contrary to popular mythology, spitting on soldiers was not a common occurrence. Those who opposed the war extended our hands in sympathy and, in return, many of the returning veterans spoke truth to power. They joined the cause that ended the war and saved both American and Vietnamese lives. Among them was John Kerry.

Where was young George Bush? Was he opposed to the war? Apparently not. Did it bother him that hundreds of thousands of his contemporaries were compelled to serve in a faraway land? Apparently not.

We may have a difference of opinion regarding those who opposed the war and still served. We may have a difference of opinion regarding those who opposed the war and refused to serve. We may even have differing opinions regarding those who supported the war and served. The one thing we can all agree on is that those who supported the war and yet avoided service–whether by conscientious objection, student deferment, exile or the National Guard–were motivated more by self-preservation than by any sense of duty.

Is such a man qualified to be president and commander? Should we consider what happened decades ago as a measure of a man’s character? Only the people can judge–beginning with those who were there, not only in Nam but also on the streets of America in the hour of greatest need.

We took a vow back then and we have never betrayed it.

We will not forget Nam. Ever.

JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS).

 

More articles by:

Jack Random is the author of Jazzman Chronicles (Crow Dog Press) and Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press.)

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail