• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal


A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.

Déja Vu All Over Again


“Life is so precious.” This obvious yet true statement is how Ron Kovics ends the introduction to Akashic Books republication of his epic memoir, Born on the Fourth of July. Akashic and Kovics timed this release for a reason. Two years into the occupation of Iraq, Akashic’s editor Johnny Temple agreed with Kovics that the emotion-laden story of Kovics transformation from an all-American Marine wanting to kill and die for his country to a nonviolent war resister needed to reach a new audience. That audience is of course the intended audience of the Pentagon and its current recruitment efforts, as well.

In his introduction to this edition, Kovics states that antiwar activists like him-especially veterans–sensed right away that the US war in Iraq would be all too similar to the war of his generation, Vietnam. The lies, the media distortions, the caskets hidden from public view, the amputees and the emotional disorders suffered by soldiers who killed and watched others die. Kovics, who had his own share of emotional and physical wounds from the war in Vietnam, writes “we sawthe same destructive patterns reasserting themselves all over again as our leaders spoke of ‘bad guys’ and ‘evil-doers.'” This perception (and a desire to let young men and women know what war is really about) is what sent Kovics and many other antiwar vets back into the streets in opposition to the war on Iraq. The Bush administration, it seems, learned the opposite lessons from Vietnam. Instead of seeing the war as obscene and immoral, they saw a need for even greater force and terror. Instead of looking for new and more peaceful means to resolve differences between nations, they chose the route that ensures more obscenity of death and immorality of war.

It’s May 4th, 2005. The Kent State massacre was thirty-five years ago today.

I turned on the Red Sox game and heard that the Sox were ahead 3 – 1. Given that their pitching has been shaky lately I decided to only listen to half an inning. That way I wouldn’t have to hear if they lost. Meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out why I should read Kovics’ book over again. Sure, It’s been over thirty years since I first read it, but I do recall the general message. I opened the paperback and began reading. Within three pages I knew why. The immediacy of Kovics’ prose. The graphic descriptions of a soldier’s painful wounds and his fight to transcend their pain. It’s the story of an all-American boy growing up on Long Island. Hell, he was even born on the 4th of July, for chrissake. A real Yankee Doodle Dandy. The story continues with the protagonist slowly realizing that all the tales of honor and glory that he saw on the Saturday afternoon matinee screen and in the Marine Corps recruiting pamphlets are a bunch of lies. Lies told to give boys a reason to believe. Just a government’s cynical manipulation of an innocent desire. Welcome to the service, son.

Kovics’ first demonstration against the war was after Nixon sent troops into Cambodia and US troops killed four students in Kent, Ohio. Thirty-five years ago. Is that what it’s going to take this time around, as well? Will anyone in the government care this time around? I read the book in one sitting.

While academics and politicians argue whether or not Iraq is like Vietnam, Kovics’ tale-eerily echoed in stories told by GIs and Marines returning from Iraq-reminds us that, at its most fundamental level, there is little difference between the two campaigns. In other words, members of the US military are killing and dying for the profits of the few. They are destroying the lives of the Iraqis just as Kovics and his men destroyed the lives of the Vietnamese. In the devil’s playground that is war, these GIs are destroying themselves as well, even if their wounds aren’t visible.

That’s why it is important to get this book out there. Every young person who is thinking of joining the military or the Guard should read this book. So should their parents. Do you want your child to be only part of what he was before he joined the service? Do you really think you can escape the odds? Do you really believe that this war is honorable? Do you really think it’s about your freedom? Whether the answer is yes, no, or maybe, read this book before you decide to join the service or let someone you know make that move.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu


More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

October 17, 2019
Steve Early
The Irishman Cometh: Teamster History Hits the Big Screen (Again)
Jonathan Cook
Israel Prepares to Turn Bedouin Citizens into Refugees in Their Own Country
Stan Cox
Healing the Rift Between Political Reality and Ecological Reality
Jeff Klein
Syria, the Kurds, Turkey and the U.S.: Why Progressives Should Not Support a New Imperial Partition in the Middle East
George Ochenski
The Governor, the Mining Company and the Future of a Montana Wilderness
Charles Pierson
Bret Stephens’ American Fantasy
Ted Rall
The First Thing We Do, Let’s Fire All the Cops
Jon Rynn
Saving the Green New Deal
Ajamu Baraka
Syria: Exposing Western Radical Collaboration with Imperialism
Binoy Kampmark
A Coalition of Support: Parliamentarians for Julian Assange
Thomas Knapp
The Down Side of Impeachment
Harvey Wasserman
What Really Happened to American Socialism?
Tom Engelhardt
American Brexit
October 16, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
How Turkey’s Invasion of Syria Backfired on Erdogan
Chitrangada Choudhury – Aniket Aga
How Cotton Became a Headache in the Age of Climate Chaos
Jack Rasmus
US-China Mini-Trade Deal: Trump Takes the Money and Runs
Michael Welton
Communist Dictatorship in Our Midst
Robert Hunziker
Extinction Rebellion Sweeps the World
Peter A. Coclanis
Donald Trump as Artist
Chris Floyd
Byzantium Now: Time-Warping From Justinian to Trump
Steve Klinger
In For a Dime, in For a Dollar
Gary Leupp
The Maria Ramirez Story
Kim C. Domenico
It Serves Us Right To Suffer: Breaking Down Neoliberal Complacency
Kiley Blackman
Wildlife Killing Contests are Unethical
Colin Todhunter
Bayer Shareholders: Put Health and Nature First and Stop Funding This Company!
Andrés Castro
Looking Normal in Kew Gardens
October 15, 2019
Victor Grossman
The Berlin Wall, Thirty Years Later
Raouf Halaby
Kurdish Massacres: One of Britain’s Many Original Sins
Robert Fisk
Trump and Erdogan have Much in Common – and the Kurds will be the Tragic Victims of Their Idiocy
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal in the Levant
Wilma Salgado
Ecuador: Lenin Moreno’s Government Sacrifices the Poor to Satisfy the IMF
Ralph Nader
The Congress Has to Draw the Line
William A. Cohn
The Don Fought the Law…
John W. Whitehead
One Man Against the Monster: John Lennon vs. the Deep State
Lara Merling – Leo Baunach
Sovereign Debt Restructuring: Not Falling Prey to Vultures
Norman Solomon
The More Joe Biden Stumbles, the More Corporate Democrats Freak Out
Jim Britell
The Problem With Partnerships and Roundtables
Howard Lisnoff
More Incitement to Violence by Trump’s Fellow Travelers
Binoy Kampmark
University Woes: the Managerial Class Gets Uppity
Joe Emersberger
Media Smears, Political Persecution Set the Stage for Austerity and the Backlash Against It in Ecuador
Thomas Mountain
Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed Wins Nobel Peace Prize, But It Takes Two to Make Peace
Wim Laven
Citizens Must Remove Trump From Office
October 14, 2019
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
Class Struggle is Still the Issue
Mike Miller
Global Climate Strike: From Protest To Power?
Patrick Cockburn
As Turkey Prepares to Slice Through Syria, the US has Cleared a New Breeding Ground for Isis