Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What Veterans See

In August of 1945, Ralph Mariscal, Jr., a 23 year-old son of Mexican immigrants and a U.S. Marine, sat waiting off the coast of Japan with thousands of other troops. The invasion would be bloody, they had been told, but as it turned out history would take a different course. Rather than invading Japan, my father and U.S. forces landed at Sasebo among the first contingent of U.S. occupation forces. What he saw in nearby Nagasaki would stay with him forever.

Military veterans tend to view commonplace things through a different lens. Because they have seen the best and the worst of human behavior they have little patience for empty bravado and posturing. Today my father and his 80-something veteran pals refer to President Bush as “Little Napoleon.” The cowboy swagger with arms swinging wide at the hips signals “chicken hawk” to them. They always get a good laugh at the commander-in-chief’s expense.

When my colleague Gus Chavez, who taught for years at SDSU, is at the San Diego airport, he watches the young Marines just out of boot camp. Most of them will wind up in Iraq. What he really sees are the injured soldiers and Marines he treated as a Navy corpsman at the Balboa Hospital throughout the early years of the U.S. war in Southeast Asia.

When Vietnam vet Charley Trujillo listens to interviews with young GIs in Iraq, he hears the voices of his comrades in arms whose only objective was to get home alive. When he listened to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation speech in which he implied the war in Iraq was simply too complex for the American public to understand, he heard the arrogant assertions of Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara, the architect of the U.S. adventure in Vietnam.

Most folks are amused when the Dodge Nitro commercial shows a car being blown a hundred feet into the air. But the veteran sees improvised explosive devices going off on Iraqi roads, their friends blown up before their eyes.

Most folks are shocked to hear a “special report” on CNN about how military recruiters distort the truth in order to meet their quotas. Veterans smile knowingly. They never met anyone in the service to whom a recruiter had not told a half-truth or an outright lie.

Most folks parrot the slogan “Support our troops.” They put yellow ribbon and American flag stickers on their cars. Veterans wonder how supporting our troops can mean sending them to fight in a war with no clearly defined mission and no clearly defined exit strategy in a country that never posed a threat to the United States.

What is most striking to all veterans when they return from the combat zone is the way in which daily life appears to go on as if nothing was different. Football, malls, movies-does anyone realize that young men and women in uniform are surrounded by death and dying in a killing field faraway? Civilians see the headlines about Britney Spears’ divorce, but veterans see a country living in a bubble.

JORGE MARISCAL is a Vietnam veteran and director of the Chicano-Latino Arts and Humanities Program at the University of California, San Diego. He is a member of Project YANO (San Diego). Visit his blog at: jorgemariscal.blogspot.com/ He can be reached at: gmariscal@ucsd.edu

 

More articles by:
May 24, 2018
Gary Leupp
Art of the Dealbreaker: Trump’s Cancellation of the Summit with Kim
Jeff Warner – Victor Rothman
Why the Emerging Apartheid State in Israel-Palestine is Not Sustainable
Kenn Orphan
Life, the Sea and Big Oil
James Luchte
Europe Stares Into the Abyss, Confronting the American Occupant in the Room
Richard Hardigan
Palestinians’ Great March of Return: What You Need to Know
Howard Lisnoff
So Far: Fascism Lite
Matthew Vernon Whalan
Norman Finkelstein on Bernie Sanders, Gaza, and the Mainstream Treatment
Daniel Warner
J’accuse All Baby Boomers
Alfred W. McCoy
Beyond Golden Shower Diplomacy
Jonah Raskin
Rachel Kushner, Foe of Prisons, and Her New Novel, “The Mars Room”
George Wuerthner
Myths About Wildfires, Logging and Forests
Binoy Kampmark
Tom Wolfe the Parajournalist
Dean Baker
The Marx Ratio: Not Clear Karl Would be Happy
May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
Lawrence Davidson
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail