I almost stopped writing this blog as the awful event in Orlando, Florida emerged in the news. I decided to push forward. Militarism is part of the complex web of problems that we need to address in our country. This blog addresses a piece of that and offers a small beginning of a solution.

KILLERS AMONG US

It’s 1943. The allied invasion to wrest Italy from the grips of fascism is underway. Communist-led partisans have neutralized some of Mussolini’s minions. Germany has sent its troops to keep Italy in the fascist loop.

A Canadian infantryman encounters a German soldier who is in a sitting position in a goat hut. The infantryman hears words from the enemy combatant, at first inaudible, then clearer. The German wants vasser, water. He is wounded. Was it a rouse? What to do?

The Canadian’s head swirls with a rush of tangled thoughts. Should he whip the carbine off his back and finish what war has already done to this human being? His body shook with emotion. He slowly reaches for his canteen, chuck full of rum, and hands it to the German. In a short time, the wounds prove deadly.

Famed naturalist to-be Farley Mowat was that Canadian military man. After the war he would find himself in the far north of Canada where he would run with wolves and get to know and appreciate Inuit Native People culture. He would share with us those experiences with other beings on the tundra through many natural history books.

He had much time to reflect on his military experiences. Fortunately, he also shared the chaos and pathos of war through his little known book, And No Birds Sang.

Let’s go back even further in time. It’s March of 1780. A group of young men, mostly from the Gunntown area of the Naugatuck Valley, Connecticut, are sitting at the Whittemore Inn in Chusetown (Seymour). In the next hour they would be recruited by a secret British agent. Four days later, they would be the shock troops to raid the house of patriot Ebenezer Dayton of Bethany. They would terrorize the Dayton family and make off with a bevy of stolen goods.

The most gung-ho, to use the modern phrase, of this motley gang was the cousins, David and Henry Wooster. Along their escape route, they participated in the kidnapping of a young colonial, Chauncey Judd, who was from a patriotic family. Both cousins were from rabid loyalist families. It would be the irony.

When the Tory gang reaches the banks of the Long Meadow Brook in Gunntown, the British agent decided to kill their captive. But lo, wait; it was none other than the Wooster boys who literally put their bodies in front of the Queen’s gun. They successfully stayed the execution of the young colonial. Their humanity, in spite of their distain for the Judd family and the revolutionary movement, burst forth.

History is replete with stories, like the two above, where the courage to do the right thing bubbles to the surface amid the chaos of war and civil strife. The one I am about to relate is not one of them.

It’s February 25, 1969, Thanh Phong, Vietnam. Navy Seals are on the hunt for a Viet Cong leader. They encounter a hut occupied by three young children and their grandparents. The Seals kill them all using knives so as not to give away their position. More civilians were killed in the main village including 13 children and a pregnant woman.

The leader of this wanton killing spree was Bob Kerrey. The report would read 21 Vietcong were killed. It was a completely false report. Kerrey would be awarded a Bronze Star and the Congressional Medal of Honor. He would, in part, bounce off his participation in the U.S. War in Vietnam to become Governor of Nebraska and a U.S. Senator, now retired.

Kerrey did not divulge this atrocity until a media report was about to do so in 2001. He claimed no direct participation in the killing. That also was a lie. Two members of the Seal team revealed he was directly involved in the killing of a grandfather. Kerrey also gave the order to kill the civilians in the larger village. A survivor, Bui Thi Luom, has corroborated their entire account (NYTimes 6/3/16).

Some say this was different. It was a time of war. The Seals had very little time. They were following orders. All these excuses were debunked during the Nuremberg trails (http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/nuremberg-trials) after World War II. Nazi leaders, as well as guards of concentration camps, were sent to prison or worse. They are still being hunted down and as are those who were involved in atrocities in Serbia, Ivory Coast, and elsewhere.

There’s more. To my knowledge Navy Seals were not drafted. They volunteered. Now Bob Kerrey has been appointed Chairman of the board of Fulbright University, Vietnam. Unconscionable? That is to say the least.

Like Lieutenant Calley of the infamous My Lai massacre (http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/calley-charged-for-my-lai-massacre), Vietnam, these killers are walking among us. While former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and those of his Ilk, are culpable for the U.S. War in Vietnam, those in the field are as well. Officer’s expressions of moral injury should not let them get away with murder. Soldiers who genuinely need help with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and moral injury should get all the help they need to recover. That’s not what we are considering here.

There is an important connection to the present. For decades, George Bush Senior has been an advocate of putting the U.S. War in Vietnam behind us. He calls it the “Vietnam syndrome”, which is basically our peoples’ reluctance for military solutions at every turn. He wants a free hand for U.S. imperialism to run rough shod over countries that will not follow the dictates of the fossil fuel boys. Iraq War #1, Desert Storm, put this thesis to work. The other side of that coin is to protect killers from the past and to shield new ones being nurtured by the military.

To a certain extent, the Bushes et al have been successful. The peace movement has been mainly mute, as pictures of heads rolling off bodies have spooked young and old. The mass murders in Florida, Paris, and elsewhere have added to the paralysis. Meanwhile the civilian casualties of U.S. militarism in the Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan also pile up enraging populations there, particularly young people.

If we can’t confront these skirmishes from past, with the Bob Kerrey case an example, how can we ever stop the madness now? Are we to leave the solutions to the Trumps of the world? That would be the path of xenophobia, racism, war, and genocide abroad and repression at home. Sound familiar? (More on this in Killers Among Us – Part II)

Demand that Bob Kerrey (Here & Now – Some Vietnamese recall Bob Kerrey’s… | Facebo

be removed as chairman of the Fulbright University in Vietnam. He needs to have a fair trail with innocence presumed, as is our law. Let justice flow from there. We all need it.

Now we need the discussion to flow here. What are your thoughts?

 

 

 

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