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Kent State University, May 4, 2017 by Pat LaMarche

Good Afternoon. I’d like to thank May 4th Task Force for having me here with you today.

It is my great and solemn honor to speak to you today.

I was an unusually politically aware nine-year-old kid, trying to make sense of a country spinning out of control, when the federalized troops of the Ohio National Guard opened fire here, at Kent State.

See, when I was growing up, my dad had strict rules about television watching. On school nights the only tv we could watch, was the news. Hind sight being what it is, I probably should have been allowed to watch I Dream of Jeannie or The Munsters and thereby skipped the nightly diet of poverty, race riots and war.

I look back and remember sitting in front of a black and white tv, at truths too upsetting for living color. As the decades have gone by, the contrast has been turned up on the black and white reality that poured out at me each night. I look back now at moments that get more vivid as details emerge. As a journalist, I’m grateful that these stories continue to evolve.

Because of my parents’ news rules, I grew up watching the Vietnam War unfold. I grew up watching civil rights showdowns. I grew up knowing that all too often brute force was the solution to – well – to everything.

One of those school nights when I sat down to watch tv was May 4th 1970. I remember being horrified, confused, disbelieving. I remember being frightened. I better remember my mom, once again hunched over at our kitchen table, grieving – as she had when Martin Luther King Jr. and then Bobby Kennedy were shot.

There was no shortage of black and white tragedy shaping my world. The citizenry used brute force on each other. My government used brute force in foreign countries. Police forces and sheriff’s departments used billy clubs, fire hoses and dogs on protesters. And then, at Kent State, the federal government used brute force on privileged white college kids.

Kent State shocked violence weary white America like nothing before had.

Everyone paying attention to the news in 1970 knew two things. Before Kent State, you had to fit into a couple of categories in order to get killed. You had to be famous. You had to have put yourself out there. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., John and Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X.

Or you had to be some nosey do-gooder looking for trouble in the deep south, like, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.

But, if by some chance you were some innocent by stander, well then you had to be black.

Kent State changed all that. Kent State threatened privileged Americans. White draft deferred college kids could be killed just walking to class.

But there was another frightening distinction at Kent State.

Before Kent State, trigger happy police departments killed protestors – as was the case when the South Carolina highway patrol perpetrated the Orangeburg massacre. But at Kent State, in full violation of the United States Constitution, the U.S. military opened fire on the American people. Tanks rolled into town. Check points were set up. And U.S. Army forces terrorized the populace.

Yesterday, on our way into Kent, we detoured and stopped at the Robinson Memorial hospital now University Hospital. That’s where Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, William Schroeder, and Sandra Scheuer along with other victims went after being shot. That’s where their parents went to identify their children’s bodies. I’ll be writing a piece for my page at the Huffington Post later this week, and you’ll be able to see the short video we made in the hallway where 15-year-old Laurel Krause stood waiting for her parents to identify her dead sister.

As we left, I thanked the woman volunteering at the front desk. Ruby’s her name and she’s 73. I asked her if she remembered the Kent State shootings. She did. Her oldest child went to a local grade school, until the national guard took it over as a military occupation outpost. She had twin two year olds. Late in the day on May 4th she realized she had no milk in the house. She got in her car and headed for the market only to be stopped at a military checkpoint. She told me that the guardsman trained his rifle at her and demanded to know where she was going. She had the kids in the car. She pointed to them and said, “I’m going to get my babies some milk.”

May 4, 1970 was a bad day. That’s how Ruby remembers it. That’s how we all should remember it.

I’d like to take a moment and congratulate Kent State University on their long – now completed march – toward their National Landmark designation. Last October, I had the distinct honor of escorting Mary Vecchio to the public hearing hosted by the National Park Landmark Commission. The photograph of Mary – a teenage runaway – her arms outstretched, kneeling over Jeffrey Miller’s body became the image of Kent State for a long time.

It was an image the school desperately wanted to shake.

Many of you know that. If you attended yesterday’s panel discussion about the National Landmark designation, you know that the university wanted to forget the shootings ever happened. By 1977 enrollment was down, and the school – perhaps rightfully – thought that people didn’t want to send their kids to a place where kids got killed.

Kent wanted a new image. What better way to say, Kent State focuses on a healthy living student body, then with a new gym?

But instead of dulling the memory of Kent State, the effort to build a gym invigorated it. Survivors returned to campus. Aggrieved parents returned to the scene where their precious children died. And while strong arm tactics such as tear gas were used again on the students, deadly force was not.

Nixon was gone. J Edgar Hoover was gone. Months earlier Jimmy Carter had pardoned the young men who protested the war by fleeing the country and the draft. The country wanted to heal.

This is the 40th anniversary of that gym protest and as such the discussion this year has taken a slight turn from the killing and injuring of 13 students to the wanton disregard for history and the conscious desire to obliterate if not blur the scene of the crime.

When I brought Mary Vecchio to those hearings it was because she too felt that the story wasn’t complete. Mary’s story, Ruby’s story, that are all a part of the Kent State story. Nixon’s scorched earth policy of killing students, terrifying young moms on an errand to get milk, illegally bombing foreign nations gave way to trees planted on a hillside, a new gymnasium, ugly attacks Allison Krause’s reputation, imprisoning Mary Vecchio in reform school.

This past October, the historians at the National Park Service public forum, agreed with Mary Vecchio. They discussed at great length and with great respect the value of eyewitness accounts. They urged Kent State to include as many of them as possible.

Sometimes human nature gets the better of us. We shy away from people who make a fuss. Who show their anger. Consequently, some historians and institutions want sanitized history. Just the bare bones that can be independently confirmed, not all that fleshy humanity that gives an historic event it’s depth, it’s color, it’s warmth. Historians can shy away from eyewitness accounts because humans sometimes have funny ways of remembering things. Memories are colored by emotions, past experiences, subsequent tragic consequences.

The landmark commission reminded Kent State that they can have both. They can have the historic skeleton of verifiable facts and they can have the raw emotion that rips through the heart of a murder victims’ father. With so many living eye witnesses, Kent State can compile a vibrant historiography to accompany their memorials in the parking lot.

What Mary remembered so vividly, the shattered glass from car windows, Allison Krause’s foaming last attempts to speak, Jeffrey Millers blood running like a stream away from his body, they are vivid and they are real and they are every bit as sacred to the story of Kent State as the pagoda where the soldiers turned and fired.

You want to know the history of human rights in the United States? Then you need to know about the FBI manhunt for Mary Vecchio. You need to know that the governor of Florida blamed her for the deaths of her friends. You need to know everything you can possibly know about everyone shot at that day and the community in which they lived. And when their stories are included, then Kent State, your historic landmark will have preserved history and not just in black and white, but in real living color.

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April 9, 2017

Last week I received a package from the daughter of a woman who helped my sister Allison Krause as she was dying in the Kent State University parking lot. The package contained a greeting card, an image of Dr. Marion Stroud (Allison’s helper), a Letter to the Editor at the Akron Beacon Journal that she wrote shortly after May 4, 1970 and a handkerchief with Allison’s blood … a relic from that day.

Here is the Letter to the Editor written and sent by Dr. Marion Stroud –

To The Editor:

I was with two of the students who were shot and killed by National Guardsmen at Kent Monday and for their sake I want to tell it like it was.

The Guardsmen had marched up the hill after leaving the football practice field. Kids were following them up, some shouting and probably some throwing small stones — there were no “baseball size” rocks available. Without warning the Guards stopped at the top of the hill and fired a long volley of rifle shots into the crowd below.

Many of the kids dropped to the ground and others ran behind the building. There was discussion as to whether the shots were blanks but in seconds we knew they were not. There were kids gathering around the wounded.

THE BOY who died first was shot in the back of the neck. He lay in a vast puddle of his young blood. His friends tried to stop the flow, but he had no pulse nor breath and we all realized he was dead.

There was a cry from a group trying to help a big, beautiful young girl who was lying in the parking lot, shot in the armpit. We tried to put enough scarves and handkerchiefs into the hole to stop the bleeding. She was breathing a little but as we waited for the ambulance I saw her lips go white and her eyes glaze over, and I realized she wouldn’t make it, either.

Five or six victims were picked up on stretchers and those of us who had been fired on stood in small groups trying to figure out why the soldiers had turned and fired without warning. Most of us in that area had been walking away when the shooting started.

THOSE WHO died weren’t wild, SDS bearded hippies. They were kids like my sons and daughters. They came to the Commons for a peace rally. They wanted to know how to get the word to our government that the Vietnam war is immoral and its extension into Cambodia intolerable.

After the shooting one young man said, “You think this bloody mess is awful, just imagine what the kids have to do every day in Vietnam — kill, kill, kill. Plenty of blood in the streets there.”

Listen to them. You know in your hearts, they’re right.

I’m no kid. I’m over 40 and the mother of seven children.

MARION STROUD, Graduate Student, Kent State University

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On October 19, 2016 before the US Dept of the Interior and the National Park Service, the Kent State Massacre nomination for National Historic Landmark status was heard. Please read Mary Ann Vecchio’s comment before the nomination advisory board in Washington, D.C. offered on October 19, 2016:

©1970 John Filo. All Rights reserved.

©1970 John Filo. All Rights reserved.

My name is Mary Ann Vecchio. I am the 14-year-old in the iconic, Pulitzer-prize-winning photo taken at Kent State. I am pictured kneeling above the body of 20-year old Jeff Miller as he lay dying. I am here because I am deeply concerned about this application to designate Kent State as a National Historic Landmark. I am also a member of the National Parks Service, an institution that I love from the core of my being.

Like so many of us present at the Kent State shootings, I have carried profound life-long consequences for my presence at the massacre site. My exclusion from this process is an indication of how poorly it has been executed.

Kent State University does not own the narrative of what took place on May 4, 1970. It belongs to each of us there that day, those injured, whose lives were forever altered, and above all to the families of those killed. That fateful day harmed all of us and this exclusionary process which seeks to rewrite the truth is newly re-victimizing.

I have had a chance to review the 144-page landmark nomination report and have come before you to say that the facts included in the report are inaccurate and incomplete. A credible account of the Kent State shootings is not being presented to the Department of Interior in this landmark nomination.

Kent State University has only allowed one side of the truth to be told over these last 46 years, yet it has not been challenged for this revisionism. At what point can the victims and witnesses present at Kent State be heard and stop being subjected to these untruths and distortions? The government injured us once and we are before a government commission again. We cannot bring back those lost at Kent State so all we have at this point is the truth.

There are many elements and recent developments completely censored from the nomination report, I will list just a few that have meaning for me:

New forensic evidence emerged in 2010 which established a command to fire, debunking the idea that the national guard acted spontaneously. This evidence, produced by forensic scientist Stuart Allen, was not even mentioned in the landmark report. Stuart Allen’s analysis points to government complicity at Kent State – a central feature of the accountability the victims have been seeking for decades.

On a more symbolic note but one dear to me, Neil Young’s anthem to the Kent State massacre, the popular song Ohio, is also not mentioned in the KSU nomination report.

Finally, the photo which exposed me to public scrutiny for decades is not explored in this report. I am happy to honor those harmed at Kent State with the circulation of that iconic photograph, an indication of how well-known and well-documented the massacre has been, but it grieves me deeply to know that the vast exposure of this historic event can result in a report so weighted with untruths. I deserve the truth, those killed at Kent State deserve the truth, and the American people as a whole certainly do too.

I have other objections to the content of the landmark application which I am happy to share if my further participation is invited by the Landmark Commission.

I am asking the National Parks Service to please pause, and listen to all concerned about this project, certainly not just Kent State University’s purported experts.

 



From Pat LaMarche in the Huffington Post on the Kent State massacre landmark nomination hearing, October 19, 2016 http://huff.to/2dwIqmU

The Kent State University landmark nomination report on the Kent State massacre that occurred May 4, 1970 http://bit.ly/2cIV1lO

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October 10, 2016 by Tim Martin, originally published here http://bit.ly/2d3Bbmn

Women and children crouch in a muddy canal as they take cover from intense Viet Cong fire at Bao Trai, about 20 miles west of Saigon, Jan. 1, 1966. Paratroopers, background, of the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade escorted the South Vietnamese civilians through a series of firefights during the U.S. assault on a Viet Cong stronghold. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

1966 Vietnam (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

When I was young and as malleable as liquid mercury, I was taught that “the only good commie is a dead commie.” I was told that America was a righteous nation and that “God was on our side.” I grew up on a steady diet of cold-war dogma. By the time I entered high school, the government had sharpened its anti-communist rhetoric to a point where it could have been used to cut drywall. At age 17 I joined the U.S. Navy in order to fight the “creeping red menace” in a far-away place called Vietnam.

The Vietnam War came to be known as my generation’s signature catastrophe.

Many American veterans are still fighting the war in their heads. They have yet to deal with the body counts, the burned villages, the napalmed children, and the carpet-bombed countryside they left behind. I am one of them. I recently returned to Vietnam to exorcise some of my own demons. I went there afraid of what I might find and came home with a deeper understanding of the people I once considered “the enemy.”

Vietnam is not the image of a war-torn country. We didn’t “bomb them back into the Stone Age” as General Curtis LeMay once suggested. It is prospering farming communities and bustling cities and free-flowing commerce. The Vietnamese are an extraordinary people. Their simple kindness humbles me. They hold no resentment toward America. They have forgiven us for the destruction and the ghastly aftermath of Agent Orange. They’ve shrugged it off as an inevitable consequence of war.

There are no throwaway people in Vietnam, no unemployed or homeless. The Vietnamese are gracious, sincere, and hard-working. Everyone has a job and a purpose. Education is highly valued and age is highly revered. Insulting an elder or an ancestor is considered a serious offense. Vietnamese people are polite and dignified. There are no loudmouths, no pushy types and (oddly enough) no road rage, despite the nation’s estimated 39 million motorbikes.

Vietnam is a place of traditions. Meals are typically shared. A bride at her wedding changes dresses seven times. Funerals are held in the street and the deceased are entombed on property belonging to their families. The beauty of the country pulls at your emotions. There are Buddhist temples high on mountaintops, water buffalo grazing alongside the Mekong River, and rice fields that stretch as far as the eye can see. Vietnam is an endless ballet of traffic in Ho Chi Minh City. It is a monsoon rain in Danang, a Dragon Boat on the Perfume River, and the laughter of children in Hanoi that brings warmth to the heart of a lonely traveler.

There is an infinitesimal police presence in Vietnam. No armored vehicles roam the streets. No military solders or government officials study your every move. The Vietnamese government trusts its citizens, and its tourists. Relations between the U.S. and Vietnam normalized in 1995. Diplomatic ties are strong. The first KFC opened in 1997. Starbucks made an appearance in 2013, and McDonald’s opened one year later.

Vietnam is a purging of the soul for the returning veteran. It is also an aching heart. A large number of Vietnamese people have lost friends and relatives to war. Others have lost entire families. They are the maimed, the orphaned and the widowed — a nation building lives out of fragments of the past. Meanwhile, our government struggles to obliterate any important lessons we might have learned from Vietnam as it maintains a nationalistic echo chamber that will give them a freer hand in conducting future interventions around the world.

It shames me that my country has become the biggest warmongering nation on the planet. This has got to change.

America put the Vietnamese people through an unspeakable hell. Despite this, they are gracious and sincere, and happy we are now friends. I would like to blame the Vietnam War solely on our leaders, but the shameful truth is that we were all responsible. We can no longer absolve ourselves by claiming that we were lied to, because the lies continue. The notion that we are pushing democracy with our present murderous wars is preposterous — we are pushing Empire.

I am sorry for the atrocities the Vietnamese people had to live through, every stray bullet and every misplaced explosive that was written off as collateral damage. Vietnam was never a threat to our country. They only wanted independence. America tried to bomb a nation back into the Stone Age. Instead, we should have been bombing them with love.

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August 18, 2016 by Howard Lisnoff

Published first at Counter Punch http://bit.ly/2bfU5Er

KissingerNixonForeignAffairsIf you happened to be an anti-war protester during the Vietnam War, then the following interchange between the late President Richard  Nixon and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, is telling:

[T]he President told Kissinger:

At Kent State there were 4 or 5 killed today. But that place has been bad for quite some time—it has been rather violent.” Kissinger suggested that the Nixon administration would be blamed for the killings and he noted that thirty-three university presidents were appealing to the President to leave Vietnam.

The President asked about the student strike, observing: “If it’s peaceful it doesn’t bother me.” Still, Nixon worried if the students were “out of classes they’ll be able to raise hell.” Kissinger thought they would hold teach-ins and possibly march on Washington. Nixon hoped “we can get some people of our own to speak out.”

Kissinger stated that “The university presidents are a disgrace,” to which Nixon replied: “They still get an inordinate amount of publicity, like the students. We have to stand hard as a rock. Everybody’s been through this—de Gaulle, Marcos…If countries begin to be run by children, God help us.” Kissinger suggested that “of course, student disorders hurt us politically.”

The President responded: “They don’t if it doesn’t appear we caused them.”

(Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 363, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File) (“May 4, 1970: Nixon & Kissinger’s Kent State phone call,” The Daily Kos, May 4, 2011).

Nixon’s observation that Kent State “has been bad for quite some time—it has been rather violent,” is a complete revisionist version of the anti-war movement at Kent State. The “worst” that can be said about the events leading up to the massacre of students at Kent State is that some students threw rocks at the armed occupying force of the National Guard, most rocks falling harmlessly to the ground. Few massacres of unarmed civilians are justified because a few people threw rocks at an armed occupying force.

It’s not such a surprise to those who know the history of the period, or the obvious terror of Kent State and Jackson State, but what demands scrutiny is the fact that the architect and the advisor of many wars and covert operations is now being flaunted as a trusted and respected statesman by Hillary Clinton, who will most likely be the next president of the United States. Bernie Sanders knew enough to stay away from Kissinger like poison and he said as much during the presidential primary season. Senator Sanders:

I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country,” Sanders said at Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate, referring to Clinton citing the former secretary of state’s praise for her work in that same position.

“I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger,” he added, (“Bernie Sanders Ties Clinton To Henry Kissinger: ‘Not My Kind of Guy,’” TPM Livewire, February 11, 2016).

Kissinger comes across in the Nixon interchange like a true Machiavellian. Neither Nixon nor Kissinger gave a damn about the kids who had just been killed. Here students have been killed in cold blood and these two extraordinarily powerful men are discussing how best to handle the situation as it were some minor irritant or issue that needed to be managed into historical oblivion. It is cynicism of the democratic process at its lowest common denominator. And it’s not so much that Kissinger was out of step with the haters around him during that historical era, it’s just that he was in such an important position in government and he had the ear of the president while student unrest in the face of the Vietnam War and the U.S. incursion into Cambodia were causing the explosion of student protest across the nation. And the vast and overwhelming majority of that protest movement was peaceful no matter what the historical revisionists would like that revised history to read.

Nixon called student protesters “bums.” The governor of Ohio, James Rhodes, called them “brown shirts.” The governor of California, Ronald Reagan, called for a “bloodbath” of students who protested the war. The director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, said “the students invited (the shootings) and got what they deserved.” With hate speech like this, it is not difficult to draw a straight line between the protest of wars and the massacre of protesters.

Hillary Clinton pays homage to Kissinger, one of the architects of Nixon’s “secret” plan for peace that killed millions of people in Southeast Asia and thousands of Americans. She values Kissinger for his “belief in the indispensability of continued American leadership in service of a just and liberal order,” (“Does Hillary Clinton see that invoking Henry Kissinger harms her campaign?” The Guardian, February 13, 2016). Is Hillary Clinton delusional in her homage of Kissinger? That homage is both nauseating and a perversion of the history of the Vietnam era.

And this from the New York Times:

Mrs. Clinton’s dogged pursuit of Republican votes has especially rankled progressives, and highlights the divisions within the Democratic Party, even as they see a victory more likely. They have grumbled at her eager promotion of endorsements from veterans of the George W. Bush and Reagan administrations, including that of John D. Negroponte, a top diplomat and intelligence official under Mr. Bush. They worry aloud that Henry Kissinger, of whom Mrs. Clinton has often spoken fondly, could be next (“Hillary Clinton’s Edge in a Donald Trump-Centric Race Has Liberals Wary,” August 14, 2016).

The presidential race is not a choice between an evil and a lesser evil. It is more fully understood as a race between two proponents of the status quo, which means business as usual in the conduct of unending wars, of which Kissinger was an active proponent. His philosophy of Machiavellian Realpolitik can be seen in conflicts in Chile, East Timor, and Bangladesh during his tenure as national security advisor and secretary of state.

Who knows where Hillary Clinton’s propensity to rely on the use of force will lead the government? More war in Syria? Renewed U.S. war in Libya? Continued war in Afghanistan? Expanded war in Iraq? The possibilities are limitless and could even involve provocative action with Russia. Much profit and “glory” are to be made from war and the preparations for war, as was anticipated in the warning of Dwight Eisenhower about the immense power and danger of the military-industrial complex.

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An article by Richard Cohen published October 14, 1979 in The Washington Post … found again in the Krause family archive 37 years later

IMG_4303Soon I shall come to Henry Kissinger and David Frost and William Shawcross and all the rest who are arguing about what America did or did not do in Cambodia. First, though, I want to say something about a girl named Allison Krause. She deserves to be mentioned.

I had forgotten about her. She was only 19 when she died and the truth of the matter is that I never knew her. She went to a school outside Washington, and the day after she died I went up there and talked to her teachers and the students and then wrote a story about a girl – one of the four students – who died at Kent State University.

The teachers talked about her looks. She was extraordinarily pretty – sweet and pretty. She was a good student and well-mannered, but always the teachers came back to how pretty she was. Even the women said that. Allison Krause must have been one stunning girl. She died protesting the American Invasion of Cambodia.

AllisonFlowersAreBetterMemeNow, once again, I’m looking for her picture. It’s on my desk along with newspaper clippings about Cambodia and the book, “Sideshow” by William Shawcross and all the stuff about Henry Kissinger and David Frost. They have been arguing, the three of them, about who was responsible for what – everything from the secret bombings of Cambodia back to 1969 to the sad state of the country today. Once again, Kissinger is winning the debate.

What he has managed to do is turn this all into an argument over tactics or strategy — military and diplomatic – and not about law and morality. As a result, the debate is conducted in the language of overseas cables. We are supposed to care when and where Prince Norodom Sihanouk may or may not have indicated that he not only knew of the secret bombings (how could he have not?) and acquiesced (how could he have not?).

“We kept the raid secret,” Kissinger wrote in a letter of the British magazine, The Economist, “because we wanted to gear our response to Sihanouk’s and to protect his position. We were prepared to acknowledge if Sihanouk protested – which he did not.” In the same letter Kissinger writes, “Throughout, Sihanouk only did not protest: he publicly disclaimed any objection to American bombing in areas annexed to the North Vietnamese and asserted that Cambodians had been killed.”

So what it came down to for Kissinger was an attempt to protect Sihanouk from suffering excruciating political embarrassment had the secret American bombings of his country become known. In other words, the question remains whether the bombing and the subsequent American invasion of Cambodia were militarily justified.

What you get from Shawcross, however, is another point of view entirely. He’s willing to argue the military stuff with Kissinger and to tangle with him diplomatically. But he also points out the bombings were secret, probably illegal. This attempt to keep the American people in the dark led to wiretapping of 17 persons, including newsmen, in order to find out who had leaked the story to The New York Times. This was the process – a lie followed by an abuse of power – that led inexorably to Watergate.

What matters more than whether Sihanouk knew he was pounding his country literally back into the Stone Age is the fact that the American people did not. They were being told of Vietnamization and troop reduction – of peace efforts and secret plans to end the war. They were not told of the bombings. They were not only not told of the bombings, they were lied to.

The Air Force kept a double set of books, to disguise the raids. If you asked for the books, you got the phony ones. The Air Force, to its credit, made no exceptions. It lied to Congress, too.

Even as late of 1970, the administration clung to the lie. Richard Nixon, in announcing the invasion of Cambodia, said the United States “scrupulously respected” the neutrality of Cambodia. As for Kissinger, he turned away from the protest of his aides by calling them, more or less, yellow: “Your view represents the cowardice of the Eastern establishment.”

Through it all, Kissinger argues tactics and strategy and the mumbo jumbo of diplomacy. It is important for him to prove that Sihanouk approved of the secret bombings and that they were militarily justified. The fact remains, though, the American people did not know; that Kissinger, in his contempt for us and his conviction that he knew best, never let us in on the secret. And he never concedes to this day that it would have been best had he and his boss, Richard Nixon, consulted with the American people before taking us into Cambodia. Cambodia might have suffered any way.

But Allison Krause might still be alive.

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A 2016 Memorial Day read by Tim Martin, Eureka Times Standard

Vietnamese women and children crouch taking cover from Viet Cong fire at Bao Trai near Saigon 1/1/66 > AP Photo/Horst Faas

There will never be a day when the Vietnam War is not on my mind. It was one of the worst mistakes America has ever made. Vietnam was fought for big money interests and promoted under the guise of nationalism. The war should have taught us a humbling lesson, but we let it slip away. Peace has become the enemy of corporate-run America. Our nation is accustomed to viewing life through the crosshairs of a rifle scope. We are a society in search of constant battle.

Over the past 50 years Americans have been spoon-fed whatever revisionist propaganda about Vietnam our leaders want us to hear. Their lies have kept us from understanding the truth: the war in Southeast Asia was immoral and unjust, a brutality akin to slavery and the genocide of the American Indian. Vietnam produced a realization in me that, much like the British redcoats who once tried to destroy our freedom, I had fought on the wrong side.

I am a veteran who would like to apologize to the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia for my part in the war. I joined the U.S. Navy in 1966 to battle a nation that had been in a prolonged struggle to free itself from foreign domination. The Vietnamese defeated the Japanese occupation during the Second World War. In 1945 they declared themselves independent from France. They wanted only what America’s Founding Fathers wanted: liberty and independence.

In 1965 the U.S. sent an army to Vietnam to battle a new revolutionary nationalist movement called the National Liberation Front (the Viet Cong). Our soldiers were told that all struggles for national liberation were USSR- or China-led “Communist conspiracies.” That was a lie. The Vietnam War was a pointless exercise in destruction. Americans were ordered to burn Vietnamese villages, destroy large areas of the countryside, and kill as many enemy fighters as possible. Our military dropped napalm and cluster bombs and sprayed people with herbicides. The results were death and injury, lifelong illness and genetic mutation.

The suffering did not end with the liberation of Saigon in 1975.

Author Edward Tick, known for his groundbreaking work with Vietnam veterans, wrote a book called “Fallen Leaves, Broken Lives.” He collected statistics by searching history books, newspapers, and archives, and interviewing survivors and scholars throughout the United States and Southeast Asia. Here is what he discovered:

During the course of the war 2.5 million Vietnamese were killed, 4 million were wounded and 250,000 went missing in action. There have been 67,000 people maimed and 50,000 post-war deaths because of unexploded bombs and mines in Vietnam. Post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide numbers are unknown, but there are an estimated 3 million disabled street people in Vietnam.

The environmental damage was enormous, ranging from devastated forests to gasoline-poisoned rice fields. The U.S. bombing in Vietnam (approximately 8 billion pounds worth) was four times more than during World War II. Over 5,778 Vietnamese villages, 15,100 bridges, 2,923 high schools and universities, 1,500 maternity hospitals and 484 churches were destroyed or damaged. Agent Orange-related deformities still occur at the rate of 35,000 a year. (11.7 million gallons of the deadly chemical were sprayed over the countryside.)

I wish the Vietnam War could have ended with some form of introspection and reconciliation on our part, but America’s leaders were (and still are) out to lunch. We have become an enormous military camp intent on creating new enemies and wreaking havoc around the world. The U.S. has reached the point where warfare no longer requires victory. Our failures are self-inflicted. The military industrial complex is a parasite on this country, and our politicians treat young soldiers like expendable assets.

There is some good news: Americans are growing immune to our government’s attempts to propagandize faux patriotism into a good and necessary thing. We are learning that war is rarely about a “moral higher ground.” U.S. citizens are finally beginning to understand that our addiction to battle is a symptom of the sickness that pervades us.

Time does not heal all wounds, but owning the truth is a small step forward.

As a nation we are seriously flawed. Our military is deep in the blood of millions of innocents. My participation in the Vietnam War was a terrible mistake. I hope the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia will forgive me. As for the untruthful leaders of this country, no apology will be forthcoming. Their eyes are already locked on the next atrocity ahead.

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