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Posts Tagged ‘Cambodia’

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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First published May 12, 2015 by Pat LaMarche in her column at the Huffington Post

DominoTheoryIt’s graduation season and nearly two million undergrads will receive their diplomas this year. While campuses all across the nation groom themselves for commencement, one university reels from the weight of another commemoration.

Last week at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, hundreds of visitors flocked to a solitary parking lot to pay their respect. Respect has been in short supply for the victims and families of the Kent State massacre.

On May 4, 1970 the Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed student protesters. 13 students were shot, four of whom died. The university has blocked off the spaces in the lot where the innocents fell – but has left the rest of the parking lot open to vehicles. You can’t park on the exact space where Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder were killed, but you can park right next to them. And there aren’t any barriers where the nine wounded students – Alan Canfora, John Cleary, Thomas Grace, Dean Kahler, Joseph Lewis, Donald MacKenzie, James Russell, Robert Stamps, and Douglas Wrentmore – where shot and bled.

The university decision to use as many available parking spaces as possible epitomizes how undervalued the lives of these victims were and still are. To be fair, you can still watch movies at the Aurora, Colorado Movieplex where 12 people were killed and 70 more were wounded. However, there’s a glaring difference between Kent State and the Aurora shootings: in Aurora, the authorities held the shooter responsible. James Holmes has been charged with 165 counts – including murder and attempted murder – and NBC news carries video of the trial.

There’s been no criminal trial for the shooters at Kent State. That’s because state and federal governments are immune from prosecution.

Without transparency, without assignation of guilt, two inevitable consequences occur: survivors assume guilt that isn’t theirs and offenders are free to repeat their crimes.

Visitors to the 45th anniversary of the Kent State shooting vocalized a great deal of internalized and misplaced guilt. Just prior to the 2015 memorial candlelight ceremony, Dean Kahler, who’s spent the last 45 years in a wheel chair, remarked, “It’s not about me, it’s about the four who died.”

Scott Duncanson, a protestor who escaped May 4, 1970 unharmed, still grieves the opportunities lost to his classmates, “We got to have children.”

The Kent State demonstrations followed President Richard Nixon’s acknowledgement that he – absent Congressional approval – was bombing Cambodia. The big picture is sketchy but the survivors share details that they remember vividly. There was a fire at the ROTC building. The city was locked down with tanks and vehicles mounted with machine guns. During protests the night before the massacre, guardsmen bayoneted students. And after nightfall, helicopters hovered over the campus with searchlights dropping tear gas. By the time the students were shot and killed at Kent State, Kent, Ohio was a city occupied by a heavily armed military force.

President Nixon promised America that without swift action to insure democracy, one government after another would fall victim to ruthless leadership. He used this “logic” to justify aggression across the Asian continent from Korea to Cambodia. The term he and his predecessor Dwight Eisenhower used for this successive collapse of republicanism was “The Domino Theory.”

Kent State has proven Nixon’s philosophy, but not in the way he intended.

Kent State is one incident in a long line of militaristic attacks on the civilian population. As far back as George Washington’s suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion, the military and other police forces have been used as armed aggressors against the citizenry. When the Chicago Police attacked the protesters at Haymarket prompting a false trial and the execution of innocent men, it prepared the way for the Kent State shootings and the trial of the Kent 25. And the subsequent Justice Department refusal to examine what happened in that small Ohio town in 1970 has toppled the dominos leading to Freddie Gray’s severed spine in Baltimore.

It’s never too late to examine the reality of circumstances, motivations, and outcomes in history. Although, when decades pass and eyewitnesses die, it gets harder to illuminate the darker corners of the past. Last week, the Kent State campus filled with survivors seeking closure and comfort from visiting their past. The best way to prevent police brutality and government-sponsored violence is to expose it. In the case of the Kent State Massacres, there’s still time.

Joe Lewis, the only Kent State survivor who was shot twice, summed up his desire for justice because he believes that survival comes with responsibility, “That ‘s part of the reason I come back here every year is to speak up for them. [Krause, Miller, Scheuer, and Schroeder] Because they would have spoken up for me had the shoe been on the other foot.”

Laurel Krause, Allison Krause’s younger sister and co-founder of the Kent State Truth Tribunal, seeks to open the closed book on Kent State and detail what really happened in 1970. Krause wants to know why the soldiers shot her sister, the other Kent State victims, and the lesser-known students killed and wounded later at Jackson state. In her remarks addressing the crowd assembled at Kent State May 4th Krause cautioned, “Even today, 45 years later, a culture of impunity persists. We read the news and see law enforcement killing young African Americans across the country. Those of us who witnessed Kent State have to ask whether things might have been different if this era of brutal suppression of political protest had resulted in accountability.”

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November 25, 2009

Editor’s Note: To learn more about the Kent State Truth Tribunal 2010, please go to www.TruthTribunal.org and pre-register to participate as well as support us with your generous donation. Thanks!

A reporter named Jim Dudas from the Cleveland Press contributed this story on a National Guardsman present at the Kent State Massacre:

The year was 1971 or 1972. A federal grand jury had just handed down indictments of a number of Ohio National Guardsmen for the events on the afternoon of May 4, 1970, when the guardsmen fired upon a group of students protesting the United States’ bombing of Cambodia. The guardsmen were accused of violating the civil rights of the four slain students.

I was a relatively new reporter for the Cleveland Press. I had just been assigned the federal courts beat. And I was hungry and aggressive.

The morning after the indictments were handed down, and reported in the morning paper, the city editor came to my desk first thing upon my reporting for work and told me to go to Wooster, a small community about two hours south of Cleveland, and see if I could talk with one of the indicted guardsmen, Matthew McManus.

None of the indicted guardsmen were answering their phones or returning calls. I had McManus’ home address from the indictment. I found the home, left my car and rang the bell and rapped on the door. No answer. No surprise.

Not wanting to return empty-handed, I took a chance and found a phone booth (there were no cell phones then) and called the largest employer in town, Rubbermaid. The receptionist put me right through to McManus, a mid-level manager.

I remember to this day my exact words: “Hello, Mr. McManus, my name is Jim Dudas with the Cleveland Press, and I would like to get your side of the story about the indictments.” I did not say shootings because it would have implied that he actually shot and/or hit a student. He was not eager to talk, but he was too polite not to.

When it appeared he was willing to talk with me, I panicked. I didn’t expect the interview. I left my notebook in the car. But not wanting to slow him down or disturb him as he patiently and comprehensively answered my questions, I started writing on my hands, arms and, ultimately, my bare ankles, which, at the time, I could lift and rest on the small shelf in the booth. (Fortunately, I had only two days prior shaved my legs from the calves down in preparation for taping them for a marathon I was planning to run).

He was saying things no other guardsman had said before. He was scathing in his judgment of his commanding officers. I knew it was going to be a good story. I started running out of bare skin and he started running out of patience.

I asked if we might meet for lunch (it was then about 10 a.m.) to further explore some of his comments. “I will have to talk with my attorney,” he said. “Call me back in about an hour.” I knew there was not a snowball’s chance in hell that his attorney would let him talk to me while under federal indictment. Still, I hung around Wooster and, while waiting, transcribed my notes from my skin to my reporter’s notebook.

At precisely 11 a.m. I called McManus back. “Yes,” he said, “I did talk with my attorney and he does not think it a good idea for me to talk with you.” I thanked him for trying and hung up the phone. I did this hurriedly because I did not want him inquiring about what I might or might not do with the notes from our earlier conversation.

Not to be pejorative, but McManus was kind of unsophisticated, and I knew it almost immediately by the way he answered the questions. He was as unassuming and forthright as any subject I had talked with.

So here was my dilemma that I had two hours to think about as I drove back to the newspaper office. I had a great story, one we called a “one-er” (front page, above the fold). I also knew it was a national story. But I knew in my heart of hearts that McManus did not know talking to a reporter, without stipulating that it was an off-the-record conversation, could automatically be an on-the-record story.

My city editor was not expecting a story. No one else had one. McManus was not living at his home, so coming back empty-handed would not have hurt my career one bit. Only I knew I had a story. Only I knew I had a choice.

I did not want to hurt McManus. He was, after all, a fine young man, with a family, a bungalow and a comfortable existence in one of those storybook communities. And I knew a story like the one I had would cause him pain, embarrassment and, perhaps, impact the outcome of his trial.

But I had this freedom of the press thing to deal with, as well. I had my professionalism. And, yes, I had my ambition. Those three things were part of the mix, and I found it impossible to separate them.

About halfway into the ride, I forced myself to stop thinking about it. I put a Bob Seeger tape in the car stereo (I think it was an eight-track) and decided I would make a decision at the front door of the Press. An hour never went so quickly. There I was, facing the front door and the biggest decision of my nascent career.

Let me add that I was raised by the Golden Rule. My parents instilled fair play into all of us. There were six kids in the family and, to a kid, we all found a way to befriend those on the playground who were otherwise friendless. It was not goodness, it was just expected.

I kept putting off the decision as I slowly climbed the stairs to the building. There were 10 of them. And I took my time with each. I kept putting off the decision and decided that once I grabbed the handle of the door, I would make up my mind.

I touched the door and said to myself: “I’m going to go with it.”

I ambled up to the city editor. “Bill,” I said, “I think I got a hell of a story. He talked to me.”

The city editor sprang into action so we could get it into that afternoon’s edition. He assigned the best rewrite man on the paper (some would say one of the best in the country) to sit down with me and take my notes. I read them to him. He asked me some questions. “Are you sure he said that?” he would ask. I would look at my leg or other note-sullied skin and read my notes and reply: “Positive.”

Each page was ripped from the rewrite man’s typewriter and rushed to the composing room, where they were already remaking Page 1. We got it in the first edition. It was a banner headline that used the most damning quote: “We were led like blind fools.” It referred to the officers.

I was the toast of the city room. That evening, gathering my stuff in preparation for going home, one of my buddies said: “You look bummed out, wanna go have a beer?” “Nah,” I said, “I think I just want to go home.”

That evening I got a call from Dan Rather, who, at the time was an ambitious reporter for CBS. He asked how he could contact McManus. My story had hummed across the wires and it was national news.

My feelings about McManus were swirling in my head. I knew that McManus would not likely talk to Rather. Still, I decided, in my own way, to protect the small-town kid who was suddenly thrust in the big-time spotlight.

“Dan,” I said, “I can’t give you that information. I have to protect my source.” He understood, and hung up. At least I had that to feel good about.

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