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November 2012, Week 2

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Honoring Our Veterans

by H Patricia Hynes
The Recorder (Greenfield, MA)
November 8, 2012
http://www.recorder.com/home/2652477-95/war-veterans-military-justice

With Veterans Day, we are reminded how much gratitude
and respect we owe those veterans who have scrutinized
their wars and themselves with moral courage. They are
vital voices of patriotism in the face of their
country's militarized budget, politics, and foreign
policy.

War profiteering in World War I was mammoth; and no one
nailed the profiteers and racketeers so head on as the
straight- talking, most highly decorated Marine in
history - Brigadier General Smedley Butler. War is the
oldest, most profitable racket, he declared - one in
which billions of dollars are made for millions of
lives destroyed. Of the estimated $52 billion cost of
World War I, industry war profiteers pocketed nearly
one third. More than 21,000 new American millionaires
and billionaires emerged from the human ashes of the
war, while the federal government was mired in post-war
debt - a debt paid for by working people's taxes.
During the Depression and Dust Bowl era, Smedley
staunchly advocated for homeless and unemployed WWI
veterans who had not yet received promised bonuses from
the federal government.

George McGovern flew 35 high-risk missions in World War
II, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross, in a war he
felt we had no choice but to enter. This veteran's
1972 candidacy for President centered on ending the
Vietnam War, a war, as he saw it, we had no right to
enter. McGovern had no secret plan for peace, only a
public one, he said. "From military spending so
wasteful that it weakens our nation, Come Home
America," he pleaded in accepting his party's
nomination.

Camillo "Mac" Bica, a Vietnam War veteran, wrote
recently that he does not want to be thanked for his
service, giving five reasons. In the service, he lost
his innocence in witnessing "the horrible and
unnecessary deaths of good friends." Being thanked for
military service reminds him of what he would like to
forget but cannot - that he killed innocent people.
Words of thanks reinforce his belief that many people
haven't a clue about the reality of the wars in
Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan and remind him that many
citizens were either "apathetic" or even supported
these wars but did not have to fight them, avoided
fighting in them, and did nothing to end them. Bica
would prefer to be thanked for his 45 years following
discharge from the Marines in which he has worked for
human rights, social justice, and to end "the insanity
of war." He invites those who want to support military
members and veterans and express meaningful patriotism
to "do what is truly in the interest of the nation and
those victimized by war." Make demands for a more just
and peaceful world.

Chuck Palazzo was stationed at Da Nang at the age of
17, where he followed orders and sprayed the herbicide
Agent Orange, knowingly contaminated by Monsanto and
Dow Chemical with an extremely toxic dioxin in their
speeded-up manufacturing process. The former Marine
sold his software company in 2008 and returned to Da
Nang where he works as a member of Veterans for Peace
to build small farms for Vietnamese victims of Agent
Orange and their families. He cried when first
visiting child victims of Agent Orange - from "the pain
of seeing a deformed body caused by himself more than
40 years ago." He and other veterans are working
tirelessly to support the still unsuccessful Vietnamese
plaintiffs seeking justice in American courts for three
generations of injuries from chemical warfare. "For
many veterans, this is a moral and ethical issue," he
writes of the toxic contamination of living
environments, land mines and unexploded ordnance left
behind by the war.

In a 2011 interview on National Public Radio, Panayiota
Bertzihis, a Coast Guard veteran describes the
retaliation against victims for reporting sexual
assault. She was raped by a fellow Coast Guard member,
given no medical services, made to continue working
with her rapist, and ultimately dismissed from the
Coast Guard as unfit for duty. The source of her
"unfitness for duty" was the trauma she suffered from
both the assault and her futile attempts to seek
justice from a stonewalling commander who told her to
"shut up and leave his office." Bertzihis is 1 of 17
plaintiffs in a class action suit filed February 15,
2011 in Federal District Court in Virginia against
former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then
Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The lawsuit charges
them with failure to protect service members from
repeated rape and sexual assault in the military and
failure to investigate complaints and to prosecute and
punish perpetrators. She founded the Military Rape
Crisis Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Iraq veteran Tyler Boudreau cuts to the heart of combat
stress suffered by hundreds of thousands of recent war
veterans: "It comes from witnessing, and participating
in, extreme violence." Combat stress is not
fundamentally a psychological disorder, he asserts; it
is from the moral injury of fighting in war. "Whether
or not one believes the cause of war is good," he
writes, "the violence will always be bad for the soul."

Veterans, like these, are experts on what the physical,
sexual, mental and moral violence of war does to the
human spirit. We honor them.

[Pat Hynes is President of the Traprock Center for
Peace and Justice in western Massachusetts.]

[Thanks to Patricia Hynes for sending this to
Portside.]

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