Posted by Dan Scanlan (18.104.22.168) on April 08, 2003 at 00:39:19:
In Reply to: KidCast For Peace Turned on! 12th Broadcast!! posted by Creativity Cafe on January 10, 2003 at 13:57:01:
In Harm's Way
By Dan Scanlan
When I was a freshman in high school in 1957 I sat in English class and gazed out the window at the radar scanner down the street in our heavily populated city of Torrance, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. The scanner revolved at the top of a tower above a Nike warhead missile -- or two or three -- in the silo beneath it. In the tedium of English class, I would watch that spinning banana and in my mind's bored eye, make it go backwards, or even make it flip back and forth.
The Nike missiles were, of course, "weapons of mass destruction" buried in the middle of middle class neighborhoods. I grew up with it. And live with it -- and the flipping back and forth -- still.
As graduation approached, I weighed my options, pretending that I knew what I was doing. I went to all the military recruitment offices and collected their shiny, hardbound recruitment publications. The Air Force, I read, is intellectual, technical, forward looking. The Marines, serious stuff, hardcore, tough, shiniest of the recruitment materials. The Army didn't interest me, too plain for my tastes. My Dad had been in the Navy in WWII and their material looked so clean and spiffy -- and romantic.
My Dad, who built war planes before WWII and after for North American Aviation, and was a radar man during WWII, saw me reading the military recruitment literature one afternoon.
"Danny," he said slowly and ponderously, "You don't want ...to go... in the military."
Dad had taught me how to turn a nut without breaking the bolt. How to seal a leaking pipe. What wrench to use when and on what. How to drive a car, even how to peel out without stripping the gears. He didn't tell me much of what to do with my life as I grew up, but when he told me, "Danny, you don't want to join the military" I had the sensation that he was digging deep into family lore and revealing a closely-held sacred secret.
In college, in the dorms, there was another guy named Dan who taught me how to play "Ain't She Sweet" on the ukulele. He also told me one day, in 1964, that the first American soldier killed in Vietnam was a guy named Pablo Pisar, a Chicano. Hell, I didn't even know there was a war in Vietnam, but I recognized racism when I saw it. I had seen fat ugly men on TV shooting fire hoses at black people and trampling them with horses and dogs. Someone from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) had come and talked to us on campus and a student friend of mine from Louisiana had asked, '"Don't you think you're going a little too fast" and the speaker had answered "The Emancipation Proclamation was issued a hundred years ago. Do we have to wait another hundred years?" and I had heard Martin Luther King, Jr., speak his wonderful vision and I had learned that America, the country, was racist, racist, racist. And it was and is -- that's an indefensible American trait.
I had the misfortune of being an English and Communication Arts major. My university didn't have much equipment -- the field of Communication Arts was new to our campus -- so we spent our learning years analyzing media and philosophizing about it. We studied camera angles and attitudes, intensional and extensional meanings, semantics, innuendo. We became alert to the ways and means of propaganda. Instead of learning how to crank out situation comedies and suck in big wages, I was damned to read between the lines, to search for hidden meanings. That was my homework.
It sucks. And pays poorly.
In the later sixties, as a cub reporter for the Copley Press in Los Angeles, I was assigned the dirty jobs, namely, interviewing the parents of soldiers who had died in Vietnam. One day I interviewed a woman whose son had been killed and I was personally repelled at her excuses for her son's death -- all couched in an unthinking, irrational patriotism, everything a justification to soften the blow of the loss of her son, who had been killed in combat fighting people whose names he couldn't pronounce and for reasons he couldn't explain. It was painful to her and to me. My job was to report what she felt in a positive light. Robert Kennedy was assassinated later that night.
By then, I had already known of the Selective Service System's Manpower Channeling Report. I wrote the SSS and asked for a copy of its "Orientation Kit", the package of materials sent to new members of local Draft Boards. They sent it to me. (Governmental secrecy had not yet reached the levels we know today.) Gen. Hershey's Manpower Channeling Report was included in the package. It spoke of using the "club of induction" to manipulate local society. Too many doctors? Draft medical students. Not enough structural engineers? Defer them. The draft was presented as a tool of social engineering, plain and simple. To this day, the United States has not dealt with that aspect of the Vietnam War. It's as anathema as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (the 9/11 of the sixties), the assassination of John Kennedy (the Florida electoral fraud of the sixties) or the Savings and Loan debacle (the Enron of the 80's).
The "Vietnam Syndrome" is this: Business won't back a failing, expensive war. People won't back a war on false premise. Soldiers will eventually "frag" their commanding officers if the cause is false. Propaganda doesn't win wars, it merely prolongs them.
Americans will eventually have to face these truths: more veterans of the Vietnam war have committed suicide than were killed in the war. One third of the veterans of Gulf War I are now on disability. The majority of homeless people on the streets of our cities are veterans. The greatest cost of any of our wars is the psychic damage done to our peaceful citizens who join the military in order to get an education and who wind up in harm's way expected to kill others.
The vote by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors that purports to "support our troops in Iraq" is actually a vote to damn them. "In Iraq" is damnation. "At home" is survival.
The women who cried at the podium because their husbands were at war cried not because they support their husbands at war but because they lament their husbands being in harm's way. It is inconceivable that they would actually support their husbands' being in Iraq, in harm's way, and doing the bidding of the corporations that own George W. Bush.
Supporting "our" troops in Iraq is supporting them being in harm's way while killing others. This is not support, this is damnation. The only way to support "our" troops is to get them home safely before they kill or get killed.
The United States Government (a subsidiary today of multinational corporations) has learned that manipulating society must happen before enlistment. Over the years our society has changed so that a decent education, decent health care, decent housing, even social acceptance, can most easily be had by signing up on one of the many programs of the American military be-all-that-you-can-be, a-few-good-men programs.
My heart goes out to those women who cried at the Nevada County, CA, Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday who feared for the well-being of their spouses and sons. It's a shame that we have built a country where "getting by" often means joining the military and buying into a newfangled "club of induction" where doing well is substituted for doing the bidding of international, amoral corporations.
When good people kill, it's catastrophic to all and we must admit it now to survive.
Grass Valley CA
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