by Jan Baughman
(Swans - January 1, 2007) There is a topic that has weighed heavily on my heart and mind this past year; something about which I've been unable to write because thinking of it fills me with such an overwhelming sense of anxiety and impending doom that I'd much rather avoid it. But after reading this issue's articles by Michael DeLang, Martin Murie, Bruce Patterson, and Philip Greenspan -- all men with strong convictions and great sensitivity, and at least three of whom are Vietnam or World War II veterans against war -- I knew that the time was now.
Earlier this year, my 19-year-old nephew joined the Marine Corps.
He is bright and articulate, charming and funny, boyishly handsome, and a great athlete. He is a perfect catch for the military -- the story of Pat Tillman all too often invades my thoughts... We published an essay on February 7, 1998, written by that imaginative 11-year-old boy, with this now-ironic introductory Note from the Editor:
When the country is divided between spending its spare time debating the relative merits of belittling a President for alleged un-puritan behaviors and bombing a country for the nth time without any realistic -- not even seriously defined -- objective, do not be excessively surprised if Swans would rather publish a short essay by an insightful 11-year old writer who happens to be both talented and a nephew of ours.
He had tried, while in high school, to enlist in the Army upon graduation, but his medical history excluded him, to my great relief. So instead he worked and traveled, took some college courses -- and then actively pursued the Marines. Despite the medical history and a new hand injury, he was eventually accepted, sent to basic training in San Diego, and is now stationed in Oahu, Hawaii. He is training to be a TOW gunner, which is a "Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided missile" system used for heavy anti-armor attack, and otherwise known as a bunker buster. According to the defense company Raytheon's Website, www.raytheon.com, "Delivering superior breaching capability, lethality and mission flexibility, the TOW Bunker Buster is the new urban weapon of choice." (Click on "Products & Services" for more information on products and services available for urban warfare.)
"He really likes his job," I am told. I only wish his "job" would remain shooting at targets in Hawaii; not that I wish to see Hawaii blown to shreds...but because in March, barely three months from now, he is going to Iraq.
Now exacerbating my sense of dread are the latest talks of sending additional troops for yet another escalation of what one can only imagine will be violence unlike that heretofore seen (or suppressed, as it were) in the nearly four years of war. Bush & Co. are enjoying their holiday at Crawford Ranch, strategizing their legacy while tacitly deciding the fate of the few and the proud, among so many others, mostly the innocent civilians.
Howard Zinn recently gave a talk in Madison, Wisconsin, in which he described the changing ratio of military to civilian deaths. World War I: 10:1; World War II: 50:50; Vietnam War: 30:70; in the wars since: 20:80 to 15:85, with children comprising one-third of the civilian tolls most recently. I cannot fathom my nephew killing people, civilian or otherwise, women or children. But this may very well become his "job."
My hope for the New Year is that he will return, physically intact; not DU-exposed; not having been put in the position to kill or torture; and one day joining the ranks of those sages among us who work tirelessly on behalf of peace. As for me, I will continue to use what little voice I have and whatever actions I can take to speak out against war -- on behalf of my nephew and those who will follow in his footsteps, and on behalf of all of those civilians -- despite the fact that on a day-to-day basis, it may seem futile.
Howard Zinn concluded his talk with the following affirmation:
Everything we do is important. Every little thing we do, every picket line we walk on, every letter we write, every act of civil disobedience we engage in, any recruiter that we talk to, any parent that we talk to, any GI that we talk to, any young person that we talk to, anything we do in class, outside of class, everything we do in the direction of a different world is important, even though at the moment they seem futile, because that's how change comes about. Change comes about when millions of people do little things, which at certain points in history come together, and then something good and something important happens.
I wish my nephew and all of us change, and peace, in the New Year.
Howard Zinn on The Uses of History and the War on Terrorism
Monday, December 18th, 2006
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