by Gail Dixon
November 11, 2011
Veterans Day, for many Americans, means parades, speeches, flags, and the usual political theatrical displays of patriotism. Those who have never experienced war itself can never truly understand the effect on the lives of those who have endured the horrors of warfare.
Since the advent of industrialized warfare in World War I, working people have too often served as cannon fodder in wars for the profits of the ruling class. The dawning understanding of this dynamic has birthed anti-war protests and resistance movements like Occupy Wall Street, which continues to draw veterans and others outraged at the current wars and their cost in lives and a damaged national economy.
“The late singer and composer Phil Ochs wrote ‘It’s always the old to lead us to the wars, it’s always the young to die,'” said Mike Spector, chair of the Green Party of New Jersey. “The young men and women returning from the conflicts are finding themselves in trouble, mentally and physically. As wars become enshrined in the nation’s foreign policy, the more they will be forgotten, tear-drenched home-comings and memorial flag-waving ceremonies to the contrary. The Green Party has always been the party of peace in this country, the true alternative to the parties of ceaseless war. Our goal is to ensure that Veterans Day will eventually be replaced by World Peace Day.”
We in the Green Party have always believed what Gil Scott Heron said: “Peace is not just the absence of war, but the active pursuit of justice.” With this thought in mind, we offer the perspectives of Green veterans on war.
TE Smith, Washington, DC, member of the DC Statehood Green Party:
I am a Black Vietnam vet. Lke hundreds of other young Black males in Washington, DC in the 1960s, I really had no real idea what was going on. There was very little to no conversation or explanation in the Black community about the war, the draft, or much else of real importance.
We all heard about the Civil Rights Movement and the marches “down south,” but they were not really explained to us teenagers. While I was in Nam I became more knowledgeable of the Black Power movement and the Civil Rights Movement. After returning to the states I became a student of Black consciousness, which includes all of Black thinking. This led me to more reading and more awareness of different peoples’ struggles in the world, like those of the native peoples on this continent, the Palestinians, and others. The one thing I read about that caused me to see the African American struggle on an international scale was Malcom X’s speech and analysis at the-non aligned conference in 1956 in Bandung, Indonesia. The next reading that helped shape my present position was Noam Chomsky’s book “Manufacturing Consent,” which he co-wrote with Edward Herrman.
As a Black veteran of the second largest imperial war in this century, I always noticed that none of the physical, social, and psychological analysis and history about Viet Nam spoke to the Black experience, nor was there local recognition upon return. I, like most others, took this for granted — it was typical of the anti- Black sentiment pervasive in this society. Now, some 35 years later, I am not concerned about those aspects as a veteran.
My concern now is that there be no more combat veterans. I don’t think there has been any evidence that this country is in any physical danger from any other country commensurate with the level of armament and military manpower we have amassed. Young people should not be indoctrinated into the war mentality. Veterans Day should be dedicated to understanding why we were killing and being killed for the world resources that capitalism demands — by any means, fair or foul. My fondest dream is that in the future humans will be “veterans” of an effort to build a just world where all humans can develop and flourish to their maximum.
Richard P. Fuller, Coordinator of the Green Party of Monmouth County, NJ, with seven years of Naval service, Final Rank: Lt. (j.g.), Communications Officer on USS THOR (ARC-4):
I am a Korean War era veteran for peace. At the University of Rhode Island, all males were required to serve two years in Army ROTC classes and drills. Simultaneously, I joined the Naval Reserve as a freshman, went to boot camp, and later to Reserve Officer Candidate school and graduated college as an Ensign. My active duty service on the cable-laying ship, the USS THOR (ARC-4), lasted for three years so I had a total of seven years of paid naval service. I received an honorable discharge in 1959.
Before the Iraq War began I had already become a veteran for peace. My decision was determined mainly by the Green Party’s Key Value of Nonviolence and by the lives and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi. In high school I had read about the courageous nonviolent path that Gandhi took in a book entitled “Fighter without a Sword.” After Rutgers University showed the film “Sir! No Sir,” I met with some Iraq Veterans Against War and purchased their fundraiser comic-style book “Addicted to War” by Joel Andress, which I highly recommend.
Several years ago I joined a weekly anti-war demonstration at the gates of the recently closed military base at Fort Monmouth in Eatontown, NJ. My favorite protest sign reads STOP WAR & OCCUPATION. Over the years my fellow protesters and I have supported the troops with signs that carry messages like HEALTH CARE NOT WARFARE, MONEY FOR EDUCATION NOT OCCUPATION, SUPPORT THE TROOPS—BRING THEM HOME NOW! and many more. Dressed in my Green Party gear and a button-bedecked cap, I have marched for peace in at least six venues in New Jersey, as well as in New York City and Washington, DC.
I believe that all vets should be eligible for the GI-type educational benefits that I and others received in the past. Veterans and their families should be provided with hospitals, rehabilitation services, psychological counseling, detoxification programs, and with lots more government support. I’m proud to be a Green vet for peace.
Gail Dixon is a former elected member of the Board of Education of the District of Columbia and leader in the DC Statehood Party (now the DC Statehood Green Party). She currently resides in Trenton, NJ, and is a member of the Green Party of New Jersey.