War Isn't Hell. Hell is for Those Who Send Their

Children to Fight Unnecessary Wars

by Jack Ballinger

Dissident Voice

August 25, 2003


As a Vietnam War vet, I'd hope everyone would have read the attached article ("Have We Forgotten Anger in the Eyes?" from Newsday) and maybe got a sense of the frustration facing our troops in Iraq.


I'd hope that they'd go to Col. David Hackworth's site (http://www.hackworth.com/) and read a few of the email he has received from troops on the ground. And I'd hope that they'd remember Hackworth was a darling of the Conservative's, until he started sharing his worries about the present strategy of arrogant world conquest on a shoestring, based on failed Vietnam War policies.


There are many reasons so many war vets, from WW-2, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf 1 and other wars/police actions, are so adamantly opposed to this war. I marched with many of them in anti-war protests here in NYC.

War kills innocents and makes your own sons do horrible things in the names of Gods called "survival", "revenge" and a "justice" that can be sometimes warped so far beyond recognition as to make Ashcroft's views on justice look sane by comparison.


If a country wants to start a war, it needs to meet at least 3 criteria:


1) It must have a damn good reason. One that would justify losing the life of "your child" and those of your relatives and neighbors. If you wouldn't offer the life of your son or daughter (or both) to fight that enemy, then don't allow yourself to be talked into offering up someone else's kids.


2) It must have a damn good war/action plan. One that uses every resource available in an attempt to save your troops' lives and those of as many other innocents as possible. No weapon needed can be withheld, no strategy denied for "political reasons." And remember, your troops lives must mean more than even the innocent civilians of the enemy, or you have no business entering a war.


3) It must have a damn good exit plan. Even a lame brain like GW stated, during the campaign against Gore, that entering a war without an exit strategy is unacceptable. Of course, whoever wrote that for him must have been on vacation while GW misled us into Iraq.


If you can't meet those three conditions, then sending anyone's young to war is murder, plain and simple. You're sending your kids to be killed and putting innocent civilians at risk for insufficient reasons in a doomed attempt to accomplish the impossible.


And to allow oneself, over the course of time, to be bored to the point that you'd rather not hear anymore about the war is just as foul of a deed as was that committed by those who started the unjust war in the first place. The old saw about the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good people stand silent applies as well to the bored as to those silent for other reasons.


If there isn't a Hell for folks who participate silently in those wasted deaths, then civilization is doomed, for that means even the most heinous sins extract no price.


Jack Ballinger is a Vietnam Veteran, with a Bronze Star, 2 Air Medals, a Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB) and a bunch of other pretty military ribbons. “I was Honorably Discharged in 1971. Both of my grandfathers fought in WWI, and both my father and my father-in-law were Marines in WWII.” He can be contacted at: NYCHASpotlight@netscape.net


Other Articles by Jack Ballinger


* Freedom!

* Oh Say, Can You See?

* My America

* Searching for the Breach in Alice’s Looking Glass World




Have We Forgotten Anger in the Eyes?

By James L. Larocca

James L. Larocca, a professor of public policy at Southampton College, was a naval officer in Vietnam during 1967-68. His Vietnam-based play, "Penang," is being presented Thursday evening at Guild Hall

Newsday (Long Island, NY); August 13, 2003


Ordinarily, our boats patrolled Vietnam's rivers in pairs. But on this night we had several teams operating together as we launched the Pentagon's latest ingenious scheme for winning the war in the Mekong Delta.


The concept was simple enough: instead of surprising people with conventional gunfire during raids, the boats would first set the houses and buildings on fire with bows and arrows. The brass called this early version of "shock and awe" Operation Flaming Arrow.


Of course, the flimsy huts burned like matchbooks, leaving the families homeless and destitute. The next day, civil action teams of GIs would arrive bearing sheets of corrugated tin for new roofs and bags of rice to help the villagers get started again. There would also be bars of Dial soap and clothing from church groups in the states.


I remember a particular time when, with the fires still smoldering in the stultifying heat of a Delta morning, the teams distributed boxes of heavy sweaters.


I'm sure the church folks back home felt good about their gifts. But we shared with the villagers a sense of absolute mystification at a policy that would burn down people's homes in the middle of the night, then give them tin and soap and sweaters to rebuild their lives.


Our government called it "pacification." We called it madness. It all has come back to me while watching the news from Iraq, where we should be applying more of the lessons so painfully learned in Vietnam. Instead, we seem to be repeating our mistakes.


What I remember most from those nights are the faces - and the eyes. The children would be terrified, but also oddly fascinated in that way that kids have.


The mothers, beyond ordinary fear, would be wildly angry, often unleashing a flood of invective that, of course, none of the Americans could specifically understand because no one spoke the language.


The old widows - there seemed to be one in every hut - would look at you with the cold, dead eyes of people who had been violated forever and seemed to expect always to suffer.


But mostly I remember the men, who, if they hadn't slipped away when the mess began, would be taken by the American troops for interrogation.


Usually, several young soldiers would throw the man down while yelling the few Vietnamese phrases they knew. At least one would hold a rifle to his head. Another might stand on his neck. His hands would be bound behind his back. He would be wrenched up into a kneeling position. Many times he would be blindfolded.


Eventually a "pacification" team member would come along and question the man in Vietnamese. He would be asked to show his papers - documents which, more often than not, had been lost in the fire. He would be yelled at, cursed at, and sometimes spit on. Many times he would be kicked and punched.


Those lucky enough to have the right kind of documents and otherwise convince the Americans of their innocence (of what?), would be released.


Then you would see it. In the eyes. The clean, white fury of men who have been reduced to abject humiliation and powerlessness in front of their families. The hatred in their eyes would be as pure as any you would ever see. It would last forever. You would never forget it.


I saw those eyes again the other day on the evening news. A group of young American soldiers, sent by their government to go house to house in a sweltering Baghdad suburb, had kicked in a door and rousted a family. The children were terrified, crying. The mother was furious, screaming. The eyes of the GIs were filled with confusion and shame at what they were being made to do by their government.


And the father, down on the ground in front of his house with a kid from Arkansas or Detroit or California standing on his neck, showed in his eyes the kind of white-hot hatred that will take a thousand years to extinguish.


President George W. Bush, who spent almost all of his military service out of uniform and involved in political campaigns in the South, and Vice President Dick Cheney, who never served at all (he had, in his words, "other priorities"), would do well to consider the lessons of Vietnam.


We did not win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people because we occupied their country while we burned down their homes and killed them and brutalized and abused them.


We will not win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people by wrecking their towns and cities, destroying their homes, terrorizing their families and humiliating their men. Incredibly, we have again become an occupying army, out of touch with the realities of the lives and culture of the people we are there to save. Not surprisingly, the Iraqi people are striking back.


Last week, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the chief commander of allied forces in Iraq, said that "maybe our iron-fisted approach to the conduct of ops is beginning to alienate Iraqis." Perhaps today's Army is remembering the eyes.





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