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(This commentary piece also appears in THE VETERAN, Fall 2013 (Volume 43, Number 2).)

Our War, Our Legacy

By Bill Branson

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From the National Office

Welcome to the Fall 2013 issue of The Veteran!

Veterans Memorial, Chicago, Illinois.

Why are we Vietnam Veterans Against THE War? We have been asked — and have answered — that question often over the decades since the war ended. But the answers bear repeating.

The US war against Vietnam was the war WE fought in. Our experiences are not monolithic. Some of us served overseas, some never did. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or National Guard. Enlisted or drafted. Whatever our experience, it is THE war, and our opposition to it, that defines us — and our generation, and our country — to this very day.

Some of us might not think about it every minute or every day, but it is still there. There are those of us who can't make it go away when we close our eyes. It's as if 40 plus years have never happened and we are still right there.

The Veteran has sought to be the place where VVAW members, supporters and family can tell their stories. Sometime those stories are too hard to tell. Sometime reading or reviewing another book on Vietnam or recalling our "war stories" is just too painful. Sometimes the obituary of our mother, father, son, or daughter is too hard to write.

Death is never easy, it never has been. It came fast and all too often in the early days. Too many soldiers never made it home from the war. Many came back only to die from Agent Orange, drugs or PTSD. Some of us, our children and grandchildren, still suffer from Agent Orange. But now, those of us still here, have survived. By whatever means we have grown to cope with our experiences. So now, each death of each member, supporter, or family member seems to reverberate even harder. Sometimes it is just too hard to tell those stories.

So for every article you read in this, and every issue of The Veteran, there are countless stories that were started and never finished, and stories thought about, haunting us, but never penned. The war — OUR war — will be with us until the last member of VVAW stands alone. It seems even harder for our young brothers and sisters of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars to put pen to paper. Their stories are out there as well.

The war still shapes us and shapes how we view current events. When the news broke of the recent NSA leaks or the increasing use of drones, we were not surprised. The methods and tactics never changed, only the technology.

Many of us had enlisted back in the day. When were exposed to the lies and brutality of our war against the Vietnamese people, we were outraged at what our government had become.

Forty-some years later, it seems for every step forward there have been two steps backward. Our leaders are ready to missile and drone Syria over alleged chemical weapons. It's real simple, and real complicated. Our memories of the Gulf of Tonkin incident merge into the lie it was and the casus belli it became. We don't dwell often on the details of just what was going down politically, who set the thing up, and why it was executed at just that time. The WMD farce is much fresher in the mind. The dance with the UN inspectors, the constant barrage of news coverage on how Saddam was just one step ahead, hiding his big stash of killer stuff from the UN, but not from the vigilant eyes of the lying-ass CIA. Finally, the clock ran out and the UN patsies were kicked to the side; no longer needed. Bombs and missiles — shock and awe — were on the way. Afterwards, while the great killing changed from a stand-up WWII battle to the now familiar guerrilla (terrorist) nightmare, nobody could find those WMDs.

Our amazement at being treated to the spectacle of yet another WMD-based operetta was only exceeded by the déjà vu of another "liberal" president directing the cast. We remember LBJ, the Great Society, and federal troops desegregating schools. We also remember LBJ buying into the expansion of the Vietnam holocaust; that is, those of us who survived remember.

So the situation is real simple, the parallels are there for us, the lies transparent. We have seen this angle played at least twice before. In fact, many of us were involved in the first scam. We have the painful memories. But we also have the benefit of witnessing the exposés (back when there were real journalists), reading the Pentagon Papers and talking with our fellow vets, some of them were firsthand witnesses.

Of course, the Great Game in the Middle East is also very complicated. Who is really calling the shots? Why the sudden need for an all-out bombing campaign on this tin-pot dictator (it's not like there is a shortage of mass murders, or Assad even being the worst). Who really stands to gain from us plastering yet another country with high explosives?

So, we move, Zen-like, back to the simple. The people of the US and the World are not fooled. The primary question is not which bunch of terrorists (Assad or the so-called rebels) used the gas. The primary question is: Why in the hell is the US government getting involved, in the first place? More fundamentally ... what could we accomplish? Finally and most importantly, why should a country sick-and-tired of 13 years of useless wars spend even more money blowing up some Syrian buildings, killing a whole bunch of people and pissing off the rest, when we need the money so desperately HERE! Witness the subsequent stoppage of the government, ostensibly over balancing the budget! Of course the people of this country said NO! Even the British Parliament, often the sidekicks for this kind of action, firmly rejected involvement. Nobody wants those missiles launched, except some rich guys.

Well, the fat lady has not sung yet. We remember the build up to the war in Iraq. Just having UN inspectors and techs certify that Assad's gas has been destroyed may not be enough. Somewhere, there is a lot of money, prestige and power riding on this deal. Don't be surprised to see the Oval Office and the CIA come up with yet another act, after the interlude.

We hope you enjoy this issue.

Bill Branson is a VVAW board member.

Long Island, New York, 1971.

Thanks to Jeff Danziger, Billy Curmano for their cartoons. Thanks to Barry Romo, Brian Matarrese, Ben Chitty, Bill Branson, Magnus Campbell, Paul Cameron, Elaine Elinson, Robert Halgash and others for contributing photos.

Charlie Branson
Bill Branson
Jeff Machota
Ellie Shunas
Jen Tayabji

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