This graphic links to Torture Awareness.
I started attending the University of Pittsburgh in the fall of 1973. While there I became quite active in the Pitt (the shorter name for University of Pittsburgh) YMCA. The Y didn't promote the C part much, the central effort of the organization was to place student volunteers in social service and community-based organizations. The YMCA paid for a director, a wonderful man, who patiently organized students and taught them to organize; such that with the exception of some pesky paperwork required by the downtown YMCA the organization was effectively student-run.
Next door to the YMCA office in the William Pitt Union building was The Office of Veteran's Affairs. There were many veterans from the Vietnam War attending school then.
I wasn't allowed coffee at home, and the Y director was smart to keep a pot of hot water in the office for coffee. I discovered that coffee nd sugar staved off the the inconvenience of actually eating. And people smoked a lot then. I used to loiter in the hall with the director of the Vets office. PTSD hadn't been named back then, but we all knew there was trouble. Exacerbating the situations was that returning Vietnam era Veterans were not welcome at many American Legion and VFW Posts. The general hostility towards Vietnam Veterans weighed heavily on the Veteran's Affairs Office director.
What's in common parlance now, especially as we in the American public are constantly being exhorted to "stay the course" in Iraq, is that veterans returned home from Vietnam to the ridicule and hostility from their dirty, smelly, hippie peers. Things were a little more complicated. Not the least of the complications is that so many of the veterans were pissed-off, generally so, and the government of the good ole USA was an easy target.
I know veterans of the Vietnam War, hardly a number sufficient a scientific sample, still it surprised me that in the run up to the Iraq War when one of my acquaintances and Vietnam Vet was so much in favor. Oh it wasn't so much that, as his outrage towards Americans in opposition to the invasion and occupation that stood out. War wounds often never heal. He apparently held the American public responsible for the failure in Vietnam and would broke no discent this time around.
One way or another the majority of American public opinion has come around to thinking things aren't going well in Iraq. I'm afraid we're still skirting the issue; most of us really haven't come to grips with the damage done.
Woldoog's diary at Daily Kos on Sunday moved me and I've been trying ever since to think of posting something about it.
Like some of you, I am an adult child of a combat veteran. My combat-veteran father has severe, debilitating PTSD. His war devastated him, and subsequently, our family. His experience in Vietnam nearly forty years ago, when I was nary a twinkle in his eye, helped shape the person I am today, and for a long time, I have wanted to know and feel the things that did this to him, and to me. I had gathered bits of puzzling information here and there over the years, but as I got older and achieved a truer understanding of the impact of his war on him and our family, I realized that I needed to hear his story in its entirety, that I needed to hear the unmentioned details that would meld the story into a complete whole.Especially if you're an American baby-boomer like I am, read go and read the whole thing.
"What happened to you?" He seemed startled by my inquisitiveness, and I told him that if it made him feel bad to tell me, he didn't have to. He then said something that surprised me - he told me that I had caught him off guard, that he was pleased that I wanted to know, that he thought I should know, and that no one in the family had ever asked him like that before.No one had ever asked! Woldoog cannot heal her father's wounds, and perhaps it's our sense of helplessness rather than a lack of inquisitiveness that leads us to never ask.
A year or so ago I was with a friend and a cousin of hers she hadn't seen for a very long time and the subject of her cousin's service during the Vietnam War came up. The fellow told of his hardships suffering under a psychotic commanding officer. Both me and my friend's jaw dropped as he proceeded to tell his story, but all of this was Stateside. Being shipped off to Vietnam came as a relief to him. His duty in Vietnam was confined to Saigon. It was hot and his bureaucratic job was deadly boring, and not much to remark about. My friend said, "All these years I've carried the image of you in a foxhole with jungle rot."
AfterDowningStreet.org has pictures of the Iraq War, uncensored. My friends know that I hide my eyes at movie violence. It even seems out of character for me to suggest a visit there and to look, but I do. SBS Television, New Zealand released photographs in February of this year from Abu Garib. The photographs and videos are put in context in an excellent report available to watch online.
Election campaigns here in the USA are long. Our State primary elections were held earlier this month. The race in a near by Congressional district pits Jack Murtha and Diana Irey. Murtha is a retired US Marine Corps colonel and is the highest ranking Democrat on the House committee that make military appropriations. He's also been a somewhat unlikely opponent of the war. Irey is a well-known Republican politician in local politics.
Murtha on the basis of discussions with high-ranking sources within the military disclosed last week that a probe into the events leading to the deaths of 15 un-armed Iraqi civilians, will show that U.S. Marines "killed innocent civilians in cold blood."
Irey took the stage at the Press Club on Wednesday and said:
John Murtha was a patriot. ...But many years have passed and I say again my opponent has lost his way because the comments and actions of late are not that of a patriot. Rather they serve to aid and comfort our enemies.The "aid and comfort" bit is a direct accusation of treason.
The war weighs on me. In another smart diary at Daily Kos elendil discusses reactions to seeing the movieThe Road to Guantanamo. Worth a read in it's entirety, but this comment about how torture impacts far beyond those tortured resonated:
The spectator cannot simultaneously conceive of themselves as a mere spectators and maintain trust in the world. For our own self-preservation, we begin the process of distancing, rationalizing, and justifying the torture. In extreme cases, to maintain our own innocence, we denied that any crime had taken place.I'm an American, and we've gone nuts. I'm perplexed as to how to proceed. Murtha isn't in my Congressional District, so I won't get to vote for him. I hardly think he's lying about what military people have told him about the probe into the incident in Haditha. But tonight I looked over pages of links to blogs amplifying Irey's remarks. Many people are convinced that Murtha is lying and are eager to convince others.
For almost two weeks I've been mulling over MMK's post about the Addis Abba bombings in particular and terrorism in general.
Terrorism’s great evil is in considering a stranger’s life expendable in a cause that is at most indirectly connected to that person. Whether you are bombing a ‘target’ from thousands of feet in the air knowing that you will kill a stranger or swinging a machete at them or blowing yourself up with him, the evil is in not knowing what you have brought to an end. What gross ego to consider that single life with its incalculable threads of obligation and love and hope to be irrelevant to the ideas and feelings swimming around inside you.Initially what came to mind wasn't politics at all but feelings surrounding my brother's murder years ago: "the evil is in not knowing what you have brought to an end."
I'm not a particularly good person. I mean, being good has always seems an effort, and I'm so lazy. As a boy in church confessing "things we have done and things we've left undone" it was the latter that burned in my stomach. In almost every discussion of politics here nowadays someone always makes the accusation: "Bush hater." I don't know, hatred is too much work for a lazy man like me. Anger, fury wells up in me, sometimes over the stupid little things, I never seem to be able to sustain that long enough to hate. Ah, but the sin of indifference, closing my eyes, turning away so as not to hear, oh dear. But I see clearly how wrong that is.
I'm not religious, but want to join with religious people in mending the world. I want to join with non-religious people in mending the world. And in that my first step is to try to listen more and to look harder.
Finally, and off topic, in my morning newspaper was an editorial in re and ongoing cholera epidemic in Angola. On first reading I slapped the pages down in anger at the Post-Gazette. I was thinking: Angola's a rich country you say, except for the greedy rich. Oh yeah: What about Lee Raymond's golden parachute! It was a silly reaction, but my advice to myself: listen and look is easier said than done. Koranteng Ofusu-Amaah's writing is the best and his April installment of Things Fall Apart series was Angola. If you haven't yet discovered his Koranteng's Toli go there when you have some time to read. His post, Angola and his series Things Fall Apart gets to how complicated everything is.
It's the time of year for commencement addresses. The Aga Khan's address at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University is very wise.