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06 February 2005

I made this faux postage stamp a few Veterans Days ago, for my friend, Ron B. the artist. He and I served in the Army together during the Vietnam War. Every Veterans Day we find ourselves compelled to get in touch with one another and transmit the strangest, most oblique messages to one another about our shared experience.

Handsome, even outlandish uniforms (like Zouaves and Dragoons) have always been one of the most effective lures for getting young men to join up. Young women do their part by being suckers for young men in handsome military uniforms. If it seems that I am complaining about this, I am, and I also have serious issues with the Tides, and think they should be forced to come in and go out on an entirely different schedule.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no 53rd Regiment of Foot in anyone's army, and never was. I was trying to express the Essence or Spirit of

* handsome young men in sexy colorful military uniforms

* miniature soldiers (the proper term; toy soldiers are those cheap plastic things, a bag of 100 for $5)

When I compare my understanding of World War II with my experience of the Vietnam War, and my understanding of this Iraq War, I've reached the conclusion that WWII was the last American War that

* had to be fought, there was no way of avoiding it

* respected and safeguarded the lives of American military soldiers, sailors, airmen.

Now, we blunder our way into new wars for dishonest, irrational reasons, and pay for these scoundrels' wars with the lives of our sons and daughters. At the end of the day, America is weaker, and more spiritually sick, because of these scoundrels' wars.

In the long block of relative peacetime that preceded these current wars, the "All-Volunteer Army" that replaced the draft (I was one of the last American draftees) was a subtle but effective machine which our political leaders built to fill our combat military with economically desperate young men and women, who could not afford college, and who faced a very hopeless civilian economy. Now we are in hot shooting wars overseas, and our political leaders take political comfort and refuge that those who are dying and being maimed "volunteered" -- they asked for it, so we don't have to care as much for their lives and welfare as we cared about the lives of draftees. There is much less public outrage about these combat deaths and casualties, very little demand for accountability as their bodies come back to Dover Air Force Base, which is sealed from the scrutiny of the press and public, so we cannot see the end result of what we have done.

Draftee or "volunteer," men are bottlenecked into making their decision about serving in the military typically around age 19. In the USA, a boy can join up with parental permission at 17. The draft caught me when I was 22, and my nickname in Basic Training was "Old Man."

From 17 to 20, men/boys are of an age where they can make such a decision based on sexy uniforms, a big bag of outlandish lies and empty promises by military recruiters, and the desperation to get the fuck out of Indiana and cure an excruciating boredom. One night on The Tonight Show, Gene Hackman explained that "I joined the Marines 'cause I wanted to get laid." On the whole, the military does a pretty reliable job of providing very cheap sexual opportunities for troops, particularly overseas.

I do not believe in Heaven or Hell, but I'm tempted to change my mind about that over wars like Vietnam and Iraq 2. We're never going to hold people like Bush and Rumsfeld, and MacNamara and Kissinger, accountable for the deaths and lifelong agonies of young American soldiers and Marines, but perhaps political scoundrels who lie us into ghastly Wars Without End could be called to account in a Special Place in Hell.

In my lifetime, Jimmy Carter seems to hold the prize for being the most cautious of all presidents about risking and wasting the lives of American soldiers. Abraham Lincoln was a young congressman when President James K. Polk launched the Mexican War. Lincoln made blunt, angry speeches in Congress condemning this "Scoundrels' War" -- though he voted for every bill that supported our troops already in the field. Carter was a Navy veteran and Lincoln was a veteran of the Black Hawk War. Veterans can get very bitter when they find themselves helpless to prevent a new and needless waste of young soldiers' lives. Old veterans look at newsfilm of young soldiers and see themselves; to veterans, the TV is a Mirror.

The USA has a special Blur Machine which few other countries have. We have Hollywood. We can lose a catastrophic war, but then re-write it and re-play it all over again in movies -- and win this time. John Wayne, Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris have all blasted the crap out of the evil godless Communist Vietnamese, and stirringly and patriotically explained our virtuous reasons for fighting that war. Constant broadcasts of these movies on television year after year blur our memories -- and most of the audience doesn't even have memories anymore -- of what Vietnam really involved, of the military and political issues. These Vietnam Retro Victory movies helped enormously to make a new American generation much less cautious about and much more eager to wage all-out aggressive war against Asian non-Christians who piss us off and disrespect us. We pay for Feeling Good about America Again with the lives and limbs of our neighbors' children, whose returning coffins we are not allowed to see being loaded off our military transport planes.


Blogger Sharon Secor said...

I can only have faith that the forces of karma will deliver the appropriate justice to these criminals that send our country's youth to be maimed and killed in illegal and unnecessary wars. My brother's been to Iraq once. He's awaiting his orders to go to Afganistan.

A local news station ran a "feel-good piece" about Iraq vetrans with amputations learning to ski. As I was watching on a friend's TV, I had to do deep breathing excercises so that my head would not explode. We don't get real news about casualties, just these bullshit, scripted pieces...

Best Regards...

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

I have read several times, with government agencies' pride, that the greatest leap forward in inventing and developing modern leading-edge prosthetics that benefit so many American amputees was the Vietnam War.

Glass half-full or glass half-empty? Last night NBC News had a segment on the most-watched and most-commented-on of all the Super Bowl ads -- Anheuser-Busch's ad showing American soldiers returning from Iraq/Afghanistan through an American airport concourse, to the spontaneous applause of grateful American civilians. (The actors are all current or recent US servicemen and servicewomen; each was paid about $350 for appearing.)

Most people who commented about the ad were moved by it and felt it perfectly expressed the gratitude they felt for their servicemen and women serving in these wars. Some said they had actually witnessed such scenes at American airports.

But -- in the commentator's somewhat muted tone -- the troublesome issue of What The Ad Was Really All About was raised.

"Oh," a Madison Avenue beat reporter said, "it's about selling beer." (Budweiser, to be specific.)

After you shoot at them, and take them away from their families, and subject them to the toxins and poisons of the modern battlefield (this time something new: depleted uranium), and scramble their nervous systems and their psyches, there's always the opportunity to milk them for profit. One of Hollywood's favorite stock psychos and sad clowns is the crazed Vietnam Veteran, about whom the audience is now prepared to believe anything. Hollywood has made billions off Vietnam Veterans.


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