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Ron Kovic Questions Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s ‘Need to Go to War’

Posted on Jun 30, 2016

  Vietnam War veteran and activist Ron Kovic, left, speaks to Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer in this still image from Kovic’s Facebook Live session at Truthdig headquarters on Thursday. (Truthdig)

It remains the case that those in power who call for war are often not the same people whose lives and families bear the brunt of armed conflict. If ever there were an expert on war’s costs, it would be Vietnam veteran, author and activist Ron Kovic, who put the unspeakable into words in his memoir, “Born on the Fourth of July,” and in his newest book, “Hurricane Street.”

In fact, Kovic has lived with that knowledge for nearly half a century, after being wounded and paralyzed from the chest down while serving in Vietnam as a United States Marine Corps sergeant in 1968. During a Facebook Live session at Truthdig headquarters on Thursday, Kovic posed some questions that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton should have to answer.

READ: Fighting for Peace at ‘Hurricane Street’

“Both [candidates] running for president are talking about ‘the need to go to war,’ ” Kovic said. “Define that for me ... what’s that going to mean? What are you going to do, send troops to Syria? What’s going to be the result of that?”

Kovic, of course, could readily answer his own questions. “There’s a consequence—physical, emotional, psychological—you’d better be cautious before you so flippantly send these precious young men and women [into combat],” he said.

Decrying the “senselessness of war,” Kovic called for an “alternative approach inspired by Dr. King—inspired by so many others who have made commitments to a more peaceful and nonviolent world.”

The longtime anti-war icon also pointed to those veterans who have recently returned from battle with visible and hidden wounds, many of whom become suicidal. Kovic said he hopes his writings, and the film version of “Born on the Fourth of July,” offer an “alternative” to the pro-war messages promoted in the contemporary video games and films marketed to younger generations.

With his birthday quickly approaching, Kovic became reflective about the date and how his first book quickly materialized in 1974. “This Monday, on July 4, I’m going to be turning 70 years old,” he said. “In the fall of 1974 I bought a Sears & Roebuck in Santa Monica and bought a $42 manual typewriter,” he said. “And in about one month, three weeks and two days I wrote the first draft … it just poured out of me. In some ways it was my last will and testament—I didn’t think I would live to be 30.

“I decided to try to write the truth about what really happened to me and my generation,” he added, “to leave something behind other than a paralyzed body and a wounded spirit.”

Editor’s note: Video footage of Truthdig’s “Live at Truthdig” session with Ron Kovic can be viewed here, with additional clips coming soon. The author of “Born on the Fourth of July” and “Hurricane Street” also will be speaking and signing books at the Manhattan Beach Public Library in Manhattan Beach, Calif., on Wednesday, July 6, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. PST. On Sunday, Aug. 7, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PST, Kovic will have a conversation with Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer at the Robert Berman Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, Calif., to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of “Born on the Fourth of July” and “Hurricane Street.” The program will be followed by a Q&A and book signing. You can RSVP here.

—Posted by Kasia Anderson

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