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In the Presence of My Enemy: A Reflection on War and Forgiveness

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Posted on Jan 20, 2011
AP

A wounded Marine is dragged to an evacuation helicopter by Cpl. James Williams of Craig, Colo., left, and Cpl. Frank T. Guilford of Philadelphia, who sustained a face wound himself when a supply column was attacked on Vietnam’s Van Tuong Peninsula on Aug. 19, 1965.

By Ron Kovic

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over. (Psalms 23:5) 

As this, the 43rd anniversary of my wounding in Vietnam approaches, and I once again try to find meaning in that day and the days which were to follow, my thoughts return to the northern bank of the Cua Viet River on Jan. 20, 1968. It is a day that will change my life forever.

I am medevaced from the battlefield to the intensive care ward in Da Nang, Vietnam. For the next several days I struggle with everything inside me to live. The dead and dying are everywhere. I am in and out of morphine every four hours. I awaken to the screams of the wounded all around me—young men like myself, 19, 20-year-olds. I am told by a doctor that I will never walk again, that I will be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.

Still I am grateful to be alive, to still be breathing. I dream of my hometown, of my mother, my father and my backyard where I had played as a boy. All I want to do now is survive, to get out of this place somehow and return home. I completely lose track of time; I don’t know if it is day or night. They keep bringing in the wounded and carting out the dead.

It is the eve of the Tet offensive. A young Vietnamese man who has been severely wounded is brought into the intensive care ward. I can still remember that day clearly—his face, the fear in his eyes. One of the nurses tells me that he is a Viet Cong soldier who had been shot in the chest only a few days before. I look into his eyes as he is carefully placed in his bed directly across from me. “He’s the enemy, the Viet Cong, the ‘Gook,’ the Communist,” I think to myself,  “the one my country sent me to fight and kill. The one I must fear, the one I must hate, the man who is not even human.”

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That belief and hatred had been reinforced in Marine Corp boot camp, at Parris Island, S.C., where we had chanted, “I’m going to go to Vietnam. I’m going to kill the Viet Cong!” Perhaps he was the one who had pulled the trigger a few days before, trying to kill me, the one who had shot and paralyzed me from my mid-chest down for the rest of my life. I will never know for sure. Yet as I lie in that hospital bed and our eyes meet, I feel no hatred or animosity toward him. On the contrary, I feel compassion for this man I had been taught to hate, this man who is my enemy.

Each day upon awakening from the morphine I look at him and he looks back at me, our eyes meeting, our gaze a recognition of each other’s presence, our humanity, an understanding that both our worlds have been turned upside down and we are now in a far different place than we had been only a few days before. We reach an equality of sorts in this place of the wounded and dying, that great leveler, where distinctions vanish, where there is no prejudice or hatred, where all becomes equal. We are two wounded young men in late January of 1968 simply trying to survive, two human beings who only want to live.

A sort of unique bond begins to develop between my “enemy” and myself over the next several days, a strange and at first somewhat uneasy camaraderie without words, which is both unsettling and at the same time seems completely natural to me. I do not think of him as my enemy anymore. I begin to care about him more and each time I awaken from the morphine, and with the screams of the wounded and dying all around me, I reach out to him with my eyes, with my heart, as he lies across from me in his bed. I now want him to live just as much as I want to live.

“Keep fighting,” I think as I watch him trying to communicate. We are together in this now, and none of those other things seem to matter anymore. “If you don’t give up I won’t give up,” I think, pressing my lips together, reaching out to him, one human being to another, no longer enemies—two young men struggling to live and go home, leave all of this sorrow behind, back to our families, our homes and our towns where it was simple again, where it was safe.

The days and nights and hours pass. The lights are always on and I never know if it is night or day, and after a while it doesn’t really matter anymore. I awake one day and look across and see the empty hospital bed. He is gone, and the nurse tells me he has died. There is no emotion in her voice. She is very tired, and there will be many more dead and many more wounded before it is all over. I stare at his empty bed for a long time, feeling a sadness I could not fully comprehend.

In the years that have passed, I have often thought about those days on the intensive care ward and about that young Vietnamese man, my “enemy,” who lay in that hospital bed across from me, and how we are all perhaps much closer to each other as brothers and sisters on this Earth than we realize. Despite all our differences, there is, I believe, a powerful connectedness to our humanity—a deep desire to reach out with kindness, with love and great caring toward each other, even to our supposed enemies, and to bring forth “the better angels of our nature”—that is undeniable and cannot be extinguished, even in death.

This, I believe, is the hope of the world. This is the faith we now need in these times.

In the years that followed, I would attempt to write about the war and about that long and often difficult journey home, trying to give meaning to what I and so many others had gone through. There would be other profound moments of reconciliation and forgiveness to come, but almost always my mind would drift back to that young Vietnamese man who laid across from me for those few brief days on the Da Nang intensive care ward in 1968.


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By Eric Malone, February 1, 2011 at 8:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ron—

Your message moved me greatly.  You probably don’t remember me but we met at your home in Redondo Beach, CA a few years back with Dr. Rock.

I bought your book and several versions of the movie—good stuff, my friend!  I am making certain that my son is well aware of what you have to say so we can break the cycle of wars that our government appears to be bent upon.

God bless you for all the wonderful work you do, and keep up the writing!

Eric Malone

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By D. E. Lyles, January 27, 2011 at 12:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m seeing a lot of comments by people that even at this late stage don’t understand that they were priviledged and had choices that everyone didn’t have.

When you are born white (the enlisted/consripted Army was 90% black and hispanic back then.) or born into a family where there was money for and/or a tradition of higher education then you had a lot more opportunity for avoiding military service.

I see the sense of respect entitlement in those who scooted to Canada as much as I do in those who witnessed America’s Indochineese crimes first hand.

Let’s try to have respect all around and remember that the important thing to remember is that it’s happening again (or still).

I just happen to identify with vets being one.

Danielle E. (Beth) Lyles MS

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By Lloyd English, January 26, 2011 at 7:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

By burkai,

My own war experiences as a Green Beret have led me to
the powers of
thankfulness, forgiveness, love and surrender.

Thank you sensei, Thank you and did I say Thank you.

This is the place from which we all need to start and end.

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By burkai, January 26, 2011 at 2:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My own war experiences as a Green Beret have led me to the powers of
thankfulness, forgiveness, love and surrender. Only when people learn to let go of
their tribal identities will our eyes and hearts begin to open and our separateness
disappear.
In my book, Soldier’s Heart: An Inquiry of War, I talk of the power of forgiveness
in a way that most people are currently clueless about.
Live long, live strong.

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By Peter Knopfler, January 25, 2011 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment

All these milk and cookies with kool-aid on the side.
How many times do I have to Hammer Home the war in
Viet Nam was a phoney way to spend money kill and
make more money. Feel bad for Ron and Yet to feel
sorry is not good enough America learnt nothing false
flag wars continue in Iraq Afghanistan Pakistan And
Yemen. RON WHAT DID YOU AND THE rest learn from the
false flag WhAT 1.3 million Viet Nam people killed
for nothing going against Communism and now were
kissing communist ass. What is this all about
America, start a war expect everyone feel sorry when
you get hurt, What hell is that all about, doing the
same shame right now . RON and all the other Veterans
could have put your weapons down and said no more you
had a choice, you chose to kill, instead of dropping
your weapon walking away refusing to kill, you did
not do that!

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By Lloyd English, January 24, 2011 at 3:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In reference to the last few posts.  I just can’t stand
the irony.  Here we are talking about the horrors of
war and here you are starting your own little private
one while on this topic.

There is no hope for humans.

Grace is lost.

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By factfinder, January 24, 2011 at 10:30 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous, I repeatedly point out the logical errors you make in your wild assertions, I repeatedly ask that you tell us what YOU would do bring about an end to war, and all that you in reply is to hurl argumentum ad hominem logical fallacies. It is a pity.  Come back when you have something of substance to say.

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By Shenonymous, January 24, 2011 at 12:34 am Link to this comment

You would do better to spend your time trying to pull your head
out of your anus, factfinder?

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By Inherit The Wind, January 23, 2011 at 11:09 pm Link to this comment

Yes, it’s true that there have been women leaders who led their nations to war. But let’s see…in the 20th Century I can think of three women in the world who led their nations to war: Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir.

Gee, during that time Britain alone had: David Lloyd George, Neville Chamberlain, Tony Blair, and at least two others.  France? Clemanceau, Poincare (the Ruhr invasion), Daladier, Charles De Gaulle, to name a few.

And what about the USA? McKinley, TR, Wilson, FDR, Truman, LBJ, Nixon (Cambodia), Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II.

Russia? Tsar Nicholas II, Lenin, Stalin, Kruschev, Breshnev, and I can’t remember all the others.

Just the 20th century alone supports She’s thesis that war is primarily a male-led operation: The statistics alone bear it out.

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By factfinder, January 23, 2011 at 10:34 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous: “Yadda. Yadda. Yadda. Misogyny. Blah. Blah.”

Ho Hum. More feminist cant. We are still waiting for you tell us what YOU are going to do prevent future wars. Hint: Your being argumentative, shrill and narrow isn’t going to do it.

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By Tobysgirl, January 23, 2011 at 6:53 pm Link to this comment

surfnow, I know about the movie but have never seen it. I will make a point of getting it.

That said, we were not all brainwashed. I grew up in a home with two radical parents; my father was very involved in civil rights work, then antiwar work. My mother was even more radical and had more insight into the way people function. I spoke out against segregation when I was in grade school and against the war in junior high school. In fact I met my husband at an antiwar meeting at HIS parents’ house.

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By Shenonymous, January 23, 2011 at 3:27 pm Link to this comment

Your misogyny is showing.  And so is your shame.  Substituting
women, uh,...the perennial male squirreling themselves behind
women in order to conceal their madness for war, is preposterously
hilarious.  Let’s begin with the date 1180BC, though there certainly
were wars before that, oracle bones mention a state called Zhou
near the Fen river that fought the Shang around 1180 BC. Gu Gong
Danfu led his people over the mountains to the middle Wei River
valley where they built a town near Mount Qi. His son, Jili, fought
many wars along the Wei and Fen rivers against the Rong as a vassal
of the Shang Dynasty king Wen Ding (1116-1107 or 1112-1102 BC)
until the king killed him.  All responsible were men.  From then up until
now, it is almost unspeakably numerous that men cause and fight wars
and it is an absurdity to compare the uncountable number of men
responsible for billions people killed in wars since time began with the
few women you enumerated who were involved in military conflicts.  See
how really laughable your retort is?  So adolescent.

The history of warfare is so vast as to need separate history book
libraries for eras in which to talk about them cogently or coherently.  Of
all those battles, which can be linked to at
http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/battleswars/u/WarsandBattles.htm
any women involved would be less than a minor blip.  The history of
women and war is one volume.  What is comic is your apparent
seriousness with the delusional equivalence.  So shrink from male
responsibility if you dare, which would show how pathetically
gynophobic you reveal yourself to be, factfinder, and own up to your
and your kind’s embrace of war with a death grip.  Your ad
feminam argument is fatuous. 

And frankly Scarlett, your sentiments are not worth any more time on
which to linger.

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By factfinder, January 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous, “But name a war that one led and
one won such that millions were led to their deaths. “

I have already done that. Bear in mind that the world’s population has not always been this high so think in terms of tens or hundreds of thousands and you have the same proportional scale.

Instead of trying to defend an indefensible, biased feminist claptrap position, try dealing with reality.

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By Shenonymous, January 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm Link to this comment

No one is saying there were not women warriors as Bernard A. Cook’s
history book, Women and War shows.  But name a war that one led and
one won such that millions were led to their deaths.

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By Shenonymous, January 23, 2011 at 2:29 pm Link to this comment

factfinder – simply put, your argument is defensively absurd.

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By factfinder, January 23, 2011 at 2:08 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous, “Since it is men who engage in war, it is men who must solve the nightmare.”

Oh, please, let the breath of reality freshen that mind of yours. Golda Meir was a blood-thirsty as they come. Remember Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands War. How about Imelda Marcos, aka the Steel Butterfly, aka the Iron Butterfly (I liked the band better). 

Do we have to go back into history and the blood-thirsty Cleopatra, Catherine the Great, Isabella of Spain, Wu Zetian, Irene of Athens, Empress Matilda, Tomyris, Kahina, Ana de Sousa Nzinga Mbande, Hind al-Hund, Khawlah Bint al-Kindiyyah. These are all ruthless female rulers and warriors. 

You are letting your bias and wishful thinking get in the way of truth.

Do you care to be specific on you would “assimilate the history of the follies of war and rise to the occasion to favor elimination, and cause others to as well to do that,and you will have done something worthwhile in this life”? Or, are you just going to wallow in feminist rhetoric and nonsense and regurgitate platitudes?

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By Shenonymous, January 23, 2011 at 10:56 am Link to this comment

Platitudes, are those something you wear on your feet?  Since it is
men who engage in war, it is men who must solve the nightmare. 
It is men who must see that humanity is indeed on the brink of
eliminating war. But I can see as one of them, the unenlightened
warrior men, you would prefer to dodge your duty.

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By factfinder, January 23, 2011 at 10:49 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous, “Figure out how to assimilate the history of the follies of war and rise to the occasion to favor elimination, and cause others to as well to do that,
and you will have done something worthwhile in this life.”

You are stating the obvious. Do you have some practical ways to accomplish the above or are you content with platitudes?

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By drbhelthi, January 23, 2011 at 10:45 am Link to this comment

“But that’s due to my shitty knowledge of history.”
(inherit the wind)

It isnt all that bad. 
Your knowledge of the gist of the psychopathology of the super-rich, since 1930 NAZI-types basically, whose family trees have historically thrived on profitability of wars, makes up for any weakness in your history recall.

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By Shenonymous, January 23, 2011 at 10:43 am Link to this comment

Perhaps some of the not-so-old men can convince the young men
to not die for the older ones?  Many years ago historian Barbara
Tuchman gave certain kinds of human behavior a great deal of
thought and wrote a most illuminating book, The March of Folly
We read but we don’t learn.  Such is the impotence of written history. 
We marvel at the thoughts and insights of historians but we do not
learn from the past!  Far too much is left unsaid, unspoken. 

How many fathers advise their sons to moult the warrior’s cloak?

Figure out how to assimilate the history of the follies of war and rise to
the occasion to favor elimination, and cause others to as well to do that,
and you will have done something worthwhile in this life.

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By factfinder, January 23, 2011 at 9:34 am Link to this comment

ardee, January 23 at 12:22 pm:  I agree entirely with your statement and offer this haiku in support.

Old men convincing
The young men to die for them.
Can we end it now?

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By ardee, January 23, 2011 at 7:22 am Link to this comment

zonadude, January 22 at 8:04 pm Link to this comment

Too many of you out there personalize Mr. Kovic’s column and use it to launch political diatribes on your philosophy of “great” warriors minds, and your analysis of such. There is nothing great about war.

You are correct in your statement that there is nothing great about war. I know this from personal experience. But I stand by my lauding of Mr. Kovic, and of those who put on the uniform of our nation.

To heap insult upon our troops is to miss the point entirely, and to retard the possibility of alliances with current and former soldiers, sailors and marines. I would remind you that the presence of those who fought in Viet Nam at the demonstrations against that war hastened its ending. I might further mention one Bradley Manning as well.

The real enmity should be reserved for the old men who lie us into war, who disguise the reasons for that war in flowery appeals to patriotism when the profit motive looms larger than the political motivations.

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By tom lancaster, January 23, 2011 at 4:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dear Tom, Wishing you and Teddy the best! You are the greatest! Best always Ronnie

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By D. E. Lyles, January 23, 2011 at 3:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I did my service in between wars but in the immediate aftermath of Vietnam. I never saw combat but I saw the horrible damage it did to the men I looked up to and loved (I was only seventeen when I went through basic.) Chronic marital strife, Flash backs that had them zoning out and trying to call for help and nightmares so bad that they had to go to bed with a loaded pistol to feel safe enough to sleep.

For 20 years I have worked closely with hard core homeless. I can not begin to tell you of all the men that I have met whose hearts yet beat and whose lungs still pump, but whose lives had basically ended in some far away hell, when they were only 19. Now we have women homeless vets. What price empire.

Personally I love America’s vets and Vietnam vets particularly, including Mr. Kovic. F’em to anyone who doesn’t like it.

By the way Peter the actual figure for American dead is 59,000 not 56,000. You are ignorant in your head and your heart if you do not see veterans as the first and the last casualties in Americas imperial crimes.

“War is a racket.”
  -General Smedley Butler U.S. Marine Corp-

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By SteveL, January 23, 2011 at 12:40 am Link to this comment

Truman started these damn Presidential wars with the Koran mess (we still have
troops there).  We had another useless war with Vietnam (never declared by
congress), several smaller wars and the current mess we have with Iraq,
Afghanistan, and Pakistan.  We get young people to go into the military and take
an oath to follow and protect the constitution and a bunch of politicians that love
to ignore it.  Sickening.

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By Inherit The Wind, January 22, 2011 at 11:51 pm Link to this comment

She,
You are a better scholar than I am.  It’s POSSIBLE that Hobbes knew of Sun-Tzu, but I’m under the impression that the first translation of The Art to a European language was into French in the mid-18th century, supposedly a rather poor translation, but, apparently effective enough that it was Napoleon’s “secret weapon”—he had a copy.  I’m not sure, but I think Giles 1910 translation was the first into English—but I’m shaky on that.

I’m certainly far less knowledgeable of von Clausewitz and Machievelli, who don’t seem as focused on survival as the issue the way Sun-Tzu is.

We actually don’t know if he even was a real person.  The “13 Chapters” that have come down to us have a provenance that is less than definite—something like “Homer”, who is claimed to have written not one, but two epic poems, handed down via oral tradition.

Still, your point about having to glorify war to get young men to go do it is spot-on. While going off to risk life and limb to save your country when it’s under attack does have a certain nobility, it is inevitably used by old men to establish positions of power and politics. 

I believe it was Pickett who castigated Lee for stupidly wasting men’s lives unnecessarily at Gettysburg—but many generals frivolously send young men into the meat grinder to be killed due to their own hubris and incompetence.

And politicians are worse.  Look at the lies, delusions and phony buildup that lead a bunch of chicken hawks to send young men and women to their deaths, solely for their pride, greed and hubris, an atrocity if their ever was one.

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By Inherit The Wind, January 22, 2011 at 11:35 pm Link to this comment

Yes, Factfinder,

My awareness of history is SO bad that I’m under the delusion that the Battle of New Orleans was fought after the peace was signed but NOT before that treaty could be conveyed back from Europe or to General Jackson in time to prevent the battle.

I’m also deluded into thinking that international law and convention dictate that a war does not end when the peace treaty is signed, but rather when the knowledge of that treaty can be disseminated.

But that’s due to my shitty knowledge of history.

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By nikto, January 22, 2011 at 5:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Nowadays, WAR is the Rich Man’s ATM,
and the Poor Man’s Hell.

War is Money.

The Rich have decided to keep War going forever,
no matter what.

And what The Rich say, GOES.

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By Shenonymous, January 22, 2011 at 3:42 pm Link to this comment

It looks like, zonadude, a few of us are doing just what you are
complaining about.  Talking about the horror of war.  You might
be brave and be specific about who you are criticizing.  It is
cowardly to hide behind the veil of ambiguity and the perennial
“they.” 

War was not invented by humankind in a vacuum, and its horror
has origins.  If you do not want to know much about it, you might
just gloss over this forum and find peace on other venues.  There are
problems with straightjacketed minds perhaps you are not aware of? 
Instead of simpering about us, why don’t you put forth some
comments yourself worthy of discussion about the futility of war?  But
do be careful what you say is not further merely humdrum tedium.

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By factfinder, January 22, 2011 at 3:36 pm Link to this comment

Inherit the Wind: Your awareness of history is appalling. Your American, self-serving, tunnel vision is evident.

For example, the war of 1812 was started by the U.S. to grab the remainder of British North America. The excuse of resisting impressment of sailors on U.S. flagged vessels was employed as a lame justification for this naked aggression and land grab by the U.S.

The U.S. lost this war.  When the Napoleonic wars ended, England had thousands and thousands of battle-experienced troops to send to Canada but the U.S. had no stomach for a real fight and so sued for peace. The U.S. invasion accomplished none of its goals and, instead, strengthened Canada as a nation and strengthened Canadian opposition to U.S. imperialism.

It is interesting that the U.S. attempts to this day to create an illusion of military competence vis a vis the war of 1812, by trumpeting the Battle of New Orleans but neglects to mention that that battle occurred some two weeks after the war of 1812 was over.

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By zonadude, January 22, 2011 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment

Too many of you out there personalize Mr. Kovic’s column and use it to launch political diatribes on your philosophy of “great” warriors minds, and your analysis of such. There is nothing great about war. The “great” minds of these geniuses are as insane as anyone who sees war as an objective, abstraction are one step away from madness. Mr. Kovic’s piece was a study in the futility of war, de-humanizing the “enemy” and his epiphany whilst watching another human being, with family, hopes and dreams, watching him die as a brother. Get off of your high horses and address what this piece is really about: The insane, profane, futile thing called war.

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By Lloyd English, January 22, 2011 at 2:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think we all have to ask fundamental questions such
as; What is democracy? What is freedom? What is a
country? What beliefs do I personally have and what
beliefs do I share with others, exactly? Is this man truly my enemy?
After all, these are the questions for which young
men die and yet it seems they do not know the answers
themselves.  These boys are sent to defend democratic
freedoms and beliefs and their country but who is
really sending them and why, really?  Is Jesus sending them? 
Are they protecting themselves and their family from
an aggressive enemy that is surely going to kill them
and overrun their borders and brainwash them?

There will always be the enemy of the day,the
communists, the terrorists, the nazis and the evil
empires and they are always changing and the results
are always the same, people are slaughtered and humanity suffers. Will it ever stop and do the leaders of our counties want it to stop above all else?

How about using the military money to feed people in
Iraq, and bring education and clean water and medical
supplies to Africa and Afghanistan and South America.  Why not nurture the good and provide for the hearts, minds and bodies of all people.  Do we need space programs and nuclear weapons and suv’s and 3000 dollar handbags? 

I think we all know who the enemies really are, lies
and fear and hatred and greed and those who choose to manipulate
these for these for personal gain. 

There are no borders here, there is
no deeper meaning, there is just evil and for a time it will prevail as long as people do not speak the truth, and the truth is Love.

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By Shenonymous, January 22, 2011 at 1:55 pm Link to this comment

Perhaps we are veering off to the side of the topic, did I say
Sun-Tzu loved war?  Sorry, I said romance and I guess that
implies love, although all romancers do not wind up as lovers! 
I don’t mind the correcting picayunies, we can all learn from seeing
history better.  You are a much better historian than I am, ITW. 
Sun-Tzu, from what I’ve read, theorized that serenity and
inscrutability were imperative mental states for a great war leader,
meaning when going to battle, do not give your hand away
We also must not forget the amazing theorist but also experienced
at war, von Clausewitz’s and his Principles of War.  Without a doubt,
he had a romantic idea, the dialect of warfare (put in more common
terms, It takes two to tango).  I think his view that abstractions do
not match experience was insightful into the nature of ambiguous and
really non-instructional value of abstract terms.  His logic took him to a
different conclusion than Jomini, the modern military strategist, whose
theories were prescriptive, i.e., “put the most skillful combat power at
decisive locations, stressing the unique superiority of interior lines.” 
Unlike Clausewitz, his was scientific rather than an art and winning the
respect of many militarists. 

As Robert Kaplan reports in his history lecture, Applying the Wisdom
of the Ages to the Twenty-First Century,
, and book, Warrior
Politics,
“Thucydides wrote that only three things govern our
intentions: fear, self-interest, and honor.”  He also wrote, “War is not
an aberration, and the constant potential for it must be acknowledged.
Similarly, the way to avoid tragedy is to cultivate a sense of it.”  Seems
like good advice.  No?

While it is not known for sure, it looks like Sun-Tzu, 6th century B.C.,
was not unheard of by 17h century Hobbes.  Kaplan also notes that
“Hobbes is also the first modern, moral philosopher to search for the
roots of morality, which he traced to profound fear.”  As I go a step
farther than Hobbes as seen by Kaplan, who says, “We all have the deep
subconscious fear of suffering violent death at the hands of another in
the dark,” I say that there also resides in our subconscious the fear of
having to kill another.  That might imply I think there is an inherent
morality and of that I am not sure. I do not feel certain of what is only
an uneducated hunch.  I would have to be convinced one way or the
other.

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By Inherit The Wind, January 22, 2011 at 12:36 pm Link to this comment

One correction:
Sun-Tzu does not seem to be in love with war but see it as a necessary evil.
The first thing he says is:
“The art of war is of vital importanceto the State.
It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin.  Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.” (Giles Translation).

IOW, if you are ready, no asshole is going to be able to destroy you, your family, your home and your nation.  But if you are not, not only will that asshole do it, he’s going be DRAWN to you as his prey.

He later tells us that the supreme test of a commander in war is to win a battle without having to actually fight it.  He warns us about glory-seekers.

To Sun-Tzu, you study war to be able to survive, and anything else is insanity.  Unlike others on war, who tell us that war is diplomacy by other means, Sun-Tzu never loses sight of safety and survival, and fending off catastrophe.

1500 years later, a maniac named Genghis Khan would slaughter every inhabitant of a city of 160,000 AFTER it surrendered, just to make others afraid.  That is Sun-Tzu’s catastrophe.

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By factfinder, January 22, 2011 at 9:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Inherit the Wind: your knowledge of history especially the war of 1812 is
appalling.

The U.S. started the war of 1812 because it thought it could easily grab the rest
of British North America. It was wrong. The blather about sailors on U.S. ships
being impressed was only a smoke screen. The war of 1812 ended because the
Napoleonic wars ended and Britain suddenly had hundreds of thousands of
battle hardened veterans to bring to the fight in North America. Suddenly, the
U.S. lost its taste for war.  Not only did the U.S. lose the war of 1812, it still
actively promotes its win at the Battle of New Orleans as proof of its prowess
during the war of 1812 when, in fact, that battle was fought after the war was
over.

The U.S. got its ass kicked by Canada, Cuba, Viet Nam,  and Afghanistan.

The U.S. was victorious in Panama (1989), Grenada (1983) and Dominican
Republic (1965). Big deal.

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By Shenonymous, January 22, 2011 at 9:54 am Link to this comment

The phenomena of war…since it began, it seems that all military
participants must suffer much brainwashing in order to go to war,
knowing that to be part of it, it is a march to one’s death as well as
being brainwashed that the enemy is evil and must be destroyed. 
That is the nature of war.  Men have a romance with war.  Sun Tzu,
Machiavelli, Baron Antoine Henri De Jomini, Rupert Smith all wrote
on the Art of War, and there is an incessant, innumerable archive
of the history of war books. 

For a large segment of the population of a modern society to be
“brainwashed,” every public avenue of learning, i.e., news media, which
in those days were more newspapers and Life magazine, Time, and the
like, and the oncoming inexorable effect of television which were had
not yet been prohibited to show the bloody pictures of war or the
caskets of soldiers whose bodies were being returned, has to be
employed, but in Iraq the government stepped in and that ended that. 
Still in high school I do not remember my teachers saying anything at
all about the VW in class.  We did our three Rs and a few humanities as
usual.  But when I got home, the news shows were almost drooling at
the number of viewers they were getting who were mesmerized by their
headline pictures of protesters being hosed or tear gassed.  Humans
love to see and hear about war and gore such as when the protesters
began to be bashed by the police, (and think about how the police or
National Guard have to be brainwashed about civilians in order to shoot
at them as they did in Kent State).  Even now there is a kabash on
showing caskets from the Middle East wars.  When pictures, which are
worth 10,000 words, were shown, like the little girl running down the
middle of the road just after a Napalm bomb exploded in the
background, who could ever forget that picture, ever? we are affected
by what we see!  Our sympathetic gene kicks into gear and the powers
that be know it.  And use it.

All this changes now.  The advent of camera phones, changes
everything.  We saw what happened in Iran immediately, we saw what
happened in Tunisia immediately, we saw what happened in Tibet
immediately.  For instance, the Miami Herald on Tuesday reported, “In
Haiti, Duvalier had spent Monday receiving visits from members of the
secret police that once terrorized the country, fueling fears that his
return would deepen a political crisis sparked by the nation’s disputed
Nov. 28 presidential elections.”  Do you suppose the Haitians are being
brainwashed as we breathe?

The world is different. The vast number of ‘Net news sites informs
immediately what is going on in the world.  The world has changed. 
And it is only a logical conclusion that people, the world over will be
immediately acutely aware of their oppressors.

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By Inherit The Wind, January 22, 2011 at 9:38 am Link to this comment

Gerard:

You are wrong: a war may be set up, but until that first shot is fired or that border is violated, or (if you want to get technical) an “act of war” as defined by international law is committed, the war hasn’t begun.

Yeah, provocations happen, like Egypt, Syria and Jordan massing troops on Israel’s border in 1967, preparing to attack.

But our attack on Iraq in 2003? CLEARLY the US was the aggressor.  But what about the Afghanistan war?  If you DON’T believe Afghanistan happily provided the nest where the 9/11 egg was hatched, then the US was the aggressor.  But if you believe that Afghanistan actively participated in helping Al Qaeda mount the attack of 9/11, then that WAS a bona fide act of war by them.

And our historical wars?  I don’t have all the facts or know all the wars but:
1) The Revolution—British marched on independent insurgents.
2) Undeclared sea war 1799—France was attacking US shipping in US waters.
3) Barbary Pirates—They were attacking US ships.
4) 1812—badly managed diplomacy, but the British invaded.
5) Mexican-American War.  Attacked Mexico to steal Mexican land.
6) Civil War. Insurgents formed a rebellion army and attacked a US fort.
7) Indian Wars. In most, the US was aggressively engaged in stealing their nations’ lands.
8) Spanish American War.  Set up and instigated by William Randolph Hearst.
9) Pershing’s invasion of Mexico. Francisco “Pancho” Villa was crossing the border in his insurgency against Mexico.  Attack chasing him was probably an act of war against Mexico.
10) WWI: Wilson, an avid Anglophile, pushed International Law’s conventions to the breaking point, and could easily have kept us out. Instead, out of a fear of either Germany or France dominating the Continent, provoked Germany—but Germany STILL could have chosen not to attack.
11) Russian Civil War.  US aided the White Army and invaded and occupied Murmansk.
12) Spanish Civil War.  The US “allowed” the independent “Lincoln” and “Washington” brigades to be established (I guess FDR was hoping all the American Communists would get themselves killed in Spain).  But Germany CLEARLY was the aggressor, aiding Franco and using the Spanish people as a testing ground for blitzkrieg.
13) WWII: Japan attacked at Pearl Harbor.  All the failed diplomacy doesn’t change that fact. They CHOSE to attack and destroy our Pacific fleet.  Their hard and solid alliance with Germany and Italy ensured our going to war with them.
14) Korea: Syngman Rhee set up border skirmishes with North Korea.  One day, the NK kept going—but SK, supported by the US and our “anti-Red” policy set it off.  Since they are STILL divided, it achieved NOTHING.
15) Bay of Pigs.  We tried to support the corrupt, mafia-dominated Batista regime, thus alienating for 50+ years any chance at good relations with the dominant Caribbean nation.
16) Viet Nam: We had been interfering since WWII, prevented the movement that through out the Japanese invaders from taking power, and phonied-up the Tonkin Gulf incident.
17) Dominican Republic.  We invaded to prevent (supposedly) Cuba from influencing a rebellion.
18) Grenada invasion: Again to prevent a Cuban takeover.  Unemployment in Grenada is insanely high since then.
19) Invasion of Panama. Noreiga might have been a real bastard, but we HELPED him take over (Torijos was just too open-minded a dictator for us).
20) Iraq 1:  At least this was a UN-sanctioned attack to get an invader out of Kuwait.  However, that Al Sabbah family is no better than Saddam, rounding up all those who opposed Saddam because they’d then be a threat to Al Sabbah.
21) Serbia: Again, at least it was a true NATO-sanctioned attack against a genocidal regime.
22) Iraq2…“WMD"s and other lies.

Ron Kovic has been an activist against US invasions since 1969/1970. I remember him on the talk shows at that time, still a very young man, in a wheel chair, highly articulate and passionate.

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By ardee, January 22, 2011 at 8:16 am Link to this comment

surfnow, January 21 at 3:24 pm

You may assume all you wish…..

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By markulyseas, January 22, 2011 at 3:48 am Link to this comment

I always wondered what happened to the GIs I saw in pictures of Vietnam while, victims of their own government.

Now I know.

Thank you Ron Kovic.

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By REDHORSE, January 21, 2011 at 6:23 pm Link to this comment

Indeed, some returning Vets WERE spit on, and assaulted, both verbally and physically. More VietNam Vets have committed suicide than died in the War itself. Today, in the U.S.A., 18 Vets a day kill themselves, 365 days a year.

      Vets don’t care if you have respect for them “deserved” or “undeserved” but you might try having a little for yourself.

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By factfinder, January 21, 2011 at 5:27 pm Link to this comment

JDmysticDJ, your comment is incomprehensible.

What is evident is that you say this is not the forum for advancing an argument and nor do you want to advance an argument, but then you attempt do so. Do you ever listen to yourself? Or, are you just trying to sneak a somewhat incomprehensible viewpoint while trying dissuade comment on it? Not very commendable.

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By gerard, January 21, 2011 at 5:27 pm Link to this comment

surfnow: Quoting your comment:  “For the most part young people who came of age at the height of the ColdWar( 1955-1963) were totally brainwashed.It would have been very hard to escape it,it was so pervasive. Where was the typical 14 or 15 year old in 1963 going to hear anything different than the party line?”  You raise a whole lot of interesting questions, for example:
  1. What causes entire populations (or a huge majority) to be allow themselves to be “brainwashed?”
  2. Who sanctions “brainwashing”, pays for it, promotes it, how and why?
  3. Is it inevitable? If not, what defangs it?
  Just for starters, in 1955 I was 41 years old. My father was a scientist and agnostic. My mother, a devout Christian, died, and I was raised by Republican relatives who hated Roosevelt. My father said, “You are capable of doing anything you want to do.  Go for it!”
  I attended a Quaker college and later went to work for a text-book company where I met a variety of authors. My boss was a covert Communist—very bright, very well read, very humane. The big boss was a stupid old man who chewed tobacco and spit in wastebaskets. He hated paying any wages at all. The comparisons were gross and odious to say the least.
  By that time my life experiences had already “de-
fanged” brainwashing.  I well remember sitting on a stool at a bar in a restaurant when the radio started blasting out this screaming German. “Who’s that?” I asked, stupidly.  My Communist boss turned to me and said:  “If you don’t know who that is, you are ignorant.  Read some books, beginning with “Ten Days that Shook the World.”
  I never even came close to joining the party, and he later left it as did so many other idealists. I thank him (and the Quakers) to this day for rescuing me from my limited, yet permeable, quite conservative and ignorant, provincial background.

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By factfinder, January 21, 2011 at 5:18 pm Link to this comment

surfnow says,“For the most part young people who came of age at the height of the ColdWar( 1955-1963) were totally brainwashed.”

You could not be more wrong. Brainwashed people would not have started and brought to fruition the antiwar movement that finally got the U.S. out of Vietnam. It was principled, independently-minded young people who did that. Too bad that the U.S. didn’t learn its lesson then.

It seems that the U.S. will have to self-destruct through bankruptcy, just as the USSR did, in order for the U.S. citizenry to learn the lesson the it is not the indispensable country that it thinks it is.

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By JDmysticDJ, January 21, 2011 at 5:02 pm Link to this comment

Peter Knopfler

This is not the time, place, or forum for starting a petty argument, so I’ll abstain, except to say that I’ve noticed a tendency by those who participated to claim superior knowledge, and the moral high ground for some reason. Those who participated seem to desire a respect they are not necessarily entitled to. Everyone was subject to the same brainwashing and prejudices, but some coming from the same environment chose not to participate. Perhaps those who chose not to participate, had previously chosen to pursue enlightening educational and cultural options available to all, but ignored by many.

It’s not my intention, or place, to condemn, or be didactic, but when push comes to shove, and an individual has to make a decision, hopefully that individual will be able to make the decision without being confused by false perceptions of moral responsibility, and a desire to serve and sacrifice for an illegitimate cause and authority.

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By drbhelthi, January 21, 2011 at 3:01 pm Link to this comment

Well said, Gerard !
“Complicated!  But most of it is a very expensive game of international smoke and mirrors (meaning economic trade-offs, deals, bribes and challenges done behind closed doors in the interests of a fanciful “national security.”) The “Cables” prove this without a shadow.  And power doesn’t want people to know that. Why else would the “government” put a 23-year-old kid in solitary confinement at the mercy of the U.S.Army for months—without even so much as a formal charge, let alone basic human decency.”

From his actions, we discern that the “leader” of the current USGov administration was selected to accelerate the “war machine” that the family Bush placed into motion.  The 63 yrs of CIA history is summarized by Col. John Stockwell in his videos.  Thousands are now in the employ of the USGov to prevent Americans from understanding what has happened to the USA. While the privatized media are told what to publish and how to publish it.

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By surfnow, January 21, 2011 at 2:11 pm Link to this comment

Gerard:
For the most part young people who came of age at the height of the ColdWar( 1955-1963) were totally brainwashed.It would have been very hard to escape it,it was so pervasive. Where was the typical 14 or 15 year old in 1963 going to hear naything different than the party line?

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By drbhelthi, January 21, 2011 at 2:06 pm Link to this comment

Thank you, Ron Kovic,
for the very humane and caring sharing.

A marvelous revelation.

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By raymond, January 21, 2011 at 2:06 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

THANK YOU RON FOR A THOUGHTFUL ARTICLE AND THE STORY THAT ENSUED FROM YOUR EXPERIENCES IN VIETNAM A WONDERFUL MOVIE BY O. STONE ENSUED THAT I WATCH EVERY SUMMER I AM REMINDED BY YOU OF MY TOUR IN PLKEKU 1966. AS A MEDIC.. LATER I BECAME AN RN WHO STILL WORKS IN AN ICU AT AN ATLANTA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER.
IN MY PRACTICE WE FIGHT AGAINST DISEASE AND ILLNESS WITH STATE OF THE ART TECHNOLOGY. BUT All OF THE HI TECH STUFF THERE CAN NEVER REPLACE THE HUMAN TOUCH OF A CARING NURSE, MANY OF WHOM ARE WOMAN. MY QUESTION SINCE THOSE FRIGHTENING DAYS I SPENT IN VIETNAM, IS WHERE IS IT DEEMED IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS THAT ONE GROUP OF HUMANS CAN DIRECT ANOTHER GROUP OF HUMANS TO ATTACK AND KILL AN IMAGINED THIRD OPPOSING GROUP OF HUMANS SIMPLY FOR THE PURPOSES OF HOLDING ONTO POWER , POSITION, AND WEALTH?
WHY DO WE AVERAGE CITIZENS KEEP BUYING INTO WAR GENERATION AFTER GENERATION?I WATCHED MY SHARE OF WAR MOVIES GROWING UP IN SUFFOLK COUNTY , N Y AND LOVED THEM SO I READ A BOOK CALLED CHOICE OF HEROES BY CURZON WHERE HE PRESENTS A NEW MYTH FOR AMERICAN BOYS TO GROW INTO= HEALER INSTEAD OF WARRIOR. IT HAS HELPED ME A LOT TO RE FRAME MY LIVE INTO A MORE PEACEFUL PATH, BUT I STILL HAVE NIGHTMARES OF VIOLENCE AND WAR. AT MY AGE OF +68 ALL THE BEST TO YOU ALWAYS

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By gerard, January 21, 2011 at 2:04 pm Link to this comment

surfnow:  “We were all brainwashed.”  No, we were not!  Various factors account for the difference. What were (are) they?  Dealing with these differences is crucial to ending wars, IMO.

inherit the wind:  “Wars begin when someone attacks.”
Sorry, but that’s not quite right, either. Wars begin long before that point. They begin when one “side” has prepared enough weaponry to think it can kill people on a weaker “side” to “win hearts and minds” or steal something the attackers need,  or make some money off of selling weapons, or ...
My point about your statement is that it is too simple, unfortunately.
  War stops, starts, stops and starts again as action/reaction because there are no mutual agreements yet on alternative ways to live. The reason there are no alternatives is that powerful governments don’t want to stop wars because power always thinks it will win. Besides, the large majority of “ordinary” people will obey when called because they are afraid not to, and/or they think it is the “right” thing or they think there’s no alternative. 
  Complicated!  But most of it is a very expensive game of international smoke and mirrors (meaning economic trade-offs, deals, bribes and challenges done behind closed doors in the interests of a fanciful “national security.”) The “Cables” prove this without a shadow.  And power doesn’t want people to know that. Why else would the “government” put a 23-year-old kid in solitary confinement at the mercy of the U.S.Army for months—without even so much as a formal charge, let alone basic human decency.
  That’s war for ya.  A 23-year-old soldier and a cryptic genius from Australia attacked the United States of America?  I think NOT! If we can come to our senses in time, it could turn out to be the greatest “speaking truth to power” the world has ever seen.
  Problem:  Power isn’t interested in truth. Quite the contrary.  Power is interested in more power.
  (If there’s one thing that is sure to bring forth a rant from me, it’s refusal to face facts everyone knows but not enough people say.)

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By Peter Knopfler, January 21, 2011 at 1:47 pm Link to this comment

“The Farther backward you can look,
the farther forward you are likely to see”
Churchhill.
Folks love everyone however when it comes to VietNam
how many responding are old enough to remember before
Viet Nam and after. America´s Short memory created by
hours watching TV, sports, MTV, doesn´t give you
enough first hand information to make good decisions
and know the difference between fact and opinion, My
Comments always comes from First Hand experience,
working with shell shocked kids coming back from Nam
they tell you everything, Psychologist gets to talk
about the entire show, the Navy boys said they were
not attacked in the Bay and were told to say the
opposite so corporations can go in and use their new
equipment, chemistry, bombs all experimented on Viet
people and our own soldiers, you work with those
crying young you form a first hand opinion, and you
learn from your elders, and not to repeat this
unnecessary killing, mutilating, Mental Damage for an
entire life and your only 22 years old. The responses
I read Here, come from the youth without the first
hand info and resistance is what I expect from
Ignorance You were not there. I WAS. I know, broke my
heart everytime a false fag war that killed 1.3
million people SHAME learn from your past learn from
your elders, or die with your mistakes, remember IF
THE GOV¨T LIES TO YOU ONCE WHEN WILL THEIR MISCHIEF
ENDS? Total Transparency is necessary, truth sets me
free from useless opinions.

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By surfnow, January 21, 2011 at 1:16 pm Link to this comment

Bruce:
I agree. Just watch Born on the Fourth of July, to get a very good idea of what this man has gone through. By the way, I also was a product of the ffties and sixties mindset. We were all brainwashed- commies are evil, God is on our side, America is always righteous and good.

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By Tom Joad, January 21, 2011 at 12:53 pm Link to this comment

“Ron, you need to take a stand against war?” Are you kidding? Clearly a lot of people who have posted here do not know who Ron Kovic is and what he has done since his time in Vietnam.

Thanks, once again, for an inspiring article Mr. Kovic….

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By HS, January 21, 2011 at 11:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In 1975 I spent a little time in San Francisco with Ron Kovic, Tim Page and
Richard Boyle during the organizing drive for the Bonus March on Washington. I
thought they were crazy, and in some ways they probably were. But we were on
the same side, and I was in awe of their passion. I had been in the Navy before
the Viet Nam war started in ‘earnest’.  I waited every day for three years, hoping
against hope that I would not be recalled, and hope prevailed. The anti-war
movement changed my life. And so, this morning, I read Kovic’s piece after
watching Restrepo last night. “Plus c’est la même chose?” The more things
change the more they stay the same? The movie said it all. Again. Unbearably
painful to watch those young men, so scarred, returning from the little corner
of some truly G-forsaken mountaintop. And for nothing except the
camaraderie and love they found in one another. I don’t know how they will
ever recover or how we will as this maniacal process continues and continues
and continues. Alongside the pain I saw in their recounting of the story, I also
recall their leader. I believe his name was Kearny. Perhaps a non-com, perhaps
a junior officer; I don’t know. But he was a believer in the most dangerous way,
and he exhorted those in his charge to keep on keeping on. He had not one
ounce of respect for the local population, in fact it was total disdain. I suppose
he thought he no choice, but the continuing development of a military caste in
a nation that can no longer provide for its young men and women must be
addressed in some humane fashion. About this, I am not confident.

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By Atomsk, January 21, 2011 at 11:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@factfinder: very true.  Talking about the Vietnam war, forgiveness can’t be given by Americans, because the destruction was so clearly one sided.

@itw: do you really think that’s such a serious problem?  I think in of the wars America and imperial European countries took part in, the moral situation is pretty fucking obvious to anyone.  You don’t need some unique talent to be able to see who deludes themselves and who the aggressor is.  Yeah, people often rationalise their own behaviour, but there is also a reality.

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By factfinder, January 21, 2011 at 11:05 am Link to this comment

“other profound moments of reconciliation and forgiveness to come”???  You still don’t get it.

You had no business being in someone else’s country trying to impose your will. This is a lesson the U.S. has not yet learned, to its peril.

Don’t be too magnanimous about not feeling any “hatred or animosity toward him”. He was defending his country against you and those like you. And, he was successful.

Of course, there is a common bond between people. Why is this such a big revelation to you and the rest of the U.S.?

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By surfnow, January 21, 2011 at 11:01 am Link to this comment

Tobysgirl:
I haven’t read the book, but the author may even be in the documentary ” Sir No Sir”.  What a great film. It describes just how many men, while still in uniform ,took part in the anti-war movement from 1969-1972. And several vets also talk about the myth of returning troops being disrespected, and how it as really Hollywood that perpetuated the tale.

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By Atomsk, January 21, 2011 at 11:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A big problem is that people’s basic approach is to trust authority - as opposed to accepting it consciously as a fact of life, as something to question, or even resist and fight against.  People simply shouldn’t trust their “country” (as represented by political and military power, not the actual people who make it up).  Believing in the basic benevolence of power, of any concentration of power, if this benevolence is not proven again and again every day, is just completely stupid.

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By pk, January 21, 2011 at 10:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The big day was the day you decided not to go to Canada, my friend.

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By Tobysgirl, January 21, 2011 at 10:47 am Link to this comment

Thank you, surfnow. Did you hear about the book written by the Vietnam vet who researched the spitting on soldiers myth? He said it began after WWI with the return of German soldiers to Germany; there was absolutely no evidence a single soldier was spat on, but it became useful propaganda in the leadup to the next war. He found no evidence of soldiers being abused by the public during or after any war anywhere.

And I remember that some of the most important antiwar work was done by vets, including my father, a WWII vet. I still say they are the most effective anti-recruiting voices possible, far more likely to get through to young people than anyone else.

That said, 55,000 American deaths in Vietnam mean little compared to the murderous rampage we inflicted on the people and environment of that tiny country. If those deaths meant anything, we would not have endlessly repeated the same vicious attacks. As long as people are willing to send their children to do the dirty work of the oligarchs, then cry crocodile tears over their maimed and dead bodies, civilization will continue its bloody course.

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By surfnow, January 21, 2011 at 10:24 am Link to this comment

By ardee, January 21 at 12:18 am Link to this comment


If I still fit into my old uniform I would put it on and salute Ron Kovic. I say this only because of all the misplaced anger directed at those who served their nation,


I assume you’re referring to what amounts to an urban myth:  that returnng Vietnam vets were spit on. That simply didn’t happen- much of that myth started with the enormous popularity of Hollywood films like Rambo. If anything, the military is glorified in our society. You can’t turn on a sports event, a TV show or a MSM news broadcast, or open up a newspaper or a magazine without someone calling for us to “honor our troops.” Do vets get screwed by our government? Absolutely and it’s an obscene disgrace the way vets-especially the wounded- are cast aside. But the glorification of the military has to stop.

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By Inherit The Wind, January 21, 2011 at 8:53 am Link to this comment

While everyone recognizes that self-defense is a legitimate use of violence, the easy way that it is converted into aggression is terrifying. What is aggression? “I’ll know it when I see it” Woodrow Wilson assured the US and the world.

So you think you are threatened…but you haven’t been attacked. So you attack.  Are YOU now the aggressor?  Even Hitler was CERTAIN he had to act to protect Germany, and unite with Austria, take the German speaking part of Czechoslovakia, and take back the “Polish Corridor”.

Back in WWI, Germany desperately tried to avoid involving the US, especially knowing Wilson was an avid anglophile (not a popular position in a nation with large numbers of multiple generation German immigrants and more recent Irish ones). American shipping continued to the Allies as passions were drummed up over the Lusitania (a British ship, but with lots of American passengers).  Finally, in 1916, betting that starving the Allies they could end the war before the US mobilized, Germany blockaded the UK and France, even against American shipping.  The US could have abided by the blockaded, but didn’t…and Germany felt threatened.

Wars begin when someone attacks, and they ALWAYS justify it that they were threatened.  Were they?

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By Shenonymous, January 21, 2011 at 7:28 am Link to this comment

Aren’t all wars started on a lie?  Don’t all men lie to themselves in
order to become warriors?  I woe at the thought that one of my
grandsons is gleefully anticipating joining the Marines this spring. 
It shakes me to my shoes.  Not only that he might be killed, but
that with as much shudder, he might, most likely will, have to kill
someone else.  And JDMysticDJ, you say it so well.  You speak of the
hopeless horror we all ought to carry around with us and I believe as
a human form more women do but I am not so sure enough men do.

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By Bethany, January 21, 2011 at 3:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

People, I’m fairly certain the point of this one article is not the legality or otherwise of a
war, but the meaningfulness of dialogue, even unspoken dialogue, with your enemy. It’s
a testament to triggering compassion and humility. Maybe we could focus on that?
Just saying.

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By glider, January 21, 2011 at 2:29 am Link to this comment

Good article, and I agree with Peter and Gerard’s commentary.  But the greater point that the millions of innocents maimed and killed in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia is orders of magnitude more tragic than the tragedy of these brainwashed soldier “MIC tools” is not inconsistent with Ron Kovic’s message.

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By JDmysticDJ, January 20, 2011 at 9:08 pm Link to this comment

I hate to barge in and go off topic, but I’m in the mood for commenting about head shooting. I once saw Leonardo DiCaprio shoot a head. He kept yelling, “I’M GOING TO SHOOT YOU IN THE HEAD!” “I’M GOING TO SHOOT YOU IN THE HEAD!” My initial response was that he waited too long to shoot the head engaging in beastly behavior, but after Leonardo shot the head, another innocent head was shot as a result of Leonardo’s head shooting.

Hopefully this little synopsis of head shooting and the consequences of head shooting will be instructive. I don’t mean to appear callous and flippant; hoping not to disparage my own masculinity in the eyes of others, I’ll reveal that I had to stifle tears because of the latest non-theatrical head shooting.

Just last night I heard an account of a young girl having her head literally blown off. Her head was blown off, and the heads of her 3 sisters were voided forever. The accounting was horrific, and the lost heads are tragic beyond description, but placed in context, even the loss of these four heads loses significance in comparison to the totality of lost heads corresponding to this incident. Over fourteen hundred other heads were voided at the time of this incident. The over fourteen hundred heads were voided by bullets, bombs, explosions of all kinds, even by flesh eating phosphorous. The loss of all these heads can only confound a rational mind, but taken in context, even the loss of these over fourteen hundred heads pales in significance to the totality of lost heads over the last three decades. But hey! These last three decades have been chump change in comparison to all the heads that have been voided over the ages.

At the risk of being deemed the most vile sort of heretic and traitor, I’ll submit that even the heads severed by terrorists and religious fanatics (The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for example, severs about 400 heads every year,) pales in significance to the totality of heads that have been voided in only the last score of years.
 
This commentary is extremely morbid, isn’t it!? I wonder why I’m obsessed with all this morbidity. I wonder if I need therapy, or is it others that need therapy. Maybe I’m obsessed with all of this morbidity because I’m obsessed with winning an argument. If that were the case, wouldn’t the morbidity be morbid regardless of my motivation? What should I care? As long as I’m O.K., and my loved ones are O.K. why should I worry?

(I hope some lunatic, lunatic government, or group of crazed lunatics, don’t shoot us in the head. I hate it when that happens.)

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By gerard, January 20, 2011 at 8:26 pm Link to this comment

Peter, thanks for speaking out for the Vietnamese people, but the minimizing “milk and cookies” comment is a mean crack—and for what?  Efforts to reconcile parties involved and pay tribute to opposing sides in past wars in no way promote future wars.  Nor, sadly, do they prevent them.  But efforts to come to personal terms with war experiences, post-war regrets and remembrances help to heal deep personal wounds on all sides. In no way do they negate or minimize the vast sufferings inflicted on “the other side.”.

War comes out of other dispositions—ignorance, fear, cowardice, the desire for revenge, for power, to make money, to follow leaders.

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Peter Knopfler's avatar

By Peter Knopfler, January 20, 2011 at 7:40 pm Link to this comment

All these milk and cookie comments crying, but the
victims were the viet nam people no matter how many
brothers you lose or how often you got shot, Viet Nam
people never came to your door with Napalm, rockets
and american ear collectors. Ron you have to take a
stand against war, not cherish those wars, injuries,
that were not suppose to happen. Your family died for
nothing just like 56,000 other dead Americans . We
attacked them on a LIE and lost. We are doing the
same now have not learned Ron´s lesson of PAIN. 1.3
million viet nam people. You will not find tears here
death and injury all for nothing Shame is the truth!

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By ardee, January 20, 2011 at 7:18 pm Link to this comment

If I still fit into my old uniform I would put it on and salute Ron Kovic. I say this only because of all the misplaced anger directed at those who served their nation, whether through believing the lies we were all told, or because such service is a family tradition.

That our soldiers are used and abused is moot, that we should blame the old men we elected, those who tell the lies and start the wars, is the right thing.

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By JimBob, January 20, 2011 at 5:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Young men are taught to hate so they will more willingly and efficiently kill the enemy that the old men who sent them to war haven’t the courage or the strength to kill with their own hands.  Old men have always sent young men to war; rich men have always sent poor men to war.  How is it, after all these millenia, that the poor and the young have not come to understand that they are being sacrificed for very little but the egos and ambitions of old cowards?

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By flamiejamie, January 20, 2011 at 5:18 pm Link to this comment

?”[If] I and some young German had killed each other simultaneously and we found ourselves together a moment after death, I cannot imagine that either of us would have felt any resentment or even any embarrassment. I think we might have laughed over it.”
~C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

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By AT, January 20, 2011 at 5:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

CONSIDER THIS SCENARIO SO FAR-FETCHED BUT WHEN IT
INVOLVED YOUR GOVERNMENT, IT’S believablen AN agent
went deep cover, to the point of marrying its
target.And I often wondered how did my wife marrying
me, she’s achingly beautiful.NOW I know why.How did
they slipped to poison me, thru my high blood pressure
pills to inflict me with PSP(google it to find out what
it is, 
(To be continued

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By vertica111ift, January 20, 2011 at 3:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Not for nothing, we make all the errors and deaths meaningful by keeping along the line of march toward preventing hatred and fear and ignorance.  Excellent piece. Booted me up. Don’t give up. If RK paralyzed from the chest down can witness for forgiveness then I can resist the temptation to pick up my sword,  just for a minute and a minute more… Remember. Risk love, goodness, laughter in the presence of mine enemies.

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By gerard, January 20, 2011 at 3:10 pm Link to this comment

It’s hard to say anything after these two eloquent testimonies to the continuing horrors of war.

But there is something that needs to be said:  Bradley Manning and Julian Assange have put their lives at risk of persecution in order to establish the possibility of peace-making through open information and mutual understanding.

This is an entirely new opportunity made possible by the advances of electronic technology. It is our chance—yours and mine—to help see that Manning and Assange are upheld and their efforts are not wasted.

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By clearwaters, January 20, 2011 at 3:05 pm Link to this comment

You resurrect your “enemy,” your dead brother; in his eyes we all see our common
humanity.His life and death are not without substance and meaning still
today.Your gift to yourself, your gift to him, your gift to us all. Peace Ron, thanks.

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By Peter Knopfler, January 20, 2011 at 2:27 pm Link to this comment

AND THIS WAR WAS STARTED ON A LIE NO ONE WAS ATTACKED
IN THE BAY; PHONEY WAR LOST 120,000 mutilated. 56,000
dead, 1.3 million Viet Nam People dead, yes killing
is the only consistent thing to celebrate Americans
self inflicted wounds same thing with Pearl Harbor
refused to listen to Assie intelligence. Lusitana
bombing by German got America into WW1, Germans told
all news papers reported You come into German waters
we will blow you out of the water, Americans sailed
into the war zone, another phoney deal, ALL THAT
KILLING IN NAM FOR NOTHING NOTHING TO CELEBRATE Dead
Soldiers for nothing dead people for nothing. NO
FORGIVENESS because the same is going on NOW in IRAQ
AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN, and YEMEN, do not say
anything,drone killings by OBAMA.

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