Monday, June 30, 2008

July 4th Reflections...

Ed. Note: This came in via the VVAW Contact net, of which I am privileged to be a part. I thought it was worth sharing with everyone for America's Birthday. Some food for our minds and our souls, to accompany the BBQ and hot dogs, and the flags and fireworks. WH

On this July 4th, the celebration of our independence, it is important to reread the 1776 Declaration, and note that many of the listed abuses exist today. We should use July 4th to renew our heritage and declare our independence from greed, corruption and deceit of politicians, corporations and financial institutions. These groups have conspired to institute laws and practices that are contrary to our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Democracy is much more than voting. Democracy requires action. Like our founding fathers, we must actively speak out and defend the rights that have been endowed upon us by our Creator. We are not pawns and slaves. We are a free and independent people and we must work to remain so. To do otherwise is to invite domination and the abuse of power. Democracy is a verb.

Arnold Stieber
VVAW Michigan Contact

Monday, June 16, 2008

Re: From Glory Boy to PW Songbird

CrackerSwamp, Fl - The following is a response that I made to an e-mail that I received through a contact list that I am proud to be a part of. The article is entitled, John McCain: War Hero or North Vietnam's Go-To Collaborator? It was written by Douglas Valentine, and was first published on Counterpunch, on 13/06/08.
I think that it is worth sharing with you here for your consideration, and perhaps even some further discussion and comment as we move on into the election season. Before the spin machines crank up full force, for the purpose of distracting the electorate about what is really at stake in all of this, in what is being hailed as an "Historical" election.

The spin will be coming from 527s representing, but unaccountable to, both sides of the political spectrum...words have power, but they don't always speak Truth. Vigilance, my Brothers and Sisters! We must never forget the hard lessons learned from the Swift Boat 527 attacks on John Kerry during his presidential campaign, and we must be wary of the message and the messenger when they employ and further these sorts of unprincipled tactics for the supposed purpose of winning hearts and minds. Willie Hager

Mr. Valentines piece:

My thoughts and response on the topic:

I, and I am sure, the author of this piece, have no hard evidence of John McCain having ever been a collaborator. And without evidence, it is a dishonorable and unethical act to make such allegations against an American fighting man. Even if he is running for president on the Republican ticket, and disagrees with you on the issues. He is an American Combat Veteran, same as those found in VVAW and IVAW and Vets For Peace. The ones who oppose our involvement in Iraq. He simply disagrees with our position. I have never heard or read his words assassinating another Veteran's service, nor have I ever heard of him making disparaging slurs about anyone's character, regardless of their party affiliation, or service to country, as he goes about this business.

While I may disagree with Senator McCain on his foreign policy assessments and his choice of political party; as a Combat Veteran, I still respect his service to his country. I don't believe that the fact that he was a US Naval pilot, or "Glory Boy" as this author describes him, diminishes that service. In fact having had a father who was a US Naval aviator during WWII, I personally resent this author's representations of their service in such a demeaning manner. My father went down in a Martin P4M Reconnaissance Bomber flying US intelligence missions in the Mediterranean a few years after WWII. In reading of the events surrounding his loss, I don't find it, or his service and ultimate contribution to his country, any less heroic or any less painful than those of comrades who fell mortally wounded in the jungle combat that I was a part of on the ground as a young Marine in Vietnam. Especially to his family.

Mr. Valentine's description of his dad and his buddies shooting at US Aviators while in New Guinea in 1942, the year I was born, is a disappointing and undocumented report of a what I consider to be a for real war crime, if true. Although it is based on heresy evidence, I am tempted to press for an investigation of these allegations, inasmuch as Mr Valentine's dad may have well been shooting at my dad and others who flew close air support missions for the troops on the ground there in New Guinea while in the service of their country. Did they hit and kill anyone? Can anyone truly say?

As a Combat Marine, I was always very happy to see close air support and unflinchingly fearless medivac missions flown by what Valentine calls "Glory Boys", especially when I was actively engaged with the enemy in Vietnam. Sadly, I personally saw too many of these so-called "Glory Boys" fly into overwhelming enemy fire and go down in flames, resulting in the deaths of entire crews while attempting to extract our wounded and get them safely back to the field hospitals in the rear....during my two tours they saved thousands of lives, and in so doing; many of them fearlessly sacrificed their lives for their Brothers on the ground. Many became POWs. The notion that it is less honorable to fall from the sky all shot to hell, wounded and trapped in a burning aircraft, rather than to die from wounds face down in the jungle mud, is a very sick proposition.

Somehow this seemingly twisted individual believes that American Soldiers shooting at American aircraft during combat operations is somehow not a war crime, and was a heroic act. He seems to believe that presidential candidate John McCain is a war criminal, resulting from his long, and well documented torture as a prisoner of war at the infamous Hanoi Hilton, but that his own dad is a political hero. This is an example the kind of spin that we have all come to call "swiftboating", whether it comes from the lunatic fringe of the neocon far Right, or the dielectic dribble and political correctness of the extreme Left.

As to the presidential election; I don't care who you personally choose to vote for, Obama or McCain...I have fought this country's enemies (external and internal) in order to preserve your right to freely choose, and to voice your beliefs without fear of reprisal, and vote your concsience. I don't care who's "side" you are on; I am on the side of America, and whatever is determined by the majority of the American electorate, regardless of their ethnicity, sex, or political party. It is my constitutional mandate, as an American citizen, to uphold it, or to work with-in a constitutional framework to change it. I only ask in return that all of you reject this swiftboating of the candidates, and make your choices based on the Truth of relevant issues and documented facts, and not on spin, offered by either side of the political spectrum, such as that contained in Mr Valentine's disappointing piece.

I suspect that from the mention of Col Hopper and the National League of Families (a decidedly far right organization) which is coelesced with the Swift Boat clone groups and the Rolling Thunder (Bush just joined their organization) motorcycle rally, that Mr Valentine is an active Right wing spin-miester. I know Col Hopper, Rolling Thunder, and the League. This working knowledge comes from my days of interacting with them in my duties as President of the Vietnam Veterans of Florida, State Coalition , back in the late eighties and early nineties, regarding this then hot button issue; and I can personally assure you that they are definitely extreme Right POW/MIA organizations and individuals.

Col Hopper and Ted Sampley, among others in the leadership of the so-called POW/MIA Movement, are the founts for the Libertarian talk radio shows' conspiracy rhetoric on this topic. They have been in the Swift Boat camp regarding John McCain and John Kerry ever since the late eighties and early nineties, when they were at odds with both of the Senators,, who then co-chaired the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, from August 2, 1991 thru January 2, 1993, and who obviously rejected the political agenda of these individuals and groups. McCain has been targeted by these individuals and groups, along with John Kerry and VVAW, ever since then.

Taking all of this into context, and in association with other recent events of this nature (character assasination for political purposes or personal gain), I thought that it would be appropriate to also share with y'all this piece by's own Calixto Cabrera. It was originally posted on the VetSpeak Blog on 02/21/06. It is a powerful piece, entitled Veterans Fighting Veterans. It asks that we remember who we are, where we came from, and who was with us; rather than to judge others who shared the experience with us, based only on rhetoric or political spin...especially from someone who wasn't.

Whoever you choose to vote for, let it be for all the right reasons and based on the pragmatic and documented Truths, rather than the rhetorical or politically correct ones, which are being bandied about by political lackeys and clones on both sides. That way, hopefully, we won't be fooled, again...and wind up with a new boss same as the old boss.

Semper Fi!

Willie Hager