Tuesday, March 23, 2010

After Action Report - Wash D.C., March 19-20, 2010

Ed Note: This letter was first posted on the VVAW Contact list serve, by Carol Rawert Trainer, VVAW Kentucky Contact.  I asked her if she would let us share it here on our pages, and she said, "of course...", so here it is...WH

WHAT A WEEK!!!!! A triple whammy!

I just wanted to let you know about our (Harold, aka Harry, and my) trip to DC. We have been here since 3/16 and leave tomorrow. Wow! What a weekend! We stopped by Cindy Sheehan's 'Camp Out Now' by the Washington Monument where they were busy planning the week's events and setting up a memorial of the casulties of the Iraq War, "Arlington West."  The 'cemetery' was very impressive and I have to hand it to those who did so much to make it happen. The group plans to have someone 'camp out' every night til the war is over.

On Saturday we represented the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace at the ANSWER coordinated anti war rally and march. We joined the various groups from around the country to bring an end to the wars. As usual it started very late but once we got going it was impressive. It was a bit disheartening that there were so many fewer people there this year than at past anniversary marches (about 5-8,000 instead of the 50,000 + in the past few years!) Cardboard 'caskets' draped in US and Iraqand Afghan flags were made and dropped off at various sites of prganizations who have had a hand in the war: The Washington Times, Halliburton, VA, and others. Then we returned to the front of the Whitehouse (where we started) and dropped off more caskets. Then about 8 people did civil disobedience by lying down on the sidewalk in front of theWhite House by the caskets. They were eventually handcuffed and taken away after ignoring the warnings that it was against the law. Cindy Sheehan was handcuffed and taken away early on.

Then today we decided to go to the Capitol to see what was happening on healthcare. There were a group of Tea Baggers but their number was dwarfed by the huge number of noisy (yeah!) Hispanics and supporters who assembled and were marching from all points of the Capitol to converge at t point below where the Tea Baggers were. While I was following one of their groups and taking pictures, Harry told me that he overheard that a group of Catholics for Healthcare were assembling across from the tea Baggers at the street where the Congress people were entering the Capitol from the street. So we joined them for 2 hours and were literally face to face and hand to hand with our Congress people. 

Many thanked us for being there to 'cover their backs.' They said they thought they had no support and only saw the teabaggers. They were very grateful for the support which unfortunately had not been planned but just a few days ahead of time. No one really knew about it, but it was great. Pax Christi seemed to be coordinating the effort. I did not know some but did recogize Barney Frank, Conyers, and others. Much news coverage and evenEugene Robinson came over to talk to us. Then a group of Dems came marching in the gate all at once with Nancy Pelosi at the middle and Harry told me to take a picture so I'm not sure who is on the picture yet. Haven't had time to go over it all yet. I called Sr. Miriam from there to tell her we were there and she told me about Maureen Dowd's excellent and much needed opinion column (New York Times, 3/21) about the Catholic nuns who spoke out against the Catholic Bishops' group to support healthcare. I tried to thank her but emails to the NYT had been closed down since she had received 429 comments so soon. Have to email her to thank her.

We wish you could all have been here and were thinking of you. I have a "gardner's tan since it was sunny and in the 70's. I'm calling it an "activist's tan" after this weekend. Better than the past few years here when it was freezing cold, breezy and raining. I'll take sun any day!!! I know your thoughts were with us for this  commemoration of the 7th year of war in the mid-east. Seeing those years stacked up on the courthouse steps is certainly shocking and memorable. Can you believe we have done this 7 years?????

It has been a rewarding week but a tiring one also and it will be good to get back and rest on the good KY soil!!!

And thanks to all the VVAW members who showed up to lend their support to end the wars. In particularly, thanks to the hard work of Ward Reilly and Bill Perry to make things happen! Wish I had their energy and total commitment to the cause.
Photos: Bill Perry, VVAW

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The 42nd Anniversary of the Massacre at My Lai

Down a Trail Once Traveled
Chuck Palazzo
Vietnam Affairs & Agent Orange Editor
Quang Ngai, Vietnam - There are not many events that occurred during the Vietnam War that are more horrible than what took place in the small hamlets of My Lai and My Khe (Son My) on March 16, 1968. 2nd Lt. William Calley, on orders from his Company Commander Captain Ernest Medina, led the troops of 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Light Infantry Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division, United States Army, into this peaceful village located approximately 140 kilometers south of Danang and 14 kilometers from Quang Ngai in what was then South Vietnam. 
Quang Ngai had been attacked by the 48th Battalion of the National Front of the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF) or what we commonly referred to as the Viet Cong during the Tet Offensive of January 1968. There were U.S. military intelligence reports that these villages had been harboring members of the 48th after Tet. None were found, however. Found were innocent men, women, and children. Calley ordered his men to open fire on them from various positions. The end result? 504 innocent men, women, and children killed. Murdered, raped, burned, decapitated – the gruesome list goes on, adjectives cannot begin to describe the horror or the injustice. 
Generations have been affected by the insanity of an event that was covered up by the United States Government for eighteen months before it was finally made public. Lt. Calley was the only person brought to Court Martial and convicted. He was tried and convicted of premeditated murder, sentenced to life in prison, only to be released two days later on orders from President Nixon pending an appeal of his sentence. Calley’s sentence was later adjusted so that he actually served four and one-half months in a military prison. Medina was tried, but was acquitted of all charges and later admitted that he lied to his superior officers about murdering civilians. In total, 26 men were charged, but Calley was the only person convicted. 504 deaths. 504 murders. 4 ½ months in a US military prison. Calley is now selling jewelry in Georgia and after 40 years, mumbled an apology at a Kiwanis Club meeting last August.
One officer who helped stop the carnage, Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, an American Helicopter Pilot put his own chopper between the dying and escaping innocent Vietnamese to protect them. He ordered the American soldiers to cease fire, and if they did not he would open fire on them. Thompson challenged Calley directly and rescued several innocent Vietnamese civilians while doing so. He issued the same orders to his crew – shoot the Americans should they continue to shoot the Vietnamese civilians. 504 innocent Vietnamese civilians had already perished.
I spent the last two days in My Lai, My Khe and Quang Ngai. 42 years later, life continues, and the rebuilding of families and lives tries to move ahead. I left Danang yesterday morning with some very close friends who have become my own family here. They knew more then I the emotional experience I was about to endure. As we drove down Highway 1, we drove past Chu Lai – I knew from my days here many years ago that we were approaching Quang Ngai. About 3 hours south of Danang, we arrived at Quang Ngai. We decided to check into our hotel and drive directly to the Museum at Son My.When one walks into the main museum entrance, up the stairs, there is a large plaque. It is a plaque containing each of the deceased’s names and ages. I was reminded by the museum guide that even though many of the ages indicated 1, there was no way to indicate 5 months or “fetus”. The horror started to be realized. All is not fair in love and war.
My hosts were Do, a Vietnamese Quaker, and two American Combat Veterans. The work the American and Vietnamese Veterans, as well as the Quakers have done in My Lai has been incredible – building houses for the poor, schools for the children. Do invited me to lunch at a home in My Lai and of course I accepted. It was indeed a lunch I will never forget. I was welcomed by the two other American Veterans, but also by Vietnamese Veterans – men and women. Veterans of different ranks. Veterans with different beliefs. But Veterans, all of us, who shared one common belief now – to help rebuild each other’s lives and to do so in peace.
I met, laughed and cried with Vietnamese veterans and family members who lost relatives – close relatives – that morning 42 years ago in My Lai. One person lost 15 relatives that day. They all told me that was then, that was the war. This is now, and we must all put it behind us and build a peaceful future for us, our children and for all generations to come. As I shared in this meal, I felt the sorrow of this land and of these people. It was on this very path that I had walked - these very steps that I had taken - that lives of the innocents were snuffed out in such a callous and monstrous way, 42 years ago. As much as we all want to put this behind us, I could not shake the feeling of death all around me. 504 unarmed Vietnamese civilians slaughtered on this very spot. Incredibly, it was the Vietnamese Veterans from these hamlets who were comforting me.
Today is the 42nd anniversary of the massacre. It was a solemn event. As I looked around, I saw my friends, my fellow veterans, schoolchildren, local dignitaries. I noticed several elderly ladies standing together in the heat of the early morning, trying to shade their faces from the sun with their cone hats their only protection. I walked towards them as I often do here to just say good morning. I was quickly told by one of my hosts that these ladies were some of the only survivors of that day – these were the survivors of My Lai! Together, we found some shade on the steps of the museum that lead to the wall containing the names of those who were murdered. They, the surviving victims, were now speaking to me, smiling, looking into my eyes, holding my hands, telling me everything is OK now. I felt the agony as I held their hands, but I also saw and felt the hope that has endured them for 42 years now.
I am heading back to Danang soon. My friends are visiting a temple at a nearby mountaintop and I will join them. As I look north, I still feel the death, the suffering. I still hear the cries. I have experienced too much in my years, but these past couple of days has proved to me that there is always something worse. My hope is that society has learned something from this atrocity. No people, no country should have to endure what the people of My Lai endured. Murder is not right no matter what it is called or where it occurs. Governments that keep silent knowing acts of violence like this occurred are as guilty, if not worse, than the murderers themselves.
Photos: Chuck Palazzo

Saturday, March 06, 2010

More on Monsanto, Agent Orange, and Recent Trickery and Profiteering

Chuck Palazzo
Agent Orange Editor

Danang, Vietnam - The more I read and attempt to understand Monsanto and to go as far as to put myself in their corporate shoes, I just cannot. No matter which way I look at them, no matter what avenue I investigate and pursue, my conclusions are the same. Monsanto the company, its executives, and many of their employees in middle and upper management (and probably the rank and file as well) knew and know exactly what is going on with the company. Why should anyone from the inside blow the whistle? They are very well paid and they are deemed to be an excellent company to work for (morality and war crimes and playing God aside, of course). In addition, the so-called revolving door of US (and probably other) Government officials who once worked for Monsanto are now on the various Government’s side – and vice versa – so many former Government officials are now employed by Monsanto or one of its subsidiaries. The highest court in the US, The US Supreme Court just happens to have a former Monsanto Attorney sitting on its bench. 

I am probably being redundant, as I have mentioned this before, but we need to be reminded – Justice Thomas was a former Monsanto Corporate Attorney! I am not accusing Justice Thomas of anything – but just knowing that someone worked for the company that produced so much Agent Orange before and during the Vietnam War (and possibly afterwards as well) is now a US Supreme Court Justice just does not sit well with me. The list certainly goes on and on. Look at the FDA, look at Monsanto. Please see the Documentary “The World According to Monsanto” and more will be revealed to each of you.

I came across some very interesting articles and websites during the past few days regarding Monsanto, its products, and how it continues to destroy human lives as well as our environment. But most important, how Monsanto continues to get away with it. True, they have been convicted of lying about their labeling practices for their Round-Up Product – and were fined a pittance compared with their annual (or weekly, for that matter) revenue. Yes, their stock was affected. But are they staring at a potential bankruptcy proceeding as a result? Absolutely not! They just continue to produce, and in many cases, forcibly sell, their products for a huge profit margin.

I cannot set aside what Monsanto caused, and never will set aside what they continue to cause as a result of Agent Orange. But here is another example: Aspartame was made by Monsanto. To make matters worse, Aspartame is made from genetically manufactured bacteria.

What makes no sense, other than the fact that Monsanto wants to dominate the world’s food supply and possibly the world itself, is how they sue, beat up, bully, etc., etc., the small farmers (larger ones as well) to ensure their genetically manufactured products are being used – and said use reaping a very large royalty for Monsanto.
Hiding the presence of PCB’s from local residents? See how Monsanto did it for years – about 40 years to be exact! Suicides in India, and probably elsewhere because Monsanto has forced poor farmers to go into such huge debt just to buy seeds from this terror of a company, just to realize that their crop production was not close to what was being promised?

All this and more, from the folks who brought us Agent Orange – then refused to pay the proper compensation for its ongoing treachery and deaths. Sure, they were part of the infamous 1984 settlement in the amount of $180 million – with most affected veterans who were tricked and lied to - receiving a one-time lump sum payment of $1,200.
Monsanto continues to make huge sums of money and at the expense of human life. How and why do they continue? The bottom line, cash, greenbacks, MONEY! And I dare say – the revolving door.