The Universal Soldier

He is five feet two, and he’s six feet four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He is all of thirty-one, and he’s only seventeen
He’s been a soldier for a thousand years
— Buffy Sainte Marie

Donovan sang the song well, probably had the largest audience for it, but I liked Buffy’s version of “The Universal Soldier” better. The Public Affairs Office (PAO) onboard the USS Ranger (CVA-61) played the Donovan version while on station off the coast of Vietnam during that waste of time, money, and life war. We loved the irony of that song aboard a warship.

The folk singers–Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Eric Bogle–have always told the truth straight about war and other injustices. We play their songs and sometimes we protest the war of the day, but I think we worship the Universal Soldier because s/he makes damn sure we are always fighting somewhere and extolling the patriotism and glory of it and keeping that defense budget high enough to create the expensive toys of war that war profitable and necessary for the economy to such a large extent that weall have blood on our hands.

Come you masters of war
You that build the big guns
You that build the death planes
You that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your mask”

–Bob Dylan

In a few days, a lot of folks will Blog4Peace like children going up against monsters with sticks and posters and songs. Will these bloggers defeat the military industrial establishment. I doubt it. Will they raise our consciouness and or belief that some day, somewhere we will find better ways of conflict resolution that break the chains typing us to the universal soldier. Yes. Meanwhile, how many lifetimes will it take until we know that too many people have died, until we seriously look around and ask where have all the flowers gone and why are the graveyards full to overflowing.

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did the play the pipes lowly?
Did the rifles fir o’er you as they lowered you down?
Did the bugles sound The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

–Eric Bogle

Those who march away, at once tin soldiers (canon fodder) and the best and the brightest (flowers of the forest) pay with their lives (and more) for the country’s love of the universal soldier. When it comes to fixing the problem, Presidents promise while allowing the cycle of war to turn again and again. They’re powerless, aren’t they? Our love of battle is our universal need even though it’s fool’s gold.

–Malcolm

New Post

‘Facing the Mountain’ by Daniel James Brown

“The 442nd Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment of the United States Army. The regiment is best known as the most decorated in U. S. military history and as a fighting unit composed almost entirely of second-generation American soldiers of Japanese ancestry (Nisei) who fought in World War II.” – Wikipedia

Daniel James Brown’s highly readable, deeply researched, and illustrated with maps and photograps book Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II tells the heartbreaking and glorious story of second generation Japanese Americans who, though reviled by many Americans and thrown into concentration camps by the President while their homes and personal property were confiscated, rose up and did their duty, as they saw it, to become one of the United States’ most effective and feared regiments fighting the Germans. Their motto was “Go for Broke.”

The book is strongly personal because it follows an ensemble cast of characters throughout the shock of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the ordeal of President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 that relocated without probable cause 120,000 Japanese Americans, 2/3 of whom were native born American citizens, into POW camps, and the decision by over 12,000 of the men to join the Army and fight for their country in spite of that their country had done to them.

From the Publisher

They came from across the continent and Hawai‘i. Their parents taught them to embrace both their Japanese heritage and the ways of America. They faced bigotry, yet they believed in their bright futures as American citizens. But within days of Pearl Harbor, the FBI was ransacking their houses and locking up their fathers. And within months many would themselves be living behind barbed wire.

Facing the Mountain is an unforgettable chronicle of war-time America and the battlefields of Europe. Based on Daniel James Brown’s extensive interviews with the families of the protagonists as well as deep archival research, it portrays the kaleidoscopic journey of four Japanese-American families and their sons, who volunteered for 442nd Regimental Combat Team and were deployed to France, Germany, and Italy, where they were asked to do the near impossible.

But this is more than a war story. Brown also tells the story of these soldiers’ parents, immigrants who were forced to shutter the businesses, surrender their homes, and submit to life in concentration camps on U.S. soil. Woven throughout is the chronicle of a brave young man, one of a cadre of patriotic resisters who stood up against their government in defense of their own rights. Whether fighting on battlefields or in courtrooms, these were Americans under unprecedented strain, doing what Americans do best–striving, resisting, pushing back, rising up, standing on principle, laying down their lives, and enduring.

This story falls into the rather large category of history that most of us did not learn in our high school American history classes. That adds insult to injury. In one sense, Brown’s book is an apolgy. In another sense, it sets the record straight for all who will listen.

Malcolm

Names from Afghanistan

Wikipedia

According to ABC News, “Thirteen American troops were among the nearly 200 people killed in an attack at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan on Thursday.”

Here are their names:

Navy Hospitalman Maxton Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20, of Laredo, Texas
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California
Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California
Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss 23, of Knoxville, Tennessee
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, of Wentzville, Missouri,
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah
Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts
Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, was from Sacramento, California
Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska
Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California

If you know them, remember them. They are no different from the rest of us: they had parents, siblings, best friends, hopes, dreams, and goals.

–Malcolm

Supporting Wounded Warrior Project

“Veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound while serving in the military on or after September 11, 2001. You are our focus. You are our mission.

Here, you’re not a member – you’re an alumnus, a valued part of a community that’s been where you’ve been, and understands what you need. Everything we offer is free because there’s no dollar value to finding recovery and no limit to what you can achieve.” – Wounded Warrior

According to Wounded Warrior, there are “more than 52,000 servicemen and women physically injured in recent military conflicts. 500,000 living with invisible wounds, from depression to post-traumatic stress disorder. 320,000 experiencing debilitating brain trauma.”

While I’m a pacifist, I always support our troops and their right to respect and medical care during and after their active duty. They are among the last people who should be allowed to fall through the cracks of what should be our unconditional medical, emotional, and finanial support. 

So I am pleased that my colleague Robert Hays at Thomas-Jacob Publishing is calling attention to those needs by donating the proceeds from his novel An Inchwork Takes Wing to their cause:

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–Malcolm

Does the Great Retreat from Afghanistan Mark the End of the American Era? | The New Yorker

It’s not just an epic defeat for the United States. The fall of Kabul may serve as a bookend for the era of U.S. global power. In the nineteen-forties, the United States launched the Great Rescue to help liberate Western Europe from the powerful Nazi war machine. It then used its vast land, sea, and air power to defeat the formidable Japanese empire in East Asia. Eighty years later, the U.S. is engaged in what historians may someday call a Great Retreat from a ragtag militia that has no air power or significant armor and artillery, in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Source: Does the Great Retreat from Afghanistan Mark the End of the American Era? | The New Yorker

We have, I believe, proven again that we cannot successfully intervene in civil wars in far-flung countries in which the established governments are as corrupt and inept as those who are attempting to wrest power from them. Every country that went into Afganistan has left with mud on its face at the cost of many dollars and many lives.

This New Yorker op ed asks a cogent question. Can the U.S. survive another Vietnam-style defeat? I don’t think so. Some say the unexpected collapse of just about everything in Afganistan occurred because the U.S. was operating with bad intel. I suggest we were operating with zero intel. Did any sane official or military commander think when we went into that country in 2001 that we would be there so long, spend so much money, sacrifice so many lives, and then emerge saying, “By God, that was worth it?”

If so, how naïve they must have been, and continued to be up until this very moment.

–Malcolm

Afghanistan – why?

I keep hoping that after all of the promises we hear from candidates claiming they will bring troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and close the prison at Guantanamo, somebody will actually do it.

Today’s CNN headline Biden administration considering 6-month extension for US troops in Afghanistan is discouraging. I understand why we’re there: it was a knee-jerk reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Now it’s simply another needless morass like Iraq where U. S. soldiers and civilian contractors continue to be killed and wounded with no discernible or viable policy benefits.

The casualty figures–the new name for the body counts of the Vietnam War era–are said to be low, to be within plan, to be acceptable. These counts do not include the casualties who survive and come home with PTSD and worse and never get their lives back together.

In his 1970 introduction for the new edition of Johnny Got His Gun, author Dalton Trumbo spoke to the “many hundreds or thousands of the dead-while-living,” saying, “So long, losers. God bless. Take Care. We’ll be seeing you.”

The book, for me, is one of the most potent and troubling anti-war novels ever written. Trumbo, of course, knows that we typically look away from those who come home in tatters. Very few campaign rallies are held beneath the viaducts and along the city streets where our homeless vets are scratching out a living. We cheer when the men march away and hide inside our comfortable homes when they return–worse than dead.

So, when I ask why we are still in Iraq and Afghanistan even those who keep sending our soldiers there have yet to come up with a sensible answer.

Malcolm 

As a pacifist and conscientious objector, Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the anti-war novel “At Sea.”

 

 

Anniversary of the unconscionable acts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki

“A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb, and these six were among the survivors. They still wonder why they lived when so many others died. Each of them counts many small items of chance or volition—a step taken in time, a decision to go indoors, catching one streetcar instead of the next—that spared him. And now each knows that in the act of survival he lived a dozen lives and saw more death than he ever thought he would see. At the time, none of them knew anything.” – John Hersey, “Hiroshima,” The New Yorker, August 24, 1946

Today marks the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima when planes from the 393d Bombardment Squadron of B-29 aircraft participating in Operation Centerboard, including the Enola Gay with a 9,000-pound uranium-235 atomic bomb named Little Boy, flew to Japan on August 6, 1945, and killed  140,000 people.  Intended for a bridge, the bomb was caught in a crosswind and detonated over a clinic.

This is not the kind of anniversary one celebrates any more than the August 9th bombing of Nagasaki, killing 74,000 people, or the prior firebombing of Dresden in four raids by British and U.S. bombers in April 1945, killing 21,000 people and creating up to 200,000 refugees.

All of these controversial bombings have been debated by many panels, hearings, and books, including Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death (Dresden) and  John Hersey’s 1946 non-fiction Hiroshima which grew out of the New Yorker article. Hersey had previously won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1944 novel A Bell for Adano.

President Truman argued that the bombs saved lives; be believed more people would die if the U.S. invaded Japan instead. Even if his prediction of 500,000 American and Japanese deaths in an invasion was reasonably accurate, I consider our attacks to be war crimes.

Why? As we remember both immediate deaths and the long-term radiation poisoning from those horrible days in August, let’s also remember that we broke a “rule” of war–the intentional killing of civilians in our version of Nazi Germany’s London Blitz.

–Malcolm