Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Dave Dellinger, Dave Dellinger... 

I was trying to remember why all of this sounds so familiar, and then realized that I’d read it all before, lived through it all before. A friend sent me the article and link, and I post it here, but I didn't follow the link to source. Reading it gave me a sort of a dys-deja-vu, and pissed me off so badly I'm still shaking. Of course, the two scenarios are nothing alike, as we are reminded by the smart people. Shit, you can substitute names and places and it's EXACTLY the same. The only thing history teaches us is that history teaches us nothing. I quote at length because, well, dammit, it’s worth reading, and I probably won’t post again for awhile because the nausea makes it hard to see the screen:

Originally published in Liberation Magazine - "From "American Atrocities in Vietnam," by Eric Norden - February, 1966. The monthly magazine "Liberation" (1956-1977) was founded, published, and edited by David Dellinger from 1956-1975 out of New York and continued as a collective left publication until 1977. This is one of the earliest systematic accounts of the human consequences of the war and is based largely on public sources.

In the bitter controversy over our Vietnamese policies which has raged across the nation since the President's decision last February to bomb North Viet-Nam, there is only one point which supporters of U.S. policy will concede to the opposition: the sheer, mindnumbing horror of the war. Despite the barrage of official propaganda, reports in the American and European press reveal that the United States is fighting the dirtiest war of its history in Viet-Nam. The weapons in the American arsenal include torture, systematic bombing of civilian targets, the first use of poison gas since World War One, the shooting of prisoners and the general devastation of the Vietnamese countryside by napalm and white phosphorus. Not since the days of the American Indian wars has the United States waged such unrelenting warfare against an entire people.

The Vietnamese peasant is caught in a vicious vise by U.S. "pacification" tactics. If he stays in his village he may die under U.S. fire; if he flees before the advancing troops he may still be rounded up, and shot on the spot as an "escaping VietCong."

"The sweat-soaked young Leatherneck stood over the torn body of a Viet Cong guerrilla with mixed emotions flitting over his face. For Cpl. Pleas David of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, it was a day he would never forget. David had just killed his first man. 'I felt kind of sorry for him as I stood there,' said David, a lanky 17-year-old. 'And he didn't even have a weapon.' . . ." The unarmed "Viet-Cong" was walking along a paddy dike when the four Marines approached him with leveled guns. The frightened Vietnamese saw the guns and threw himself on the ground. As the Marines ran towards him he jumped up and tried to escape. "I let him get 250 yards away and then dropped him with two shots from my M-1," the A.P. quotes the young Marine, adding "The man had been hit squarely in the back. No weapons were found with him. . . ." The Marine was congratulated by his buddies. "Maybe the Viet-Cong will learn some respect for marksmanship. When we see them we hit them," one boasted. Another declared that " David is a good example. . . . Don't think we are killers. We are Marines." (New York Post, April 30, 1965.)

It is official U.S. military policy to shoot and ask questions later. Thus, in an operation thirty-five miles outside of Saigon, U.S. troops rushed a peasant shack believed to harbor VietCong. One U.S. Lieutenant hurled a grenade through the door but the inhabitants tossed it back out. According to the A.P., "Another American soldier charged the shack, pulled the pin on a grenade and gave the fuse a few seconds count-down before pitching it in. Following the explosion the G.I. leaped into the shack with his M-14 rifle blazing. Three men and a baby died. Two women were wounded. Shrapnel took off the lower half of one woman's leg." (November 16, 1965.)

Not all G.I.'s enjoy making war on women and children. Some have written agonized letters home. Marine Cpl. Ronnie Wilson, 20, of Wichita, Kansas, wrote the following letter to his mother:

Mom, I had to kill a woman and a baby. . . . We were searching the dead Cong when the wife of the one I was checking ran out of a cave. . . . I shot her and my rifle is automatic so before I knew it I had shot about six rounds. Four of them hit her and the others went into the cave and must have bounced off the rock wall and hit the baby. Mom, for the first time I felt really sick to my stomach. The baby was about two months old. I swear to God this place is worse than hell. Why must I kill women and kids? Who knows who's right? They think they are and we think we are. Both sides are losing men. I wish to God this was over.

But those American G.I.'s who react with shock and horror to their bloody mission are a distinct minority. Most American soldiers in Viet-Nam do not question the orders that lead them to raze villages and wipe out men, women and children for the "crime" of living in Viet-Cong-controlled or infiltrated areas. Extermination of the (non-white) enemy is to them a dirty but necessary job, and few grumble about it. Some have even come to enjoy it. Warren Rogers, Chief Correspondent in Viet-Nam for the Hearst syndicate, reports that:

There is a new breed of Americans that most of us don't know about and it is time we got used to it. The 18 and 19 year-olds, fashionably referred to as high-school dropouts, have steel in their backbones and maybe too much of what prize fighters call the killer instinct. These kids seem to enjoy killing Viet-Cong. . . . (New York Journal-American, September 16, 1965.)

Of course, war has always been described as evil, but does this mean that America must add to it? Our military advisers teach Vietnamese modern techniques of killing each other. Our weapons aid in more thorough destruction of themselves. Rather than liberating a people, it seems that these techniques and weapons result in innocent civilians, women, and children being beaten, burned and murdered. . . .

More than any other single factor, our air war in Viet-Nam is turning the rest of the world against the United States.

All war, of course, is hell. There is no such thing as a "clean war," in Viet-Nam or anywhere else. But even in warfare there are certain observable norms of decency which cannot be disregarded. These were laid down after World War Two in the Charter of the International Military Tribunal, under which the Nuremberg Trials of top Nazi civilian and military leaders were held. Our actions in Viet-Nam fall within the prohibited classifications of warfare set down at Nuremberg under Article 6 which reads: The following acts, or any of them, are crimes coming within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal for which there shall be individual responsibility:
a.) Crimes against peace: namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements, or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing.
b.) War crimes: namely, violations of the laws or customs of war . . . plunder of public property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
c.) Crimes against humanity: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before, or during the war. . . .

Under the provisions of Article 6 the United States is clearly guilty of "War Crimes," "Crimes against Peace" and "Crimes against Humanity," crimes for which the top German leaders were either imprisoned or executed. If we agree with Hermann Goering's defense at Nuremberg that "In a life and death struggle there is no legality," then no action can or should be taken against the government leaders responsible for the war in Viet-Nam. But if Americans still believe that there is a higher law than that of the jungle, we should call our leaders to account. Otherwise we shall have proved Albert Schweitzer correct when he wrote:

It is clear now to everyone that the suicide of civilization is in progress. . . . Wherever there is lost the consciousness that every man is an object of concern for us just because he is a man, civilization and morals are shaken, and the advance to fully developed inhumanity is only a question of time. . . . We have talked for decades with ever increasing lightmindedness about war and conquest, as if these were merely operations on a chessboard; how was this possible save as the result of a tone of mind which no longer pictured to itself the fate of individuals, but thought of them only as figures or objects belonging to the material world? (The Philosophy of Civilization.)

The issue at stake in Viet Nam is not, as President Johnson constantly claims, what will happen if we leave. It is what will happen to us as a people, and to our judgment in history, if we stay.

Vietnam Atrocities

I'm still shaking with anger. But Dellinger took action, and action is what's needed.

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