This Is Your Kaptain Speaking...
by Kaptain Kanada (Manuel Miles)
Guest Column...by Manuel Miles
Who Are the Real War Criminals?
The recent commotion about US politician Bob Kerrey's massacre of civilian noncombatants in Viet Nam has reopened a lot of old wounds, mine included. This is your Kaptain speaking, and I was not always a Kanadian; once I was a Kalifornian.
Then, one fine summer day in 1968, I received a communication from the SS("Selective Service") inviting me to take a "tour" of sunny southern VietNam. My friendly travel agent, Lyndon Johnson, was not sure that I would jump at the opportunity to broaden my horizons, so he threatened to imprison me for five years if I refused his offer. Ever since that day, your kindly Kaptain has been a Kanadian.
First, however, some background detail is in order... I was originally a gung-ho warmonger, as I had been raised and propagandized to be all my young life. I had grown up on Sgt. Rock "comic" books and John Wayne movies. I was convinced that it was a glorious thing to shoot slant-eyed Nips and goose-stepping Krauts. I "knew" that Americans fought to save the world from the atrocities and war crimes of the evil Axis powers in WW2 and of the International Communist Conspiracy in the Korean "police action".
It was only natural, therefor, that in my last year of high school I showed an intense interest in the war against Viet Nam. When a buddy's older brother returned from a couple of years of combat with the Green Berets, several of us young maniacs went to talk with him about his experiences.
"It's not like the movies, guys," he began, "and we aren't the 'good guys'!"
We were shocked; stunned. Americans not The Good Guys?! Was the earth no longer orbiting the sun?! Did God not shed His grace on America The Beautiful?!
"Those people don't want our 'help'," he continued, "and even our 'allies' don't like us much. The average peasant just wants us to go home and leave him alone."
He told us of repeated violations of the Geneva Convention on the rules of war which he had personally witnessed including, but not limited to, the murder of prisoners. The details are not important; suffice it to say that the Waffen SS had nothing on the US armed forces in Viet Nam. We left in silence, each lost in his own thoughts, as we dealt with our disillusionment.
Over the next year, I spoke with hundreds of veterans of the war, as "escalation" continued. I worked in a Veterans' Administration Hospital, where I was told time after time that, "It was for nothing! I got my legs blown off for no good reason!" and "LBJ is a lying piece of shit! We shouldn't be there. Don't go!" Some even counseled me to emigrate to Canada rather than take part in the evil of Johnson's War.
Still, the years of nationalist indoctrination made it hard to contemplate leaving the USA. After all, "America is the greatest country in the world!" one is constantly propagandized. So, I decided to oppose the war in another way.
One day, Jerry Rubin came to speak on the nearby college campus. He introduced his FBI "tails" to the crowd, then spoke against the war. I decided to burn my draft card. [Younger readers may not be aware of it, but that small act of protest was punishable by five years in a federal prison.] The FBI photographer took my picture (as did several very conspicuous local police spies), but nobody arrested me! The damned State wouldn't do anything to cooperate with us hippies!
After his talk, Jerry explained to me that his FBI leeches were stuck to him so snugly that they were forbidden to leave his side for an instant, even to arrest a Menace To Society like me. He joked that he was "...the safest man in America; you couldn't pick my pocket without getting shot by my FBI agents!"
After several weeks of waiting in vain to be arrested, I talked the problem over with my friends. In those days, we hippies believed strongly in "Karma", so we were convinced that it was my destiny to do something other than rot in Fort Leavenworth.
After several of my friends moved to Vancouver, I decided to follow them. I eventually became Canadian in more than just name, and am culturally and ethnically both English- and French-Canadian. It was the best decision I ever made, and one of which I am more proud every day.
Some of my childhood friends and high school classmates made other decisions, however. Some of them refused to be conscripted yet also refused to leave the USA. They became "conscientious objectors" and did "alternate service" or refused to cooperate with the SS in any way and were imprisoned.
Some of my friends and classmates enlisted or were conscripted into the armed forces. At least one of them died in Viet Nam, and at least one of them came back with his mind and soul ruined by what he had seen and done there. Some were addicted to drugs upon their return. Some became organizers of Viet Nam Veterans Against the War. One of them is now a Colonel in the US Army.
This was my generation. It was we who fought the war created by JFK and Robert McNamara. It was we who refused to fight the war. It was we who made sacrifices for their policies. It was we who made sacrifices for our ideals. It was our youth and our illusions which were shattered.
We didn't ask for it. It wasn't our war. We had nothing against the Viet Cong. They were just a lot of young guys like us who wanted nothing more than to work, hang out with their buddies, and date the pretty girls. Nonetheless, we all had hard decisions to make.
I made mine, and stand by it. Others made different ones, and I don't criticize them. I do, however, have every right and duty to criticize the conduct of any one of us. Let's start with Lieutenant William Calley:
My Lai has by now become a name known for the massacre of innocent civilians by soldiers under the command of Lt. Calley. [There were many such massacres, as we knew at the time. Back then, however, we hippie protesters were told that we were lying commies because "Americans would never do such things!"] Calley and his soldiers committed deliberate, unprovoked acts of mass murder of helpless women, old people, children and even babies. There is no excuse of any kind for such evil, cowardly acts. However, there is a need to understand them. The murderers of My Lai (and hundreds of other such villages) will answer to God and their consciences for what they did, but not to me.
For the "free fire zones" and "Operation Phoenix" and "black ops" were not their policies, any more than it was their war. Hell, most of them couldn't even find Viet Nam on a map of the world (as surveys of serving US troops showed at the time). Probably none of them had committed a murder before his "tour" in Viet Nam, and none of them likely ever did after returning home.
If LBJ and the homicidal maniac General Westmoreland hadn't sent them there, it is highly unlikely that any of those guys would ever have done anything more violent than punch it out in the Tulsa Bar 'n' Grill on a Saturday night. [Hell, when we were in high school, we all owned all manner of semiautomatic weapons, but we never took them to school to settle disputes. It was unheard-of and unthought-of in our day.] Since their return, the vast majority of Viet Nam combat veterans have led peaceful, productive lives, too.
So what happened to those guys to make them into murderers of women and children? The God damned imperial State happened. It conscripted them, commanded them to attack noncombatants, and told them it was their duty to "your country" (i.e. the federal government) to be its assassins. And who is the State but the politicians who run it and the mega-corporations who own and manipulate them?!
Did Lt. Calley make that war? No! Was he consulted by the State about its conduct? No! He was dumped into it, where he found that he was hated by the population. He became temporarily paranoid-psychotic, and I cannot condemn him for it. I do oppose what he did, but, given the circumstances, if he is sincerely regretful and repentant, I believe that Lt. Wm. Calley is not a war criminal.
Bob Kerrey, on the other hand, is a war criminal. This is not because he lied about the massacre which he commanded and led, nor is it even because of his weaseling excuses and secret meetings with other former members of his unit to "get their stories straight" before speaking to the public.
All that may be mass murder and obstruction of justice, but it is not a war crime. The war crimes are committed by those who send men to fight wars of aggression. The war crimes are committed by those who print and broadcast and repeat the lying war propaganda. The war crimes are committed by those who enact and enforce conscription, that indispensable tool of tyranny.
Bob Kerrey is a war criminal not because of the crimes he committed in Viet Nam, but because of his endorsement of the NATO War against Yugoslavia. He didn't fight in it, he just backed sending others to bomb the schools and hospitals of Yugoslavia. For this, he and every politician who failed to stand up and speak against that illegal, immoral war is a war criminal. Like Lyndon Johnson and Westmoreland, Clinton and Wesley Clark, Bush Jr. and Powell, Bob Kerrey is a war criminal.
For this, most of the politicians of the NATO countries should be tried. For they are guilty of the worst act of all; sending young men to attack another nation which does not threaten their own. This is your Kaptain speaking, and I say that that is treason against mankind. It is the duty of all truly good men to oppose the warmongering politicians, businesses and media propagandists, in order that one day all men may know the blessings of...
...Peace and Liberty.
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