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imperialism & war

Vet Letter on the War

Show The Whole Truth
t r u t h o u t | Response to reader.
By John Cory

Thursday 3 April 2003

Editors Note: The following letter was written by TO contributing writer John Cory in response to a TO reader who questioned the patriotism of the TO staff. The reader, Steve is a Vietnam veteran, as is John Cory.

Dear Steve,

I read your letter to Truthout.Com and wanted to write to you. I too am a Vietnam Veteran.

You wrote, "Show the whole truth.'' And I agree. Show the World Trade Center and the Pentagon carnage and let the record reflect that no Iraqi, no Saddam Hussein, was involved in the despicable acts of 9/11. And in showing the whole truth, let us ask again: Why Iraq?

You referred to Truthout as a "tree hugging liberal.'' As soldiers, surely you and I share the tree hugging experience of dodging shrapnel and RPGs. We know what it is to hug a tree or wrap our ammo belt around a tree just to hold on as our legs floated in the river and the unseen "enemy'' tried to do us bodily harm. As I recall in Vietnam, tree huggers were not just liberals.

You and I are veterans. Veterans of military service and veterans of war. But I take exception to veterans who wrap themselves in the flag as a means to judge and bestow freedom, patriotism, and civil liberties on others. As soldiers, we did our duty as required of all soldiers, to uphold the Constitution. That was the oath we took. That oath did not specify that only those who believed as we did were covered by our tours of duty. In America, the freedoms enjoyed by its citizens are inherent. They neither have to be earned or deemed appropriate by anyone else. The American birthright was founded on dissent and freedom of speech long before you and I slogged through rice paddies. Black soldiers who fought in WW II served in a segregated military. Native Americans served despite the fact that many were not allowed to vote. And Japanese-Americans served despite interment camps. All of these men served with honor and heroism, fighting for freedoms that they were denied in that place called America.

You are right to say, "It is usually the coward who has given nothing to the protection of the freedoms you enjoy.'' But the coward is the silent one who dares not speak or face the ostracism of those who wish to bully and coerce. The coward is the one who knows better but chooses the path of least resistance in order to conform. The coward is the one who evades his legal obligation to his country and yet demands that others pay the price he was unwilling to pay. No my friend, dissent is anything but cowardice. Ask our founding fathers.

I believe the VA Hospitals and the entire VA system has failed its veterans miserably. I remember the horrors of VA hospital stays in the Seventies. I remember that it took national news stories to expose the often abominable conditions in VA hospitals across the country. And those were staffed by good old Americans, not "foreigners.''

Support the troops you say. Absolutely. But how? By cheering the deaths of innocent civilians? By building memorial walls to the fallen? We know better, my friend.

You and I know what waits for these troops in a war where they cannot delineate between civilian and military combatants. We both know that the media that now howls for more and faster war will turn on the very men who fight today. They will call them baby-killers and murderers and mercenaries. The modern media will not hold the men who started this war accountable, but instead will be judge and jury of the troops on the battlefield.

My brother veteran, it is up to you and I to support the troops by ensuring that this government is held accountable. By making every effort possible to maintain our civil liberties and the Constitutional rights set forth in the founding of this country. We can support the troops by not turning a blind eye to the "whole truth.''

You and I are veterans. Veterans of the whole sum of war. We have our medals and scars, and have spent more than our fair share of sleepless nights doing the duffle bag rag. We know the long aftermath of war never leaves those who have seen the demon face-to-face. And you and I know that the men who build the altars of war never sacrifice themselves upon it.

I wish you well my friend. We share the bond of war, and I will always stand proudly beside you because we are brothers of combat - veterans. We will lead the cheers for our returning troops. You and I will spot the empty spaces in the parade and we will share that sadness, because we know that the best use of an army is not to wage war, but to keep the peace.

Welcome home my friend.

John Cory

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