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Stopping the War Machine: Military Recruiters Must Be Confronted

I saw 3 military recruitment centers around the Rose Festival on the waterfront today, but missed the Army display. It is disgusting that Portland is allowing this celebration of militarism during one of its signature summer events.

Read this, make copies and maybe go try to discuss it with some of those gallant, "patriotic" recruiters who are lying to Portland's youth!!


Stopping the War Machine: Military Recruiters Must Be Confronted

By Ron Kovic, Truthdig
Posted on May 30, 2008, Printed on May 31, 2008

As a former United States Marine Corps sergeant who was shot and paralyzed from my mid-chest down during my second tour of duty in Vietnam on Jan. 20, 1968, I am sending my complete support and admiration to all those now involved in the courageous struggle to stop military recruitment in Berkeley and across the country.

Not since the Vietnam War protests of the late 1960s has there been a cause more just than the one you are now engaged in. Who knows better the deep immorality and deception of military recruiters than those of us who, decades ago, entered those same recruiting offices with our fathers, believing in our hearts that we were being told the truth -- only to discover later we had been deceived and terribly betrayed? Many of us paid for that deceit with our lives, years of suffering and bodies and minds that were never the same again. If only someone had warned us, if only someone had had the courage to speak out against the madness that we were being led into, if only someone could have protected us from the recruiters whose only wish was to make their quota, send us to boot camp and hide from us the dark secret of the nightmare which awaited us all.
Over the past five years, I have watched in horror the mirror image of another Vietnam unfolding in Iraq. So many similarities, so many things said that remind me of that war 30 years ago which left me paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for life. Refusing to learn from the lessons of Vietnam, our government continues to pursue a policy of deception, distortion, manipulation and denial, doing everything it can to hide from the American people their true intentions and agenda in Iraq. As we pass the fifth anniversary of the start of this tragic and senseless war, I cannot help but think of the young men and women who have been wounded, nearly 30,000, flooding Walter Reed, Bethesda, Brooke Army Medical Center and veterans hospitals all across our country. Paraplegics, amputees, burn victims, the blinded, shocked and stunned, brain-damaged and psychologically stressed, a whole new generation of severely maimed men and women who were not even born when I came home wounded to the Bronx Veterans Hospital in New York in 1968.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which afflicted so many of us after Vietnam, is just now beginning to appear among soldiers recently returned from the current war. For some the agony and suffering, the sleepless nights, anxiety attacks and awful bouts of insomnia, alienation, anger and rage will last for decades -- if not their whole lives. They will be trapped in a permanent nightmare of that war, of killing another man, a child, watching a friend die ... fighting against an enemy that can never be seen, while at any moment someone, a child, a woman, an old man -- anyone -- might kill them.

These traumas return home with us and we carry them, sometimes hidden, for agonizing decades. They deeply impact our daily lives, and the lives closest to us. To kill another human being, to take another life out of this world with one pull of a trigger, is something that never leaves you. It is as if a part of you dies with that person. If you choose to keep on living, there may be a healing, and even hope and happiness again, but that scar and memory and sorrow will be with you forever. Why did the recruiters never mention these things? This was never in the slick pamphlets they gave us.

Some of these veterans are showing up at homeless shelters around our country, while others have begun to courageously speak out against the senselessness and insanity of this war and to demand answers from the leaders who sent them there. During the 2004 Democratic National Convention, returning soldiers formed a group called Iraq Veterans Against the War, just as we had marched in Miami in August of 1972 as Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Still others have refused deployment to Iraq, gone to Canada and begun resisting this immoral and illegal war. Like many other Americans, I have seen them on television or at the local veterans hospitals, but for the most part, they remain hidden like the flag-draped caskets of our dead returned to Dover Air Force Base in the dark of night, as this administration continues to pursue a policy of censorship, tightly controlling the images coming out of that war and rarely allowing the human cost of its policy to be seen.

Many of us promised ourselves long ago that we would never allow what happened to us in Vietnam to happen again. We had an obligation, a responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, as human beings, to raise our voices in protest. We could never forget the hospitals, the intensive-care wards, the wounded all around us fighting for their lives, those long and painful years after we came home, those lonely nights. There were lives to save on both sides, young men and women who would be disfigured and maimed, mothers and fathers who would lose their sons and daughters, wives and other loved ones who would suffer for decades to come if we did not do everything we could to stop the momentum of this madness.

Mario Savio once said, "There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working at all."

It is time to stop the war machine. It is time for bold and daring action on the part of us all. Precious lives are at stake, both American and Iraqi, and military recruiters must be confronted at every turn, in every high school, every campus, every recruiting office, on every street corner, in every town and city across America. In no uncertain terms we must make it clear to them that by their actions they represent a threat to our community, to our children and all that we cherish. We must explain to them that condemning our young men and women to their death, setting them up to be horribly maimed, and psychologically damaged in a senseless and immoral war, is wrong and unpatriotic and will not be tolerated by Berkeley -- or, for that matter, any town or city in the United States.

The days of deceiving, manipulating and victimizing our young people are over. We have had enough, and I strongly encourage all of you to use every means of creative, nonviolent civil disobedience to stop military recruitment all across our country. I stand with you in this important and courageous fight, and I am confident your actions in the days ahead will inspire countless others across our country to do everything they can to end this deeply immoral and illegal war.

(Note: This statement represents portions of several essays and writings I have done over the past five years. -- R.K.)

Kovic was born in Ladysmith, Wis., and grew up in Massapequa, N.Y. His autobiography, "Born on the Fourth of July," was adapted as an Academy Award-winning film directed by Oliver Stone and starring Tom Cruise as Kovic. Kovic received a Golden Globe for his screenplay adaptation of his autobiography.

Kovic is an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq.
2008 Truthdig All rights reserved.
View this story online at:  http://www.alternet.org/story/86654/

A litle counter recruiting 01.Jun.2008 07:24


As in years past, members of Veterans For Peace Chapter 72, are going down to the "Fun Center" every day to provide an alternative view. Whether standing by the Marine recruiting booth or walking the Seawall with our flags flying, we are there. Most interaction are positive with very few hostile remarks or conversations. Because we are just volunteers, we can't be there all day long, unlike the paid recruiters, so we do what we can.

Met an Australian vet who may join us and have had our picture taken with visitors to "our fair City" from China and Germany.

Coming up on Wednesday, June 4th, the ships are arriving. We will be at the Peace Memorial Park and the East Bank Esplanade to greet them in our own way. Check the Oregonian and other news outlets for arrival times since it has not been announced yet.
Last year
Last year
I want you
I want you

Thank You Veterans 01.Jun.2008 17:13


In years past the Northwest Veterans for Peace would do a slide show on the side of one of the military ships. Though the ships were there during rose festival for folks to tour through and admire, they got an added bonus.....pictures of the reality of war, courtesy of the Veterans! I honor any veterans that are there speaking truth to american citizens. They will not get truth from recruiters.

Defunct the military presence at Rose Festival 02.Jun.2008 18:47

angry citizen that's had enough of the military

I want a black block presence to say "military recruiting presence- not at our festival" and tell them to get out. We should organize at 12pm on saturday, at terry schrunk plaza, and proceed to salmon st. fountain. We should come prepared for police to respond, but we should bring the black flags down! I want us to send a message that we don't want military presence at our festival. We need a strong alternative message, and a message to the military that they're not welcome recruiting at our festival.

Do it, by all means!! 02.Jun.2008 22:59


You might try to coordinate with other activist groups that will be protesting over the weekend?! The Marines are in their traditional place, next to the bungee waste of money. The National Guard is inside the festival nearby, inviting idiots to have their picture taken with a NASCAR-style racecar, and the Navy is in a big corner lot near Ankeny and 2nd Avenue.

Those creeps should be chased out of town!

Go Blackbloc!!