Thursday, October 13, 2005

Shadowland Mail: Wars of Hate

Some of the responses to the most recent Shadowland column about war, patriotism and John Gregory Dunne:

From Dennis Stenftenagel
Ferdinand, Indiana
10/12/2005 8:48 I will never forget seeing lyndon johnson visiting the troops in '67. We were urged to turn out [read ordered] for his visit. What hit home for me that he was unable to make eye contact with any of us in the sea of green and kaki and the fact few of us wanted to be there. I am seeing the same thing from our leader today but the military types and the public are not where [yet] they were back in '67 but that too is changing. We are again in the wrong war for the wrong reasons.
10/13/2005 11:49 .......I took pictures of the event and I have one of Johnson taken from 10 feet away from his limo and he actually has his hand positioned next to his face like he was trying to hide from the crowd of those who turned out to see him. I wish I knew what was going through his mind at the time.......As to George the second; he is so shielded from reality by himself and others that reality will never eat away at him like it did for Johnson in my humble opinion.........BE WELL.........dennis

From Doug Parkinson
Arcata, CA
10/12/2005 12:41
There have been exceptions to the rule. I cannot be to vocal about my resistance to this choreographed war on terror to parents whose children (teenagers with automatic weapons)are "over there". I recognize the concern for their children by the unspoken fear in their eyes as we talk. Also unspoken, " why are not your military aged children not there? Doug Parkinson LRRP/Rangers 1st Cav Division Vietnam, 67-68


From Meg Greene
10/12/2005 8:42 AM
Well said... on behalf of your friend John Gregory Dunne. Thank you. I bet he would thank you, too. Meg Greene

From John Kirk
10/11/2005 8:02 PM
Mr. Dickey, You article on patriotism and Mr. Dunne was very important and the reason I am writing to you. Like John Dunne, my father "fought the Korean War in Germany." He was a Harvard Educated lawyer in the JAG on the defense side and threw up from nerves before each trial - but he won them all. I wonder what he would have thought of Abu Graib and Gitmo. He died of Alzheimer's so we will never know. I have a bumper sticker on my car which reads "If You Support The War in Iraq Volunteer To Fight In IT". People like your son need help. The reaction from Bush supporters when they see it is fascinating. We are a patriotic family. Irish Americans. Fighters in our way. Through our ethnic and historical prism we know something of what an occupation can do to both sides. I think you will like the song "The Earnest Soldier" and you will appreciate "Extraordinary Rendition." "Heaven Help Me" - maybe you can tell me what its about. Its just a conversation between a father and son in music as far as we are concerned. But I think it may have some relevance to Mr. Dunne and you and your son and my father and my son and how we communicate our ideas and ideals to each other in this country. John

From Dan Brekke
Berkeley, CA
10/12/2005 2:24
Chris, this can only be the beginning of the discussion. I think Dunne's sense of this issue, and yours, is spot on as far as it goes. Sacrifices must be shared. We must not fight wars to which we're not fully committed (though bear in mind that that standard kept us out of World War I for nearly three years and, absent Pearl Harbor, probably would have kept us out of World War II indefinitely). But what do we do with that knowledge? Do we get behind people like John Conyers and Charles Rangel and demand the draft be reinstated?. There's an attractive school of thought that a universal draft -- if one were started, I'd hope that women would be conscripted, too -- would give everyone a personal stake in the war in Iraq and make the civilians who launched this thing more accountable. I'm not sure I buy that -- more than half the Americans who died in Vietnam were killed *after* the Tet offensive, when the anti-war movement was already rolling along. Yet, a fair draft, perhaps with a national service alternative, *could* democratize the war and perhaps counter a tendency, which Bush encourages with no shame or sense of irony, to lionize the warriors, cozen up to them, and cast those who don't support his military adventure as fifth columnists. But here's the thing: I have two draft-age sons. I don't know how I'd sleep if they and their friends were under arms now and their commanders were as casually deceitful and incompetent as the crew we have in charge now. For me, the principle of the thing -- that it's unfair and undemocratic to impose the war sacrifice on a small slice of society, even if they volunteered for service -- is at war with my personal horror at the further ruin of young lives to so little apparent purpose. I also wonder about the equity of codgers like me (my draft number was supposed to come up in 1972, but it was never called) sending the young ones off to kill and be killed. If there's going to be a national sacrifice, all the non-retired generations should be made to play a part beyond our penchant for uttering fine phrases.

From George Kamburoff
Pleasant Hill, CA
10/12/2005 12:22 AM
All the males in my family were WWII veterans, and I was raised with the belief that the price of living in a free society is the active defense of it. When the war of my generation came, I was ready. Already in the Air Force, I volunteered for the war and went over in November, 1967. Being an electronics tech on McNamara's Electronic Battlefield, I was sufficiently close to the war to see its effects on everything we touched, but far enough from the destruction to avoid the irresistible need to justify personal violence. It didn't take long to have my suppositions challenged, my view of who we were, what we were doing threatened by the knowledge of a terrible reality. But admitting it to myself was a long and agonizing experience. Although it started a few months after my arrival in Southeast Asia, it took years to admit and to accept. At last, I had to question the morality of lionizing the military and the pride we have for those willing to serve. I don't wish to degrade the righteousness of those who serve, but to question the morality of a society that would use them for terrible purpose. One day, counting the names of the recent dead, I finally penned a note, as much to myself as the newspaper to which it was sent, where it went unprinted: They talk about "honor" a lot. Their TV ads show young men slaying mythical dragons, climbing walls of fantasy, standing tall in multicolored uniforms. But is that what our country demands of our servicemen? Few decisions are as important as those regarding life and death. Yet we seem to idealize those who cede that decision to others, who perform draconian tasks without reflection. Ultimately we must ask ourselves: Where is the pride in abdicating life's most important decisions to someone else? Where is the honor in killing on command? There will be an enormous price to pay for our self-righteous violence, far worse than letting our sons and daughters be used for hellish purposes, far more than the tens of thousands of physically, emotionally, and morally wounded troops who come home in and out of boxes, more than the billions of dollars wasted. We are losing our humanity, and any soul we might have had.

From Lola
Seattle, WA Sent:
Just found this commentary! I'm sure glad you found John Gregory Dunne's floppy disk. It allowed me a connection with a man I never knew but after reading this felt a deep sense of loss for all the unwritten words. He had so much more to give. This was a wonderful commentary on a friend. You did good!!

From Chris Quimby
Kihei, HI
Sent: 10/13/2005 12:43 AM
Aloha Chris, To say that I am appalled and enraged by our nation's perpetual warmongering is to say the least of how I feel about it. Regards, Chris

From Mark Cannona
Tucson, Arizona
10/12/2005 1:10 AM
I think discussing patriotism right now is absurd. I don't see patriotism being expressed anywhere. Why should Iraq or the war on terror stimulate such a discussion? Let's talk about it when all the countries we have wronged start dropping paratroopers on Dallas or Dayton. Then we can talk about patriotism.
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