Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dear Vets, part four: The No Thank You Letter

I've learned a lot since i first agreed to distribute a survey about veterans. Over the course of this month i have surveyed far more of my fellow citizens than my colleague ever imagined. Like i say, i've learned a lot, far too much to finish off with this column; but we definitely have a purpose this week: the no thank you letter. See, that was the other part of the survey. Turns out, as i expected, the overall intention of the one page survey i distributed, which started this whole thing, was to get people to fill in the forms on the one page thank you letter on the back of the survey, to subsequently collect the letters and send them on to vets. That part was easy. But filling out my own letter was trickier. So, i thought, well, i'll write a "No Thank You" Letter instead, how about that? Ha-ha, thought it would be fun. At the time, i never intended to send my screed of invective anywhere near any actual vet; but that is just what happened with the first veteran i ran into. When i finished ripping through the questionnaire and slapped together what i've thought of as a witty string of broadsides at the military, i checked the time and dashed off to lunch to share my questionnaire's ideas with the lunch crowd and it turned out among them was my friend, a Navy vet. Or should i say my ex-friend, the Navy vet. We'd worked together for years. We had argued over about every red state-blue state issue available in the last several years of working together in modern contentious America and still somehow we worked together and joked together. He would always roll his eyes at me and sigh in a comically forlorn way, like my stupidity made him tired. It all worked out well enough up until, well, this. He was visibly wounded by my would-be clever little questionnaire and no thank you letter, though we talked it through., but when the first column came out, that was the last straw. He still hasn't recovered and neither has our friendship. He returned my beat up old Willie Nelson songbook by leaving it on my desk and these days has that forlorn look well before i have time to say anything. And that was just the beginning. The sheer number of Vet related experiences i have encountered make clear there's no clean way to wrap this up. Veterans are intertwined all through the fabric of our country. But i have not come to believe they are our country or have a greater right to dictate their will in it, or even that their actions either during a war or after it are necessarily good for it. I still think if vets want to demand a due consideration for their posts in the military they need then also to take responsibility for results of their actions in that military. Been a while since we had a good war. I have been alive half a century and seen US military involved repeatedly in wars of oppression. It was plain to see and since the 60s generations of American peace protesters and millions more protesters around the world have tried to warn Americans our wars have been wrong. But it is not until the Gulf of Tokin is a footnote and WMDs a punch-line that war loving Americans admit the error of their ways. When it was plain to see all along. It is one thing to honor a returning soldier who has acted nobly in an honorable cause. But America has squandered our children and our reputation around the world in tawdry intrigues and rigged games and it is embarrassing. It is the willingness of Americans to invest themselves to bloody causes that give our government the idea they can sell us on the carnage. As long as we champion our willingness to kill, the wicked will have us murdering for their unworthy causes. So, no i don't thank you. In fact, here is what i wrote in my no thank you letter that day. I still have it here beside me. If i would share it with my closest vet then surely i can share it with you: Dear Veterans (that was the form letter part) There has not been a military action since the 1940s i am thankful for. I do not thank you for killing civilians and destroying their lives so corrupt governments can make their points with each other and dollars off of each us. Some say as many as 90% of the casualties in recent US wars have been civilians. People like us. When the war is sold on lies, wrapped up in phony patriotism, where is the honor in that? I do not thank you for squandering US resources that could had aided our citizens but were used to oppress others instead. Can't afford to rebuild Detroit, but we can blow up Basra. Can't afford to teach our own kids, but totally willing to blow up Iraqi schools on the pretense it enhances our freedom. Or Afghanistan? Taliban was bad, they were, they blew up two thousand year old statues of Buddha and treated their women badly. So we punished them by blowing up their weddings with drone missiles and allowing most robust poppy market in recent memory to blossom right under our noses. Yeah? No thank you. I do not thank you for joining in the first place with all the vastly better ways you could have helped our country and our world. I do not thank you for perpetuating the illusion that US use of force around the world is always correct or always necessary. I do not thank you for spreading the lie that because it is done in a war, even in an unjust war, it is right or forgivable. I would have liked to thank them for at one point believing they cared about the country, but unlike me when they discovered the lies the military are up to, they continued to fight. When the war is wrong, it is wrong to fight it. So no, i don't thank you. I wish you hadn't done it. Next week: the finale, "Survey Said." -mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ

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