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March, 2003, Volume 10 Nr. 7, Issue 115

I am a Veteran!  How dare you!

by Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

I have in my possession an honorable discharge from the armed forces of the United States.  This document, form DD214, makes me a veteran.  It is, in its most respected  implications, the proof that I have served my country.  I have given a few years of my life, as the enlistment oath states, in defending the Constitution of the United States as a member of the U.S. military.  I am proud to be a veteran. 

On more than one occasion, however, while expressing the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution, I have been verbally abused by self-proclaimed patriots, who have made the accusation, "You -- you are not a veteran!"  

How dare you! How dare you define for me the value of my service to my country?  How dare you question my right as a citizen in a free society to express my patriotism through dissent, that which is Constitutionally protected?

How dare you, many of you who are not veterans, dictate the terms that I, as a free human being, must adhere to in order to meet your standards for being a veteran?

How dare you yell at me and tell me to "Move to Germany! Move to France!" just because I do not see things your way, nor think the way that you do?

How dare you accuse me of being a traitor while you support a selected commander-in-chief who was absent without leave during the last year of his military service?

How dare you question my commitment to freedom as I  silently witness at peace vigils each weekend drawing attention to the ongoing lies of my government and its ever-increasing elimination of the liberties which I as a sailor swore to protect?

How dare you indict my service to my nation because I do not accept violence as a method of conflict resolution?

How dare you suggest that I do not support our young men and women now being put in harm's way?  It is, after all, the ruling petroleum cartel who is sending them unnecessarily into battle to spill their blood and the blood of others, soldiers and civilians, for oil?

How dare you demand that I tone down my challenge of any empire hell-bent on global domination?

I reject, that in order to support our troops, I must accept war.  Henry Fosdick, (1878 - 1969) Unitarian Universalist clergyman, author and teacher, wrote, "The tragedy of war is that it uses man's best to do man's worst."  I reject that we must use our best creative minds to make the best high tech horrible war.   

I am a veteran.  I am for peace.  I am a member of Veterans For Peace.  Believing that war in all its shapes and incarnations is a crime against humanity, I strive to do my small part, as someone who once was a part of the apparatus of destruction, to work for the elimination of the causes of war. 

As a peace activist and Veteran For Peace, S. Brian Willson, who has sacrificed much for peace, puts it, "We are not worth more, They are not worth less."  Yet, we are asked by the super patriots who would force upon us their definition of what it means to be a veteran, to accept the mass bombing of Iraqi civilians, the collateral damage, as a consequence of launching hundreds of cruise missiles. War is as an unacceptable method of carrying out foreign policy. 

After September 11, 2001, we rightly left no piece of rubble unturned in our attempt at bringing closure to the families who lost loved ones.  Ten years prior, as Iraqi forces were retreating in the rout known as the Gulf War, we killed tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers as they retreated in a video game "war."  Afterwards, as historian and professor  Howard Zinn put  it, U.S. military machinery (tanks with plows) buried the bodies en masse.  Where was the closure for the next of kin as the tanks made a second sweep through the desert covering over the protruding legs and arms of the dead?  As the peace demonstrators are apt to chant, "The whole world is watching."  It is.  And then, we wonder why growing numbers of the world's people "don't like us?"

Those of us, Veterans For Peace who are opposed to war as being an instrument of foreign policy are no less patriotic than those who wave the flag and support war anytime and anyplace that their self-righteous leaders call for it.  I'm going to suggest that those veterans who oppose this war are heroes in the greatest of American traditions and values.  They are the ones who recognize that as signatories of the U.N. charter any U.S. pre-emptive military strike against another nation is illegal.  It is a  dangerous precedent-setting development for which there will be enormous blowback consequences.

After September 11, Mr. George W. Bush claimed that the U.S. had been transformed, having entered into a relentless war, perhaps a war that will not end in our lifetime.  I believe it is the duty of every citizen, and especially every veteran,  to question Mr. Bush at this time of perpetual war.  

David Krieger, in a piece entitled, "Opposing the President's Call for 'Relentless War' ", writes,

If it was transformed in this way, it is because this is the direction in which Bush and his advisors transformed it. Becoming a country at war meant to the Bush administration an opportunity to expand US military forces while constricting civil liberties for ordinary Americans. Starting with his candidacy, Bush has pressed for increasing funding for the military. The September 11 attacks, along with a frightened and compliant Congress and American public, provided the opportunity to do so.

As a veteran, and a Veteran For Peace, I oppose perpetual war.  Kreiger further writes,

This will be a long war, Mr. Bush tells the American people, and unprecedented challenges await us. It will be a long war because we are failing to take necessary steps to achieve peace. It will be a long war because we are led by an administration that has no vision of peace or of a better world for others. It has no vision and few resources for alleviating poverty, or for building schools instead of tanks. It has no vision of preserving the environment and natural resources for future generations because it is intently focused on goals that merely serve corporate interests. It has no vision of halting arms sales, an area where the US remains indisputably number one in the world. Nor does it have a vision of bringing nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction under control. We are an empire and empires require double standards. Thus, this will be a long war.

I, as a veteran, and a Veteran For Peace, see it a duty of citizenship to call attention to this administration's erosion and circumvention of the rights and liberties guaranteed in  the Constitution through its perpetual war quest for oil.  And, I refuse to allow others to define for me my veteran status.  I am a veteran!  How dare you!  Wage Peace!

2003 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski, PhD

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