1972: fighting against the war

a near-sighting

The diary discusses fighting against the war. April 22: the Okie, Uthaclena, Fred, Alice, and Fran drive down to NYC. The Okie was a peace/antiwar demonstration virgin. She was annoyed by the various organizations selling or giving away their newspapers. Uthaclena, conversely, enjoyed getting the unsolicited literature.

We started marching and chanting. The crowd yelled to the onlookers to join us. Though some people waved and gave the peace sign, it was understandable that no one wanted to join us in that cold and wet weather. Of course, a lot of police, some on horses, especially around an Armed Forces building. The crowd cheered loudly when our event made the Allied Chemical Building news.

We finally finished the 40-block walk. Walked through a Nedick’s to maybe get a better view of the speakers, but could see nothing, and the others were cold and tired, so we took a couple of subways from 42nd Street to a Woolworth’s, where Fred and Alice bought raincoats. Then we walked the few blocks to the car, except Alice who took the bus to Poughkeepsie for an event.

Back over the George Washington Bridge, we stopped for a bathroom on the Palisades Parkway. We heard on the radio John Lennon and Yoko Ono spoke at the demonstration, estimated to have had 30,000 to 50,000 participants.

The diary gap

As I noted, some of the diaries were destroyed in a flood in an apartment I lived in during the latter 1990s. Unfortunately one covered May 5 through September 6. This covered three of the most significant events in my life. I remember them, of course, but I wanted more details, more context. Ah well.

Haiphong

When Haiphong harbor in Vietnam was mined, announced on Monday, May 8, it was perceived as an escalation of the Vietnam war. One can debate the efficacy of the strategy in retrospect, but few events in the US antiwar movement galvanized so many people.

My recollection is that my professors at SUNY New Paltz, at least, were understanding and some even sympathetic to the cause that got the students to cease attending their classes.

An attempt to stop traffic on the New York State Thruway – I believe I was riding with Uthaclena – ended relatively quickly on Tuesday.

Our appearance at a demonstration at the United Nations on Thursday was stymied by a too-late bus whether this was intentional on the part of the charter bus company, we would never know. Still, some picketed in front of the armed forces recruitment center.

As I said

Much of this I  wrote about a decade ago. “A large demonstration near the draft board in Kingston, NY was held on Friday.” The board closed preemptively. “The following day, the front page of the newspaper, the Kingston Freeman, had a picture of me and a couple of other people sitting in front of the building. The quality (or reproduction) of the photo was so poor, though, that I didn’t even recognize myself.

“The pivotal event that week was a demonstration at IBM Poughkeepsie on Wednesday, May 10, which building something called the IBM 360. In 1972, the idea of computers programmed to help kill people was quite upsetting to many folks; think an early version of today’s drones. In any case, there were about 360 people protesting – I don’t know if that were actually true or apocryphal.”

Custody

“At some point, we were warned if we walked past a certain point, we would be arrested. It was almost a dare, in its tone. As it turned out, twelve people were detained that day. One guy was charged with disturbing the peace, and his bail was set at $50. Everyone else was charged with fourth-degree criminal trespass, much to the chagrin of the district attorney, who was seeking a stiffer charge; 10 of the 11 got out on $25 bail. The 11th person, my friend Alice, had been arrested and convicted at a previous event, was fined $48, and had not paid it. Her bail was set at $250, and she opted not to pay it, and stayed in jail until the trial, eight days later.

“Did I mention I was one of those arrested?” In fact, I noticed, in looking at the Freeman in Newspapers.com, that a number were arrested around the area that month in various demonstrations, including a guy I got arrested with named Michael. The Associated Press said that as of May 11, over 250 people had been arrested for antiwar activities.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukraine

Paddington Bear

Flag_map_of_Ukraine_from_2014I’ve wanted to write something about Ukraine because the process helps my understanding. But it’s difficult when it is an ever-shifting situation. And what could I add that everyone else hasn’t said? The Weekly Sift guy indicated as much, yet this week, shared his thoughts.

I consider the possibility that I’m quite wrong about this. But I’m finding a smattering of hope in the midst of the barbaric actions by Russia. And much of it has to do with the improbable Volodymyr Zelenskyy [one Y or two?], who Newsweek says united divided Americans against Putin.

The comic actor, who was elected in 2019, was “increasingly viewed as out of [his] depth on the political stage. However, war leader Zelensky has changed all that. His defiant social media videos and determination to remain in Kyiv have won him old and new fans. Natasha Kuhrt, of King’s College London, [explained] how Zelensky’s government represented ‘a counterpoint to the authoritarian regime next door,’ and the president’s bravery is a ‘David and Goliath’ story playing into the Ukrainian president’s hands.”

Putin as an alarm clock

The United States seemingly had disdain for NATO under its previous guy.  The West Was a Sleeping Giant — And Putin Just Woke It Up. “The ferocity of the Western response to Russia’s illegal, criminal, repellent war of aggression will go down in history… The West has united around the goal of taking Russia out of the league of modern democracies — a place in which it never belonged in the first place. The world is literally realigning itself. Against Russia.

“[Putin has] outlined his goals — and they are genuinely frightening. He wants a Third Reich for Russia — the first one being Tsarist Russia, the second being the USSR. The Third Reich he wants is a kind of fascist empire for Russia.”

Indeed, CBS Sunday Morning’s Mo Rocco interviewed Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Anne Applebaum “about the long history of oppression of the Ukrainian people by Czarist and Soviet forces (including the ‘Holodomor’ famine perpetrated by Stalin), and now by the war machines of Putin.” Remarkable then are the massive anti-war rallies by the Russian people “amid ominous threats by Putin.”

Media and sports

Netflix is declining to carry Russian state channels. This is significant because, in December 2021, the country’s communications regulator required Netflix and like entities “to carry 20 major Russian federal television channels, many of which carry pro-Putin propaganda,” starting on March 1, 2022. The propaganda machine is crashing down. Disney and Warner Brothers are suspending movie releases there; no The Batman for you, Russia!

The National Hockey League is suspending business and social media ties, as well as “banning Russia as a location for competitions involving its players.” Russia is excluded from “competing in international ice skating events… after being kicked out of soccer competitions and hockey — Vladimir Putin’s favorite sport. The decisions follow the International Olympic Committee’s request to keep Russian athletes out of sporting events around the world. The International Skating Union… said no athletes from Russia or Belarus shall be invited or allowed to participate in events until further notice.”

Meanwhile, companies such as Microsoft are attempting to support the Ukrainian technological infrastructure.  Ukraine universities were hacked by players identified as supporting the Russian invasion.

But what about

ZelenskyyIn some quarters, I’ve read criticism “about the amount of media coverage the war in Ukraine has received compared to conflicts in Iran, Yemen, Guatemala, Sudan, and elsewhere. And it’s not entirely inaccurate. Yemen, for certain, is a proxy war between the US/Saudi Arabia and Iran, and a clear humanitarian disaster.

Still, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell stated the situation clearly. “what Putin is doing is not only a grave violation of international law, it is a violation of the basic principles of human coexistence. With his choice to bring war back to Europe, we see the return of the ‘law of the jungle’ where might makes right. The target is not only Ukraine, but the security of Europe and the whole international rules-based order, based on the UN system and international law.

“The international community will now in response opt for full-scale isolation of Russia, to hold Putin accountable for this aggression. We are sanctioning those who finance the war, crippling the Russian banking system and its access to international reserves.” Even China abstained from the UN Security Council vote sanctioning Russia.

Mostly on the same page

Most Americans are on the same page about this situation. There are disagreements about the timing of sanctions and the like, but most find Russia clearly at fault.

There are outliers. US Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) was ‘scorched for claiming Dems weakened Ukraine by impeaching Trump: ‘FBI Warned You’. And an Arizona state senator Wendy Rogers says the “EU is building a new ‘Third Reich’ in its defense of Ukraine.” This is someone getting her talking points from Putin. For those with short memories, remember the extortion of Ukraine. Mr. Brunelle has a solution to Putin’s financial problems.

While smashing vodka bottles won’t stop Putin’s tanks, it helps galvanize people.  The Boston Globe recommends these entities to contribute to. Razom for Ukraine, based in New York, is sending items like tourniquets, bandages, and satellite phones. United Help Ukraine in Maryland is supplying money, food, and medical supplies. Sunflower of Peace in Belmont, Mass., is sending first aid medical tactical backpacks to paramedics and doctors on the front lines.

Check out Understanding Ukraine: The Problems Today and Some Historical Context by John Green from exactly eight years ago.  Listen to Alcion by Ukrainian composer Aleksandr Shymko. The movements are titled: “Beyond Words”, “One Hour to Live”, “The End of Sorrow”, and “On the Edge of Everything”. Meanwhile, I’ll go watch one of those Paddington Bear movies, with the title character voiced by Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Veterans for New Americans

Starting with Lafayette

Veterans for a New AmericaAfter Colin Powell died, I was reminded that there have long been people who have been immigrants and/or non-citizens who have joined the US military. I found a link titled Veterans for New Americans with a Non-Citizens in the U.S. Military Fact Sheet.

“To join the U.S. military, non-citizens must be living permanently and legally in the United States. Non-citizens must also have permission to work in the United States, possess an I-551 (Permanent Residence Card), have obtained a high school diploma, and speak English…

“Between 1999 and 2010, approximately 80,000 non-citizens joined the U.S. military force. Most recent data from the Department of Defense (DOD) showed that 24,000 noncitizens were on active duty in 2012, with 5,000 legal permanent residents (LPRs) enlisting into the U.S. military force each year…

“From FY2001-FY2015, USCIS naturalized 109,321 noncitizen service members. Since 2008, USCIS has also naturalized 2,650 military spouses.”

A 2019 article looked at the 2017 American Community Survey. 697,711 foreign-born veterans lived in the United States, comprising 3.5 percent of all veterans; 190,198 foreign-born individuals were actively serving in the military comprising 4.5 percent of all active-duty service members.

The US Foreign Legion, as it were

An August 2021 Washington Post article reads: “The U.S. government hasn’t protected noncitizen veterans from deportation. That may change.” And “The U.S. military has a long history of relying on foreign recruits.”

But from DHS and the VA comes the announcement of an “Initiative to Support Noncitizen Service Members, Veterans, and Immediate Family Members.”

WaPo: “Noncitizens have played critical roles in every war that the United States has fought. Decades after the Marquis de Lafayette served as an aide to General George Washington during the American Revolution, tens of thousands of Canadians and Europeans joined the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. And hundreds of thousands of Black soldiers fought in the Civil War, their service all the more remarkable given that the U.S. government denied them citizenship.”

Over time, I’ve noted that a number of black Americans have used serving in the military as a way to “prove” their “worthiness” as Real Americans. This has been true from the Revolutionary War through at least through World War II. Perhaps Powell, as a black from Jamaica, consciously or not, may have used his service in Vietnam in the same matter.

“As modern militaries increasingly field sophisticated weapons systems, countries have also looked to noncitizens to bring much-needed technical skills into the ranks, as well as expertise in foreign languages and cultures in areas where the military operates.

This reminds me of, for instance, the Afghan translators who often risked their very lives working with the US military. I wish them every opportunity to come to this country and have the good chance to become citizens.

Leaving Afghanistan after two decades

“It’s hard to deny the evidence in front of you.” – General Mike Mullen

AfghanistanI wrote what I thought about the US leaving Afghanistan back in May. But if I noted what I felt about the country ENTERING the war, I don’t recall. I thought it was…inevitable. If it had been tied to the limited mission of capturing Bin Laden and his accomplices, that’d be “reasonable.”

Here’s the really weird thing about our totally unnecessary war in Iraq – which I’ve documented often in this blog – including here and here and here and a bunch of other places. When we entered the Iraq war, it was as though it slipped the collective minds that we were in Afghanistan.

I’m not just talking about the American people. The US government under W was sharing its assessment of its “success” in Iraq but saying relatively little about Afghanistan. Did they… forget?

Anyway, I was going to write something more about the end game in Afghanistan, but all I could find was a quote from the movie The Princess Bride: “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous of which is ‘never get involved in a land war in Asia.'”

And a quote that Mark Evanier cited: “A friend of mine spent several years in Afghanistan working as a doctor attached to the U.S. forces. He told me some pretty harrowing tales about his tour o’ duty here but the thing I remember most is when he said, ‘Staying there is a disaster. Leaving there would be a disaster. Nothing about the country is not a disaster.’ I think that’s proving to be the case.”

I agree with much of is linked to here, even when they occasionally contradict each other.

Linkage

Bloomberg: Why Both Russians and Americans Got Nowhere in Afghanistan. If you’re not going anywhere no matter what happens, or what price you’re forced to pay, you can outlast superpowers. (You may recall that the US and other Western countries boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980 because of the Soviet incursion.) On one of the news programs recently, a general suggested that American hubris was the reason the US thought it would succeed when the USSR failed.

Alan Singer in Daily Kos: “Nation Building” Fails in Afghanistan

Nation of Change: Why did a military superpower fail in Afghanistan? This external approach, based on military occupation, to promote democracy in occupied foreign countries was “doomed to fail.”

Daniel Larison: Biden’s Prudent Decision to Withdraw from Afghanistan. It doesn’t say much for our political culture that it takes far more political courage to end a pointless war than it does to start one.

Matthew Yglesias. Biden (and Trump) did the right thing on Afghanistan
The war was lost long ago — if it was ever winnable.

Fred Kaplan of Slate: Trump’s New Big Lie: Afghanistan. Biden has handled the withdrawal very badly. That doesn’t mean Trump would have done better.

Seth Meyers

The “liberal press”?

Weekly Sift: Afghanistan, Biden, and the Media. “What struck me about that discussion, though, was how one-sided it was. Even ordinarily liberal MSNBC shows, or newspaper outlets like the Times and the Post, were unified in their denunciation of the Biden administration and its plan to withdraw our troops. I haven’t seen that level of unanimity since the post-911 era, when the Iraq and Afghanistan wars started. A lot of bad ideas sneaked into the discussion around that time, and didn’t get criticized because there was no room for criticism.”

Fred Kaplan in Slate: A Top U.S. Military Officer Finally Admits He Was Wrong About Afghanistan

The Atlantic: What I Learned While Eavesdropping on the Taliban

Cartoon: Leaving Afghanistan.

Foreign Policy: Two Talibans Are Competing for Afghanistan. The gap between the group’s international leadership and its rank-and-file fighters has never been wider. (This is why the messaging about Taliban 2.0 seems inconsistent.)

Afar: The Organizations Aiding Afghans and How Americans Can Help

Withdrawal from Afghanistan

forever war

AfghanistanThe Weekly Sift looked at both sides of the debate regarding the planned US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021.

“Pro: Leaving saves American lives and resources and gives our military more flexibility to confront challenges more central to our well-being… Con: Without us, the Afghan government will probably fall to the Taliban…

“But one argument has been conspicuous by its absence: If we stay for six more months, or a year, or three years, Afghan democracy will stabilize, the Afghan Army will finally have enough training, and the government we leave behind in Kabul will be able to sustain itself.”

He is siding with Joe Biden on this. “Whatever our original intentions might have been, by now, it’s clear that we’re not building a secular, democratic, pro-Western government that will someday be strong enough to stand on its own.

“There’s a lesson here, and it’s the same lesson we should have learned from Vietnam: To install a new form of government in a country, people on the ground have to be buying what you’re selling.”

For two decades, part of the rationale for the “forever war” was so that the 2300 US soldiers who died in Afganistan will not have “died in vain.”

“Over the last two decades, hundreds of thousands of American troops have served in Afghanistan — most of them honorably and some heroically. It is a shame that their effort and sacrifice have not produced a lasting result that our nation can point to with pride. But more effort and sacrifice will not redeem what bad policy has already wasted. We need to leave.”

Debacle

Chris Hedges in Common Dreams is harsher. He calls it The Collapse of the American Empire. “War…when, as in Afghanistan, there is no vision at all, descends into a quagmire.”

I remember quite well when the war in Afghanistan began. My wife and I, reeling from 9/11 and the constant news about the same, ended up at a bed-and-breakfast in Cherry Valley, about an hour west of Albany, in early October.

The best thing about planning the trip was that there was no television. We’d be news-free! This turned out not to be the case. A radio from an adjoining room blared the news of the start of the Afghanistan war. I knew it was coming, and I even understood the limited intention to root out bin Laden and al-Qaeda from that country.

Then, the Afghanistan war seemed almost forgotten for a time as the US launched into battle in Iraq, complete with a bogus rationale.

Nine years after bin Laden’s death, in Pakistan, no less, and with no US troop deaths in the past year or so, it’s time to move on. Whether we ACTUALLY do that is subject to the interpretation of what “leave” means.

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