Scott Camil, a veteran of the second-longest U.S. war in history, that on Vietnam, radically changed a discussion of the longest war in U.S. history, that on Afghanistan, on CNN on Sunday.
CNN's Don Lemon tried repeatedly to explain troops posing with body parts as an inscrutable result of war, without questioning the justification of that war. Repeatedly, Lemon instructed viewers not to judge soldiers.
A guest to whom Lemon devoted a great deal of time, Dr. Terry Lyles, followed Lemon's leads and was praised by Lemon as the best guest he'd heard from on the topic. Lyles suggested the problem was one of public relations: "We need to do a better job," he said, "you know, with them psychologically to help them understand that the world is watching. Be careful about what you do and what you capture while what you're doing every day is very difficult."
Scott Camil took a different tack, saying: "Well no we don't know what it's like to be in combat unless you've been in combat, but I think the real question is: you're nit picking when you're talking about things like people posing with bodies. The real question should be why are we at war in the first place? Why are we killing so many people in the first place? The concern over posing with someone that's dead, it seems to me the fact that that person is dead and that we're killing people is more important than what happens after they're dead."
Camil's comment was so effective that the next panelist to speak shifted to his topic. Holly Hughes remarked: "Scott hit the nail on the head because now we've opened a dialogue. What are we talking about now? Shouldn't we be more upset that we're out there killing people? . . . Maybe we need to assess why we're there in the first place."
Camil continued: "What I understand is what it's like to be in a war zone and I understand the behavior in a war zone. And I would say that, first of all, that war is really an institution made up of criminal behavior. When we as civilians want to solve our problems, we're not allowed to murder people and burn their houses down. I don't see why war is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. And furthermore, the majority of people that die are innocent civilians."
Some fundamental truths are rarely spoken on television.
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Scott Camil was honorably discharged with 13 medals including 2 purple hearts following 20 months voluntarily spent as a Marine in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967. He testified at the Winter Soldier Investigation in 1971, and was a founding member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War Inc. He is an active member of Veterans For Peace and serves as the President of Chapter 014 in Gainesville, Florida.
Veterans for Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries . It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.