Fifteen years ago, on March 19, 2003, I resigned from the U.S. Diplomatic Corps and my position as Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Ulan Baatar, Mongolia in opposition to Bush's war on Iraq. My decision to resign over the Iraq war has been brought back into my mind vividly today in another U.S. ravaged, war-torn country -- Vietnam.
Today at the War Remnants Museum in Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 45 years after the United States signed the Peace Treaty with North Vietnam ending official U.S. combat involvement that had, by that time, ended the lives of millions of Vietnamese and 58,000 U.S. military and over the past 45 years has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths from suicides, exploding ordnance and Agent Orange. No U.S. politician nor government employee has been held responsible for the carnage wrecked upon Vietnam, nor the lies which got the U.S. into the war -- not Presidents Kennedy, Johnson or Nixon, nor Secretary of Defense McNamara, nor Secretary of State Dean Rusk.
In Iraq, 15 years later, the country is still embroiled in chaos suffering from the results of the decision of the Bush administration to invade and occupy Iraq and overthrow the government of Saddam Hussein, imprison thousands of Iraqis who while in U.S. prisons formed alliances to fight the U.S. Sectarian differences were exacerbated by the U.S. and horrific sectarian violence was unleashed by the U.S. actions.
ISIS was formed to take advantage of the chaos the U.S. caused and tens of thousands more Iraqis and Syrians have died as a direct result of the rapid creation and expansion of the ISIS caliphate and the brutal attempts to stop it. No U.S. politician nor government employee has been held responsible for the carnage wrecked upon Iraq or Syria, nor the lies which got the U.S. into the war -- not Presidents Bush, Obama or Trump, nor Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, nor Secretary of State Powell.
Millions of Americans protested the war on Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. And millions of Americans protested the war on Iraq from 2002 to 2008.
Tens of thousands of U.S. military drafted into the war on Vietnam protested that war. And thousands of U.S. military who had volunteered to go into the military, protested the war on Iraq.
Today, at the War Legacy Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, our Veterans for Peace delegation attended the opening of the exhibition"Protest of the Vietnam War by U.S. Military" which was curated by associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies Ron Carver.
Several in our delegation are featured in the exhibition.
Keith Mather went AWOL from basic training and became part of the "Nine for Peace," a group of GIs who "resigned" from the military in August 1968 in opposition to the war on Vietnam. They were arrested and taken to the Presidio of San Francisco stockade and charged with refusing a direct order to wear the military uniform and desertion. On October 11, 1968, a fellow prisoner in the stockade, 20-year old Richard Bunch was shot and killed by a guard when he attempted to walk away from a work detail. 27 prisoners in the stockade non-violently demonstrated against the murder by sitting down and singing "We Shall Overcome." All were charged with mutiny. Keith was sentenced to four years in prison and a dishonorable discharge. On Christmas Eve, 1968, Keith escaped from the stockade and went to Canada where he remained for 12 years. In the 1980s he quietly came back to the U.S. and in 1984 he was arrested for desertion, spent four months in confinement and then discharged from the military in May 1985. He is one of the persons featured in the documentary film on GI resistance to the Vietnam war, "Sir! No Sir."