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."
Mike Wong also spent months in the Presidio of San Francisco stockade. He had refused orders to Vietnam and gone AWOL from the U.S. Army in 1969. He applied for a Limited Conscientious Objector status (objection to a specific war he felt was illegal and immoral, but not all wars), but when his application was rejected he deserted and went to Canada. He is also featured in the documentary film, "Sir! No Sir!"
Susan Schnall was an active-duty Navy nurse who treated U.S. military returning from Vietnam and hearing theirs stories. In 1969 she and two others hired a small aircraft and dropped anti-war leaflets over five military bases in the San Francisco Bay area. Then she wore her uniform and marched at the head of the GI and Veterans March for Peace on October 12, 1968 in San Francisco. She was tried and found guilty by general court martial for conduct unbecoming an officer and discharged from the military. She is a strong advocate on Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign and has led public health delegations to Vietnam.
JJ Johnson was one of the "Fort Hood 3," three soldiers of the US Army -- Private First Class James Johnson, Private David Samas, and Private Dennis Mora -- who refused to be deployed to Vietnam in 1966 and were planning on making a prepared joint statement during a press conference in New York City, but Johnson and Samas were arrested and Mora had to deliver the statement alone. They were court-martialed in September of 1966 and found guilty of insubordination. Samas and Johnson each received five years in prison at Fort Leavenworth. Mora received three years.
The three eventually brought the case to the Supreme Court as Mora v. McNamara (389U.S.934), claiming that the Vietnam War was illegal, among other things. The court refused to hear the case. The Army later reduced Samas' and Johnson's sentence to three years which they served.
Paul Cox said that "on April 15, 1970, the war suddenly became immoral for me when the point squad of my unit asked our Captain if there were any "friendlies" in the area. The Captain said "No this is a free fire zone" and the point squad murdered 15 women, infants and old people. With no negative response from the Captain or other officers, I could no longer pretend. When I returned stateside, I and some others began an underground newspaper.
Photos of Others in Veterans for Peace in the Exhibition
David Cline (RIP) was a combat infantryman in Vietnam, where he was wounded twice, receiving Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. Upon his return he became active in the GI antiwar movement, helping to publish the Fatigue Press which active duty GIs smuggled into Fort Hood, TX to build opposition to the war. He later became a national coordinator of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and president of Veterans For Peace.
Gerry Condon was a Special Forces medic and refused to go to Vietnam and instead went to Canada and then Sweden. He is holding at t-shirt that says "Veterans Peace Action Team-Wage Peace." He is the current president of Veterans for Peace.
Dennis Stout served with the 101st Airborne Division and attempted to report 14 war crimes including the torture and killing of innocent civilians and gang rape and received threats to his life.
David Cortright published a GI antiwar newspaper at Fort Bliss, Texas called The Gigline. He is the author of the book Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War, published initially in 1975 and republished in 2005. He was the executive director of SANE, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy from 1978 to 1989 and co-founded in 2002 the anti-war group "Win Without War." He is author of 20 books including Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas.
Michael Sutherland is one of the USS Intrepid 4 who deserted from the aircraft carrier when it was docked in Japan in 1967. He eventually went through the Soviet Union and ended up in Sweden where he married, raised a family and now has grandchildren there.
Steve Kinnaman was assigned with the U.S. Army in Thailand and decided to go to Laos where he lived and taught English for four years before going to Sweden. He too married and raised a family in Sweden and has lived there for over 50 years!!
Michael Uhl was in the US Army in Vietnam in 1968. After getting out of the Army, he spoke in 1970 at the War Crimes Tribunal in Stockholm, Sweden. The book he co-authored on the effects of Agent Orange on US military "GI Guinea Pigs" was put in the War Remnants Museum in 1994.
He helped organize the National Veterans Inquiry and the Winter Soldier Investigation. In 1970, Uhl joined Ed Murphy in exposing the Phoenix Program, testified at the International Enquiry on US War Crimes in Stockholm, Sweden, and in 1971, he was called to testify before a US Congressional subcommittee investigating the CIA's Phoenix assassination program in Vietnam. Also in 1971 he toured Australia and New Zealand as a representative of the US anti-Vietnam War movement. That same year he co-founded The Safe Return Amnesty Committee advocating for a universal amnesty on behalf of Vietnam era military deserters. Safe Return was a predecessor of Citizen Soldier, which he also co-founded, and, until 1981, served as co-director, working on a wide range of campaigns advocating for GI and veteran rights. He co-authored the first book length treatment on the health effects of chemical herbicides (Agent Orange) on U.S. veterans of the Vietnam War.
He is a Charter Member of Veterans for Peace founded in Maine in 1985.
Other members of our Veterans for Peace delegation were active in the GI coffee houses around the U.S.
Skip Delano was in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and upon his return to the United States in 1969, worked for the next three years with a group of soldiers named GIs and WACs Against the War that began publishing a GI antiwar newspaper L eft Face.
Judy Olasov worked with "UFO" GI coffeehouse Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the "Mad Anthony's Headquarters" GI coffeehouse at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and the "Shelter Half" GI coffeehouse at Fort Lewis/McChord Air Base, Washington.
Bonnie Willdorf and her husband Barry Willdorf went to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA and worked in the Movement for a Democratic Military (MDM) project, with the newspaper Up Against the Bulkhead and with the USS Coral Sea SOS Movement. She was the founder and first executive director of the Bay Area Military Law Panel at the National Lawyers Guild.
David Zeiger is the producer, director and author of Sir! No Sir! a 2005 widely acclaimed documentary about the anti-war movement within the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.
Chuck Searcy was an intelligence analyst in Viet Nam. He returned to Vietnam 20 years ago to help victims of Agent Orange and Exploding ordnance and has lived in Vietnam ever since. He started Veterans for Peace chapter 160 for veterans who live in Vietnam and is the coordinator of VFP's trips to Vietnam.
It was a great honor to be with all of these people who challenged the American war on Viet Nan on the anniversary of the day that I resigned in opposition to another of America's war on a country that had not attacked the United States.
Fifteen years after my 2003 resignation from the U.S. Diplomatic Corps in opposition to the war on Iraq, the U.S. is still at war in seven countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Niger and Mali) and is threatening war in North Korea and Iran.
I am honored to have joined Americans who for decades have challenged successive U.S. governments that have thought the United States is an exceptional country and therefore can do what it wants to other countries -- invade, occupy and destroy them. I will continue to challenge the war-mongering mentality of many of our politicians and their propensity to lie to the American public on the dangers in the world that "require" the U.S. to wage war.