This morning as I read Chris Hedge's "Truthdig" article, "The People's Bishop", May 7, 2012, an account of the interview he held with retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard, I was struck not only with what Packard related to Hedges but the affect it had on me (a little later on that).
Packard was arrested along with 15 others on May 1 during an "occupy" protest at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza in New York City. He had also been arrested in December in another "occupy" protest on the grounds of the vacant property owned by Trinity Church where the OWS wanted to encamp after being dislodged at Zuccotti Park.
His protests and subsequent arrests were acts of conscience which Hedges accurately identifies. But it was Packard's earlier life experience as a platoon commander in Viet Nam in 1969, as he related it to Hedges, leading nighttime ambushes against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers at the height of that war, and the affect of those ambushes that still haunts him to this day; that had the greatest impact on this reader.
Reading about the brutalizing and unforgiving nature of the killing during the ambushes and given his later haunting memories, what occurred in my mind was this unforgiving thought; those who authorize our unnecessary wars and who put our military in harm's way unnecessarily, are unforgiveable.
There is just no getting around it; putting our people in harm's way unnecessarily, is unforgiveable. Though a soldiers' act of brutal killing and maiming may be mostly legal in war, such acts are equally brutalizing and shattering to those who commit them.
Today, most of our leaders, whether it's presidents, senators or congressmen have never directly experienced war. They were deferred in the time of the military draft or maybe served in the National Guard and never saw action.
Those who came of age after the draft was eliminated and a new all volunteer army was put in its place after the end of the Viet Nam War, hardly ever enlisted themselves.
So we have people in positions of power authorizing our wars and putting our people in harm's way in conditions they never experienced personally and have no direct connection to the killing and brutalizing they are authorizing.
Unlike Presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy, who experienced war directly, of our recent presidents only Carter, a nuclear sub commander during the cold war and Bush Sr., a bomber pilot in W.W.II, were in the active military.
Our last three presidents were either never in the military (Clinton and Obama) or were in the Air National Guard (Bush Jr.) and he never left stateside.
From here this lack of direct military engagement in war contributes to a cavalier and callous disregard of the brutalizing nature of war and makes it easier for our current leaders to authorize and commit others to fight these unnecessary wars ( to say nothing of the Congress that has abrogated its responsibility and just goes along with the president).
Packard's account of his war experience, as he related it to Hedge's, is riveting and should be required reading especially for those who have never been to war and have no direct connection to it.
It's why I have the utmost respect for Packard and those who have experienced the horror of war and are in the forefront putting their selves on the line in protesting against it.