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The Other Costs of War: An Evening with Scott Ritter and Cole Miller

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Stephanie Miller mentioned on her radio show that she would be hosting an event at the Hayworth Theatre in Los Angeles Tuesday evening. With Stephanie there, it surely would be a lively event – but it was that and so much more. The real theme of the evening was the costs of the wars that go undiscussed, and the messengers had important tales to tell. Two true American heroes (in order of appearance)with a lot to teach us:

Cole Miller
The founder of No More Victims, Cole Miller did something many of us might dream of doing, might talk about doing, and certainly might (and, hopefully will) assist with financially: He got angry enough with the human destruction of war (the stuff our sanitized media rarely show), the damned ghastliness being committed in your name and mine; so angry that he created a charity to help, one by one, children who have been seriously injured, disfigured and maimed by our bombs, bullets, fire and assorted other horrors.

The filmed history of the injuries sustained by two such children could melt the iciest heart. Then a little boy – no different than yours or mine – who had an eye out blown out of his head, and was left stranded with burns so severe on his face that he couldn’t close his mouth, came on stage, having been brought by NMV to the United States, and having completed extensive reconstructive surgery. It is a cost of war that is America’s to bear.

I had the opportunity to talk with this child, who cheerfully chatted with his limited English vocabulary, and I felt it was particularly important that I did so, because…

You see, there’s something I haven’t discussed in my columns before, because it isn’t germane to the political and economic analyses I write: I was burned beyond recognition in an explosion a few years ago, and after spending two months in a coma, I was, over the course of five years, surgically reconstructed from head to toe. I have had over thirty operations on my face alone – and another fifty on the rest of me. It is brutally painful, astronomically expensive, and takes years to get to where you look or feel anywhere near normal again. The level of treatment I received should be available to innocent children burned by war waged by our government.

Cole Miller is a man who’s defined his purpose as taking responsibility for the damage wrought by his country against innocent children (no four-year-old is The Enemy!). The cost of his work must be underwritten by all of us.

Scott Ritter
Scott Ritter has spent years taking to any available podium to shout his truth-telling message about our radical warmongering government, and call them out on their lies. It’s really very simple: he knows where weapons of mass destruction are and are not. He tells the truth about weapons stockpiles, and he has the very best Intelligence on the matter. Time and again, he’s been derided and silenced in the media, suppressed by the government, and yet, time and again, vindicated in the end. The truth will out.

If he had political aspirations, his performance would be the most dynamic campaign stump in history – only he doesn’t have such goals; just doesn’t want it. But after years of public speaking, Ritter has morphed his lectures into what can best be described as a phenomenal non-fiction performance-art theatre piece; a monologist with punch. He tells his story with laser sharp clarity, and he’s both inspiring and introspective. His lengthy military service gave him a spine and a sense of honor that has clearly been tested time and again, and time and again, he took the path of conscience over professional expediency or party loyalty. At the same time, the military training gave him something I suspect he may not even be aware of.

Ritter’s body moves with the precision of a dancer choreographed by Fosse. Staccato movements animate his discussion, his every gesticulation punctuating each sentence in a way few public speakers can achieve, and he’s got messages to convey:

WE have abrogated our accountability as citizens. If the economy is collapsing because our government has shirked its regulatory duties, it is we who have allowed them to get away with it. We have to take responsibility for what sponsors we support, in what we invest, and the ramifications of where we choose to spend or not spend.

With his new book, Waging Peace, as a guide, he advocates the concept of War Prevention being injected into the national mindset in much the same vein as Fire Prevention (which, he points out, has its own month). As a former Marine, one who has seen and been a part of the most gruesome aspects of war (and graphically describes), he knows how truly mad war is – and his extraordinarily dramatic storytelling skills really work there. He hates war, and is a self-described conservative Republican with a Kucinich-like focus on peace. How refreshing is that? An ex-Marine who marvels at bird-watching, and uses it as a spot-on metaphor for how passive Americans get fed their news (mama bird “pukes” food into her chicks’ mouths, TV news does the same, regurgitating stories to the lazy viewer).

I asked why he mentioned being a conservative Republican seven times, and whether he saw a way for someone like him to change that party from within, as damaged as it is after being hijacked by neocon wars and trickle-up economics for so long. He answered that he’s an American before his party or political label. It really is braver, whether Democrat or Republican, to stand up to the politicians within your own party, demanding truth and accountability, standing against yet another war of aggression.

And his day job? He’s a fireman near Albany. Scott Ritter is saving lives, as he still lives with the scarring memory of the lives he took in combat. Cole Miller is helping to put lives back together.

If either of these heroes will be speaking in your town, go. Tell anyone you know to go, too. And tune in to Stephanie, because she’s doing us a life-saving service as well: keeping us laughing, and we need to laugh, too – now more than ever.

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Michael Fox is a writer and economist based in Los Angeles. He has been a corporate controller, professor, and small business entrepreneur. After a life-altering accident, he spent five years learning more about medicine and the healthcare (more...)
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