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Seeking Truth About Vietnam, Eugene Weekly Article | September 14, 2017

Seeking Truth About Vietnam
Eugene Weekly Article | September 14, 2017
By John Henry, Mike Kimball, Michael Peterson, Michael Carrigan, Guy Maynard and Carol Van Houten

Beginning Sunday, Sept. 17, PBS will present a 10-episode, 18-hour documentary, The Vietnam War, by noted filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

Coming 50 years after a pivotal year of escalation of both the war and the anti-war movement, the filmmakers say they hope the documentary will serve as a catalyst for long overdue reconciliation and healing of the deep divisions that war created among Americans.
“The seeds of disunion we experience today, the polarization, the lack of civil discourse, all had their seeds in Vietnam,” Burns told the New York Times.

The U.S. war in Vietnam has indeed left deep wounds, most dramatically among those who answered their country’s call – or in many cases, obeyed their country’s orders – to serve.
But many at home were also deeply affected, including family and friends of soldiers, as well as millions of Americans whose lives were forever changed by their fervent opposition to a war they believed to be unjust, immoral and contrary to our country’s best interests.

And, as Burns suggests, our national sense of self was fractured: How do we go forward as a nation responsible for the devastation of a country (three million dead, environmental destruction) from a war that many of us believed to be wrong, and that we ultimately lost?
Healing and reconciliation are noble and desirable ends. But ask any mental health expert, and they will tell you that no real healing can take place until there is acknowledgment of the underlying causes – that reconciliation cannot happen without some common understanding of the truth of the circumstances that led to the division.

Burns and Novick, in a New York Times op-ed, indicate that the film may avoid some of the most difficult truths about the war in Vietnam: “Many questions remain unanswerable. But if, with open minds and open hearts, we can consider this complex event from many perspectives and recognize more than one truth, perhaps we can stop fighting over how the war should be remembered and focus instead on what it can teach us about courage, patriotism, resilience, forgiveness and, ultimately, reconciliation.”

“More than one truth” sounds dangerously close to “alternate facts.” Certainly, the war was a complex historical phenomenon, and those who experienced it can bring many distinct perspectives to its discussion. The film can serve a valuable purpose by exploring that complexity and showing us those perspectives. But the ultimate objective of studying history should be to get at historical facts – the truth – so we can learn from them.

Americans have had trouble learning from the Vietnam experience for at least two significant reasons.
One, much of what has been established as historical facts shows a sinister U.S. role in the creation and manipulation of a repressive south Vietnamese state, which challenges the notion of American exceptionalism – that we are always on the side of the “good.”

Second is the largely successful proliferation of the cynically false notion that to acknowledge our fault in Vietnam is to challenge the bravery and sacrifice of the American men and women who served there.

That notion gives cover to all wars. All soldiers sacrifice, but war is a matter of policy that should always be questioned – because expecting that sacrifice for an unjust and unwinnable war is unconscionable.

So we encourage people to watch the Burns-Novick film. Watch with friends, with family, with neighbors or at community gatherings. Folks who lived through that era should watch it with younger people who only know it as history.

Watch it critically. Follow up with other sources. Use it as a basis of discussion. As you watch, think of these questions, based on a list developed by Veterans for Peace:
* What was the U.S. motive?
* What was the motive of the Vietnamese enemy?
* Did the U.S. mistakenly stumble into the war or was it part of a conscious strategy?
* Were U.S. intentions honorable?
* Who was most responsible for the suffering of the civilian population?
* What were the motives of the anti-war movement and was it effective?
* Why did the U.S. lose?
* What are the basic lessons of the war?
* Does the film tackle the hard lessons?
* How do the divisions created by the Vietnam War express themselves today?
* Is there a path to healing and reconciliation? How do we get there?

Let’s take this an opportunity to honestly face this difficult history, so we can stop repeating it.
John Henry, Mike Kimball and Michael Peterson are Vietnam veterans and members of Chapter 159 of Veterans for Peace; Michael Carrigan, Guy Maynard and Carol Van Houten are members of Community Alliance of Lane County.

Wyden Votes to Repeal 15-Year-Old War Authorizations

Following is a press release just sent out by Senator Wyden today, Sept.13.
We appreciate that he remembers that issues of war and peace are still important to Oregonians

Michael C

Wyden Votes to Repeal 15-Year-Old War Authorizations

Calls for New, Targeted Authority to Go After ISIS and Terrorist Groups

Washington, D.C. –Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today voted in support of an amendment by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to repeal the war authorizations for Iraq and Afghanistan. Wyden supports passage of a new, targeted authority to go after ISIS and other terrorist groups abroad.

“Relying on 15-year-old laws to go after today’s threats isn’t acceptable. By abdicating its responsibility, Congress is enabling the creeping, unchecked expansion of presidential power to wage war around the world. It’s long past time to repeal these outdated authorities and replace them with a new, targeted authority to go after ISIS and other terrorist groups that pose very real threats to American interests.”

Wyden has consistently opposed endless overseas wars, and use of military force without clearly defined goals. He voted against the original Iraq War resolution in 2002, and has repeatedly called for redeployment of combat troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Federal Budget: Crisis and Opportunity


Along strict party lines, in April 2015 Congress adopted a budget resolution that announced a ten-year plan to dismantle all federal programs that benefit the 99%: the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, Medicaid, Food Stamps, subsidized housing, aid for college attendance, and many more, including Medicare itself. It also calls for big tax breaks for the rich, such as abolishing the estate tax, and sustaining a high level of spending for war and preparation for war.

Join us March 12th as we learn about how we can seize this opportunity to build a progressive majority in Oregon. Read more and sign up


In case you missed “Veterans’ Voices” in the Eugene Weekly

Have you seen CALC’s supplement in the Eugene Weekly yet?

On November 12th, in partnership with Veterans for Peace, we published an eight-page supplement in the Eugene Weekly (which reaches about 40,000 readers) called Veterans’ Voices. We wanted to show that veterans are a powerful part of the effort to challenge war as an instrument of foreign policy. We solicited submissions from veterans of different eras and received amazing and deeply moving material. People wrote from places of deep pain and shared memories that, in some cases, had been long buried.

See the Veterans’ Voices insert now

Good-Bye Peg – We’ll Miss You.

By Michael Carrigan.

10262196_10205522222350761_7484424827156724048_nMy dear friend, fellow activist, and mentor Peg Morton passed away on Saturday, after a full and inspiring 85 years.

She was an activist extraordinaire. She devoted her life to many causes but I know Peg best through working together on the Hiroshima Day Commemoration, as part of Taxes for Peace Not War and by supporting her Latin America solidarity work. She was a generous and stalwart CALC supporter and she always had my back.

Check out last Mondays’ Register Guard article for more details about her extraordinary life. In addition, you can read and hear the sweet interview Rachael McDonald had with Peg two weeks before her passing. Finally, see the article on Peg in the Eugene Weekly.

A website has been set up for folks to memorialize her life and work.

Peg was a driven activist but she knew how to have fun. She loved to sing and she loved to party. We spent time camping together at Scott Lake and drinking beer with one another at Sam Bonds. I loved watching her perform in the Raging Grannies.

Of course, Peg was also a devoted mother and grandma. She was the complete package.

You can find out more about Peg by reading her autobiography. We have copies of her book at CALC. The office is open Wednesday the 23rd, but is closed Christmas Eve through New Years day. The book is also available at Tsunami Books.

Peg chose to end her life on her terms. Scott Miksch of LASC put it beautifully when he said about Peg: “She made the ultimate personal sacrifice. By ending her life, Peg has freely given up the resources that could have been used to keep her alive longer than she felt was justified, or just. Now those resources can be put to what she decided was a better use: to make a better world.”

I will miss Peg. She will remain in my heart forever and will continue to inspire me to work for peace and justice.

Peg Morton: ¡PRESENTE!

Michael Carrigan

Update 1/21/15: See photos from Peg Morton’s celebration of life here.


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