First Do No Harm








The War is Ended  

I grew up in the budding prosperity of the fifties when so many lives seemed to have been designed by Horatio Alger; when anyone could still grow up to be president, as long as he was male. The only limit was your imagination. Poverty seemed to be something foreign. The middle class burgeoned as everyone became the Jones that everyone else was keeping up with.

By the time I could walk and make primitive sentences, the war in Korea had ended. It had been a dirty little war that didn’t bring out the flag waving, so I was told, that the “big one” had. Veterans of the Korean conflict blended back into society, their service quickly forgotten.

I remember neighbors building bomb shelters. From what I knew of nuclear warfare, it didn’t seem worth surviving. My only prayer was that the initial blast would kill us all and we wouldn’t have to sit around dying horribly from the nuclear fallout.

The enemy was communism. Catholic school sent us home with propaganda, depicting graphic executions that to this day I cannot get out of my head. For high school I attended a Catholic military academy that kept up the propaganda, showing 16 millimeter films of even more executions. It was there that I learned that a bullet placed squarely into the head of a human being can make that head explode. In my mind, the flashing images replayed over and over.

In Military classes, we watched films of military advisors in a far away country training soldiers to shoot small arms, use mortars, and fire heavy artillery. The country was populated by small brownish people with slanted eyes. The enemy was communism.

I was not a good student. I was a rebel, a maverick. Tell me to do this, and I’ll go do that. Tell me not to do that, and I’ll do it two times. Possibly three.

I was not going to college. No college would have me. Since the draft was on, I knew exactly where I was going, so I made the decision to go there on my own terms.

I was excited. All my life I’d wanted to be John Wayne. I had been bottle fed on war movies and the thought of dying bravely and proudly for my country had been seeded in my head since early childhood. Television made good patriots.

So I served. It’s as if the job chose me, because I was of the breed who took risks, hardly followed the rules, and at the end of the day, the job was done and done better than expected. I flew Cobras. Even today, when old vets I’ve flown with meet me, they always shake their heads and smile. I was a rebel, a maverick. When I finished my tour, I was tossed out of the army on my ear. There is no room for mavericks in a peacetime army.

It wasn’t till years later when I read the history of Vietnam and of Ho Chi Minh that I had learned that communism was not really the enemy; that my country had lied to me.

The more I read the more I became impressed with Ho Chi Minh. He had asked America to help him establish a free Vietnam; free of foreign oppression so that they could have what we all have in America and what every country deserves: self rule.

I’d read his Declaration of Independence; it had been lifted right out of Jefferson’s Declaration. The only reason he’d formed an alliance with the communists was that we’d rejected him, but the communists did not, and they extracted a heavy price for their assistance.

That was when I became political. I loved my country and not just the fields, the mountains, the deserts, and the forests; not just the melting pot of nationalities and shining faces of kids playing street-ball, but the ideas of America. I loved the moral and ethical America that promised freedom and liberty to all, beckoning across oceans, “Give us your tired, your hungry, your poor, your enslaved masses.” That was the America I loved and it was that America I was politically determined to foster and support.

I was no longer naïve. War does that to people. So does a liberal education. I knew that if I looked into the closets of America I’d find acts of genocide, plunder, and violence. But one cannot fix the past. We can fix only the future, and that starts by rethinking the NOW.

Well, I’m here to tell you, I failed. Yeah, I was political; I showed up at caucuses, I worked for candidates, I argued the big issues, but I got distracted and at some point in time I decided I needed a bigger piece of the pie. My goals shifted, and I got rich. While I got rich, the country fell ill. I didn’t notice it at first; I was too busy making and spending money.

I tried to become political again, but the forces of opposition were just too powerful. Corporations that were once under the control of congress were now in charge of congress. What had happened to voting reform, ethics, and justice I had no idea. It had all just vanished.

And now, it seems we’re quagmired in an endless war with terrorism.

However, it is my sad duty to inform the American people that the war is ended. It is my sad duty to inform you that we’ve lost the war. The terrorists have won.

You see, the goal of the terrorists was not to kill us all, but to destroy America. Sadly, the America I and many of you grew up in is gone, finished, destroyed. The terrorists have won.

When the government, in the name of progress, turns our wetlands, our wildlife, our national treasures over to corporate profiteers, the terrorists have won. 

When the government concerns itself with only the wealthiest 2%, and neglects the poor, the children, the ill, and the average worker, the terrorists have won.

When we allow our government to bankrupt the nation while pandering to the wealthy, the terrorists have won.

When we ignore our veterans, slash their budgets, and give those funds back the wealthy in tax breaks, the terrorists have won.

When an attorney general can twist international law and argue that torture by our military and corporate mercenaries is legal and just, the terrorists have won.

When an attorney general can dismantle the Constitution, crushing our basic civil rights while calling it the PATRIOT ACT, the terrorists have won.

When an American citizen, of any color, can be arrested in secret, deprived of his Fifth Amendment rights, and jailed for an indeterminate time with no formal charges, the terrorists have won.

When we start rounding up Muslims just because they are Muslim, the terrorists have won.

When facts can be twisted in a lascivious run up to war, and a CIA agent responsible for tracking weapons of mass destruction is outed in a political dirty trick that was initiated in the White House, the terrorists have won.

When evidence of twisted facts and cherry picked intelligence comes forward in the form of so many smoking guns while the perpetrators ignore them and the overseeing bodies follow in suit, the terrorists have won.

When we start a preemptive war for reasons that continually change, the terrorists have won.

When everything we know about the humane treatment of prisoners is trashed and discarded, with human beings “renditioned” to countries where they can be tortured by proxy, the terrorists have won.

When our soldiers are trained to violate conventions that had once established our country as the moral authority, the terrorists have won.

When our president uses double speak, directly out of Orwell’s 1984, such as, “When I say war, I mean peace,” the terrorists have won.

When our president tells us that nothing has changed, that wiretapping requires a court order, and then it is discovered that he’s been wiretapping without court orders, the terrorists have won.

When the president claims that the old law just didn’t allow him to “protect” us from the terrorists, thus admitting he’s broken the law, and congress refuses do its job, investigate and oversee the actions of the executive branch, the terrorists have won.

Jefferson tell us: "When a question arises, whether any particular law or appointment is still in force, we are to examine, not whether it was pronounced by the ancient or present organ, but whether it has been at any time revoked by the authority of the nation….” When his words ring hollow and the rule of law means nothing, the terrorists have won.

When Jefferson has told us that “Public opinion [is the] lord of the universe,” and that it is “the people, to whom all authority belongs,” and then the current president steps up to a microphone and states, “You can't let the public opinion polls and focus groups ... cause you to abandon what you believe,” the terrorists have won.

When congress allows corporations to oversee the laws that are supposed to oversee corporations, the terrorists have won.

When congress treats corporations better than it treats the electorate, the terrorists have won.

When elected officials turn their backs on the will of the people, the terrorists have won.

When congress proposes a bill that will prosecute reporters who write about government surveillance, the terrorists have won.

When congress proposes legislation that would make it illegal for anyone to disclose illegal eavesdropping by the Bush administration, the terrorists have won.

When we give up our rights and freedoms and ignore the rule of law and everything that has made this nation great, the terrorists have not only won, but every American has lost. We’ve lost our country, we’ve lost our liberty, and we’ve lost all that once made America a beacon of light to the rest of the world.

The terrorists have won and they will continue to win, as long as they are in the White House and in congress.




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