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Veterans for Peace Banned From Duluth’s Memorial Day Parade

Duty to Warn
Local Vets for Peace Chapter is Banned From Duluth’s Memorial Day Parade

By Gary G. Kohls, MD
May 21, 2014

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”-- Dwight D. Eisenhower

For the first time in recent memory, the Duluth-area Vets for Peace Chapter 80 float has been banned from participating in Duluth’s Memorial Day parade.

The Northland Veterans Services Committee, which is the organizing committee that is planning this year’s Memorial Day parade has informed the local chapter of Vets for Peace that it will not be allowed to participate. The decision was recently announced over the phone to VFP Chapter 80 president Phil Anderson. The person on the phone simply said that the planning committee "didn't like us or our group”.

Chapter 80 has had a float in the Duluth parade each Memorial Day for a number of years and it has been in many other summer event parades across the northland. The float has always been well received by parade watchers, and it and its clear peace messages often garner applause as it passes by. The theme of this year’s float is "Honor the Fallen, Heal the Wounded, Work for Peace". In past years, the float highlighted the unaffordable, high cost of war, and gave specific information of the exact monetary costs for each of the communities that were hosting the parade.

The episode reminded me of why I lost interest in attending Memorial Day and Armistice Day (now re-labelled Veteran’s Day) events and parades a long time ago.

Whatever happened to the noble sentiment from US militarists: “I may disagree with what peacemakers say about war, but I will fight to the death defending their right to say it?”
I lost interest, and some of my patriotism, when I started thinking for myself as an open-minded adolescent living in a small rural Minnesota town. Every time I went to one of those patriotic events, I sensed hypocrisy, self-delusion or ulterior motives. For one thing, I noticed that most of the Christian clergymen who prayed the prayers and recited the benedictions and invocations seemed to be pro-war – an attitude that directly contradicted Jesus’s teachings that prohibited, for his followers, the participation in homicidal violence.

I also noted that the very forgettable speeches usually were given by some pot-bellied retired career military officer who came from who knows where, obviously having been assigned to Sacred Heart, Minnesota’s event. That officer was usually vehemently pro-war but never seemed to mention the downsides of militarism, the enormous economic and psychological costs, or the folly of the wars that paid his salary and guaranteed his comfortable retirement. I also was never very impressed with the uniforms that they wore either.

My gentle, non-punitive, non-alcoholic father had been too young to be in WWI and was too old to have been in WWII – and that made a big difference in my life. My equally gentle, non-punitive, non-alcoholic mother told me clearly that being engaged in any of the killing professions was something to be avoided if possible and that wars were events too horrific to be celebrated.

In my growing–up years most of the war veterans that I was aware of in my hometown were sad, sullen alcoholics who never attended church. And some of them were known abusers of their children and wives and, in general, very scary people that were best avoided. Nobody I knew seemed to truly understand those troubled World War II veterans, especially why they drank too much or isolated themselves..

Do combat veterans need hero-worship or do they need compassion and understanding?
It was only later, after coming in contact with psychologically traumatized combat veterans in my medical practice, that I started to understand what was going on. It was then that I began sensing that what these spiritually, mentally and physically traumatized combat veterans needed and deserved was my understanding of and compassion for their victimization (by forces beyond their control) and that rather than hero-worshipping them or “honoring” their “sacrifices”, they actually deserved our concern, compassion, and understanding (and perhaps our pity?) about their war-related mental, spiritual and physical disabilities.

None of the combat veterans (mostly Vietnam War vets) with which I have come in contact during my lifetime ever thought of themselves as heroes worthy of being “thanked for your service”. In my experience, a lot of these vets have exhaustively and compulsively pondered – and then felt guilty about - why they had physically survived while some of their buddies never made it back home – and they gradually came to realize that they had fought and died in vain.

I have also become aware of the multitude of soldier-perpetrated atrocities, rapes, thefts, drug abuse and the killings of innocent, unarmed civilians that happen in all warzones. Mob rule and unconditional obedience to authority is the norm in war. Therefore I can’t in good conscience offer carte blanche thanks for every ex-soldier who comes back.

All Wars Are Banker’s Wars
But I knew that compassion and regret (rather than blanket hero worship, honor and respect) were the more appropriate automatic responses to the reality that many of the permanently war-damaged souls had been duped into joining up, thus becoming cannon fodder for the bankers, predatory lenders, war industry investors and other corporate war profiteers that start wars and then keep them going until the money stops flowing.

American wars over the past century have actually been fought to make the world safe for capitalism and capitalists – and not ”to make the world safe for democracy”. (Yes, Virginia, there might have been a few aspects about America’s participation in WWII that were the exceptions to the rule that says that “all wars are banker’s wars”, but it is important to realize that central bankers [like all conscienceless, amoral corporations that continuously search for maximum profits] facilitate wars from the safety of sterile boardrooms – eager to exploit the [voluntary] need for a nation to borrow huge sums of money before going to war and the [involuntary] predatory lending that inevitably happens after the wars are over and the destroyed nations need to be rebuilt.) (For the documentation of that profitable “blow it up; build it up” assertion watch “All Wars Are Banker’s Wars” at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hfEBupAeo4.

Veterans for Peace – a brief history
Veterans for Peace – Chapter 1 - was first organized in Maine back in 1985. The movement now has over 150 chapters. VFP is currently made up of US military veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the two Gulf Wars and other conflicts, as well as peacetime veterans and non-veterans. The group works to promote alternatives to war. Military veterans in other nations who have seen the futility of war and the corruption in their militaries have often been inspired by Vets for Peace to organize and form similar organizations in their own countries.

The organization has justifiably opposed the post-1985 military policies of the United States, NATO and Israel, and has opposed military actions and threats to Russia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Libya and Syria.

In 1990, Vets for Peace qualified as an official United Nation’s non-governmental organization with a permanent, non-voting position in the U. N. General Assembly.

VFP’s stated objective is: “We draw on our personal experiences and perspectives gained as veterans to raise public awareness of the true costs and consequences of militarism and war - and to seek peaceful, effective alternatives.”

Vets for Peace members still recall the oath that they took upon enlisting in the military. That oath said, in part, that “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Vets for Peace members have come to understand that aggressive, exploitive militarism, the killing of innocent civilians and imperialism is not constitutional but rather meets the definition of international war crimes and crimes against humanity as expressed in the Nuremberg Principles. They also see that the perpetrators of American wars often meet the definition of domestic enemies of the state. Therefore, out of good conscience they must speak out, argue with their government and resist it when necessary.

VFP members resonate with 5-Star General and US President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he said: “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” Of course, Ike also said: “Dollars and guns are no substitutes for brains…”

ENDS

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