Camillo Mac Bica, Ph.D. Philosopher, Author, Activist
Peace Vet Blog
Don't Thank Me For My Service
I do not want to appear disrespectful or ungrateful, but should we meet on the street one day, do say "Hello," or "Fine day" or other such nicety, but please do not thank me for "my service" as a United States Marine. I make this request because my service, as you refer to it, was basically, either to train to become a killer or to actually kill people and blow shit up.
Now, that is not something for which a person should be proud nor thanked. In fact, it is regrettable, and for me a source of guilt and shame, something I will have to live with for the rest of my life, as the past cannot ever be undone. So, when you thank me for my service, it disturbs me ... a lot. First off, it brings to mind my wasted youth and lost innocence, and the horrible and unnecessary deaths of good friends and comrades. Second, it reminds me of my responsibility and culpability for the pain and suffering I caused innocent people, again something I would rather forget, but cannot. Third, it reinforces my belief that you have absolutely no idea about the nature and reality of the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, because if you did, you would understand that thanks are inappropriate. Fourth, it reminds me that many of those who feel the need to offer thanks were apathetic about - or even supportive of - the war, while they refuse to participate themselves or did little or nothing to end it. And lastly, I have to admit that I doubt the sincerity of these expressions of supposed gratitude, as "Thank you for your service" is just something to say not because you care about what I did or sacrificed, but only to demonstrate your supposed good character, or patriotism and/or "support" for members of the military and veterans. Read on.
Don't Thank Me For My Service Redux
A number of years ago, I wrote an article published at Truthout in which I asked not to be thanked for my "service" as a United States Marine Corps Officer during the war in Vietnam. Clearly the article hit a nerve for both veterans and civilians. According to Truthout statistics, it has been shared over 2,700 times, and received 51,000 "likes." While "dislikes" are not registered, judging by the feedback I received, I imagine that number to be significant as well.
I was motivated to write "Don't Thank Me for My Service" for a number of reasons: First, I hoped to offer a sincere personal reflection of the Vietnam War experience to complement the mythology, lies and misinformation that has become so pervasive over the years, the latest being a 13-year Congressionally mandated "Commemoration" - probably "celebration" is more accurate - of the war's 50th anniversary. I made no pretense in the article to be speaking for anyone other than myself.
Second, I attempted to express the profound and lasting impact the war had upon me, and so many others, who suffer from PTSD and moral injury - guilt, remorse, and shame for our involvement.
Third, I hoped to draw attention to the plight of veterans whose needs continue to be ignored - 23 veterans commit suicide each day - by a society that believes mouthing meaningless assertions of thanks and appreciation satisfies their obligation to the nation and to those who fight their country's wars. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the article expressed my acceptance of personal responsibility and culpability, as part of an errant American military machine, for the deaths of over 2 million Vietnamese people, many of them civilians, and the destruction of the Vietnamese countryside by Agent Orange, pink, purple, and green dioxin poisoning that continues to have disastrous environmental and human effects - horrendous birth defects suffered by Vietnamese children born long after the war had ended. Read More.
The Sacrilege of War (Memorial Day 2014)
I am anti war. I know of no war worth the cost in human suffering and lives. Yet I acknowledge and respect the sacrifices and selflessness of those who were mislead and conditioned to kill and to die in America’s wars for wealth and hegemony. I see no contradiction in that. Consequently, I will not avail myself of the many Memorial Day sales at the mall and I will not support the exploitation and commercialization of the memory of the fallen to enhance consumerism and profit. Nor will I have or attend a barbecue or party as anyone who believes that celebration is appropriate on this weekend misunderstands and/or misrepresents the meaning of MEMORIAL Day. Nor will I attend or march in a parade as parades accomplish nothing save to allow those who make or ignore war to feign support and appreciation for their victims and to relieve their collective guilt for crimes against humanity. Marching in a parade honors no one nor does it educate or inform about the realities of war. Rather it perpetuates the mythology of honor and glory and “The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.”
Commemorating the Vietnam War: One Marine's Perspective
March 29 has been designated "Vietnam Veterans Day,” according to a proclamation issued by President Obama in 2012. The Vietnam War, according to the proclamation, "is a story of patriots who braved the line of fire, who cast themselves into harm's way to save a friend, who fought hour after hour, day after day to preserve the liberties we hold dear." Now I have no problem acknowledging the debt owed to all whose lives were affected by this war, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians and Americans alike. What I find intolerable, even disgraceful, however, is that even 50 years later, our leaders are incapable of telling the truth about the war and choose rather to perpetuate the lie that these "sacrifices," at least those of the Americans, were "to preserve the liberties we hold dear." Such rhetoric - although perhaps inspiring to some - hinders reconciliation, dishonors the veteran, and damages the moral integrity of this nation.
As we embark upon a congressionally mandated 13-year-long commemoration, probably "celebration" would be more accurate, of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, I feel a responsibility, as a veteran of that war, to contribute a perspective I fear will be ignored willfully at the official commemoration web site. I am certain that there are as many perspectives as there are individuals who served, observed, protested against and supported that very divisive war. Consequently, I offer no guarantee that my observations, interpretations and conclusions about the war are definitive, or better than those of someone with a profoundly different recollection and analysis.
What I offer in this essay, then, is my personal narrative and a perspective on the Vietnam War by a former Marine Corps officer, Vietnam veteran and philosopher who has spent many years studying the theory of war, diverse historical accounts of the Vietnam war and, perhaps more to the point, contemplating a life profoundly impacted by the experience. My hope is to tell the truth as I see it and offer an analysis of the war that counters what I fear is the goal and purpose of this proclamation and commemoration. That is, to continue to perpetuate, if not ratchet up, the lie of 50 years ago and the mythological portrayal of the Vietnam War as justifiable, necessary and in the national interest. Read more.
Recently, I was invited by Professor Susan Schnall to address her class at New York University studying what is referred to as the "Vietnam War" by Americans and the "American War" by the Vietnamese (I guess nomenclature is a matter of perspective). Also to speak was Le Hoai Trung, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam's ambassador to the United Nations. My credentials warranting the invitation were, I guess, twofold. First, by an accident of nature, I was born during a time of paranoia and frenzy in a nation that feared Communist ideology as an existential threat and saw Vietnam as the domino that must at all cost remain standing. Second, being a child of immigrants dutifully instilled with an appreciation and love of our new homeland, I embraced a patriotism as exemplified by John Wayne, heeded John F. Kennedy's admonition to ask not what my country can do for me, and decided that what I could do for my country was to enlist in the military and fight the Communist hordes there in Vietnam rather than here on the streets of San Francisco.
He was born in the city of Hanoi and came of age at a time when American aircraft routinely sought to free the Vietnamese people from Communist domination by bombing what was then termed "North Vietnam" back into the Stone Age.
The ambassador's credentials, as I saw it, were also twofold. First, by a similar accident of nature, he was born in the city of Hanoi and came of age at a time when American aircraft routinely sought to free the Vietnamese people from Communist domination by bombing what was then termed "North Vietnam" back into the Stone Age. Secondly, despite having endured the horror of America's unsuccessful attempts at liberation and its aftermath of economic sanctions and embargo, the ambassador completed his Ph.D. law degree and assumed a variety of political positions within the government of a unified Vietnam. Read more.
Does Protest Embolden the Iraqi Insurgence?
Recently, as I braved the cold and wet weather demonstrating for an end to the occupation of Iraq, I was vociferously assailed by a rather annoyed passer-by who proclaimed his patriotism by accusing me of “emboldening” the enemy. He explained that “my kind” refuse to understand what is apparent to all true patriots. That is, by protesting against the war, I was giving hope and encouragement (aid and comfort) to the insurgents thereby prolonging the conflict, threatening America’s ability to achieve victory, demoralizing the troops, and, perhaps, most tragic, increasing the number of casualties on both sides.
I have heard such rhetoric before, so I responded as I always have, that such accusations are unfounded, just another in a long series of deceitful practices intended to suppress dissent and opposition to our leaders’ illegal and immoral warist agenda. My interlocutor, however, was not unprepared for my response and referenced a study by “Harvard University scholars” that provided empirical evidence and scientific credibility for his accusations.
Though skeptical, upon researching his claim, I discovered, to my surprise, that there was in fact such a study, the National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 13839 entitled Is There an “Emboldenment” Effect? Evidence from the Insurgency in Iraq, by Harvard University scholars Radha Iyengar and Jonathan Monten. Upon seeing how many media outlets and bloggers were reporting the findings, I thought it interesting, though perhaps, not surprising, that a yet unpublished (at this writing) working paper by rather obscure researchers had excited so much attention and interest. Read more.
Talking With the Christ
The Christ spoke with me last night. I call him that rather than the more familiar “Jesus” because I think it fair to say that we are not on a first name basis. I guess you can imagine my surprise, then, when of all the people in the world he could have spoken to – clergy members, political leaders, Fox “news” commentators, etc. – he chose me.
After all, judging by what I see around me, I am not by any stretch of the imagination what many, perhaps even most, would deem a good Christian, or even remotely religious as commonly understood. But who am I to question the will of the son of god? Maybe he just needed to rant a bit, I thought, to blow off steam.
I can certainly understand his frustration given the state of the world and the way his teachings have been ignored, misinterpreted, and exploited by those who claim to be his followers. Or maybe he just wanted to talk with someone he could trust to just listen and not distort his words for their advantage or to the disadvantage of other human beings. Read more.
Refocusing Anti Drone Activism
I am idealist enough to admire pacifism. But I'm enough of a realist to believe that if and when the criteria of Just War Theory (JWT) are satisfied and International Law adhered to, war may be necessary, unavoidable, just and moral. I recognize as well, and regret, the brutality that war entails, but I begrudgingly accept that in a just and moral war (one in which JWT's jus ad bellum criteria have been satisfied and international law adhered to), the use of weaponry to destroy property and to kill and injure human beings can be just and moral as well (again if and only if the JWT's jus in bello criteria are satisfied and international law adhered to). In this article, I will consider whether one particular weapons system, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as drones, can satisfy these necessary criteria.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
The UAV initially was developed as a surveillance platform with limited weapons capabilities (the MQ-1B "Predator"). As its effectiveness in seeking out and destroying "targets" became apparent, it quickly evolved into a hunter-killer UAV with surveillance capabilities (MQ-9 "Reaper"). Deserving or not, drones have become symbolic of the "Global War on Terror."
To be precise, and this is important, even the Reaper drone is not a weapon, but a weapons platform for 16 Hellfire missiles or a mixture of various ordnance types, in much the same way that submarines and naval surface vessels are weapons platforms for Tomahawk missiles or other cruise missiles.
Do Drones Cross a Moral Line?
The Criterion of Discrimination - identifying and affording of immunity to noncombatants - is critical to determining the morality and legality of any action and any weapon in war. Given its sophisticated optics and surveillance capability, drone "pilots" can clearly and accurately identify objects only inches wide from more than 15,000 feet. Further, drone pilots have the capability to follow and study in great detail the actions, patterns of behavior, etc. of prospective targets for long periods before initiating a strike. Consequently, drone pilots can make determinations of liability and can discriminate between combatants and innocents even more effectively than a pilot of a manned aircraft or a weapons specialist aboard a vessel. Thus, given its sophisticated discriminatory capability, the careful use of a UAV satisfies the Criterion of Discrimination and lessens the likelihood of collateral damage. Read more.