San Diego Veterans For Peace Speak Out on War!

50 years ago, American boys, most under 20 years of age, committed unspeakable acts against a civilian hamlet in Vietnam. Over 500 women, children (yes! there were babies!) and old men were slaughtered by American soldiers. Civilian “collateral damage” is a tragic cost of any war; the My Lai massacre only exemplified it at a highly public level. The San Diego Chapter of Veterans For Peace is named after Hugh C. Thompson, the courageous US Army helicopter pilot who landed his chopper and, along with fellow crewmen, intervened against fellow American troops to end the carnage at My Lai. Thompson reported the “incident” up the chain of command but was met with indifference and ridicule by authorities.

50 years removed from My Lai, today we see American troops in over 120 countries, with US bases in over 80. Most of these troops in our “volunteer armed forces” are Whites, Blacks, and Latinos of limited economic means. They are the ones who risk their lives to further our endless series of wars. We are embroiled in multiple wars and conflicts, and the “Doomsday Clock” has just been advanced 30 seconds closer to midnight, due to escalating tensions over possible nuclear war. Drone warfare is commonplace with mounting civilian casualties, as American warriors in Nevada routinely target and kill in places around the globe. We see weapons of war – the AR-15 rifle, used by our teenagers against each other in high schools.

As citizens, we must draw connections between our foreign war policies of the past and those of today. We must see the links causing the violent war culture bleeding into our civilian lives. Absent the military draft most people do not see the true, total costs of war. Politicians continue to over-fund the Pentagon without any dissent and then reduce spending on programs that benefit our populace. If we fail to speak out, we are complicit in the wars our government conducts in our names.

The My Lai Memorial Exhibit, by allowing you to take part in the artistic process, honors the over two million Vietnamese civilians who died in what we call the “Vietnam War” but what will forever be known in Vietnam as the “American War”. This Memorial Exhibit offers 3 interactive opportunities to dialogue, build a sculptural collage and to share your artwork and comments. You will be able to participate in a strong, anti-war response to the Pentagon’s $63 million campaign to sanitize and to glorify this unnecessary, unjust and immoral military action. The Exhibit is suitable for high school age and above.

The 50th anniversary of the My Lai Massacre will be March 16, 2018 and the San Diego and Chicago Chapters of the Veterans For Peace, the San Diego Peace Resource Center, and the American Friends Service Committee invite you to the following events. These issues are as important today as they were 50 years ago!

Wednesday, March 14: World Beat Center, 2100 Park Blvd, SD 92101; Display open 2PM – 9PM
Speakers Program: 7:30 PM, Dennis Stout, Barry Ladendorf

Thursday, March 15: First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, 4190 Front St, SD 92103
Display open Noon – 6 PM

Friday, March 16: First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, Display open 2PM – 9 PM
Speakers: 7:30 PM, Dennis Stout, Marjorie Cohn, Barry Ladendorf

Saturday, March 17: SD Peace Resource Center, 3850 Westgate Pl, SD 92105;
Display open 12PM – 5 PM.
Speakers: 6:30 PM, Church of the Brethren, 3850 Westgate Pl., SD 92105
Fernando Suarez del Solar, Lori Saldaña, David Valladollid

•Marjorie Cohn, Attorney, Author, Legality of War Expert, Drone Warfare Expert;
•Fernando Suarez del Solar, Anti-War Advocate, lost son in Iraq War, Guerrero Azteca Founder;
•Barry Ladendorf, Naval Officer, Attorney, past President of Vets For Peace;
•Lori Saldaña, Peace Advocate, Was President Pro-Temp and on Veterans Committee of CA Assembly;
•Dennis Stout, Photographer, Vietnam Army veteran, offers personal testimony;
•David Valladollid, Purple Heart Vietnam Vet, CEO of Parent Institute for Quality Education, CA Student Aid Comte.

For more information please contact: Gary Butterfield, garyvfp@gmail.com

To view the My Lai Memorial webpage, go to: http://mylaimemorial.org

SDVFP Featured on Fox 5 San Diego: “Memorial Remembers Servicemembers Killed in Iraq, Afghanistan”

From Fox 5 San Diego

A veteran’s group held a somber name-reading ceremony on Veterans Day to remember the sacrifice of local service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

San Diego Veterans for Peace dozens of symbolic tombstones in the grassy park next the the USS Midway Museum on Friday. Members of the group tolled a bell and read the names of veterans from San Diego, Imperial, Orange and Los Angeles counties who were killed in combat.

The name reading continued all day long.

A Veteran’s Perspective on Memorial Day

by Barry Ladendorf, Veterans For Peace Board President

First published May 30, 2016 on BillMoyers.com.

As Americans mark Memorial Day, a holiday that invites us to reflect on the cost of war, we are reprinting these remarks that a leader of the Veterans for Peace made last week at Ralph Nader’s Breaking Through Power conference in Washington.

For 31 years, Veterans For Peace has been the only veterans organization that has rejected war, violence, nuclear weapons, the destruction of the environment created by war, the steady erosion of our civil liberties, the corporate greed that drives our wars and the systemic injustice it produces, here at home and abroad, all in the name of advancing the American empire.

As veterans, we refuse to accept the notion that, in order to protect the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, the Constitution that we swore to support and defend can be ignored, shredded and cast aside as an inconvenient nuisance standing in the way of American hegemony.

It is abundantly clear that the threat to the Constitution does not come from some far-off land. It is not China or Russia or even ISIS that endangers the Constitution, but it is the enemy within the borders of our own country and right here in this city.

As members of Veterans For Peace, we bring to the peace movement our collective experience from our participation in every war from World War II up to and including the current wars in the Middle East. Our experience teaches that war and violence do not bring lasting peace. Therefore, our founders included in our Statement of Purpose a commitment that we would seek to end war, only by nonviolent means.

Many of our members come home from war broken down, physically, mentally, emotionally and morally. But we work to transform and heal ourselves from soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen trained to wage war to men and women committed to becoming non violent peacemakers.

We pledge to not give in to war and violence and the injustice it brings to all living things but to continue to work for peace with all likeminded people.

Agent Orange: Terrible Legacy of the Vietnam War

By Marjorie Cohn and Published on Truthout

Mai Giang Vu was exposed to Agent Orange while serving in the Army of South Vietnam from 1968 to 1974. He carried barrels of chemicals to spray in the jungle. His sons were born in 1974 and 1975. They were unable to walk or function normally. Their limbs gradually “curled up” and they could only crawl. By age 18, they were bedridden. One died at age 23; the other at age 25.

Nga Tran is a French Vietnamese woman who worked in Vietnam as a war correspondent. She was there when the US military began spraying chemical defoliants. A big cloud of the agent enveloped her. Shortly after her daughter was born, the child’s skin began shedding. She could not bear to have physical contact with anyone. The child never grew. She remained 6.6 pounds – her birth weight – until her death at the age of 17 months. Tran’s second daughter suffers from alpha thalassemia, a genetic blood disorder rarely seen in Asia. Tran saw a woman who gave birth to a “ball” with no human form. Many children are born without brains; others make inhuman sounds, Tran said. There are victims who have never stood up. They creep and barely lift their heads.

Rosemarie Hohn Mizo is the widow of George Mizo, who fought for the US Army in Vietnam in 1967. After he refused to serve a third tour, Mizo was court-martialed, spent two and a half years in prison and received a dishonorable discharge. Before his death from Agent Orange-related illnesses, Mizo helped found the Friendship Village where Vietnamese victims live in a supportive environment.

Dr. Jeanne Stellman, who wrote the seminal Agent Orange article in Nature, said, “This is the largest unstudied [unnatural] environmental disaster in the world.”

Dr. Jean Grassman, from Brooklyn College at the City University of New York, stated that dioxin (the active ingredient in Agent Orange) is a potent cellular disregulator that alters several pathways and disrupts many bodily systems. She said children are very sensitive to dioxin, and the intrauterine or postnatal exposure to dioxin may result in altered immune, neurobehavioral and hormonal functioning. Women pass their exposure to their children both in utero and through the excretion of dioxin in breast milk.

These were five of the 27 witnesses who testified at the International Peoples’ Tribunal of Conscience in Support of the Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange, which was held in Paris in 2009. I served as one of seven judges from three continents. We heard two days of testimony from Vietnamese and US victims of Agent Orange, witnesses and scientists, including the five witnesses cited above. We saw firsthand horribly disfigured individuals who had been exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

The panel of judges found the following:

  • From 1961 to 1971, the US military sprayed chemical products that contained large quantities of dioxin in order to defoliate the trees for military objectives.
  • The chemical products caused:
-direct damage to those exposed to dioxin, including cancers, skin disorders, liver damage, pulmonary and heart diseases, defects to reproductive capacity, and nervous disorders;
-indirect damage to the children of those exposed to dioxin, including severe physical deformities, mental and physical disabilities, diseases, and shortened life spans;
-damage to the land and forests, water supply, and communities of Vietnam, some of which may be permanent. This includes the extinction of animals that once inhabited the forests and jungles of Vietnam, disrupting communities that depended on them; and
-erosion and desertification that will change the environment, contributing to the warming of the planet and dislocation of crop and animal life. The damage to the environment of Vietnam is “ecocide.”

After examining the evidence, the panel determined that the US government and the chemical manufacturers knew that dioxin, one of the most dangerous chemicals known to humans, was present in one of the components of Agent Orange. Yet they continued to use it and in fact suppressed the 1965 Bionetics study that showed dioxin caused many birth defects in experimental animals. It was not until the results of that study were leaked that the use of Agent Orange was stopped.

The panel also concluded that the US war in Vietnam was an illegal war of aggression (crime against peace) against a country seeking national liberation, in violation of the United Nations Charter. It further decided that the use of dioxin was a war crime because it qualified as a poisoned weapon in violation of the Hague Convention and customary international law. Finally, the panel found that the use of dioxin was a crime against humanity, as it constituted an inhuman act perpetrated against a civilian population in connection with a crime against peace and war crimes.

Several international treaties provide the right to an effective remedy for violations of human rights law. They include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The United States has ratified all of them.

Moreover, in the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, the Nixon administration promised to contribute $3 billion for compensation and postwar reconstruction of Vietnam. That promise remains unfulfilled.

Although US veterans of the Vietnam War have received some compensation for Agent Orange-related illnesses, the Vietnamese people have never seen a dime. The US government has funded the cleanup of dioxin at the Danang airport, only one of the 28 “hot spots” still contaminated by dioxin.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) has introduced H.R. 2114, the Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2015. If enacted, the bill would lead to the cleanup of dioxin and arsenic contamination still present in Vietnam. It would also provide assistance to the public health system in Vietnam directed at the 3 million Vietnamese affected by Agent Orange. It would extend assistance to the affected children of male US veterans who suffer the same set of birth defects covered for the children of female veterans. It would lead to research on the extent of Agent Orange-related diseases in the Vietnamese-American community, and provide them with assistance. Finally, it would lead to laboratory and epidemiological research on the effects of Agent Orange.

Following the 2009 Paris tribunal, I participated in a delegation to Vietnam to present our findings to President Nguyen Minh Triet of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. I told the president that it struck me that even as US bombs were dropping on the Vietnamese people, they distinguished between the US government and the US people. The president responded, “We fought the forces of aggression but we always reserved our love for the people of America … because we knew they always supported us.”

Now, 40 years after the end of the Vietnam War, we must support the Vietnamese people who continue to suffer some of the most horrific legacies of that war. Contact your representative and demand that he or she co-sponsor H.R. 2114.

By Marjorie Cohn and Published on Truthout