(This commentary piece also appears in THE VETERAN, Fall 2022 (Volume 52, Number 2).)
Stand Up For Your Rights
By Bill Branson
From the VVAW National Office
As we approach another Veterans Day and as many of us are in our seventh decade of living, we have much to be concerned about. The war in Ukraine still continues, our hard won freedoms are under attack, and the fascist hordes are at the gates. We feel like we have fought these battles before. No matter how sick and tired of this we are, we need to stand-up (or sit up) and fight for our rights. Whatever form that takes. We need to fight for ourselves and those younger than us. We cannot let those who want to strip away our rights win.
We had hoped by now the war in Ukraine would have been over and the Russian troops would have retreated, with a peace treaty in place. Unfortunately, that is not the case. We are heartened by the recent Ukrainian offensive and the recapturing of some of their territory. It's clear Putin is feeling the heat, since he has plans to call up the reserves and maybe even start up a draft. Resistance from within Russian society is increasing, as is the expected brutal crackdown. The Ukrainian government is calling on Russian troops to resist and surrender. We still support the rights of the Ukrainian people to determine their own destiny and defend themselves, free of outside coercion and threats.
We still think it's imperative that the global community oppose Russian aggression and support Ukrainian independence and self-determination. We think imperialism needs to be resisted, no matter which country is the perpetrator, and what their past actions have been. We also know who profits while arms are shipped to Ukraine. As his failed imperialist venture starts to collapse, Putin is becoming more dangerous and the the use of nuclear weapons seems more likely. More reason than ever to resurrect the call to reduce the global nuclear weapons stock from all who have them, whether they admit they have them or not.
The US and President Biden should not raise the temperature at this moment through careless posturing. The best outcome is a deal won at the negotiating table. Even though the Ukrainian resistance has been impressive, defeating the Russian state militarily will be difficult without turning the whole region into an abattoir. Diplomacy cannot be left off the table. The end of this war is of paramount importance for the entire region, if not globe. The US and President Biden should work to calm global tensions and conflicts, not inflame them.
It is encouraging to see the Republicans supporting the efforts for Ukrainian military aid. However, this bipartisan support for aid also needs to extend to those in need in this country. Right now the Military Industrial Complex and its partisans are happy as shit to be reaping the profits of regional and global tensions. War is good for them and their Congressional enablers know this. Every bullet and rocket that goes to Ukraine is another dollar that lines the pockets of the war profiteers. That is why a cease fire is essential as a prelude to peace. But we know no peace can come without respecting Ukrainian national sovereignty.
While US military aid keeps flowing, we are seeing the full out effort by the Trumplicans to erode our hard won rights and steal the next and future elections. They have stacked the courts from the lowest to the Supremes with right wing ideologues intent on enshrining 1% rule as the law of the land. Voting rights, women's rights to control their bodies, gay rights, interracial marriage, a working non-privatized VA—these are all at risk if they seize power again. We understand January 6 was a failed attempt to seize state power, but it was also a dry run. We need to make sure those responsible are brought to justice.
55 years ago in 1967 (the year VVAW was founded), Rev. Martin Luther King delivered his speech "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence" at Riverside Church, New York City. Some of his observations are as relevant today as they were then.
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain."
We need to take Dr. King's words and once again put them into action. We must resist those who want to subvert the democratic process and rig the system to maintain their control over us and remove the rights we have won through hard fought battles. We have to resist and organize however we can. VVAW can longer be at the vanguard of any of these struggles. War and time has worn us down and taken its toll. But as long as we have breath left, we cannot just stand by and watch the fascists and their enablers stomp on us. Unite with younger folks, volunteer to poll watch, support candidates who oppose the fascist agenda, volunteer at the VA—do what you can. Once again we see that our issues are connected—we must fight war, we must fight oppression, we must support those who resist.
VVAW—still fighting for peace, justice, and the rights of all veterans.
Bill Branson is a member of the VVAW Board.
Thanks to Jeff Danziger and Billy Curmano for their cartoons.Thanks to Lorraine Cohen, Michael Pacifico, Jane Lynn Leach Kelly, Stephen, Sossaman, Bhavia Wagner and others for contributing photos.
Commentary on VVAW.org:
- Stand Up For Your Rights by Bill Branson
- Putin's War on Ukraine Must Stop by Bill Branson and Joe Miller
- Putin's War on Ukraine Must Stop by Vietnam Veterans Against the War
- VVAW Statement on the Ukraine by Vietnam Veterans Against the War
- Afghanistan: Another Rich Man's War Ends by Bill Branson and Joe Miller
- We Have To Be Winter Soldiers by Bill Branson
- Fascism is Not an Option by Vietnam Veterans Against the War National Office
- Is This Who We Are? by W. D. Ehrhart
- Why We Struggle by Bill Branson
- We Must Continue the Fight for a Better World! by Bill Branson
- Into Another Rich Man's War (VVAW Statement on Potential War with Iran) by VVAW
- Forever Wars Demand Forever Opposition by Bill Branson
- From the National Office by Joe Miller
- The River Keeps Flowing by VVAW
- The Struggle Continues by Joe Miller
- VVAW Still Teaching the American War in Vietnam: On Burns/Novick "The Vietnam War" by Joe Miller
- 50 Years of VVAW by Joe Miller
- For Peace, Justice, and Veterans Rights by Bill Branson
- The Importance of Vietnam and VVAW: Then and Now by Bill Branson
- Veterans Fight Back by Bill Branson
- From the National Office by Bill Branson
- No New War in the Middle East by Bill Branson
- From the National Office by Bill Branson
- Our War, Our Legacy by Bill Branson
- From the National Office by Bill Branson
- Get Out and Vote: Demonstrate Our People Power by Bill Branson
- What We Know and When We Know It by Meg Miner
- From The National Office by Bill Branson
- Blood on the Tracks - A Review by Horace Coleman (reviewer)
- From The National Office by Joe Miller
- Ken and Bill's Excellent Adventure by W. D. Ehrhart
- From the National Office by Barry Romo
- From the National Office by Barry Romo
- Soldier Jailed For Rap Lyrics Is Discharged by Dahr Jamail, truthout.org Reporter
- US Military Plans To Extradite Stop-Lossed Iraq War Vet to Iraq For Court Martial Over Protest Rap Song by Iraq Veterans Against The War
- A Letter to America: No Medal Jacket by Marc Levy
- The Worst Question You Can Ask a Combat Vet: Talking Dirty to the Kids by Marc Levy
- From Vietnam to Afghanistan: The Bling They Curse and Carry by Marc Levy
- The "Obama Drama" by Horace Coleman
- Matthew Hoh Resignation Letter by Matthew Hoh
- Just Like Hanoi Jane by Marc Levy
- Winter Soldier Iraq and Afghanistan (the book) by Horace Coleman
- How What Happened in the Bush Administration Shaped What Happened in Iraq by Horace Coleman
- A Father traumatized by a son's wounds goes into action by Horace Coleman
- All Bets Are Off For Today's Vets by Horace Coleman
- Election Night Musing by Horace Coleman
- War Jokes Wanted: No Laughing Matter by Marc Levy and Susan Erony
- The Leftie Nation Throws a Rightie by Jerry Lembcke
- Thuy's Dream of Peace: Winter in America by Marc Levy
- Retraction of Article in the Veteran, Volume 38, Number 1, Spring 2008 by VVAW National Office
- Support PFC James Burmeister by Carol Rawert Trainer
- Support IVAW's Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan
- Fake Vets Chasing Fame by Marc Levy
- William Hugh Davis: 1948 - 2007 - Anti-war, union activist by Patricia Trebe
- President of Vietnam Vets Against the War - Year-long tour convinced him it was wrong by Larry Finley
- You Tube videos of Bill Davis
- Iraq Dead Ahead: A Brief Military History and Civilian Guide to Arlington National Cemetery Iraq Dead Ahead by Marc Levy
- The Horror of War Can be Catnip for Young Men by Jerry Lembcke
- Iraq War Resister Kyle Snyder Arrested in Canada, then Released: U.S. Army Requested the Illegal Apprehension by Gerry Condon
- Vietnam Veterans Against The War Endorses HR 508:Bring the Troops Home and Iraq Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2007 by VVAW National Office
- VVAW Supports All the Troops
- A Primer on the Whys and Wherefores of PTSD: Whatever You Did in War Will Always Be With You by Marc Levy
- What the Fuss Is All About by W. D. Ehrhart
- Winter Soldier DVD Now Available at VVAW Store
- From Vietnam to Iraq: Ignoring the Veteran Healthcare Crisis by VVAW & IVAW
- Vietnam Veterans and Iraq Veterans Release Memorial Day Report on Veterans' Healthcare Crisis by VVAW National Office
- VVAW Statement to the People of Vietnam by VVAW National Office
- Vietnam Veterans Against the War Denounce Bush Proposal to Cut Vets' Benefits by VVAW National Office
- The Struggle Continues by VVAW
- Stolen Honor - A Dishonor: Vietnam Veterans oppose Sinclair Broadcast smear even in reduced format by VVAW National Office
- A Troubling Tribute by Jan Barry
- Defending VVAW Against Swift Boat Vets Lies by Keith Nolan
- 40th Anniversary of Gulf of Tonkin shows history repeating itself with Iraqi War by VVAW National Office
- Anybody But Bush by VVAW National Staff and Coordinators
- Vietnam Veterans Say Torture Policy Not an Aberration - Dates Back To Vietnam War by VVAW National Office
- Chicago Vietnam Veterans Against the War and supporters honor fallen servicemen on Memorial Day by Chicago VVAW
- Vietnam Veterans Against the War Statement on John Kerry
- John Kerry and War Crimes in Vietnam by Jan Barry
- Living with Lies by Dave Curry, Joe Miller and Barry Romo
- On the Oil-Slicked Road to Empire: Are We Really Safer Now? by Barry Romo, Dave Curry & Joe Miller
- No War with Iraq No Blood for Oil or Ego by Barry Romo, Dave Curry & Joe Miller
- Vietnam Veterans Against the War Statement on the "War Against Terrorism" by VVAW National Office
- Vietnam Veterans Against the War Statement on September 11 Attacks by VVAW
- VETERANOS DE VIETNAM CONTRA LA GUERRA DECLARACION SOBRE LOS ATAQUES DEL 11 DE SEPTIEMBRE
- VVAW Statement on Robert Kerrey by Clarence Fitch Chapter of VVAW
- Remembering the Tonkin Gulf and After by Joe Miller
- Indian Wars & the Vietnam Experience by Ben Chitty
- Recollections:Brainwashing Busts Out at Cecil Field by Mike Woloshin
- "Peace with Honor" by Ben Chitty