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Page 18
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<< 17. Dewey Canyon III19. Iraq Water Project >>

"You guys damn well better be protesting this!"

By Joe Miller

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Ten years ago, members of VVAW, along with their allies, were actively protesting the war in the Persian Gulf. Those of us located in the University towns of Champaign-Urbana in east central Illinois worked in a local anti-war coalition called the Committee Against the War in the Gulf (CAWG). Beginning in October 1990, we helped organize demonstrations against Desert Shield and then Desert Storm twice each week. We brought out thousands of students and community members, no matter what the weather, to call for the removal of US troops from harm's way and the end of the horrible bombing of the Iraqi people.

I work as an academic advisor to all political science majors at the University of Illinois, and sometime during the fall, one of our students (Steve) received notification that his reserve unit was being called up. Steve already knew of my involvement with VVAW and with the local anti-war coalition, but we had no problem communicating with each other on the issues involved. As one connected with medical service, Steve felt no real reason to try to avoid going. On the contrary, as I recall, he felt he would actually be doing some good. He knew he would be going somewhere close to the "action," and he was apprehensive about it, but off he went.

I heard nothing from him after he left until this handwritten letter, received a week or two after the start of the ground offensive. The letter is reproduced here as he wrote it. Steve never returned to the University of Illinois at the end of the war, and I have no idea where he may be right now. I am hopeful he is well and will not be going through too much with this tenth anniversary of his war.

Joe Miller

24 Feb 91
8:00 A.M.

Dear Joe,

How could it possibly have gone this far? I sit here in my tent numb and trying so very hard to think about what has happened this morning - not to rationalize and internally legitimize these recent events, but simply to understand why.

At 4:00 A.M. we escalated the US-Iraq conflict to include massive use of ground forces. This whole episode, or rather series of episodes, has been a travesty of legal, political, and moral justice, and in my opinion, has been uncalled for. If only a percentage of the effort that went into the rhetoric and spewing out of cliches had gone into communications with the Baathist regime, I am sure this insanity would have ended long ago.

Instead, I have to be satisfied with keeping a running body count of civilian casualties on the front of our pretty tan tent in big red letters with an indelible marker. Shit, they are probably going to make me bury this thing by the time this is over.

Joe, I, like any other political scientist, with the exception of Cohen (S) and his little entourage, am astounded this has gone so far. Is that a testament of my naivete? Anyone who has that deep-rooted mistrust of our "institutions" resulting from the Vietnam era would readily say it certainly is. However, I am a fairly cynical bastard myself. So, why did I fail to see the series of events that I have been protesting against that we now face?

Over the past few weeks, I have taken up the "banner" of speaking out against the war. I have argued with the first sergeant at length, but only after he explained to me why the Israelis were threatened by the Palestinians, therefore having a right to shoot them. Jesus, I used to like this guy.

Well, I got a discussion group going almost on a daily basis, and by the end, everyone is singing the same tune: "War is wrong!" My question is, does that mean they are rational or easily manipulated? The black community here is wholeheartedly against the war, but the whites a just a bit different. It seems that the white community only reacts when they realize they have been betrayed.

Well, now that it is going, let's hope it ends quickly, and most importantly, with a minimal loss of life.
I was angry there, but now I'm numb again, so I'm outta here.

Sorry it took so long to write. You know how I am about getting things on paper.

Hey, I don't want to be a pest, but could you send some clippings and let me know how things are going on campus? You guys damn well better be protesting this! Believe it or not we don't get that sort of news here.

Well, take care of yourself and Lynn. Give her my love and don't the two of you worry too much. I'm too much of a jerk to let anything happen to me. Hope to see you soon - glad you are not here.


Operation Desert Shield
1702 Contingency Hospital/AREFW
APO, NY 09854

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