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Open Letter To The U.S. Congress
By VVAW Clarence Fitch Chapter - NY/NJ
This letter was sent by the Clarence Fitch Chapter to all members of Congress. It was also distributed to participants in the Veterans Day parade in New York City, as well as local progressive organizations.
In testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 1971, a representative of Vietnam Veterans Against the War concluded by saying:
"Thirty years from now when our brothers go down the street without a leg, without an arm and small boys ask why, we will be able to say 'Vietnam' and not mean a filthy obscene memory, but mean instead the place where America finally turned and where soldiers like us helped in the turning."
That statement sums up why many of us who fought in that war came home and fought against it. After the war ended, we have continued to demand that this country learn the real lessons of the Vietnam experience and change course as a nation, acting in cooperation with other countries instead of trying to impose our will on them.
We soon learned that was not what the rulers had in mind. Many of our national leaders focused on trying to overcome the "Vietnam Syndrome" of public reluctance to intervene militarily abroad. The Pentagon learned that deception and a controlled press could defuse the American people's opposition to military adventures temporarily as long as the body count of American GIs was kept low enough.
It started again with military advisors, arms shipments and covert operations in El Salvador, Nicaragua and other countries of Latin America. Troops were sent to Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Haiti and Somalia. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, politicians excitedly declared us "the world's only superpower." The Persian Gulf War against Iraq marked a more aggressive military posture. America was again trying to be the policeman of the world and military force was again the primary instrument of U.S. foreign policy.
Now we have witnessed Clinton's shameful "victory" in the Balkans. In the name of opposing the Milosevic regime's crimes against the Albanians of Kosovo, the President acted in violation of the United Nations Charter as well as the U.S. Constitution and War Powers Act. U.S./NATO air power was unleashed for 78 days triggering an escalation of "ethnic cleansing" and the resulting refugee crisis as well as causing the deaths of thousands of civilians and the destruction of much of the economic structure of Serbia and Kosovo. Ironically the agreement ending the air war was less then what had been agreed to by the Yugoslav government before the attacks began.
Hypocritically waving a "humanitarian" flag cannot hide the fact that this war was a return to the imperial practices that can only lead to disaster for this country. We call on our elected representatives in Congress to halt this present militarist course and to take the following actions:
Hold the President accountable. It is the duty of the Congress, not the President, to decide whether we go to war. Congress's shameful behavior, including failure to invoke the War Powers Act, gave Clinton and his cronies Albright, Cohen and Berger the green light for their assault. This can only be considered dereliction of duty and betrayal of the people's trust.
End hostilities against Yugoslavia and Iraq. Reconstruction assistance should be given to all the peoples of the Balkans who have suffered. Rebuilding and reconciliation, not military occupation, is what is needed. Talks should also be reopened with Iraq and the economic embargo, which is killing Iraqi civilians daily, must be ended.
Stop excessive military spending. The "success" of the air war will be used to promote even more money for the bloated military budget (already 265 billion dollars this year). Instead of enriching weapons manufacturers, tax dollars should go to social programs that benefit the people, including disabled, homeless, and sick veterans who need help. The massive cuts in the VA health care system must be reversed and those suffering from Gulf War Illness, Agent Orange and atomic radiation poisoning should be given treatment and compensation NOW.
End U.S. support for foreign military dictatorships. From Vietnam to Nicaragua, Iran and the Philippines, the American government has often supported corrupt and repressive regimes who deny their own people a decent living and basic human rights. This has put our government at odds with the people of those lands who are fighting for justice and democracy. U.S. support for the Indonesian military and the crisis in East Timor shows that this continues today. We need to support the people's struggles for freedom not those who oppress them.
Support the United Nations. When the UN was formed, it was recognized as the international organization responsible for maintaining world peace. Sadly, American diplomats have repeatedly ignored or sidestepped decisions that go against their foreign policies. The NATO war against Yugoslavia was a flagrant usurpation of United Nations authority. The U.S. has not even paid its UN dues for years. This sad state of affairs must stop and America must truly join the community of nations.
We submit this letter out of righteous concern for our country's future. We call on our Congressional representatives to join in the struggle to change America's present direction so that the sacrifices of our brothers and sisters who fought and died in Vietnam and other wars will not be in vain. We will keep the faith! WILL YOU?
Vietnam Veterans Against the War Clarence Fitch Chapter (NY-NJ)