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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.