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Why We Struggle
By Bill Branson
From the National Office
A large percentage of us volunteered for service in Vietnam. At the time, we bought in to the lies being told us about the war, and about America. Some of us began to see the truth during the war, but things didn't really sink in until we came home. Many of us who were drafted began to see the cracks in the myth of American exceptionalism while in the service.
When we got back, a lot of us were adrift. We felt used, abused, and discarded by the US Government. Our outrage when the National Guard gunned down students in Kent State set us on the lifelong path to struggling for change.
Taking many cues from the civil rights movement and their struggles for justice, VVAW provided a space for anti-war veterans and our allies to challenge the US role in the slaughter of Vietnamese, and the slaughter of our brothers and sisters in Kent and Jackson state.
The reason we fought and continue to struggle for change, is that we believe a better United States is possible. A better world is possible. While we fought an unnecessary war, we are under no illusion that our service helped the American people in any way. Our fighting back and fighting for change helped make the US a better place. We know that the bonds we forged and the lives we changed had way more impact than our picking up a rifle for Uncle Sam.
We also know that our resistance was opposed by the establishment with all means at their disposal. We were spied upon, charges were trumped up, lives were ruined, and some taken. Many of these attacks were led by the White House and the FBI. We were once again expendable. Our opposition to racism and imperialist wars qualified us as enemies of the state.
As we write this, Chump is still the occupant of the White House. He and his cronies have vomited continuous lies, sabotaged the fight against COVID-19, and attacked the VA and Post Office. Recently, Chump exhibited unprecedented public contempt for GIs. Those disgraceful and cowardly statements truly represent the attitudes of the oligarchs and their minions. They were not accidental. These people live only to stoke their own narcissism and toady to their rich masters.
We have always been used and thrown away. WWII was no exception. Chump is purely and simply acting out the exact attitudes that the ruling class endorses, no matter what their "patriotic" rants might pretend. To them, we were cannon fodder, nothing more.
As we write this, the presidential election is coming. Will we be able to get out of this election cycle without a coup? Will the winner of the popular vote be able to take office? Will any compromises that occur actually help the majority of residents in the US?
We hope for the best possible outcome and encourage all to do anything possible to ensure that Chump goes down in the history books as a one termer.
Whatever the outcome, we know that the struggles VVAW has engaged in for over 50 years will still need to continue.
We know that a more just, humane, and equitable world is possible. We know that the policies we have fought for over the past five decades can and will help those in need. We know the resources of the US can be put to helping people instead of engaging in pointless warfare, walls, and other distractions that put us down and enrich the ruling class.
We know that the militarization of America's police forces and the war on Black America has to stop. The ongoing privatization of the VA must be reversed. The troops deployed in the "Forever Wars" must come home. A massive effort must be made to end the COVID-19 epidemic. We need to turn the power of the state to equality, not oppression.
That is why we struggle. For peace. For justice. For veterans' rights. For a better, just world for all of us.
Bill Branson is a member of the VVAW Board.
Thanks to Jeff Danziger and Billy Curmano for their cartoons and Aaron Hughes for the posters.Thanks to Chuck Theusch, Allan Meece, John Edwards, Lucy Rose Fischer, Roger Byer, Andy Berman,
and others for contributing photos.
Veterans Day, Chicago, 1977. Ed Damato center.