A BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
June 26, 2002
An Open Letter to My Fellow Americans
by Phil Vargas
I recall a time when....
As our leaders and our government lay the groundwork for another undeclared war, I recall a time not too long ago when our leaders and government, under the most false of circumstances and mostly out of fear and arrogance, invaded a tiny nation in Southeast Asia.
For some 12 years -- in an undeclared war -- our government and military committed countless abominable atrocities, with impunity. We killed countless -- some estimates are over three million -- people in that tiny nation (a large part of them were peasants and farmers, including women, old people, and children), for no really good reason, mostly out of arrogance and fear.
Over several years, day-after-day, we sent B-52s to saturate bomb that tiny nation. How could we not have killed thousands of noncombatants on any single day? But nobody kept count, except for our own casualties (which were mostly exaggerated), and nobody could, really. But nobody cared, not from our side. Besides, they were only "gooks."
As a result of those actions of our leaders and our military, thousands upon thousands were also wounded and maimed not only from the many bombs and firepower, but also from the many deadly chemicals (agent orange, napalm to burn people, and maybe even nerve gas in Laos -- maybe even in Vietnam, but we never knew about it) we spread all over their land, mostly to kill their vegetation and food supply, and from the thousands and thousands of mines we left in the ground there. People are still dying from what we did there, and children are still born deformed and with incurable maladies. Their land is still contaminated with those toxic chemicals and many deadly mines!
Before our "honorable" intrusion in that tiny country, we had supported another invader, a European nation, who did pretty much the same thing. After the European nation was defeated and expelled, we took over and we put up dictators of our liking and had them killed when they did not suit our purposes. During our time there we brought in and paid armies from other nations who committed the same, or even worse atrocities, also with impunity! During all that time our leaders lied to us, and some of them talked of using tactical nuclear weapons to win and defeat the enemy -- in its own country. Our great leaders even prolonged that war for their own selfish purposes and political motives.
Tragically, during all that time we could not realize that mostly what the people in that tiny nation wanted was to have their homeland free from invaders. We could not understand those very simple human principles of pride and love of homeland, at least not when they applied to people of other nations. Finally we came to realize that the people of that tiny nation were mostly genuine nationalists, but our leaders had kept telling us that they were only hated communists and for that they had to be killed and defeated. Eventually they defeated us, out of sheer will and determination, and they expelled us and finally they won back their homeland.
I recall a time during that undeclared war when Americans were vilified and hated and spat upon in the streets of Europe and our great nation was reviled and denigrated across the world because of what we were doing in that tiny nation. Eventually, the American people rose up and made known their disapproval and their utter disgust with what our leaders and military were doing in that tiny nation.
Now we are faced with a situation where our country has been attacked and more than 3,000 of our countrymen have been killed and many others injured. We are shocked and pained as if we were the only ones who have ever been attacked. There is a kind of tragic and self-righteous sorrow that is sweeping our land. We cannot understand why others would hate us so as to do such a horrible thing to us, in our own beloved homeland. And with our mighty and powerful military our leaders have undertaken to strike out in several parts of the world -- again, mostly out of arrogance and fear.
In this latest undeclared war in Afghanistan there are recent and most disturbing reports of torture and killing of prisoners by American soldiers. Countless civilians have been killed by American bombs.
I believe the time may soon be coming when Americans will again be reviled and hated and spat upon (or even worse) and our great nation vilified and denigrated and hated because of the excesses of our leaders and our military.
Please understand that what I say here is in no way intended to delimit the pain and suffering of my countrymen as a result of the horrific attacks on September 11th of last year. But things must be said and put in perspective for our own self-respect, and our conscience as a nation and as a people. And hopefully, it will make us a better people -- hopefully. For it all comes down to what type of world power or world leader we want our great nation to be. For that, however, some perspective, some understanding, some vision of leadership beyond a shallow cowboy bravado and kicking ass is needed -- in my humble view.
I fear for my countrymen and my country. I am deeply concerned about the direction our leaders may be taking our great nation and about what they are doing to us here in our own country, mostly out of arrogance and fear.
For the record, my family sacrificed three sons as a result of the undeclared war in Vietnam. And in World War II, a relative was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. As a 17-year-old, I too joined our military the day after the Korean conflict broke out and spent most of my 18th year in that undeclared war. I would gladly have sacrificed my life for my country, as so many of my compatriots from our villages and pueblos in New Mexico have done in wars DECLARED against oppression and tyranny -- 1,817 New Mexicans fought in the Philippines/Corregidor/Bataan part of World War II, the majority were Hispanics and American Indians, and more than 900 never returned. And many others fought and died in other battlefields for our great country.
Finally, I leave you with the words of a great American, Justice Louis D. Brandeis, who once stated:
greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the
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