VFP member Danny O’Brien, VFP Board member Gerry Condon, and VFP Advisory Board member, journalist Chris Hedges, are among an international delegation of writers, lawyers, journalists, activists, students, and organizers who arrived in Cairo, Egypt this week with the goal of reaching the Rafah border crossing with Gaza. VFP Advisory Board member, retired Colonel Ann Wright, was refused entry into Egypt. Their goal is to exert pressure to open the border for the immediate entry and sustained flow of urgent humanitarian aid—food, water, fuel, and medical aid to 2.3 million Palestinians facing starvation and death as genocidal Israeli airstrikes continuously pound defenseless civilians.
In 1954, the US Congress renamed Armistice Day to Veterans Day. The stated reason was to remember all generations of US veterans, not just veterans from the First World War. Congress advanced this rationale on the disingenuous notion that Armistice Day’s purpose was a celebration of veterans. It was not. Armistice Day’s purpose was to serve as a reminder of the horrors of the First World War and carry forward the declaration of those veterans of Never Again. For a US government implementing a militarized Cold War foreign policy in 1954, a reconciliation-based holiday was inconvenient and problematic.
The Israeli War on Palestine, made possible by US support, is beginning to become a regional conflict. In addition to this, the US is backing conflicts in Ukraine targeting Russia, in the Horn of Africa and in Latin America and increasing its aggression against China. Congress is appropriating hundreds of billions of dollars for the Pentagon while the majority of people in the United States struggle to meet their basic needs each week and the climate crisis worsens. To raise awareness about this, Veterans for Peace is organizing a Peace Walk 2024 from Augusta, Maine to Washington, DC, arriving in July to protest the NATO meetings being planned then. Clearing the FOG speaks with Tarak Kauff and Ellen Davidson, two of the Peace Walk organizers.
For decades, the armed services and contractors on bases abroad used massive burn pits for waste disposal, rather than safer methods. They burned everything from tires to computer equipment to medical waste and more, often using jet fuel, a known carcinogen, as an accelerant. These dangerous fumes would probably never have been allowed in stateside civilian workplaces. In the U.S., a company may risk penalties for illegal emissions or dangerous working conditions. If a civilian worker is lucky, their job may even have a union contract and a way to fight an unsafe workplace. Even without a union contract, if a job is lousy or overtly unsafe, a person can often walk away.
In Ukraine right now, we have a stalemated war of attrition, where as Caitlin Johnstone writes, “soldiers are being killed and maimed in a battle for inches. At least tens of thousands have died in this war with hundreds of thousands wounded, all for those teeny, tiny little blips on the map. Ukraine is now freckled with more landmines than anywhere else on earth, which experts say will take decades to clear. This giant deathtrap is exacerbated by the cluster munitions that are covering the land with greater and greater frequency, which will go on to detonate and kill civilians (mostly children) for years to come.
It’s 10 p.m. at Montrose Harbor in Chicago. Kiko and Tamar help me step from the dock into the wobbly rowboat. Kiko rows us out to the Golden Rule and I climb aboard in wonder. Oh my God! This is it – the 30-foot, anti-nuke sailboat with a history going back almost seven decades . . . back to the era of atmospheric nuclear testing and the Cold War at its simmering height. The Golden Rule: “Floating for sanity in an insane world.” Well, somebody’s got to do it! The United Nations has tried. In 2017 it passed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was finally ratified (by 50 countries) in 2021. Technically, nuclear weapons are now “illegal” – what a joke. The possibility of nuclear war, i.e., Armageddon, is more alive than ever. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock is now set at 90 seconds to midnight.
July 27, 2023 is a historic date for the American veterans who participated in the Korean War. It was the 70th anniversary of the signing of the temporary Military Armistice Agreement that stopped the fighting after two years of over 575 talks between warring parties. Three days of events in Washington, DC from July 26-28 will marked the 70th anniversary with a call for a peace agreement to end hostilities on the Korean peninsula. I was in Korea 70 years ago and I witnessed the cease fire. We U.S. soldiers in Korea welcomed the armistice and were told that a peace agreement would be negotiated in quick order. It never happened.
March 20 marked the 20th anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Iraq. The war took hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, with some estimates of Iraqi casualties putting the number at over 1 million. More than 4,600 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq during and after the invasion, and thousands more have died by suicide. Meanwhile, and not coincidentally, the U.S. military is facing its worst recruitment crisis since the end of the Vietnam War. The Defense Department’s budget proposal for 2024 outlines a plan for the military to slightly cut back on its ranks, but to reach its projected numbers, it will still need to embark on a heavy recruitment push.
This Memorial Day we remember all who have died in war and understand that no one wins in war. Many of us have been personally touched by war. But we must also extend that mourning. We remember the civilian victims, and their families. Honoring and remembering some deaths while ignoring others not only perpetuates war, but also ignores the moral injuries of war, a significant cause of veteran suicide. Veterans For Peace is made up of military veterans, family members and friends who are joined by our pledge to serve the cause of world peace and abolish war. We bring a different message to Memorial Day than the themes usually promoted by popular media, the government and traditional veterans’ organizations.
War in film is a staple genre in a tremendously lucrative industry. Hollywood inundates our culture with glamorous depictions of wars, both fictional and real. Yet the truth of America’s forever wars, both for the countries invaded and veterans who return home, are rarely explored in depth in popular culture. This Is Not a War Story explores one part of the human toll of US wars through the lens of veterans who return with physical and mental wounds. Writer-director and star Talia Lugacy and actor Eli Wright join The Chris Hedges Report to discuss the film. This is Not a War Story is available to stream and purchase on DVD.
When President Joe Biden braved Republican jeers and boos to deliver his State of the Union address in February, one of the few lines that received bipartisan applause recalled Congressional action last year on what he hailed then as the “most significant law our nation has ever passed to help millions of veterans.” Called the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, this legislation allocates $280 billion over the next decade for health care and disability pay for former service members harmed by toxic substances. An estimated 3.5 million service members were exposed to noxious fumes from open burn pits and other hazards during three decades of U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.
Today, the Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute, in association with the American Federation of Government Employees, released a comprehensive report on the urgent struggles of thousands of VA employees, and how they threaten to impede the future of America’s best healthcare and benefits systems. Entitled “Disadvantaging the VA: How VA Staff View Agency Privatization and Other Detrimental Policies,” the 74-page report leans on dozens of interviews, hundreds of written comments, and thousands of survey responses, as well as Congressional testimony, federal watchdog reports, and other previous investigations. It shows how a series of detrimental policies are inhibiting the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) from maintaining its preeminence in providing unparalleled veterans’ services.
Even in the era of identity politics, one category of identity has largely been ignored: what UK journalist Joe Glenton calls “veteranhood.”19 million former soldiers — most of them working class — share a strong sense of personal identity as vets, but the media usually notices them only when they are involved in right-wing militias, white supremacist groups, and other MAGA-land formations. Some have noted their over-representation in U.S. law enforcement, which does reinforce militarized policing, along with the better known Pentagon-to-police equipment pipeline.
One frequent casualty of war is the confident belief shared by new soldiers that their cause is just and worthy of great personal sacrifice. After Al-Qaeda downed four civilian airliners and caused nearly three thousand deaths on September 11, 2001, US military recruiters were flooded with eager volunteers. Patriotic fervor, coupled with an urge for revenge and a desire to make the world a safer place, motivated many young men and women to enlist. As the reality of simultaneous interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan began to sink in, many participants — like Vietnam veterans before them — became angry, embittered, and disillusioned. Some of them have turned to memoir-writing that debunks the whole costly and disastrous $8 trillion project known as the “global war on terror.” Three excellent new book-length reflections on military training, socialization, and combat duty in the Middle East definitely won’t end up on the reading lists of college-level or junior ROTC programs, or even the US service academies.
In early February 2016, the security gate at a U.S. military base near Washington, D.C., swung open to admit a Navy doctor accompanying a pair of surprising visitors: two artificial intelligence scientists from Google. In a cavernous, temperature-controlled warehouse at the Joint Pathology Center, they stood amid stacks holding the crown jewels of the center’s collection: tens of millions of pathology slides containing slivers of skin, tumor biopsies and slices of organs from armed service members and veterans. Standing with their Navy sponsor behind them, the Google scientists posed for a photograph, beaming. Mostly unknown to the public, the trove and the staff who study it have long been regarded in pathology circles as vital national resources: Scientists used a dead soldier’s specimen that was archived here to perform the first genetic sequencing of the 1918 Flu.