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Obama’s VFW Speech Today & FCNL in 1969

August 17, 2009

Monday’s are my “To See:  Looking Back Day”

To see where we are, we sometimes look back to see where we were.

Today, President Obama addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars, meeting in Phoenix, AZ.  He promised to provide the U.S. military the best training, the best equipment, and the best strategies for the mission, so that they can fight and win.  He spoke specifically of fighting and winning in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a veteran, I recognize that part of the president’s message.  I think that I heard the same from Presidents Lyndon Baines Johnson and Richard M. Nixon when I was in the Army from 1967 to 1969.

In 1969 “we,” meaning the United States, were in another time, in another war in Vietnam, in another part of Asia.  Today, it looks like déjà vu all over again.

In 1969, “we,” meaning FCNL, opposed that U.S. war in Vietnam and sought to advocate an exit strategy from it.  Today, FCNL works to really stop these wars by persuading Congress and the President that War Is Not the Answer.

Why does the community of FCNL work so persistently and strategically to end these wars?  I think a long dead soldier of the Vietnam War sums up our reasons:

“Salamanca, N.Y. [AP] – When Keith K. Franklin, 19, left for duty as an Army medic in Vietnam, he gave his parents a sealed envelope and told them to open it only if he were killed.

Franklin was killed last Tuesday in Cambodia.  In the envelope was a letter saying, “The war that has taken my life … is immoral, unlawful, and an atrocity.”

Thus, E. Raymond Wilson, first Executive Secretary of FCNL, begins Chapter 15 of his 1975 book, Uphill for Peace: Quaker Impact on Congress. The title of that Chapter has a familiar ring, “… A Plan to End the War? 1969.”  As we now know, the presidential “plans’ to end the war failed; the war stretched into the 1970s, and tens of thousands more soldiers and civilians were killed by it.

I imagine that presidents will always promise the people that they will end the war through victory, because they dare not take the political risks of saying “my war is not winnable” or “my war is not moral” or “my war is not lawful” or “my war is not just” or “my war is not working.”

A people who wait for their president to end a war wait in vain.  I suspect that only an informed and mobilized people can save their president from the grand illusion that fighting on to victory is the best plan for ending a war. The way to end the war in Afghanistan is simple: stop fighting that war.

To which hard nosed realists will point out that the enemy will then be perceived to have won.  They will be seen to have defeated a superpower.  To hand them that victory will be to give them momentum to build their worldwide movement of terrorism.

To which I reply, on the contrary, the evidence shows the U.S. wars are giving the extremist violent movements exactly what they want?  A cosmic war of good against evil.  The U.S. wars are helping them to build their movements, even the Rand study on ways to end terrorism has said the U.S. has too much emphasized military force.  Of course, the answer is not to just stop the war fighting and do nothing.  The answer is to stop the war fighting, deny the terrorists their cosmic battle, and shift into a law enforcement mode through international cooperation, development, and diplomacy.

Peace Is Possible Through Peaceful Means.

One Comment
  1. August 28, 2009 9:02 pm

    Joe, it is good to see you apparently coming to your senses. You had seemed so bamboozled by the Obama victory earlier that FCNL lost its way. I even got an email from you asking me to write a letter to the Editor supporting Obama’s Afghanistan policy! You never supported Rep. Frank’s call for a 25% cut in the military budget. You actually supported Obama’s budget, which called for spending over half of the discretionary budget on the military.

    I hope indeed FCNL is returning to its historic position of working for peace. It should not be a pawn of either of the war parties. War and the depletion of resources needed for good in military preparation no matter what the party, ethnic background or anything else of the Commander-in-Chief.

    There have been very few groups in Washington working for peace since Obama was inaugurated. Many that had, like FCNL, basically stopped that. We need FCNL in the peace effort. I am glad that FCNL apparently is now ready to be a peace lobby once again.

    I don’t really know you like I knew Ray Wilson and Ed Snyder. But I hope, after your losing your way within the last year, you will be ready to lead in the way they did.

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