Vietnam All Over Again

Once more, our government will send the poor to kill the poor.

By Robert Bracamontes
Published on LatinoLA: April 10, 2004

Vietnam All Over Again

In 1970, I walked down the streets of East Los Angeles to protest the Vietnam War. We marched because minorities were getting killed on the frontlines in disproportionate numbers. It became clear that the war was unjust and imperialist in nature. The fight was about the fear of something horrible taking over the world?communism. Imagine, an idea, a system by which the means of production and its profit were equally controlled and distributed by and for the masses. No country in history has come close to establishing such a system, but many people at the time were led to believe that these views were subversive enough to bomb the shit out of anybody that thought so or might support those who did.

Today's warmongers are just as bent on killing anything that doesn't resemble downtown USA. Arundhati Roy, author of Power Politics and the article, "Come September," ( writes about the American bombing of Iraq in January 1991: "Over the last decade American and British forces have fired thousands of missiles and bombs on Iraq. Iraq's fields and farmlands have been shelled with 300 tons of depleted uranium. In their bombing sorties, the Allies targeted and destroyed water treatment plants, aware of the fact that they could not be repaired without foreign assistance. In southern Iraq there has been a fourfold increase in cancer among children. In the decade of economic sanctions that followed the war, Iraqi civilians have been denied food, medicine, hospital equipment, ambulances, clean water?the basic essentials. About half a million Iraqi children have died as a result of the sanctions."

In Vietnam, America dropped enough bombs to have covered every square mile. Agent Orange and Napalm were used to destroy the foliage of the dense jungles, leaving behind cancerous residue and poison. The soldiers that returned were infested with the affects of these sickening chemicals and at first they were denied treatment. Similarly those soldiers returning from Iraq had illnesses that the government and military tried to dismiss.

And who will be called upon as Iraq II is stepped up a notch? Perhaps the question will be, are the working poor ready to bail out the volunteer army? The draft board may soon look to change the rules by once again allowing high school dropouts to enlist in the military. They certainly made for good fodder in Vietnam.

It does not appear to be any great secret for whom the bell tolls when the thousands of foot soldiers are needed to fight Iraq. Look into the eyes of the hard working poor. I see them everyday where I work. It is their children who will ultimately die in Baghdad, alongside Iraqi children. .

Like so much of humankind's history, our government will send the poor to kill the poor. How wonderful these leaders are on both sides to sit down and eat like kings, as they view our suffering from their palaces and ivory white houses. While at the same time a familiar sentiment about patriotism flows from the twisted tongue of President Bush that sounds all too much like the following quote. "Beware the leader who bangs the drum of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded patriotism will offer up all of their rights unto the leader, and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar."- Julius Caesar on patriotism. Where will our Julius Bush take us? Will he do what Nelson Mandela says and allow America to jeoparize world peace if we attack Iraq? Will he lead the young and the poor off to their early graves?

The corpses of the Vietnam war, Iraq I, and all wars must turn in their graves to shudder at the thought that they died a stupid death; but worse than that is to live a stupid life. To think that humankind's history is over, to believe so monolithically that we would not speak out against unjust wars is small minded. Those leaders who seek violence over peace, oil for lives, security over liberty, replace liberty and real democracy for personal gain and profit, are deceitful tyrants with masks of a fascist nature.

Let us do this differently this time. Pass a new law about wars, that when our nation goes to war every legislator in congress, senator and president who votes yes shall contribute. Let each send a son or daughter to die on the killing fields alongside the poor families' children. If the law were enacted today, how many lawmakers would vote against war? Noble Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter has said if he were in Congress, he would have voted no on a war resolution to give Bush powers to attack Iraq. Lawmakers must realize the finality of voting yes to war and death. They must be the ones leading people to forget about phosphorus fuels and make the sacrifice now?to hell with oil, it is not worth one's life, one's son, one's daughter.

When I walk down the streets of East Los Angeles I hear Bush's words and I wonder why if at birth we are born equally in our nakedness, how is it through life and in death are we so different? So different that war is always the solution. They reflect the tragedy of humankind. It seems as though it is our propensity to lash out, kill, eliminate and destroy people, culture, environment, in order to bring justification to a cause, ideology or thought.

About Robert Bracamontes:
Robert Bracamontes wrote this article for the Harvard Independent on 11/7/02 and understands how important it is to present it here a year and a half later. He can be reached at

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