We were soldiers once, and young


It is a very sad film in many ways. Families are torn apart by distance, wounds, and death. A war torn country where the local population has fought against an oppressive colonial empire, an even more militaristic and oppressive Japanese empire, and a corrupt government with USA military advisors faces a new challenge. Americans see, for the first time, a pitched battle in Vietnam, with USA troops victorious.

At the end of the film, about four days of intense combat, the protagonist Harold Moore asks UPI reporter Joe Galloway to tell the American people what happened at the battle in Ia Drang valley in 1965. Sadly, the question of why those things happened never comes up.

We knew then, and we know now, that Vietnam never attacked the United States, not before the war, and not since. We knew then, or some did, that Ho Chi Minh had approached Woodrow Wilson’s staffer Mandell House in Versailles during the peace talks in an effort to gain American support for his war for independence from the French. The racists House and Wilson rebuked his advances – Wilson refused to see him. So Ho went to see the Soviets at the same conference.

In 1964, the American people were told about a dastardly attack on USA ships in international waters by forces of North Vietnam. However, the story was a lie. In 2005, the National Security Agency released documents establishing once and for all that the story was a lie. Since then, we’ve learned that then-president Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) laughingly told an aide in 1965 that the sailors on those ships were shooting at nothing but flying fish.

So the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a lie. There was never any attack on American ships. It didn’t happen.

Why was this lie told? Why were 58,159 American troops killed, 303,635 wounded, as many as two thousand missing, together with approximately 7.9 million others from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and other countries killed or wounded – why were all these people’s lives destroyed? Why?!

The answer is: money. LBJ got rich by investing in certain companies. Many, many others got rich by having contracts with the military to sell helicopters, ammo, weapons that jammed, artillery, jet fighters, bombers, bombs, and all the other accoutrement of war. Bureau-rats who reviewed contract proposals and picked carefully were rewarded after retirement with high paying jobs with the same death merchants they awarded huge contracts to.

Between 1965 and 1975, the USA spent about $111 billion on the Vietnam war. During most of those years, gold was $35 per ounce. For 1972, the average price was $58. For 1973, the average price was $97. For 1974, the average price was $159 and for 1975, $161.

A weighted average would better account for exactly how much LBJ, Nixon, and the others benefited, but the average of those eleven years is $65. The price of gold closed Friday at $1054.80. Or a bit more than 16 times the average price during the Vietnam war years. That gives us a figure of $1.8 trillion in today’s dollars. No, I won’t use the government’s figures for inflation – government lies got us into this mess.

Now, would you willingly slaughter or wound terribly seven million humans for about $2 trillion? I wouldn’t. But, very obviously, some people would – and did. Anything that has happened is possible.

And it wasn’t just possible once. It was possible again and again. Lies about the Taliban and lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were told in 2001 and 2003, and trillions of dollars have been spent. Somewhat fewer Americans have died in combat, so far, but the death toll still numbers in the thousands. The wounded troops number in the tens of thousands. And these are still life-changing, life-wrecking wounds.

The death toll of Afghans and Iraqis is harder to ascertain. The USA military knows, but they no longer release body counts. The National Reconnaissance Office knows quite certainly who is dead and who is wounded on every battlefield, but they don’t say. The figures are easily in the hundreds of thousands, possibly in the millions. We won’t know until the empire falls and the archives are opened.

But we know who benefits. We can follow the money. The people who benefit are not the soldiers, airmen, and sailors who give their lives and their blood on foreign soil. The people who benefit are not the foreigners who are militarily occupied, forced to submit to a corrupt puppet government.

The people who benefit are the death merchants and the evil men and women who invest in them. Are you evil?

Or is evil being done in your name, through your 401K or pension or retirement fund or mutual fund investments? Stop being evil.

Divest from the death merchants. Sell their stocks, send their stock prices to zero, make the government bail them out.

If we are to have this macabre farce, again, let it be with government owned and operated factories. Let there be no private investment in death, in war, in slaughter, in bombing schools and hospitals, in children being torn limb from limb, their tiny carcasses bleeding to death before their wailing parents.

Let the gruesome work be ended. Stop the wars. Divestment is effective.

Divestment helped end Jim Crow and it helped end apartheid. It can help end war.

If you understand why the USA goes to war with countries that have never invaded the USA, never attacked the USA, if you understand who benefits from these wars, then you’ll know what to do.

Divest from death.


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One Response to “We were soldiers once, and young”

  1. Don Emmerich Says:

    Excellent post, Jim.

    It’s true that not as many US soldiers are dying in Afghanistan as died in Vietnam. But the number of soldiers coming home with brain damage, PTSD, with drug and alcohol addictions, the number of soldiers who end up killing themselves, etc. — these numbers are all astounding. If more people knew about this side of the war, then there’d be more of a push to bring our troops home.

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