Rewriting history

Hollywood and the Bush administration have come together with a spate of war movies that fit in with the glorification of war as the answer to all our problems. In the space of about a month we’ve had Black Hawk Down, Collateral Damage and We Were Soldiers, each of which attempts to “humanize” the U.S. soldiers in the wars while at the same time implying that the wars themselves were justified.

The first two wars, Somalia and Colombia, were and are relatively small scale so far as the number of U.S forces involved, and Collateral Damage focuses mainly on the exploits of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the new century’s Rambo taking on the big, bad guerrillas of Colombia.

We Were Soldiers deals with a war in which the U.S. intervened with more than 500,000 troops, dropping thousands of bombs and millions of pounds of dioxin, on a small third world country that had no history of hatred toward the U.S. and which had fought for its independence and won against the armed might of Japan and France, over a period of more than 35 years.

The Vietnam war divided our nation, forced Lyndon Johnson to renounce his candidacy for a second term, caused the deaths of 58,000 U.S. soldiers and destroyed the lives of thousands more who came home physical and psychological wrecks – not to mention more than a million Vietnamese killed and their land devastated for years by dioxin, unexploded bombs, and land mines that continue to kill to this day.

Now we get We Were Soldiers that attempts to reduce the whole disaster of that war to a matter of the bravery of U.S. soldiers who fought under the credo, “Ours not to reason why; ours but to do or die.”

U.S. soldiers in Vietnam felt they were serving their country, but their country’s leaders lied to them and treated them shabbily. Thousands are still denied proper treatment for the afteraffects of contact with dioxin, drug addiction, and other diseases they picked up in Vietnam.

A movie that showed the work of veterans groups that have returned to Vietnam to rebuild hospitals, help with land mine removal and build houses and orphanages for the displaced children would be a much more fitting memorial to the humanity of U.S. veterans of the Vietnam War than any number of films glorifying the militaristic spirit.

Herb KransdorfOakland CA

Where will it end?

On the Israeli prime time TV news Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was quoted as saying that the number of Palestinian casualties should be increased.

He was also shown speaking to the Knesset: “We first have to give the Palestinians a very heavy blow, before we can talk peace.”

The number of killings seems to have become the measure in this ever more brutal confrontation between occupier and occupied. The killing of 17 Palestinians in one day – among them a mother and her three young children and a doctor in an ambulance – seems to have given our army and our government the feeling that they are restoring their image.

When will the world see that the prime minister of Israel is not just a hardliner but is manifestly crossing the line of legitimacy?

Adam Keller Tel Aviv, Israel

On his record

While it is always positive to have an influential voice come forward, as in Dennis Kucinich’s speech in California decrying the president’s saber-rattling foreign policy (3/02), we should be reminded that in the vote on the floor, he did not have the courage of his now stated convictions.

He allowed Californian Barbara Lee to stand alone in voting against the Bush plans. He states several times in his remarks that we did not authorize the steps taken by the administration. But his “aye” vote did exactly that. Let’s see where he votes next time .

Don SloanNew York NY

Social Darwinism

In Michigan, the Republican controlled legislature has been pushing a new law that would require all welfare recipients to be fingerprinted and subject to random drug tests. Implementation of this program had been stalled due to its questionable legality many progressives and advocates for the poor have voiced opposition to this attempt to stigmatize the poor.

The welfare agency, renamed the “Family Independence Agency” by Gov. John Engler, was supposed to receive $3.4 million this year to carry out this program but has been unable to do so because of budget cuts but Stille is continuing to pursue it.

In January, the new welfare policy went before a federal appeals court. A decision has yet to be handed down. Michigan is the only state that has attempted to make mandatory such a broad sweeping policy.

Brian McAfeeMuskegon MI