The June 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

From Prison to Priesthood

Interview with Father James Tramel

Protest Demands Housing for Poor Families

Oakland Judge Blocks Evictions

Fresno Police Demolish Tent Encampment

Extremists Call for Attacks on Immigrants

Unjust Senate Bill on Immigration

World Bank and IMF Face Crisis

Corporate Media Fail to Address Global Hunger

Raise Minimum Wage for All

The Journey of Charlotte Tall Mountain

Dying for Nixon, Dying for Bush

In Santa Cruz Dreams Come True

Tourists Ignore Kenya's Poverty

June Poetry of the Streets


May 2006

April 2006

March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005

Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Dying for Nixon, Dying for Bush

by Paul Rogat Loeb

"I didn't want to die for Nixon," said a man I met recently in a Seattle park. He'd served on military bases in a half-dozen states, then had a car accident just before being shipped to Vietnam. "The accident was lucky," he said. "It was a worthless war and I didn't want to go."

I agreed. I admired those who fought in World War II, I said. We owe them the debt of our freedom. But to die for Nixon's love of power, fear of losing face, deception and vindictiveness -- to die for him was obscene. Nixon's war, the man said, had nothing noble about it. And neither does the war in Iraq.

What does it mean to die in a war so founded on lies? Bush may lack Nixon's scowl, but he's equally insulated from the consequences of profoundly destructive actions. He came to power riding on the success of Nixon's racially divisive "Southern Strategy," which enshrined the Republicans as the party of backlash. He won re-election by similarly manipulating polarization and fear.

Like Nixon, Bush has flouted America's laws while demonizing political opponents. His insistence that withdrawing from Iraq would create a world where terrorists reign echoes Nixon's claim that defeat in Vietnam would leave the U.S. "a pitiful, helpless giant."

While Bush assures our soldiers that they fight for Iraqi freedom, and to "make America safer for generations to come," 82 percent of Iraqis, according to a British Ministry of Defense poll, say they're "strongly opposed" to the presence of American and British troops, and 45 percent justify attacks against them.

This creates what psychologist Robert Jay Lifton calls "an atrocity-creating situation." Lifton first used the phrase during Vietnam. He now uses it to describe a "counterinsurgency war in which U.S. soldiers, despite their extraordinary firepower, feel extremely vulnerable in a hostile environment," amplified by "the great difficulty of tracking down or even recognizing the enemy."

This sense of an environment out of control has seeded the ground for Abu Ghraib and for massacres, at the villages of Haditha and Mukaradeeb, already being compared to the My Lai massacre.

Former Army sniper Jody Blake recently described how his unit kept extra spades on their vehicles so that if they killed innocent Iraqis in response to an attack with an Improvised Explosive Device, they could throw one next to the corpses to make it appear those killed were preparing a roadside bomb.

Last December, Bush called the Iraqi election "a watershed moment in the story of freedom." But if our invasion and occupation has created a watershed moment, it's one whose rivers of resentment and bitterness may poison the global landscape for decades to come. And when Bush talks of promoting freedom, the world sees only the freedom of America to do whatever we please, no matter how many nations oppose us.

America's Vietnam-era leaders made much of their embrace of freedom as well, while overthrowing elected governments from Brazil to Chile to Greece. The war they waged in Southeast Asia killed two to five million Vietnamese, plus more deaths in Laos and Cambodia.

As with Iraq, those making the key decisions were profoundly insulated: Out of 234 eligible sons of senators and congressmen, only 28 served in Vietnam, only 19 saw combat, only one was wounded and none were killed.

In Iraq, the chickenhawks led the march to war, and the sole member of Congress with a son who initially served was Democrat Tim Johnson, who the Republicans still attacked as insufficiently patriotic. While the sons of Republican Senator Kit Bond and three Republican congressmen have since also volunteered and been deployed, most who initiated this war have never been intimately touched by it.

Counting Eisenhower's first deployment of soldiers and CIA agents to Vietnam in support of the French, Kennedy's further commitment, and Johnson's major escalation, the United States fought there for over 20 years. We've now been in and out of Iraq for nearly 40 years, since the 1963 coup when the CIA first helped the Baath Party overthrow the founder of OPEC. (The United States began intervening in Iran since our 1953 overthrow of the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh, who we replaced with the dictatorial Shah).

With the Bush administration promising no immediate end in sight, Bush now tells us it will be up to "future presidents" even to consider withdrawing our troops. Who wants to be the last man or woman to die for George Bush?

Paul Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, and Soul of a Citizen. See

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