“Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels — men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion” — Dwight David Eisenhower
Colonel J. Karl Miller’s recent article concerning citizen anti-war protests at the Memorial Day Salute to Veterans Air Show raises so many social, legal and moral issues that it would, indeed, require at least one fairly large book to rebut his various assertions. Space will not permit a reply to all of those issues, so I will address only one of his concerns, that the plaintiffs in the Wickersham and Doyle v. the City of Columbia and the Salute to Veterans Air Show make “no secret of their disdain for the military in general and the Air Show in particular(.)” I cannot speak for Maureen Doyle, but I will address the military portion of that assertion. Disdain for the air show would require another opinion piece.
First, I unlike Col. Miller, am not a wounded combat veteran. My military service included two years of basic Air Force ROTC (I was selected out of the program because of nearsightedness); 21 months enlisted in the regular Army with state-side service at Fort Lee, Va.; 4½ years in the U.S. Army Reserve, and approximately eight years in Washington, D.C., as a civilian training manager for all of the U.S. military services and several U.S. intelligence agencies.
When I joined the Army in 1955, I had to enter with a noncombat duty classification, because of a previously acquired back injury suffered in both high school and college basketball competition. While in the Army, I did extra physical training that ultimately rehabilitated my back. I went on to complete the U.S. Army Infantry School’s, at Fort Benning, Ga., Pre-Commission Extension Course which made me eligible for an infantry commission in the event that I was called back to active duty.
I offer the above personal military bio-sketch, to disabuse Col. Miller of the notion that individuals like me with solid citizen soldier backgrounds are necessarily “anti-military.” What I am opposed to is “militarism” — the kind which vigorously endorses the use of weapons of mass destruction. And, the militarism which supports illegal and immoral use of U.S. military force against civilians of countries like Vietnam and Iraq who have never set foot on U.S. soil, or militarily attacked us in any way. I also oppose U.S. military support of assassination and torture training such as that historically conducted at the School of the Americas. And, I vigorously oppose the kind of foreign and military policy and tactics which, for over 50 years of my lifetime, have supported CIA torture and murder of peasants throughout the world. (Google the reports of former CIA operatives John Stockwell and Ralph McGehee given to the U.S. Senate Church Committee of the early 1970s, which indicate U.S. military and CIA collusion in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of peasants from 1956 until 1972, in violation of the Laws of War, the Nuremberg Principles and the Hague and Geneva Conventions).
Above all, I protest the kind of militarism found in the U.S. Strategic Command’s program of research and development for the weaponization of space, which feathers the nest of U.S. war profiteering corporations like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, TRW, etc. This effort, if seen to completion, will likely rule out any possibility for nuclear disarmament and human survival on this planet.
When I worked in Washington, D.C., in the early 1970s, I was one of the founding supporters of the Center for Defense Information which recruited retired Army and Marine generals, as well as retired Navy admirals who were decorated war heroes, but who were strongly opposed to the kind of militarism which I have outlined above. Several of them were severely criticized by individuals like Col. Miller as being anti-military for speaking the truth regarding the dark side of militarism and the incredible waste of resources by the runaway military industrial complex.
Col. Miller may view such activity as denigration of the military, but he is dead wrong. It is simply a form of good citizenship.
As noted above, I will save comment on the local air show’s celebration of war via computer games, military recruiting, napalm demonstrations and B-2 fly overs for another day. Better still, maybe one of my post-traumatic stress disorder stricken veteran friends — who abhor the sound of helicopters, fighter jets and bombers — will do the duty.
Bill Wickersham of Columbia is an adjunct professor of Peace Studies at MU and member of Veterans for Peace.