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Letter to the Editor, The Chronicle [Nov. 20th, 2012|04:17 pm]

We, as a nation, have always killed people. But, until recently, no president has waged war by killing enemies one by one, targeting them individually for execution, without benefit of any legal due process. President Obama is the first president to make the killing of targeted individuals a significant focus of U.S. military operations.. He has personally authorized kill teams comprised of both soldiers from Special Forces and civilians from the CIA.

More than any other president he has made assassination rather than the capture of individuals the option of first resort, and has killed them both with drones and with nighttime raids. The Obama administration tries to explain that they are being careful, scrupulous of our laws, and determined to avoid the loss of collateral, innocent lives while, at the same time, claiming the right to execute anyone including American citizens at the President's whim. When waging war on individuals, the distinction between war and murder quickly becomes unclear.

When President Bush left office in January 2009, the US had carried out around 50 drone strikes. In the past, almost four years, President Obama has reportedly carried out almost 300 attacks in Pakistan alone.

According to international law, in order for the U.S. government to legally target civilian terror suspects abroad it has to define a terrorist group as one engaging in armed conflict, and the use of force must be a “military necessity.” There must be no reasonable alternative to killing, such as capture, and to warrant death the target must be “directly participating in hostilities.” The use of force has to be considered “proportionate” to the threat. Finally, the foreign nation in which such targeted killing takes place has to give its permission. None of these conditions apply in most of these situations where innocent people have, almost indiscriminately, been killed.

Obama, in your name, has killed individuals in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and is planning to expand the presence of U.S. Special Forces in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. On his third day in office, Obama sent attack drones into Pakistan hitting the residence of a pro-government tribal leader six miles outside the town of Wana, in South Waziristan. The blast killed the tribal leader’s entire family, including three children. Under Obama, we have killed over 2000 non-combatant civilians, including over 200 children, in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

This increased use of drones has also given the arms merchants another way of turning blood into gold. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the defense contractor that manufactures the Predator drone and its more heavily armed counterpart, the Reaper, can barely keep up with the government’s demand.

This targeted killing of children with no risk from a distance, certainly makes you proud to be an American. To learn more Google, Living Under Drones, a recent report published by the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic at Stanford Law School.

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Letter to the Editor, The Cronicle [Oct. 29th, 2012|04:56 pm]

What does it mean to be un-American when a recent Associated Press survey found that over half the people in this country openly admit to being anti-Black and anti-Hispanic? Mind you that I'm not too surprised, since the Right has been pushing subtle and not so subtle racism for years through their minions at FOX and other media outlets. Remember who first started promoting the idea of Mr. Obama as the food-stamp President? Remember the Willy Horton ads? Remember Reagan haranguing about non-existent welfare queen?

Republican leaders of both houses of Congress have stated publicly that their primary goal is to prevent Mr. Obama from being re-elected, even if it means blocking legislation that is good for America. Their not so subtle racism in this effort comes, in my opinion, from their belief that anyone of color is not capable of discharging the duties of the highest elected office in the land. Their racism was apparent when attendees at the Republican National Convention threw bags of peanuts at a black CNN camerawoman saying, “This is how we feed the animals”. The President has been portrayed as a shoeshine man, an Islamic terrorist, and a chimp by an elected official of the Republican Party of Orange County California. I have seen pictures on the streets of Centralia with a Hitler mustache superimposed on a picture of Mr. Obama.

I really can't imagine why any thoughtful woman would support any Republican candidate for public office. The Republican Party policy platform leads directly to belief statements like the Missouri U.S. Senate candidate talking about when rape is legitimate. The even more bizarre statement from the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Indiana that rapists are doing God's will in impregnating their victims also flows from the policy platform of the Republican Party. The Republicans don't think that women are capable of deciding decisions about their bodies for themselves. Republicans don't think women should have access to birth control so that women can decide for themselves when, and if, they will get pregnant. Republicans plan to get rid of Planned Parenthood portraying them only as abortionists when the vast majority of their money is used to fund cancer screenings, birth control, and other health care services for poor people who have no other form of health care. Ryan Fattman, state GOP Rep. from Massachusetts thinks undocumented women who are raped should be afraid to report their rape to the police.

And for those who have been waiting for justice from our court system, the first person has been sent to prison on a charge related to the many war crimes committed by the Bush administration. This person's crime? He told the American public about the many horrendous crimes that were committed under Bush.

What does it mean to be un-American when the truth tellers go to prison and the war criminals go free? What does it mean to be un-American when so many Americans are filled with hate for people of color and women?

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Viet Trip Day 15 [Oct. 19th, 2012|01:33 pm]

June 23, 2012

Vietnam Trip Day 15

When I think of all the places I have been and seen first hand the results of American imperialism I keep seeing how we treat the children.  It is almost as though we have told the world “do what we say or we will kill your children”.  I think of the dying children we saw in Iraq who had been exposed to our depleted uranium weapons.  Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State at the time, said that the price of killing 500,000 Iraqi children was a price we were willing tp pay to achieve our goals.  I saw many children in Afghanistan who are living in a failed state with no hope for the future because we invaded and occupied their country without a social conscience.  Here, I see the curse of our war reaching even into the third generation to kill, maim and disfigure children. How can we as a country say that, in any way, it could ever be worth this price?  In the morning we visited the War Remnants Museum which shows what is called remnant proofs of War Crimes and their consequences.  There are eight different theme rooms covering various aspects of the American War.  We then had lunch with Mr. Son and his daughter.  He is a veteran of VC and NVA whose main job was providing entertainment for the troops. He is a great singer and entertainer.  His joy of life was a good counterpoint to the somberness of the War Remnants Museum.  We learned that today is Tet Daon Ngo which is the annual day set aside to rid yourself of intestinal pests.  Starting at noon you are to eat a special diet which is mostly fruit and some special herbal medicine which will cause the expulsion of the pests. We had a lovely dinner at Ahn's mother's house prepared by his wife.  After that we had a few sily hours with beer and song at a Karaoke place owned by Anh's sister.  Next home.

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Vietnam Trip Day 14 [Jun. 22nd, 2012|04:28 pm]

June 22, 2012

Vietnam Trip Day 14

After breakfast we went to visit the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin local office. The United States dropped millions of gallons of a defoliant containing dioxin on Vietnam from 1961-1971. Dioxin is one of the most toxic substances that we, in our wisdom, have ever produced. It has a long lasting impact on environmental and human health, causing cancers, immune diseases, and multiple deformities to the third generation and more. Almost 5 million people in Vietnam have been affected with 3 million living in poverty due to deformities which interfere with their ability to work. The American government promised $4 billion at the time of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973 to help ameliorate some of the damage we caused but has yet to pay any of this money. At the office today we met with three dozen or so young people who have been affected by AO. VAVA (www.vava.vn) cares for victims aged about 6-32. Another source of info is a Veterans For Peace Project at http://vn-agentorange.org/. We were able to do a clinic which was good for me to be able to do some hands on healing. Three organizations (Soldiers Heart, the congregation attended by Kathy and Michael, and Peace Quest an Arizona vets group) contributed $3500.00 which will allow 7 young people to have different operations, prosthetics and follow up therapy for their conditions. After lunch we went to the Tu Du Hospital which in the Rehabilitation Medicine Department contains Hoa Binh (Peace) Village. Which cres for some of the youngest and most difficult AO victims. We saw patients with hydrocephalus, profound dermatitis, mental retardation, muscle contractures, children born without eyes or limbs and many other sad cases. Another hidden (to Americans) cost of war. Viewing them made me want to hug my grandchildren.

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Vietnam Trip Days 11-12 [Jun. 21st, 2012|03:05 pm]

June 19, 2012

Vietnam Trip Day 11

I'm running out of clean clothes so last night I washed two shirts in the sink and dried them with the hair dryer in the room. We started the day with a visit to a money changer. You can change small bills into dong at hotels and there are ATMs everywhere but they tend to have a limit so a bank or a money changer is the way to go for large amounts. The banks have cumbersome requirements so it is easier to pay a small fee to the money changer and get your money quickly. We then headed to Long Bien where Michael served as an MP but the areas where he served have now been built over into a Vietnamese military base and an industrial zone. We then had lunch followed by a three hour drive to Vinh Long. There were many miles of green rice paddies and farm land. We caught a small boat and crossed the upper branch of the Mekong River to a primitive resort called Song Tien. It is run by a man John has known for 5-6 years who was a Viet Cong back in the day. He seems a great guy. Before dinner we were seenaded by two singers and two musicians who played and acted out the parts for a number of Vietnamese love songs. During dinner we had three shots of 10 year old home made “medicine whiskey”(we are honored since he says he only brings this out for ver special friends) and three Ba-Ba-ba (333 Beer). We heard a story about how the VC who walked in the dark to avoid being bombed in the light of day would catch fireflies and put them into an empty eggshell as a way that they could see each other while walking through the dark jungle. Anh went out and caught a local firefly and they put out an amazing amount of pretty continuous light. Right now I am typing this in the dark and the mosquitoes are buzzing around. Short note today. More tomorrow although it may be several days til we get back to internet access.




June 20, 2012

Vietnam Trip Day 12

The Vietnamese language is quite difficult. Chinese is difficult with 4 tonal variations but Vietnamese has 6 tones they use. You can look at a phrase and depending on whether the diphthong is flat, ascending or descending in various parts you can have six entirely different unrelated meanings. I understand that this is causing some difficulty with texting as the re is no way to put in the diacritical marks that you would have in a printed text to show the tonal setting. I have enough trouble with English. I bought some Vietnamese language tapes but found that I could not hear the differences in tones. I'm sitting here on the steps of my little cabin listening to Blind Willie Johnson. Mississippi delta blues just seem to fit perfectly. I couldn't figure out how to get into the shower room at 5:00 this morning so I ended showering standing over the squat toilet with te bidet spray. Shades of Afghanistan! After breakfast we walked up river a way to a crocodile farm and next to the farm was a fish pond (I estimate 1.5 acres) that was filled with 7-10# catfish. The fish farmers spend $1000.pp per day on food and they harvest every 6-9 months. As it happened today was harvest day. They spread a large net over the whole pond and let the fish swim into it. They then slowly pull up the net from one side to force the fish to one side of the pond about 12 feet wide. When they have this channel done they force the fish forward by rolling up the net again and when the fish are forced into a small area they start harvesting them in baskets which are weighed and then the fish are dumped still alive into a watery hold of a ship. The fish then are transported to Ho Chi Min City for distribution. After that we took a thirty minute boat ride to present a cow to a poor farmer who was VC in the area. This cow was paid for by Michael and Kathy's congregation. This man's neighbors chose him as being most deserving of a cow. Even though he is poor he had recently adopted a little girl who had been orphaned. After that we took another boat ride to another man who managed avoid service in any army and spent his whole time farming during the war years. He was presented a cow which was paid for by the school where Sidney teaches. We met his brother-in-law who was in the South Vietnamese Army. After the war he was sent to re-education camp for almost five years but then went to work for 22 years as a lawyer for the current government. He showed us medals he had gotten for service from both governments. He now works for the Gideon Society helping Protestants in Vietnam. Between the two visits we ate some delicious fruit. There are three fruits that are similar in that they have a thick skin to peel and have a pit at the center. I described lychee before, rambutan is similar but not as sweet as lychee and has thorn-like projections on the skin. The third is longin which has a taste like very ripe juicy cantelope but has the largest pit thus the smallest amount of fruit. All three are about 2 inches in size. We had some dragonfruit right off the tree and it has a white fruit that is speckled with little black seeds. This was so good that our Guide Anh said he had never had one better. We had grapefruit off the tree. We tried durian of which it is said that it tastes like heaven and smells like hell....old teenagers sweat socks is more like it. Anh said it is the favorite fruit in Vietnam but I didn't think much of it. We also had the best pineapple I have ever tasted in my life. Just off the bush sweet and juicy. After lunch and 2 hours of hammock time we took a boat up river to visit a bonsai and orchid farm. A little run down but still has some beautiful flowers. The tide was receding so the boat couldn't wait for us so we took three sampans (one man or woman powered) back to where the boat could wait. We then visited a nursery run by Mr. Tiger who is 92. Mr. Tiger was a VC against the Japanese, the French and the Americans for 25 years. He looks a little like Uncle HO with the wispy chin beard. In talking about PTSD he says Americans try to heal this in the mind when the wound is in the heart. He served us tea, jackfruit, guava and grapefruit along with a locally fermented cherry brandy and a berry favored loacl vodka. John says he has been here nine times and has never had the amount of alcohol served to a group as we have had. No complaints as it has all been tasty. For dinner we were joined by for former VC and two women who work with vets for the government. What would appear but two bottles of home made rice wine. This lead to many stories and toasts over dinner. A good time had by all.

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Vietnam Trip Day 10 [Jun. 18th, 2012|09:51 pm]

June 18, 2012

Vietnam Trip Day 10

Yesterday when we were at Orphanage #3, Sr. Gabriel said that some vets were going to build them a new kitchen but they had to move the pigs fas their current location was where the kitchen would be built. This meant that they needed to raise the funds for a new pigsty so we talked about raising that money when we get home; Alison in particular was going to take this on. So last night after dinner we got to talking to the folks at the next table because we were told by our guide that they were Australian vets. Turns out that they are the vets who are planning to build the kitchen so a little serendipity and we made a connection. On the way out of Kontum we stopped at an old Catholic church that is built of wood in the villagers style. The y have mass celebrated in their native language. We met with a new guide as we were changing areas. Mr. Cham is Jarai; the villagers that we drank the rice wine with were Banara. We drove to Plei Mrong which is the village we were headed to when I was wounded those years ago. A local guide remembered the times. Mr. Ahn was able to find some sitreps that reported on a large battle that included my old outfit about 3 months after I left. A KIA name is familiar. When we were ambushed it was a probing mission on our part. We took a trail toward Plei Mrong and found a stake in the trail with a note stating that it was Viet Cong territory and we should not proceed. Of course we did and almost 2/3 of our company were wounded. So I was glad to go to the area to maybe get some closure. We walked in a way to a village long house. We gathered in a circle with it incense sticks and I read this poem:

Returning to the scene

The man who had once

been told he was a tiger

returned to the land

where he had been both

alive and dead;

now forty three years later

he finds he cannot remember

which was which;

there has been a hole;

in his mind

in his heart

in his life.

Time

unlike dragon smoke

has not transformed

into cleansing water or fire

the memories that spring up unexpectedly

in his life

like a hidden sniper

emerging from a spider trap

but

here

the green smell of the jungle

the loud smiles of the children

has opened his ears again

finally

he is able to hear

the song of the phoenix

he can rise up and

celebrate.

I then burned the copy of the poem and we spoke words of healing for all who might have been involved in the war on all sides. I was nice that some of the village children came out to watch us as they are the future of Vietnam. We than drove to a large local crater lake named Tnung by the villagers Bien Ho by the Vietnamese. We were the center of attention as many people there wanted to take our pictures. After lunch we drove to Pleiku. I listened to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. That was the only album we had in the field at the time so more memories. We then visited a Buddhist temple Thinh Minh. The temple, pagoda, gardens, pools and bridges must cover five acres. One of the most beautiful and peaceful sites we have seen here. We were fortunate to arrive while the monks were still doing their morning chanting/praying. Several of us were able to meditate for 15 or so minutes until they finished. After a stop at a loacl coffeehouse we went to the Pleiku Airport. While the terminal is new the airstrip itself looks exactly like it did 43 years ago. I must have flown out of there when I left but I don't remember it. The flight to Ho Chi Minh City (nee Saigon) took and hour and ten minutes. HCMC looks huge from the air. We are checked into the Queen Anne Hotel.   

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Vietnam Trip Days 8-9 [Jun. 17th, 2012|06:10 pm]

June 16, 2012

Vietnam Trip Day 8

Eight and a half hour bus ride from Hoi An to Kontum from lowland rice paddies to vine infested jungle; from dry grey sandy soil to red sticky clay; from mostly clay tile roofs to many thatched hay roofs (although the clay roofs seem to be coming this way); from cows to water buffaloes. The Ho Chi Minh Highway (which follows part of the old Ho hi Minh trail used to bring men and supplies to the South) is winding and for some portions quite modern but much is still dirt; full of drivers to my eye who drive too fast and too close to oncoming traffic. We stopped about half way here and while I was taking pictures of some wood carvings at a restaurant some drivers realized that they were in my picture so they began mugging. I took a picture of one of them and showed it to him. He offered me a glass of what I thought was water but turned out to be rice wine. This lead to me sharing drinks with all the drivers. I'm hoping they weren't going to get back on the road as they were quite happy. The plantations we have seen from the road are for coffee, pineapples, cassava (tapioca)I and bananas. The old airstrip at the Dak To Airbase is now a cassava farm. We have seen many carts that consist of a motor of some sort attached to the rear of an old deuce and a half or a three-quarter ton truck. I have noticed that even in the poorest houses the front doors seem to be special with dark glossy wood, obviously expensive. Our guide says that an entry into the home is very important to the Vietnamese so the door is important. We have checked into the Hotel Thinh Vuoong on Nguyen Trai Street Kontum. Looking around we see very few obvious tourists unlike our two previous stays




June 17, 2012

Vietnam Trip Day 9

Ah, what a wonderful day! First the monsoon rains arrived early to provide us with the full Central Highlands experience. I'm also moderately loaded on rice wine....more to come. First we stopped at a store to buy 500# of rice, cooking oil, fish sauce, sugar and condensed milk and a washing machine. The washing machine was transported on the back of a motor bike because it wouldn't fit into our bus. The driver held onto the washing machine in its box with is left hand and steered with his right. There are six orphanages in this part of Kontum and we bought the washing machine for Orphanage #3. They are among the furthest from Kontum center and receive the least visits from NGOs and other visitors. The stuff they transport on the backs of motor bikes is amazing. We were received at the orphanage by Sr. Gabriela, a catholic nun who worked in the hospital in Kontum until the war ended in 1975 and then took over the orphanage. She can't weigh 90# soaking wet. There are 57 children in her facility 40 of them not orphans but children of people too poor to care for them. We left the washing machine and food. We spent a great time laughing and singing with the children. Sr. Gabriela is assisted by Sr. Kyung who is a member of one of the seven or so local tribes (I would mangle trying for the name). Sr. Gabriela served us homemade banana wine and a local fruit which looks like lychee but are not quite as sweet. (Don't remember the name off hand, it starts with an R). I told her that I had gone to Catholic grade school and high school and had never had a nun serve me alcohol. She laughed. I sat on my phone and accidentally called Bec Taylor which was fun (11;30am our time; 9:30pm her time). We then dropped of some of the food to three very poor families who live in Kontum. Kontum is considered a militarily restricted area because most of the Montagnard tribes sided with the Americans during the war so are not particularly trusted by the government. As a foreigner you need special licenses to go to this area. The government is concerned that foreigners will try to influence there natives against the government. Some villages have been relocated and these three families were among them. After luch we visited Orphanage #2 with more food supplies, toys and school materials. Again a wonderful gathering of (in this case all girls) who shared songs with us. One in particular shyly shared “We Shall Overcome” both in English and her native tongue. I gave her my card so she can e-mail me. A large number of the girls speak some English so it was fun talking with them. We the went to Thon Konkotu which is the village of Huynh our local guide. There are six or seven local tribal groups who the French grouped together under the rubric of Montagnard. They are the original peoples of Vietnam and hundreds of years ago they were a seafaring people. As the Chinese moved down the coast, they were forced away from the water and up into the mountains. We brought toys and food stuff for half a dozen families. In thanks they had a ceremony in which large jugs (maybe 4 gallon) of rice wine with 2-3 bamboo straws are placed on the floor between the tribal folks and the guests. A bamboo stick is placed a cross the mouth of each jug: suspended down from the stick is a piece that is about a half inch long which is down into the rice wine. The local folks first stick their fingers in the wine and dab each ear and then take a sip proving to you that the wine is not poisoned or bad. Then you attempt to “cross the river” by drinking enough wine to lower the level below the piece that is sticking down into the wine. The trick is that they keep refilling the jug as you drink so it is very difficult to cross the river. I think I crossed the river 4-5 times. It reminds me of one of the best days 43 years ago when we were invited to partake of a similar ceremony in a Montagnard village. That time there were about a dozen jugs of rice wine and you paired up with a villager and moved from jug to jug as you crossed the river. I remember they served rice mixed with red ants (red ants taste a little vinegary and after the second or so jug you would eat pretty much anything), So between the kids and the wine with the villagers this was a good day.

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Vietnam Trip Day 7 [Jun. 15th, 2012|08:39 pm]

June 15, 2012

Vietnam Trip Day 7

We started the day with a visit to the Institute for Disabled and Homeless Adults. In the Vietnamese Confucian culture care for family members, especially the elderly, is of first order. If you have no family or your family is so dirt poor that they cannot care for you, you end up in a facility like this. It seems clean and the caretakers all seem caring. We did a clinic for a little over fifty elderly patients. Many of them were amputees; they had been targets mostly of American artillery. One woman, with one leg, said that she used to hide VC in her house and when the Americans figured this out they shelled her village. There were many such stories. One man, in very poor health, was an American POW but to qualify for government benefits three witnesses are necessary and he could only find one so he received no benefits. Again, a at the last clinic, there was amazingly no apparent rancor or animosity against Americans. After lunch we split up for “free time”. Alison and I did some shopping and then hired Mr. Tam to take us on a tour of the Hoi An River. He took us to Moc Kim Bong which is a village of woodworkers. Various artisans in the village made wood items from as large ast a thirty foot boat to little carved figurines. One man spent a whole year carving a bowl on a pedestal that had 1,000 dragons about the size of a quarter among other intricacies. This was done to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of Hanoi (from 1010-2010). We talked to boat builders. Their complaint is that the mahogany logs they receive are of poor quality from trees only ten years old as compared to the logs they used to receive which were from trees which were 100 years old. The problem of clear cutting the old growth trees is a widespread problem. The UN has recognized the loss of the craftsmen along with the trees and has provided some funding to make sure that these arts are passed down and not lost. I was surprised to see the man putting two curved thirty foot planks together on the side of the boat using 3 inch long ¼ inch pegs every couple of inches.   

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Vietnam Trip days 4-6 [Jun. 15th, 2012|08:22 am]

June 12, 2012

Vietnam Trip Day 4

Today we are total tourists. A two and a half hour bus ride South-East of Hanoi brings us to Halong Bay which was recently voted a one of the seven wonders of the modern world. There are thousands of small islands spread over 1500 square kilometers of the Tonkin Gulf. Many years ago the Chinese were going to invade Vietnam and the Jade Emperor looking down from the sky sent dragons to descend from the sky and drop pearls into the sea which rose up and formed a barrier against the Chinese Navy. Halong means descending dragon. A less believable story is that 250 million years ago this area was a shallow sea in which calcium carbonate deposits collected and when the tectonic plates shifted north these islands were forced up. Either way this is a gorgeous area. We motored out several miles among the islands and stopped for lunch. Then we got into kayaks and paddled among the islands and through limestone caves that in some cases went entirely through the islands. Dark, lightless passages some with low ceilings covered with bats that opened out into little lakes one of which was teeming with brown, white and blue jellyfish about six inches in size. Very cool. Back to the boat for dinner followed by war stories fueled by rice whiskey given us several days ago to a darkening background of distant lightning.



June 13, 2012

Day 5 Vietnam Trip

We awakened to soft, lapping waves against the hull with a hawk calling from the sky. After breakfast, John set up his table and gave chiropractic treatments to all of us. My back hasn't felt this good in months. Then we cruised through the hundreds of small islands and visited a floating fish farm. Back to the marina and an hour drive to a rest stop that had jewels, sculptures, clothing and a form of stitced artwork of a type I had not seen before. The women worked at embroidery benches and copied photos and paintings exactly in thread. Quite amazing. We didn't have time to visit the Ethnology Museum so back to Hanoi Airport and an hour flight to DaNang, dinner at Pho 24 and then about a half hour drive to Hoi An and we checked into the Hoi An Golf Hotel...quite fancy. Who is this tourist?



June 14, 2012

Vietnam Trip Day 6

I asked if the current Capitalist-Communist government intrudes in everyday life. I was told that if what you did did not bring you to the attention of the government you could do pretty much anything you wanted. However, if you interacted wit foreigners or had a business that brings people together out of site of the public such as a Karaoke bar they will watch you very closely and require much bureaucratic paperwork and tedious explanations. Our guide stated that one time the officials called him every two hours to make sure he was where he said he would be. If you talk in public about certain issues such as human rights you will be sent to prison. There are many freedoms outlined in the Vietnamese Constitution (very similar to ours) but the Politburo which consists of about a dozen men decides what is needed in the society; they tell the Party and the Party tells the People. Elections have 99.5% participation because it is required by law but it is generally understood that election results are decided at the Politburo level. This may sound restrictive but think about how responsive our government is to the needs of the American people as opposed to the American corporations.

The pseudo-Jews rushed to find the red heifer needed for the Temple sacrifice after the coming of the Messiah........no, the proto-Hindus sought the divine bovine........no, oops, sorry...poetic lapse. Last year the Soldier's Heart group sought out one of the poorest farmers in the Hoi An area and purchased a six month old cow (pictures show a certain Biafran-baby rib cage) and today after one year we visit the cow. She has fattened up, has developed small horns and udders and the plan is to breed her in a few months and by this time next year one cow will become a herd of two. The farmer, his wife and children are very grateful for this gift which has helped secure their future. Walking to their farm single file along a dry dirt path, sweating in the humid air, insects chirruping, with a rice paddy visible through the bamboo for a few seconds I was back in the day watching the dirt for any disturbance that might signify a mine buried.

We then drove several hours to the Son My area which contains the village of My Lai. On the morning of March 16, 1968 Mrs. Qui started her normal morning chores while her 14 year old son Thanh took the water buffalo out into the fields. Suddenly artillery shells were lobbed into the village. One shell killed their water buffalo and ripped off Than's right arm and leg. American troops landed from helicopters and began herding the villagers into a ditch at the edge of the village. They then proceeded to murder over 500 women, children and old men. Mrs. Qui was wounded twice and was pushed into the ditch by her neighbors body. Other bodies landed on top off her as she fainted. Several hours later the coldness of the bodies losing heat awakened her and she pushed her way out of the pile. Nearby villagers found her and she spent three months in hospital recovering. It wasn't clear to me how Thanh managed to survive his terrible wounds. We visited with 87 year old Mrs. Qui and her son and his family. They greeted us with smiles as if we were old friends. Mrs. Qui said that “then we were all soldiers, American and Vietnamese, but now we are just human beings.” About six years ago I met several survivors of a similar massacre by American troops at No Gun Ri in Korea in 1951. They had the same openness of heart with no rancor or bitterness. I wonder how Americans would act in the same situation. We visited a museum that has opened to tell the My Lai story. I found that five minutes was about all I could take of the pictures and words.

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Vietnam Trip Day 3 [Jun. 11th, 2012|08:36 pm]

June 11, 2012

We got an early start today. Monday morning traffic is curb to curb motorbikes. We drove north to The Friendship Village which is a rehabilitation facility for disabled children and adults, mostly military veterans and victims of exposure to Agent Orange the dioxin based herbicide that continues to cause birth defects into the third generation. Friendship village was started started out of a desire for peace and reconciliation between old enemies by George Mizo in 1988. He was a German student studying in the U.S. During the Sixties who was drafted into the American military. I was honored to be able to assist John Fisher in providing chiropractic treatment to over sixty North Vietnamese Army veterans. Fourteen of these veterans served in the Central Highlands; five of them at the same time that John and I were serving there in 1968. John showed me how to do myofascial release as part of his treatment regimen. It was wonderful to take part in a hands on healing procedure with these veterans. I'm sure there was at least as much healing going on for me as for them. Our time was limited and there were more veterans in need of treatment than usual so we weren't able to provide treatment for the children. We were able to visit the children in their various classrooms. After another delicious multi-course lunch we visited with Nguyen Tam Chien who is a former Vietnamese Ambassador to the United States. His current position is President of the Vietnam -USA Society. We had a good discussion about the current economic situation in Vietnam, which as Mr. Chien stated, is better than in the U.S. John then left to do a presentation about the possibilities for Chiropractic in Vietnam. The rest of us walked to look at the mausoleum for Ho Chi Minh where his preserved body is available for viewing by the public. Unfortunately, the mausoleum is closed on Mondays. It is a stately monument to a great nationalist leader. In his will Ho Chi Minh requested that his body be cremated and his ashes be divided between North and South Vietnam with some buried at his home village. The Party leaders decided that he was such an important symbol for the country that they decided against cremation. Vietnamese culture is based on a Confucian model in which honor of elders and ancestors is paramount so there is a number of people who consider it shameful to not have followed Ho Chi Minh's wishes. Right next to the mausoleum is a very impressive Presidential Residence which has just received a coating of bright yellow paint. That is another of the things you notice is the widespread use of vibrant colors everywhere.     

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