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Keep Your Humanity


  I read this Open Letter awhile ago and have been walking about my backyard deciding if I should link to it for you.

  As you know, I ask that things you send me are careful with their use of language. This letter is not. It uses the language, shall we say, of the field.

  This letter is the position of one man who has been there, who has known the elephant.

  This letter takes a very pointed position on Vietnam and Iraq, and that position is not flattering to these encounters nor to encumbent administrations.

  We all know, even if we do not want to acknowledge that, we all know that war changes people, that on both sides bad things happen.

  For those who were there for the bad things, those bad things stay with them, forever. In war all that we know is turned upside down and combatants are challenged with the dilemma of fighting a war and maintaining their humanity.

  As I was walking about the yard it occured to me that if combatants, as Goff suggests, do not have to come to "hate the enemy," how do they fight them? Are we capable of active combat with humanity? Many  have shown that we are; others have known the blood lust and its concomitants.

  Mr. Goff's Open Letter neglects the atrocities of the people of the country,  Vietnam and Iraq, in this case, against their own.  Our press tends to talk about the mistakes of our own, not theirs and theirs as you have told us, were many, and terrible.

  His position is that of opposition to the current engagement, is critical of the previous engagement. There is no mistaking that. That position may not please many of you.

  And yet, after walking about the yard, I found that I felt he had something to say that needs to  be said. "I changed over there in Vietnam and they were not nice changes either."

  So, with these comments, with a warning that the language is strong, political, there is something in this letter than needs to be recognized, by all sides: that war challenges humanity of each individual. How that challenge is met determines the rest of that individual's  life. Note the anger in his message; note the attempt to warn a current generation of combatants of the challenge to their humanity.
Published on Saturday, November 15, 2003 by Counterpunch Hold On to Your Humanity: An Open Letter to GIs in Iraq by Stan Goff (US Army Retired).


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This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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