Winter Soldiers

(As published in Jersey papers)

To the Editor:

“The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country. But he who stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” Thomas Paine, 1776.

Today it is the winter soldier who must once again come to the aid of this country. America is confronted with a polarized issue that demands to be resolved: how to end the senseless killing in Iraq.

The killing fields have claimed more than 1,200 American dead, 9,300 wounded and countless thousands of innocent Iraqi children and civilians. In only two days, 36 G.I.’s were killed in Fallujah. How many of our young men and women must die or come home without an arm or leg, or both, or broken in mind before we cry “enough”? Have we learned nothing from the 100,000 American lives wasted in Korea and Vietnam? With an American presence sure to continue indefinitely, the casualty toll will inevitably rise until it can no longer be tolerated. This contrived war, built on a mountain of lies, has but one solution. To “support our troops” we must “bring them home now, alive.”

Iraq is a disaster. The similarity to Viet Nam is frightening. The military victories in Fallujah and Baghdad will not eliminate the insurgents. Iraq is their country and we are the invaders. The only life-saving and humane thing to do, is to get out.

As winter soldiers we continue the struggle for peace by speaking at high schools, universities and on radio, meeting with elected officials and speaking truth to power. Recently we took our message along the 30 city blocks of New York’s 5th Avenue Veterans Day parade. The enthusiastic response from the crowd of spectators for our contingent of more than 100 veterans marching for peace, gave proof that democratic dissent is very much alive. But we still contend with those few individuals who attack anyone who disagrees with them, or worse, dares to publicly dissent with the president. They translate dissent into lack of patriotism. History reveals that when dissent is denied, fascism and dictatorship are sure to follow.

The first acts of American dissent were the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution; in the1950’s we began the historic protest against racism; our dissent was heard when the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four Kent State students because they dared to protest the presence of ROTC on their campus; veterans forced the Pentagon to acknowledge that Agent Orange was killing our own troops and it was the dissent of veterans that lead to the end of the Viet Nam war. Dissent is as American as apple pie.

We defend everyone’s right to express their opinion but do not expect everyone to agree with our views. But neither will we permit any attempt to intimidate or silence us.

We are winter soldiers doing what Americans have done for over 200 years.

Gene Glazer – Veterans for Peace
Bloomfield, NJ