This is the personal blog of Rick Staggenborg, MD. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Take Back America for the People, an educational 501.c3 nonprofit established by Dr Staggenborg.

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Sunday, August 21, 2011


I live in an area of rural Oregon that like most or rural America has a history of producing more than its share of volunteers to serve in the military when their government calls. Most of us who have answered the call are proud of our service, but those of us who are not proud of what our country called on us to do are Veterans for Peace. Whether we served in war or peacetime, in combat or support units, inflicting our treating the wounds of war we are bound by our mission to stop the madness of war through purposeful, nonviolent action.

VFP Chapter 141 in Bandon is a small group of veterans in a much larger and largely neoconservative veteran community. As everywhere, the local posts of the VFW and other veteran service organizations are dominated by the Vietnam veterans who have come to outnumber the veterans of previous conflicts. These men and women by and large are proud of their service and their country to the point that few publicly question the role they played in establishing what has become a fascist neocolonial Empire. 

After coming home from war many Vietnam veterans found themselves shunned by “the greatest generation,” who were angry that the US had unequivocally lost in war for the first time. Just as did many in the peace movement, so all too often did veterans of previous wars blame the warriors and not the war itself. It was decades before those who had fought in Vietnam were generally accepted into the band of brothers that are all veterans of foreign wars. Now that the Vietnam veterans have been accepted into the larger community of veterans, the tradition of glorification of military service has been passed to a new generation.

As a former VA psychiatrist who practiced in that community I have a good idea how many of these veterans truly support the actions of the US government in times of war and how many are opposed, whether or not they are willing to admit it publicly. Most veterans in this community would be surprised to learn that privately, the majority of those who served in combat not only realize the criminality of the government’s actions in Vietnam but are opposed to the current wars. Most of these are also opposed to all future wars.

There are many reasons that Veterans for Peace are a small minority in this and most communities. Aside from the fact that many veterans have never questioned their role in promoting the imposition of a fascist New World Order, the most important reason is peer pressure. To understand why grown men and women are so susceptible to influence commonly assumed to affect only teenagers, you must understand the consequences of trauma on human development.

At the age that most are recruited or drafted into military service, a sense of self-identity has not yet been fully established. Teenagers who become part of the military are still struggling to define themselves. When they are trained to ignore the basic human prohibition against killing, their self-image becomes distorted. When they are forced to kill and to watch their friends be killed, the trauma reinforces this distorted self-image. The severe nature of this type of trauma has the effect of arresting further development until it is fully processed, which sadly occurs all too infrequently. 

Just as the chronically sexually abused child often grows up without resolving the basic task of individuating from the abuser, combat veterans all too often grow up without having accomplished the basic developmental task of creating an integrated identity and remain susceptible to role confusion. They may feel ashamed, unlovable and unworthy of forgiveness. They are often incapable of living up to their own expectations as spouses, parents and members of society. For them to truly come home they must come to terms with what they did and what they were a part of. Being a member of Veterans for Peace is one way some find their true selves.
You might ask why so many veterans who did not serve in combat adopt the same pro-military, anti-life positions. The answer is rooted in the same explanation. Those who served during or around times of war know service members who died or were irreparably scarred by combat. These veterans identify with and empathize with their peers. To publicly challenge their beliefs takes a stronger sense of self than most people are capable of.
The pain of that empathetic response to the suffering of their compatriots is so unbearable that the emotion often turns to blind anger. Such an attitude primes these people to prepare to accept the next war for Empire in the disguise of fighting whatever “enemy” the state determines most threatens the interests of the international corporate terrorists who control the Puppets in the US government. This is how those corporate politicians are made to dance to the drums of war when so ordered. To refuse would be seen as weakness. The corporate media that is also owned by the corporate war profiteers makes sure of that.
The groupthink that causes noncombat vets to unquestioningly support war for corporate Empire can be seen more generally in the larger society. The vast majority of Americans have friends, relatives or ancestors who have served or are serving in the military. Every generation has had its war and each has contributed to the myth that wars are necessary to assure our “liberty.” Now we are in an era of what could become endless war.

If we do not mature individually and as a society to the point where we are capable of making individual decisions on right and wrong, the self-fulfilling prophecy that war is inevitable cannot be challenged. If we do learn to think for ourselves and to speak out when we see injustice, then surely we will stop the madness of war, the ultimate injustice.

There are no longer any innocent bystanders in war except the children whose future war is ostensibly to “protect.” Each of us has a moral responsibility to ask ourselves why we are at war and what we can do to stop it. Simply refusing to participate is not enough. If we pay taxes we support the war. If we do not we risk losing the means to fight back, either by foregoing the income necessary to wage our personal war on fascism or by being neutralized by the state in being prosecuted for tax evasion.

The only way to end war is to recognize that we who are willing to speak out are a minority but if we work together to educate our neighbors about the true cost of war we help them realize that those of us opposed to the wars are the majority. We can and must succeed. The future of our children and their progeny is at stake. 

Seventy percent of the American public want out of Afghanistan. This is similar to the proportion of people who favored the initial invasion and nearly the same percentage who do not realize that grand pronouncements to the contrary, the Iraq War continues with no end in sight. If those who want peace would become Veterans for Peace or associate members, Congress would be forced to listen.

Soldiers For Peace International requires nothing of its members but a commitment to work for social justice. There are no dues, meetings, or leadership. We were started by veterans, few of whom were willing to become part of any organization because the trauma of war had caused them to become uncomfortable with being a part of society or any group.

The difference between a Soldier For Peace and a Veteran for Peace is thus only the fact that each Soldier For Peace is in essence an Army of One, trying to further the interest of social justice in whatever way we feel capable. Serving in our virtual Army need entail no more that speaking the truth to whomever we do choose to associate with. We may choose to act in concert with other groups such as Veterans for Peace but in the end, we speak only for ourselves.

In a democracy, the People ultimately decide the question of whether to go to war and if we do, when to end it. The United States is no longer a democracy because too many citizens have given up the right to decide for themselves whether war is an obsolete concept other than as a means to further corporate Empire. We have decided that the wars for control of oil supplies are not worth the price, but until enough of us become Soldiers For Peace, our so-called leaders will continue to be Puppets on the strings of international corporate terrorists who seek to enslave us all in a permanent fascist New World Order.

Until we rise up as one People, we dishonor those who have died in the belief that they were defending the freedoms that we have so casually discarded. We cannot in good conscience give in to the belief that we are powerless. We must wage an asymmetric, peaceful war against fascism, injustice and war, the ultimate injustice.

More disgraceful than allowing the sacrifices of generations of warriors to have been in vain, if we fail to do this we will have abandoned our children to a fate that will be determined by the fascists who now control the US government. I will die before accepting this ultimate dishonor. How many billions will die before the rest of us choose to fight?

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