Latin American Soldiers, Unite

Most of you know that I’m a big fan of the Euronews Nocomment video podcast. The combination of pure video with the original sounds without commentary changes the experience of watching things happen in the world.

Soldiers on PatrolThis morning I watched and rewatched as Ecuadorian soldiers walked through the tropical forrest in formation. Heavily armed and pointing guns everywhere, in preparation for whatever enemy they are told they may have to face some day soon. Obviously the present enemy they perceive is Colombia, just across the border.

As I watch these soldiers do this, and cut to some other video of both presidents of Ecuador and Venezuela exchanging hostile words with the president of Colombia, I have a vision. That these soldiers in Ecuador would suddenly stop marching, put down their machine guns, turn to the camera and say.. “You know, Colombians are our family, our friends, and our neighbors… we’re not going to shoot at them just because the president says we should.”

It will likely be written off as a naive vision by all those who believe whole heartedly in obeying orders and never asking questions. By now more then ever, why not ask just what the hell these governments are trying to do? Why is one army invading parts of one country and then the other countries threatening to bomb in retaliation? Why do people who know each other, who share so much of the past and present in common, choose to support this kind of logic?

One thing that we’re missing in the world today, from Afghanistan to the Congo to Colombia and on and on… is for people to stop following without questioning. To stop obeying when the orders are to destroy fellow humans, to commit mass murder in response to mass murder.

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bmtv71 Canadian Military Show

Over the past 2 years, as part of the new cold war over who owns the arctic, the Canadian government has chosen to use its military to show how serious they are about defending their claim. Through a series of missions and exercises that involve land, sea, and air forces, not to mention determined statements from the Prime Minister, they obviously hope the international community will back off and they can reign freely as masters of the arctic.

One small but interesting task I undertook recently was to search for video produced by or about the Canadian military deployed in the arctic. This vlog entry features those images. And while there may be a somewhat humorous element to the idea that Canada would use violence to settle an international dispute, you will also notice that they really are armed and very much playing the new cold war game.

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Portuguese in Vietnam

As I sit down to lunch with my parents at a beachside resort famous for having a huge population that immigrated to Newark, New Jersey, the waitress walks over with a bottle of wine. “This one is compliments of the gentlemen sitting in the back of the restaurant.”

My dad is already smiling as he looks across the very basic and typical Portuguese establishment, he starts talking and suddenly I realize he’s talking to me as he looks at the man “Don’t you recognize M? Mr. M who has the so and so business in Newark?” I turned to look at a familiar yet unfamiliar face.. already coming my way with a hand extended. He sat down next to me and immediately began going over all the old Newark stories that he remembers involving my parents, going all the way back to 1960.

Of all the stories he told at the lunch table, one in particular kept coming back and stuck out in my mind. His time in Vietnam. As he showed me scars all over his body, from bullet and grenade wounds, he spoke about his Portuguese friends who had grown up with him, immigrated, and died in the jungle. My dad followed each name, seemingly going through his own list of which Portuguese neighbor who he knew from grade school in Portugal that had wound up serving in the US military and dying in Vietnam.

As he spoke about the day he was ambushed, and the coma that followed, and all the people who thought he was dead… he would occasionally come back to the present, talking about all the young kids and immigrants serving in Iraq. “We had kids with us back then, but they were surrounded by adults, people who could take care of them and teach them… not like how they send them out today.”

Seemed like hours that he spoke, story after story.. and I kept thinking about all those immigrants.. Portuguese people who hadn’t been in the country for more than 5 years, and how they ended up – of all places – in Vietnam.

I sat and listened to Mr. M’s stories well after lunch was over. Sad as it may have seemed, there was a tone of quiet satisfaction…. to have lived a full life since then and to be able to remember each person and tell about them.

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When Most of America are Veterans

I have this memory of my mother, when I was a kid, and its not the clearest of memories, but this is how it sits in my mind:

My mom was finishing her masters degree in social work, I must have been in the 5th grade. I remember because I would tell my 5th grade teacher sometimes, “My mom is getting her masters degree.” No idea why I needed to tell her that. Hopefully she had asked otherwise, what a little showoff I was.

Regardless in my memory she had a job or some kind of internship as part of her degree, at some counseling center in a city like Elizabeth, NJ. I can almost remember dad dropping her off at that place. I think alot of veterans went there.. vietnam vets. Mom would never, and has never been one to discuss people’s private details, I’m sure it wasn’t something she’d want to relive at home anyway. But I remember, and its still true, if you bring up life for Veterans trying to pick up the pieces back in the US, she has quite alot to say, and experience counseling them as her qualification to speak on this topic.

I thought about those days, which I’m sure my mom does as well as we watch hundreds of thousands of people being shipped off to a war zone… to a disaster.. and asked to do inhumane things such as kill or torture. I thought about it because I was cleaning the boat and listening to Radio Open Source’s program entitled “Coming Home: Iraq Veterans”. Now I wouldn’t say anything about it if it hadn’t reached into my heart and squeezed when I listened to these veterans speak.

Speak about the violence. What it was like to live that horror and follow orders to shoot people, and then come home and try to just be a friendly well adjusted neighbor again. At one point, one soldier is asked how people would act if they knew the types of things he had to do and what soldiers were required to do in Iraq.

The soldier replies…

“If they knew… they wouldn’t do it…. If people knew what war was about, war would stop. If my family knew, if people on the street knew, war would stop… if people knew, they would be alot more cautious about when war needs to happen.”


I listened to this show and I hit repeat to hear it again. I looked down at my dirty hands and the canal water.. I worried about what kind of future the US could possibly have with so many people damaged in such severe and not visibly detectable ways. I finally gave the engine a few pulls and listened to the engine reawaken after winter slumber, as Iraq veterans talked about their experiences in my ears.

Please listen to the show. Because besides the struggle to bring troops home and end this illegal and politically orchestrated war, the next biggest struggle that will effect the country for generations.. is how to help veterans deal with what they’ve been through, and handle the future as healthy civilians.

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