Downtown Burlington was jumping with out-of-towners this afternoon, many here for tomorrow’s Vermont City Marathon. But not everybody.
I was snapping a few shots at College & Church of The Burlington Free Press building just in case it suddenly gets sold, when this familiar face shouted out my name and hopped out of his outdoor cafe seat at Sweetwaters.
Al Salzman is a now-retired Franklin County art teacher, who’s also an artist in his own right and an actor, activist and much more. And like others I bumped into downtown and chatted with on the bricks of the Marketplace or in the coffee shop, the positively, immoral, shameful, dishonest and utterly stupid bloodbath called “The U.S. War in Iraq” was the 800 lb. gorilla in everyone’s consciousness. Said Al:
You know what I’m waiting for? And it’s going to happen. The insurgency, either the Sunni or the Shia , or al Qaeda, although the talk of al Qaeda connected with this is sheer bullshit, there’s a small number, I’m sure, but, I’m waiting for them to tunnel under the Green Zone and blow up the American Embassy.
But what about Congress voting to continue funding the war - no time lines, no pressure on King George?
It’s disgraceful. It’s absolutely disgraceful. It’s history repeating itself. Georges Santayana was right.
Said Spanish-born U.S. philosopher Santayana in The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905:
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
We’re doomed to repeat it and we’re repeating it now.
I like Charlie Rangel. He says let’s have the draft [aka. Selective Service System], I mean, if we’re gonna do this. And if Bush says this is the war of the century, a clash of civilizations, where are the taxes? If it’s so critical and it’s so vital and so important. If this is the end all and be all? Why don’t we have a draft?
Because George “WMD” Bush & Dick Cheney, two successful Vietnam War draft-dodgers, could never have pulled off their treason if they had to rely on a draft to stock their body bags. The American people would have paid closer attention, family-by-family, draftee-by-draftee.
Instead, they got away with using the National Guard. Abusing the National Guard. Decimating the National Guard. And the nation’s governors went along with it like good soldiers. A blank check for “the worst president in U.S. history.”
Some of you may have caught Salzman’s recent letter-to-the-editor that ran in a couple of Vermont dailies - a letter sticking up for the troops, something the White House has failed utterly at doing. Here’s a taste:
It was reported in The New York Times that the military has been purposely downgrading the degree of disabilities among our wounded to a classification that makes many of them ineligible for full benefits - just to save money. A recent study by the Pentagon has concluded that the military does not have the resources to treat mental and emotional trauma suffered by returning Iraq veterans. Such an admission from the military not known for its honesty (think Pat Tillman) indicates a problem of horrendous proportions.
When we, as a society, send our young men and women into battle, there is an implicit moral contract that those of us who have remained behind in safety, with no sacrifice other than to go shopping, must demand that our wounded be looked after with all the resources at our command. That this has not been done violates that moral contract and invalidates any soldier's duty to serve.
To protest this criminal neglect of our wounded soldiers, I am asking Adjutant General Dubie, commander of the Vermont National Guard to refuse to deploy any Vermont Guardsmen into harm's way. Given the betrayal of our service people by our government, it is the only right thing General Dubie can do - even if it means a court martial and the end of his career. General Dubie should take note that in the World Court the explanation, "I was only doing my duty!" is not an excuse for moral irresponsibility.
Down at the end of the block we caught these two members of Burlington's "Finest," getting ready for a busy Saturday Night in the Queen City. Nice bike, eh? Nice cuffs, too.