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The Way of History

February 11, 2004

BY TOM MANNING

I hear youngsters refer to the neighborhood – the “hood,” as their way “around the way” and I smile and reflect on how things keep coming around, in circles – a little bit different – a lot the same. When I was a kid, that’s the way it was “around my way,” “over your way.”

“Where you been all day?” – “Over Dougies way.” “Don’cha ever come home ’n eat? Let us know where you’re at?” – “It’s OK, his granmother made chicken soup with rice ‘n leaves in it – from real chicken.” “Go washup . . .”

History repeats itself like Yogi Berra said – “dejavu all over again.”

I’ve got a close friend who comes from the same way as I, or rather, she comes from around my way. She spent a good part of her life as a jury consultant. Picking juries for the defense, in capital cases – and now, she’s working with young kids who are in, or headed for, trouble. She’s trying to make it so they don’t ever have to think about picking a jury.

For the kids – she asked me to write a few words about ‘Nam, in the impending time of war. That was some weeks ago, and it kind of shut me down. How do I compare Vietnam to Desert Storm? But now the war is no longer impending, and for those kids tricked into going over there (“over there, over there . . .”) it must now seem never ending. Long nights and longer days. [In ‘Nam we did one year, more or less depending on your misfortune or luck. I did 18 months. “Someone will say it lasts but a year, three times four months; I say those are days and nights that are endless. “Everyday – twelve hours, every night – seven hundred minutes, every minute – sixty seconds, each second with its load of pain and suffering.” – – written in Polish by an unknown Jewish girl found at Auschwitz.]

There are great pictures out of this war. The New York Times has a “special” war section now. Bigger than their Sunday & Monday sport sections. And this “special” war section has a color center photo spread . . . with pictures that the recruiters are gonna love. [B1 (page1) Sunset at Najaf; page B8 (centerspread) “Marines advance between houses. . . ] And now the Christian Science Monitor has gotten into the big, color center photo spread act (3/27/03). But their pictures, to me, are more reminiscent of ‘Nam. Look at the face of this kid in the convoy picture, “Road to Baghdad” (this ain’t Bing Crosby & Co.). He looks like the typical “New Meat.” FNG, fucking new guy, clean uniform, fresh shave & haircut, trying to look stoic, but the emotions coming through is anything but stoic, or static. It is a realization coming through that says, “this ain’t anything like what they told me back in North Carolina” – this ain’t anything like what NBC/GE told you kid.

Ben Affleck could play this kid, but wait. This ain’t no fiction. That shit coming out of the whitehouse ain’t fiction. It’s lies. There is a difference. Back to the pictures . . .

People (civilians) taking cover in caves (not tunnels?), people on the road in their traditional clothing with bundles of belongings on their backs and smoke billowing from their houses in the background. Yeh, this is looking familiar now, eh? Villagers herded into the center of their hamlet or homestead by U.S. infantrymen, some hunched in fear. Some on their knees, one looking and pointing in defiance [Christian Science Monitor, Thursday 3/27/03, pages 6&7]. Oh, Oh! Doesn’t he know about My Lai [U.S. massacre of Vietnamese civilians during Vietnam War]. But then, why should he? They were just living their lives when history came to visit. That thing that keeps coming ‘round, repeating itself.

The gov’t and media talking head(s) keep(s) crying about the deception, the rouse, the low-down dirty trick of hiding behind a white flag, then opening up on the enemy, instead of surrendering. But, how else do you do an ambush when you have no bush? When you live in a desert country that has been ambushed by the lies and armies of daddy bush and baby bush. Yeh, these people have got bushes now, but not the right kind. No olive branches come with these bushes. If there were any olive branches here, Ariel Sharon will be right along with a bulldozer, and god bless Rachel Corrie, and the students of Evergreen State College who invited Mumia Abu Jamal to be their commencement speaker. Remember? And god bless Kathy Kelly who is somewhere in Baghdad with a soul that must be embedded with Rachel’s and all those people who put their lives where their heart is – With the People.

The United States lived and killed by the ambush in Vietnam (along with Search & Destroy Patrols).

Every night – ambush, “L” shaped configuration, or formations of men hunkered down in the bush, in their ponchos, in the dark, in the rain, in their thoughts, till someone walked into their kill zone. “What the fuck! He walked into the kill zone didn’t he?!”

So don’t tell me about white flags in the desert. They are just little white lies in the scheme of things, inside the big lie that comes from the whitehouse, for big oil, big capital gone international. For Imperialism.

So god bless the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, or in a couple of years, or less, Iran & Syria. And those unfortunate enough to live on top of that oil & gas in the Caspian Sea region, and the people of the Balkans, and Nigeria, and South & Central America. Hands off Venezuela! Keep your lies off Cuba! U.S. Out of Columbia! To all the people of those lands that the U.S.A. wants in it’s covetous hands.

Get up! Stand up! Grab your white flag & AK. Go to the bush. Go to the Mountains. Breathe in the fire on the volcanoes of Morazan Province in El Salvador. Burn away the fear and the lies – by whatever means necessary. Wipe the smoke from your eyes, smash the mirrors of big media. Bring the passion of real liberation to the streets. Free Palestine! Up the Rebels! Venceremos! Amandla! Take back your Freedom. Take it on home for human dignity and self-determination – Che Lives!
Love, Tom

Post Script to Essay by Tom Manning

“Here comes the sun – little darlin – it’s been a long lonely winter”
Thinking about those long nights in the bush – in the rain, and more recently, long nights in prison cells. Often times that sun was a rescuer, and as often – not.

“Up in the morning – out on the job –work like the devil for my pay – that lucky ole sun – got nothing to do – but roll around in heaven all day.”
Nice song about hard times.

“Dawn came on us like a betrayer, it seemed as though the new sun rose as an ally of our enemies to assist in our destruction.” – Primo Levi, Survival at Auschwitz

Many a time I’ve lain in a dark cell, anticipating, knowing that the new day (you often don’t see any sun – outside) just lights on at 6am, or the next shift of guards, was gonna bring trouble . . .

The children of Iraq, who hope and pray for a new day, are being terrorized by the night, when the bombs come. When their teeth and their bones and their nerves and their dreams are shattered, jarred, startled, smashed, shocked . . . who ever thought of that phrase – shock and awe? It’s not just the ones in the muddy boots who should be dragged before a world court. It should be the ones in the air conditioned, sparklingly clean offices first. The ones with the dirty minds.

Tom Manning’s website

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