Friday, December 14, 2012

Holidays in the Military

It was December of 1970 and after eleven months I was as accustomed to Viet Nam as I was going to get.  The 25thcame.  A few guys said “Merry Christmas” but basically it was just another day.
Looking back, I’m glad there was no joyous celebration.   We were occupying a country and causing massive death and destruction, so the stories and visuals of Christmas would have been hypocrisy.   Peace on earth.  Good will to all.  That was not our mission.
I find it disturbing, especially at this time of year, when those in power use the young people in the military to pull on our heart strings to further their agenda.   Everyone in the military is not a “hero”.   The real heroes are those who seek to solve conflicts with dialogue vs. destruction.   It takes great courage and ability to face your adversary with the tools of understanding and mutual respect.   Violence is mindless – just pull a trigger or push a button.
The “evil ones” are not the people, or even the leaders, of Iran, Syria, N. Korea or whoever is the next U.S. target.   The evil ones are the cowards within the U.S. who push for war, who push to send our young people to kill and destroy, while they plot to amass their fame and fortune.
I met Claude Anshin Thomas a few years ago.  He was a door gunner in Viet Nam.   In his book,  “At Hell’s Gate”, he says, “Peace is not the absence of conflict; it’s the absence of violence within conflict.”  This holiday season please think about that.
Arnold Stieber

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Michigan State University & Violence

On Armistice Day weekend 2012 I watched Michigan State play basketball in Germany at a military base.  The teams had camo. uniforms.  The audience was "the troops", there were death and destruction vehicles in the stadium and weapons proudly displayed.  It sickened me.  This is the second year in a row that MSU has tied basketball to the military.  I mailed the following to the three listed.  To date I've had no response.
 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

November 10, 2012
TO:  Board of Trustees
         Lou Anna K. Simon – President
         Tom Izzo – Men’s Basketball Coach
FROM:  Arnold Stieber
               (address deleated for this post)
SUBJECT:   Michigan State and Violence
As an MSU Alum and military veteran (Army, infantry, Viet Nam) I am sadden and disturbed that MSU is directly promoting the use of violence via its glorification of the military.
The purpose of the military is to eliminate conflict via violence.   The TV ads with their simulated combat scenes make this statement very clearly – “Kill the bad guys.  This will keep us safe” - is the message.   For two consecutive years the Men’s Basketball team has performed in a military setting and thus has directly tied MSU to this barbarian concept.
I invite all of you to research the most decorated Marine in U.S. history – two-time Medal of Honor recipient Major General Smedley Butler.  After he retired he reflected on his career and wrote a booklet – “War is a Racket”.   I also invite you to explore the words of General Eisenhower  - “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, as only one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity “.  
Once you begin to explore war, the symbols of war, the financial incentives for war, the promotion of war – subtle and overt – I hope that you will conclude that having sporting events with military involvement is helping neither those in the military nor this country.  For those in the military MSU’s involvement adds creditability to the concept that violence is “patriotic”, and “brave”, and the “American way”.   Many in the military, like Generals Butler and Eisenhower, will feel the pain of this barbarian concept later in life.  For this country, having sporting events with military involvement is saying that war is a game.  It is saying to other nations that the USA is about “winning” (aka conquest) and the USA (with its military) will “win”.
I am a graduate of Michigan State University.  I can’t change that.  I ask you to consider the associations that you make in the name of MSU and thus me.   Peace – Gandhi style.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Armistice Day

As a military veteran (Army, infantry, Viet Nam) I invite everyone to take a few moments this Sunday and think about the interconnectedness of life.  Why this Sunday? Because the eleventh day of the eleventh month was originally called Armistice Day – a day to mark the end of WWI and the beginning of world peace.  Congress passed a resolution that said in part, "this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations" and they invited "the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples".
Unfortunately, like many other "days", the original meaning has been forgotten, or intentionally changed.  This day is now called "Veterans Day", and what will be promoted is the military solution to conflict resolution.  There will be much talk of "patriotism", and "sacrifice", and "love of country", and "defending our freedom", but little about "mutual understanding" or "friendly relations" or non-violent solutions to conflict. 
Peace cannot be obtained by bombs, bullets, invasions and occupations.  Peace cannot be obtained by violence.  Peace can only be obtained by the simple, yet courageous act of talking, and developing mutual understanding.  Violence is the barbarian solution to conflict.  Think about it this Sunday.  


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Poem - Viet Nam

The following was written by my Son.  He performed it at the 2012 "Louder Than A Bomb" poetry competition in Chicago as part of the Coaches bout.  I was in the audience.  I didn't know about the poem.  I was stunned, and proud, and cried.   My Son teaches high school in Chicago and coaches poetry after school.  He guides young minds to seek truth in an area of Chicago that some say is "bad". He is a realists.  He understands that if you give kids an opportunity to become exceptional, they will be. 
Viet Nam
(Dedicated to my Dad, Arnold Stieber)

You say it all came back in an evening
In front of the TV
Winter 2003
Iraq war about to start
Platoon was on
You had not let yourself go there since ‘70
You let yourself go there that night
You say it all came back
You could see it
Hear it
Smell it

9/11 might have triggered it
The invasion in Iraq rekindled it
But Hollywood
Brought it back

Knew growing up you were in Vietnam
Wasn’t really sure what that meant
Knew you were in war but never discussed

Couldn’t play guns, cops and robbers, GI Joe
Knew that was the rule
Told some friends you were in war
Another dad had been too
He didn’t talk about it
Heard he had changed when he got back
Didn’t know if you had
Other friends asked about the guns you used
People you killed
Like in the movies
Never did ask
Still don’t want to

So in 2003 you started talking about it
Little by little
I was 22 and felt like 5
Learning about you for the first time

Stories always pretty general
Nothing too specific
Keeping Vietnam at a distance
You had graduated college got drafted
Never thought you'd be infantry
Stories of basic training
You spoke with a clergy man in the army
You said killing didn’t seem christrian
Clergy said country first

You were trained to kill
Targets that looked like targets
Targets that moved
Targets like humans
Humans that looked like targets
Humans that move

Stories of Agent Orange
Fragging of “superiors"
R&R in Austrialia
Christmas in Nam so you could come home quicker
Slurs for the enemy
How soldiers used women
Coping mechanisms to keep sanity

Before you started researching/reading/questioning
A friend former soldier told you not to go down that path
Let it be
You had to go down that path

Now you speak/write/converse
You talk to soldiers home from Iraq/Afghanistan
Stories from them too similar to yours
You see their ghosts

Motivates you to talk to teens about the realities of war/military

Some people don’t want to hear your voice/words/writing
Say things like - your dad is the only soldier I know who feels like that
Other soldiers they know don’t talk or complain about war/death/killing
They don’t know other soldiers back from war
Are killing/over dosing/abusing themselves
War veterans have the highest suicide rate
You told me you thought about it
Soldiers are trained to kill/survive war
Not retrained on how to survive after war
So many don’t talk
You tell me

America teaches that war is necessary
Many soldiers have to believe what they did was necessary
Yet you speak out
Many soldiers fear saying the things they did/saw out loud
Fear of saying what happened may make loved ones distant
That no one can understand what was “normal” unless they were there
You teach me that for a soldier to speak out against war is difficult
You say war is slavery
In 1969 you had three choices
Leaving the country but knowing you couldn’t return
Or War
You said you weren’t brave enough for the first two

People need to know this
So you speak
I know it’s not easy to do what you do
But I thank you for the difficult path you choose

Soon I will be a dad 
I have your path to follow
It‘s easy to sit back
Believe what you are told
It is difficult to do what you believe
At 22 I started becoming a man
Because you started teaching me what that means

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Thou Shall Not

Thou . . . . shall . . . . not . . . . ?

Thou . . . . shall . . . . not . . . . question.

Thou shall not question?

Thou . . . . shall . . . . not . . . . QUESTION! 

THOU shall not question?

THOU! . . . . shall . . . . not . . . . question!

Thou shall NOT question?

Thou . . . . shall . . . . NOT! . . . . question!


Martin Luther King - 2012

January 16th is the only national holiday that commemorates the peace and justice work of a U. S. citizen.

I’m a Vietnam veteran and for me, Martin Luther King‘s most powerful speech was on April 4th of 1967.   “Beyond Vietnam” directed attention to the triplets of war – militarism, materialism, and racism.  All of these lead to moral and financial poverty.

When I was in Vietnam I saw many children.   Every time I look at a child I see our greatest national resource.  It pains my heart to see our children’s future being depleted by our government’s fixation on invasions, occupations, death and destruction.  Every dollar spent on “defense” is a dollar that could have been used to bring our over 15 million children out of poverty.

 On this national holiday read “Beyond Vietnam”.   Contemplate the words of this brave and magnificent man.  Think about what you can do to bring peace and justice into the U.S.A. and protect our greatest national resource.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


As I get further down the path of life I think about things and question things I've never thought about deeply before. One is aging. For me, age has a number of components, some of which we can control. The one component most discussed is chronological age. Most don't want to get "old" - but unless the numbers keep growing, we're dead. So the question for me is, what is "old"? Is it the number (which we want to keep growing) or is it the rest of the stuff?

What stuff? The other components of "age" are, in my opinion, psychological, physical, mental, emotional. I think these (other than being effected by disease or accident) are controllable. Thus a person of 90 ("old") can be very "young" (active/vibrant) in these areas. And a person of 30 ("young") can be very "old" (inactive/dull).

So, for me, yahoo - I'm 65! I've concluded that life is change, choices and relationships.