World Law Day, May 1, 2018

UPDATE May 22: World Law Day program was a success last evening.  Here is the program: World Law Day Program001.  Supporting materials are linked below.  Video of Louisa Hext talk on Forgiveness can be viewed at the Citizens For Global Solutions website, here.


Today is World Law Day.  Late this afternoon about 40 of us will gather at Gandhi Mahal restaurant in Minneapolis to remember a memorable World Law Day 50 years ago in 1968, and hear Louisa Hext talk on “Hope for a Better Tomorrow – Forging the Path Towards Forgiveness: Breaking the Cycle”.  This is a dinner meeting.  There are still openings if you wish, but please call or e-mail first.  The flier is at the end of this post.

World Law Day?  “May Day” is lots of things.  I remember May Baskets as a little kid, “Mary, Queen of the May” as a young Catholic Boy.  I recall May Poles, for some reason – there must have been a year….  On and on.  No one has a copyright on May Day.  It’s centerpiece has always been, I think, nature centered, a hopefully nice Spring Day in the northern hemisphere: a time of renewed beginnings in nature.

World Law Day” was a creation of Lynn Elling, Martha Platt, Dr. Asher White and others in Minneapolis-St. Paul.  The first event was May 1, 1964.  World Law Day was a simple adaptation of Law Day, proclaimed by President Eisenhower in 1958, and enacted into U.S. Law in 1961.  Law Day was the U.S. “cold war” response to the martial tradition of May 1, May Day, in the Soviet bloc.  Not coincidentally it came only months after Sputnik was launched in October, 1957.  World Law Day dinners went on in the Twin Cities for many years, and were resurrected six years ago by Lynn Elling, before he died.  It now has a history of its own.

The premise of World Law Day was peace through World Law, rather than through constant war or threat of war.

As President Harry Truman said during his time as a public servant, if there is a dispute between U.S. states over water rights involving a river which makes up their border, rather than go to war, they go to court for peaceful resolution.  There should be no difference on the Global stage…where all of us live, after all.  “World Law” makes a great deal of sense; more sense than killing some enemy who will, ultimately, get revenge.

The group gathering today will each get a 50+ page packet called “A Rough Draft For History”.  The title is intentional.  For those interested, here is the entire packet, in two parts: World Law Day 2018001 and Minnesota Declarations 002

(In the “World Law Day” packet, at pages 25-26, I take a stab at summarizing 300 years from 1768 – 2068.  I’d invite your own similar reflections, private or public.  We’re at a crucial point in our history, I think, more so than at most any other time so far.)

The second packet deserves a scroll as well, just to see what’s there.

Here’s the flier for tonights event, should anyone have an interest.

World Law Day 2018-05 Louisa Hext FLYER

UPDATE May 2, 2018

Louisa Hext May 1, 2018

The Korean Peninsula

The handshake and the stepping across the line at Panmunjon yesterday were of more than symbolic significance.  It passes with more than routine notice: a step on a long road ahead, hopefully between two sovereign nations, together, rather than manipulated by some Greater Power(s).

I’ve written about Korea a few times, most recently here.

A while back I made a rough map to orient myself to this part of the world which has, for the past 65 or so years been neither at war nor at peace.

Korea and environs

(The lavender rectangle on the map was a scale of miles.  But think in terms of perhaps 100 miles, east to west.  Pyongyang and Seoul, the two capital cities, are not much more than 100 miles apart.  This is not a place for idle threats or speculation or insults like “nuke ’em”, “rocket man” or such.)

This morning my favorite compiler of opinions about this and that had a collection of opinions about what happened yesterday at Panmunjon.  You can read it here.

The longest leaps often begin with the smallest steps.

Let’s hope those symbolic gestures, yesterday, come to have great historical significance in years to come.

POSTNOTE: This is my first publication since April 11.  First, a problem with my writing platform required a rebuild; then that was done and life has been extremely busy.  I think I’m mostly back in business.  Those who were subscribers will have to resubscribe once a new subscription feature is selected.  It’s good to be back, at any rate.

On a related note to the above, there is still room for persons interested in attending the “Forgiveness” dinner with Louisa Hext on Tuesday, May 1.  This will be a very good evening.  The flier is here:

World Law Day 2018-05 Louisa Hext FLYER


Overnight came an e-mail from a peace person, “strongly support[ing] direct talks between President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.” The entirety of the e-mail is at the end of this post.

The comment brought back to mind a memory. I’m one of those odd ducks who don’t mind the label of “family historian”. Each family seems to have at least one of us, attempting to carry forward the story of their group, sometimes uncovering stories someone or other feels are best left untold.

And so it was that in my extended family genealogy I made an entry in the early 1990s: “William 3-13-33 to 3-14-54”, buried in a cemetery in Rockford IL.

I was 13 when William died, 900 miles from our home in Ross ND. So when I did the genealogy, I was a bit curious about William, but not enough to do any actual digging.

In 2011, William’s younger brother, Thomas, died, and his daughter passed along the usual information. It presented an opportunity to ask about William, so I asked, not really expecting a response.

Shortly came a letter from Lisa, born 1967. Somewhere I still have that letter, but its contents stick in my mind: William, the letter said, had been in the Korean War, and came home a very tortured young man. This particular night, March 12, 1954, William once again laid his memories and anxieties on his friends.

This night, one of these friends, probably frustrated by Williams constant laments, made a suggestion: “why don’t you just go home and kill yourself?

William took the advice, shooting himself at home, where he lived with his parents. Thomas, his brother, was 12.


I have just now re-looked at the family history, and noted for the first time that William decided to end it all on his 21st birthday. I wonder how his bar friends reacted on hearing the news. For the first time, I connect a trip we made to Chicago in the summer of 1955, where we stayed overnight with the family. The wife was my mother’s first cousin, a year older, born a mile away in North Dakota in 1908. It was a small family reunion occasioned by a tragedy a year earlier. All I remember is that we arrived at night, greeted at the front door by Irene and Carl, the parents of William.


It was 64 years ago, this very day, that William died in Rockford IL. I was 13, old enough to remember Douglas McArthur, but not the fine points of why the Korean Peninsula has been divided into North and South for all these past years.

Personally, if the Koreans will ever reach rapprochement, it will not be because of the U.S., China or anyone else; it will be the Koreans themselves who decide that enough is enough. The Winter Olympics presented an opportunity for a tiny start, and no one should expect miracles, most certainly not from Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un doing some deal of some sort (while at the same time, Trump is saber rattling to dismantle the multi-lateral negotiated nuclear agreement with Iran.)


Here’s the rest of the overnight e-mail. For the record, I’m a U.S. Army veteran (1962-63) and a Veteran for Peace for many years…as a citizen, what do YOU think?

Veterans for Peace [a chapter]… strongly supports direct talks between President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It is time to end the state of war between the US and North Korea. The prospect of a US attack on North Korea leading to North Korean nuclear retaliation is horrendous. We are appalled at the negative attitude towards these direct talks between North Korea and the US now evident in much of mainstream media. We wish to remind everyone that it was “the experts” who led us into previous disastrous foreign policy actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Direct talks and negotiations toward peace on the Korean Peninsula will be a positive step for all of humanity.

(2) “Editors Update” notes” for February 17:

Once again the ‘gremlin’ said ‘no’ to some important updates to the previous post, dated also today (see updates below). This is the fourth post in this “thread”: Feb. 14, 15 and earlier today. When I contemplated the Valentine’s Day post, and the Ash Wednesday connection with it, I could not have conceived of what has happened since then. The temptation is paralysis. But this is a time for action, not passivity. And we all need to work as individuals and together for positive change.

UPDATES to earlier Feb. 17 post
See also February 15 post, “Guns, again” here; and “#MeToo” for Feb. 14 here.

This time of year, in 2001, we heard about a public preview of a new movie, Bowling for Columbine, at a large Presbyterian church in St. Paul. We stood in line, got seats, film producer Michael Moore was there, and talked about the film. The place was packed; they did a second showing that night. The film was released in 2002. Of course, the film garnered controversy. It is worth seeing again, or for the first time.

A year ago, March, 2017, I once again walked up Cross Hill above Columbine High School. There is now a permanent memorial to those who died in 1999. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Denver Post after we returned home: Columbine – Denver Post. They considered publishing it (they contacted me) but to my knowledge it never appeared in the paper.

If you missed the preview week of “The World Is My Country”, and now wish you’d seen it, here’s another opportunity, till February 21. Password: wbw2018 (lowercase)

Today’s Just Above Sunset, The Hammer Drops. The Mueller Indictments of the Russians. Here are the actual indictments as printed.



from Fred: Your daughter’s comments are telling. I hope they get broad circulation.

It is interesting to me, [my friend] Dave as well, that we taught in a “high crime” area in a large metro area for many years. We saw horrible crimes take the lives of our students: the February 1994 gang firebombing of a house across the street from our school that killed five children, including two of our students, and the murder, by their disturbed mother, of six children, again including two of our students, quickly come to mind. Shooting were not common but the a neighborhood grocery clerk, a block from school, was shot and killed in a robbery. Same goes for an SA clerk four blocks north of our building.

Crime was a fact of life at our school and something that we dealt with successfully as a faculty, neighborhood and student body. My use of the word “successfully” refers to the determination of all involved to keep the kids safe and productive while inside the school. We had security in the school—front door monitors, sign-ins, police on duty for night meeting, etc.—from the early ’90s on. Unwelcome outsiders caused problems but not often. Nevertheless, I remember an armed robbery in the parking lot and a few stolen cars from the lot (including mine) over the years.

But we never needed to consider what your daughter contemplates on a daily basis: a well-armed intruder bent on killing. I see columnist Max Boot, no liberal snowflake he, commenting about an American “suicide pact” with the NRA and the gun lobby. I fear that the pact is yet unbroken, but am hopeful that the growing outrage in the nation will finally coalesce and produce change.

from Jeff: Gov. Scott of Florida called for the FBI Director’s resignation because of a field office mistake (NYTimes Feb. 16), to which a letter writer responded: “Please do a full piece setting out all of Florida’s gun laws, especially those enacted under Rick Scott’s “leadership”. Eg. at 18 you can buy an AR-15 but not a hand gun; you can buy a gun without photo ID but you can’t vote with out it; you don’t need a license or permit to buy or sell a gun; you don’t have to register a gun; police can only act if there’s an immediate “mental health crises” at the time of interaction between the “suspect” and the police. Compare the list with the rules and requirements of dog ownership.”

from David: You would think that America valued it’s children, its future, more than anything. Not true. America has decided that children, whether they are in a Florida school or on the mean streets of Chicago, are merely collateral damage in the sacred fight to preserve “Second Amendment Rights.” Politicians have climbed into bed with the NRA ghouls and seem to be able to wash the blood off their hands with “thoughts and prayers.” The public seems to have become numb to whatever latest slaughter turns up on the nightly news. We mumble something to the effect that “someone” should do something but then change the channel and move on. Dead children at Sandy Hook? Dead children in Florida? Dead children on Plymouth Avenue? Someone should do something about this. Meanwhile, I’ve got the Olympics to watch.

from Fred: Well said. I think the general cultural temperature is rising these days thanks, in large part to our leader, AKA The Great Uniter. The center grows restless and sullen, the left angrier, and the right ever more defensive. Raft loads of bad news washes up on the shores of Fortress Maralago. The Emperor has no clothes and even some of his rabid followers are taking notice.

from Carol: Al Hoffman, a big GOP donor in Florida, has notified the Governor and other Rs in the state that he will not be writing any more donation checks until a ban on assault weapons is in place.

from Kathy: Hopefully the young people’s uprising will be big enough to get background checks and not more assault weapons into legislation. Our generation sure has not been able to get it done.

The World Is My Country

PRE-NOTE Jan. 27: I watched the on-line version a few hours ago. Note PS in this post if you experience any difficulty with your computer. The on-line film is perfect quality. (Do watch all the way through the credits, and complete the evaluation found there.) Free through Feb. 1. My e-mail: dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.


It’s arrived! The free week on-line full length preview of “The World is my Country” begins Friday, January 26, through Thursday, February 1, 2018. To watch it go here, and sign in. Then enter your access code CGS2018.

You are welcome to share that special code with all your friends, on Facebook, Instagram or whatever. It can be played as many times as you want but only during the free week.

Not sure if you want to take the time to watch a movie? Then please take just 2 minutes to watch the short video about the standing ovation and excitement generated by the film when we showed it at the World Premiere at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International film festival: here

I have literally watched this film evolve over the past seven years since I learned of the project, and from the beginning I have been impressed with the rich and little known historical story the film tells, and its appeal to those from high school age to senior citizens. From the beginning I’ve been a volunteer champion for it. Give the film 84 minutes of your time this weekend. I think you’ll want to encourage others watch it as well between now and the end of the preview week February 1. I wouldn’t be surprised if you watch it a second time.

In my opinion, this is a film that is ideal to watch in a group setting, among people of varied ages and similar or differing points of view. It encourages reflection leading to rich, civil conversation. It is about past, present and future…and our role. It is not a “birds of a feather” presentation. Yes, it has a point of view, but open to differing interpretations, on serious contemporary local and global issues.

Yes, the film is “free”. But nothing is ever free – you know that. I’ve watched Arthur Kanegis, the director of the film, put over a decade of his life plus all his resources into making this film to save this important story from the dustbin of history. He’s making this preview available to you in the hopes that you’ll help sponsor it at more film festivals or hold your own mini-fest of films for a better world. Please consider making a voluntary donation to help pay for final licensing and related costs so that this film can play on public television stations and be publicly released. This is a film deserving to be seen now and for years to come. You are part of its future.

Here is a flier I put together which can be shared: The World Is My Country006

More information about this 84-minute film is here.

Comments/Questions? dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.

Enjoy the show! (I’m quite certain you will.)

To show the film to your friends using your laptop and a projector or television:
1. Make sure your laptop has a strong WIFI signal to be able to stream the video without hesitating.
2. Connect your laptop to the TV or projector using an HDMI cable, description here.
(If you have an older laptop that lacks an HDMI port then ask a techie about other connection options)
3. Plug a good speaker into the headphone jack of your laptop or of the TV so you can have louder and clearer sound.
(you might have to use the “sound” control panel of your PC to choose if the sound goes right from the laptop or goes through the HDMI cable to the TV or projector.)
4. Enjoy! And invite everyone who watches to let the filmmakers know how they feel by filling out the survey here.

World War I, and War, generally.

Saturday, Nov. 11, turned out to be a very significant day for me.

The intention was to be at the Veterans for Peace Bell Ringing at the Minnesota History Center (MHS), and that was accomplished. The same day, the 99th anniversary of the end of WWI, at the same place, was the final day of the excellent “WWI America” exhibit. Later that afternoon, the outstanding film The World Is My Country, about Garry Davis, a WWII bomber pilot who gave up his U.S> citizenship, disgusted by war.

Those who lead wars always portray them as necessary and thus good (our “side”) versus evil (theirs). It is politically useful to have an enemy. War is not nearly as simple as that. It is the young who go to die “for our country”; and who are proclaimed “heroes” when they do…. In this modern age, it has been the innocents who are slaughtered.

The entrance to the WWI exhibit at MHS said it pretty well:

(click any photo to enlarge)

The bare basics of WWI are simple: 1914-18, the good guys won, the bad guys lost. The truth is not nearly so simple. Part of another side of WWI came from my friend, Michael, who sent a long article from the Guardian newspaper expanding on the story of WWI. It is not politically correct from those who have written the official narrative of WWI, but it is very interesting. You can read the long article here.

In the hall outside the WWI Exhibit, Vets for Peace remembered Nov. 11 as Armistice Day; elsewhere in the building was a lecture about aspects of the War. In England, the day is now called Remembrance Day.

The local Vets for Peace especially recognizes the Kellogg-Briand Pact, signed 1928, which was supposed to end war permanently. The Vets for Peace podium had this explanation of Kellogg-Briand:

In “The World Is My Country”, Garry Davis went to war on a B-27 as part of the U.S. Army Air force after Pearl Harbor. In the end, his conscience couldn’t square killing innocent German people from a U.S. bomber over Germany to avenge the loss of his own brother, killed aboard a U.S. Destroyer in the European theater in 1943. At 26, he gave up his U.S. citizenship, and became a stateless citizen of the world.

Davis’ story is riveting and keeps everyones attention, and especially well suited for young people of today. The film is not yet fully released, but watch for it when it is.

Back at the Vets for Peace, at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, Bellringers rang their bells 11 times to commemorate the end of a terrible war in 1918. This is a long tradition of the local Vets for Peace. I have been to many such remembrances since 2002.

Back in the nearby WWI exhibit down the hall were three displays which particularly spoke to me: the first of the Treaty of Versailles, which helped lead to WWII; and the second which needs no explanation, coming as it did before woman gained the right to vote in the United States.

At the time of the Treaty of Versailles

Both my mother and grandmother contracted the influenza but survived. The hired man on the farm went to war and died.

The most powerful songs I know, about WWI, and the folly of war are “Waltzing Matilda”, and Green Fields of France. Give a listen.

Today, November 11, 2017, Armistice Day (aka Veterans Day)

Today, at 11 a.m., on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, Armistice was declared at Compeigne France ending the deadly World War I. In 1928 came the Kellogg-Briand Pact, signed by France, Germany and the United States, to hopefully renounce War. In 1939 the even deadlier began when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. In 1945, WWII ended and the United Nations was born. There has not been a pandemic war for the past 72 years.

Perhaps there is hope for humanity, though wars, its seem, will always be curses on our lives.

Today is the final day of the World War I exhibit at the Minnesota History Museum in St. Paul, and at 10:30 a.m. will be a ceremony conducted by the Veterans for Peace Ch 27 which culminates, at 11 a.m., with ringing the bells of peace. Details here.

At 4 p.m. today, at the St. Anthony Main theatre in Minneapolis, the story of Garry Davis will be told in the film “The World Is My Country”. Garry Davis was a WWII bomber pilot who took ending war seriously. Details below. More about the film here.

(click to enlarge. pdf version is here: World is my Country – 2002)

Dick Bernard, Remembering Vietnam War 1961-75: My Morning Report

Added Nov. 16, 2017: Here is a three minute clip of personal observations on Vietnam made in St. Paul Sep. 7, 2017.

COMMENTS at end of this post.

My thoughts. If nothing else, listen/watch Jim Northrup talk about Vietnam and War.

The most powerful testimony I’ve ever heard about the reality of Vietnam came from Native American author Jim Northrups remarks at the 2014 Veterans for Peace Memorial Day observance at the MN State Capitol Vietnam Memorial. View here. (Scroll down to “Peacemakers of Minnesota”. The Northrup segment is 20 minutes, at 6:55 – 26:11, and includes two segments. It is verbal and powerfully graphic. Four other Vets for Peace share the remaining 10 minutes.) (Also, see POSTNOTE at end of this blog).

(click to enlarge, double click for more).

Field Office, 1963, Yakima Firing Range Washington

Above is a snapshot I took of my “field office” as Company Clerk of Co. C. 1st Battalion,, 61st Infantry, 5th Infantry Division (Mech), while on maneuvers at Yakima Firing Range, Washington, May, 1963. We were preparing our Infantry Division for someone else’s future duty in Vietnam. As Company Clerk, one of my responsibilities every day was to do a letter perfect “Morning Report” which had multiple copies with a standard format reporting previous days activities, including personnel status (including to my recollection name, rank, serial number, status, such as “leave”, “promotion” or “demotion”…). The only way to deal with errors was to retype the entire report. I probably did 500 of these “Morning Reports” Morning Reports recorded the History of War at the basic level. (More in NOTE ONE, below)

I watched every one of the 17 hours of Burns/Novick’s Vietnam War on PBS, and felt it was outstanding, and as accurate and complete a reflection of the reality as could be summarized in 17 hours.

Our country, unfortunately, has an entire history of War. It is our metaphor for life, in a way. Last year I did a graphic to help me understand our own history:

I was 20 when “the Vietnam era” began in early 1961; 23 when my two years in the Army ended in 1963; about to turn 35 when we lost the war in 1975.

Because I let it be known that I was interested in the PBS series, I have had many conversations, most of which do not see print on these pages. I wrote several times about the series (access here).

A recent e-mail from a good friend seems pertinent: “Also wanted to sincerely thank you for the dedicated and excellent work you have done with the subject of the Vietnam War. With sheepishness I admit that I find myself almost unable to watch/listen to anything about that war. Perhaps I’m the only person in Minnesota who saw not a single minute of Ken Burns’ epic review. For me it is as if the subject is still an open wound, such a tragedy for so many combatants and civilians, for Vietnam as a country, and for our country that has yet to recover from the moral damage.”

As the series ended, I found myself doing a personal timeline “biography” of 1961-75 as the war years related to me. In this simple act of writing down thoughts, some things unremembered came back to mind. Every one in my age range could make such a list, and I’d recommend it. It reveals and is cathartic at the same time.


PERSONAL REFLECTIONS. I would summarize in three categories as follows.
(More in NOTE TWO)
1.4% and 1%





All of those 58,000 names on the Vietnam Wall in Washington were likely first reported on someone’s Morning Report in Vietnam, typed by some Company Clerk, like myself, and checked by the First Sergeant who, in my case, was Fredric M. Strong, (a wonderful man in his late 30s. When I knew him at age 22. he seemed old).

The Morning Reports were finally approved by the Company Commander for transmission up the line to Battalion, etc.

Each Army Infantry Company was more or less 140 GIs with a Commander, usually a young Captain, several Platoon Leaders, usually green-as-grass 2nd Lieutenants; and an assortment of Non-Commissioned officers (NCOs), including Mess Sergeant (food), Supply Sergeant, etc. Other than combat infantrymen, there were some assorted duty assignments for enlisted, as mail clerk. Being 2d Lieutenant was hard enough in a training company; I can imagine what it was like in combat.

We were all of of various talents and temperaments, from different backgrounds and regions, thrown together as “warriors” in training.

It is societies ritual to call all of us “heroes”, “thank you for your service”. In reality, we were mostly just paying some kind of dues (the Draft), or looking for a way to make a living or a life. To call us “heroes” simply justifies a war environment: somebody needed to do the dirty work. Most of the “heroes” were like those listed on Washington DC’s Vietnam Wall: They were killed in action.

The enlisted men, draftees and volunteers, were generally very young. At 22&23 and college graduate , I was rather senior among the soldiers. I had an opportunity to opt for OCS (Officer Candidate School) but passed on the opportunity as it would have required an extension in my service.

We were a “motley crew” in every sense: from many different states, religions, nationalities, ethnicities. A best friend was a native of Hungary, not long before a refugee from the 1957 revolution there; another was native of British Columbia, Canada, etc. Thinking back, it had to be an immense job to manage the differences and the constant change, and this was before time of actual combat….

(Personally, I have never renounced or denied military service. In my opinion, there will always be war and a need for military. Each generation, each country, including our own, breeds its own evil doers. I’d like to see all swords beaten into ploughshares. This will not happen with humanity as it is.)

As I’ve noted in an earlier post, 27 men from my Company ultimately lost their lives in Vietnam, beginning about 1967. These were 27 names on somebodies Morning Report for Co. C, 1st Bn, 61st Inf, 5th Inf Div (Mech)….


It would be nice if all were simple as numbers. Nonetheless, numbers do provide a base for discussion.

In 1970, at the hottest time in the Vietnam War, the U.S. population was about 200,000,000, compared with over 325,000,000 today.

5% – see end of this section.

2% – Back in 2010, my good friend, Rev. Verlyn Smith, was awarded the Hawkinson Award for Peacemaking.

In his remarks that evening, Verlyn, a Lutheran Minister, recalled his time as a campus ministry regional director in the western states. His service there came at the hottest time of the Vietnam War. He had evolved into a peace activist. A comment he made has stuck with me these subsequent years: in his recollection, informed by experience, he estimated that no more than 2% of the students were peace activists. The remainder were just going about living as they saw life at the time – classes, work, etc.

Verlyn didn’t make this as a moral statement; rather a reminder that only a small percentage, then, were actually activists.

3% – In his article critical of the PBS series, “The Tragic Failure of Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War”, writer Christopher Koch, estimates the Peace Movement of the Vietnam War as 6 million (about 3%) of the population. These are only his ideas of reality, but as with Verlyn’s, they are a good basis for conversation.

1.4% and 1% – At the time of Vietnam, it seems that about 1.4% of the population was in the military, not all in Vietnam. A few months ago, when I was at a Marine enlistment ceremony for my grandson, the presider told the recruit that today about 1% are in the U.S. military services. Even in the worst times, a tiny minority serve. They are always the young. We need to be careful about sending our young off to die.

Finally, there are the numbers: “3,000,000/58,000/?” These are the estimates of Vietnamese and American deaths in the Vietnam War. The (?) is those who didn’t actually die in the war, but continue to die from things like Agent Orange and other such effects of being at war, as PTSD, in all its assorted forms. These casualties did not stop in 1975, and don’t stop at national borders.

In my personal history, the one vivid memory from television (the primary source of my information as a civilian) was when the military and Gen. Westmoreland were found guilty in court of falsifying casualty figures. In those years, winning was connoted by how many more enemy were killed than friendly. Always the enemy lost far more than Americans. It didn’t make sense, but it was the only information we had. “Fake news” ultimately had to be called to account. On reflection, I don’t feel any pride at all at killing more than the other side. Then, and I think still, it was the rubric for measuring strength or victory. Killing was nothing more than a number, not somebodies son, grandma or neighbor.

Now, what about that 5%?: Back in February, 2008, I was privileged to be in a living room conversation in St. Paul with Daniel Ellsberg, and members of the Minnesota Eight. In my recounting of the meeting, someone in the circle, perhaps Ellsberg himself, said that you need 5% of the population to really make a viable movement (what I wrote then is here: Daniel Ellsberg 2008001, see p. 2.) Is 5% the accurate number? Probably not. Whatever the case, the Peace Movement never did reach a critical mass for success, even at its strongest point. We carry a lot of baggage….

(The Vietnamese refer to 1961-75 as “the American War”. We were not the only aggressors.)



In composing my personal history of ages 21-35 (1961-75), I recalled something with fresh eyes about the years mid 1966 – August 1969, when I lived in an apartment in Spring Lake Park Minnesota. At the time, a few short miles and about equally distant to the west and to the east, were two major military materiel operations. One was the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, which made ammunition; the other was variously known locally as FMC (Federal Munitions Corporation/Northern Ordnance).

Both facilities were in the business of military contracts for Army and Navy.

Both were large employers, in my memory, thus providing jobs and income to working people.

So, here in my own city, as everywhere, there was a constant tension between the obvious distinctions between peace and war. This tension was well illustrated in an article printed in my college newspaper, May 24, 1961, at the very beginning of the Vietnam era.

(click to enlarge)

Viking News, Valley City (ND) State Teachers College, May 24, 1961

Another tension happened during the war years, but I wasn’t aware of it until about 2000, when I was cleaning out the house of my brother-in-law, Mike. Mike had had a hard life – didn’t know his father, that sort of thing. He was very intelligent, and he graduated from high school, and in 1969 graduated from the same college as I, Valley City State Teachers College. When he died, in 2007, a letter with instructions for burial self-described him as a “lone wolf”. It was true. He knew himself well.

After college, Mike taught two years in a small town school, and was the teacher assigned as adviser for the school newspaper. As part of that he apparently permitted high school kids to speak their mind about the war, going to Canada, or whatever.

I gathered that it was the kids who wanted to write about this, and he said okay.

This did not sit well with some of the local influentials, and he was let go. He then went into the Army about 1971, which apparently gave him the roots and stability that he sought. He got a top secret clearance, and an assignment to a post in Germany, and was intending to make a career out of the service when someone back home who didn’t like him reported him as unpatriotic and a security risk, investigating him back to college and teaching days before his time in service. The Army set out investigating him.

I found the entire narrative in a long deposition found in his house – the deposition that led to his death as a military man. The questioners zeroed in on every aspect of his college and post college life. A young social studies professor at the college was fingered as teaching what were perceived as anti-war ideas. The professors name was mentioned in the deposition. I won’t repeat it. It was misspelled, and I actually saw the man’s picture in the college annual just weeks ago.

Mike represented a quandary for the military. He was apparently an honorable service man. Mike was given an honorable discharge with a rank of Specialist 5th class – a high rank for a two years soldier. He went home, and spent the rest of his life, chronically mentally ill, a regular client of the VA Medical System from the 1970s forward to the time of his death.

I consider Mike a war casualty. His name doesn’t appear on any wall, just a modest grave in his hometown.

About the same time as I found Mike’s documents, I met another man, Lynn Elling, who showed me a 30 minute film made in 1972, for use in Minnesota public schools, involving an amazing coalition of political and civic leaders. It’s called Man’s Next Giant Leap, and you can access it here. At about 11 minutes a prominent Minnesota Republican politician of the time talks about the economic costs of war. Among others, the film features singer John Denver “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream”. It is worth the 30 minutes.

In sum, we Americans were at war with ourselves in the time of Vietnam, within our own country.

This continues today, perhaps even worse, though differently than in the Vietnam War. The tension remains.



In the series, much was made of lying by Presidents and high level government officials. They all lied about the war. I was particularly noticing the “why” of their lying: to accept and announce the reality that we were losing in Vietnam would be a very bad political (i.e. winning the next election) problem. To be against the war would be costly at the ballot box. It made no difference, Republican or Democrat. To lie on this issue was deemed essential. In effect, “we, the people” demanded the lies.

Robert McNamara is easily fingered as a bad person, an apologist for the Vietnam war. He came to grips with the problems with the war he was promoting quite early on. But the war privately tormented him. Much later in life, the film “Fog of War”, was his attempt to own his part in the tragedy of Vietnam. Years ago, a friend sent me an article he had written about “Just War”. You can read it here: Just War as seen by Robert McNamara Aug 2003001

In late 2017 we are at a truly dismal point in our own national history, but opportunities exist for change if we agree to do the necessary and very hard work.

About the time the Vietnam War series began, President Trump was throwing words around against North Korea at the United Nations, and is almost casual with his threats of doing bad things to anyone who disagrees with him. Suddenly the nuclear arsenal, always a major problem, is proposed for the first time in many years as a solution, rather than the certain calamity it would unleash.

Congress remains complicit in all of this, because for it to be honest about war is considered a liability (see comments about Presidents lying for electoral advantage). It is similar to lobbying for coal mining because military spending represents jobs and prosperity and always has…. For years, Congress has evaded its constitutional responsibility for war making, choosing to blame the President.

Still, I think the vast majority of our citizens, now, have a yearning for peace to get along with each other. I see this manifested every day.

A wise strategy, I think, is to get into the necessary conversations at the local level, working for cooperation and not competition particular among people with generally similar feelings. These conversations need to be with the unconverted, and presume and value other points of view. Talking only with fellow travelers in ideology is not really worthwhile. We need to truly engage with others to find out areas of common agreement.

I would like to see every young person in this country watch and discuss the entire series. (For me, young would be 50s and lower in particular). These folks need to know and understand the dynamics and consequences of a war society. It is their generation which will be devastated by the next war.

The conversation has to center on the “young”. I am again reminded that I was 21-35 in the Vietnam years, and that began over 50 years ago. Those who were active then were the young, my contemporaries. Today’s young have to make their own future. Elders are no longer in a position to give other than wisdom (which is valuable) but the workers are of another generation, our kids and grandkids ages.

I don’t think the 5% threshold mentioned earlier is at all unattainable. But it won’t come without lots of effort and in lots of ways.

POSTNOTE: The video of Jim Northrup and others is part of a series of ten interviews with Minnesota Peacemakers prepared in May and June of 2014 by Ehtasham Anwar and Suhail Abro, both from Pakistan, who were in the Fulbright program of the Human Rights Center of UofM Law School. I’m very proud I could be involved with them on this major project. The remaining interviews will be at the Global Solutions MN website from time to time over the next weeks and months.


from Frank: Dick: You are doing incredible service through this site. “VIETNAM War” is a
nightmare for most of us who lived through that time. I’ve had some time
with and know the different but equally horrific sufferings of younger men
and women who are/have been terrorized by this Endless War. One that my dad
and his generation of valiant souls thought they had “ended” when The Atomic
Bomb was dropped… on my first birthday … and back then it was also the
Catholic feast of The Transfiguration! Frank

from Christina: Jim Northrups part of the program was very good, very interesting and very sad. Why do we settle things with violence rather than diplomacy? It makes me think of the song, “Where have all the flowers gone? Where have all the young men gone etc. When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?”

From a friend: Sometimes war precedes peace. I don’t favor war just to kill and fight; but I do believe war is needed to stop fighting radicals.

Response from Dick: I don’t know what the writer means by “radicals”. There are “radicals” on all sides, I suppose. Whether small or large, down to interpersonal, wars won by overpowering or humiliating the vanquished simply beget the next war. Somewhat related, Jeff send along an interesting discussion of differences in negotiating differences. You can read it here.

Michael sends along a very interesting commentary on what JFK had planned to do had he ran and won the 1964 election. You can read it here.

More from Michael:

Pre-note from Dick: There ensued an interesting side conversation between Michael and another friend, Ron, relating to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Michael, who is very knowledgeable in such matters, shared the following opinion, which I in turn share with his specific permission. While I do not share his last name, he has a very long history of serious academic and personal involvement and willingness to personally engage in conversation about controversial issues such as this.

Ron started the thread: Thanks for providing that information from Michael about JFK’s plan to get out of Vietnam by the end of 1965. I was unaware of that clear evidence that that was Kennedy’s plan.

Having read that, I now wonder how much that plan of Kennedy to withdraw from Vietnam may have been the reason he was assassinated. Was LBJ himself involved in some way?

Do you (or Michael) have any comments or information about that? Is there any good source of reasoning about that and the details of who actually did the assassination?

In addition Ron asked for Michael’s opinion on 9-11-01


Well that is a big question for which there are many, well documented answers. The big problem is the power of modern propaganda so vividly illustrated by Ron’s questions.

So I will cut through many pertinent but long winded complications to summarize my best opinion on these topics at this time. Also note that I have a longer section on Kennedy’s murder in my old book “On the Causes of War” which references 17 or 18 other books, only one of which supports the official story (“Case Closed” by Posner). That list includes Newman’s “JFK and Vietnam.” The conference at Harvard I was invited to in 1993 gave me personal access to many of the best researchers, including Newman and Dr. Cyril Wecht, former President of the Academy of Forensic Sciences who reviewed many details that showed Kennedy was certainly shot from the front right (aka “grassy knoll”) as well as from behind. So, on John F. Kennedy.

As best I can tell, there were 3 guns, 4 shots, 3 hits and a miss. The Israelis were not involved at all in this one.

The conspirators included rogue elements of the CIA, Pentagon and FBI, with some help from the Mafia with whom CIA was already collaborating on assassination plots against Castro out of CIA’s Miami station. All the best books on that important connection are referenced in mine, including testimony from an Army Ranger who was assigned there at the relevant time. His name is Bradley Earl Ayers, and a much more complete version of his perspective is contained in “The Zenith Secret” second edition. He graduated from Stillwater high school here in MN, and retired to the woods in western Wisconsin so I had some years to debrief him. The FBI’s main role was suppression of evidence, the plan was probably drawn up by Gen. Edward Lansdale at the Pentagon, and the CIA and mob provided shooters and a lot of disinformation. The best movie (as in most accurate, although every book etc. has inaccuracies) was Oliver Stone’s “JFK” based largely on “Crossfire” by Jim Marrs and “On the Trail of the Assassins” by Jim Garrison. One of the reasons was indeed Kennedy’s determination to withdraw from Vietnam, but other important reasons were his attempts at nuclear “detente” with the Soviet Union, and his brother Robert’s crusade against the Mafia which felt betrayed after they had delivered many votes in Chicago to help elect JFK. RFK was also deeply involved in “Operation Mongoose” out of CIA’s Miami Station (a long, complex set of covert attacks against Cuba).

On 9/11, it was certainly an “inside job” as the fall of WTC Building 7 in under seven seconds into its footprint most vividly illustrates. Here the Israeli’s probably were involved, but not as prime movers. They could not have silenced and misdirected air defenses at the Pentagon, nor arranged for suppression of evidence there, but Rumsfeld and Cheney could. The Saudi’s were almost certainly involved as well, and possibly Pakistan although the thread of evidence there is a single wire transfer from Pakistan’s ISI to one of the alleged ring-leaders, Mohammed Atta. The prime motive was probably creation of a rationale for 40 years of intense operations against “Radical Islamic Terrorism” including a doubling of defense and “homeland security” expenditures. My little video from February, 2008, gives a reasonable summary of my official position on that tragedy.

Work here calls urgently. These are summaries, all incomplete. Multinational, highly financed, professional psychological operations are always hideously complex with many blind alleys, red herrings and such. The most powerful part of the suppression of evidence aspect (in addition to providing a “patsy”) is sustained ridicule by major media of anyone who criticizes “the official story” which is also, almost always, a conspiracy theory itself. Just a totally misleading one.

from Lois: A year before, almost to the day, you reported for military service I had departed Valley City for San Francisco and lived there thru the entire war in Vietnam. My life went on, day after day, with little thought to that war. Like your friend, I did not watch the Burns’ documentary although I tuned to PBS during the time it was playing just to see if I could rouse an interest. Not so. Perhaps your comment “War is a waste” was the reason, and I “ignored” it again. I was thankful that those I knew, including my brother, joined the National Guard instead of enlisting in the regular military.

Your personal reflections article prompted me to read up on some history, as I noticed that
missing from you list of wars was the Mexican American War fought 1846-1848. 15,000 lives lost, 1773 died in battle, over 13,000 from wounds/sickness. The reason I noticed it missing from the list is because our government awarded military land grants in 1851 to my 3x great grandfather for the service/loss of his two sons in that war. The land grant was for territory in Iowa which was the reason for another son’s move from New Jersey, and the start of 150 years of my family in IA/MN/ND.
How sad that we bought the Louisiana Purchase territory for expansion, but for dubious reasons fought two wars that gained Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines, and almost the entire Southwest part of our country. Seems that we fought the Revolutionary War to be free of foreign rule under a country seeking expansion, only to expand our own economic interests 50-100 years later through war (in opinion of some historians).

The funeral address give in 1848 for Ira C. Tunison is a good read. You can read it here.

Response from Dick: I will add your comment and link to the post, along with a couple of others, so look back. I assume you’re referring to my single page of data about war casualties. I had just arbitrarily started with the Civil War. No deliberate leaving something out. I was trying to keep on one page one side. I will revise. As for land grants, I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that my French-Canadian ancestor, who got a land grant in Minnesota in about 1853 which was authorized by a land warrant issued in the War of 1812 by a Captain in New York. My settler ancestor was born in 1803 so it certainly wasn’t he who fought in the war; perhaps some relative, and the warrant was passed on. It intrigues me. (There were quite a number of French-Canadians who fought in America’s wars, sometimes as hired surrogates, other times as voluntary enlistments.)

from a friend: The closest that I got to military service is that I registered for the draft, but was downgraded by our local draft board because I was the sole supporter of my parents, my two youngest sisters and my brother. When I went off to college the pilots in training at the Minneapolis Air Base would come up to Fargo and give us rides in the trainers and fighter aircraft. I planned to enlist and go into the Officers Training Program, but when I graduated and did my final physical, my eye sight had deteriorated, so I could not be a pilot, so I headed out to [my career employer]. In my first year there, I received an second [and permanent] draft downgrade.

Vietnam, 17 hours, 30 years, and the road ahead.

Earlier posts on the Vietnam series: Sep 9, Sep 13, Sep 19 , Sep 21


I watched every hour of the now complete and powerful Ken Burns/Lynn Novick retrospective on the War in Vietnam, 1945-75.

Today begins reflection after a powerful two weeks. What does this all mean to me? To us? How can I personally translate Vietnam into personal action to help us grow, to learn, from this tragedy.

Likely, midweek next week I’ll share my thoughts, such as they will be; and I encourage you to share yours as well, including at this blog space. If you wish your own blog space, just let me know. dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom. All I ask is respectful opinion, and willingness to share your name and your own personal role 1961-75. There is no judgement. We did as we did, then. Vietnam is an indelible part of our national history. We need to own and learn, from the experience.

To begin, among a flood of memories the series brought to the surface for me, below are two: meeting Daniel Ellsberg Feb. 23, 2008; and a totally unexpected visit to the newly dedicated Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, Nov. 14, 1982.

(click to enlarge)

Then, remembering a powerful afternoon with Daniel Ellsberg and other anti-Vietnam war activists, Feb. 23, 2008: Daniel Ellsberg 2008001 Daniel was here in connection with a powerful program conceived by peace activist Frank Kroncke about the Minnesota 8, of which Mr. Kroncke was part.

Daniel Ellsberg (at right) being recognized for his contribution to peace Feb. 23, 2008, Minneapolis MN.

Here are shared some reflections received in the last days from friends. Doubtless there are thousands of such reflections, and they are just beginning. Thomas Bass, America’s amnesia; Jon Pilger. I have not picked these to pass along; they were forwarded by friends. There is room for lots of points of view in the conversations that are already being generated by this powerful series.

* * * * *

At a time like this, I feel very, very, very small…what can I do?

It is not a matter of moving on; rather feeling very, very, very small.

There is a great plenty which can be done, one small act at a time.

Just being attentive to the plight of the people of Puerto Rico, a country 4% the size of Minnesota, with 60% of Minnesota’s population, devastated by hurricane. One is tempted to say that we should pay more attention to them, because they are all American citizens. But how about the residents of tiny Barbuda, essentially completely destroyed in an earlier hurricane. How do they fit into my world view? Humans, anywhere, are our brothers and sisters. The globe has no borders.

We don’t need to live within a single event. There are endless opportunities to get constructively involved.

Tuesday, October 3, I plan to join what promises to be a very interesting 4-session course on women who have won the Nobel Peace Prize. Here are details. Course leader, Maureen Reed, MD, has sterling credentials to lead this course. Among other experiences, she served as Executive Director of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, through which she worked with both the Nobel Institute and its laureates. Consider enrolling, investing, in this class.

My friend, Donna, makes another suggestion: “I wanted to tell you about a group Rich and I have joined called the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration (ICOM). People from many faiths are doing some actions in regards to DACA and immigration. One action is to hold a vigil from 8-9 AM on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at the Whipple Federal Building [at Ft. Snelling – near the airport]. It is there that the immigrant deportation court is housed. Last vigil we had 85 people attend, including both concerned citizens and religious. Our goal is to grow this group so if you know of anyone interested please pass the word. After last vigil some attendees attended a court hearing on someone in deportation. We have done this as well and it truly feels so evil. Many of these deportations tear stable families apart. Anyway I hope you can join us sometime and spread the word. The next vigil is scheduled for October 10, National Immigration Day.”

And on, and on, and on.

Be “on the court” for solutions.

Take time to read this: Don’t Bother. It is long and it is depressing, but it cries out for activism. We live in this country.

Dick Bernard: Reflections on Vietnam (briefly)

Last night I watched Part 2 of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s “Vietnam”; the previous night I watched Part 1, and if at all possible I will watch all 10. You can access Parts 1 through 5 at your local Public Broadcasting System station. Twin Cities TPT is here. PBS is here.

Part 2 was of particular significance to me, personally. It covered 1961-63.

In 1961 I graduated from College (December); 1962-63, by happenstance, I was in an Army Infantry Company (app 140 people) being prepared for Vietnam. (Ultimately, 27 from that company were killed in Vietnam 1968-71). My own story is the last of five, told here, a few days ago.

Except for 1961, I didn’t experience 1961-63 like civilians back home, or like “advisors” actually in Vietnam. We were neither. Anybody who has ever been in military service as an enlisted man can recount what military service was like, in training mode, which was, for us, our entire tour. The Cuban Missile Crisis did happen on my “watch”.

What we read about the Cuban Missile Crisis in the barracks at Ft. Carson Colorado October 1963

The dying in Vietnam from our small company came for others, years later. One or more of them probably started out from my barracks, my bunk; all of them one time or another were in our day room, in Company C. Some other Company Clerk recorded their presence or absence each day. Then reality intruded.

I have a great number of thoughts, even now, only after watching two episodes.

Shortly after the last episode I’ll post my thoughts, and those of anyone else who wishes to reflect back about what Vietnam means to them. My teaser: Vietnam is by no means some old war, long behind us. We continue to live within the futility of war as a means of solving problems.

My e-mail: dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.

Watch, learn, reflect and share. We can learn from this.