ALAN POGUE Jim Driscoll and Austin Peace Activist Tony Switzer Interview Jim Driscoll Jim Driscoll is national coordinator of Operation Real Security, a nonprofit organization providing funds and resources to about 200 local groups opposing U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf Driscoll is a former management professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Vietnam veteran who was awarded the Bronze Star for his service as a Marine platoon commander. During November he undertook a speaking tour of 10 U.S. cities to organize and raise funds for local groups opposing an American attack on Iraq. In Austin on November 27, Driscoll appeared on a local radio interview show, led a teach-in at the University of Texas, and held an organizational meeting for individuals and groups organizing local opposition efforts. During this tour, Driscoll, accompanied by Austin peace activist Tony Switzer, came by the Observer office for a 45-minute interview. What follows is an excerpt from Driscoll’ s presentation at the Austin YWCA and an edited version of an interview conducted by Observer editors Louis Dubose and Brett Campbell. What I want to do is speak to you for a minute as a Vietnam veteran …. This is my motivation for doing this work. These are rubbings from the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington. You hold the paper up against the granite and rub a pencil over it and it lifts off the etching. And that’s the role that I see veterans playing, Vietnam veterans in particular, is just to stand up here and say, “It’s a real war and in a war people will die. They aren’t abstractions, they aren’t numbers, they aren’t divisions they’re human beings.” I always pick on one of these people, D.J. Barrett, who was a friend of mine in the Marine Corps training. I pick on him, I think, because he was so full of life. He was the kind of person that people just flock to, like bees to honey … and when we went over to Vietnam, D.J. was shot. His dad was a colonel in the Marine Corps, so the head of the hospital in Da Nang called up his dad when he got in there and he said, “He’s been shot, he was wounded, but we’ll get him out, he’ll be okay.” Friends of mine who saw him that day said that he was groggy, he was drugged, but he was still making wisecracks, still his old self. Except the next morning, they had to tell him they cut off his leg, because of the wound. And shortly after that, D.J. went into a coma, he had an infection, and then he was dead. In 12 hours. I have two children. I’m getting to stand up here and have a life and he didn’t get to have that. And that’s what a war is about. That’s what happens in a war. And when President Bush says that he’s running out of patience in the Middle East I’d like to drag him by the ear down to the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall and just sort of walk him [past] 58,000 real, individual people who didn’t get to live full lives, and show him all those reasons to have some patience in the Middle East. And so I would urge those of you who are veterans to realize that we have a special message, much like the physicians played in the nuclear disarmament movement, when they could tell you what would happen in a nuclear war. We can say what a war was like, what it costs, and make sure people have that understanding before they defend it. You are on a speaking tour, taking an antiwar message to how many cities? Ten. It’s a national speaking tour, basically to put forward the concerns that I and a lot of other Vietnam veterans have about the current policy that our country is pursuing in the Persian Gulf. Operation Real Security, which I head, is a service bureau network for about 200 local groups working to oppose military policy in particular in the Persian Gulf. I have one or two speaking engagements in each town and I’m also meeting with Vietnam veterans so that we can carry this word a little more effectively nationally. We’ve also got a 30-second television spot that Ron Kovic did at my request, criticizing the President’s policy. What’s the basis of your criticism of the U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf? I served for 13 months in combat in Vietnam. And liko a lot of Vietnam veterans, I felt that the friends that I served with, the men in my platoon who died there, basically their lives were wasted. There seems to me to be a reasonable consensus in the United States at this point that that war was a mistake. And, at the very least, before our country commits itself to the use of military force, we need to have a pretty extended national debate. There needs to be a consensus nationally, on what we’re doing there and on what we intend to accomplish. And it [war] should be a last resort. The lesson I learned from Vietnam is a kind of a caution in the use of military force. And that’s clearly not being applied in the present situation. So it’s not a pacifist’s opposition to war. It 6 DECEMBER 7, 1990
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