TROOPS TO BOSNIA?
(San Diego Views)
OCTOBER 31, 1995
HELEN BROOKS: I definitely think that they should. We have tostand by our word, and our word was given to NATO. And I thinkthat we have to be sure that we keep our treaty safe. Not onlythat, we've had problems with ethnic and religious persecution,and our opinions have not always been what we would like themto be. These people are fighting in the same way. It's not goingto be war, really, we're going to try to keep the peace. And Ithink we should participate in it to the fullest extent.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think, Mr. Swisher?
CHET SWISHER: No. I do not believe one red-blooded American shouldever be sent to a foreign soil and sacrifice their blood, theirlives. That is not an American war. That is a European concern.Leave them fight their own battles. There's not one foreign pieceof land worth one drop of American blood. That is a religiouswar over there that's been going on for over 800 years. How arewe going to go over there? And don't think that we go over therewe're not going to be firing bullets at each other, and we'regoing to be bringing 'em back in body bags. I'm against it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, you said there's not one piece of land worthshedding American blood for. You mean in Bosnia, or in the formerYugoslavia?
CHET SWISHER: Any foreign country. That's their war.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Although in World War II, of course, that wasworth shedding American blood for, right?
CHET SWISHER: That was a different story there.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Why?
CHET SWISHER: Why? Because you had a man trying to conquer theworld, and it ended up you had two people trying to conquer it.And if you'll notice, when the United States went to war, theirrecruiting offices were overloaded with people. And it would bethe same way today if we were attacked. And to think that we havea President sitting in the White House today that would not evenwear the American uniform and yet will turn around and send thesesons and daughters over there to sacrifice their life when hedid not even have the courage to put the uniform on, I'm againstit.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think, Mr. Smith?
JOHN SMITH: I think that we should support the peace effort. I'mlooking forward to the meeting in Dayton tomorrow. I am prayingfor success there. But I think America has to be aware that thetrue cost of military involvement is the impact, the human impact,the impact that it has on the veterans, the sailors, soldiers,marines, and army personnel that actually do carry out the orders.And I think without America being willing to accept their responsibilityin, in welcoming home those people that are actually doing thejob, it would be very difficult to support the effort. In SanDiego, Vietnam veterans of San Diego operate the largest rehabilitationcenter in the country for veterans. In our center, we have residentsfrom every major battle since Vietnam--Haiti, Grenada, PersianGulf, Somalia, and there is a cost to pay for military involvement.And I think the American people should be aware of it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Ms. Nalu, if this were--you went to the GulfWar--if you were on active duty right now, would you gladly, willinglygo to Bosnia?
SERENE NALU: I would go, because that's part of the duty, butI do agree with John here in that I think that it is a humanitarianeffort, and I think that us as a nation would like to see somethingdone, however, because it is religiously-based, I do agree withyou, and I don't think that we should invade territory as we do.I think that it needs to be sought out and planned out. I don'tthink that a drop of the hat is a release or a reason to initiatetroops.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, we're not actually talking about invadingterritory, just guarding--
SERENE NALU: But the fact that we're there, the fact that we'rethere, it puts us in danger under situations that we don't, youknow, really know or recognize.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you're worried we don't understand enough aboutthe area--
SERENE NALU: We definitely don't understand.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So would you--would you have second thoughts aboutit in ways that you didn't with the Gulf War? Would you be worriedabout it?
SERENE NALU: No, because I stand for the American people. I standfor the nation, and that's why I'm a part of the military. SoI would gladly take on that responsibility, however, I wouldn'tnecessarily agree with it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, Mr. Morton, what do you think about this?Do you--if it were--if your son were called up, how would youfeel about it now?
RON MORTON: I don't want--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Your son or your daughter.
RON MORTON: I don't want my son or my daughter to go to any war.I have a wife who's a lieutenant commander in the reserves, ina shore and underwater warfare unit. I don't want her to go towar either. I don't want anyone to go to war. That doesn't meanthat I wouldn't support my wife in doing so. I know that she feelsa sense of duty, and Navy is tradition in our family. I wouldsupport her if she went. But, you know, I've dealt with the woundsof, of Vietnam, not so my myself but in my veteran brothers, outof tremendous respect for everyone here too, I might add. We needleadership, and we need our President to tell us what this isabout. And we need confirmation from the Congress and from theSenate. And if there are real cogent issues, real reasons forus being here, I don't want my son to go or my wife to go andput their lives in jeopardy for political reasons. If we're goingto save innocent women and children and elders, you know, I'mreluctant because I fear the danger, but we've always done thatas a people. I'm native American. My people have always served,and they've always served knowing that they serve for their families.They serve for their people. But the tremendous amount of sadnessthat comes with war and with meaningless death is not somethingI'm willing to endure again. I'm not willing to endure it. I'mnot willing to endure the fracturing of this society. We all paidtoo tremendous a price for that. We have to look to our government,and we have to look to a government that's going to deal withus honestly.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you're not willing to endure that pain andthat fracturing, and yet, you would support anybody in your familythat was going. I mean, it's something you think should be doneas a matter of honor.
RON MORTON: It's a matter of honor, certainly. It's a word that'svery important in my family and my community. We honor those ideals,those values that we believe are important, and our lives andour family and our country.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Bosnia would be that important, you think?
RON MORTON: It would be important if the issue revolves aroundactually saving lives. If we're--if we're there for politicalreasons, I'm not in favor of that. No, I'm not. If we're therefor geographic reasons, because we need, we need the place strategically,no, I'm not interested in that. If we're going there to help savelives, then, okay, you know, I, I would not encourage my son togo, I would not encourage my wife to go, but I would give themall the support that they needed if it was necessary.
CHET SWISHER: I disagree with John on this fact of--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Just one second.
CHET SWISHER: I know. I disagree with John on this. Let the Europeancountries take the leadership in this. Let's not be the leadershipin all of this. All they're really after is our money. I wouldlay down my life for my country today, but not one dime for thoseforeign countries. Let them take the leadership. Let them.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Ms. Brooks, how do you respond to that?
HELEN BROOKS: Well, I see it very much in the opposite directionfrom that. This is not going to war. We're not trying to makeour way first. We're trying to protect peace. This is the firsttime this has ever happened before, and I think we need that experience.I don't mean that we want people to be shot at to gain experience,but we need this experience in interaction with peoples and intrying to keep a peace to me it's a very altruistic motive forgoing to war. No one abhors the destruction and casualties ofwar as much as I do, but we have it right here in our own streets.We have it on our highways. We have it among our gangs. Somewherewe're going to have to learn to live together, and this may beone of the ways that we can do it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Ms. Morton, I asked about your brother. I askedyour father about whether your brother should go, because I knowyou've had knee problems so you would be--you wouldn't be ableto go anyway. But let's say that you could. What do you thinkabout Bosnia? Would it be worth your going to Bosnia for?
HEATHER MORTON: It would be worth me going just because I would,like they say, be honoring my country, but I wouldn't want togo for the reasons why we are going over there. I personally havenot heard really what is going on over there. I do watch the newsfrequently, but this is really the first time I've really evenheard about the NATO, about the Dayton, Ohio, incident. I thinkI need to know a lot more about it before I can even make a decisionlike that regarding me, my brother, my boyfriend, anybody whoI care about.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do others of you feel that way? Does the Presidentneed to make a stronger case?
JOHN SMITH: Well, I think that all of us here--and I have tremendousrespect for everyone here--but I think all of us here are apprehensiveabout committing military troops to a foreign soil. I think thatwe have to have some understanding and be convinced by the President.And I understand he's made some attempts today to persuade theAmerican people that there is a compelling interest for him andthe United States to be involved. I believe, though, that theremust be a peace to be enforced. My sense of the situation is currently,is that there is no peace to be enforced, and our involvementat this stage would be a role of peace imposers. And as a personwho grew up in Brooklyn, I can tell you if you try to break upa fight between some people who are still attempting to get somethings cleared up, what you do is expose yourself to being hitfrom both sides. And I think that this is a concern that mostveterans in this community--I speak to a number of veterans aschairman of the Vietnam Veterans of San Diego--I speak to a numberof active duty veterans, and all of them have concerns about beingplaced into a situation where the people and the factions involveddon't seem to be ready to, to speak of peace. And, again, beingplaced into a situation like this is volatile on all sides, andI think Chet is right in that the potential for POW's, body bags,casualties are tremendous unless there is a peace. So, again,I want to emphasize that I hopefully with godspeed there willbe some productive resolution of peace tomorrow in Wright-PattersonAir Force Base, because--and with Sec. Holbrooke, I understand,has said emphatically yesterday in a news conference I saw onyour program as a matter of fact, but that there would be no impositionof American troops without the understanding that there wouldbe some peace to be achieved.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In general, though, this is breaking down alongthese lines. Mr. Swisher feels that unless we're attacked, unlessour, our--
CHET SWISHER: We're threatened.
JOHN SMITH: --we're threatened, it's not worth the spilling ofU.S. blood.
CHET SWISHER: That is correct. I agree.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But in this post Cold War World, there may bemore of these places like Bosnia where it's kind of difficultto make that argument, and yet, some U.S. interests may be atstake. The argument, of course, is that Europe's stability isat stake and that that does involve U.S. vital interests. Whatabout that? I mean, have things changed so much in the Cold Warperiod that we have to re-think it, or do the same arguments as--duringthe Cold War apply here?
RON MORTON: I think there's kind of a sad overtone, so I thinkall the statements that are being made here, I think that there'sa belief that it's probably born of--decisions have been madein the past that we may not be able to trust our leadership, thedecisions that they're making about this.
CHET SWISHER: That's exactly--I agree with that.
RON MORTON: I think that during the Vietnam War I know that ourmilitary leaders lied to us. I found that out when I came back,and so I guess that I too don't really feel that I can reallytrust the decisions that are being made by now. I don't feel that--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let me interrupt you one second.
RON MORTON: Sure.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I'll come back to you. Is that true of everybodyhere? This is interesting.
CHET SWISHER: No, I do not feel--I feel our military leaders aregreat, but I feel it's the politicians in Washington that wasdirecting the Vietnam. These Vietnam veterans are the best inthe world if the politicians in Washington had a kept their noseout and let 'em do their job, and that's what's going to happenin Bosnia. They are going to take--get 'em over there, and thenthe politicians are going to be wanting to get their name in thepaper and they're going to have these young Americans fightingwith one hand behind their back, the same as they did in Vietnam.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you feel that the political leadership is,is likely to lie about what's happening? Are you as skeptical?
HELEN BROOKS: I don't know whether they would lie, but one thingI would like to see them do is prepare our troops better. I knowboth--I don't ever remember having been sort of prepared and thepurpose of our war, our reason for going to war, clearly spelledout.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In any one of three wars you were involved in.
HELEN BROOKS: Any one of the three wars. No one really did--thetroops were not prepared--at least some of them may have beenbut I certainly wasn't--that we were not given--I think we needto know something of the history, something of the geography,and something of our aims, and the psychology of trying to changepeople. I think a lot of that needs to be stressed, and is itpossible to do that before our troops are going in now?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay, thank you all very much for being with us.