Skip to content

Sending Boys to Die for Tin, Rubber and Oil

ELIZABETH GOOD: So it was after that, that Bob seemed to get more concerned — all of us did — about this war in Vietnam and what was happening. And I still, even last Friday, I still tried to hang on to that theory that my boy died for his country.

But after Mr. Zinn was on the stand, and he spelled it out, "Tin, rubber and oil," that's when I broke down in court. That's when I broke down and I realized, you know, it was pretty stupid of us to have swallowed that business about America being over there to save South Vietnam from the Communists; and when we had permitted, as we say, Cuba, 90 miles from our shore, to be a Communist country.

So after this happened, Jimmy went to the Peace Corps, in the Dominican Republic, and we had many discussions about that. We had many discussions when he came back home, that it just wasn't the way it was told to us, that our country is down there, for instance — Dominican Republic — to help these people.

We see so many poor. He's telling me about the cost, the wages for a boy or a man down to raise a family in the Dominican Republic is a dollar and a half a day, and still we're down there, Rockefeller's down there, and the different companies are down there, and the top man in his group really gets the money from foreign aid, but not the people.

So I guess that's just about all I have to say. Everybody has to figure out for themselves what this war has cost in human lives, what this war has cost in money that could have been spent in this country.

I think the president said a hundred thousand dollars in his first State of the Union address, a hundred thousand dollars would go for research of cancer. The only member of my family, my sisters and brothers that have died, lovely women have died of cancer. And there is a hundred thousand dollars going to be spent for the research of cancer, and 70 billion for a defense. Where are our priorities?

I really feel guilty — I feel guilty that we have sat aside and let them take our boys. Mr. Zinn put it so beautifully when he said they are kidnapped, literally, and they are taken 10,000 miles away from home. Most of them just kids that maybe haven't been more than 50 miles away from home. Like my son — he never owned a car, something he was looking forward to. Why should lives be cut off for tin, rubber and oil? That's the real reason.

I think if our country is attacked, I don't think there is a boy in the country that wouldn't fight for the defense of it. None of my boys. All of my boys surely would. But I don't believe in sending them to these places for tin, rubber and oil, or whatever it maybe, and I think if there is any criminals in this case, it's the middle-class America who sits by and allows this to happen, allows our boys — we not only give our boys, we give the money. Because it's our money, our taxes. Nine hundred dollars in New Jersey for the average home for taxes. How hard is that to get together?

This is the reason why so many of us do not have vacations. Two years ago my husband and I went on our first vacation.

So, it's just wrong. Things should be turned around. Things should be turned around so that we could really enjoy life. Life is a beautiful thing. A boy is a beautiful thing.

I feel Paul should be here. He should be enjoying life. He would be 25. He might be married and have a child. He wouldn't know what it was to hold his first son, like we did.

No, I really think that things were wrong. I really think we have a lot — maybe these middle-class Americans don't realize what these kids are trying to do. They are trying to show us where we're wrong. We should be showing them and instead they are showing us, even with their lives.

I certainly don't want to see my son in prison for what he's done. But I'm proud of what he's done. He's done what we brought him up to do. I know he loves his country. We brought him up to stand on his own two feet, to have the courage of his convictions; and I think he's done just that. And I think we have a beautiful country, but I think our priorities are wrong, very wrong.

Just read something over the weekend — if the acting head of the FBI can burn files, why can't my son burn them? And he is burning them for a much better reason. A much better reason. I would say of the two, my son was the patriot. Much more so than the acting head of the FBI.

We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. I know that I am. I am ashamed of the day I took my son to that airplane and put him on. I'm ashamed of any pride that I had when the Taps were played, and I did have pride. And I'm proud of my son because he didn't know. We should have known, but we didn't know. A kid that never had a gun in his life, because we, like the Reillys never had a gun in our home. When I say we were taught non-violence, our children were taught non-violence, that's exactly what I mean. And to take that lovely, lovely boy and to tell him, "You are fighting for your country." How stupid can we get? He was fighting for his country. Can anybody stand here and tell me how he was fighting for his country?

If Mr. Zinn's testimony was his own, or was the radical's idea, so-called, then I would say, you know, there is still room for doubt. But when it came from the Pentagon Papers, when it came from that little circle up above who knows what's going on in this country, then I say it's time for us to turn around and God help us. God give us the time before it's too late.

Who gives us the power to go over to a little country, over there, that small, and bomb the hell out of it? Who give us the authority to do this? This is what we sat back for so many years, war after war, promise after promise, that it would never happen again.

I don't think there was any mother within 500 miles of our home that was more anti-Communist than I was. I was hung up on it. Every time the boys tried to talk, I brought in Communism. And this is the way all of us are. I feel this is the way most of us middle-class Americans are. We really are hung up on Communism; in fact, so much that we don't know what we're doing. We don't even know what our own government is doing. We read the newspaper and whatever it tells us, we believe. Even though when Paul died, so many people tell us we have no business being over there. I can't understand — I can't — what we're doing over there. We should get out of this. But not one of us, not a one of us raised our hands to do anything about it. We left it up to these people, for them to do it. And now we are prosecuting them for it. God! That's all I could say. I can't say anymore. And Bobby said to keep it short. He knows me, I guess.

I come from an Irish-Catholic background. I have heard my mother speak many times of the Irish patriots who were put in prison too, for disobeying the laws that they're still fighting over and they've been fighting for 700 years, and it looks — maybe they might win, giving them one more time.

I want to thank everybody for allowing me to speak.

Q. Is there anything else you'd like to say? Or just thanks very much?

A. Well, there's one thing I had in mind to say: that when you were arrested, you sent me the most beautiful letter. And if I thought I was going to be up here, I would have brought it. But he spelled it out for us, why he was doing this, how he felt it was something he had to do, and indeed put the blame back on us because of the way we brought him up, that he was doing this for the country, not against the country. And it was really a letter that I'll treasure and keep until I die.

MR. GOOD: Thank you very much. I have no more questions, Mom.

(Witness excused.)





Talk About This

Share This

I wanted to tell the story of the Camden 28, but I also wanted to raise questions about government deception and reasons for going to war.”

— Anthony Giacchino

Upcoming Films