EXCERPT FROM SPEECH AT FIRST UNIVERSALIST CHURCH IN COLUMBUS, SUMMER OF 2007
Kennedy was also bucking the entire military industrial complex. In June, he announced that he wanted to end the cold war. He wanted to end the arms race. He said “we all breathe the same air, we all live in a world where we want our children to grow up in peace, we all drink the same water, and if we don’t get rid of nuclear weapons, we’re not going to have that world.” He said, “and we’re all mortal.” In October, he said he wanted to scatter the CIA to the four winds.
My mother was the highest paid woman in the Pentagon. She worked there 30 years, and she was a manpower analyst for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She ended up in a GS-13, very high for a woman in those days – and came in ‘43 and left in ’73. She had been a pacifist between WWI and WWII – showed me her pacifist poetry – like much of the pacifists in the international community she came to believe that Hitler was so evil that we had to go to war to fight Hitler. About the only person that got it, and said anything, in 1936 was Thomas Merton. He said, “if America fights Hitler, it will become Hitler.”
But when she confronted the realities of Vietnam – the napalm, the civilian deaths, and the things that were going on there – she began to trend again to the other side. And her job was to project for the Joint Chiefs of Staff the national annual draft call. When there was conscriptions, like the service, and they had a draft, they would give her an overall force level where they were at, and then they’d say if they wanted it to go up or down or stay the same. She would then take charts based on their experience, how many people would retire, how many people would re-enlist, how many people would get sick, or die of natural causes, and, if there was to be a war; an office of plans would tell her what the attrition levels would be – how many would be likely to die, how many would be likely to be wounded, and therefore have to be replaced.
My mother had to project those figures accurately enough when the annual national draft call needed in the intervening years to get the force level up or down or stay the same, within a hundred people either way, and that included years in Vietnam when that draft call was up to 50,000 people, she had to be right, within a hundred people either way, and, she had to be that right five years out, five years in advance.
I remember her every year sweating whether she had done the figures right on her little calculator, because they didn’t have computers – whatever intelligence I have, I got it from my mother. When she retired and she started to turn as I had already against the war, I asked her, “When did they tell you they would escalate in Vietnam?” Because she had to be one of the first to know.
She said that for the first time in her career they had told her to change her projections in April of 1963, on orders of the White House, which meant Kennedy.
With the change in her projections was a full withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam by the end of 1964. I said, “When did they change that? When did they start to escalate?” She said, “Late November.” I said, “The last week in November?”
Something happens on November 22, 1963—Kennedy is killed in Dallas.
A person named Lyndon Baines Johnson becomes President. His entire career was financed by a guy named George Brown, who founded a company named Brown and Root, which became Kellogg, Brown and Root, which became Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root, which made $4 billion off of construction in the Cam Ranh Bay and is now making tens of billions of dollars on the current war.
And Johnson went ahead with the war and the reversal happened as soon as Kennedy was dead, over that weekend. And then I asked my mother, “Well, did they tell you it was just a few more advisors?” She said, “No, I couldn’t believe the figures. I took them up to the Joint Chiefs and I said ‘These can’t be right.’” First time she’d ever done that—they gave her figures out of this planning office—and she couldn’t believe them.
They told my mother, on November 25, 1963, with Kennedy barely in the grave, that they were going into a 10-year war, with 57,000 American dead—exactly what they did.
When I heard them talking after 9/11 that we were going into a war that won’t end in our lifetime–we were going into a war with as many as 60 countries—I listen up. These boys plan ahead. Their plans have very little to do with us unless we make them have to do with us. My mother told me that the war that we opposed was carried out till its projected end, but that my generation stopped the war into Laos and Cambodia and the entire sector, and that’s what they had to abandon, and they had to basically abandon Vietnam at the end, because the GI’s wouldn’t fight for them and started to kill the officers.