If I ran Monsanto

By Thomas W. Gilbert and Deborah Glaefke Gilbert

In this realm of destruction,

This hellhole called Earth,

There’s a Darth Vader business

That’s so full of its worth.

It’s consistent; it’s fascist,

And it’s blessed with a vision.

It has great friends in Congress

Who vote each decision

Over those who fight back

And just live by ideals,

But this business is fond

Of the work it conceals.

Monsanto, ‘My Saint,’

Why the smell rings a bell.

It’s a gift from the gods,

Who command works in hell.

But I’ll tell you, I will,

That their vision is poor,

They’ve done way far less deeds,

Why, just look at the score.

There are way far worse things

That this business could plan,

There are way far worse things,

I could tell you, I can.

When Monsanto first made us

Detect with our tongues

All that Saccharin sweetness,

Like smoke in our lungs.

It was new; it was bright,

With the calories less,

And although it was poison,

You now fit in that dress,

That was so tight before,

Why would all mirrors lie?

So why lose weight by pounds,

When no diets comply?

Why not conjure a pill

That dissolves flesh like acid,

That removes flesh and bones

And fat bulging so flaccid?

Their Saccharin is tame:

A mosquito, a flea.

It should kill on the spot,

Like a royal decree.

Population control

Should be measured in billions,

Not just hospital stays

For recovering millions.

But the heck with that sweetener;

Let’s scan PCBs;

They’re in fish, and in soil,

And in birds in the trees.

Poly Chloro Diphenyls

They’ll be here forever,

And you can’t break them down,

I said, “No, not now, never!”

They were first made for motors

And electric condensers,

For insulation packing

And particle dispensers.

Roundup, photograph Thomas Gilbert

Though they worked really well

Helping fuel electricity,

If ingested at all

They screamed hellish toxicity.

For endocrine

Blood, urine, liver diseases,

Cognition in children

With coughs, colds, and sneezes,

And cancer, and rashes,

And lesions, and sores,

It’s now found in the food

We eat, purchased in stores.

But the problem I see

Is in length of transmission;

There’s a story I’ve read,

If I have your permission.

In Indiana some workers

Dumped PCBs into drains

From factories, so thoughtfully,

Relinquishing pains,

So water treatment facilities

Examined their sludge,

Which was poisoned,

But after a wink and a nudge,

Gave the PCB gunk

To some farmers and gardeners

As ‘supreme’ fertilizer

If they signed up as pardoners.

But what a lame waste

Of time — factory to table.

Can’t Monsanto step up to the plate?

They’re damned able,

Get their FDA friends

To declare PCBs

‘Special’ food additives

With some simple decrees.

Like, maybe a preservative,

As it won’t go away,

Or flavor enhancers

Where some folk would then say,

“Why, that there’s some Bar-B-Q,

Fricasseed squirrel.

Hey, what’s that new flavor, Hon,

Makes our kids hurl?”

They could add it to gum,

Soda pop, chocolate candy,

Spread the food wealth around

Making PCBs handy.

I would love to be able

To walk to the mart

Grab some PCB jerky

And crunch it apart.

Now, if I ran Monsanto

It would happen today;

PCBs in all food,

Clap your hands, shout hooray!

It takes research, you know

So, if I ran Monsanto,

I’d have to know everything

To finish this canto.

This mother lode’s deep,

And it’s wide and horrific,

The bountiful landscape

Is teeming terrific.

Polystyrene for picnics,

Your plates and your cups,

That Styrofoam magic

Used by kids and grownups,

It’s apple pie clean,

Just like baseball and Mom,

Bio-degradable it ain’t,

But, hey, let’s all stay calm.

We need foam for our beds,

And our cars and our chairs,

We need foam for the packing

Of all Christmastime wares.

The environment suffers,

But what about us?

Look at plastic containers,

We just have to discuss,

For hospitals, grocery stores,

Suppliers of things.
We have to consider

What Home Depot now brings,

And Wal-Mart and Target and

Big Lots, and Sears,

They rely on dear plastic.

They’ve done it for years.

They just can’t do without it;

It’s a linchpin to sales;

Who cares if it’s poison

To dolphins and whales?

Those fish should know better

Than to eat plastic litter

That floats in the ocean

Like refuse on Twitter.

Now the thing that is missing

From Monsanto’s rare feat

Of creating a styrene

That’s beautifully neat

Is they need to produce it

In browns, blues, and greens,

Make it colorfully friendly

Not all ‘white’ for styrenes.

They think ‘white’ is so pure,

But it’s W.A.S.Pish and honky,

When the landfills we’re filling,

Smell just like a donkey.

The smell and that junk

Must blend in with the Earth;

It’s just got to be ‘green,”

So the ‘greennicks’ find worth

In the fact that the styrene

Will be there for ages,

If it blends with the plants

Then who cares if the stages

Of decomp will last

Over millions of years,

Our great, great………….grand-

Children can deal with those fears.

“What next?” You do ask,

In this fun bedtime story,

“Tell us, please, where it takes us?

Is it cutesy or gory?”

“Perhaps, if you snuggle up,

Warm in your beds,

And envision a world

Without pharmacy meds,

photograph Thomas Gilbert

You’ll be able to handle

The next part of this tale.

You’ve been given fair warning;

Now the truth will prevail.”

In a world long ago,

And perhaps far away,

Monsanto helped World War II

Teller to play

With Plutonium triggers

And atomic bomb toys,

Their refinement was needed

For good girls and boys

Their work unleashed decades

Of Cold War forecasters,

Reactor plant mishaps,

Radiation disasters.

The storage of waste

Would be years in the making,

For there’s no place to put it

On Earth; no one’s taking.

Plutonium’s half-life

Is older than God,

But Monsanto’s not worried,

Mutation’s not odd.

But I’ll tell you a secret

I made up in my head,

Monsanto’s gene splicing

Will awaken the dead.

They can splice wheat

With cockroaches’ DNA genes,

So your food will survive

If blown to smitherines.

When atomic war playtime

Turns Earth to a rubble,

All the food will survive,

But we’ll all be in trouble.

“Please no more,” I hear

Plaintively, inside the bed.

“I can’t stand all these nightmares,

Roaming round in my head.”

“Horizontal One, please,

You’re not standing at all,

And the nightmares are real,

You just have to recall,

It is daytime on Earth,

And the sun’s in the sky;

There is peace on this Earth,

And there’s no time to lie.”

Earth’s demons have worshiped

For hundreds of years,

Used death as their altar,

Our lives for their fears.

They shelter their victims

With chemical blinds,

So that no one suspects

Who makes ties and then binds.

But their work takes on methods

That vary with years

And the victims are lost

In time’s grinding of gears.

I remember my town

In the year ’56,

When Dutch Elm Disease raged,

And D.D.T. was the fix.

They sprayed all the trees

Just like washing a car.

Saturation was rich,

Like free drinks at a bar.

But the spray killed the birds,

And the elms went away,

And the D.D.T. clung

To all life’s D.N.A.

As a mutagenic key,

A teratogenic door,

A carcinogenic field,

A subcutaneous store.

But the D.D.T. woke up

From a Van Winkle nap

And began wrecking havoc

Like a no exit trap.

But with laws ending D.D.T.

Spraying of trees,

The birds have come back,

But without all the bees.

The tragedies fostered

By D.D.T. spraying

Were like shipwrecks at sea,

With seas silently preying.

So the monsterless monsters

And victimless victims

Are just God’s holy family

Of systemless systems.

Just maybe Monsanto

Could alter their game

And relinquish the methods,

The outcome, the shame,

And play for the house,

So that all can be free,

And remove all the trials

For you and for me.

Oh, what am I saying?

Who believes in such crap?

Monsanto should spray

D.D.T. on the map,

Purchase planes with ambition

Mitchell bombers and jets,

And B-52 squadrons

Blasting with no regrets.

They can bury the planet

In D.D.T. spray,

Saturate towns and cities

Every night, every day.

What this world needs are toxins

To cure it of ills

There are not enough

Medicines, potions, or pills.

Their rod and their staff

Are the means to this end.

D.D.T. is the spirit

That gets all flesh to bend.

Praise Monsanto for justice,

For their lawyers and courts,

Praise Monsanto for death,

And closed casket post morts.

Dead Robin, photograph Thomas Gilbert

Dioxin, the name seems

So simple and pure,

It’s a shame that it comes

With no possible cure.

It may be the deadliest

Monsanto has made,

It may be the deadliest

Full time charade.

Low birth weight, for starts,

And delays of the brain,

Motor skills, neuro jolts,

Immune health down the drain.

Hormonal effects,

And a cancer or two,

With a lowered I.Q.,

We should welcome this zoo.

Developmental delays,

Reproductive effects,

Altered sexual changes:

What Dioxin projects.

Dioxin’s like seasoning

That’s dumped in our food

Monsanto’s the cook,

Like Chef Ramsey’s worst crude.

In all of our food

Lives Dioxin like glue

We absorb it, we do,

Every bite that we chew.

We should spit it like bones,

Gristle, fat, or burnt pieces

But the bits are so small,

What Dioxin releases,

We’d have to have fingers

Attached to our tongues,

Microscopically ordered,

Like cilia in lungs,

Then we’d need some wastebaskets

As small as a nannite

For our tongue fingered grippers

That search with a scan light,

And dispose of them quickly,

So we don’t swallow whole,

The Dioxin ingested

That’s a hook on a pole.

But Monsanto’s so clever.

It’s tasteless and plain,

With no odor at all,

This Dioxin’s insane.

But America’s equal rights

Platform is now.

No one gets to get more

Than the next one; no how.

Opportunity has to be

Equal for all,

And Dioxin’s a treat

That we share, big and small.

They could add it to toothpaste

And deodorant too,

And antacids and lemonade

And cold Labatt Blue.

They could put it in Snickers,

And all kinds of cola,

And SweeTarts, and Pop Tarts,

And Nature Valley Granola.

If it’s everywhere, anyway,

Why can’t we just like it?

If we had our own bottles,

We could add it or spike it.

So who cares if Dioxins

Are prolifically near,

We should welcome it all

With a song and a beer.

Agent Orange, defoliant,

A friendly fire bullet,

Monsanto’s the culprit,

How did they ever pull it?

They had friends in high places

Who had hoped to find ore

(In a jungle of trees)

Never mined there before.

So they sprayed it on villages,

Mountains, and trees,

The harvest was people

Who crashed to their knees,

At least five hundred thousand,

The estimates low,

Are in need of attention

That a doctor could show.

But the maiming’s so permanent,

Compounded, and dire,

You’d have thought that your organs

Had been placed in a fire.

Well it happened to them

In a far distant land.

We’re all free, and we know it;

We are safe, understand?

Oh, but wait, it’s Monsanto;

The magician still lives.

They’ve developed a grain

That’s resistant and gives

Us a G.M.O “first,” that repels:

Well, you guessed it,

And it’s ready for here

And you didn’t request it.

A good 80% of all foods

That are processed

Have G.M.O. fillers,

Not even a contest.

This Agent Orange, weed killer,

Had a recent name change.

It is used in the U.S.

As a helpful exchange:

Your health for great crops.

It’s the old bottom line.

But don’t worry, your health

Care’s now a taxable fine.

Petroleum based fertilizer:

True economic importance;

Agra Business knows well

That the move just makes more sense.

If you turn corn to fuel,

Just put fuel onto corn,

Soylent Green is not people,

That’s just how we were born.

If the business of buying

And selling is money,

Pick a number in line,

And pay up ‘til it’s funny.

As Monsanto has fingers

In all of our pies,

George Orwell would just

Pin the tail on these guys.

And as you can see,

There’s no more we can do,

Take a seat on this train,

The conductor’s not you.

Well, the one thing that’s left

Is our house and our home.

We all still have control

Of the spot we all roam.

We can take care of family,

The kids, though it’s hard,

And the car, and the wife,

And the friendly back yard.

And it’s spring so the mower

Comes out of the shed,

With the rake and the trimmer

And the Round Up it’s said

Is the best thing for weeds

That compete with golf greens.

Oh, thank you, Monsanto

For the tools and the means

For protecting my yard

From the crab grass and clover,

Dandelions, chick weed,

And those vines I tripped over.

I don’t care if the birds

And the insects are lame,

Or the ground water’s wrecked.

I refuse to take blame.

I can’t even pronounce

Those damned words on the label;

But my Round-Up-fed veggies

Look great on the table.

And my lawn would make

Tiger and Jack oh so proud;

They could both putt for birdie,

And wave to the crowd.

I think laws should be passed

So that everyone must

Use Round Up for lawns:

It’s weed killers or bust.

I like pretty lawns.

I don’t care about streams,

Or butterflies, honeybees,

Super weeds in your dreams.


It’s better than candy.

It’s like formic acid,

For Buffy and Mandy.

As a great neuro-toxin,

Playing flavor v. money,

It’s a business advantage,

And it’s ever so sunny.

Its uses? Prolific.

Its destiny? Strange.

As to body chemistry?

It will help rearrange.

The more foods are infused

The greater the fees,

And though Docs are confused,

Monsanto will freeze

All inquiries regarding

The health of consumers.

They have friends in high places

Who can turn aside rumors.

And life will go on,

As it has through the ages,

Old Shakespeare was right

We’re all actors on stages.

When we’re born in this world,

We all come ill-prepared

To combat all the crap

That keeps us ensnared.

G.M.O.s are like Oobleck,

So new and so green.

They make our food fresh,

And so ghastly obscene.

Each unnatural concoction

Manufactured in labs

Is a crap-shoot for health,

That is still up for grabs.

Our bodies have spent time

In millions of years,

Evolving with nature

To acquire the gears

That result symbiotically

Nestled in grooves,

A natural course

That involves sacred moves.

I’m not sure that I’m ready

To be a lab rat,

Or a guinea pig model

For a flesh-eating bat.

But then, why not be sporting,

And innovative crazy;

Why can’t we select foods that

Make us sloth lazy.

Or hyper like jackels,

Blood loving like fleas,

Or bipeds like birds,

With strong wings for a breeze.

Let’s jump at our chances.

Either forwards or backwards,

An evolutionary step

That will make us Attack-Nerds.

Monsanto, “My Saint,”

You have outdone yourself.

You should always be praised:

What you’ve placed on life’s shelf.

It’s astounding and memorable,

Fantastic and lewd.

If I had me some power

You can bet you’d be sued:

A Federal Class Action

For high treasonable offenses:

Your world’s made you demonic,

You have no defenses.

I wish you had sense

To see what you have done,

But you’re blind sociopathic

Without conscience: zip, none.

Trees, photograph Thomas Gilbert

(Actually, for those of you

who have read this,

let’s make a beginning)

© Thomas and Deborah Gilbert


If I ran Monsanto, Thomas Gilbert

Thomas Gilbert has spent the better part of the last 52 years in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Over the last 30 years he has produced a program for teaching full literacy skills to those within this population with Asperger’s, autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, dyslexia, traumatic brain injury, ADD and ADHD.

Thomas’s web site on literacy acquisition is www.literacyforanyone.com It is 100% free to use and share and download. Thomas also dabbles in writing poetry, short stories and novels He has composed simple musical compositions for piano. Thomas also has a deep curiosity about metaphysics and mysticism.

Of The Earth

By Thomas Gilbert

Life’s fortunes take us down a trail
Through fog and wind and rain and hail
But sometimes sun and warmth and peace
come by to help us find release.

Tobogganing, by Thomas and Emma Gilbert

Jamie, do you want to go sledding at the toboggan run this afternoon? Her dad asks her.

 Oh, yes. I’d love to! Can Carli come, too?

 Of course, but first finish all of your lunch, so we can get ready. Jamie giggles with anticipation. Two of her front teeth, one top, one bottom, are missing, as new ones, barely visible, are coming in.

 Daddy, we got an assignment at school yesterday. I’m supposed to ask you about your job and tell everybody else at school on Monday.

 So, you want to interview me, eh?


 What would you like to know?

 Mommy, can I get the list that Mrs. Kelsey gave me from my book bag?

 Yes, dear. Jamie runs from the kitchen to the den and rummages through her backpack.

 She’s really excited about this. She was telling me about it on the way home from school yesterday.

 I can see that she is. Jamie re-enters the kitchen, carrying her book bag, paper, and a tape recorder.

 What have you got there?

 A tape recorder.

 Oh, I see, a real professional, eh?

 I need to remember what you say, so I can write down your answers.

 Great idea.

 Are you ready, Daddy? There’s a lot of questions.

 Let me put down my Saturday paper. Her father folds his arms across his chest, leans back in his chair, paper still in his hand, rolled up in a cylinder, and taps it against his knee, carelessly.

 Jamie sets her list down on the table, brushes the hair from in front of her face, and stares at her mom and then at her dad. She then reaches across to push the record button on the tape player, looks at her paper again, and then starts confidently:

Tell me where you work, please, and what do you do?

 O.K., I work at the Cleveland Salt Mine, just west of downtown Cleveland and beside Lake Erie. I’m a foreman and a manager of a team of 25 men and women gathering salt from the mines beneath Lake Erie.

 O.K. And how do you mine the salt?

 We use trucks and bulldozers and explosives, and we work about 2,000 feet below the surface of the ground.

Salt mining, painting by Thomas and Emma Gilbert


And what do you do with the salt when you bring it up out of the ground?

 We put it in huge piles on the ground, right outside of the mine shafts.

 Then what do you do with it?

 Big huge trucks from ODOT, that’s the Ohio Department of Transportation, County Cuyahoga, and various cities around Cleveland and the state, drive up to get their trucks filled. Then they take the salt to their cities where it’s stored for use in the wintertime. We even load salt onto train cars where it gets shipped to other parts of the country.

 Jaimie looked away from her list. Why do they do that?

 Well, in the wintertime, when it gets really cold and the roads get covered with snow and ice, trucks called salt trucks fill up with the salt that we mine at our company. Then they spread the salt onto the roads to help melt the snow and ice so people can drive more safely on the roads.

 How much salt do they use?

 In an average winter, here in Cleveland and around the county, they use somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 tons of salt on the roads to fight the snow and ice.

 She put her head on her hands, with her elbows propped on the table. How much is a ton?

 A ton is 2,000 pounds.



 Then what happens to all the salt on the roads?

 Well, as long as the temperature stays pretty much above 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the salt melts the ice and snow, and it gets all over the cars and trucks and buses that run over it.

 It does? She looked at her mother.

 Yes, said her mother. In the wintertime right now, if you go out to our car port and look at our car, it’s all splattered with salt residue from the spray of salt water from the roads that were covered with salt to melt the snow.

 Oh, like on the windshield! When we drive behind cars and trucks and it gets all over the windshield, and we can’t see, and you have to press the sprayer on the wipers to get the window clean?

 Exactly, said her dad.

She turned to face her Dad, What is the stuff that cleans the windshield?

 It’s the blue washer fluid that we get at the gas station. We have to put it into a special container under the front hood of the car and make sure we have enough to last us when the weather gets bad, because we have to be able to see when we’re driving in order to be safe.

Can you drink that stuff?

No, absolutely not. It’s very poisonous.

Is the salt poisonous?

Well, it’s not exactly clean. The salt is basically sodium chloride, like table salt, but because of the other things mixed in with it when it comes out of the ground, it’s not really safe to eat. Sodium is a mineral and chloride is just chlorine, which is a pale green gas. So road salt is a combination of these elements. Some elements are good for you; others are not so good. Our bodies can use various minerals and salts in small amounts. Too much, or the wrong combinations, can be dangerous or even poisonous. The salt we get from under Lake Erie is basically sodium chloride — table salt, and too much of that in our systems can be really bad, just like too much salt can be really bad for fresh water fish, land animals, and plants and trees. We all need salt to survive, but too much salt is harmful.

Windshield, by Thomas and Emma Gilbert

 What happens to all the salt and washer fluid on the cars and buses and trucks?

 Well, the rain rinses it off, or we go to the car wash and wash it  off, or we wash our cars in our own driveways at home.

 But where does it all go?

 Oh, you mean down the drains, into the sewers?


 Well, some of it can leach right down into the ground beside the roads, or into the surface groundwater, and some of it goes into the water treatment plants, and some of it goes into the drainage ditches beside the roads and highways, and then into small streams and eventually drains into rivers and ponds and lakes.

 But I thought you once told me that the water we get out of the sink comes from Lake Erie?

 Yes, I did.

 But you said that too much salt is dangerous and the washer fluid is poisonous?

 Uh, huh.

 But if we’re not supposed to drink that blue stuff, and the salt should only be taken in small amounts, why do we put them in places where they will end up in the water we drink?

 That’s a good reason for getting bottled water at the store.

 But doesn’t that come from the lake, too?

 Oh, no. Big water bottling companies go to places where they can get water from mountain streams, springs, and artesian wells where there’s really fresh water, or they process water to purify it before they bottle it.

Does this fresh water come from Ohio?

I don’t know. Some companies get their water from sources in the Appalachian Mountains, some from the Rocky Mountains, and some get their water from overseas.


Some big companies get their water from places like Brazil, and France, and Indonesia, and even India.

Where is India?

On the other side of this planet.

Why would they do that?

Well, some big companies make a deal with governments to drill huge wells to tap into deep underground rivers and lakes, and other water sources that have very pure water. They have these huge plants that collect the water, and they bottle it right there, and then ship it back over here for us to drink.

They take water from India and bring it all the way back here?

Uh huh.

Don’t the people in India need their water?

Well, unfortunately, some of the deep wells that our companies drill to get fresh water often take away the surface water from the farmers who have cultivated the land around these plants for hundreds of years. In some cases, it is so severe that they are left with empty wells and have no water for their crops or their animals, and they don’t even have drinking water for their families.

What happens to their farm land?

Over time it dries out so completely, it ends up producing a landscape covered with nothing but mineral deposits and salt.

Then the farmers in India could do what you do, Daddy?

Yes, I suppose they could, Jamie. I suppose they could.

Are you ready for tobogganing?

Yes, I’m ready.

Jamie put her papers into her book bag and pushes the stop button on the tape recorder, and her Mom and Dad stare at each other in silence across the table.

Drawing by Thomas and Emma Gilbert

So tell me students of the world
What lessons have the Fates now hurled
Upon the table with these dice
As sevens, snake eyes, cold as ice?

Can books remain where they’re not read,
Like stones upon the buried dead?
Or will we crack these useful pages,
And learn from thoughts of wondrous sages?

Thomas Gilbert has spent the better part of the last 52 years in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Over the last 30 years he has produced a program for teaching full literacy skills to those within this population with Aspergers, autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, dyslexia, traumatic brain injury, ADD and ADHD.

Thomas’s web site on literacy acquisition is www.literacyforanyone.com It is 100% free to use and share and download. Thomas also dabbles in writing poetry, short stories and novels He has composed simple musical compositions for piano. Thomas also has a deep curiosity about metaphysics and mysticism.

A Conscientious Objector’s view of the War against Vietnam

By Thomas Gilbert

First things first: I was never in Vietnam. I was a conscientious objector (CO). When I turned 18 years old, just graduated from high school, I received a letter from the draft board indicating that I had been given a draft status of 1-A. There were only three classifications: 1-A, a combatant, 1-A-O, a non-combatant in military service (a medic) and 1-O, non-combatant conscientious objector, which meant I was to be inducted into the army. Of course there were ways to defer military service, to put it off.

Too many young people were completely unaware of the fact that this was the critical juncture in their future draft status. Most wrote back that were still going to school and needed a school deferment or were going to go on to college and therefore needed a school deferment.

This was a trick! I stated – the correct procedure – that I would not be looking for a deferment, but would be asking for a 1-0 classification as a Conscientious Objector. I then received back a letter from the draft board stating that because I was in school and going to college, I would be given a school deferment.

I asked to be classified as conscientious objector, as I was a Quaker.

However, when I stopped going to college, the draft board contacted me again and told me that my school deferment had ended. I was now reclassified as 1-A and would have to report to duty.

On receiving the draft board’s letter, I sent the copies of the first response I gave from when I turned 18. I asked to be classified as a conscientious objector as I was a Quaker.

This began a lengthy process of essay writing: I had to explain everything, including giving them an account of my Quaker family history. My parents and friends had to write letters of support and endorsement. It was also necessary to write letters confirming my aversion to guns, military exercises and killing under all circumstances. I had to argue against the death penalty, discuss religious community events and prove my participation in them.

There were 6 months of back-and-forth communication which eventually ended in an interview by a military panel at the local draft board. The objective was to intimidate me and try to persuade me that I was not really a CO.

The objective was to intimidate me and try to persuade me that I was not really a CO.

I won the argument because I had written that initial letter at the age of 18. Those who did not ask for a 1-0 classification at the age of 18 were told sharply:

If you really were a conscientious objector, you would have stated that right from the start rather than simply asking for a school deferment. It’s too late for you to try to convince us now that you really are a conscientious objector when you didn’t state that at the beginning.

This is why so many who tried to convince the draft board they really were opposed to killing Vietnamese in far away Vietnam were summarily denied late requests. They had to take off to Canada or Sweden, or go to jail, or submit to being enlisted.

I become an orderly at Wooster community hospital for two years. The pay was $1.86 an hour. 

So, instead of shooting, bombing and napalming the Vietnamese, or fighting in wet jungle foxholes, or participating in the murder of civilians in places like Mai Lai, I became an orderly at Wooster community hospital for two years.

The pay was $1.86 an hour. I worked 40 hours a week cleaning floors, giving baths to sick people, doing catheterizations, setting up traction, escorting people to therapies, assisting physically in surgeries, lifting, transferring, feeding, answering bell calls, changing dressings, taking vital measures and doing whatever was asked of me.

It was crazy at times, but it was also rewarding at times. I had to write up daily reports. I met a lot of ordinary people who were not ordinary at all. They were people struggling to stay afloat and support the ones they loved.

Working stateside in a hospital in Wooster Ohio as an orderly for two years was my way to complete my alternative service for the draft as a CO. I was listed as 1-0, officially a non-combatant, from September 1970 to September 1972.

Like all the young people of my generation, the Vietnam war opened my eyes. We were compelled to try understand what was behind this war as a matter of urgency. I reflected long and hard on the war in Vietnam and came to my conclusions. It was not a war for democracy, peace and justice at all.

Ewan MacColl’s song to Ho Chi Min

The mess began a long time ago. The French colonized and brutalized Vietnam for more than a century right up to World War II, when the Japanese took over and threw the French out, replacing one form of domination with another.

During WW2, a Vietnamese patriot named Ho Chi Min came to the USA. After asking for permission, he was subsequently invited. When he arrived in the USA he went to Washington DC where he met with Truman and offered the services of his underground rebel forces to assist with the American effort to expel the Japanese from Vietnam.

He also offered help with anything else Truman considered that needed to be done in the region in order to end the war and bring peace.

The request however had one respectful condition: if the US and allied forces were successful, once the war was over, would the US please help Vietnam become a free independent nation? Would the USA protect Vietnam against outside colonial oppression?

The US agreed with Ho Chi Min’s proposal, and a treaty was established between the USA and Vietnam while Ho Chi Min was still here on American soil.

Ho Chi Min was utterly astounded by this betrayal.

Ho Chi Min was a true scholar. He spoke nine different languages. While he was in the USA he visited Philadelphia where he came across our Bill of Rights, our Declaration of Independence, and our constitution. He spent time here translating these three documents into Vietnamese and brought them back to his country. He returned to Vietnam to organize his guerrilla rebels and Ho Chi Min and his fighters assisted in the war effort as he had promised.

When the war was over, Ho Chi Min was such a great admirer of US democracy that he actually conducted a radio broadcast for all Vietnam from Hanoi, where he read the US Declaration of Independence, our Bill of Rights and our constitution. Ho Chi Min told his national audience that their new independent country would be based on these three documents. The applause and cheering from the Vietnamese people, it is said, went on for over twenty minutes.

After the war Ho Chi Min was faced by the terrible reality of US foreign policy. When he asked in a formal communication for the US government to honor the end of the war treaty, the Dulles Brothers at the Central Intelligence Agency stepped in.  

They advised Truman against supporting Ho Chi Min and against supporting Vietnamese independence. The Dulles brothers proposed giving Vietnam back to the French as the only ‘reasonable’ and ‘diplomatic’ arrangement to continue the economic and political balance in the region.

Ho Chi Minn was utterly astounded by this betrayal. Nevertheless, he was determined in any way possible for his country to become free and liberated.

An interjection:

While the USA was fighting for its independence in the 1700s, we enlisted the help of every nation willing to assist us, including that of those very hostile enemies of the British Crown: the French, the Hessians and the native Americans. We did not care who assisted us in our fight for independence. We weren’t concerned about the feelings of the British.

When Ho Chi Minn realized the extent of the allied betrayal, he sought out any and all assistance available, and what was then available to him was the assistance of communist China and the Soviet Union. He didn’t care at this point. Independence for Vietnam was his sole aim.

Ho Chi Min was exactly like a type of George Washington, although, unlike Washington, Ho Chi Min did not own any slaves.

As Ho Chi Min began his fight for independence over the next two decades he and the North Vietnamese Liberation Army (NVLA) – with Russian and Chinese assistance – began to make headway against the French, who had been allowed to come back and rule over Vietnam by the allies after the end of the Second World War.

The French asked the USA to join the war against the Vietnamese anti-colonial movement. The Vietnamese nationalists and the USA slowly became embroiled in a military conflict.

Map showing locations of U.S. Army aerial herbicide spray missions in South Vietnam taking place from 1965 to 1971.

Our underlying reasons for getting in the war were strategic, but they were mainly economic. Texas oil billionaires wanted the drilling rights off the coast of Vietnam where they had already discovered oil deposits … and they got them.

US mining corporations wanted the aluminum deposits buried in the soil of the mainland.  It was not a coincidence that Agent Orange was used extensively on the jungles in part to clear the land for US mining companies after the ‘inevitable’ US victory. In the process of defoliating Vietnam, many children of that generation were born with birth defects.

… much of what is now taught in some institutions [about] the Vietnam war is absolute bullshit.

The Vietnamese eventually won the war. First US ground forces were forced out of Vietnam. The civilian population in the USA would no longer tolerate the deaths of their children. Then the US resorted to bombing Vietnam from the stratosphere to avoid being shot down.

It is said that the USA dropped more bombs on Vietnam than they dropped in the whole of World War II. Still, the enormous violence inflicted on Vietnam wasn’t enough to defeat the Vietnamese nationalists. The cowardly bombing didn’t work.

Finally, the North Vietnamese Liberation Army, founded by Ho Chi Min, defeated the US puppet regime in the South and the South Vietnamese regime’s US advisors and collaborators had to run for their lives. Two million Vietnamese died before Vietnam finally achieved its independence.

A sideline comment:

John D. Rockefeller’s munitions company, Rockwell International, was responsible for making most of the American army’s contemporary rifles. I actually remember evening news reports during the war where correspondents and investigators were trying to unearth the black market routes and connections of military gear traveling illicitly from South Vietnam to North Vietnam.

It was well known that American soldiers were being killed with American weaponry. North Vietnamese military installations had US weaponry made by Rockwell International. Some of this weaponry was captured from the US and their puppet forces, but not all. The pointless search for this underground supply route found nothing.

Now for the details: allegedly, Rockwell International, using loopholes in the maritime and border laws, were able to increase their sales by selling to both sides. It is said that Rockwell disassembled their guns and rifles and, allegedly, listed them as machine parts. Only concerned with making a profit, they sold weapons to Russia. The weapons were then shipped through to China and then into North Vietnam to be reassembled.

The military industrial complex made fortunes from war and they were unscrupulous. They wanted to keep the war in Vietnam going. Purportedly, Rockefeller’s company was selling weaponry to both sides of the war and making many millions.

The bastard was almost unanimously elected as Gerald Ford’s Vice President.

Those of us who lived through those times, who experienced and participated in the war against Vietnam, or who determinedly stayed out of it, have had to come to terms with it.

We know that much of what is now taught in some institutions as a reliable historical account of the Vietnam war is absolute bullshit.

Time has passed. I’ve been working hard in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities for the better part of 52 years, now and I’ve not found any other intervention as powerful and as necessary for folks in the eclectic population of the USA as literacy acquisition.

Being able to read and understand more about the world and about history is vital to adults in the USA, where we have a very high rate of illiteracy. Being able to read and inform themselves might also help a lot of people decide to conscientiously object to participating in any further unjust wars.

*I got a great deal of this analysis from a visiting lecturer at the college of Wooster, which I attended from 1969-1973. He was an iconoclastic historian, connected with one of the universities in Southern California. Sadly, I cannot recall his name.

Thomas Gilbert, conscientious objector, Quaker, adult literacy teacher and mystic

Thomas Gilbert has spent the better part of the last 52 years in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Over the last 30 years he has produced a program for teaching full literacy skills to those within this population with Aspergers, autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, dyslexia, traumatic brain injury, ADD and ADHD.

He has tutored over 50 individuals from northern Ohio long term, one-on-one, in one-hour weekly sessions in a cooperative learning style, taking many people from the level of beginning emergent literacy skills to independent reading. He has logged more than 10,000 hours tutoring in the process.

Thomas’s web site on literacy acquisition is www.literacyforanyone.com It is 100% free to use and share and download. Thomas also dabbles in writing poetry, short stories and novels He has composed simple musical compositions for piano. Thomas also has a deep curiosity about metaphysics and mysticism.

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