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US anti-war activist pens memoir

Many literary works about the American War forcus on combat and violence. But a memoir by an American peace activist, released in Vietnamese on January 22, approaches the topic from a different perspective.

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Originally published as Felon for peace (2005), Toi pham vi hoa binh reveals what it was like to oppose the war in the US- a nation fiercely divided by the conflict. The author, Jerry Elmer, was an active leader in the anti-war movement; his memoir is the first work by an American peace activist to be published in Vietnam.

“I believed that what my country was doing here in Vietnam was immoral, because we were fighting against a people who wanted nothing more than freedom and independence,” Elmer said. “I also believed that what my country was doing was illegal, because it violated international law against waging wars of aggression.”

Even though he might not be able to stop these crimes, Elmer vowed to ensure that they will not be ignored.

“I might not be able to end the war; but I could certainly break the silence. That is what I tried to do,” he said.

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Elmer publicly refused to register for the draft when he turned 18 in August 1969, at the height of the American War- a felony then (and now). Over the next 18 months, he burglarized the offices of 14 separate draft boards in three states. In each of these raids, protesters destroyed the files of men eligible to be drafted and wiped out the draft boards’ cross-reference system, thereby rendering those draft boards inoperable.

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“Elmer shows Vietnamese readers – and all present-day readers – the huge and disastrous nature of the war that our people had to deal with,” historian Duong Trung Quoc writes in the book’s introduction. “This war also traumatized America while it was being conducted as well as long after it ended. And to a certain extent it still serves as a profound lesson to remind the US of the consequences every time its government engages in foreign intervention. 

VNS/VOV online
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