Backwards March

Boston Herald -March 20, 2011
By Margery Eagan

The St. Patrick’s Day parade has become a wincing embarrassment to this city.

Its organizer, South Boston’s Allied War Veterans Council, has again denied participation to gay groups and veterans who oppose our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Both rejected groups will nonetheless march anyway, in exile, about a mile behind the parade and behind city street sweepers as well.

And Boston taxpayers will help pay for this mess.

“I don’t know nothing about it.” That’s what parade organizer Philip Wuschke told me Friday when asked why he blackballed Veterans for Peace and their message: Bring the Troops Home and Take Care of Them When They Get Here.

But how could he not know? He banned them. “I don’t care to know,” he said. When I began to ask the spelling of his name, and whether he’d been in combat himself, he hung up.

So there you have it.

On one side is Mr. “Don’t Care to Know.” On the other side are men are women who know too much because they’ve been to war.

“They just told me they did not want the word peace associated with the word veteran.” 

That’s the explanation Veterans for Peace member Pat Scanlon was given about why his group was banished.

But here’s the obvious question for Mr. “Don’t Care to Know” and his pals: Who in the world, besides you, has a problem with promoting peace?

Have you missed the news? Since the last time you banned the Veterans for Peace (when they argued against our Iraq invasion way back in 2003), thousands of Americans have died fighting there and in Afghanistan. 

Many have committed suicide.

Who wants more of that?

Yet thousands of us will today head off to applaud and cheer — and thereby legitimize — a parade that says the peace crowd merits no place at the table. And as for those pesky gays, the hell with them, too.

Tony Flaherty, 79, is a Veterans for Peace member who lives in a second-floor apartment overlooking the parade route in South Boston, where he grew up.

He used to be best friends with John “Wacko” Hurley, Wuschke’s predecessor on the Allied War Vets council.

But “Wacko,” who never went to war, has no use for peace vets either. And Flaherty, who fought in Vietnam, has no use for guys like “Wacko.” In his sitting room filled with plaques from a 25-year military career, Flaherty calls them “chicken hawks” and “barroom patriots,” and rails against a parade he says glorifies war.

Flaherty likes to tell you, too, about Smedley D. Butler, for whom the local Veterans for Peace named their chapter. Butler was a major general in the Marines and once the most decorated Marine in history. But Butler, disgusted by wealthy businesses profiting from war while poor and working-class soldiers died, wrote the classic “War Is a Racket” in 1935.

Flaherty pointed to Butler’s picture among his wall plaques, and said, “It’s still the same. . . . War is a racket. A few profit. Many pay.”

Herald opinion writer Margery Eagan can be reached at MEagan@bostonherald.com
© 2011 by the Boston Herald Company 

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