Thursday, May 3, 2007

Joan Baez's Letter to the Washington Post

On the "Letters" page (A14) of the Washington Post, May 2, 2007:

Why I Wanted to Sing at Walter Reed

Regarding the April 28 Style article "At Walter Reed, Mellencamp Shuts
His Mouth and Sings":
Recently, John Mellencamp invited me to be his guest at a concert for
recovering soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I said yes
immediately. Only later did I realize how the passage of time had informed
my decision to join him.

I have always been an advocate for nonviolence, and I have stood as
firmly against the Iraq war as I did the Vietnam War 40 years ago. During
that war, I could not, in good conscience, have "sung for the troops."
Doing so would have meant condoning a war that was tearing soldiers,
civilians, this country, Vietnam and, in some senses, the world, apart. I
do not regret that decision.

What I do regret is having ignored the needs of the men and women who
returned from Vietnam. For some who were relatively unscathed, it seemed
possible to get on with life, with or without all of their limbs
But it's clear that, for many, returning was hell.

I realize now that I might have contributed to a better welcome home
for those soldiers fresh from Vietnam. Maybe that's why I didn't hesitate
to accept the invitation to sing for those returning from Iraq and

In the end, four days before the concert, I was not "approved" by the
Army to take part. Strange irony.

Menlo Park, Calif.

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