From celebrated humanist, author and one-time prisoner of war, the late-Kurt Vonnegut, comes a 1991 letter to activist Robert Henry Walz, in which the Slaughterhouse Five novelist responds to a request for assistance with regards to the support of American war veterans. Writing just four months after the end of the Gulf War, Vonnegut was admittedly “down in the mouth”, and very clearly exasperated with the “rich and powerful”.
Box 27. Sagaponack, NY 11962
June 29 1991
Dear Robert Henry Walz —
Sure, I’d help if I could. But, as you may have noticed, I have spent most of my adult years trying and failing to get the attention of the rich and powerful. There are so many worthy causes they find easy to ignore, such as education and public health and bettering the deplorable conditions in so many VA hospitals and on and on.
Plenty of hell has been raised about our hostages in Lebanon or wherever, to absolutely no effect. So I am discouraged, to say the least.
If you were to hook me up to a lie-detector this evening, I think, but I’m not sure, that we would find out that I believe PW’s were kept somewhere after the war’s end, but that they are all dead now. In my own much more civilized war in Europe, I saw several American bodies burned along with all sorts of other people in a big funeral pyre after the Dresden raid. I was on a PW train which was bombed by the British on the way to Dresden. God only knows what was done with all the body parts.
There is all this talk now about our wonderful troops. Anyone who has been a troop in a shooting war finds this out pretty quick: our government doesn’t give a good fuck about our troops.
Go ahead and use my name any way you like. What the heck. As I say, though, I am very down in the mouth these days.