Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Thomas (Stewart) Nusbaumer, RIP

Stewart Nusbaumer on assignment in Iraq

Tom Nusbaumer, a veteran activist on numerous campaigns, died recently. And so did his restless, world-hopping writer alter ego, Stewart Nusbaumer. The activist and freelance journalist died August 12, according to family members, of health complications likely related to exposure to Agent Orange chemicals, succumbing 49 years after surviving severe wounds as a young Marine in Vietnam. He was 68.

After a long recovery in military hospitals, the native of Delaware who made New York his home devoted his life to exploring the world and writing about the hard questions of humanity’s persistent pattern of unleashing the furies of war while hoping for peace. 

“It's the ‘logic of the gun.’ You get hit and you hit them,” Stewart wrote on his Facebook page last year in response to a news article on the latest of history-laden clashes between Palestinians and Israelis. “If you don't hit back, then you lose. There are all kinds of tactics to do this but the result is always destruction and stalemate. Whine about compassion. Cry about justice. Lambaste and even regret all you want it to stop. But until the war stops it's the ‘logic of the gun.’"

As a ticked off Vietnam veteran, Tom Nusbaumer helped organize protests of the Reagan administration’s wars in Central America. Two decades later, he helped organize Veterans Against the Iraq War to protest the Bush administration’s military actions in the Middle East. As a restless writer, Stewart Nusbaumer founded and edited Intervention Magazine and covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as a freelance journalist. He also lived in China for several years with his daughter, Margel, until he decided she should finish high school in New Jersey. In recent years, he shifted his focus from writing about wars to reviewing films. 

I first met Tom when he helped organize an art show in New York City of works by Vietnam veterans. He was a persistent organizer. Over the years, he drew me deeper and deeper into antiwar campaigns, often well beyond my comfort zone as a journalist working for daily newspapers. As a writer, largely for online publications and magazines, Stewart dug deeper and was more perceptive than most news reporters.

Tom burst in and out of my life like a hurricane. Stewart was a constant midnight goad on the Internet, cajoling me and many others into writing and editing copy—for free—on current affairs for Intervention Magazine of a caliber that drew nearly as many views, Stewart swore, as The Nation. 

My newspaper reporting was better as a result of Stewart’s influence, as well as my poetry.

And my life was better as a result of Tom’s friendship. He pulled me into adventures that, after my wife died, were healing and fun, including staying at his cabin in the Catskills and contemplating life on a forested mountainside. Tom and his wife, Tong, invited me into their life in a Morningside Heights apartment near Columbia University in New York City. Beneath his gruff exterior as a medically retired Marine who trudged through war zones on an artificial leg, Tom was a graduate of Vassar College with walls of books lining his living room.

A selection of his writing can be found at