Skip to comments.The GOP’s destructive Vietnam mythology: How the right’s self-glorifying delusions led to...
Posted on 05/02/2015 11:42:13 PM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
The GOPs destructive Vietnam mythology: How the rights self-glorifying delusions led to decades of avoidable war
It only took about five years from the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, for the American right to succeed in burying the moment under mounds of revisionist horse shit. Ronald Reagan, speaking at a campaign appearance in the summer of 1980, said,
It is time that we recognized that [the American War in Vietnam] was, in truth, a noble cause We dishonor the memory of 50 thousand young Americans who died in that cause when we give way to feelings of guilt as if we were doing something shameful.
Reagans letting-down-the-troops angle was a brilliant rhetorical tactic. According to the story he and his fellow conservatives told, the only problem with the Vietnam War was that we hadnt let the soldiers win it. By the time he took office, Reagans conscience-free take on the war had gained traction among a public eager for easy absolution and a restoration of Americas standing in the world. It would go on to serve as convenient justification for other, similarly doomed wars of adventure in the years to come.
The story of the fall of Saigon as the right tells it is not one of American hubris getting its comeuppance via popular revolution or withdrawal of broad support at home, but one of sinister betrayal by spineless bureaucrats, cowed by selfish, pampered, troop-hating radicals. Americas failure was not one of dubious moral judgement on the part of its ruling class, but rather moral turpitude on the part of its young people. Wall Street Journal editorialist Dorothy Rabinowitz saw the era as one of wild excess self-glorification and narcissism by an incredibly spoiled, self-indulgent generation .who were taught to think everything they say is right, a perfect articulation of the self-justifying canard at the heart of what has become our popular understanding of the war, and of the similarly upside-down, false histories now being spun about Iraq and Afghanistan.
Throughout the Reagan/Bush years, right-wing fabulists worked tirelessly to convince the public that the peace marches and race riots of the 60s had done more damage to this country than the war and racism that sparked them. That idealistic, pot-smoking, occasionally idiotic and arrogant teenagers, along with a small number of genuine radicals on the left, were more harmful than the paranoid, war-mongering, racist, sexist, corrupt, Constitution-subverting presidents, politicians, generals and police who spied on, tear-gassed, beat, slandered, suppressed and murdered countless numbers of their fellow citizens, not to mention 3.4 million people in Indochina, and the 58,000 American soldiers sent to kill them and die for no reason.
The rights willfully amnesiac version of the 60s is such conventional wisdom now that even ostensibly liberal journalists cant seem to help resorting to its tired tropes. In interviews given a few years ago while promoting his documentary about 1968, Tom Brokaw defined the era with a hypothetical, illustrative scenario: A man works hard and plays by the rules all his life, raises himself out of the working class and by the 60s is raising two kids in a comfortable home. He sits down to dinner one night to be told by his teenage daughter, whos wearing, in Brokaws words, a blouse without a brassiere, that shes on the pill, and, by his son with hair down to his shoulders, that he shouldnt worry, because he knows how to get out of the draft.
For Brokaw and other mainstream journalists, the defining traumas of the 60s were inflicted by protest-marching, draft-dodging, long-haired sons, and braless daughters on the pill. (Oh, and yes, there were also some assassinations, and they were bad, too, in a generic, completely decontextualized sort of way.) The worst injury of the decade was to the delicate sensibilities of hardworking, middle-class white men.
This vision of the era has become so entrenched its almost impossible to imagine a figure like Brokaw describing an opposite, and far more essential version of the same scene: one where, say, a young man of draft age thinks that defending a corrupt dictatorship in a civil war on the other side of the world goes against everything for which his fathers generation supposedly fought. One where maybe its the son whos offended, by the way his father treats his wife, or talks about his one black co-worker, or seems so untroubled by his job at Dow Chemical. Or maybe a scene where the draft dodger is named Cheney and he tells his dad he has other priorities than fighting communism. But, unless Norman Lear has a sudden career resurgence, that kind of restoration of sanity is not going to happen any time soon.
Thats too bad, because the hard lessons of the 60s would come in handy in 2015, if they werent obscured by the rights self-serving fables. It was only a few years ago that George W. Bush said about the fall of Vietnam that, The price of Americas withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms, like boat people, re-education camps and killing fields. It was an obscene and almost psychedelic distortion of reality.
With the secret, unconstitutional bombing of Cambodia by Richard Nixon, the United States knocked over the first of the only dominoes that would ever fall in South East Asia, and dragged Cambodia into a civil war that led to the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge. Without the Vietnam War, Pol Pot would almost certainly never have come to power. His regime was a creation of our war, in the same way that ISIS is the offspring of our occupation of Iraq in 2003. The Killing Fields only ended after the Vietnam War, when the Vietnamese, our former enemies, overthrew the Cambodian tyrant. But none of those facts were troubling enough to Bush to keep him from spinning the story his own way. Not because they arent true, but because they arent known anymore. Because we hardly ever hear about them.
The alternate-reality conservative narrative of those times needs to be confronted and challenged. Americas capacity for self-refection being what it is, a popular reckoning with the truth is not going to happen any time soon, but taking even baby steps in that direction might help us avoid repeating the moral mistakes of the Vietnam Era: the concocting of grand paranoid fantasies like the domino theory and the Bushies clash of civilizations, waging wars of choice against countries that have done us no harm, cultures we know nothing about and whose languages we refuse to learn, in the self-glorifying delusion that its our destiny to save them from themselves. It might keep us from wallowing in self-indulgent self-pity, and force us to acknowledge the damage weve done to ourselves and others.
The important, lasting injury we did to ourselves in Vietnam wasnt inflicted by American protesters or draft-dodgers. Despite the way theyre depicted in popular culture, those dissidents were, for the most part, mainstream, middle-class families, sickened by a war they watched on their televisions every night (as opposed to the Iraq War, which was rendered invisible by an administration that learned the political lessons of Vietnam all too well.)
My parents, both products of working-class families and graduates of a tuition-free public university, marched often with other suburban families. They never carried the Vietcong flag, or saw anyone else do it. They never committed any acts of violence. They did have rocks thrown at them by construction workers, and they were spit on (unlike the humiliated, returning soldiers of right-wing legend) but they kept marching, because they thought that was the right (and American) thing to do.
Their story is absent from the right-wing telling of their times. One of the central themes of that telling is that the excesses of the sex-crazed, drug-addled left helped create the modern conservative movement, and no doubt thats true. But that movement has succeeded, in part, because it has grossly exaggerated the excesses of the left and washed its own from collective memory.
Isnt the self-indulgent behavior of the three-martini generation at least relevant to the discussion? Didnt members of that generation, led by the alcoholic Richard Nixon, commit the far more reckless and destructive acts of the time period?
Very few influential right-wing figures of the time have reexamined those moral failures. For Pat Buchanan, the years of My Lai, and the Chicago police riot were years when conservatives got to point at these kids and say Is that who you want running your country? His defining memory is, when they had the riots at Columbia and Mark Rudd took over the campus. I wrote a statement [for Nixon] denouncing these over- privileged kids for what they were doing Let me tell you, they didnt have any support in Middle America.
This unsurprising lack of reflection and remorse on the part of conservatives has been aided and abetted for years by the he said-she said ethos of modern journalism, which confuses evenhandedness with objectivity (and is itself one of the more insidious legacies of the 1960s.) It leads the public discussion toward a subtle, often unconscious, ratification of a false history, a history that has in turn been the basis for much of the success conservatives have enjoyed over the past 40 years.
The real history of the Vietnam era is too valuable to ignore . The 60s was not only a time when, as the cliché has it, the social fabric was torn. It was, more profoundly, a time when the social contract was torn, by our leaders. The injury those leaders inflicted on American life was far more acute, and more definitive, than the reaction to that injury by their children.
That is both the ethical core and psychological heart of what it means to be a part of the left. That is where the gratification comes from. To see yourself as a social redeemer. To feel anointed. In other words: To be progressive is itself the most satisfying narcissism.
That is why it is of little concern to them that their socialist schemes have run aground, burying millions of human beings in their wake. That is why they don't care that their panaceas have caused more human suffering than all the injustices they have ever challenged. That is why they never learn from their "mistakes." That is why the continuance of Them is more important than any truth.
If you were active in the so-called "peace" movement or in the radical wing of the civil rights causes, why would you tell the truth? Why would you tell people that no, you weren't really a "peace activist," except in the sense that you were against America's war. Why would you draw attention to the fact that while you called yourselves "peace activists," you didn't oppose the Communists' war, and were gratified when America's enemies won?
What you were really against was not war at all, but American "imperialism" and American capitalism. What you truly hated was America's democracy, which you knew to be a "sham" because it was controlled by money in the end. That's why you wanted to "Bring the Troops Home," as your slogan said. Because if America's troops came home, America would lose and the Communists would win. And the progressive future would be one step closer.
But you never had the honestythen or nowto admit that. You told the lie then to maintain your influence and increase your power to do good (as only the Chosen can). And you keep on telling the lie for the same reason.
Why would you admit that, despite your tactical support for civil rights, you weren't really committed to civil rights as Americans understand rights? What you really wanted was to overthrow the very Constitution that guaranteed those rights, based as it is on private property and the individualboth of which you despise.
It is because America is a democracy and the people endorse it, that the left's anti-American, but "progressive" agendas can only be achieved by deceiving the people. This is the cross the left has to bear: The better world is only achievable by lying to the very people they propose to redeem.
Despite the homage contemporary leftists pay to post-modernist conceits, despite their belated and half-hearted display of critical sentiment towards Communist regimes, they are very much the ideological heirs of Stalinist progressives, who supported the greatest mass murders in human history, but who remember themselves as civil libertarian opponents of McCarthy and victims of a political witch-hunt. (Only the dialectically gifted can even begin to follow the logic involved.)
To appreciate the continuity of communism in the mentality of the left, consider how many recent Hollywood promotions of the industry Reds and how many academic apologies for Stalinist crimes (in fact, the vast majority of recent academic texts on the subject) have been premised on the Machiavellian calculations and Hegelian sophistries I have just described.
Naturally, today's leftists are smart enough to distance themselves from Soviet Communism. But the Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev was already a critic of Stalin forty years ago. Did his concessions make him less of a Communist? Or more?............."
"My April 5 column for the Trib, Lies, damned lies & Hollywood communists, elicited some strong reaction, especially regarding Joe McCarthy, who, despite perceptions to the contrary, did not lead the investigation of communism in Hollywood.
That investigation was spearheaded by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (McCarthy was a senator), which was mostly chaired by anti-communist Democrats, including a remarkable Pennsylvania congressman named Francis Walter. In fact, the committee's first and last heads were Democrats: Martin Dies (Texas) and Richard Ichord (Missouri).
There is much history there. But I'd like to focus on Joe McCarthy.
McCarthy ruined many careers and many lives, one Trib reader emailed me. His name is a disgrace to America and to the United States Senate. He was not right. ... McCarthy was a despicable human being.
To be sure, there is no way that I can here, with very limited words, adequately convince either side that Joe McCarthy was right or wrong. I have colleagues I respect on both sides. My general judgment is that McCarthy certainly had failings, clearly was not always right, but also we've learned was much more right than his detractors ever imagined.
Communist Party USA, which secretly and illegally received an annual subsidy from Moscow, was not just another political party. Its members were committed to overthrowing the U.S. government and replacing it with a Soviet America. Congress, of course, is constitutionally tasked with investigating domestic threats. For elected Democrats and Republicans to not do so would violate their sworn oaths to America. Joe McCarthy was one of them.
The question, however, is how McCarthy then proceeded in that task.........."
It’s always great to read some Salon scribbler using leftwing mythology to denounce rightwing mythology.
As attorney general, it is your responsibility to ensure that the nations laws are upheld, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) wrote in an Oct. 13 letter. He requested that the Justice Department hold the OSTP director to full account for violating a provision Wolf added to a spending bill enacted in April barring OSTP and NASA from engaging with China. In May, Holdren participated in meetings in Washington between U.S. and Chinese officials aimed in part at enabling scientific cooperation between the two nations.
Acting at Wolfs request, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined Holdrens participation in the May U.S.-China Dialogue on Innovation Policy and the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, and concluded his actions violated the prohibition. The GAO also concluded that Holdren and OSTP violated the Anti-Deficiency Act since the prohibition detailed in section 1340 of the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011 bars the use of OSTP funds for bilateral activities with China. The Anti-Deficiency Act makes it illegal for federal agencies to spend funds that have not been appropriated by Congress.".................
Feb 2015: Climate scientist being investigated by Congress for not believing in global warming enough "Roger Pielke, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, and six others are under investigation by Congress regarding testimony they've given on the subject of climate change.
Pielke, a believer in man-caused global warming, can't quite figure out why he's the object of a witch hunt.
...................... What am I accused of that prompts being investigated? Here is my crime:
Prof. Roger Pielke, Jr., at CUs Center for Science and Technology Policy Research has testified numerous times before the U.S. Congress on climate change and its economic impacts. His 2013 Senate testimony featured the claim, often repeated, that it is incorrect to associate the increasing costs of disasters with the emission of greenhouse gases.
The letter goes on to note that John Holdren, President Obamas science advisor, has highlighted what he believes were serious misstatements by Prof. Pielke.....
....Pielke's transgression is that he isn't hysterical enough about climate change. Unless you subscribe to the belief that runaway global warming is going to destroy us all - tomorrow - your views are suspect and you can safely be called a "denier." Pielke has dropped all research into climate change - a victory for the anti-science forces on the left. That's one less honest scientist to rebut the constant drumbeat of false information coming from climate change advocates."
When the U.S. pulled out of S. Vietnam and Ted Kennedy led legislation to stop supporting them, the N. Vietnamese moved down and slaughtered over 1 million of them. That gave the Khmer Rouge everything they needed to kill even more. Democrats never batted an eye, as long as they couldn’t blame the deaths on American intervention.
The author should take his own advice. The reason the "GOP" (who are anything but "right" at the moment) insists on a narrative of betrayal is because it happens to accord with historical fact.
The United States won the war, that is, if one considers that our strategic objective was to stop the incursions from the north and the domestic terrorism. This we did. On 27 January 1973, the Paris Peace Accords kicked in and we withdrew from Vietnam with the South Vietnamese government and its territory intact.
In 1975 the North ran armored divisions down Highway 1 in what amounted to a blitzkrieg. The sense of betrayal that is part of what the author considers a false narrative had nothing false about it - Congress, deeply influenced by the "antiwar" (if only it really were) movement, declined to fund air support for the South Vietnamese defenders. End of story. And so now the U.S. "lost" the war although no troops or air assets were even in country, this according to a treaty we had negotiated. Score two for that sense of betrayal.
The author is regurgitating all the old talking points of the triumphant Left but there is that curious lacuna between the POW camps emptying of U.S. occupants and them filling again with South Vietnamese occupants, a Vietnamese Gulag that is also carefully ignored by the Left, for its adherents insisted that such a thing would never happen and resolutely ignored it when it did. Those very few honest figures on the Left such as Joan Baez who protested were silenced and shunned.
One simply cannot take seriously an author who insists on historical verisimilitude and then promptly ignores it. He need not take my word for it. He can ask the Vietnamese.
Yet another seething Salon idiot on parade.
But I cannot believe whoever does the strong-arming to any is going to be prosecuted or even brought to much light as this beast continues to gather speed. Holder, and any others are carefully planned on when and how they will perform in this, and how close or not til the end of their service, and or even those who will have their positions changed in order to protect them.
The degree of corruption throughout our nation is pretty much at every level of Governance....I'm not sure this tide is going to be stopped soon enough, if it can be at all. The powers behind it is tremendous and often hidden behind what's being otherwise presented. By the time these people are exposed....the beast that Global Warming is has already arrived at the next stop...often way down the road.
Has the Left recognized that they are, at long last, losing? And, as a consequence, decided to go back and fight the Viet Nam War all over again?
John F. Kennedy’s legacy, the Vietnam War, unionized government, and the 1965 Immigration Act (passed in his honor, since it was his lifetime goal).
All that and more, creating the 1960s and this immigration death.
If only Eisenhower’s Veep had won that 1960 election, America would still exist.
Birkenhead, the author of this piece, is an interesting case. He is a red-diaper baby, son of “new left” 1960s activists. His dad was apparently insane and abused everyone. Birkenhead wrote a book about it (of course). Look him up, he is a character.
Its not difficult to see, in his writing, which is full of arrogant assertions, unmitigated contempt, besides much else, someone loaded with personality problems, a man who wasn’t raised right.
I expect comrade dictator obama to eventually acquire as much if not more notoriety than McCarthy did, except obama is the embodiment of the evil that McCarthy warned us about.
wasn’t the US intervention in Vietnam begun by a Democrat regime?????
A big eye opener for many Americans was watching the media and the left do two things, one, instantly lose interest in Vietnam when the Cambodian death camps and the Vietnam executions and reeducation camps started, and that the media suddenly didn’t like some immigrants for the first time, the “Boat People”, until the Vietnamese started fleeing Vietnam by the millions, refugees and immigrants were all so special to the American left, even Eastern Europeans fleeing the communists were tolerated, but they didn’t like the “boat people”.
Peter Birkenhead is a writer living in Washington, D.C.He also wrote a book back in 2010 about growing up with an emotionally abusive father as he puts it.
No offense, but losing what?
As far as the Vietnam war, there are two historical images that encapsulate it in American history: Napalm and Saigon.
I have no doubt that the current conflicts will also be misrepresented by the media and academia in the future. It’s obvious how the corporate-military complex went to war against indigenous peoples who were only protesting the destruction of their unique culture based on the religion of peace. After our horrific destruction of their superb tribal communities, Obama saved the world by ushering in the wonderful Arab Spring that assured peace in our time (after rolling back the evil colonial influence of the US and implementing the needed purge of those evil, bigoted Christians and any other obstreperously intolerant peoples).
I see the leftists are still spitting on the Vietnam Vets.
Green Faith may be the new site.
For 50 years, Holdren has called and worked for the de-development of the United States.
Washington Post, April 30, 2015: Pope Francis has given the climate movement just what it needed faith
"This week and it still feels strange to write this the major climate change news story came out of the Vatican.
There, at the center of global Catholicism, church leaders joined with politicians, scientists and economists to draft a statement declaring not only that climate change is a scientific reality but also that theres a moral and religious responsibility to do something about it. And an even more powerful statement is expected soon from Pope Francis himself, who is slated to release a major papal encyclical on the environment this summer.
All of this is enough to make environmentalists, members of a traditionally secular movement, nearly rhapsodic. After a history of being rather too technocratic and wonky, there seems to be a growing realization in green circles about the importance of an alliance with the world of faith.
This has been a long time coming. The effort to mobilize religious believers to worry about climate as part of a broader, biblically grounded creation care mandate has a long history (though it has traditionally focused more on evangelicals than Catholics). Books have been written about it, and one of its major spokespeople Katharine Hayhoe, an evangelical climate scientist at Texas Tech University was named one of Time magazines 100 most influential people last year.............
Another part of the moral message, as Yale Divinity School professor Teresa Berger told me recently, may involve the pope condemning sins of exploiting the Earth.
So it has been long coming, but pope watchers in the environmental world are watching now for very good reason. They know this is the most powerful chance in a long time to make people care, and to create political will."
"......Indeed, Holdrens emails show how sincere scientists would be made into raw entertainment. How the deed was done
A perfect person and opportunity appeared. On 16th October 2003 Michael Mann, infamous for his lead in the hockey stick that dominated the 2001 IPCC Report, sent an email to people involved in the CRU scandal;
Thought you would be interested in this exchange, which John Holdren of Harvard has been kind enough to pass along At the time Holdren was Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy & Director, Program in Science, Technology, & Public Policy, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government. (Editors Note: He is now Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and Co-Chair of the Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technologyinformally known as the United States Science Czar. )
In an email on October16, 2003 from John Holdren to Michael Mann and Tom Wigley we are told:
Im forwarding for your entertainment an exchange that followed from my being quoted in the Harvard Crimson to the effect that you and your colleagues are right and my Harvard colleagues Soon and Baliunas are wrong about what the evidence shows concerning surface temperatures over the past millennium. The cover note to faculty and postdocs in a regular Wednesday breakfast discussion group on environmental science and public policy in Harvards Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences is more or less self-explanatory.
The Wednesday Breakfast Group
This is what Holdren sent to the Wednesday Breakfast group.
I append here an e-mail correspondence I have engaged in over the past few days trying to educate a Soon/Baliunas supporter who originally wrote to me asking how I could think that Soon and Baliunas are wrong and Mann et al. are right (a view attributed to me, correctly, in the Harvard Crimson). This individual apparently runs a web site on which he had been touting the Soon/Baliunas position.
The exchange Holdren refers to is a challenge by Nick Schulz editor of Tech Central Station (TCS). On August 9, 2003 Schulz wrote;
In a recent Crimson story on the work of Soon and Baliunas, who have written for my website [1 techcentralstation.com, you are quoted as saying: My impression is that the critics are right. It s unfortunate that so much attention is paid to a flawed analysis, but thats what happens when something happens to support the political climate in Washington. Do you feel the same way about the work of Mann et. al.? If not why not?
Holdren provides lengthy responses on October 13, 14, and 16 but comments fail to answer Schulzs questions. After the first response Schulz replies, I guess my problem concerns what lawyers call the burden of proof. The burden weighs heavily, much more heavily, given the claims on Mann et.al. than it does on Soon/Baliunas. Would you agree? Of course, Holdren doesnt agree. He replies, But, in practice, burden of proof is an evolving thing-it evolves as the amount of evidence relevant to a particular proposition grows.
No it doesnt evolve; it is either on one side or the other. This argument is in line with what has happened with AGW. He then demonstrates his lack of understanding of science and climate science by opting for Mann and his hockey stick over Soon and Baliunas. His entire defense and position devolves to a political position. His attempt to belittle Soon and Baliunas in front of colleagues is a measure of the mans blindness and political opportunism that pervades everything he says or does.
Schulz provides a solid summary when he writes, Ill close by saying Im willing to admit that, as someone lacking a PhD, I could be punching above my weight. But I will ask you a different but related question. How much hope is there for reaching reasonable public policy decisions that affect the lives of millions if the science upon which those decisions must be made is said to be by definition beyond the reach of those people?
We now know it was deliberately placed beyond the reach of the people by the group that he used to ridicule Soon and Baliunas. Holdren was blinded by his political views, which as his record shows are frightening. One web site synthesizes his position on over-population as follows, Forced abortions. Mass sterilization. A Planetary Regime with the power of life and death over American citizens.
"Holdren has a long history of seeking total government control. He was involved in the Club of Rome providing Paul Ehrlich with the scientific data in his bet with Julian Simon. Ehrlich lost the bet. Holdrens behavior in this sorry episode with Soon and Baliunas is too true to form and shows the leopard never changes his spots, Ball concludes.
Meanwhile, even with an AWOL mainstream media, the Climategate snakes continue to slither out from under the rocks....."
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