The Thinking 

Remembering Vietnam

September 29, 2017


ALAN writes:

What Jacob Hornberger wrote  [“Iraq and the National Security State”, Sept. 21] about the radical expansion of government power after World War II is right on the mark.

I expressed a similar judgment in part two of my essay looking back fifty years [the first part of which was “When I Was Seventeen”, Sept. 12].  Here is the second part:


         “The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments,” said George Washington.

The current fake “war on terrorism” is a prime example.  The Vietnam War was another.

In 1967, when I watched the nightly Huntley-Brinkley news report on NBC television, I had the impression I was living in never-never land.  I hated the Communists, had no sympathy for “Hanoi Jane” Fonda and her crowd, but I also opposed any involvement of Americans in the Vietnam War.  I was more appalled by the “Conservatives” than by the “Liberals”.  Exactly what are the “Conservatives” conserving?, I wanted to know.  They failed to keep tens of thousands of Americans alive at home instead of dead in Southeast Asia.  I should respect such people?

The Vietnam War offered a classic example of the false alternative:  In one camp were the hippies, the “students”, and the “Liberals”.  In the other camp were the hard hats and the “Conservatives”.  I thought neither camp had the slightest claim to credibility.

Nor was I a pacifist.  If any part of my nation was attacked, I would gladly have seen the attackers annihilated.

But what Americans were doing in Vietnam was something very different.  I favored self-defense; I opposed self-immolation.

I had to wonder what kind of people I was living among.  It has been claimed that men are smarter than horses, but I have seen no evidence for it.  “Horses don’t bet on people,” Kay Kyser’s orchestra told us in a 1945 recording.  Nor do they put themselves in jeopardy if they can avoid it or engage in rituals of self-immolation.  Yet in 1967 I saw Americans doing exactly that—by surrendering their sons to be dragged into a foreign war in which they had no vital interest, in which they had nothing to gain, in which no enemy disrupted everyday life in America or threatened one inch of American soil, and in which Americans were certain to be killed or maimed.

That made no sense whatever to me; not the fact that an arrogant, out-of-control central government would order Americans to do that, but that they would agree to do it as if they imagined their government had any right to give them such orders or to drag them into other nations’ conflicts, in absolute contempt for Washington’s advice to avoid foreign entanglements.

“In my opinion, the world would be a better place if people stayed in their own country and minded their own business….”  — Senior guard at the Austrian border during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, quoted by Michael Korda in his Journey to a Revolution (HarperCollins, 2006, p. 121).

If Americans had had the good sense to live by that standard, none of them would have been killed in Vietnam.    

What on earth is the matter with such people?, I thought to myself in 1967.  How is it that they lack the sense God gave to horses?

Americans who had the good sense not to meddle in quarrels between neighbors down the road or in the next county promptly abandoned that sense when they permitted their government to drag them into a conflict on the other side of the planet.  Isn’t that rather inconsistent?  Isn’t that rather stupid?, I thought.

I had great respect for entertainers Bob Hope and John Wayne, but thought they were mistaken in defending American involvement in the Vietnam War.  But bad men were doing evil things to innocent people, the Washington Party Line asserted.  So what?  Bad men are doing such things constantly and everywhere.  I want to know:  Where did Washington or Jefferson write that the government they had helped establish should become policeman of the world? 

And if the job of Americans is to sacrifice their strongest young men for the sake of people being killed by goons all over the world, then there wouldn’t be many such men left to defend and preserve their own people and their own country, would there?  That is one reason why our enemies try to drag Americans into conflicts all over the map.  The pity is that American men—who are geniuses at technology but babies in morality and philosophy—permit them to do it.

The song “Ballad of the Green Berets” by Sgt. Barry Sadler was popular among “Conservatives” in 1966.  I heard it many times on radio.  I thought it was appalling: Here was an American soldier endorsing an aggressive, do-gooder government’s meddling in another nation.  To my mind, there was nothing more revolting than good men lining up to support bad ideas.  Mr. Sadler may have been a good man, but the Vietnam War was definitely a bad idea.

The same “Conservatives” who were gung-ho in favor of the Vietnam War managed at the same time to remain remarkably silent about Communist and Fabian change agents firmly entrenched in the US Government.

It is pathetic that the families of American men who were killed in Vietnam agreed to accept the Washington Party Line that those men died for the purpose of “defending American freedom”.  Excuse me, but that was a Big Lie.  American freedom was at stake in World War II, but not in Vietnam.  If it had been, then everyday life in America could not have gone on as usual, as it did.

Rather than prolong their suicidal involvement in Vietnam, Americans in 1967 should have considered hanging the do-gooders who dragged them into it:  Johnson, McNamara, Rusk, the Bundy brothers, and all the other geniuses in Washington who wanted to play War Games with Americans’ lives.  The people of ancient Athens offered a model:  They promised do-gooders exactly that fate if their do-gooder schemes made life worse instead of better.  [ See Otto Scott,“Why the Ancients Hanged Do-Gooders”, Conservative Digest, Dec. 1985, p. 93 ]  Let’s see now:  If you are killed at age 20 for no sensible reason whatever and in a foreign land where you do not belong in the first place, would that come under the heading of “better” or “worse”?

(Their treasonous betrayal of the USS Liberty when it was attacked by Israelis in June 1967 might be another good reason to consider that option, at least for Johnson and McNamara.)

What was wrong with American men in 1967?  The same thing that is wrong with them today:  Rather than expend their masculine energy on valid endeavors like strengthening and defending their own nation, culture, and families, they agree instead to expend that energy on sports, entertainment, motor vehicles, and making war in other nations where they have no business in the first place.

Vietnam War defenders claim good intentions justified the ritual sacrifice of fifty thousand-plus Americans for the purpose of some “greater good”.  Excuse me: What is a greater good than one’s own children?

Americans by 1967 had made the critical mistake of allowing their government to refashion its job from that of Night Watchman to that of Do-Gooder, an endeavor doubtless engineered by Fabian Socialist change agents presenting themselves as American patriots.  What an easy sell that must have been.

What lessons did Americans learn from their involvement in Vietnam?  None whatever.  Fifty years later, they are still surrendering their children to be dragged into other nations’ wars and a (fake) “war on terror”, all perpetrated on the perennially-popular pretext of doing good, of course.  It is as if American men had become so soft and squishy and agreeable that they forgot how to say NO to bad ideas, or agreed to believe that good intentions make bad ideas less bad.

Why do other nations not have “Vietnam Veterans Memorials”?  Because their people had enough sense not to surrender fifty thousand of their young to die needlessly.

Have “Conservatives” gotten any better since 1967?  Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.  They are just as useless now as they were then, but I am being charitable.

“Conservatives” who refuse to ask What are Bantus, Somalians, and Muslims doing in America?” today are the philosophical cousins of “Conservatives” in 1967 who refused to ask What are Americans doing in Southeast Asia?” 

None of this has anything to do with military strategy or American soldiers who were patriotic but who nonetheless allowed themselves to be dragged into a nightmare from Hell.  It has to do instead with an out-of-control central government and the wholly inept response to that government:  Soft-headed, knee-jerk acquiescence instead of adamantine determination to reign it in and keep it from pursuing adventurism, “nation building”, and endless wars beyond its borders.

I stand by my judgments.  Americans’ involvement in the Vietnam War was a disgrace perpetrated upon Americans not by people on the other side of the planet but by their own out-of-control government.  Those who orchestrated itcounted on the supine acquiescence of American white men, most of whom did not disappoint them.  When they should have said NO to foreign adventurism and the waste of Americans’ lives, they said YES.  They are the sorriest excuse for American manhood I have ever seen.

— End of Entry —

Laura writes:

Thank you for your excellent essay.

On the subject of World War II, which you mention, I recommend the pre-war speeches of Charles Lindbergh, who warned of caving in to fear and stated:

Let us offer Europe a plan for the progress and protection of the western civilization of which they and we each form a part. But whatever their reply may be, let us carry on the American destiny of which our forefathers dreamed as they cut their farm lands from the virgin forests. What would they think of the claim that our frontiers lie in Europe? Let us guard the independence that the soldiers of our Revolution won against overwhelming odds. What, I ask you, would those soldiers say if they could hear this nation, grown a hundred and thirty million strong, being told that only the British fleet protects us from invasion?

Our nation was born of courage and hardship. It grew on the fearless spirit of the pioneer. Now that it has become one of the greatest powers on earth, ours must not be the generation that kneels in fear of future hardships, or of invasion by a Europe already torn by war.

I do not believe we will ever accept a philosophy of calamity, weakness, and fear. I have faith in an American army, an American navy, an American air force and, most important of all, the American character, which in normal times, lies quietly beneath the surface of this nation.

 Lydia Sherman writes:

Vietnam seemed like a slaughter of 1960’s young men. There hasn’t been any requirement for the subsequent generations to make that level of sacrifice. There were subsequent administrations that had no draft and no huge war. Why the 60’s slaughter and not the ones after? In the Reagan years there were a few quick battles done with a volunteer military. My suspicion is the Vietnamese war was aimed at a particular people in both countries to eliminate a generation for some reason. I was old enough to be extremely affected by this war, since many church boys and high school boys went to Vietnam by draft and some died or disappeared. I always wondered about the MIA’s.

George Weinbaum writes:

I am in partial agreement with this essay.
I suggest Alan read, Mauritz Hallgren’s, A Tragic Fallacy, 1937. The next to the last chapter is titled, “Japan, the Chosen Foe” about the things the Hoover and FDR administrations did to goad Japan into a war. Study EO 8832, 26 July 1941, FDR’s order freezing Japanese assets. Whaat? I doubt one American in 10,000 has ever heard of it. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor 4.5 months later. Coincidence? I doubt it.

I used to listen to Long John Nebel who had a radio call-in show in New York City in the 1960s. Nebel said he was a Navy Lieutenant in 1941 and was ordered to attack German ships in the Atlantic in February 1941. Was Nebel lying? I don’t think so.

Look at the map of Europe after 1945. The USSR gobbled up half of it. Did FDR plan this? In 1943 my father was in Italy in the Fifth Army. He showed me a propaganda leaflet the Germans dropped on his unit in 1943. It had a map of post-war Europe as it was to be divided by FDR and Stalin. Wouldn’t you know it, the May 1945 troop positions were about as the leaflet predicted.

Was WWII planned by FDR and Stalin, in part, as a “squeeze play” against Germany?

Disagreeing with most readers of this blog, I believe I understand the Israeli attack on the Liberty and drumroll please, sympathize with Israel! In 1956 the US sided with the Arabs in the Suez crisis. Why?

Why did LBJ deny the Liberty air support during the 55 minutes it was under attack? I no more accept the official explanations of the Liberty incident than those of three years earlier in the Gulf of Tonkin. What was LBJ hiding?

Laura writes:

Let me get this straight. Eleven years after the Suez crisis, Israel was justified in attacking an American ship and killing dozens of Americans? And it is justified in not owning up to its role in the attack since then?

The American people have given about $240 billion to the state of Israel since 1967. (Not including the interest we paid on this aid.) And America should accept unprovoked attacks from Israel too?

Then I say, Israel is not our ally and we owe it nothing.

Mr. Weinbaum replies:

I cite the Suez crisis as evidence the US is not Israel’s ally and never was. Paraphrasing Lord Palmerston: countries have interests, not allies. Did you ever look at the Liberty? What was it? Take a real good look.

I find the official US and Israeli accounts of the Liberty incident as believable as two airplanes causing the twin towers to collapse. Or the Warren Commission findings.

Think hard about why Israel knowingly attacked an American ship and why the US covered up the reason for the attack.

My conclusion surprised even me. Remember: the US went to war in 1898 in part, supposedly over Spain blowing up the Maine. We went to war in Vietnam over the phony Gulf of Tonkin incident.
On 26 July 1941, FDR passed EO 8832. Study it. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor 4.5 months later. This should have surprised no one. In 1937 Mauritz Hallgren wrote “America’s War Tragedy” about US foreign policy. The next to the last chapter is titled, “Japan, the Chosen Foe” about how from 1931, the US had been goading Japan into war.

Even the “Good War”, WWII, does not look that good. Was the European Theater FDR and Stalin’s “squeeze play” against Germany with the intent of giving Stalin Eastern Europe?

Take a hard look at the Liberty incident. If you do, you might sympathize with the Israelis. I do.That we gave Israel $240 billion, if that’s the amount, was for our reasons, not Israel’s.

Laura writes:

The truth of all these incidents should be openly revealed to the public. Israel is not, as you say, our ally and has killed Americans. Let people know that. Israel possesses a nuclear arsenal and could very well use that against us in the future.

Any self-interest involved in giving Israel so much was not to the benefit of this country at large.

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