Well, my resistance to setting up more Vietnam memorials has stirred up
a hornet's nest of replies, all deserving of responses. First, I believe
that the death of young men on any side in combat is tragic. Only when
truly defending one's land, however, can be considered honorable.
Outside of the world wars, US soldiers have had a bloody, close to 200
interventions that were ordered by the president with out Congressional
approval. I believe the number wa close to 150 when the Congressional
Record published a list on July 26, 1969. None were benign; some were
bloody massacres such as took place in the Philippines;. How about the
invasion of Mexico in 1846, no honor there except for those who refused.
Jerry thinks "it all boils down to what you call a war crime."
Minimally, it is the killing of civilians by a soldier. If that soldier
is an invader like Americans were in Vietnam, and the civilians are
armed and resisting the invader, it makes it no less a war crime. That
the Vietnam war was not "an endless string of atrocities does not lessen
by one whit the many atrocities that were committed and documented.
As for the Marines, and there were more of them than Regular Army
testifying a to the crimes they either committed or saw their buddies
commit, at those Winter Soldier Hearings. They wore their uniforms and
I still have the photos I took at KPFK. Maybe, Jerry, you should ask my
old buddy, Ron Kovic, who testified as to those he committed, but I
honor Ron because of what he did when he came back and I honor those
other vets who either spoke out against the war, and there were a lot of
them, or who have made efforts to rebuild Vietnam in three ensuing
years. Again, as for the Marines, you should look up Gen. Smedley
Butler's quote about their role. Outside of the two WWs they have been a
mafia for big business.
There is nothing honorable in any way about invading another country
that has done you no harm, and please don't tell me that the majority of
boys were over there for love of country because I know too many who
would say that's a lot of crap. There were a variety of reasons: proving
oneself, machismo, getting away from home, as an alternative for doing
time, lack of good job or education, social pressures, etc. I spent two
years in the Army between Korea and Vietnam and got to know a number of
WW2 and Korea vets who had to re-up because they couldn't cut it in
civilian society. Patriotism was never advanced as a reason.
As for the Germans, they were under even more pressure to serve under
the Nazis than folks were here and in the end, they threw young
teenagers into the battle and sent them as far as Italy. I have probably
visited as many military cemeteries as anyone on this list and what
outrages me is that throughout history old men have constantly found a
way to send the youth of their nations into battle to slaughter the
youth of other nations, but I mourn for those youth, I don't honor them
because what they did does not fit into my definition of honor.
In trying to take Cassino, one of the stupidest, criminal blunders of
the Allies in WW2, thousands died on both sides. There is a German
cemetery in Cassino with young members of the Wehrmacht buried three to
a grave, 10,000 in all. I walked through that cemetery and looked at the
names on the graves and to my astonishment, I saw so many who had been
named after great German poets, musicians and philosophers, and at that
cemetery, my hatred for the Germans vanished. I thought of the parents
of those boys who had bright dreams for their sons when they were born
and they named them. I visited a British cemetery there, as well, with
each grave having some poetical inscription and I cursed Churchill
because he was the one who decided that Cassino needed to be taken
instead of being bypassed which it eventually was. At Anzio you find the
American graves of those who died under the fire of German machine guns
as they walked in on the long stretch of beach, having been misinformed
by US intelligence that the Germans had left, and many who died at
Cassino are buried there as well. If there is any honor in battle, both
the US soldiers and the Brits earned it because there was the feeling of
fighting an enemy that threatened them. By no stretch does Vietnam fall
into that category.
Now Cabral compares those who went to Vietnam to a cop's response to a
911 call or a fireman to a fire. That comparison just leaves me shaking
my head. As does the notion of putting up plaques in every city as if
that would me an incentive to prevent further acts of such insanity. The
truth is that it would be quite the opposite and simply another way to
glorify military service.
We should get one thing straight. The last time the continental US was
attacked was in 1812 by the British. Pearl Harbor was a military base on
an island that we conquered by force in 1893, destroying the native
culture and subjecting the indigenous inhabitants to an impoverished
existence. As horrible as it was, the Japanese attack in 1941 was simply
an attack by a rival power who had ideas of taking the island,
eventually, itself. What this means is that joining the military is not
about defending the US, but helping maintain US global military supremacy.
Mbunster believes the dead should be honored "because they obeyed their
country and served their duties, many of them dying for it," and for
this, "they deserve respect." That is the tragic pattern that has come
down through the ages, exemplified in the phrase, "For king and
country," and will be the excuse for the next Vietnam.
In a post yesterday, Joe MacDonald says we should "honor the warrior and
not the war." That attitude just promotes the same macho bullshit that
led these "warriors" down the path to their death in the first place.
The only warrior worthy of honor is one who fights for his or her land,
community, family, or a principle that doesn't involve invading and
subjugating another people.. In not one of these categories do those who
gave their lives in Vietnam qualify.
Finally, I would recommend to those who my arguments have not convinced,
to get a copy of The Road Back, by Remarque, the sequel to All Quiet on
the Western, his more famous novel. The Road Back is the story of what
happened to German soldiers when they returned from WW 1 and it is, to
my mind, the most powerful anti-war novel ever written because it
explodes the notions of honor and patriotism that going to battle for
one's country when ordered to do so imply.
> Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2000 10:19:37 -0700
> From: Jerry West <email@example.com>
> Subject: Re: [sixties-l] Re: sixties-l-Vietnam War Memorials
> Jeffrey Blankfort wrote:
> the notion that plaques should be erected in Berkeley or anywhere else,
> honoring their actions is no more warranted than plaques would be in
> Germany honoring the fallen members of the Wehrmacht.
> JW reply:
> What is wrong with recognizing the fallen members of the Wehrmacht as
> opposed to the cause that they were fighting for? A war memorial does
> not have to glorify war, and it shouldn't, but it can be a positive
> thing to remember those who were sacrificed in war as a warning to what
> can happen if we are not more careful in the future.
> JB wrote:
> ....former GIs, marines and navy men, described war crimes in which they
> had either participated or witnessed. When I was in Europe in 1970, I
> was given a two-page double-spaced list of Vietnamese villages whose
> inhabitants had been massacred by American soldiers. My Lai was only one
> name on that list.
> JW reply:
> I guess it all boils down to what you call a war crime. Maybe the Army
> had less discipline and moral consciousness than the Marines. In 18
> months in the field in I Corps I never saw anything that even closely
> resembled My-Lai, and I did see a lot of non-military assistance given
> to the villages by Marine units.
> I will agree that the war was wrong, and in fact I tubed my career to
> protest against it at considerably more risk to myself than any civilain
> protester, but I am dubious about accounts that want to villify the rank
> and file and portray the war as one endless stirng of actrocities.
> There was a lot of inflated rhetoric and propaganda bull shit that came
> out of the left in the late 60's and early 70's, as well as the usual
> crap that the right was spouting. We should be careful not to take too
> much of it seriously.
> - --
> Jerry West
> - ----------------------------------------------------
> THE RECORD
> On line news from Nootka Sound & Canada's West Coast
> An independent, progressive regional publication
> Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2000 12:21:10 -0700
> From: Ron Cabral <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Subject: Re: [sixties-l] Re: Vietnam War Memorial
> The Viet Nam memorial that Country Joe is proposing for San Francisco,
> Oakland and other cities is not intended to prevent another War. It is
> intended to honor those who died as they were sent there much like police
> officer's respond to a 911, or Firemen to fires...
> It is to give tribute to their ultimate sacrifice. The soldiers are not to
> blame for Viet Nam, they became victims of an illogical scheme to stop the
> Domino Theory - a paranold view of Communist world domination that began
> after WW11 and during the Cold War...
> Are there good War's and bad War's? If so then Viet Nam was a bad one as it
> turned out for the 58,000+ American's fated to die there...A memorial to
> them in every City and Town is fitting and appropriate so others will
> remember the folly and insanity of NAM.
> Ron Cabral
> Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2000 15:22:22 EDT
> From: InMyLifeIMAGINE@AOL.COM
> Subject: Re: [sixties-l] Vietnam War Memorials
> In a message dated 16/06/00 20:16:50 GMT Daylight Time,
> email@example.com writes:
> << Why should I memorialize
> > such people? >>
> Because they obeyed their country and served their duties, many of them dying
> for it, they deserve respect. Should they have dodged and avoided it? Would
> that make them better people? I understand why some did not go, and respect
> that, but I also and absolutely respect those who served in Vietnam.
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