11/01/2004

We'll have to stop meeting like this, these days/those days

anarchitek from Kerry-Edwards Online Forum

In these closing days of the so-called campaign, it occurs to me that the parallels to the formative years for both candidates are both glaring and ironic. The '60's began with the final year of the Eisenhower Administration, in an America just shaking off the hysteria of the McCarthy witchhunts, exploring the hedonistic joys of Rock 'n' Roll and S-E-X, awakening to the "Race Problem" and innocently unaware, as yet, of a tiny little country in SouthEast Asia that had been the subject of intense military and diplomatic scrutiny and intervention for the last half of the '50's. A series of missteps, delusional attempts at saving the country from itself, military misadventures and diplomatic blunders resulting from REPUBLICAN mindsets that ignored the obvious and excoriated those who dared to disagree. This simmering mess was deposited on the doorstep of the new President as a fait accompli, along with its sister boondoggle, the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Adventures in Nation-buiding 101, we might call it...

Indeed, the seeds of that scrutiny, begun in devious gamesmanship between the so-called "Superpowers", would engulf the decade and brand all those who took part, "in country" and back home "in the world", indelibly. So much so, that here, 40 years later, the same wounds bleed, the same antagonisms chafe, and we are once again fighting old battles. The past has come full circle with some interesting turnabouts, those who were on one side now holding supposed moral superiority on the other. Cheney took full advantage of college deferments to avoid participating in the "duty" of sservice in VietNam, and Bush, of course joined the Air Guard, those vaunted guardians of freedom, well, the freedom to go out and get gassed on the weekend at least. Kerry, on the other hand, went to VetNam, and for his trouble, he's been reviled by the likes of those who have only heard the sounds of battle on TV or in the movies.

At first, the "conflict" in VietNam was small potatoes on the TV news, relegated to 2nd or even 3rd place, behind stories about the riots, in the South, Trenton, Detroit, LA, or the horrific counterparts to those upheavals, the bombings and killings , churches, civil rights figures, children...little girls in a church, now there is something to be proud of, to hang your beliefs on. Such were the stories of the day, that crowded VietNam into small spots on the news, back pages in the papers. In 1965, when I was 15-16, when the casualty count began to ramp up, VietNam was still that "conflict" and those few brave souls speaking out against it were "misguided" or "communist sympathizers". Such was the power of suggestion, the "realpolitik" of rewriting history as what was desired rather than what was, that the stigma remained long after mainstream America sickened of having young men "come home in a box", of resistance to the war being somehow "unAmerican", perverted or communist.

Enter Nixon, among whose minions were some in the present Administration, elected in some part on promises of disentangling America from the morass of VietNam, only to deepen the conflict and further waste young lives in pursuit of an "honest" peace, and in the words of an eerily prophetic song from the early '60's, "the war drags on". This despite a flodd of protester's, now numbering among them, mothers and housewives, fathers and grandfathers, middle America and the "radical" youth, and, yes, John Kerry, who spoke out about the way things really were in VietNam. Speeking of dirty secrets all veterans carried, about "carpet" bombing and napalm and a military strategy that did not encompass any clear goal of an endgame, of success other than body counts (itself an inhuman euphemism for killing), medals and promotion. VietNam was a quagmire, yet to some it was some sort of litmus test for patriotism, for being "American", for "fighting communism" and to those who entrenched themselves in this web of self-deception, those who opposed the prosecution of the war were, ipso facto, enemies of the state, traitors and worse. Thus was born the scurrilous, truly "unAmerican", thinking (?) that begot the so-called "swift boat veterans" (little caps for little minds and litlle thinking people).

Here today are old wounds revisited, the "stain" of not winning in VietNam attributed to protesters, to Jane Fonda and to John Kerry, as if the crowds massing in Washington DC and elsewhere somehow prevented the military commanders in VietNam from formulating a clear, cogent and WORKABLE solution to "winning" the war. Those poor pitiful generals, some of whom I met unflatteringly, so traumatized by the anti-war protest, beset by the underfed, underequipped SUPERMEN of North VietNam, who were energized ten-fold by that same protest. Is this reality? Yes on a TV "reality" show, perhaps, but nowhere else. The difference today? Hard to say, but indubitably the reason we're experiencing such difficulty in Iraq can be laid at the feet of those who would dare to "question" the validity of the mission, according to the same misguided fools who would have us go down the same dead end road we travelled to VietNam.

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