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May 13, 2008

Comments

This is a really important issue that I hope Obama and Clinton will both hammer. McCain is shameful in his hackery, and the fact that soldiers are being electrocuted by KBR wiring while the current administration creates a situation where a stretched-too-thin armed forces are so reliant on profiteering contractors that it will become increasingly difficult to remove their influence, the least we can try to do is make something worthwhile for what these kids are being put through.

Many of the commenters at Talk Left, regardless of any possible skewing of view, are likely rightly upset that Obama seems to be playing into a right wing talking point of the spit-on returning veteran. That it became conventional wisdom is of course sad, and that it has been used to constantly equate anti-war with anti-troops is a reason why this could be a tone-deaf situation for Obama. I think he was being a little thoughtless here of history in the way he accepted framing.

with the people who deserved the blame: namely, those who set the policy. And whether that confusion was common or not, if it existed at all, there was too much of it.

Today's service members signed up for the military in a time of an unjust war, therefore they deserve to be fully blamed...or so the argument goes =).

But seriously, most of the media perception of the cost of the Iraq War includes the veterans benefits that will be required (hence the famous $3 Trillion number). So it will be necessary to compete with other lobbyist organizations for the money our vets need. A lot of this fight will have to be cultural so that we don't get blamed for the egregious cost of Iraq/Afghanistan as the architects of policy move out of the public eye. Thanks for understanding, professor.

Jeralyn and the Talk Left bunch have gone of the deep end regarding Obama.

I tackled that with different points, but am glad to see you put his quotes in context, as that makes an even more well-reasoned case for what he was trying to convey. Nice work.

Barack Obama is completely correct to take this issue of the current betrayals of veterans right at McCain. But to lay the rhetorical groundwork by repeating a vicious piece of right-wing revisionism is appalling. It's much like the ugly little throwaway pander/putdown in his first Wright speech alluding to Arabs and Israel.

hilzoy: If you want [a conservative audience] to think again about John McCain, you could do a lot worse than to start with a point they are likely to agree on -- like the claim that it was sad if any returning vets were shunned, demonized and neglected by anyone

But Obama didn't refer to Viet Nam war vets being shunned by just anyone, or by Americans in general (which was what actually happened). He specifically blamed those who opposed the war.

The reality is that Nam vets were actively shunned by a broad range of Americans, including (and in some cases especially) by people who supported the war. Ask any of them what kind of reception they got when they tried to join VFW posts. Veterans of the "good war" despised them, regarded them as losers and misfits.

Many Americans hadn't actively opposed the war, just grown tired of the waste of money and lives that seemed to have no point. They turned against the war because we were losing. They viewed Viet Nam veterans with unease; these sullen young men were, after all, part of the generation that seemed to be rejecting everything they'd been taught to believe in.

The fact that the war coincided with a wave of social upheaval led by young people contributed heavily to the way vets -- all of them young and many very much a part of of the "counterculture" -- were received.

Barack Obama was in Indonesia when the GIs started coming home. Most of the troops were back before he was twelve years old. So I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt I wouldn't give to people who know they're spreading a lie. But I'll be damned if I'm going to keep quiet and pretend I think it's the truth.

Jeralyn and the Talk Left bunch have gone of the deep end regarding Obama.

Indeed. Merritt is, at this point, nothing more than a Clintonite hack, and an extremely grating one at that. It's pretty certain that she'll interpret anything Obama does or says as negatively as possible, and I don't see the point of even engaging her arguments, honestly.

Never mind songs from my youth that have new resonance, what about Rudyard Kipling's 'Tommy'? (the Victorian nickname for private soldiers was Tommy Atkins). This is from 1892, so you can't blame the attitude on the hippies.

'For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an'"Chuck him out the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot'

(Full text here)

Hilzoy, you yourself clearly buy into the lie, that it was opponents of the Viet Nam war and only them who neglected and scorned returning vets.

Do you not see the snug fit of that particular smear with the right's broader "stabbed in the back" mythology about the war? That's what has me feeling thrown under the bus.

For those of us alarmed and angry at Obama's words, it's got nothing to do with how we personally treated returning vets. It has to do with how "liberals" treated the war and the issues that it raised. They buried them as quickly as they could under pretty lies that made people feel better about themselves. And that's what Obama's doing now.

And it's so freaking unnecessary. He could attack McCain's neglect and abuse of today's veterans without lying about who was mistreating Nam vets.

Xeynon, I'm not Jeralyn Merritt, I'm not a Clinton supporter, and not every reaction someone has to things Obama says is based on what candidate they're backing in the election.

I'm speaking for myself; as an anti-Viet Nam war activist I find the passage from the Senator's speech quoted at the top of the post objectionable. I suspect others of my kind will, too, despite our support for his candidacy.

I sure don't remember any of us young hippies back in the day scorning the returning troops. Back in the days of the draft, the returning troops were just . . . us. Being afraid of the draft, of being coerced into going to a bloody, foolish, futile war, is not a mindset that leads to hatred of the troops.

Maybe this is an effective judo move, turning the arguments of the "stabbed in the back" crowd against them--but I don't like it (and I'm generally pro-Obama, not a Clinton diehard).

Xeynon, I'm not Jeralyn Merritt, I'm not a Clinton supporter, and not every reaction someone has to things Obama says is based on what candidate they're backing in the election.

I'm basing my appraisal of Merritt more on the fact that pretty much everything I've seen her say/write/do since the primaries began has had a baldly pro-Clinton bias than on this particular quote. That said, I don't see what's particularly objectionable about it. While you (or anyone you know) may not have spit on returning troops, or called them baby killers, or whatever, it's a fact of the matter that some people did, and that a lot of Vietnam veterans remain bitter about that to this day. I don't see Obama pointing this out, or stating that it was a sad episode in American history, as an attack on the boomer anti-war movement writ large. What leads you to interpret it that way? I'm not saying your reaction isn't justified, I'm just interested in knowing what specifically you find objectionable.

'Thrown under the bus' is a little strong, since people who opposed the VN war aren't actually being asked to give up anything. It's sort of like saying that educated people were thrown under the bus when Sen. Clinton rejected education and expertise in the face of negative reaction to her gas tax pander. No one should have believed for a minute that in governance she would do anything other than listen closely to the experts on issues like this, and I'm sure very few do.

That said, it is offensive framing. I'm sorry we don't live in a country where the truth about that period can be told: a lot more disrespect and violence were directed to opponents of the war than to supporters of or participants in it.

Somehow, I find the recruitment information of the US Army rather disilluminating. The "www.goarmy.com" site, the official recruitment site of the Army gives extremely bad information on the educational benefits, only listing the maximum amounts. What it does not tell is that the 1100 dollars a month you can get from the Chapter 30, is not very much compared to the average costs of college study. In addition, they give you the idea that you can get both the active duty and selected reserve benefits simultaneously, while that is usually not the case.

Actually, if you want to read more about educational benefits, the goarmy.com leads you to read about the ROTC. I guess that is natural: if you want to study, you're officer material. The gun fodder can get their apprenticeships financed through the GI Bill.

Actually, if you want to read more about educational benefits, the goarmy.com leads you to read about the ROTC. I guess that is natural: if you want to study, you're officer material. The gun fodder can get their apprenticeships financed through the GI Bill.

More perpetuation of the long held myth that military personnel are country-fried imbeciles, incapable of doing anything else for society. Yawn

LT Nixon,
I'm sorry. I should have indicated my use of satire somewhat more carefully.

Indeed. Merritt is, at this point, nothing more than a Clintonite hack, and an extremely grating one at that.
Truly, irritatingly so. Blind, loud, and bull-headed. (I’ve masochistically endured two of her appearances on bhtv.)
She’s near-pathological in her adamantine refusal— or inability— to carry on a reasoned discourse. She can’t have any first-hand knowledge of the history, nor can she be old enough to feel the kind of identification felt by Clinton’s base and explored by myself and others (notably Barbara) on the ‘Ellen Malcolm’ thread. She represents the worst of Clintonism, and accordingly attacks Obama without discretion or judgment.

what about Rudyard Kipling's 'Tommy'? Not to neglect “Buddy Can You Spare a Dime?” and ‘Waltzing Matilda’.

The treatment of our troops is an ugly, ugly stain on what’s left of national honor. The dreadful hypocrisy embodied by McCain and his vaunted war-heroism defies comprehension. Xenophobic attacks on Islam bundled with disloyal contempt for what is in effect the military underclass; words, I am afraid, utterly fail me.

And Nell, as a Vietnam War-protester myself, you seem to me to either be taking Merritt more seriously than she deserves (not at all) or something has touched an unreasoning nerve of yours. You’re obviously deeply incensed, but please try to step back and take a deep breath. We all mistreated the Vietnam vets. And even when they weren’t shunned, many of them felt, understandably given what they’d seen and been through, alienated from the society they returned to. I remember one vet in our church, just back, who simply refused, or was unable, to speak of his experience.

All that said, what counts now is amending our neglect and showing respect for those who have endured so much.

One transition I have undergone this political season is that I can no longer even pay any attention to anyone who uses the phrase "under the bus." Oddly, it has has taken its place among the hoariest of clichés and a pretty good indicator that the person using it is about to rely on a literally pathetic argument. I don't particularly like Obama's use of this sort of conservative framing but, for goodness sake, he didn't actually sacrifice anyone here. Its not as if he is calling for death to all hippies.

Maybe Merritt could just take a breath. I don't think Obama is perfect but he is also not history's greatest monster and it isn't as if her candidate is famous for warmly embracing American leftism.

Please. Some perspective is all I ask.

I did not mean to criticize the youth trying to find out more about the enlistment. I critized the military for giving over-simpilified information about career choices. Their recruitment site is structured for visual clarity, not for information.

This need not be the case, when dealing with youth. My country's military sends this leaflet to every 18 year old male (the link opens to English version). It has a lot more respect to the intellectual abilites of the reader.

Lurker, I'm all about the snark. I wouldn't worry about offending me , heh heh.

Xenophobic attacks on Islam bundled with disloyal contempt for what is in effect the military underclass; words, I am afraid, utterly fail me.

An underclass? Is that how the intellectual class perceives us? I can't speak for the culture of the Vietnam-era, since I wasn't born yet. For what it's worth, I always had tremendous repsect for Vietnam vets, as I saw them as people who actually sacrificed for their country instead of "rocked out" with the sex and drugs which seemed to be prevalent at the time. Probably a mischaracterization of my own, but I don't own a time machine. My generation of vets is going to have to try hard to dispel those stereotypes of an "underclass" or there will always be a certain aura of patheticness to us.

"But to lay the rhetorical groundwork by repeating a vicious piece of right-wing revisionism is appalling."

Cite? Can you quote where he did that, please?

"He specifically blamed those who opposed the war."

Cite?

I assume you're not referring to what Hilzoy quoted, since his words plainly say no such thing.

"One of the saddest episodes in our history was the degree to which returning vets from Vietnam were shunned, demonized and neglected by some"

This specifically says that a) only "some" engaged in such behavior -- number or percentage unspecified, and b) there's absolutely no way to read this as indicating any numbers or percentages.

So Obama said that some percentage, presumably greater than 1%, of war protestors did this. I think it's fair to say that somewhere between 1%-5% of protestors, at the least, were jerks, because at least 5% of just about any larger number of people are jerks, if not a far higher percentage.

Is that objectionable? Is anyone claiming that every single protestor (of whom I was one, from the first antiwar protests my parents took me to when I was 8 years old) was saintly? No? Than what's the problem with the claim?

"because they served in an unpopular war. Too many of those who opposed the war in Vietnam chose to blame"

He plainly only says that there were "too many." Again, 1-5% would be "too many."

If he specified a higher number, could we have a cite to where and when he said that, please?

Thanks.

"The reality is that Nam vets were actively shunned by a broad range of Americans, including (and in some cases especially) by people who supported the war. Ask any of them what kind of reception they got when they tried to join VFW posts. Veterans of the "good war" despised them, regarded them as losers and misfits."

That's as fair a statement as Obama's, sure. I assume you're not claiming that all members of the VFW or that people who supported the war felt this way. But you made exactly as open and unspecific a claim as Obama did; would you regard it as a fair interpretation if anyone then asserted that "Nell specifically blamed those who supported the war"?

Because you can't use the same language to mean two different things. Either you just unfairly attacked everyone who supported the war, or you were only attacking those who actually engaged in the shunning.

And then you're stuck with having to apply the same meaning to Obama's words. But you can't have it both ways, and choose to interpret the same words as being perfectly fair when you say them, but have them mean something entirely different when Obama says them.

I'm inclined to read as you both using English quite specifically, since you both specifically limited your claims. Clearly.

felix wrote for what is in effect the military underclass
followed by LT Nixon

An underclass? Is that how the intellectual class perceives us?

I think felix was pointing out that going into the military _does_ entail a sacrifice, so the 'in effect' was to point out the realities of the situation rather than imply any deficiencies on the part of those in the military.

btw, LT Nixon, I should note that though we probably disagree on many points, I'm pleased that you are sticking around and adding your voice to the mix.

Was that me with the unclosed tags?

Liberal Japonicus, of course I'll stick around. The only way to learn anything is by hanging out with people older and smarter than you, right.

Seems like there is some level of collective guilt associated with my elders in the way they treated Vietnam Vets. I couldn't explain the reasons why, as I've never walked a mile in their shoes. But I think the American society has a much different view of vets these days. I talk a lot about the issue of "perception of vets" with ex-military guys/gals in my generation, and it seems the problem with folks my age (20s/30s) has to do with apathy. When Obama says Nam vets were "demonized, shunned", I think people nowadays don't think about vets at all. We're a small enough minority where we could fly under the radar, especially in areas of the country with little military culture/presence. I'm not going to say what's right or wrong for people to say, but we (as in we politically minded vet types) are interested in dispelling some stereotypes, arguing foreign policy (I think we have a unique perspective, IMHO), and making sure vet benefits don't go by the way side. It's an uphill battle at times, but something we at least have to try.

Xeynon, It's in my 5:23 and 5:54 comments. If you've read it and really don't grasp what my problem is, then here's the Shorter Nell which I doubt will really be much shorter because there's a solid forty-year wall of denial to overcome:

Americans in general did not receive reurning vets with warmth and respect. Obama says that only opponents of the war neglected or disrespected them (and Hilzoy, and you appear to believe it). This reinforces a right-wing-manufactured myth of long standing, that returning vets were literally spat upon literally antiwar hippies, which itself is an essential prop for the right-wing myth that blames liberals-and-leftists-and-the-media for losing the war, delivering the "stab in the back" by withdrawing support for the war.

Given that we're now conducting another war that we have no business in, where U.S. soldiers are once again killing hundreds of civilians (the inevitable result of firing artillery and gunships into the most densely populated neighborhood in Iraq), and from which it's going to be politically difficult to withdraw even given its massive unpopularity, this is a very poor moment to be feeding the "stab in the back" myth. Particularly for the man who's going to be ordering the withdrawal.

While you (or anyone you know) may not have spit on returning troops, or called them baby killers, or whatever, it's a fact of the matter that some people did, and that a lot of Vietnam veterans remain bitter about that to this day.

This is what makes crazy those of us who were in the middle of the events being so confidently described for us today by people who were young children at the time.

No one spit on returning troops, period. Some antiwar protestors did throw around the baby-killer epithet. Bad tactical move.

Vietnamese and Laotian and Cambodian babies were in fact being killed, in huge numbers. But the rage and blame for that should all have been directed at the President and the members of Congress who wouldn't get the troops the hell out of where they should never have been to begin with. (A whole lot of it was, in fact; far more than was ever directed by antiwar protestors at the troops themselves, who formed a big part of the antiwar movement from 1968 onwards.)

But few Americans wanted to face that we were wrong, even criminal to have invaded and carpet-bombed and defoliated much of southeast Asia. Or that, morality aside, we weren't even winning. So when withdrawal was forced on the U.S. (militarily, not by Congress defunding the war), people who had not actively opposed the war as wrong or criminal looked around for someone to blame.

A good many Americans blamed the troops themselves, though most of those didn't do so by direct accusation (just the VFW WWII vets, who scorned them for having lost "their war"). Most of those did so by just turning away. Others didn't blame the troops, but the sight of them pricked at their consciences and made them uncomfortable, so they turned away, too. Still others, as I said, associated the young, long-haired, drug-taking ex-GIs with everything unsettling that had happened in the previous decade, and they turned away.

The troops, having been sent to do horrible things and endure horrible things for no apparent good reason, were left to interpret for themselves what went wrong. Some extracted lessons about empire and wars of aggression and government lying. Others listened to the rightist lie that sprang up out of a need to blame someone or something other than the good old U.S.A. that stands for democracy and freedom.

The liberal politicians who knew better stayed silent as this lie was put about, because to contradict it was to tell people things about their country that they didn't want to hear. So a lot of Vietnam veterans got to remain bitter. Some right-wing demagogues did their best to keep the bitterness boiling with wild accusations about MIAs, and then pretty soon it was morning in America again, where everybody but a few million old antiwar cranks knew that the worst thing that had ever happened, and the only way in which our brave boys had ever been mistreated, was that some hippie chicks had spit on them and called them baby killers. And -- surprise! -- they're still bitter about it to this day.

Isn't it refreshing how so few Americans are bitter about the millions of dead Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians? 'Cause that's just the kind of country we are, always looking to the future.

If I'm disqualified as a reliable narrator by my having paid attention to the construction of the right-wing smears and myths as they happened, having watched as people seized on their own preferred versions of their immediate past to preserve an unwarranted innocence, then read Rick Perlstein. He's a young historian who went and looked up all the original sources rather than rely on what "everyone knows".

Y'know, It's pretty obvious that the Hippie who Spits on Soldiers is largely a creation of militarists to be used as an emotional bludgeon, but on the other hand, some of those creeps showed up right here in the Andy obit thread, so yeah, I think it's fair to say that they did, in fact, exist.

I dunno, Nell's got good points, but this has become such CW that it's up there with "God exists" on my list of Disingenuous Frames a Politician Would be Dumb to Challenge Unless Firmly Ensconsed in a Safe Seat.

Sure, I'd be impressed if Obama tried to educate his audience about the more complex reality behind the myth, but I'd also be like, uh, dude? The primary?

Charley Carp: it is offensive framing. I'm sorry we don't live in a country where the truth about that period can be told: a lot more disrespect and violence were directed to opponents of the war than to supporters of or participants in it.

Thanks for that, CC: short, simple, truth.

Gary, what Charley said is all that I've been trying to say. Obama makes it sound as if the only people who disrespected returning vets were antiwar activists. It's not just not true, it leaves out so much of the truth that it becomes a Big Lie.

Obama makes it sound as if the only people who disrespected returning vets were antiwar activists.

no he doesn't.

if you want to read it that way, that's your business, but it's not what he said.

Going to be a long four years. I bet we still have troops in Iraq in May 2012.

"Obama makes it sound as if the only people who disrespected returning vets were antiwar activists"

Plus that doesn't seem to be what Charley Carp was saying.

"I'm speaking for myself; as an anti-Viet Nam war activist I find the passage from the Senator's speech quoted at the top of the post objectionable. I suspect others of my kind will, too, despite our support for his candidacy."

Is there a particular level of activity that qualifies one as "an anti-Viet Nam war activist," Nell? If so, could you clarify what that is? Because you don't seem to include, say, Hilzoy, or me, or anyone who isn't offended by Obama's statement, as one of "your kind," and this makes me interested in a more precise definition of how, exactly, protesting against the war correlates with "your kind," and with finding offense in Obama's words.

(Honestly, it seems to me that one has to be really looking hard to be offended to to be offended at this sort of thing, but perhaps that's just what "my kind" of anti-Vietnam war protestor, who, after all, wasn't old enough to be drafted, might think.)

"It's not just not true, it leaves out so much of the truth that it becomes a Big Lie."

I'm afraid I don't see it, without projecting a lot of stuff into Obama's statement that just isn't there, as you did with your initial claims, which plainly claimed that Obama said stuff that he most clearly and plainly did not say.

Americans in general did not receive reurning vets with warmth and respect. Obama says that only opponents of the war neglected or disrespected them (and Hilzoy, and you appear to believe it).

Honestly, nell, I didn't interpret it that way. I took it as Obama making a general statement about how American society in general, or at least parts thereof (the unspecified "some" in the first part of the statement), treated returning vets, then a comment on how many who opposed the war (not everyone who opposed it, or even the antiwar movement on the whole) let their opposition bleed over into disrespect for the troops.

Honestly, though, I think there's a big generation gap here. I honestly don't understand why this is such a hot button topic for people who came of age during the Vietnam era. It's been pretty easy for me to oppose the Iraq war without being accused of disrespecting the troops, and I think that's a pretty common experience among today's antiwar ranks.

Charley Carp: it is offensive framing. I'm sorry we don't live in a country where the truth about that period can be told: a lot more disrespect and violence were directed to opponents of the war than to supporters of or participants in it.

Thanks for that, CC: short, simple, truth.

With the greatest of respect to Charley, I'm quite sure we live in a country where "the truth about that period can be told."

If I can't reach either of you in the next week due to your being under arrest, consider me corrected. Otherwise, not so much truth at all. Or it's some sort of strange new truth, the kind that, you know, isn't at all true, except in some sort of metaphor, in which case I'm glad I have wings and can fly: simple, honest, truth. Just, y'know, not actually true. The metaphoric, fictional, kind of truth. Or something. What?

Criminny, are leftist histories being burned and forbidden now? Or can we please discriminate between Our Feelings Of Persecution, and actual truth. Because I think that's kinda important in being reality-based. Just as sticking to the actual meaning of words is important.

Maybe people didn't "demonize" veterans, and certainly there is no evidence of anyone being spit on, but the perception is certainly there among veterans, and to ignore it is to ignore the real divisions in this country that must be healed.

It seems to me like only an idiot would ignore the fact that Vietnam veterans were not properly cared for after returning from the war. How else to explain the large number of veterans who became homeless, or returned to the us addicted to heroin and unable to support themselves? It's obvious that this is what Obama is talking about.

Xenophobic attacks on Islam bundled with disloyal contempt for what is in effect the military underclass; words, I am afraid, utterly fail me.

An underclass? Is that how the intellectual class perceives us?

With due respect for felix culpa, I'm unaware of his appointment as a spokesperson for "the intellectual class." Do you have a cite on that?

"Obama says that only opponents of the war neglected or disrespected them"

This plainly isn't true. That you've rewritten his words in your head doesn't change his actual words, which say nothing of the kind. It's just false. Quote his words, please, if you want to take issue with them, rather than make up stuff and claim he "said" them.

"No one spit on returning troops, period."

This is a claim that obviously can't be made. It just can't. Nell, are you feeling okay this morning?

Gary: I'm afraid I don't see it, without projecting a lot of stuff into Obama's statement that just isn't there, as you did with your initial claims, which plainly claimed that Obama said stuff that he most clearly and plainly did not say.

Obama, as quoted at the top of the post: Too many of those who opposed the war in Vietnam chose to blame not only the leaders who ordered the mission, but the young men who simply answered their country's call.

Seems pretty clear to me Nell's right and isn't "projecting" anything. (And please don't hide behind "any number is too many"; the effect of this statement is plainly to revive the "widespread spitting on soldiers etc." myth.)

I think this is part of a pattern with Obama -- repeating right-wing stuff like Social Security in crisis, Reagan had the ideas and Dems didn't, Durbin made a mistake to compare Guantanamo abuses to Gestapo ones. It may be sloppy, it may be political protective coloration, it may be sincere mistakenness, or it may be something else. It's not a deal-killer for me -- I think on balance he's better than either alternative -- but it is a real concern. He deserves to be called on it, and you and I and Nell and Hilzoy ought to be the ones doing that, rather than focusing on whether it's accurate to call that "throwing us under the bus."

With respect, hilzoy, while I agree that Jeralyn is coming on a little strong, I disagree with your move that Obama was only talking about those who specifically conflated their hatred of the war with vets.

I'm not quite sure to whom Obama is referring. Those who confused hatred of the war with hatred of soldiers, obviously. Did those people exist, or like the hippies spitting on vets, are they a largely myth, or are they merely too small of a group to have had the policy effect he claims? I wonder if that's part of the source of the angry response.

As for the rest of it, you and others argue he doesn't say 'all war protesters'. I'm not sure how far that gets you. When someone who says 'Too often irresponsible women use abortion as birth control' or we don't usually say 'X is only criticizing those who use abortion as birth control, that shouldn't bother you.' Why? Because we believe that the numbers of women using abortion like condoms is quite small and not an actually defined group, if they exist, and we recognize it as an attempt to smear the rest of the pro-choice people. (Mutatis mutandis for 'X is only criticizing professors who indoctrinate their students, not you' or 'X is only criticizing actual lazy black welfare recipients')

Same thing here. If those who were blinded by their hatred of the war so they neglected soldiers (presumably by policy?, what?) was an insignificant number, then Obama's assertions can't be in good faith; it's like the guy bemoaning all those abortions had merely so the girl could fit into her prom dress. Taking an unrepresentative sample as big enough to deserve mention.

I don't think this amounts to throwing anyone under the bus, but I can see why it would rankle.

It's been pretty easy for me to oppose the Iraq war without being accused of disrespecting the troops, and I think that's a pretty common experience among today's antiwar ranks.

One of the reasons that might be true is that activists from the Viet Nam era against the Iraq war were at pains to say a lot of this kind of thing early on, knowing we were up against this reflexive popular assumption that antiwar = anti-military.

Even though a lot of us suspected that if it didn't go just as Dick Cheney predicted, and there was resistance, that there'd be devastation of cities and torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners and reprisals against civilians. And that since it was all about getting those bases, that we'd stay, regardless of how unpopular it got and how broken the military got, and build those bases. And here we are.

The next president of the United States, who says he wants to end the occupation, wants to make sure to remind West Virginia voters that "too many of those who opposed the war ... chose to blame the young men who simply answered their country's call ... and the sting of that injustice is a wound that has never fully healed."

He had better be serious about ending the occupation.

As with many "myths," the one of the Vietnam Veteran returning home be greeted by spitting hippies has some basis in fact. The percentages of jerks in any movement as described up thread makes it so. Does Nell really think that of the tens of thousands of soldiers returning to the thousands of airports, rail stations, and bus depots, and encountering hundreds of thousands of other people, including "hippies," not one of the soldiers may have been spat upon?

It is what happened after such encounters, be they tens or hundreds, that makes the spat-upon veteran a myth. The story took on a life of its own--as such stories often do--and rapidly became a cultural marker.

Whether or not anyone spit on returning troops, no one said that they did. If Jeralyn wants to take offense at statements no one made, that is of course her prerogative. But I fail to see why I should join her.

Likewise, Nell: "Do you not see the snug fit of that particular smear with the right's broader "stabbed in the back" mythology about the war?"

-- Well, "fit" is an awfully broad word. But the "stab in the back" myth is about how liberal opposition to the war prevented us from winning, which we would allegedly have been able to do had liberals not sapped our will at home. Nothing Obama said seems to me to have the slightest connection to any claim about whether we could have won Vietnam, or to blame for our losing it. So, basically, no.

Neither I nor Obama made any claim about how many people did this, or about how many people who opposed the war did this. Both of us think it was too many, but I would think this even if the number of people who did it was one, and I suspect Obama would agree. Does anyone want to make the (to my mind) utterly implausible claim that this never happened, ever, anywhere?

Well, one might ask: why did Obama draw attention to it? Here I just have to say: I do not find it odd that in the context of the speech he was giving, Obama chose at this point to choose a point he thought his audience would agree with, in order to pivot off it to McCain, rather than using an example that would insult that specific audience.

I think Jeralyn's piece is just reaching to find something to take offense at. I would have hoped we could just say: we should do right by the troops even if we oppose the war they fought in, and leave it at that. And I don't think that this hope means that I buy into right-wing smears.

A couple years ago I saw a documentary about soldier dissent in the vietnam war. There was a sociologist interview (I think from Berkeley) who claimed that hippies spitting on troops never happened. I was intrigued by that, and hoped it was true. I did some googling myself, and I recall finding some contemporaneous accounts of mistreatment of troops by lefties. So I couldn't say it was a myth. It may have been grossly overblown.
Me, I lived in a town with a base that was a departure point for marines heading for vietnam (the Kaneohe Marine Base in Hawaii). We HATED the marines, but that had a lot more to do with the cultural differences, and the disruption of our community. We were more concerned about young grunts speeding about in cars, yelling yelled catcalls and grabbing at local girls, fighting in local bars, than war opposition. Even that, though, is sad to remember. As a ten, eleven year old, I had no empathy for what those kids were going through.

Does anyone want to make the (to my mind) utterly implausible claim that this never happened, ever, anywhere?

Are we talking about spitting on vets or policies? Because you might say that one veteran being spat upon is one too many; but one person not supporting a policy that would have aided vets is not 'too many....'

I think your second defense is fine, hilzoy: one goes to campaign with the narratives one has, and one that says 'we've all screwed up in caring for our veterans, I'm not one to lecture, let's fix it' is probably a good way to get the votes & policies he wants.

I watched this bloggingheads.tv discussion about the Clinton-Obama race after PA conducted by Jeralyn and Mark Kleiman, and...wow. Jeralyn's arguments don't come off looking very good. Even if you pay no attention to the content of the arguments, Jeralyn sounds like someone who is refusing to engage with reality. Kleiman does a really good job here. They both make predictions and, um, Kleiman's predictions were a great deal more accurate.

Gary: When you want to misunderstand something, you're even better at it than I am. Let's not get in a contest.

Charley's comment, given that it begins with criticism of Obama's framing, is clearly meant to convey that the truth in question is something that no one in a national election campaign will say when talking about the Viet Nam war and the country's response to it. Neither he nor I implied that anything other than everyday, politically "savvy" self-censhorship is going on -- and we all know that there are a whole bunch of topics for which this holds true.

We activists and critics are free as birds, the first amendment still very much in effect. We can say it on blogs and shout it from the rooftops. But we do still live in a country where no one running for national office would say it.

Apparently, however, the incentives are to go beyond just evading unpleasant, complicated truths, and use a cheap misleading, implication that "too many" people opposed to the war blamed the troops along the path to pointing up McCain's own disrespect.

(Thanks, Cala, for seeing exactly how the rhetorical device works.)

And, on the spitting: Jerry Lembke's offer still stands; anyone who can come up with any contemporaneous mention -- coverage, pic, anything from the time period that documents such an event will be the first. It's all a ton of guys who remember it happening to them -- oddly enough, almost always in the same way.

Wow, yet another commenter with island connections. My dad grew up in Kahaluu. Small world.

sophie: It would, frankly, amaze me if none -- not a single one -- of the troops were ever mistreated because someone got confused about who was responsible for the war. I mean: human nature is various, and human beings are weird, and a lot of people served in Vietnam, so there were lots of opportunities for that variety to be expressed in unfortunate ways.

Likewise, it would amaze me if people on the right said: no, no WWII vets ever said the stuff about "we won our war; you lost yours." I mean: people say stupid things.

"Ah, but it's part of a right-wing frame!" doesn't seem to me to be an adequate response. I mean, surely the best response to right-wing frames is to concede the true bits and combat the false ones, not to fight both parts. So fighting this one by getting bent out of shape if anyone ever says "some people didn't treat Vietnam vets right" strikes me as all wrong. And I think it's even odder to respond by imagining that that person said things he didn't say, e.g. that people spit on the troops, or that liberals stabbed the US in the back.

We should be big enough to admit that some people on our side make mistakes. We should not be quibbling about this; we should get on with the business of actually criticizing McCain for his failure to support vets now.

We should also, I think, be mindful of how this looks to people in the military now, and to vets. Do we really want them to look at a fight like this and think: when someone says the relatively anodyne stuff that Obama said, people's immediate response is to deny that anyone on their side did anything bad in the 60s, ever? I don't. And the reason I don't is that its not a particularly edifying response, I think.

should have said: I meant to be amplifying sophie's point, not disagreeing or anything.

More perpetuation of the long held myth that military personnel are country-fried imbeciles, incapable of doing anything else for society. Yawn

LT Nixon, just so you know, Lurker is not an American and (as far as I know) english is not his native language. So, before you go off half cocked accusing him of trying to perpetuate dangerous myths, you might want to read his words more carefully with the understanding that he may not get all the subtleties of tone right for our American ears.

No one here, including Lurker, has said anything about soldiers being stupid. Lurker suggested that the army brass might think enlisted folk should go to college after their service rather than before, but that is very very far from what you accused him of.

In any event, you got to enjoy your 5-minute hate based on pretend outrage at an argument that no one made. Congratulations! Now, did you want to address Lurker's point at all? You know, the one about how the army recruiting site is deceptive? Do you think it is? If so, is deception a problem? Because, deception seems dishonorable to me. I mean, if I lied on that scale to people my company was trying to recruit, I'd be fired. Surely the US Army is more honorable than a crappy little corporation, right? Or should I assume that deception in this case is OK because there is no obligation to tell mere civilians the truth? That would actually be consistent with a lot of things the military has done: retired officers launching their cable news propaganda campaign, the Lincoln group planting fake news stories, MNF-I carefully manipulating journalists and dignitaries to ensure they didn't see Iraq as it is, etc.

Sophie's referring to the 2005 film Sir! No, Sir!, and Jerry Lembke is the sociologist interviewed in an afterword. He marvels at how thoroughly and quickly the large and varied GI antiwar movement was forgotten, and how thoroughly and quickly it was replaced by the iconic spitting stories.

His book The Spitting Image, written ten years ago, describes his efforts to come up with confirmation. As of last year, he was still looking. Sophie, if you do find something, I know he'd be interested to see it. After all, before too long we're going to have almost two hundred thousand returning troops, eh?

LT— sorry I didn’t respond sooner.
I absolutely did not mean enlisted people are an underclass by nature or anything else but the way they are treated by their government, with hilzoy’s recent post about barracks thrown into the mix.
Add to that McCain’s advocacy of neglect (of an effectively hostile sort).

Please note my final sentence: “All that said, what counts now is amending our neglect and showing respect for those who have endured so much.”
I’m very sorry you misunderstood.

"Seems pretty clear to me Nell's right and isn't 'projecting' anything. (And please don't hide behind 'any number is too many'; the effect of this statement is plainly to revive the 'widespread spitting on soldiers etc.' myth.)"

Okay, it's not projection, it's an "effect" that emanates from his words, and can only be detected by the properly outraged, rather than it being what he actually said.

It seems quite clear to me that if people are looking for offense, they'll find it.

"I think this is part of a pattern"

So do I, but I see a different one.

"Charley's comment, given that it begins with criticism of Obama's framing, is clearly meant to convey"

Yeah, I'm big on sticking to the actual words people use. Call me old-fashioned. If people want to "convey" something, they can write what they actually want to say; I find it works pretty well. Call me literal.

I'd give any professional writer the same query/note if I were copy or line-editing them.

P.s.— If I can be regarded as a member of ‘the intellectual class’ it’s only as an isolated irresponsible outlier. Maybe its underclass.

"Gary: When you want to misunderstand something, you're even better at it than I am. Let's not get in a contest."

Perhaps we might switch topics, and you might respond to my query here, then?

I certainly don't mean to be offensive, or disagreeable, while disagreeing with you, Nell, for what it's worth. You should know that I hold you in the highest respect, and greatly respect your views, even when mine differ strongly; I would never want to be deprived of your input on issues. Same for Thomas, of course.

I think the first sentence of his comments are spot on. The second sentence is only a half truth, because it doesn't quite flesh out exactly what followed from the first. In many ways, the "neglect" shown to returning vets was simply the neglect that accompanies being connected to failure, and that neglect was shown by those who supported the war, as well as those who were neutral. I clearly recall the desire to move on from the experience of Vietnam, and it was particularly striking in terms of how returning vets were treated in comparison to prior wars. But no one felt like giving a "victory" parade, obviously, and they didn't really come home all at once.

There clearly were war opponents whose intensity extended to blaming veterans for their service in an unjust war, but these people hardly controlled the levers of power and could not have had the clout to stop initiatives to support returning veterans. So in that respect, his comments are inaccurate. OTOH, I do like that opponents of the current war have learned from the perceptions created after the Vietnam War, because it is all too easy to blame fallout from a war on those who opposed it.

We should be big enough to admit that some people on our side make mistakes.

I'm plenty big enough to admit it, and have not denied it. The desire to avoid re-making them, and the certainty that we'd face charges of having already made them simply by being antiwar, colored every action friends and I took in 2002-3 when organizing to try to stop the war the country's now mired in.

We should not be quibbling about this

You chose to post about Jeralyn's reaction. Perhaps you assumed that everyone here would share your dismay that anyone could have such an ungenerous reaction to Obama's brilliant line of attack on McCain.

Sorry to have disappointed you. No question it pushed a button -- no, the button for me.

There are a number of us out here in the 'sphere who are, for the umpty-umpth national election in a row, trying to reconcile the pessimism of the intellect and the optimism of the will. The right-wing framing doesn't make us too optimistic.

I'll concede to reacting too strongly, at too great a length. I really should stay out of the election threads, period.

Come on, Gary. There's surely a middle ground between reading too much into what someone says and adhering literally to what they said, and I submit that in this middle ground occurs quite a lot of conversation. No one's arguing that Obama said something that he didn't literally say; they're arguing that given a fairly well-known political context, what he said can be fairly taken to mean more than the literal meaning of his words.

I happen to disagree that Obama said anything bad overall, but this 'he didn't say' line doesn't seem very promising, especially in a campaign where meaning one thing while saying something innocuous is part of the whole package.

I will say one further thing about the dynamics of this issue, as I recall it, those who supported the war were more interested in bashing opponents over their treatment, perceived or real, of returning vets than with actaully helping returning vets. Witness the treatment that John Kerry has endured since 1971.

The problem with Obama's claim is, that it singles out the opposition to the war and this is perceived as being unfair and creating false impressions. This is what I think Nell is essentially objecting to.
It's true that Obama didn't say that it were only anti-war activists, or that all anti-war activists were engaging in disrespectful behaviour, but there are presmumably reasons why he mentioned only the anti-war movement (such as his own association with the current one), rather than condeming such behaviour in more general terms or not as one-sided like Nell and others probably think would be more appropiate.

What I think happened is this: The treatment of veterans was the result of neglect, indifference, and in some cases denouncement -- but the latter, being the loudest, gets all the blame. Again, look at how Kerry, an actual veteran, has been absolutely reviled by people for his stance. It's just really easy to blame it everything bad, including the outcome of the war, on war opponents, and Obama's comments slip into that mold. Overall, though, I don't think the statement is that big of a deal, in the context of the group he was talking to and the importance of the speech.

But then, being opposed to the Vietnam War was not a big part of my identity. I was just a kid.

I'm a boomer and I went to plenty of anti=war ralllies and marches. I do not remember witnessing any incidents of spitting or whatever but I do remember this: it was widely assumed service was inherently immoral. Just flat assumed by many mnay people.

I can remember my own response when I heard tht a classmate had enlisted: I felt betrayed. How could he do a thing like that?

If a soldier expressed and anti-VietNman war sentiment then the anti-war folks reawarded that soldier with praise and admiration.

If a soldier suppported the war then the nicest assumption about that soldier was that he or she was a dupe.

I'm pretty fed up with the rightwing lie that they own soldiers and that soldiers are supposed to be consesrvatives and that the right and only the right cares about soldiers.

But it is a rewriting of history for liberals now to look back and asy that soldiers (who supported the war) weren't shunned, demonized, or neglected. They were at least in so far as attitudes toward them. There was no respect at all in the political left for people who were military career professionals or people who complied with the draft or enlisted. Pity, maybe for their bad judgement, but no respect.

How many welcome home parades did all you war prortesters on this thread go to?

what about Rudyard Kipling's 'Tommy'? Not to neglect “Buddy Can You Spare a Dime?” and ‘Waltzing Matilda’

Magistra’s cite of Kipling along with songs inspired by treatment of WW I veterans suggest that neglect of and disrespect for returning veterans is not new, and neither does it depend on a war being won or lost.
It may reflect shame felt by civilians who did not suffer in the same way, nor return from the ordeal crippled, disfigured, or insane.

That it is an enduring issue should drive the effort for due respect and justice more fervently.

Turbulence,

Lurker called soldiers gun fodder. He did clarify afterwards that he meant it to be satirical, but that wasn't immediately evident. Lt Nixon HAD to respond to that, and I'd say he did so in a very measured way.

By the way, I don't see anything in Lurker's writing style that would make me think it was in a second language.

Re: Lt Nixon not defending military recruiting. Maybe that is a statement unto itself.

On one hand, what Obama said is pretty much the truth. Even the "many of those who opposed the war" part. It would be pretty hard to blame the soldiers as well as the government if one didn't blame the government in the first place (i.e., oppose the war).

On the other hand, Obama's warning doesn't relate much to what's going on now. The danger isn't a repeat of blaming soldiers by people who are against the war. In fact, it seems that the anti-war people are more active than anyone in their concern about taking care of veterans when they return. So in this sense, what Obama said seems really out of place, and I can see how people would perceive it as a cheap shot.

As to the story being told -- I went to school in Central PA in the early 80's, and we were told both sides (mistreatment of protesters/mistreatment of soldiers). The feeling that remains with me is that the whole thing was a sorry mess all the way around.

Lurker called soldiers gun fodder.

You mean Lurker wrote the words "soldiers are gun fodder"? I don't think that's true. Lurker was talking about a US Army website. He described what he imagined the Army's motivations were in designing their website. And note that he used the term in clear opposition to the term "officers".

He did clarify afterwards that he meant it to be satirical, but that wasn't immediately evident. Lt Nixon HAD to respond to that, and I'd say he did so in a very measured way.

It was pretty evident to me. If you'd like to make the case that it was highly offensive, go ahead, but so far I haven't seen anyone make said case.

By the way, I don't see anything in Lurker's writing style that would make me think it was in a second language.

When was the last time you heard someone refer to soldiers using the expression "gun fodder" (as opposed to "cannon fodder")? When was the last time you heard a native english speaker refer to their country's army with a link pointing to a website in Finland? When was the last time you heard a native speaker refer to soldiers getting "apprenticeships" in the context of GI bill education benefits?

I believe that Lurker has mentioned that english was not his first language in another thread some time ago, but I might be mistaken. I don't expect LT Nixon or anyone else to have divined that notion from reading Lurker's comment in isolation; that's why I explained it to him.

Re: Lt Nixon not defending military recruiting. Maybe that is a statement unto itself.

Maybe. It would be good to hear that from him though.

wonkie: it is a rewriting of history for liberals now to look back and asy that soldiers (who supported the war) weren't shunned, demonized, or neglected.

Which liberals are saying that, much less saying that on this thread? I was explicit that many Americans of all political stripes, each for their own reasons, were not welcoming or especially respectful of returning troops.

Question: if it is ok to be critical of a war but not the people who fight it, why was/is it ok to prosecute/look down on Nazi soldiers (and to some extent German people)?

If you think nobody spit on returing vets you are dead wrong. I am livid about your comment. Maybe I misread it. I personally know of 2. Me and Maj James A Metelko (now Colonel retired). Returning vets were abused - It's better if I just stop now

Because they lost. Victor's justice may be less than noble but it is foolish to think it doesn't exist.

We might also be overthinking Obama's speech: maybe it's as simple as wanting to convey in concrete terms that though he opposed the war, he wants to be clear that opposition to war should not be equated with failure to support vets. The Vietnam parallel is problematic, in my view, for the reasons I stated, but it's probably a truism among a group of older veterans.

Turbulence said Re: Lt Nixon not defending military recruiting. Maybe that is a statement unto itself.

Maybe. It would be good to hear that from him though.

What do I think about recruiting? Certainly, there's some sheistyness involved with it, I'm not going to deny that, but I feel the military makes you a better person overall. Better at management, dealing with situations under extreme stress, and you even get to serve your country.

Turbulence also said In any event, you got to enjoy your 5-minute hate based on pretend outrage at an argument that no one made. Congratulations!

Why thank you! =D

Certainly, there's some sheistyness involved with it, I'm not going to deny that, but I feel the military makes you a better person overall.

Maybe it makes you a better person or maybe not. What does that have to do with the question of deception though? Are you suggesting that deceiving civilians is OK because it will make them better people in the end?

We've had this discussion a number of times before. The spitting thing may or may not have been common, but it wasn't a myth. See the discussion in this comment which quotes a large number of Vietnam vets who claim that they were personally spit on, and here from someone who claims to have done some of the spitting.

I also vaguely remember something bad about Lembke's methodology and perhaps Nexis searches not going comprehensively back to the right era for his searches at the time, but I can't find the post that talks about that.

What does that have to do with the question of deception though?

Our society is based on deception. Politicians lie, advertisements lie, CEOs lie, and if you consider recruiters selling the good points of military service, but not diving into the bad details lying, well I guess they lie too. My recruiter told me all about the good times I'd have in the Navy, and sure I had a few, but the bad times don't get printed in the glossy brochure. I don't see how that's different from anything else. I have no regrets.

"By the way, I don't see anything in Lurker's writing style that would make me think it was in a second language."

I suspect your Finnish isn't as good.

"I was explicit that many Americans of all political stripes, each for their own reasons, were not welcoming or especially respectful of returning troops."

Aha, so you're saying that all Americans were at fault, and we all suck and should drop dead! It's what you said, it's what you said!

Wait, what's that?

Oh, sorry, it's what it sounds like. I strongly object to your vicious attack on those of us who are mixed-economy socialists! And the antisemitism is creepy!

Hey, it's what you clearly meant to convey, right?

Sorry, no, you can't now claim it's not what you wrote. It's what it sounds like, and that's what matters, I'm informed.

It's what's implicit in what you wrote, as determined by me, the reader, which obviously is best determined not by the words, but by the fact that I'm truly outraged and offended at your vile attack on us Jews. That over-rides any laughable claim that you didn't actually write that. Obviously you just refuse to see it. Which just goes to show how nasty your antisemitic attack is.

Sure, that's a more productive approach to discussing the written word.

LT Nixon: "Our society is based on deception."

That's a strong claim. How do you intend to substantiate it more clearly than by simple assertion?

I say it's based on hamburger, myself. Prove me wrong, if assertion is good enough to start from. Me, I see at least as much hamburger consumption going on in America as I do deception; is that sufficient to support the notion that our society is based upon one or the other?

I say it's hamburger helper, which is 4/5ths deception and 1/5 hamburger.

Aha, so you're saying that all Americans were at fault, and we all suck and should drop dead! It's what you said, it's what you said!

Pretty much, at this point. Cue weak smiley emoticon...

You have to be careful with suggestions like "Our society is based on deception". It is one of those things like "You're in denial" that may be true, but almost never can be helpfully talked about if you respond to the idea that I'm not in denial with: "See, you're denying it, that proves you're in denial".

Our society has a lot of deception in it, and yet from my point of view also has a lot more truth-telling that most other societies, both contemporaneous and historical. "Based on" deception is a really strong claim.

Our society is based on deception. Politicians lie,

Relatively rarely. Politicians evade questions, they misdirect, they change their position over time, and they occasionally demonstrate an ability to understand nuance. All of those things are presented in the media as lying, but they're not lying. Sometimes politicians do outright lie, but most of them are smart enough to deceive without using statements that can be shown to be categorically false.

advertisements lie,

For some definition of lie, that's probably true. But we do have truth in advertising laws and certain classes of abject falsehoods are quite uncommon ("Get a new Hummer for only $10K!"). Of course, the armed services are not subject to those laws...

CEOs lie,

I thought we were supposed to hold the military in higher esteem than Madison Avenue and Ken Lay? I don't think most people would be comfortable with a social change whereby we decided that the military is nothing but a slightly cheaper version of Blackwater.

and if you consider recruiters selling the good points of military service, but not diving into the bad details lying, well I guess they lie too.

What Lurker described was advertising that strongly implied servicemen could get a combination of benefits that no one can ever get. That strikes me as being in a different category than "emphasize the positives and deemphasize the negatives".

My recruiter told me all about the good times I'd have in the Navy, and sure I had a few, but the bad times don't get printed in the glossy brochure. I don't see how that's different from anything else. I have no regrets.

Um...OK? I don't really understand why you would have regrets based on this thread...has anyone here suggested that you should? I mean, it is possible for the US Army as an institution to be criminally dishonest while providing some soldiers with worthwhile experiences. There's no required contradiction here.

First hand experiences here.
I demonstrated in opposition to the Vietnam War for a couple years; then got drafted right at the end of the war, and spent a couple years in the Army.

I sure don't remember any of us young hippies back in the day scorning the returning troops.

Your friends must have been more mature and reflective than some of the anti-war folks I knew, and some of the people with whom I demonstrated. I remember a lot of scorn for the military, and many contemptuous phrases for those who served.

And I remember a whole decade of prime-time television in which a stock character was the psycho Vietnam vet with problems left over from the war that drove him to drugs and murder.

duffy wrote: "Question: if it is ok to be critical of a war but not the people who fight it, why was/is it ok to prosecute/look down on Nazi soldiers (and to some extent German people)?"

The vast majority of German/Nazi soldiers were *not* prosecuted. It's not illegal to fight a war as a soldier. War itself is not treated as being inherently a crime. The crime depends on how the war is conducted, which is where you get into war crimes prosecution.

joel hanes: a whole decade of prime-time television in which a stock character was the psycho Vietnam vet with problems left over from the war that drove him to drugs and murder.

Who do you hold responsible for that?

Who do you hold responsible for that?

Scriptwriters? Producers?

I wasn't very clear, I see. I was not trying to imply that many DFH's actually spit on vets and that all the Right's stab-in-the-back rhetoric is correct (I was a DFH myself, remember, or was trying to be one as best I could).

I _was_ trying to support what I take to be Sen. Obama's point, that our society in general expressed some extremely negative stereotypes of soldiers, and in particular of Vietnam vets, during and after the war. If DFHs did so (and I saw recruiters and ROTC people called some pretty vile things by DFHs of my aquaintance) they were not alone.

The GI Bill that supported returning Vietnam vets, and that put me through college, was much more generous than the benefits currently provided to Iraq vets. I think this is a travesty, and illustrates the moral emptiness of our political leaders.

Jon H: "The vast majority of German/Nazi soldiers were *not* prosecuted."

I realize that. But many were. And many were/are "spat upon" figuratively. And many still have negative views of Germans in general b/c of WWII even though they took no part in the war OR were not even alive when the war was fought.

And in my experience, the most harsh critics of both Nazi soldiers and Germans are also the people who make the most hay out of the "spitting on Vietnam vets" narrative. These people could probably care less about how American soldiers were/are treated.

Much more important is the belief that America is always the "good guy," always right, and fighting on God's side no matter what. That is what gets people on the right mad about the "spitting on soldiers" stories. It doesn't matter if anyone actually spat on soldiers. It's that you are against your own side if you criticize any American action.

Also, I have very little doubt that many in America (including soldiers and politicians) would be perfectly happy to adopt a Nazi-like approach to Muslims/Arabs and the GWOT.


"And I remember a whole decade of prime-time television in which a stock character was the psycho Vietnam vet with problems left over from the war that drove him to drugs and murder."

What programs, specifically? I assume that with a "whole decade of prime-time television" to call upon, naming three specific programs will be no problem whatever. I may wish to Netflix them, or Hulu.com them. Thanks for your help!

"Question: if it is ok to be critical of a war but not the people who fight it, why was/is it ok to prosecute/look down on Nazi soldiers (and to some extent German people)?"

Because those who were prosecuted were prosecuted for specific war crimes. Otherwise it's generally been commonly accepted that it isn't right to "look down" on ordinary Wehrmacht soldiers and those who committed no war crimes, though views vary by individual, of course. I believe in individual responsibility, myself.

And I hold strong feelings about Nazis.

But you're equating the current U.S. regime with the Nazi regime; what do you cite to demonstrate they are moral equivalents, and that we should consider them as such?

Jon H: "The vast majority of German/Nazi soldiers were *not* prosecuted."

I realize that. But many were.

Percentage wise? I could give you a figure, but how about you tell us, instead?

Then can you explain the relevance of this to an analogy to American troops and citizens during the Vietnam era?

And, again, why are you equating our government with the Nazi government? Do we have massive death camps in which we are stuffing millions of people into ovens? Do you have a pointer on that?

"And many were/are 'spat upon"' figuratively."

By who? Fellow Germans? Do you have some cites on that, please?

Or are you saying that most U.S. troops are from a foreign regime? Or that most U.S. citizens should treat them as if they were?

Or what?

"And many still have negative views of Germans in general b/c of WWII even though they took no part in the war OR were not even alive when the war was fought."

Many Germans think that? Or you're saying that it doesn't matter whether it's U.S. citizens treating their own troops, or they're treating members of the WWII Wehrmacht?

If so, why? If not, what are you trying to say? Can you clarify, please?

Turb said "I don't really understand why you would have regrets based on this thread...has anyone here suggested that you should?"

Well, I got Duffy over here saying a lot of soldiers would like to adopt a "nazi-like approach" to Muslims. Sophie Brown up higher on the thread saying she hated the marines growing up. (Sophie, I was stationed in Hawaii for 3 years, and most people STILL hates us military types, but more for cultural reasons as you mention). Do you think I should just run off this thread and not try to stick up for what I thought was an honorable role in society?

Listen, I know you people are all more intelligent than me, but there's very disturbing trends I've been noticing. Media's preoccupation with the Abu Ghraibs, the Gitmos, and the Hadithas. Incessant criticism of the war in Iraq. Most of this is directed at Bush and friends, but those yahoos are long gone after 2009. In the future, people are going to be pissed off that the country is in debt up to its eyeballs, the country is still at war, and they're gonna be out for blood. The biggest representation of the war is the US military. Not the Blackwaters, not Bush, not even the Iraqis (although they have by far suffered the most). You think about the Iraq war and I bet the first picture that comes to your mind is a soldier and an M-4. People are going to grow to resent that, especially when veterans care (which is only going to rise) is through the roof. That's my prediction. How could I sit idly by and not try and defend our decision to volunteer for the military. I think you're criticism of me on this thread started when I got in a tiff about "cannon fodder". Man, that only makes us look like subhumans, and a group that can be easily marginalized and cast off from society. The Vietnam vets got totally screwed! It's irrelevant the politics, but they got left behind by America, and they warned us not to let the same thing happen.

we deeply regretted that anyone had ever confused kids who were drafted, and who didn't have the means to go to college or the connections to pull a stint in the National Guard or whatever, with the people who deserved the blame: namely, those who set the policy.

Sorry hilzoy, but this dichotomy is just far too convenient to be true. While blanket condemnations ("baby killers!") are obviously shameful, a blanket amnesty isn't very helpful either. There were plenty of war crimes and atrocities committed by every division involved in the Vietnam war and excuses like "war is hell" or "I was just following orders" are a bit weak.

"Listen, I know you people are all more intelligent than me, but there's very disturbing trends I've been noticing. Media's preoccupation with the Abu Ghraibs, the Gitmos, and the Hadithas."

You're saying that it's "very disturbing" for the media to report on crimes and alleged crimes? How would you prefer the media to address crimes and alleged crimes, exactly? Do you believe crimes committed or alleged by members of the military should be treated differently in the media than crimes and allegations of crimes by civilians? Do you believe that the media, including local newspapers and tv stations, commonly treat civilian crimes and allegations of criminal acts more fairly than military crimes and allegations of criminal acts?

"Incessant criticism of the war in Iraq."

You're saying you find policy and political debate "very disturbing"? How would you prefer the media to instead address policy and political debates?

Why do you believe that "criticism" of a policy is "very disturbing," exactly? What criticism do you believe should and shouldn't be free speech? How would you prefer "criticism" (of who in government, exactly? Do you similarly regard "criticism" of, say, Democratic Representatives and Senators as "very disturbing"?) be dealt with in the media, LT?

I fully agree with you that far more civilians should make themselves familiar with military culture and duties and facts of life. So, in turn, have you ever taken a course in journalism, or the history of free speech, or read a couple of good books on the topic? If so, can you recommend a couple of such books to us? (I probably haven't mentioned around you that I once worked on a line of Vietnam war nonfiction and fiction, at Avon Books, as well as editing a number of other military history books, including on WWII and Korea (Edwin Hoyt, particularly, but I'm sure many folks would appreciate any recommendations on books that might help educate them about the military in ways you think might be helpful; for first-person accounts of WWII and Vietnam, I'd toss out William Manchester's Goodbye, Darkness, and Michael Herr's Dispatches [one of the many Avon Books I once was an assistant caretakeer of]; obviously books are extremely poor substitutes for experience, but they're better than no knowledge at all, I think; but what would you recommend?).

"You think about the Iraq war and I bet the first picture that comes to your mind is a soldier and an M-4. People are going to grow to resent that, especially when veterans care (which is only going to rise) is through the roof."

Do you have some cites to support this claim, or are you just pulling it out of... where?

"There were plenty of war crimes and atrocities committed by every division involved in the Vietnam war and excuses like 'war is hell' or 'I was just following orders' are a bit weak."

Are you asserting that every member of a division shares unitary, joint, and equal responsibility for the crimes of every other member of the entire division? If so, why? If not, what degree of individual responsibility are you suggesting we assign to individuals, and on what basis other than individual responsibility, exactly?

I sincerely doubt that people will blame soldiers for the war after January 20, 2009. We all know it wasn't their idea, and indeed, that they are bearing a disproportional burden of the thing. Bush and his friends will never be out of reach of the disapproval of people who were right about the war.

novakant: anyone who blamed vets in general was confused in the way I indicated. Blaming specific vets for specific actions -- e.g., Lt. Calley -- is fine by me.

What programs, specifically? I assume that with a "whole decade of prime-time television" to call upon, naming three specific programs will be no problem whatever.

I cannot cite chapter and verse; sorry not to be able to live up to your assumptions.

What I do remember is seeing the deranged Vietnam vet as the villian _yet_again_ and remarking on that pattern to my friends, and then seeing it again and again after I had noticed it. I'm sorry my memories aren't any more specific.

Perhaps Gary will be mollified by third-party evidence. (While I was looking for this on the Web, I did notice the definite pattern that I assume motivates Gary's demand: many right-wing sites trumpet this claim, without details, as part of a dolchstosslegende narrative.)

"TV's Newest Villain: The Vietnam Veteran," by Robert Brewin, TV Guide, 07/19/75, 4. "I am a Vietnam veteran, and if I acted according to what I have seen on television in the last six months or so, I should probably be harboring extreme psychopathic tendencies that prompt me to shoot up heroin with one hand while fashioning plastique with the other as my war-and-drug-crazed mind flashes back to the rice paddy where I fragged my lieutenant."

Christian Appy and Alexander Bloom, in Long Time Gone, cite Hawaii Five-O, Kojak, and Ironside as shows that used the Vietnam vet as a stock villian.

Kris Kristofferson's first role as a villain was as a murderous Vietnam Veteran—in the throwaway action movie Vigilante Force.

Magnum PI episode Wave Goodbye - A Vietnam veteran, who's suffering terrible psychological pain from the war, is the lead suspect in the murder of a young female surf champion.


OT - Fafnir interviews Hillary Clinton:

CLINTON: I didn't vote for the war, Fafnir. I voted to give the president the authority to go to war. What was he going to use that authority for? Maybe he'd just frame it and hang it in his office. Maybe he'd use it to prop up one of the legs on his desk. Maybe he'd use it to sing songs and dance jigs and lift weary spirits down at the old folks home! I honestly couldn't say!
FB: If only you knew at the time that that devious George Bush would use a war authorization to authorize a war!
CLINTON: You know, I guess I'm just too giving. Maybe I just love my country too much to deny it the universal health care and endless wars it so desperately needs. Maybe some theoretical secret black Muslim who hates America wouldn't have that problem.

Is Gary really asking for cites for the Vietnam Vet who can't fit into society?

The A team.

That is all.

An example that shocked me at the time because it seemed so out of place in what was ordinarily a dopey comedy: an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati in which a deejay freaks out, and it turns out that he's haunted by his Viet Nam experience in which a member of his unit throws a Vietnamese prisoner from a helicopter while they're in the air.

Late 1970s? Early 1980s?

Gary,

Argh! I lost my long comment. Basically goes like this: I have nothing against freedom of speech or the media or opinion of the Iraq war for the purpose of this thread. I'm just trying to paint a reality in my last comment that may possibly happen for us like it did with Vietnam vets. Perhaps that can explain my motivation.

anyone who blamed vets in general was confused in the way I indicated. Blaming specific vets for specific actions -- e.g., Lt. Calley -- is fine by me.

As I said, I am against blanket condemnations, but it is important to acknowledge that behaviour similar to that of Calley's unit was widespread. Also, there were a lot of people who refused to go and then those who went, but refused to carry out orders or take part in atrocities.

Well, I got Duffy over here saying a lot of soldiers would like to adopt a "nazi-like approach" to Muslims.

Since they wrote that after your last comment, I don't see how that could have motivated you to write about your regrets. Time machine? In any event, a number of people have started hammering that comment, so I don't see what the problem here is. Did you expect that no one on the internet would ever say anything mean or stupid?

Sophie Brown up higher on the thread saying she hated the marines growing up. (Sophie, I was stationed in Hawaii for 3 years, and most people STILL hates us military types, but more for cultural reasons as you mention).

Whoah. Wait a minute. If the government stationed a group of young men in my town and those men behaved irresponsibly, drove dangerously, assaulted and sexually harassed women, and got into fights in town, I'd hate their guts. I don't see what's wrong with that behavior. Do you think that's wrong?

I mean, if you want to argue that Sophie just hated military folk due to irrational prejudice and that the accusations she made were not true, go ahead. But since she was there and you weren't, I'm inclined to take her word for it. Assuming she's right, the issue isn't that people hate servicemen; its that some servicemen act like asses and some base commanders don't care to maintain appropriate levels of discipline. Are you really saying that people should tolerate harassment and assault from the military without complaint?

Do you think I should just run off this thread and not try to stick up for what I thought was an honorable role in society?

What exactly are you sticking up for? The right of marines in Hawaii to molest female civilians without consequence or criticism?

And I thought that the military was no more honorable than advertising agencies or corporations...perhaps I misunderstood your earlier comments.

Listen, I know you people are all more intelligent than me, but there's very disturbing trends I've been noticing.

We are? Why would you think that? Maybe hilzoy is, but she's not exactly representative.

Media's preoccupation with the Abu Ghraibs, the Gitmos, and the Hadithas. Incessant criticism of the war in Iraq. Most of this is directed at Bush and friends, but those yahoos are long gone after 2009. In the future, people are going to be pissed off that the country is in debt up to its eyeballs, the country is still at war, and they're gonna be out for blood. The biggest representation of the war is the US military. Not the Blackwaters, not Bush, not even the Iraqis (although they have by far suffered the most). You think about the Iraq war and I bet the first picture that comes to your mind is a soldier and an M-4. People are going to grow to resent that, especially when veterans care (which is only going to rise) is through the roof. That's my prediction.

I think you're right that some people in the US will place some blame on the military. I don't know how many or how much blame we're talking about though. I'm not sure why we should believe that those numbers will be large.

If it makes you feel any better, I do think the senior military leadership has a fair bit of responsibility for our entry into the war. Has JCS even tried applying the Powell Doctrine the way they did during Clinton's tenure, we never would have invaded. If people in the military pushed back on the Iraq war the way they pushed back on Clinton's military operations, we never would have gone to war; the war would have ground to a halt amidst a cacophony of hostile press leaks. If the senior brass had as much interest in actually fighting the kinds of wars the US was likely to be involved in as they did in really awesome but pointless big ticket weapons systems, then we would have been a great deal less screwed in Iraq. We would have had the institutional expertise to recognize what a bad idea this was much more fully than we did. Note that even though I think the senior military leadership bears partial responsibility, I doubt that the public will agree with me; in fact, I doubt that anyone here will agree with me.

How could I sit idly by and not try and defend our decision to volunteer for the military.

Defend from what? I still don't get that...

I think you're criticism of me on this thread started when I got in a tiff about "cannon fodder".

You're partially right. To be honest, I had a hunch that you had a weird complex whereby you assumed that everyone here hates you and looks down on you for no other reason than that you're in the military. I think that's wrong, to say the least. Part of the issue here was that I really did think you were giving Lurker a raw deal just because you didn't realize that he wasn't a native speaker.

Man, that only makes us look like subhumans, and a group that can be easily marginalized and cast off from society. The Vietnam vets got totally screwed! It's irrelevant the politics, but they got left behind by America, and they warned us not to let the same thing happen.

This is wrong. It doesn't matter what some dude from Finland says on the internets; the US is going to treat its vets like crap because we've always done that in the last half century. Nothing you or I or anyone else says will change that. Our society doesn't really care about vets, which means that the only way vets avoid getting screwed is if they're lucky enough to not serve during war time. That's wrong and I wish it were different, but I really see no reason to believe it will change.

Also, I don't think this problem can be completely blamed on the civilian leadership. If the services thought that veterans care was a real problem, they could push for legislative fixes: they could insist that Congress precommit to paying for later Vet care when Congress pays for deployments. That would make the costs a lot more visible. Also, as we've seen, there are tons of retired generals shilling for defense contractors, and going on tv lobbying for the administration. How many retired generals are shilling for expanded veterans' benefits? If you'll forgive my sanctimonius moralizing, veteran's benefits strike me as a whole heck of a lot more important than keeping Congress from killing the DDX destroyer or fantasy land ballistic missile defense.

I don't want to pile on, but the comment

the US is going to treat its vets like crap because we've always done that in the last half century
deserves a reference to the Bonus Army

Jesus Christ, if people are going to resort now to line-by-line "fisking" of each others' comments every single time they post, I'm going to stop reading the frigging blog altogether. Sure will free up a lot of my reading time.

I saw them as people who actually sacrificed for their country instead of "rocked out" with the sex and drugs which seemed to be prevalent at the time.

LT, I didn't go to 'Nam, but knew a couple of returning vets. It was my impression that sex and drugs were FAR more prevelent over there than they were over here. Not that every GI visited the local houses or did drugs, but a lot of them did.

I, and a number of my friends, drew a distinction between the draftees and those who volunteered, especially after the horrors of napalm and other atrocities were laid bare. We felt the latter were aiding and abetting the TPTB and by and large gave them no good will.

=================

Those who confused hatred of the war with hatred of soldiers, obviously. Did those people exist?

Yes. Not all soldiers, but definitely the volunteers.

I admit that part of me wants to do a credentials check on those insisting that everyone must be more respectful of soldiers. Are those who make the demand unfailingly supportive of teachers? Of DMV workers? Of cops? Of EMTs? I have known folks in each of those positions who did in fact face life-threatening situations, occasionally or (worse) routinely, who are doing work important to the reliable functioning of our society, and who get a whole lot of being pissed on by people who then complain they're not doing their jobs.

I am genuinely not comfortable with some of this elevation of soldiery. I don't feel making blanket statements about large groups of people trained to commit violence without knowing a lot more about what's actually going on. Thanks to the reporting relayed on by folks like Hilzoy, I do feel like I have some sense of what the toll on them - enough to be thoroughly outraged, and sympathetic to the idea that the administration's deliberate lack of preparation and support would be jim dandy as an article or three of impeachment. I don't feel like I know nearly enough about what our troops have done and had done to them, and don't want to be stampeded into either whitewash or blackwash.

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