This Memorial Day, veterans across the country are steeling themselves. How to deal with the inevitable onslaught of “thank you for your service” comments? For years I simply gave a nod and kept my mouth shut.
From the article:
“Hawkish politicians cleverly link disapproval of warmongering with hatred of soldiers, leaning on American guilt over the mistreatment of veterans after Vietnam.”
I wish the author had qualified that statement, as in “alleged” mistreatment of veterans after Vietnam—there’s much to suggest that such allegations were fabricated by the same chicken hawks who fabricated the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and for the same reason: to make war popular and dissent from warmongering unpopular.
I refer the author, who sounds a decent sort, to the book “The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam” by Vietnam veteran and professor of sociology Jerry Lembcke. In it he gives an eyewitness account of those days, which tells the story of how the civilian antiwar movement made common cause with the troops themselves, often in the coffeehouses which sprang up around stateside military bases.
For my part, I understood that the troops drew a sharp distinction between conscripts, who were the majority, and what they called “lifers”—those who enlisted in the regular Army intending to muster out after 20 or 30 years. The latter tended to exhibit tendencies toward authoritarianism and macho postturing, earning them the nickname “John Wayne”—and it wasn’t a compliment. A lifer returning to The World who rubbed civilian noses in his John Wayne side might very well have been spat on; it might even have been by one of those conscipts. But the “spitting image” remains useful to this day, especially since conscription was ended.
I’ll leave the final word to Prof. Lembcke:
“I cannot, of course, prove to anyone’s satisfaction that spitting incidents like these did not happen. Indeed, it seems likely to me that it probably did happen to some veteran, some time, some place. But while I cannot prove the negative, I can prove the positive: I can show what did happen during those years and that that historical record makes it highly unlikely that the alleged acts of spitting occurred in the number and manner that is now widely believed.”
Although there may have been isolated incidents of soldiers returning from Nam being scorned by spit or other means, me and the many other war resistors in my circles welcomed soldiers back as victims of the machine and did whatever we could to transition into the civilian world, recognizing that right wing propaganda included demonizing those of us who prevented Nam from being an eternal war.
The US is a terrorist nation threatening completely innocent cities with atom bombs and attacking anyone who has anything worth stealing. It is a centrally planned capitalist government using representative democracy as a civilian morale management tool.
Great article! The voices of vets such as Zach Henson and the others mentioned in this articles
will be strong voices in the fight for a more just society. They will be hard for politicians to simply dismiss out-of-hand!
There have been no documented accounts of solders returning from Vietnam ever being “spat on”. It is of course impossible to prove a negative, in the world of science, if something does not have documented evidence, it is safest to assume it does not exist. An the urban myth of spat-upon veterans has since been used by politicians several times since to sends soldiers back to war.
edit: Oops - my points were already covered by Guild above.
The one single thing about those who serve in the US military in all these foreign interventions that both gob-smacks me then enrages me, is this absolutely absurd meme that these guys are “defending my freedom” and “their military service is the only reason I have the freedom to criticize them”. I mean WTF? I repeat, WTF??. What the HELL does violently invading lands of people who have no quarrel with me or the US government have ANYTHING to do with my civil freedoms???
“Qui est en droit de vous rendre absurde est en droit de vous rendre injuste.”.
Kipling wrote: “Yours is not to question why. Yours is but to do or die”.
If young soldiers had some knowledge of politics instead of the brainwashing, patriotic slogans, fear, hate, heroics and dehumanizing of “enemies”, the government that sends these kids to kill and die would hesitate to do so, fearing they would turn on them.
Actual quote is do AND die. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, from The Charge of the Light Brigade:
"Theirs not to make reply,
"Theirs not to reason why,
“Theirs but to do and die.”
What would change the system is for the veterans that were lied to made it a personal quest to make the liars pay with their lives.
DC are nothing but dumb cowards… make them start paying for their failure and they would all quit in mass to avoid justice.
I’m a Veteran Naval Officer and this article was refreshing to read. My choice to serve my country as a young female officer in the 1980s was a very liberal cause… and I
am not sorry I served but I got tired of the hyoermasculine sexist and homophobic “Boys club” conservative atmosphere… as well as the fact that even now in 2018 my service is not looked at as legitimate… as that of men.
Further… I know how war mongering they really are…it’s like they get off on any opportunity to kill. … and it’s not for “our freedom” it’s to stroke their fragile egos. So as this article states … we should not be celebrating anything… but we need to honor the fallen and question more as to why we got into a stupid war in the first place and vow to work for the cause of prevention of conflicts instead of provoking them.
Precisely what happened in Viet Nam. That is why we have no draft!
We actually do have a draft.
It is the most unfair draft of all.
It is an economic draft.
Young people, especially in poorer rural counties have no job prospects so that they reason that they should just join the military and gain that “valuable” experience.
It is how the system is rigged.
Thanks Guild, that really stood out for me as well. I can’t answer for others but I can give some idea of how false that claim is from my own experience. I was in from 8 November 1968 to 7 November 1972. SSgt. Air Force. I was TDY a lot. TDY stands for temporary duty. I was in a unit in which those of us in the field were on near constant travel to jobs at various locations in the world, often in civilian areas. Some were in Laos (when we “were not in Laos”), some in other SEA locations, Pictcairn Island, Brazil, Seycelles, all over the US, Greeenland, Great Britain and so forth. I was all over most of the US and a great deal of England.
I was never in a combat zone (as some others in my squadron were on their TDY’s). But I and the rest of the squadron (geodetic surveyors) were in near constant contact with the public where ever we worked.
Never once did I recall getting so much as a cross look in my direction. On the contrary, we were often give deference and enthusiastic welcome, even invited into homes for dinners and so forth. Those people in the “hippie” community were our friends and never did I run into anyone screaming at me or even taking me aside to accuse me of complicity. On the contrary, they were concerned for us and frankly, there were probably more of us with bell bottoms and “hippie” clothes than existed in some of the populations around us. I also didn’t hear of anyone else in the squadron ever having problems from the public. There were even times people tried to set us up on dates with sisters or cousins. Remember, unlike those coming back from the war zone and passing through an airport or two after landing on a military field, we had extensive time to be exposed to anyone who might want to “spit” on us. Never happened to me and as far as I know, never to anyone else in my squadron and I think that news would have gotten around pretty quickly. We all knew each other. It wasn’t a very large unit, just a very specialized unit.
I would modify the above sentences to read: “…essentially, we’re sending young people to faraway countries to kill other people who might, potentially, maybe pose a threat to the desired acceleration of wealth accumulation of global elites who control major multinational industrial and financial corporations. In this regard, factions of the U.S. government engineer wars to eliminate such threats. The engineering of such wars is currently ongoing; but, the majority of citizens in our geographically isolated country are totally oblivious to such global endeavors; and, are equally oblivious to false flag events in this country which serve to justify this nations global hegemonic militarism…”
I was in from Feb, '68 to Feb '72; and, never heard of any incident of being spat on or similarly abused by civilians… Now that it’s a established fact that the U.S. military and the intelligence agencies subsidize and influence/control much of the U.S. media and entertainment industry, perhaps, we should question whether movies and reports alleging such incidents were so funded.and controlled.
Check into the Center on Conscience and War. I think the basta**s are starting to soften us up for reinstating the draft; they WANT a world war.
Wars are not fought for the sake of soldiers. Making war all about soldiers is emotional button pushing propaganda. Wars are mainly fought for the 4 “Ps”, power, profit. property and politics. Try to discuss any war in history based on soldiers being the cause.
Add to that “Prestige”, making 5 P’s.
I highly recommend The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman. It is particularly relevant now in the 100th anniversary of "The War to End All Wars’. A hundred years ago, Germany, Great Britain, and France were busily destroying nearly an entire generation of their young men over
nothing more than power and prestige.
Also, All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque…and,
Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo.
America needs to wake up, The glorification of everything military from toys, war games, clothing, songs etc. is manufacturing cannon fodder and that fodder will be our sons and daughters and their sons and daughters. The world is littered with the graves of those who believed they could control the world, buried right next to their collateral damage