During Veterans Awareness Week, lets finally be candid about who deserves to be called a “Vietnam War hero.”
World Champion Muhammad Ali is an honest American hero of the “Vietnam War,” correctly called “The American War” by the Vietnamese who managed to survived it.
Ali had the courage to stand up for an upright America even though it did not exist (except maybe in the minds of still segregated Afro-Americans). Ali inspired thousands to resist being drafted, and the 125,000 who fled to Canada rather than be invaders and killers of innocent foreigners in their very own country, they too, are in a sense veterans and Americans we can be truly proud of.
Tears of joy come to one’s eyes when one sees a newsreel of young Ali firmly saying that he would not participate in an unjust war against the Vietnamese. Ali is as much a veteran of that war as those who did participate in that violence of genocidal terrorism against a nation of people who had been an ally of America against the Japanese and Vichy French who occupying its homeland.
How many veterans knew anything about the country they were willingly going to bomb and shoot people in? Ignorance has never been an excuse before the law.
Shall they be honored in 2007 for their ignorance then, and for the killing they managed to get done in a war now euphemistically explained away as ‘a mistake’? Oops? Any thought to the millions that were high altitude carpet bombed, napalmed, ‘searched and destroyed’, massacred?
A ‘mistake’? For sure! Because America lost, and was eventually thrown out. But not an honest ‘mistake’, and of course, no reparations paid out to the victims of America’s ‘mistake’, nor even public apologies given.
Sure, Americans can blame the insidious, relentless and deceptively inclusive anti-communist war propaganda by media, naively thought to be free and uncontrolled by the military-industrial conglomerate complex.
But lets remember, boxer Ali, actress Jane Fonda, minister Martin Luther King Jr., professors like MIT’s Noam Chomsky, and millions people across the United States and the world were not fooled in the least.
Millions beautiful Vietnamese men, women and children — every one of them is worth remembering on Veterans Day as well. Maybe even more so, because they died in their own country, most in their own towns, many in their very own homes because the veterans honored on Veterans Day came to their country, armed and uninvited.
Vietnam veterans should most certainly be remembered, but remembered and respected as home-side victims of an illegal, monstrous and pitiless American war upon an Asian colonial population.
Members of the Veterans For Peace and Vietnam Vets Against the War organizations hold the Vietnamese they were ordered to fight in high esteem with painful feelings of regret and compassion. And they have deep compassion for themselves and their fellow veterans who were made to follow immoral orders, and usually didn’t have the presence of mind, education or courage to refuse to follow such orders. They were not able to serve their country well, nor any humanitarian cause of freedom, and certainly not their own human conscience.
Veteran, now Senator, McCain who flew 23 bombing missions knowing that Eisenhower had written in his book that if there had been an all Vietnam election (blocked by Ike himself), that Ho Chi Minh would have won by a plurality of more than 80%. McCain just followed military orders, as an unthinking automaton?
Veteran and presidential candidate, John Kerry, who said he killed a South Vietnamese before realizing it was wrong during his reenlisted tour of duty. He then went before Congress to denounce U.S. war crimes. But his nomination ceremony thirty years later Vietnam Vets paraded to thunderous applause — the “Vietnam War” had become heroic again.
Muhammad Ali did not need to go to Vietnam to know it was wrong, and he has never changed his mind.
Former Governor, Senator, now President of New School University, Bob Kerrey, who on “60 Minutes” was exposed by his own point man of having had his Seals gun down 19 young women and children, after seeing to the throat cutting of an elderly man and his family, accepted a medal for doing it, under a report of “enemy successfully killed.” It never occurred to this now highly placed educator to pull the media into the dock it had placed him in, decades after originally teaching him merciless and indiscriminate anti-communism.
Did these three now highly placed American veterans serve their country and countrymen when they killed Vietnamese in Vietnam? They all had a good college education, which must have included a history of colonialism, especially the brutality of French colonial subjugation of the Vietnamese. They must have known that Ho Chi Minh was decorated by our OSS as a dedicated ally of ours against the Japanese and Vichy French. They must have known that Truman, against Roosevelt’s promise, had brought a new French army back in US ships to fight an 8-year war against our former allies, the Vietnamese. All this, because Ho Chi Minh was a communist? Not so likely. A top cabinet minister of the French government in Paris was also a communist, but that was OK.
Veterans who loved their country enough to know what the fighting was about is one thing. Veterans who risked their lives fighting for injustice and against human respect, blindly following leaders pretending to be what they were not, is quite another.
How do the Viet vets react to the recent U.S. sponsorship for World Trade Organization membership for the very same Communist Government of Vietnam they fought to destroy with a resultant loss of life second only to the Holocaust?
The world has become increasingly complicated and yet the U.S. cartel of a conglomerate mass entertainment media is increasingly reductive, simplistic and self-righteous, hypocritically praising democracy it does not practice. We must become intolerant of those who work to make war acceptable, even attractive to their audiences.
Torture or not to torture has been a news item recently. Americans seem to have lost their sense of right and wrong, as they did during the Viet war when they had difficulty in judging Lieutenant Calley of Mai Lai Massacre fame
Shuttering anguish is what veterans feel for leaders who knowingly sent them to kill (and die, though dying is less tragic than wrongly killing), for a wrong cause. Especially galling, when veterans have to listen to praise for any of the six presidents who oversaw the killing in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (and other places). These presidents betrayed the trust both the military and their country placed in them, yet even after CIA files released incriminates them, commercial media goes on praising these presidents as fine and likeable fellows.
Fully awakened Americans would like to help rehabilitate veterans who “served” in “mistaken” wars by turning this nation around toward morality and historical honesty, and forgoing pompous and ridiculous attempts to praise themselves indiscriminately, announce our intention to arrange at least some compensation to Vietnamese for our now admitted “MISTAKE”!
Put ourselves in their shoes. The shoes of Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, and now Iraqi, Afghan bereaved families. Could we even imagine such bombings upon US towns and countryside? We can improve the whole world and ourselves with such imagination.
What happiness such a moral awakening would occasion. Is this not perhaps still possible, even under capitalism, despite its nature for expansion and world domination? How wonderful if America could take a time out and recognize the suffering of the non-American victims of its many wars and CIA crimes in third world nations while Champion Muhammad Ali is still alive and with us as a continuing American inspiration.