Veteran Awareness of The Real Hero of the Vietnam War, Champion Muhammad Ali

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.

Jay Janson, spent eight years as Assistant Conductor of the Vietnam Symphony Orchestra in Hanoi and also toured, including with Dan Tai-son, who practiced in a Hanoi bomb shelter. The orchestra was founded by Ho Chi Minh,and it plays most of its concerts in the Opera House, a diminutive copy of the Paris Opera. In 1945, our ally Ho, from a balcony overlooking the large square and flanked by an American Major and a British Colonel, declared Vietnam independent. Everyone in the orchestra lost family, "killed by the Americans" they would mention simply, with Buddhist un-accusing acceptance. Jay can be reached at: tdmedia2000@yahoo.com. Read other articles by Jay.

10 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Erroll said on November 14th, 2007 at 5:46pm #

    “… 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.” Very well said. For many years, I had kept buried in my mind the fact that I had not disobeyed the orders that I was given while stationed on that ship in Vietnam and to this day have tremendous guilt for obeying those orders and for not speaking out after I had returned to the United States. When Bush ordered the troops to invade Iraq, it reawakened those memories of what I had gone through on that ship and I am now trying to make up for lost time by speaking out against another illegal war. But it is not always easy attempting to fight my way through this affliction of PTSD that I have endured in an attempt to deal with the fact that I had contributed to the deaths of many innocent Vietnamese people those many years ago. The hope is that those in the military today will not wait as I did before they speak out against this needless occupation. Instead, they should emulate the example of Lt. Watada and the members of the IVAW by saying NO to the war machine perpetrated by the United States.

  2. Amanda Heinz said on November 14th, 2007 at 6:12pm #

    Whether you agreed with the war or not, I think it is wrong of you to point your finger and blame the American soldiers who were sent over to fight a war they perhaps didnt agree with. And how dare you call the men who fled to Canada Veterans. If you want to believe that they are justified in what they did then go ahead believe what you must, but to use the word Vetern so freely is wrong. The Veterans who left their homes, family, and lives to fight in wars deserve much more than YOUR ignorance. Vietnam Veterans, whether opposed to the war or not, are heroes. They are more of a hero that Ali ever was and they deserve this countries respect.

  3. Erroll said on November 14th, 2007 at 9:59pm #

    Amanda Heinz believes that “Vietnam veterans, whether opposed to the war or not, are heroes.” Whenever I read a statement like this, I shake my head in astonishment at someone who makes no distinction between those who spoke out against the war back then and those who had no regrets in fighting that war. There is a huge difference between the two groups of veterans. One group recognized that they would be assisting in an illegal and immoral act of war while the other, even after returning to this country, still chose to believe that taking part in the killing and bombing of Vietnamese civilians was something to be proud of. I suggest that Ms. Heinz rent or buy the powerful documentary Sir! No Sir!, which chronicled the story of the GI Resistance that took place at or near military bases both at home and abroad during the Vietnam War. Many of those soldiers who protested went to jail for their beliefs. As David Cline, one of the soldiers featured in the film, and who was severely wounded in his knee while in Vietnam, said “Your silence [referring to the soldiers] is keeping that lie going.” Or former Green Beret Donald Duncan, who was one of the first military personnel to speak out against that idiotic war, said in the film ” I was doing it right but I wasn’t doing right.”

    Those veterans who spoke out are the true heroes of this country because they had the courage and integrity to question the policies of the U.S. government. As Lt. Watada said to myself and the other members of the Veterans for Peace last summer at the VFP convention last summer:

    “The oath we take swears allegiance not to one man but to a document of principles and laws designed to protect the people. Enlisting in the military does not relinquish one’s right to seek the truth- neither does it excuse one from rational thought nor the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. ‘I was only following orders’ is never an excuse.”

    Soldiers- resist by saying NO to the war machine.

  4. sk said on November 15th, 2007 at 8:22am #

    Everyone is a “hero” and they also need to be reminded “it’s not your fault”.

  5. sk said on November 15th, 2007 at 1:34pm #

    Any reason why this story appeared on the other side of the world and doesn’t show up by google search in US media?

  6. Jay Janson said on November 15th, 2007 at 5:27pm #

    Thank you dear comment writers – might like to read my article published the day before written on Vets Day.

    TITLE:
    A Vet With His Face Burned Away Is Visited By His President & Commander in Chief

    http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_jay_jans_071111_a_vet_with_his_face_.htm

    DESCRIPTION:
    On Veterans Day, there will be foolish pride in smart looking uniforms, but millions of veterans have woken up to having been used! Used to kill and maim and be maimed for some few desperate, pathetic and immoral rich folks to get richer. Those vets who realize they have been taken for a ride, will not be not be further taken in by ‘honors’ bestowed upon them by citizens asleep to murder for money hailed ‘defending freedom’

    TEXT:
    It’s the lead up to Veterans Day. By Presidential proclamation, all Americans are urged to observe November 11 through 17 as National Veterans Awareness Week

    On Conglomerate owned TV channels, viewers watch veterans in hospital beds, missing arms, legs and other body parts, being visited by the world’s most famous simple-minded celebrity, smiling and openly enjoying himself while ‘cheering up the boys’, now maimed, who he sent to invade, occupy and kill in Afghanistan and Iraq to protect the United States from Saudi Arabians – (Saudi Arabians having flown suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11.)

    Off camera, he might also be congratulating these wounded on their having gotten rid of Saddam Hussein, whose country his daddy had enjoyed invading, wiping out the Iraqi army, and bombing Baghdad, although as Vice President, under Ronald Reagan his daddy’s task had been to work closely with Saddam to help him invade and war against Iran. (Iran has been a U.S. government enemy since its students took over the U.S. Embassy as a CIA terrorist nest)

    That ever jovial, charming, affable, ‘regular guy’, maximum leader, Commander in Chief, President George Bush Junior, is the son of a former Head of the CIA, President George Bush the First, and grandson of Senator Prescott Bush who had his property seized under the Trading with the (Nazi) Enemy Act, and is a great grandson of the super wealthy banker George Herbert Walker, a director of many corporations for W. A. Harriman, who also had his business interests seized for Nazi banking in 1942, mid-WWII.

    Seeing that the CIA has a reputation of being a secret, murderously criminal organization for overthrowing democratically elected governments of vulnerable small nations on the orders of the president, (to improve the earnings on investments of U.S. corporations), and since making money on investments in Nazi Germany is hardly something to be proud of, it would seem that there is little in reviewing the lineage of the president affectionately called “Dubya” to inspire confidence for military personnel being asked to make the supreme sacrifice or even just the sacrifice of a body part.

    Vets can’t help but notice the enormous billions of dollars made by corporations, especially those oil companies connected the Bush family, those corporations Vice President Cheney holds stock in, and the war industries interlocked in ownership with conglomerate media which promotes continuing wars of occupation.

    The scare of communism justified the thirty yearlong crucifixion, by the millions, of the mostly farmer population of the French colonies of Indochina. For eight years U.S. administrations paid the French army bills, and thereafter 58,000 American military paid with their lives. Today, the U.S. backs that same communist government of Vietnam for WTO membership and presidential candidate Mike Gravel cries out in debate that they all died in vain.

    How many Vietnam War vets listen, shake their heads, and wonder why they didn’t go to Canada like 125,000 others facing the draft.

    Since 2002, the catch phrase “The War on Terrorism” justifies another round of crimes against humanity with millions of lives lost.

    But the use of Islamic extreme fundamentalist terror first began when President Carter secretly funded, armed and trained the fundamentalist hill tribes, attacking a modern women emancipating government in Kabul, in order to sucker the Soviets into entering Afghanistan SIX MONTHS LATER. The cover up of this now well documented covert use of tribal fundamentalists as a cold war weapon that would come back to haunt America was blown away by Carter’s advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, when he bragged of causing the collapse of the USSR, during a French Newspaper interview in 1998. (‘Le Nouvel Observateur’)

    “Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated” in his memoirs [“From the Shadows”], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?

    Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.”

    What if our troops today occupying Iraq and Afghanistan should learn of President Carter’s heartless criminally homicidal secret attack on a small friendly nation’s government using ethnic and religious divisions to foment civil war? (Our presidential CIA government is above all laws, treaties, and our own constitution.)

    This week, an exceedingly unpopular American president lectures, “Like the heroes before them, today a new generation of men and women are fighting for freedom around the globe”

    “around the globe”? Half of the globe’s resources belong to U.S. corporations. How much more ‘freedom’ do they need? Half of humanity is living on less than $2.00 a day – in ‘freedom’.

    Major-General Smedley Darlington Butler, a 33-year veteran of the Marine Corps who was twice decorated with the Medal of Honor, “War is a racket. A racket is best described as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the
    expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”

    In 1935, Butler said: “I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I
    brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras “right” for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927, I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested….”

    “I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket…. I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.”

    “Our exploits against the American Indian, the Filipinos, the Mexicans, and against Spain are on a par with the campaigns of Genghis Khan, the Japanese in Manchuria and the African attack of Mussolini. No country has ever declared war on us before we first obliged them with that gesture. Our whole history shows we have never fought a defensive war.”

    Veterans who are familiar with Gen. Butlers fierce words, will only laugh at talk of glory.

    On Veterans Day and during the week, there will be a lot of foolish pride in smart looking uniforms, but millions of us veterans have woken up to our having been used! Used to kill and maim and be maimed for some few desperate and weak-minded, pathetic and immoral rich folks to get richer. Not happier, just frightened and sicker. And millions more vets and their loved ones are waking up now, in spite of all the efforts of conning disinformation and war mongering by commercial entertainment/news media.

    Those vets who realize they have been taken for a ride, will not be not be further taken in by ‘honors’ bestowed upon them by citizens asleep to the murder for money that is falsely hailed as ‘defending our freedom’.

    SUGGESTION:
    Tell ‘em we are not fooled re killing for democracy, its kill for money!

    brotherly yours,
    jay janson

  7. Lloyd Rowsey said on November 16th, 2007 at 8:22am #

    I’m still scratching my head and wondering who is the third politician to whom you were referring when you wrote, “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(s), which must have included a history of colonialism, especially the brutality of French colonial subjugation of the Vietnamese. ” I find only McCain and Kerry.

    But no matter.

    On the other hand, you credit “these three” far too generously in granting them, “good college education(s), which must have included a history of colonialism…” The most popular undergrauate course discussing international affairs at the the Ivy League college I graduated from in 1963 was taught by Henry Kissinger, and was referred to by some students as, “The New York Times.” Because Henry would just sit on the desk beside the lecturn; read from the NY Times; and comment. This was in the fall of 1962, and Henry was just breaking into the Cambridge-Washington DC consultation circuit, so he missed quite a few of his M-W-F morning classes.

    I can only imagine the vacuities of the official college courses offered to the likes of McCain and Kerry several years later, as the Vietnam War shifted from LBJ’s incere pomposity, to Nixon and Kissinger’s absolute perfidy and genocide.

    Personally, Jay, I envy Ali his unawareness. He IS the greatest living American on November 16, 2007. Long may he live with friends and loved ones, and may he die in peace and bliss.

  8. Lloyd Rowsey said on November 16th, 2007 at 9:01am #

    And right on, Erroll! I am not a wealthy person, not a vet, and definitely not particularly courageous. But I am contributing $400 each month to IVAW.

  9. Jay Janson said on November 17th, 2007 at 11:40am #

    answering Lloyd Rowsly “the third ‘hero’ of the war on Vietnam” would be
    Bob Kerrey, after John Kerry and McCain.
    “Was everyone who fought us in Vietnam a communist. Former Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey, President of the New School University, said on “60 Minutes”, that the 19 women and children his Seal unit massacred were AT THE VERY LEAST, mind you, AT THE VERY LEAST, he repeated, VIETCONG SYMPATHIZERS! Imagine! a former governor and senator, now top educator !- they even put him on the 9/11 commission! As an expert terrorist, I guess.”

    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.

  10. Henry Rhea said on November 17th, 2007 at 7:44pm #

    What a crock! Yes, Ali is to be admired and respected for standing up for what he believed. Most of the rest of what you say is pure leftist horse ####! True, Ho was an ally during WW2. So was Stalin. True, Ho would easily have won a free election as a genuine national hero in his fight against the French Colonial Government with the Viet Minh. Beyond that, he was still a Communist, lived and taught in Moscow for 8 years, helped to found the French Communist Party, and tried to lie about his Communist movement to gain American support after the World War had ended.

    Viet Nam wasn’t the local war to keep the Republic of South Viet Nam free as it came to be seen by almost all the world. It was a theater of operations in the Cold War, which we won. And while we didn’t achieve our local goals there, it served greatly in helping us to achieve our larger goals, as former Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew has declared, in forcing World Communism to focus on resisting us there rather than on their numerous national wars of “liberation” around the world which they would have liked to have done. He gives credit to us for the time it bought his own fledgeling nation to build its own economic base thus negating the Communist attempts to foment revolution there.

    The USSR saw us go half way around the world to fight the longest war in our history to that time and never come close to collapse, yet couldn’t sustain one right on their own eastern border in Afghanistan just a few years later. Don’t you think that that had a lot to do with President Gorbachev and the rest of the Soviet leaderships ultimate decision to give up the fight and disband the Soviet Union? You’re an idiot if you don’t. But your article speaks for itself anyway. You’re an idiot.