Friday, December 10, 2004
Regarding Vietnam



Among the various aspects of my 'net presence, I am a moderator at a web forum hosted by an Air America radio guy. I was actually on the forum before he landed at AA, but that's how most people would have heard of him now. I initially went to the forum around May of 2003 because I was distressed and frightened about the then-brand-new Iraq war, but was stuck in one of the most conservative counties in the United States where I had nobody to talk to about my anxiety.

Under ideal circumstances, I'd have gone to my mom with my worries; with only a couple of exceptions, there really isn't anything I wouldn't feel secure talking to her about. Unfortunately, anything that might even faintly smack of politics is one of them. I made an attempt, the night the first bombs fell, to express my concern and trepidation, and thought for a brief time that she might have heard me clearly; even if she disagreed, I had hoped that she would at least hear my genuine fear and deal with that separately. But subsequent exchanges have more or less disproven that hope.

As the war has progressed, I've found myself with an ever-growing number of questions, many of which relate to this war as it compares to Vietnam. I was born shortly after the last Americans left Saigon and know the war only through the prism of popular culture; much of my knowledge, I have always assumed, is flawed and distorted. But even so, Vietnam remains the closest comparable situation to the one we now face, and like a lot of people born after the war, I'm increasingly curious about how it actually was, so that I might be able to glean some insight into how it might now come to be.

My mom, obviously, remembers Vietnam, and it would be nice to be able to discuss it with her, but I don't think that would be wise. So instead, I took my questions to the forum, where we have plenty of sympathetic boomers who both remember and are willing to answer my questions directly. I don't assume that the answers I've gotten there are definitive, but I found them interesting, and thought other people might, too.

My questions were:

1. Is the Iraq War actually like Vietnam, in general atmosphere if not in specific detail?

2. For those who were opposed to Vietnam, how does the experience of being opposed to this war compare?

3. How is it that anyone who opposed the Vietnam war could support this war?

4. If we do have a draft, how will that affect the generation that most recently had to deal with a draft themselves?

5. Do boomers understand how it looks to us Gen-X and Y-ers, that they would not stand to see their own killed in an unnecessary foreign war, but are willing to send our generations over? Do they get the sense of betrayal we feel?


I got a lot of interesting answers. Some selections from the conversation:

1. Is the Iraq War actually like Vietnam, in general atmosphere if not in specific detail?
Yes. They have substituted "VietCong" with "insurgent". The South Vietnamese soldiers would often refuse to fight alongside our guys and that's happening in Iraq too. To the point that they sometimes open fire on our people. The entire population was suspect and the bases were compounds nobody wanted to leave. Patrols were faked by the troops to avoid contact with the enemy. Most of the wounded were from boobytraps. The Secretary of Defense used to say the SAME DAMN THING about how well things were going based on all the people they were killing. "Body Counts" are back (this is where you just kill everyone including unarmed women and children and claim they were the enemy).

Spitfire of ATJ

I think people are more aware these days of exactly what is going down. The scary thing is, many approve of it. Also, because there is no draft, there seems to be complacency among the younger people, who provided the energy for the Vietnam era protests. And, we are only slowly coming off of several decades of materialistic self-indulgence where people, young and middle-aged, seemed to be focused on "getting ahead" rather than larger questions of the fate of humanity and the planet.

TruthseekerME

The obvious difference is the personal investment. During Vietnam, it was huge. There was a draft, and 14,000 soldiers died in a single year.
Today there is public detachment. There is no draft and the casualties are a pittance by comparison. On the home front, the pain needs to be much greater before the level of public involvement will elevate enough to merit any heed by Washington. I thought that "1000" was a magic number that would tip sentiments. I was wrong. We are a stubborn people. Of course, there is a gag order against any unpalatable news coverage, unlike during Vietnam. Everything is being sanitzed by a lapdog media. Perhaps when the 2000th casket comes home - or the 5,000th.

posterchild


2. For those who were opposed to Vietnam, how does the experience of being opposed to this war compare?

It feels much lonlier. We had more demonstrations we could participate in, back then. There were lots and lots of songs of protest we heard every day. Maybe we were exposed to more of it because we were on college campuses. I wonder what is happening on college campuses today?

TruthseekerME

I believe it was in '69 when Walter Cronkite declared the war was un-winnable in a CBS White Paper special report. The traction on that was heuuuuuge and if there's one difference between now and then, it's the media. You can put a gazillion voters on the street today (as in the NYC pre-convention protests) and the media ignores it. Back then, fill one block with warm bodies and you were all over the network newscasts.

BA Bureauchief

3. How is it that anyone who opposed the Vietnam war could support this war?
How is it that some former Hippies became Yuppies and then became Republicans? It's called "Selling Out".

Spitfire of ATJ

I think many people are silent and not voicing their disapproval because they remember how horribly the troops from Vietnam were treated, and they want to support those who we have sent off to kill and die in our name. Also, there is a shocking indifference because of the lack of a draft.

TruthseekerME


That's the magic of The Red Kool-Aid... There are literally millions of boomers conveniently ignoring Bush's dirty little war because The Bunny gave them a tax break. That's their issue. Also consider the born-again Reagan Fundies of the 80's who started out as 60's longhairs asking about Buddha and Krishna, got high on Jeebus, and now have no qualms about snuffin' muslims because they hate christians.

BA Bureauchief

4. If we do have a draft, how will that affect the generation that most recently had to deal with a draft themselves?
It'll be frustrating as hell because for some it will require listening to their kids support Bush as their grandkids go off to fight and die for a lie. All that talk about "we learned our lesson" went down the toilet and America is repeating all of the old mistakes.

Spitfire of ATJ

The same way they did 40 years ago... Some will think it's the best thing since scared straight to reform our errant yout, others will work the courts for CO status and you'll be reminded we still have Quakers and Mennonites in this country.

BA Bureauchief

5. Do boomers understand how it looks to us Gen-X and Y-ers, that they would not stand to see their own killed in an unnecessary foreign war, but are willing to send our generations over? Do they get the sense of betrayal we feel?
I think it's hypocrisy. I HATED WAR THEN AS I HATE IT NOW. WAR IS WRONG. WAR IS NOT A SOLUTION. Yes I think young people should be outraged if they're 60's anti-war parents have become WARMONGERS! ACTIVATE AMERICA NOW! WAR IS OVER...IF YOU WANT IT.

scottymortensen

I do, because it seems America refuses to learn. We hate our actual history.

The '60's generation was supposed to be about freedom and love and it's recalled as a time of sex drugs and rock and roll. Those that advocated our responsibility to the peoples of the world for our actions have since been painted as irresponsible and their message has thus been discredited as "crazy talk" brought on by drug use.

At the time, anyone against the war was branded as "a member of the counter culture" and harrassed by the cops in the sincere hope that they would be sentenced by a judge to serve in the military. Republicans took great delight in the idea of a Hippy's long hair being buzzed off before they were tossed into a war were they would hopefully die.

You watch. Bush is going to get his needed troops to toss into his meat grinder. Somehow they are going to target those who didn't vote for him first to the cheers of those who did.

( SN: Do you think most boomers remember this? Do you think being reminded of it would also remind them of what a frightening time it was, of how hard-done-by they felt when they were losing friends and family to a war?

Do you think that would put some sense back in their heads?)

Only when people start having to attend the funerals for their friend's kids and the the mouthbreathers say "The reason for them dying was to defend our freedom" and it starts a fight that breaks up friendships.

That's what it took back then.

Spitfire of ATJ

No, nor do they care. Not enough of them, anyway. They are saying "Well, they volunteered for the military....." Your generation can MAKE them care, but it will take a lot of work. There are those of us who will support your efforts.

TruthseekerME

'Scuze me while I turn that around... WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO THE ROCK THE VOTE CROWD this year? Ehhhhhhhhhhhh ??? If you won't stand up for yourself...

Now, consider this: One of the most difficult sales job in the 60's was convincing those of the 40's that Vietnam was NOT the noble crusade they had in WW II. It was unfathomable to some how anyone could refuse to serve their country... By WW II standards, it was an insult to those who served and died to push Germany and Japan back where they belonged to decline the fight against creeping communism.

Fast forward, and the war on terra was very much started on September 11, 2001. Hanoi never, ever, pooched two American cities on the same day. Never. To the boomer's who've learned to appreciate the Red Kool-Aid, there is absolutely no parallel between Vietnam and Iraq.

Coupla' things to remember... Not everyone was against the Vietnam war back then. I'm going to say it was split along the familiar numbers of 30% against, 30% for, 40% don't care at all. One big difference today is that we're split on political lines... Right v Left. Back then it was far more a generational split and your opinion on the war was generally reflected by your draft status. Bunches of people beat the draft and had no opinion on the war from that point forward. Look around, and you'll see that's true today as well. They're too busy making a living to worry about it and that's a plus for Too Stupid...

Another point that you may want to consider is that the FMR has done a fantastic job of wringing everything that was good about the 60's out of the accepted history... Instead, it's remembered as doper city and the root of the no-flavor 70's. Like, old farts protesting a war is a laughable stereotype on my AM radio and Gen-X neocons are more than willing to use the FMR stereotype of the 60's against my generation...

A few paragraphs up you asked about betrayal. How do you think it plays when the dumbasses you're trying to keep out of Iraq think you're a worthless political cliche' for doing it? Haven't you heard... Rehab Rush has declared this a conservative country, and liberalism is obsolete.

It's not uncommon for a boomer to catch grief from a Gen-X'er who thinks they know the score 'cuz Hannity explained it to them.

BA Bureauchief

Personally, I believe that part of the fervor from the right for this war is a drive to vindicate Vietnam. The FMR has always believed that Vietnam was lost by the John Kerry's, Jane Fonda's and Walter Cronkites. They need to believe that they know how to fight a war.

posterchild

And finally...
One other point...

JFK was assasinated in November of 1963. MLK in the spring of '68. RFK in the summer of '68... We knew somethin' was cooking and it smelled like fascism. J Edgar Hoover was running the FBI and keeping notes on anyone who smelled vaguely lefty.

Compare that to the elections since 2000, Johnnie Asscrack, the Patriot Act, and all the other joy BushCo has brought to this country.

Does Gen-X and Gen-Y smell what's cooking today?

BA Bureauchief


Much more than this was said during the discussion; these are just the bits that I find the most interesting at the time of this writing. If you want to read the rest or, better still, participate, you can find the thread here. And thanks to everyone quoted above for letting me use their words here; it's a good bunch of people over there.
1:17 AM ::
Amy :: permalink
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