The Jane Fonda Myth

by Henry on November 15, 2005

Rick Perlstein writes in the London Review of Books about how the American right constructed a mythology around Jane Fonda in order to delegitimize opposition to the Vietnam war. As Perlstein says, Fonda wasn’t a saint, and indeed represented a particular form of starry-eyed liberal masochism. But that isn’t the point – the Nixon administration and its supporters engaged in a systematic campaign of misinformation to make Fonda and anti-war veterans into hate-figures.

The urinal stickers would not be far behind. Every time Nixon ratcheted down the US commitment to the war, he launched an attack on the people who called on him to ratchet down the commitment. Che Guevara spoke of creating a New Socialist Man. The president’s upright vanguardists in the Operation Homecoming travelling circus did a much more effective job of inventing a new sort of capitalist subject: New Republican Man, willing to believe anything to preserve some semblance of faith in American innocence.

While Perlstein doesn’t draw an explicit parallel with what’s happening today, it’s lurking just beneath the surface of his argument. The current efforts of various right wing propagandists to tar the anti-war left as traitors smack of Nixon’s smear campaign in the 1970’s. Perlstein’s account is also an important cautionary tale for the left. Then, as now, there was a widespread perception on left and right that the war was a disaster. Nonetheless, Nixon succeeded in using it as a wedge issue to split voters from the Democratic party, and to generate a set of pernicious myths that last to this day (not only Hanoi Jane’s treachery, but bogus stories about anti-war protesters spitting on veterans). While the public is beginning to accept that the Iraq war was a disaster, few people want to acknowledge that the US has been responsible, as it has been, for systematic abuse of prisoners and civilians, for outsourcing torture to its allies, and for itself directly engaging in torture. People are going to be looking to create scapegoats to preserve the image of American innocence, and to turn this to political gain. It’s important that they’re not allowed to get away with it.

{ 109 comments }

1

asg 11.15.05 at 6:13 pm

There is an excellent post on the American Heritage magazine blog that pretty convincingly debunks the idea that no veterans were spit on (that is, it debunks the book Henry links to). In particular, the post’s author links to another book, Bob Greene’s “Homecoming”, which specifically documents 60 spitting incidents. He also describes Lembcke’s laughable response to this documentation.

Unfortunately, since the concept of a permalink hasn’t reached AHM’s august halls, to see the post you’ll have to go to http://www.americanheritage.com/blog/ and scroll down to the Nov. 8, 2005 post by Frederic Schwarz, or search on Lembcke’s name.

2

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.15.05 at 6:49 pm

How did Nixon get her to sit on that anti-aircraft gun for pictures? He was more powerful than I thought.

3

catfish 11.15.05 at 6:55 pm

ASG,

Although I am agnostic about the presence of “spitters,” the American Heritage link makes a counter-assertion, it does not debunk.

4

Henry 11.15.05 at 7:05 pm

Sebastian – if it’s not too much to ask, please read the article linked to, and address the arguments made therein. Thx.

asg – as Lembke points out, if there had been widespread spitting on returning veterans, one would have expected at least a minimum of contemporaneous media coverage. There was zero coverage. Bluntly, that some guy can get people to claim this 15 years later doesn’t amount to squat as evidence – as the Swift Boats saga demonstrates, there’s a substantial constituency of people out there who are quite ready to lie about their Vietnam experience in order to discredit war opponents. Or do you disagree? Schwarz’s ‘rebuttal’ seems to me to consist of a mixture of special pleading, and ‘this guy’s an evil Marxist’ finger pointing. If he’d been able to find, say, even one or two contemperaneous small town newspaper reports of this happening, he’d have a far better case.

5

jet 11.15.05 at 7:10 pm

Sebastian,
Normally I love your comments, but Henry did have this to say: “As Perlstein says, Fonda wasn’t a saint, and indeed represented a particular form of starry-eyed liberal masochism.”

6

jet 11.15.05 at 7:11 pm

Whups, Henry got there first, sorry.

7

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.15.05 at 7:19 pm

I read the article linked to, and it essentially suggests that she was treated unfairly. But the thing that I always heard about (years later)–sitting while laughing and getting photographed on an anti-aircraft gun, goes almost unmentioned. It seems like a rather glaring oversight on the part of the article’s author to ignore the very most defining image in question–the very image which defines how lots of people think about Fonda.

And this part of the article is especially gross:

A carefully selected group of hard-line returnees was paraded around the country in a Pentagon-scripted pageant called Operation Homecoming. These hard-liners were an interesting group. They were older officers, mostly, captured in the early years of the conflict, at a time when its insanity wasn’t quite so obvious. They treated their captivity as an extension of the battlefield. And as the mission to which they had pledged their lives collapsed around their ears, their attitude hardened, their resistance to their captors’ authority becoming ‘a mark of their personal heroism and endurance’. While the nation had been busy losing the war, they were ‘almost desperate’, Steven Roberts, the New York Times reporter who covered the repatriation, wrote, to ‘believe the Vietnam War was worth it and that the president would, in fact, gain “peace with honour”’. They were uniformed prophets of national redemption, preaching, to honour-starved congregations in America’s Knights of Columbus halls and school cafeterias, the message people needed to hear: ‘I want you all to remember,’ they said, ‘that we walked out of Hanoi as winners.’

This made their younger comrades, the kind that met with the likes of Fonda, no better than VC sappers. They were charged with collaboration. The pows who wished to preserve their honour by maintaining that the war was wrong and that they had had a right to criticise it were cast as the agents of American defeat. One, Abel Kavanaugh, facing a court martial, shot himself. Another, David Wesley Hoffman, had been one of the pows who volunteered to meet with Fonda. He hoped to remain in the military. He met with Pentagon officials on his release; then, on 13 April 1973, all three television networks covered a news conference in which he said he’d been hung from a hook by his broken arm until he agreed to meet with her. He may also have been threatened with court martial. To this day he refuses all requests for interviews. George Wald, a Nobel Prize winner in medicine, proved his claim was physiologically impossible.

So the POWS who wanted to say the war was wrong lied to the media by saying they were mistreated? Huh? How does that fit into the argument even if true? And this somehow damns the older soldiers who were captured earlier? Huh? I hope the book makes more logical sense than that passage.

It is tough to address the argument presented in the article when it blatantly ignores the very most defining image that symbolizes why people didn’t like Fonda. It is like trying to talk about gravity while avoiding talking about mass. It is like trying to talk about respiration without bothering with the function of oxygen. It doesn’t make sense.

8

Rick Perlstein 11.15.05 at 7:28 pm

Sebastian, Fonda does a pretty good job of both contrition and contextualization in her own memoir regarding that photograph, so I skipped that. I’m going off to a movie now, but if this thread’s still active, I’ll respond to you in a few hours.

9

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.15.05 at 7:29 pm

Also, what the heck is this “not only Hanoi Jane’s treachery, but bogus stories about anti-war protesters spitting on veterans”

and

“as Lembke points out, if there had been widespread spitting on returning veterans, one would have expected at least a minimum of contemporaneous media coverage. There was zero coverage. Bluntly, that some guy can get people to claim this 15 years later doesn’t amount to squat as evidence “

Excuse me? It really depends on your definition of ‘widespread’ doesn’t it? I’m sure if every single vet got spit on there would be reporting, but who claims that? Bluntly you have set up what might as well be a religious belief that the spitting could not have happened–casually dismissing 60 instances of it being reported. You state without any research whatsoever into the individual men that they of course must be liars simply because their personal recollections disagree with what you desire to be true. That is what passes for logic?

10

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.15.05 at 8:00 pm

Rick, we seem to have crossposted. I think Jane did a barely servicable job of explaining the picture as of 1988 though part of her apology and she claims in her recent biography that she was immediately horrified, but she wasn’t contrite at the time the ugly image of her was being formed.

In any case we apparently can’t trust what people say about what happened 15 years later, so we certainly can’t trust what people said they felt almost 30 years later.

11

kasei 11.15.05 at 8:02 pm

Guys this all happened thirty years ago, and it seems slightly pathetic we’re still debating who-did-what then. Vietnam will just have to be a agree-to-disagree subject, as I suspect Iraq will be a few years hence (Blair’s “history will vindicate me” not withstanding): many people will consider both conflicts avoidable quagmires, others will say they were merely doing the right thing. Ultimately, both will be judged on utilitarian grounds (which, unwittingly, are exactly the grounds on which people have judged them in the present) – did Vietnam lead to greater happiness for more people, or more pain? Objectively, there’s no real debate the latter’s true, but there are clearly a lot of [physcological] wounds about the political context in America at the time; the same may well happen with Iraq, and I can’t see why political opponents aren’t just more forgiving on this subject. Henry’s right to point out the likelihood of politicians playing with the truth though – far too much of present day and past (ie Vietnam) acrimony has been caused by unsavoury leaders pushing nasty propaganda and it’s about time decent Republican voters in the States called their own leaders to account for it.

12

soubzriquet 11.15.05 at 8:09 pm

sebastian, I won’t speak for him of course but I read it as meaning something quite different. To wit, that if we take two facts together: a) We know that some people will lie about past events to prop up current beliefs, and b) the apparent complete lack of any contemporaneous media coverage whatsoever, we are forced to conclude that if such events existed at all it was *extremely* unlikely to have been widespread (and therebye significant). It was also noted that the so-called `debunking’ that asg posted is far too weak (due to above) to deserve the name. As noted by comparison to the swift boats debacle, 60 retroactive claims isn’t really very meaningful in the absence of any real evidence.

Myself, I don’t have any conviction one way or another, and if spitting incidents did happen it was hardly the worst either side got up to at the time. Not even close. So, as they say, `whatever’; but the logical fallacy you see isn’t there.

13

Donald Johnson 11.15.05 at 8:15 pm

Here’s a pro-Lembke link at Slate–

http://www.slate.com/id/1005224/

It occurs to me that Lembke isn’t the only one who could review news stories of the era, so if there aren’t any reports from that time frame about people spitting on veterans than it might say something about how widespread a phenomenon it was.

Personally I’d be surprised if, out of over 2 million Vietnam vets (I think that’s the right number, but I’m not going to google for it), there were no cases where some self-righteous antiwar protestor spat on a vet, just at there were cases where people spat on antiwar protestors. Probably the saliva flowed both ways. I’d also be surprised if years later, there weren’t false memories of such things.

I’m of the school of thought that believes it’s more outrageous that the US was bombing dikes and destroying villages and bombing some parts of southeast Asia so heavily that people were forced to live in caves and work in their fields at night than it is that some tiny fraction of the antiwar movement might or might not have behaved like jerks towards some veterans, or that some conservatives behaved like jerks towards antiwar protestors. I’d be all in favor of a truth commission to investigate all these atrocities- the bombing,the shelling, the tiger cages, the torture, the assassinations, the massacres, the use of Agent Orange, and also the atrocities committed by the communists. And yes, the spitting too. And Jane Fonda. Any decent American would simply have accepted the governmental claim that we weren’t bombing dikes, so just what was that woman doing over there anyway?

This is what makes American democracy such a beacon to the world–our willingness to turn the spotlight on our own sins and unflinchingly gaze into the abyss.

14

tom bach 11.15.05 at 8:23 pm

The article to which Mr. Holschlaw links is not convincing. Beyond the veiled Lembcke is a commie remark and thus necessarily unreliable, Mr. Schwartz belittles Lembcke for expecting expectoration to capture on film. However, as Mr. Schwartz himself admits Lembcke also search printed matter. Mr. Schwartz would seem to misrepresent Mr. Lembcke’s research. The snearing remark about tv defining historical reality, in other words, ignores Lembchke’s use of other documents, and what is more, forwards the bizarre claim that for historians of modern America tv defines reality, difficult to maintain in this case given Mr. Perlstein’s recommendation of consulting the Nixon archives. Mr. Schwartz seems to construct not one but two strawmen.

In addition, Mr. Lembcke’s complaint about the nature of the question asked the vetrans and the comments about the resulting unreliability of recollections of things past is a telling critique. It is not, of course, iron-clad evidence of misrepresenting reality, but the possiblity that asking some one if he was spat upon after stories of peace-niks spitting on vetrans have gained wide, if undocumented, circulation does rather seem to offer an answer in the guise of posing a question.

In terms of present images conditioning the narration of the past, there is a famous story about one of the first films ever shown. It involves credulous Parisians rushing screaming for the show because of the image of a train rushing into a station. A reliable informant tells me that there are no contemporaneous accounts of the panic stricken Parisians. There is, however, Uncle Josh, a character in some of the most popular plays in the years before the development of film who quickly found a place in the pantheon of early American cinema’s stock characters. In many of these films, the country-fried rube Uncle Josh routinely mistakes film for reality, rushing the stage to portect the women abused by Snidley Whiplash or his dopplegangers, trembling in fear at the sight of trains onward rushing and so on. Her claim is that these images offered an delicious, if false, image to later historians of cinema who, despite the lack of evidence, replaced the Parisians’ response, which seems to have been interest, excitment, and entertainment, with Uncle Josh’s.

15

Donald Johnson 11.15.05 at 8:23 pm

I left out a phrase at the beginning of my previous post. The slightly revised version is–

It occurs to me that someone besides Lembke could review the news accounts of the time and if this confirms that there were no contemporary reports of veterans being spat upon, then it probably wasn’t a widespread occurence.

16

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.15.05 at 8:33 pm

Does anyone have access to the Christopher Andersen book “Citizen Jane”? According to wikipedia, it has a quote in which:

“When cases of torture began to emerge among POWs returning to the United States, Fonda called the returning POWs “hypocrites and liars” (Andersen, p. 266) She added, “These were not men who had been tortured. These were not men who had been starved. These were not men who had been brainwashed.””

Is this an accurate characterization? Where does this quote come from?

17

LizardBreath 11.15.05 at 8:56 pm

Personally I’d be surprised if, out of over 2 million Vietnam vets (I think that’s the right number, but I’m not going to google for it), there were no cases where some self-righteous antiwar protestor spat on a vet, just at there were cases where people spat on antiwar protestors.

This is probably true. Nonetheless, it seems reasonable to say that if spitting on vets were common, there’d be contemporaneous accounts. I can’t imagine being able to prove that something never happened, but without contemporaneous accounts, I’d say it can’t have happened all that much.

18

Donald Johnson 11.15.05 at 8:58 pm

BTW, if you click on the Slate link and scroll down you’ll find some Vietnam vets wrote in to say that they personally had been spat upon. I doubt false memories explain all such cases.
A protest movement with millions of people in it is likely to contain some who are immature.

But I stand by my earlier snark. There’s something a little unbalanced in a mindset which focuses on the idiocy of some antiwar protestors and cheerfully ignores the massive war crimes they were protesting.

19

roger 11.15.05 at 9:14 pm

Actually, much worse than spitting on the vets coming home was covering up atrocities that the U.S. Army routinely committed in Vietnam. And no, this wasn’t Green Berets spitting on peasants. It took the Toledo Blade plus 36 years before we found out what the Tiger Force elite unit was killing hundreds of unarmed people in Vietnam in 1967, that the army found out about it, and that they covered it up — interestingly, the case was definitively buried by Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, in 1975. This is merely one incident, but because the Blade covered it in depth, we now know something about it. As the Blade concluded:

“Since the war ended, the American public has been fed a dose of movies fictionalizing the excesses of U.S. units in Vietnam, such as Apocalypse Now and Platoon. But in reality, most war-crime cases focused on a single event, like the My Lai massacre.

The Tiger Force case is different. The atrocities took place over seven months, leaving an untold number dead – possibly several hundred civilians, former soldiers and villagers now say.

One medic said he counted 120 unarmed villagers killed in one month.”

And the 18 soldiers that the army concluded definitely committed war atrocities. Hmm, perhaps they were spit on, but they were never charged with anything. Because you could get away with scalping, with rape, with torture, with kicking out the gold teeth in the mouth of your prisoner, and with anything you please in 1967, if you were in the Tiger Force.
Because… because it was all about freedom.

20

Wrong 11.15.05 at 10:24 pm

Surely the correct response to the pictures of Fonda in the anti-aircraft gun is not to say, “oh but, you know, she felt bad about it later.” We should say, rather, that the Vietnamese were right to shoot down the American planes that were bombing them. The fact that this obvious point seems somehow out of bounds in American political discourse disturbs me.

21

Rick Perlstein 11.15.05 at 10:29 pm

I don’t feel like wading into this debate all the way. I hope you’ll excuse me if I just duck in here with one comment. Lembcke does indeed write about awful treatment that returning Vietnam veterans received–from World War II veterans who thought they were punks who’d lost “their” war. The antiwar movement treated Vietnam veterans much better. The need to stigmatize the anti-warriors is a psychological strategy of innocence for all kinds of unsavory stuff. That’s the point.

Sebastian, riddle me this: why is what we remember about Fonda’s North Vietnam trip is the anti-aircraft photo, and not the fact that, after she produced filmed evidence we had begun bombing dikes in a campaign that could have killed hundreds of thousands of people (Nixon is on tape saying we should nuke them), the administration (a) stopped denying it wasn’t bombing dikes; and (b) stopped bombing the dikes?

Consider, also, this: Fonda was wildly insensitive to call POWs liars. Be that as it may, we must be grownups and acknowledge that some of them were, in fact, liars–like, to take the most innocent example,which is near the top of my review, the guy who claimed he heard Jane Fonda over the prison loudspeakers in 1967, when she only began speaking out against the war in 1970. And the evidence POWs were briefed to lie by the government is very, very compelling. Seymour Hersh wrote about this in an excellent series in 1971.

The bottom line of my piece: villifying Fonda was the strategy of a far greater villain to distract from the awful things he was doing.

22

Rick Perlstein 11.15.05 at 10:47 pm

PS: as for the other quote in the “Citizen Jane” book, “These were not men who had been tortured. These were not men who had been starved. These were not men who had been brainwashed”–the best evidence we have, and I came at the question very carefully from several different angles before comoing to the conclusion, is that, concerning the men she met, they were not. Which was her point.

The story from the one guy who did claim he was tortured was a total fraud, and he retreated (probably in shame) soon after.

Let me explain the passage you find illogical very slowly. POWs who were against the war were threatened with court martials if they didn’t play ball. They played ball. The pressure to play ball was sufficient that one of them committed suicide rather than play ball.

Clear enough? It was an evil episode in American history, far more evil than anything Jane Fonda did or even could have done. If you want to defend it, fine; but the burden on you is to defend the Nixon administration at its very most venal, callous, exploitive (to the POWS which, as I establish in the piece, it habitually treated like shit), and mendacious.

But by all means, try.

23

rollo 11.15.05 at 10:55 pm

After Kent State – the incident at Kent State where young people protesting the Viet Nam war were gunned down by the National Guard, four of them dying from officially sanctioned bullets – things became a lot harder to discern in the twilight world of anti-war protests and demonstrations.
There were no technologies of communication then beyond the telephone and the post office and direct contact. The killing of protestors sent a wave of terror through a lot of innocent young people, as it was intended to.
In California, in the weeks after Kent State we heard of bloody confrontations in Arizona and elsewhere, but we had no way of knowing, the rumors of repressive violence weren’t easy to verify until years later.
At the time there was a sense of massive pulling back, caesura, retreat. Goin’ to the country.
In the midst of that I know were many soldiers whose return, which should have been welcome and soothing, and healing, was marked by distrust and veiled antagonism.
Spit isn’t really the issue, nor is overt insult. There was a chasm between a lot of the soldiers and their contemporaries, especially in the hinterlands, where fashion had a lot to do with kids’ attitudes. And these were kids, most of them.
Jane Fonda was a symbol to some, but not to all. The Chicago Seven were like a rock and roll band, the infamous trial was like a concert festival, and not just in the obvious way.
There was more going on than the officially sanctioned polarities being acted out. Fonda was like the anti-flag decal, sneering at her would get the dimmer patriots a secure place in heaven.
But then she was right, generally, over all. The war was a mistake that bloomed into tragedy. It should never have happened, and the damage of it continues to this day. Aid and comfort to the enemy has nothing to do with it.
McCain and the others who graduated from the Hanoi Hilton were no more central to what it was all about than Fonda. All those names on the Wall.
Personal tales, narratives and symbols. The real story’s much bigger, darker, and filled with unresolved sorrow.
The frame out of which the derogation of Fonda emerges requires a defense of her in that b&w image. Screw the frame.
Lightweights abounded in those days, but not everyone fit into their readymade boxes and bags.

24

Rick Perlstein 11.15.05 at 11:19 pm

Rollo, can you interview me at perlstein@aol.com? I’m hungry for stories about the post-Kent State rumors for my next book.

25

kei & yuri 11.15.05 at 11:48 pm

The military takes this for granted and retells it often. Like a lot of quaint explanations of how a handful of celebrities lost the war for us it doesn’t stand ten seconds’ scrutiny, but survives by repetition and ignoring refutation. Compare the “spat-upon vet,” which, like the idea that criticism is some kind of treason that magically aids the enemy and hurts our side, is a German transplant. Think about it: what combat-fresh vet is going to let a scrawny unwashed longhair look at him the wrong way? Thanks to Perlstein for giving it a thorough treatment.

26

RedWolf 11.15.05 at 11:59 pm

Henry and Perlstein make an excellent point and Fonda is not it. The new Bush/Rove campaign explicitly follows the Vietnam era demonization and its success for the right.

27

Rick Perlstein 11.16.05 at 12:04 am

I mean, Rollo, can you email me? I want to interview you about your recollections.

28

bad Jim 11.16.05 at 12:11 am

I attended Berkeley from 1968-72, and hung out there for a few years afterwards. Veterans were pretty common, on campus and off, and I don’t recall any particular stigma attaching to them (apart from the fact that they tended to be older). Until 1970 or so, most of us males expected to be drafted, after all, and the applicable attitude was “There but for the grace of God go I”.

One friend spent three years in the army, another four years in the navy. It was practically unavoidable back then.

29

Gene O'Grady 11.16.05 at 12:18 am

I was an anti-war protester from 1965 on. Like to think I was serious and informed, but who knows? One thing that was obvious to me at the time was that there were a lot of jerks (since I think worse language is not allowed on this weblog) in the “movement” after 1968 or so. So the spitting is certainly not impossible, but it seems a little unlikely to me — I’d expect namecalling, much of it juvenile. Besides, a lot of the more irresponsible anti-war protestors were pretty strung out by that time, so it seems a little unlikely they would have been looking to fight with combat veterans. While I respected many, probably most, of the people who served (as opposed to the George W Bushes of this world), there was a lot of not violence not too far below the surface in some of the military; I remember some veterans speaking of it with distaste and some fear. And my father and other World War II veterans expressing a distinct unease about what had happened to the military in which they had served with pride.

On the diversity of protest, a story I heard at the time, which may have been true, concerned one of the more colorful fellows I knew in college who was said to have taken a job in a family business after graduation running a prostitution ring in Utica New York. (I have never been to Utica, so I can’t say how plausible that is.) One of his college acquaintances was organizing a demonstration in front of the local draft board, so he offered his girls to help in the picket line. Unfortunately they took the opportunity to proposition some of the passers-by, so the whole dissolved in farce.

On a far more serious note, I think the thing that bothers me about the spitting myth is that it postulates far deeper differences between people who had served in the military and those who stayed out and opposed the war. My recollection of 1970-1 is that both groups were aware that there was something very wrong and were trying with some humility to address what it was. It was probably different in 1966, but there weren’t a lot of hippies around then to do the spitting. Certainly at my draft physical in 1969 I did not feel any hostility with the kids from the ghetto or the country who seemed to have the same concerns and misgivings I did. The one guy we shook our heads at was the idiot who mouthed off and goosestepped ostentatiously to make what he thought was a point.

When I was a beginning graduate student in 1969, one of my fellow first year students, now a very distinguished scholar, had been in ROTC and spent a year as an artillery captain Viet Nam while was in protests in Massachusetts. He was in fact far more bitter and cynical about the war than I ever was. In addition to the petty corruption that reminds one of General Schwarzkopf’s comment about hating what Viet Nam did to the Army, he was appalled at the waste and dishonesty when he was expected to fire a certain number of rounds into the jungle every night and then write a report specifying the body count the colonel would claim. I strongly suspect the whole point of the spitting legend is to try remove that part of our collective history.

30

Thomas 11.16.05 at 12:18 am

This is fascinating stuff, in part for the attempt to re-establish an old narrative about the Vietnam war, and in part for what that effort tells us about the coming battles over the Iraq war. The first part is not entirely successful, in large part because a reader new to the controversies is unlikely to find Perlstein an entirely trustworthy guide. The second part, we’ll we’ll get to that.

Perlstein suggests that the reaction to Fonda is best understood by the various urban legends that have grown up around her visit to Hanoi. Why is never explained. I mean, one would think that those various urban legends are interesting, and meaningful, and worthy of study, and all the rest. But why would we think that these stories, many untrue, are the best way of understanding the reaction to the very real things that Fonda did? No explanation is offered, and for the very good reason that there isn’t any.

Now, before getting sidetracked, it may be helpful to set out exactly what Fonda is accurately accused of doing. This, for example, is the account at Snopes:

“Aside from visiting villages, hospitals, schools, and factories, Fonda also posed for pictures in which she was shown applauding North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gunners, was photographed peering into the sights of an NVA anti-aircraft artillery launcher, and made ten propagandistic Tokyo Rose-like radio broadcasts in which she denounced American political and military leaders as “war criminals.” She also spoke with eight American POWs at a carefully arranged “press conference,” POWs who had been tortured by their North Vietnamese captors to force them to meet with Fonda, deny they had been tortured, and decry the American war effort. Fonda apparently didn’t notice (or care) that the POWs were delivering their lines under duress or find it unusual the she was not allowed to visit the prisoner-of-war camp (commonly known as the “Hanoi Hilton”) itself. She merely went home and told the world that “[the POWs] assured me they were in good health. When I asked them if they were brainwashed, they all laughed. Without exception, they expressed shame at what they had done.” She did, however, charge that North Vietnamese POWs were systematically tortured in American prison-of-war camps.

“To add insult to injury, when American POWs finally began to return home (some of them having been held captive for up to nine years) and describe the tortures they had endured at the hands of the North Vietnamese, Jane Fonda quickly told the country that they should “not hail the POWs as heroes, because they are hypocrites and liars.” Fonda said the idea that the POWs she had met in Vietnam had been tortured was “laughable,” claiming: “These were not men who had been tortured. These were not men who had been starved. These were not men who had been brainwashed.” The POWs who said they had been tortured were “exaggerating, probably for their own self-interest,” she asserted. She told audiences that “Never in the history of the United States have POWs come home looking like football players. These football players are no more heroes than Custer was. They’re military careerists and professional killers” who are “trying to make themselves look self-righteous, but they are war criminals according to law.” “

“Whether the actions Jane Fonda actually did undertake during her visit to North Vietnam were legally treasonous or not, her behavior engendered widespread contempt among servicemen and their families, especially since she acted not as a reckless youth who rashly spouted ill-considered opinions now best forgotten but as a 34-year-old adult who should be expected to bear full responsibility for her actions. …

“Ever since her infamous visit to Hanoi, Jane Fonda has maintained the fiction that she was just “trying to stop the war.” But she didn’t go to North Vietnam to try to bring about peace, or to reconcile the two warring sides, or to stop American boys from being killed — she went there as an active show of support for the North Vietnamese cause. She lauded the North Vietnamese military, she denounced American soldiers as “war criminals” and urged them to stop fighting, she lobbied to cut off all American economic aid to the South Vietnamese government (even after the Paris Peace Accords had ended U.S. military involvement in Vietnam), she publicly thanked the Soviets for providing assistance to the North Vietnamese, and she branded tortured American POWs as liars possessed of overactive imaginations”

31

Bob B 11.16.05 at 12:36 am

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

I feel sure the world is suitably impressed by President Bush’s public lectures on the greater benefits of democracy as a form of government over the alternatives.

Has he considered delivering this same lecture in Israel?

Sharon’s son faces jail for election fraud
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,251-1872723,00.html

Sharon’s son faces jail in corruption case
http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,1643498,00.html

32

Thomas 11.16.05 at 12:44 am

What does Perlstein do with these facts? Well, with most, he simply ignores them. If he were to actually confront these facts, that’d destroy the point he’s trying to make. Whether the war was justified or not, describing American POWs as hypocrites, liars, and war criminals–as Fonda did–is, on most accounts, probably sufficient to make one unpopular with those in the military.

And, in some crucial cases–and this is important, I think, for the connection between the Vietnam war and the current Iraq war–he simply denies that the facts are the facts. As I read it, the facts he denies are the particular accounts given by POWs. We’re told that one POW hadn’t been starved, despite what he’d said. We’re told that accounts of torture “could not have been true.” We’re told that another account of torture was proved impossible by a Nobel Prize winner in medicine (itself a tortured description meant to suggest that the winner was a doctor, when he was a biochemist and prominent opponent of the war).

We’re told, in other words, that those POWs–men like John McCain, for example– who didn’t side with Fonda (and Perlstein) against the Vietnam war were liars, or dupes.

Which, of course, is what we’ll soon be told about those American soldiers who served or are serving in Iraq who support the mission. That’s the tie between the narratives of the two wars, isn’t it?

33

Steve Burton 11.16.05 at 1:03 am

Wow. So right-wingers try to discredit the left by singling out extremists on the other side, exaggerating their faults, and then tarring all of their opponents with the same brush!

How did they ever come up with such a simple yet diabolically effective scheme? They must be evil super-geniuses!

And the stupid, ignorant, unwashed public falls for it every time.

Ah, la tristesse…la tristesse de tout ce qu’on voit…

How can the good people of the left (but I repeat myself!) hope to fight such reckless hate?

They might as well just give up right now. Because it would never, ever occur to them to try anything so perfectly horrid. Oh no. Never.

And if it did, they would refuse – on principle. Because they are just so good. So very, very good.

34

Scott LaRock 11.16.05 at 2:47 am

The problem with our movement is we let the Bushitlers and the DicKKK Cheneys demonize us without fighting back.

35

abb1 11.16.05 at 3:33 am

I’m whith Donals here. After massacring millions of innocent peasants, a few people got spit on, what a tragedy. Kissinger Discourages Exiting Iraq Early. Gees.

36

abb1 11.16.05 at 3:34 am

‘Donald’ that is, not ‘Donals’.

37

bad Jim 11.16.05 at 3:42 am

Vietnam, for those of a certain persuasion, is simply another retelling of the Dolchstoßlegende. Only the traitors are to blame for the failure.

In real time we see the same game played with Iraq. It was right, it was actually necessary, we couldn’t have postponed it even a day, lest Saddam attack us with his toy weapons first!

The worst insult is that they expect us to take their arguments seriously.

38

yabonn 11.16.05 at 5:20 am

But what if the saliva just passed very close? What do we do with the hanging spits, mmhm? And do felon saliva count the same as other’s people saliva?

Is there an estimation of the volume of saliva spat overall? Maybe weighted with the numbers of years said veteran served? Served in viet nam? Served on the front line in vietnam?

Do we know, at last, what is the exact amount of spittification that went on?

That is the question.

39

Branedy 11.16.05 at 5:22 am

Posted without comment.

This is for all the kids born in the 70’s that do not remember this, and
didn’t have to bear the burden, that our fathers, mothers, and older
brothers and sisters had to bear. Jane Fonda is being honored as one of
the “100 Women of the Century.” Unfortunately, many have forgotten and
still countless others have never known how Ms. Fonda betrayed not only
the idea of our country but specific men who served and sacrificed
during Vietnam.

The first part of this is from an F-4E pilot. The pilot’s name is Jerry
Driscoll, a River Rat. In 1978, the former Commandant of the USAF
Survival School was a POW in Ho Lo Prison-the “Hanoi Hilton.” Dragged
from a stinking cesspit of a cell, cleaned, fed, and dressed in clean
PJs, he was ordered to describe for a visiting American “Peace Activist”
the “lenient and humane treatment” he’d received. He spat at Ms.
Fonda, was clubbed, and dragged away.

During the subsequent beating, he fell forward upon the camp
Commandant’s feet, which sent that officer berserk. In ’78, the AF Col.
! still suffered from double vision (which permanently ended! his
flying days) from the Vietnamese Col.’s frenzied application of a wooden
baton. From 1963-65, Col. Larry Carrigan was in the 47FW/DO (F-4Es).
He spent 6 -years in the “Hilton”- the first three of which he was
“missing in action,” His wife lived on faith that he was still alive.
His group, too, got the cleaned, fed, clothed routine in preparation for
a “peace delegation” visit.

They, however, had time and devised a plan to get word to the world that
they still survived. Each man secreted a tiny piece of paper, with his
SSN on it, in the palm of his hand. When paraded before Ms. Fonda and
a cameraman, she walked the line, shaking each man’s hand and asking
little ! encouraging snippets like: “Aren’t you sorry you bombed
babies?” and “Are you grateful for the humane treatment from your
benevolent captors?” Believing this HAD to be an act, they each palmed
her their sliver of paper.

She took them all without missing a beat. At the end of the line and
once the camera stopped rolling, to the shocked disbelief of the POWs,
she turned to the officer in charge and handed him the little pile of
papers. Three men died from the subsequent beatings. Col. Carrigan was
almost number four but he survived, which is the only reason we know
about her actions that day.

I was a civilian economic development advisor in Vietnam, and was
captured by the North Vietnamese communists in South Vietnam in 1968,
and held for over 5 years. I spent 27 months in solitary confinement,
one year in a cage in Cambodia, and one year in a “black box” in Hanoi.
My North Vietnamese captors deliberately poisoned and murdered a female
missionary, a nurse in a leprosarium in Ban me Thuot, South Vietnam,
whom I buried in the jungle near the Cambodian border.

At one time, I was weighing approximately 90 lb. (My normal weight is
170 lb.) We were Jane Fonda’s “war criminals.”!

When Jane Fonda was in Hanoi, I was asked by the camp communist
political officer if I would be willing to meet with Jane Fonda. I said
yes, for I would like to tell her about the real treatment we POWs
received different from the treatment purported by the North Vietnamese,
and parroted by Jane Fonda, as “humane and lenient.” Because of this, I
spent three days on a rocky floor on my knees with outstretched arms
with a large amount of steel placed on my hands, and beaten with a
bamboo cane till my arms dipped.

40

Terry 11.16.05 at 5:29 am

I’ve noticed that not a single anti-Vietnam war commenter here has mentioned what happened in Vietnam after the peace accords, after they had achieved there goal of losing the war. To some boomers, it’s all autobiography.

41

des von bladet 11.16.05 at 6:48 am

While for some wingnuts, as has already been remarked, it’s all Dolchstoßlegende.

42

Terry 11.16.05 at 7:22 am

I wasn’t accusing them of treachery, just being more interested in political victory in the US than making a peacefull, prosperous Vietnam. Most of the protestors lost all interest in that distant land when Saigon fell.

43

Brendan 11.16.05 at 7:38 am

‘I’ve noticed that not a single anti-Vietnam war commenter here has mentioned what happened in Vietnam after the peace accords, after they had achieved there goal of losing the war. To some boomers, it’s all autobiography.’

Apart from the bad grammar, isn’t it interesting that ‘stab in the back’ theorists of the war (such as the person who posted the quote above), invariably talk about the US ‘losing’ the war, and not (an arguably more accurate description) about the Vietnamese winning the war? I.e. the war in their country?

Remember, we talk about the ‘Vietnam’ war. In Vietnam they talk about the ‘American’ war.

One last thing. It’s nice to have some honesty, even without the mea culpas we might hope for.

At the time of the Vietnam war, we will remember, we were told that this was a civil war between two discrete entities: the North Vietnamese and the ‘South Vietnamese’: South Vietnam, apparently, being this new country that had just appeared that ‘asked’ the US to help ‘defend it’. The war was between South and North Vietnam. (The key fighting forces in North Vietnam, of course, were always described as the ‘Communists’ although of course the NLF was a pan-Vietnamese national liberation movement, in which the Communists merely played a part: ‘The National Liberation Front had long and historic roots in Vietnam. Used earlier in the century by the Communists to mobilize anti-French forces, the united front brought together Communists and non-Communists in an umbrella organization that had limited, but important goals. On December 20, 1960, the Party’ s new united front, the National Liberation Front (NLF), was born. Anyone could join this front as long as they opposed Ngo Dinh Diem.‘)

Now, however, we hear (in fact it is trumpeted) that the US ‘lost’ the war, because this was, as the anti-war side always claimed, a war between the US and Vietnam, in which the US invaded, and were then kicked out by a superior military force. Nice to hear a bit of honesty at last.

Of course the pro-invasion side have rather different reasons for ‘stab in the back’ that led to American ‘defeat’, preferring to blame Jews, freemasons and Communists, rather than accept the fact that the war was unwinnable, but still.

44

abb1 11.16.05 at 8:18 am

I’ve noticed that not a single anti-Vietnam war commenter here has mentioned what happened in Vietnam after the peace accords, after they had achieved there goal of losing the war.

What? Has it deteriorated to the point of becoming a widely despised country with the highest incarceration rate in the world, or something?

45

Terry 11.16.05 at 8:37 am

“Apart from the bad grammar, isn’t it interesting that ‘stab in the back’ theorists of the war (such as the person who posted the quote above), invariably talk about the US ‘losing’ the war, and not (an arguably more accurate description) about the Vietnamese winning the war? I.e. the war in their country?”
I guess your implying that the Koreans lost the Korean War since we still have troops on the peninsula. And once again I note another anti-war commenter who stops all discussion of Vietnam with the end of the US presence there. All I’m saying is that for most of the anti-war protesters their concern for oppressed peasants of SE Asia ended in April 1975. That shouldn’t be a controversial statement, anymore than that the US fought the war in a way that guarenteed we’d never have more than a stalemate.

46

Steve 11.16.05 at 9:03 am

Aside from all the meanderings of this discussion, re; the original post: is it possible to have a more misguided and plain wrong post? A discussion of the “Jane Fonda Myth” which was clearly not a myth (smiling and laughing on an enemy anti-aircraft gun is, well, not mythical), followed by the ‘spitting on veterans’ myth in spite of the fact that it wasn’t a myth, and even quoting Che Guevara (who was himself a summary executioner who enjoyed shooting prisoners in the back of the head-but at least he was a) left wing, and b) good looking). I can’t think of a more tone-deaf combination of obtuseness and pure wrongheadedness in a long long time.

Steve

47

abb1 11.16.05 at 9:11 am

All I’m saying is that for most of the anti-war protesters their concern for oppressed peasants of SE Asia ended in April 1975.

Right – peasants of SE Asia are inferior creatures unable to take care of themselves; we all should be concerned about them. Heartless anti-war protesters crudely frustrated American patriots’ compassionate attempts to take care of the unfortunate peasants. How sad.

48

Brendan 11.16.05 at 9:17 am

‘smiling and laughing on an enemy anti-aircraft gun is, well, not mythical’.

My point again. ‘The enemy’? Oh you mean an enemy of the UNITED STATES??? Remind me when the US declared war on Vietnam again? Can’t you guys even stay on message? Remember the litany: we have no quarrel with the people of Vietnam. We are merely helping out our ally South Vietnam against the North Vietnamese. The South Vietnamese are fighting a purely defensive war against the North Korean Communists who are (for no reason whatsoever) intent on invasion.

49

Henry 11.16.05 at 9:20 am

Steve – to the extent that this thread has meandered, it’s thanks to people like you who want to turn this into a trial of Jane Fonda rather than an examination of the point that Rick was making – that regardless of the stupidity of Fonda’s actions, there was a quite vicious directed campaign by the Nixon administration to discredit the anti-war movement by creating a set of myths. Your comment seems to me to be a quite deliberate attempt to blow hot air and distract – cf the ridiculously off-topic attack on Che Guevara. Perhaps I’m being unfair, but I don’t think so. I can’t do better than to repeat Rick’s response to Sebastian above.

POWs who were against the war were threatened with court martials if they didn’t play ball. They played ball. The pressure to play ball was sufficient that one of them committed suicide rather than play ball. Clear enough? It was an evil episode in American history, far more evil than anything Jane Fonda did or even could have done. If you want to defend it, fine; but the burden on you is to defend the Nixon administration at its very most venal, callous, exploitive (to the POWS which, as I establish in the piece, it habitually treated like shit), and mendacious.

If that’s what you want to do, go ahead. But be aware of exactly what you’re doing. And that it doesn’t smell very good.

50

abb1 11.16.05 at 9:38 am

Can I see some links documenting Che Guevara shooting prisoners in the back of the head and enjoying it, please?

Thanks.

51

Thomas 11.16.05 at 10:05 am

I just want to make it clear that, when Henry repeats Rick’s calumny, he’s referring, specifically, to John McCain, and people like him. Let’s be clear who it is that Henry (and Rick) are accusing of being liars. It isn’t just Nixon–it’s the POWs who didn’t take the right line on the war.

It’s an interesting way of dealing with testimony contrary to the approved story line. “Well, of course they’d say that–they were forced to. Secretly, they agreed with me.”

52

Henry 11.16.05 at 10:17 am

Thomas – are you able to read the English language? Or are you simply being dishonest? Go and read Rick’s article.

bq. The enemy, pointing to America’s refusal to declare war, declared themselves outside the requirements of the Geneva Conventions. They tortured prisoners, at least until 1970, when, most experts agree, international pressure brought such treatment to an end.

At no stage does Rick deny that American PoW’s were tortured; he explicitly and directly acknowledges this. Instead, he points out, entirely correctly, that PoW’s who didn’t conform to the script were threatened with court-martial. I’ll point out that Rick is a historian who’s writing a book on this period. I’ll point out that his previous book on the rise of the modern conservative movement won “glowing praise”:http://www.nytimes.com/books/01/04/01/reviews/010401.01kristot.html from conservatives such as William Kristol (also “here”:http://www.brothersjudd.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/reviews.detail/book_id/857/Before%20the%20S.htm ). He’s demonstrably not a hack. You, on the other hand …

53

Brendan 11.16.05 at 10:24 am

‘it’s the POWs who didn’t take the right line on the war’.

No it’s the POWs who (understandably enough) caved into administration pressure and lied that they had been tortured when in fact they had not (and in some cases could not have been).

(Note: don’t get me wrong, I am not playing the hero here. If I had been brutalised by the war and then threatened with a court martial, I might well have played ball too. The moral responsibility for this lies, not with the soldiers, but with the politicians and the generals).

From the article: ‘The tiger cages were exposed by the anti-war movement in 1969, the first year of Nixon’s presidency. Shortly afterwards, the Vietcong released two American prisoners. The Pentagon sent them on tour after briefing them to tell stories of torture that journalists demonstrated could not have been true. Lieutenant Robert Frishman said he’d been starved, for example, but he weighed the same after 18 months in the US as he did when he left captivity.’

I note that none of the anti-Fonda-ers is prepared to condemn the far worse tortures that occurred in the South Vietnamese ‘state’ (in reality of course South Vietnam was a creation of the French and the US).

54

Answer Guy 11.16.05 at 10:31 am

US fought the war in a way that guarenteed we’d never have more than a stalemate.

This means one of three things. Either the poster has not the slightest idea of what actually went on during the war, he does not grasp what it would have required in terms of blood and treasure to accomplish what he would have liked to accomplish in Vietnam, or he means that nuclear weapons should have been used. Aside from being a war crime of the highest order had it occurred, it’s not at all clear what good nuking Vietnam could possibly have accomplished and fairly easy to discern possible (and likely) negative rammifications.

55

engels 11.16.05 at 10:44 am

Thomas – Rick Perlstein explicitly said that some that some of the anti-Fonda POWs lied so your

Let’s be clear who it is that Henry (and Rick) are accusing of being liars

does not have the revelatory force that you appear to think it does. As he says

Fonda was wildly insensitive to call POWs liars. Be that as it may, we must be grownups and acknowledge that some of them were, in fact, liars

There are several examples in his article: one who claimed to have heard Fonda’s voice over the prison PA in 1967 (she first spoke out against the war in 1970), another who claimed to have been starved although his weight was normal, a third who claimed to have been tortured in a way which was demonstrated to have been physiologically impossible. If you are going to say that Rick is wrong then you will have to deny these, and the first one in particular is indisputable. So I don’t think you have an argument here.

56

engels 11.16.05 at 10:59 am

Rick also says that Fonda was a victim of “liberal masochism”

the fantasy of perfectly reasonable liberals, besieged on all sides by perfectly bigoted conservatives. Its purest form is the redemption narrative in which the pure-hearted liberal converts the bigots by the sheer force of reason – as in Twelve Angry Men.

The easiest way to rid oneself of this fantasy is to try to imagine what this film would have been like with people like Thomas and Steve on the jury. A few hours spent in this comment section is enough to cure most liberals of this kind of idealism. If only Jane Fonda had read CT…

57

Steve 11.16.05 at 11:21 am

“But that isn’t the point – the Nixon administration and its supporters engaged in a systematic campaign of misinformation to make Fonda and anti-war veterans into hate-figures.”

The whole point: it wasn’t a myth or a construction or Nixon or top secret operatives that turned Jane Fonda into a hate-figure: it was Jane Fonda.

“to generate a set of pernicious myths that last to this day (not only Hanoi Jane’s treachery, but bogus stories about anti-war protesters spitting on veterans).”

Hanoi Jane wasn’t a pernicious myth-it was Jane Fonda. And ant-war protesters spitting on veterans wasn’t a pernicious myth-it happened (even the posters here admit it). Once you get your head around these very basic facts, the entire post sort of falls apart, doesn’t it?

Steve

“to the extent that this thread has meandered, it’s thanks to people like you who want to turn this into a trial of Jane Fonda”

You’ve got to be kidding. The post is titled “The Myth of Jane Fonda.” The topic of the post is the argument that the Jane Fonda was actually a politically manufactured anti-war protester. And I’m turning the discussion into one about Jane Fonda, by questioning the central premise of the post? That’s beyond ridiculous.

“Can I see some links documenting Che Guevara shooting prisoners in the back of the head and enjoying it, please?

Thanks”

Go to NationalReview.com And yes, I realize you don’t trust that source.

“I note that none of the anti-Fonda-ers is prepared to condemn the far worse tortures that occurred in the South Vietnamese ‘state’ (in reality of course South Vietnam was a creation of the French and the US).”

I think torture is bad.

58

Thlayli 11.16.05 at 11:43 am

… one of the more colorful fellows I knew in college who was said to have taken a job in a family business after graduation running a prostitution ring in Utica New York. (I have never been to Utica, so I can’t say how plausible that is.)

Utica is on an interstate (I-90, the New York State Thruway), so a business case could be made for a truck-stop operation.

59

Henry 11.16.05 at 11:55 am

Steve – let me repeat again, in plain language, so that there can be no danger of inadvertant misunderstanding. As jet pointed out at the very beginning of this conversation, the point of the post and of Rick’s review wasn’t a defence of Jane Fonda – Rick is in fact quite critical of the hagiographical tendencies in the book that he’s reviewing. It’s that Jane Fonda’s actions were turned, quite deliberately, into a myth by the Nixon administration. Jane Fonda’s character is entirely irrelevant to the question of whether the Nixon administration and its supporters engaged in a deliberate campaign of deceit. Do you want to deny the factual assertions supporting this argument that Rick makes? Let’s see your counter-evidence.

This whole sorry set of “critiques” is remarkably reminiscent of the similarly bogus attempts by many conservatives (I can’t remember whether you were one of them) to try to change the subject on Plame affair from the question of whether the Bush administration in fact revealed the identity of a NOC operative, to the entirely irrelevant question of whether or not Joseph Wilson was an admirable character. Then, as now, it was an attempt to duck the real issue.

60

abb1 11.16.05 at 12:11 pm

Go to NationalReview.com And yes, I realize you don’t trust that source.

Steve, nationalreview.com can’t be a source of information about Che – it’s merely an online magazine. Post the link to a relevant article on nationalreview.com, I’ll read it, hopefully it cites the sources.

Thanks.

61

abb1 11.16.05 at 12:18 pm

The topic of this thread is quite trivial, btw.

Both sides try to delegitimize opposition, demonize, change the subject, etc.; there’s nothing new or especially interesting about that. Republicans are nastier usually, but so what.

62

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.16.05 at 12:20 pm

“Let me explain the passage you find illogical very slowly. POWs who were against the war were threatened with court martials if they didn’t play ball. They played ball. The pressure to play ball was sufficient that one of them committed suicide rather than play ball.”

This when coupled with the rest of your discussion with me is the fudamentalist Christian style of argumentation. You might as well be arguing for intelligent design.

There are three types of evidence you consider.

1. Those who have evidence which support your thesis. You classify them as truth tellers.

2. Those who have evidence you don’t agree with but were anti-war. You classify all of them as pressured to lie.

3. Those who have evidence you don’t agree with and were pro-war. You classify all of them as liars.

You also commit a classic fallacy by suggesting that because there exists one POW liar about the topic of torture, that they all must have lied.

The funny thing is that you can’t come right out and say “Very few or no US POWs were tortured in Vietnam.” You craft your argument as if that were true, you defend Jane Fonda as if her blanket statement about POWs is correct, but you can’t actually say such a silly thing so you can’t talk about it explicitly.

Explicitly, do you think that POWs were tortured in Vietnam? If yes, then as a grownup, don’t you have to admit that Jane Fonda’s statements about them as they returned were not just blandly “insensitive” but rather cruel? Wouldn’t a grownup have to admit that it is possible that people who have been tortured and their friends and people who would have been tortured if they had been captured might be justifiably angry at all being tarred as hypocrites and liars right when they return. If you have trouble empathizing, imagine if a large group of leftist friends got called Communist. They didn’t even get tortured and they still might get angry. You might get angry on their behalf. You wouldn’t need the government to tell you to be angry. You would be angry because of what that nasty person said. Magnify that by being actually tortured or knowing someone who got tortured and you will see that very little govenrnment work is needed for anger to be present. (This by the way is related to one of the many good arguments about why the US shouldn’t torture anyone, but that is way off topic).

In short if you wanted to focus on unfair US government manipulation of sentiment, you should have avoided Jane Fonda. The fact that POWs and their friends and family don’t like her makes lots of sense. You want to argue that Nixon manufactured outrage. But on the issue of Jane Fonda, all he had to do was nudge it a little.

Of course I could be wrong. Maybe it is your contention that no or almost no POWs were tortured. I’d like to see you affirmatively say that before I argue against such a silly thing.

63

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.16.05 at 12:34 pm

Steve nails it, “The whole point: it wasn’t a myth or a construction or Nixon or top secret operatives that turned Jane Fonda into a hate-figure: it was Jane Fonda.”

If you want to understand why lots of vets really hate her, you don’t have to appeal to Nixonian trickery. You can look at what she did on the anti-aircraft guns, listen to what she said on the North Korean broadcasts and listen to what she said to US POWs.

If you want to make a case that Nixon UNFAIRLY manipulated the media, your case is not well served by using Jane Fonda as a centerpiece. You did in fact use Jane Fonda as a centerpiece. Your case was not well served by that.

64

Answer Guy 11.16.05 at 12:38 pm

The topic of this thread is quite trivial, btw.

To the extent that it’s about whether Jane Fonda or the antiwar movement as a whole did X or Y or Z, yes it’s pretty trivial.

The broader implication is the that the “stabbed in the back” narrative has become a very mainstream one regarding the place of the Vietnam War in U.S. History and that movement conservatives are going to attempt to pull the same trick with regards to the current conflict in Iraq. The administration and its supporters are going to try to blame the consquences of their dubious choice to go to war in Iraq, their dubious methodology in pursuing that war, and their dubious judgment in executing that war on a group of people none of whom had any significant role in the decision making process. In that sense, Iraq is very much like Vietnam.

65

darkforceinc 11.16.05 at 12:44 pm

Strawman Sebastian,
Thanks for the attempt to insert another strawman into Perlstein’s ideas, we dont’ get enough of those. Seriously, he didn’t take the position that you are arguing against, and his arguments didnt’ require that as a basis.
I was wondering about one thing. I don’t recall you being against torture, or admit that torture makes people and their families angry. Oh wait! That was different! It was the Bush administration!

66

Rick Perlstein 11.16.05 at 12:49 pm

Jane Fonda was cruel. I said so in the draft. The editors changed it to “naive.” (Though I take responsibility for my words as printed. She was both cruel and naive. Basically, she was naively cruel).

And Jane Fonda contributed materially to the saving of several hundred thousand civilian lives.

We must hold both of these propositions in our mind at once.

67

abb1 11.16.05 at 1:00 pm

…movement conservatives are going to attempt to pull the same trick with regards to the current conflict in Iraq.

But of course they are. They’d be stupid not to.

What’s so special about that? Fingerpointing follows any and every failure and this is a big one.

They already started attempting to share the responsibility (‘Democrats too said Saddam was a bad guy’), but I don’t think this will work well. In this case this is unquestionably Bush’s/neocon’s affair from the beginning to the end, there’s no LBJ or JFK to blame here, they control all branches of the government, and – there’s no Jane Fonda this time. 60% of the population think the war was a mistake, the bastards are squirming, just relax and watch.

68

Henry 11.16.05 at 1:02 pm

Sebastian – you’re attributing a position to Rick which he manifestly and explicitly doesn’t take. Rhetorical questions along the line of

bq. Explicitly, do you think that POWs were tortured in Vietnam?

really aren’t much cop when Rick has said in the original article

bq. The enemy, pointing to America’s refusal to declare war, declared themselves outside the requirements of the Geneva Conventions. They tortured prisoners, at least until 1970, when, most experts agree, international pressure brought such treatment to an end.

I’ll repeat my suggestion from the beginning of this thread – you should read the linked piece carefully before jumping in with assertions about what it’s saying.

69

Thomas 11.16.05 at 1:03 pm

Sebastian, that misses the point. I’m sure Henry will tell you that pointing out problems with the argument misses the larger truth, “the Nixon administration and its supporters engaged in a systematic campaign of misinformation to make Fonda and anti-war veterans into hate-figures.” When you point out that the argument for that larger truth doesn’t hold up, well, Henry simply repeats it, this time with emphasis.

Henry, Were any POWs court martialed for their actions? How many? Count them up for us, so we can understand the seriousness of the supposed
threat. (Rick pointedly doesn’t share that information with us. Is there a reason?)

Rick may or may not be a hack, but much of this LRB piece is hackwork. This, for example: “Another, David Wesley Hoffman, had been one of the pows who volunteered to meet with Fonda. He hoped to remain in the military. He met with Pentagon officials on his release; then, on 13 April 1973, all three television networks covered a news conference in which he said he’d been hung from a hook by his broken arm until he agreed to meet with her. He may also have been threatened with court martial. To this day he refuses all requests for interviews. George Wald, a Nobel Prize winner in medicine, proved his claim was physiologically impossible.” The issue is whether Hoffman volunteered; he insists he didn’t. But Perlstein starts by telling us the conclusion. He insinuates that there were threats of a court martial; he pointedly doesn’t offer evidence, presumably because there isn’t any. He misleadingly suggests that Wald is a doctor, when he’s a biochemist, and he claims that Wald has “proved” Hoffman’s claim “physiologically impossible” (how, exactly, one “proves” that isn’t made clear). Nowhere does he tell us exactly what it is that Hoffman had to say. What would you call that, Henry? If you want to tie your credibility to this kind of work, please, feel free.

Finally, you say “Do you want to deny the factual assertions supporting this argument that Rick makes? Let’s see your counter-evidence.” The testimony of those POWs cited above doesn’t count, does it? I mean, that’s the point.

70

BigMacAttack 11.16.05 at 4:00 pm

Henry at this point it is almost comical.

Conservative Chorus –

Nixon didn’t need to manufacture a myth in order to get millions of veterans to hate Jane Fonda. The simple truth was enough.

Henry –

Good luck defending Nixon and the Vietnam War. Also, stop accusing Rick of defending Fonda and North Vietnam.

CT Chorus –

Ha ha ha ha stupid conservatives more worried about spit than bombs. Always building strawmen. You cannot reason with them.

Repeat ad infinitum.

Rick’s argument doesn’t exist in a Jane Fonda vacuum, it is meant to be extrapolated.

The short Rick Perlstein –

The evil, machiavellian, genius, Richard Nixon played upon the primitive reptilian hind brains of blue collar workers and veterans. Exploiting and fanning their natural bigotries, so that they turned not against Richard Nixon, but against the progressive/anti war movement that was trying to help them. Jane suffers from masochism. She believes that by reasoning with such people you can make them see the error of their ways. (ie realize their hatred of her and all things progressive is due to their primitive, sub conscious, ape rage.)

Not a new tune. Was it well done? I cannot really say, I find the premise so insulting and ridiculous, that I cannot say when it is well done. A bit like calling a rendition of hot cross buns a musical masterpiece. But my guess is it was well done. Rick has moments when he tries to rise above it.

‘These hard-liners were an interesting group. They were older officers, mostly, captured in the early years of the conflict, at a time when its insanity wasn’t quite so obvious. They treated their captivity as an extension of the battlefield. And as the mission to which they had pledged their lives collapsed around their ears, their attitude hardened, their resistance to their captors’ authority becoming ‘a mark of their personal heroism and endurance’.’

Is nicely juxtaposed with

‘The pows who wished to preserve their honour by maintaining that the war was wrong and that they had had a right to criticise it were cast as the agents of American defeat.’

(See in both cases post war beliefs are motivated solely by maintaining internal consistency with the righteousness of wartime actions. So Rick is making an effort to be fair and consistent.)

Still all in all it is mostly just tease and the short Rick Perlstein description fits. But maybe I am being too hard.

Anyone want to bet, if post 1970 US POWs, were treated in a manner, that Henry would consider consistent with torture?

71

roger 11.16.05 at 4:25 pm

So the point is, even if your most populous city is bombed by people who have not declared war on you, when you capture them or people on their, you cannot torture them, you cannot deprive them of sleep, you cannot strip of their clothes and degrade them, you cannot in general mistreat them, and you certainly cannot claim that their status does not come under the Geneva convention…

Hey, I like it. Let’s make it a law.

72

MQ 11.16.05 at 4:33 pm

“I’ve noticed that not a single anti-Vietnam war commenter here has mentioned what happened in Vietnam after the peace accords, after they had achieved there goal of losing the war.”

The 20 years from 1975-1995 under Hanoi were much, much better for the Vietnamese people than the 20 years 1955-75 were under the U.S.-backed French colonial regime followed by the U.S. backed south Vietnamese. If the exact same post-war events had occurred under a U.S. backed government you would be claiming it as a triumph. Vietnam is welcoming Nike factories now!

And Cambodia is not Vietnam, the Khmer Rouge were not the North Vietnamese (although the North Vietnamese supported them to keep their supply lines intact during the late 60s/early 70s). In fact the post-war Vietnamese were the ones who invaded Cambodia and stopped the Khmer Rouge, while the U.S. bombings of Cambodia helped lead to the Khmer Rouge taking power. Chalking the Cambodian genocide up to U.S. liberals is absurd when it was more than likely the evil and misguided U.S. intervention in Southeast Asia that led to the Khmer Rouge taking power.

73

abb1 11.16.05 at 4:35 pm

So the point is, even if your most populous city is bombed by people who have not declared war on you, when you capture them or people on their, you cannot torture them, you cannot deprive them of sleep, you cannot strip of their clothes and degrade them, you cannot in general mistreat them, and you certainly cannot claim that their status does not come under the Geneva convention…

You mean even if they actually did bomb your city, not just cut hear of people who might know someone perhaps connected with the bombing of your city?

Whoa, this is radical…

74

abb1 11.16.05 at 4:36 pm

‘Hair’ that is, not ‘hear’, of course.

75

Uncle Kvetch 11.16.05 at 4:49 pm

It’s funny…the evidence of actual incidences of “hippies spitting on returning vets” is somewhere between slim and nonexistent, but the myth refuses to die.

On the other hand, you don’t have to search very hard at all for evidence of far worse acts than spitting being committed against antiwar protesters:

A bloody melee last Friday, in which construction workers rampaged over antiwar protesters to the cheers of businessmen and office workers, threatens to have designated the heart of New York’s financial district as a battleground for extremists of both sides.

Even now it isn’t fully clear what went wrong–whether there weren’t enough police to maintain order or whether they let their own sympathies with the construction men outweigh their duties. What is known is that at least 300 helmeted workmen, some armed with lead pipes and crowbars, ranged freely through the financial district for almost three hours, attacking protesters and those who sought to help the injured.

[…]

As police sought to sweep the workers off the steps, the group turned and charged back into the crowd of protesters. In the panicky rush that followed, the construction workers chased fleeing demonstrators through the streets of the financial district. Those they caught, whether male or female, were beaten with whatever came to hand, including helmets and metal flag poles.

[…]

Despite the scope of the violence only six arrests were made on Friday. Three men were charged with harassment, one with disorderly conduct and two with assault. Mayor Lindsay ordered full investigation and disciplinary action, and the New York Civil Liberties Union charged that “police stood around passively and, in some isntances, joined in the assaults.”

“These hippies are getting what they deserve,” said John Halloran, one of the construction workers, while the melee was still going on. As he talked a co-worker standing with him yelled, “Damn straight,” and punched a young man in a business suit who said he disagreed.

Said George Tangel, a 35-year-old construction worker with an American flag decal on his hard hat: “I’m doing this because my brother got wounded in Vietnam, and I think this will help our boys over there by pulling this country together.”

Strangely enough, the “Hardhat Riots”–which actually took place–never made it into the hit-parade of all-time Vietnam memes, while the “Hippies throwing bags of dog shit at veterans” lives on. Funny old world we live in.

76

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.16.05 at 4:58 pm

“They tortured prisoners, at least until 1970, when, most experts agree, international pressure brought such treatment to an end.”

So was Jane Fonda correct to call the POWs liars? In classic “yes, but…” fashion Rick says no and implies yes. The thesis is that Jane Fonda is an example of Nixon unfairly causing hate against anti-war protestors. If Jane Fonda was correct, the thesis is sort-of defensible if you ignore the anti-aircraft picture and the North Korean propaganda broadcasts she willingly participated in. If Jane Fonda was incorrect, you don’t have to look to Nixon to understand why lots of people hated her–her own words and actions are explanation enough. So was she correct? No. Therefore she isn’t a very good example of what Rick is trying to show. Is this the best example he could come up with? I don’t know. It is the one he brought to the table and it doesn’t help his thesis much.

This type of error runs throughout the review. Rick assumes that those who testified that they were tortured are liars. He does this by suggesting that because some lied about being tortured that all lied. He suggests that those who lied did so because the Nixon government forced them to. Are there alternate explanations? Of course. (This is purely speculative, but absolutely plausible). If someone avoided torture by cooperating with the torturers against some of his fellows on some level and was ashamed of it, that could lead to implausible lies about how he was tortured and a suicide later. Maybe while he was avoiding torture he justified it to himself by thinking about how stupid the war was. Would I affirmatively say that is what happened? Hell no, that would be vile and slanderous and would just happen to fit with my theory. I bet the family would hate me if I were wrong–just like many hated Jane Fonda. Furthermore I have lots of empathy for people who want to avoid being tortured–I’m a big wimp.

You don’t need Nixon to explain why people hated Jane Fonda. As such, if you want to show how Nixon vilely manipulated the images of anti-war figures, you should use a non-Jane figure. Even if you think that Vietnam was completely unjustifiable on any level, it is quite probable that non-governmental actors (like POWs) might direct their hate at someone like Jane Fonda with little or no government interference. She was high profile and helped make herself high profile.

Now if we want to have some sort of generalized attack against the Vietnam war, have at it. But that has very little to do with Jane Fonda.

77

BigMacAttack 11.16.05 at 5:07 pm

Uncle Kvetch,

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A715042

Backs you up. Nobody spit.

78

jane 11.16.05 at 5:25 pm

I think you may be missing a fundamental element of the rights smear machine. They do not simply “tar the anti war left” they lump anyone who is concerned into that category.

Thus we have two thirds of the population expressing doubts, but they (and this includes Wilkerson and Scowcroft) are “some Democrats” (the bad kind) or maybe they don’t actually exist.

All dissent and even concern is claimed to belong to a certain category.

The foloishness is seen in using the cliches on the 2/3rds, these include lots of people who supported the war and even voted for Bush, but they are shooting our troops in the back.

This propensity to edit reality is one of the biggest critiques of the administration, something which the Wilson affair is simply a manifestation. There are concerns of distortions in the bureaucracy based on producing faith based intelligence that are continuing to this day.

According to Fallows it goes further, the president literally can’t see or concieve of certain concerns, they don’t exist:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/huffpost/20051114/cm_huffpost/010621;_ylt=A86.I1GMynhDWhoBRAn9wxIF;_ylu=X3oDMTBjMHVqMTQ4BHNlYwN5bnN1YmNhdA–

79

Brendan 11.16.05 at 5:47 pm

So…….am I to take it that the argument is now: ‘so what if some POWs lied about being tortured? And so what if Jane Fonda stated (entirely correctly) that the POWs she spoke to had not been tortured? The fact is that other POWs HAD been tortured (something no one denies) so…….you know….greater good and all that.’.

Am I also to take it that the ‘pro-invasion of Vietnam crowd’ are arguing that it is perfectly acceptable for the government to lie to the people if it’s in a ‘good cause’ or if it tells a ‘greater truth’ or something?

Still, lucky this is all ancient history, eh?

80

engels 11.16.05 at 6:11 pm

Therefore she isn’t a very good example of what Rick is trying to show. Is this the best example he could come up with? I don’t know. It is the one he brought to the table and it doesn’t help his thesis much.

Rick Perlstein’s essay is a review of a biography of Jane Fonda. How in God’s name could he have chosen a different “example”?

Rick assumes that those who testified that they were tortured are liars. He does this by suggesting that because some lied about being tortured that all lied.

He said that some POWs were tortured. It follows that they didn’t lie about it. Have straw men now gone into automated assembly at Holcslaw Inc?

You don’t need Nixon to explain why people hated Jane Fonda.

The aim of the essay is not to find an explanation for “why people hated Jane Fonda”. The argument is that the Nixon whitehouse led a campaign of misinformation directed at her. All you have been doing is pointing out, over and over again, that many people would have hated Fonda anyway. This completely misses the point, as Henry said at #4. But do carry on…

81

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.16.05 at 6:58 pm

“Rick Perlstein’s essay is a review of a biography of Jane Fonda. How in God’s name could he have chosen a different “example”?”

He could have chosen a different thesis. Jane Fonda is a bad example for the thesis that Nixon unfairly slammed anti-Vietnam-war activists. That is the thesis Rick is using. Perhaps that thesis doesn’t make sense while reviewing a book about Jane Fonda. The linkage between the thesis and Jane Fonda is tenuous at best.

“He said that some POWs were tortured. It follows that they didn’t lie about it.”

But he assumes that it takes Nixonian meddling to get people to hate Jane Fonda for her POW comments. It doesn’t because “some POWs were tortured” and she implied otherwise. People got mad about that. No Nixon needed. No unfair tactics needed. Jane Fonda was cruel in a show-boat fashion to people in the US military who had been tortured, and people in the US military got mad about it.

A huge problem with the review is that Rick is trying to use Jane Fonda as an example of people hating anti-Vietnam-war activists because of Nixon’s allegedly unfair portrayal of the activists. But it isn’t true. People didn’t like Jane Fonda based on the things she actually did, no unfair portrayal is needed. It may very well be that Nixon unfairly smeared SOME activists. But the smear wasn’t necessary for Fonda. Her actions incurred the hatred.

By way of analogy, Rick writes:

The reliability of such tales is suggested by a piece that appeared in the Washington Times, a right-wing daily, in 1989: a former pow, Air Force Major Fred Cherry, recalled Fonda’s voice ringing out over the prison public address system during an ‘extended torture siege’ in 1967. Fonda didn’t speak out against the war until 1970.

The reliability of Rick’s thesis is similarly suggested by the fact that he hangs it on a case where no dirty tactics were necessary to arouse intense feelings against her by members of the military or its supporters.

Now I don’t think the reliability of such tales really is damned by the fact that one of them is transparently false. So Rick’s thesis isn’t damned by the fact that Jane Fonda isn’t a good example. But the fact remains, Jane Fonda isn’t a good example for his thesis, just as it isn’t very likely that Major Fred Cherry really heard Jane Fonda’s voice piped in in 1967.

82

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.16.05 at 7:06 pm

“The argument is that the Nixon whitehouse led a campaign of misinformation directed at her.”

He suggests this as an explanation, but most of the ‘evidence’ he offers does not indicate that. He talks about urban legends but does not show that Nixon spread them. He talks about alleged court martial threats and hangs a lot on the fact that one person killed himself (explanatory note not alluded to in the article so his guess about the reason is a guess) and that someone else won’t give interviews (ambiguous at best but not indicative of a Nixonian campaign).

The evidence of a campaign by Nixon was evidence of a campaign to harrass her at the time and try to frustrate her ability to travel. Bad, yes. But very different from what is being discussed in the rest of the article.

83

roger 11.16.05 at 8:06 pm

Transposing this argument to the Iraqi point of view, one wonders what Iraqis made of the so-called liberators when they did things like Kenan Makiya, who orgasmed with joy when Baghdad was bombed in his remarks to the New Republic magazine. It is no wonder that the exile crew that the U.S. blithely inserted had next to no credit in Iraq. Turning against your country, even in a just cause — and surely opposing Hussein was just, just as protesting U.S. aggression in Southeast Asia was just — does have a ripple effect.

Perhaps American commentators who expected Allawi to sweep in the January election should have reflected that a man who could plausibly be described in Fonda-esque terms (“D.C. Iyad”) probably wouldn’t sweep in a comparable American election.

84

Rick Perlstein 11.16.05 at 10:47 pm

Sebastian, of course he unfairly slammed anti-war activists. To make it blatantly simple: Many anti-war activists called for a negotiated solution. He raised the hue and cry that those for same were un-American WHILE HE WAS CARRYING OUT A NEGOTIATED SOLUTION.

85

Steve Reuland 11.16.05 at 10:49 pm

You don’t need Nixon to explain why people hated Jane Fonda.

As I read it, the point of the review wasn’t to explain why people hated Jane Fonda. The point was to explain why there is an obsessive, cult-like hatred of Jane Fonda that is wildly incongruent with whatever sins she actually committed. And moreover, why the cult of Fonda-hate continues to this day, 30 years later, and has become an important fixture of right-wing mythos. It is as disconcerting as it is bizarre.

I think Perlstein does an admirable job of explaining what to me has always been a mystery.

86

Thomas 11.17.05 at 12:10 am

Now I think I understand it: Perlstein’s article, and his comments here, are an attempt to demonstrate Nixon’s and Fonda’s commonalities. After all both favored A NEGOTIATED SOLUTION (as Perlstein would have it) to Vietnam, and both were demonized for that. THEY’RE PRACTICALLY THE SAME!

Perlstein’s article is a marvelous misdirection–purportedly an attack on Nixon, the object, if anyone is, of obsessive, cult-like hatred, instead it is best understood as a defense. We’re to understand the overwrought hatred of a man dead for a dozen years and out of public life for more than a generation in the same way that we understand the military’s hatred of Fonda. Perlstein’s off-hand attack on Nixon’s economic policies, for example (the most liberal economic policies of any president since LBJ), is best understood as myth-making, as liberal Democrats who spent the Nixon years attacking a president known for offering them policy while offering their conservative Republican opponents rhetoric now understand that they stabbed themselves in the back with their refusal to take the many Nixonian proposals favoring their goals. A few years later, these liberal Democrats understood what they’d lost–Reagan won, and these liberal Democrats, many of them accomplished, college-educated men, realized what they’d lost. Many of them, unable to accept the consequences of their actions in the war against Nixon, were almost desperate. They kept alive the hatred of Nixon as a way to justify the horrible political consequences they faced as a result of the war.

The references to the septic tanks of subconscious rage, particularly appropriate in light of this reading of Perlstein’s article, are an argument that politics, in the end, isn’t really about reason, but about rage and revolutionary emotion. Those are the sources of the hatred of Nixon, and its power all these years later.

87

Donald Johnson 11.17.05 at 12:17 am

There’s not a big mystery to why veterans hate Jane. First, she really did say stupid things. And second, she was basically right about the barbaric nature of America’s involvement in the war. Hating Jane and the hippies who may have spat on veterans gives people an excuse to avoid facing up to the question of whether the war was a massive crime. In principle one could be nuanced about Jane and say “I despise what she said about the POW’s, but she was right to expose Nixon’s lies about the bombing of the dikes.” Somehow I doubt that’s a common point of view among the Jane-hating crowd.

88

Barry Freed 11.17.05 at 12:20 am

Thomas, your mommy called. She said it’s past time to get off the computer and get to bed. You’ve got a big day tomorrow and you don’t want to be a silly little sleepy-head now, do you?

89

Firebug 11.17.05 at 1:09 am

Personally, I find it disturbing and unhealthy that a primary focus of the 2004 Presidential election was a war that ended almost 30 years previously.

“Stab-in-the-back” legends are extremely dangerous. In a democratic society, legitimate dissent must never be equated with treason. That is why the conservative position on Vietnam is so bankrupt. Vietnam wasn’t “lost” because of some wild-eyed hippies holding marches; it was lost because (A) the Vietnamese people flat out didn’t want us there, and (B) after a decade or so of full-scale committment, most Americans were tired of pouring our blood and treasure down that rathole for no apparent return. And the exact same thing is becoming true of Iraq now.

90

Bob B 11.17.05 at 3:25 am

“most Americans were tired of pouring our blood and treasure down that rathole for no apparent return. And the exact same thing is becoming true of Iraq now.”

For no return in Iraq?

“Halliburton, the oil services and construction group once led by US vice president Dick Cheney, is in the spotlight once again over its role in the reconstruction of Iraq.

“The Houston-based firm has been given reconstruction contracts worth almost $500m so far, according to a US congressman. . . “
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/2950154.stm

91

jet 11.17.05 at 8:38 am

“The 20 years from 1975-1995 under Hanoi were much, much better for the Vietnamese people than the 20 years 1955-75 were under the U.S.-backed French colonial regime followed by the U.S. backed south Vietnamese.”

Only because there was a war going on. If you adjusted for the war, 1955-1975 would have been far better off just is the raw number of people executed/imprisoned by the state. After ’75 most of the Viet-Cong were executed or “reeducated”, the hill peoples have been oppressed, imprisoned, and executed in a similar manner to how China treated Tibetans. And if you were part of the S. Vietnamese government, of god help you, the S. Vietnamese military, you would server a prison term and might be executed for “war crimes”. Don’t forget that the Communist Vietnam government was so racist and treated its minorities so poorly that China invaded the country party in an effort to stop the mistreatment of Chinese-Vietnamese. Then there are the several hundred thousand South Vietnamese who fled the country after the war was lost. Nobody knows how many were killed or died in the South China seas.

If it was better for the Vietnamese after the war, only marginally so. And to say “much, much better” is a gross distortion of history.

I’m not sure what any of this had to do with the original post, but nobody likes to see blatant crap like this go uncontested.

92

jet 11.17.05 at 9:02 am

Firebug,
“Vietnam wasn’t “lost” because of some wild-eyed hippies holding marches;”

Oh really? Perhaps you remember the Tet offensive? Perhaps you recall how the N. Vietnamese were decimated and were in the process of organizing a cease-fire when the news started blaring Westmoreland’s request for additional troops as proof the US was losing, rather than the truth that he wanted them for a massive counter-attack that the North’s shell of an army wouldn’t have been able to face, thus further driving them to a cease-fire.

The reason the “stab-in-the-back” legend hangs around from Vietnam is because most Conservatives think the war had been effectively won after the Tet offensive, that the war was over. But that the US media turned it into a horrible loss, and caused the to drag on for years.

And for all you who can’t stop saying “We had to destroy the villiage to save it”, read this.

93

abb1 11.17.05 at 9:12 am

The Reconstruction in the US South was only marginally better than the Civil War. If you adjusted for the war, 1861-65 years were actually much better.

Talk about crap.

94

soru 11.17.05 at 9:18 am

And the exact same thing is becoming true of Iraq now..

The interesting thing about this statement is that anyone could believe it to be true.

soru

95

jet 11.17.05 at 9:28 am

abb1,
Once again you entirely miss the point. The number of killed or dead after the war is easily within a magnitude of those killed durning the war.

96

abb1 11.17.05 at 9:34 am

Nonsense.

97

Ted 11.17.05 at 11:43 am

This ‘debate’ over anti-war protesters is
similar to what is happening now over Iraq.

This war provides many parallels to the Vietnam.

In both, the US Military performed superbly.

In both, the US Civilian Leadership – or
National Command Authority – could not
clearly state what our ‘National Goals’
during the war should be.

In both, civilian opinion toward ‘support’
for the war has steadily eroded as the
conflict continued. And American casualties
increased.

South Vietnam fell to the NVA after the
US Congress decided to de-fund it’s support
of the ARVN. It is over reaching, IMHO,
to call that a ‘stab in the back’. It
is reasonable, I believe, to expect the
same sort of action being taken by a
future US Congress w/r/t Iraq.

Research for yourselves what the North
Vietnamese did to those southerners who
supported the French or Americans and
were unable to escape after the fall.
It isn’t pleasant reading.

Chances are high that once the US leaves
Iraq, which it must do eventually, those
who supported the US will be asked to
justify their actions.

I imagine that this time around, both
pro- and anti-war advocates will be
paying attention to their treatment.
This should mean that less painful
retribution will take place.

Here in the States, this time around,
both pro- and anti-war advocates seem
to be rallying around those military
personnel who actually faced combat.
And Jane Fonda hasn’t been in a staged
photograph ith an ‘insurgent’ unit.

So, just maybe, things are looking better.

But that depends upon if one sees a glass
that is half-empty or a glass that is
half-full.

98

SamChevre 11.17.05 at 12:23 pm

Abb1–do you know no Vietnamese? EVERY Vietnamese-American I know says that the time after the war was an utter horror.

99

roger 11.17.05 at 12:27 pm

The interesting lesson about the fall of Vietnam is that conditions in 1963 or 1968 had changed, by 1975, so dramatically in favor of the anti-democratic, hardcore faction in the communist party because of a process of Darwinian selection — those who were the original Viet Minh, those in the NLF in the South, were decimated, leaving the more organized, military cadre by the end of the war. These were the people who took power. The antiwar argument was that Vietnam should have voted in 1956 (an election put off by the U.S., terrified that Ho Chi Mihn would win), and should have negotiated a coalition government after Diem’s fall. They were, of course, was proven spectacularly right. By fighting a war of attrition in favor of an incompetent dictatorship in South Vietnam, one that had its roots in the subaltern class that supported French colonialism, the U.S. had a direct and dire effect on changes in the composition of the Vietnamese Communist apparatus, disempowered the NLF, and helped produce the government apparatus erected after the fall of Saigon. In the same way that the U.S. is doing all things possible to drive insurgents in Iraq into the arms of the most militant faction by, for instance, committing that host of war crimes — the rape of Falluja, the stealing of Iraq’s oil, the tortures of Abu Ghraib. Hopefully, us backstabbers, by keeping up the pressure in this country, will force the Bush administration to withdraw. Fortunately for Iraq, the U.S. has, from the beginning, so undermanned and bungled its operation that its footprint there is less bloody and inescapable, and its irrelevance – except as providing a flying corps for ethnic cleansing – is growing.

100

jet 11.17.05 at 1:20 pm

When Roger says this

“The antiwar argument was that Vietnam should have voted in 1956 (an election put off by the U.S., terrified that Ho Chi Mihn would win), and should have negotiated a coalition government after Diem’s fall.”

He couldn’t be more correct.

But this, on the other hand this is a bit misguided.

“The interesting lesson about the fall of Vietnam is that conditions in 1963 or 1968 had changed, by 1975, so dramatically in favor of the anti-democratic, hardcore faction in the communist party because of a process of Darwinian selection…”

Roger you might want to look back over how the North Vietnamese were dealing with internal and external groups that “threatened” their power before the 60’s. By the 1960’s they were already about as hard line as you can get with thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, murdered by the state.

101

Ralph Hitchens 11.17.05 at 1:25 pm

I’m coming late to this thread, and just want to respond to something Perlstein said:

“The story from the one guy who did claim he was tortured was a total fraud, and he retreated (probably in shame) soon after. Let me explain the passage you find illogical very slowly. POWs who were against the war were threatened with court martials if they didn’t play ball. They played ball. The pressure to play ball was sufficient that one of them committed suicide rather than play ball.”

I knew many former POWs while serving on active duty in the Air Force in the 1970s. A few — and only a few — were threatened with courts-martial based on accusations by one senior POW that certain of his fellow prisoners had been insufficiently heroic while in the prison camp. This officer was, admittedly, very heroic himself (and even escaped, briefly) but was also widely disliked, and had been ridiculed by his fellow pilots for his “John Wayne” posturing well before he was shot down. The fact is that every POW captured (until late 1972) was tortured to some extent and the expectation of the senior POWs was that a new prisoner ought to endure an undefined amount of abuse before signing a confession — and everyone signed a confession, sooner or later. But there were no hard and fast rules for all this.

One of the former POWs threatened with court-martial by the Hero Colonel after “Operation Homecoming” told me that his attitude was, when it was his job to fly missions and drop bombs, that’s what he did; as a POW he believed his job was to survive and go home, in other words, live to fight another day. Since every POW signed a confession sooner or later, why kill yourself making it later? So Perlstein is wrong about ex-POWs being pressured for antiwar sentiments. My belief (having served a combat tour in Vietnam) is that relatively few USAF officers had strong feelings either for or against the war. Like my POW friend said, it was a job we had signed up to do.

And about bombing the dikes: I spent a couple of months working in “Blue Chip,” the 7th Air Force command post in Saigon during mid-1972, early in the Linebacker campaign. Although I wasn’t directly involved with the air strikes against North Vietnam, I had plenty of opportunity to look at the target packages. No dikes. That’s not to say that bombs never fell on dikes, because not every bomb was “smart” in those days and lots of bombs were jettisoned for various reasons. Of course it’s perfectly reasonable to be antiwar because of collateral damage, but the difference — however slight — between accident and intent ought to be acknowledged.

102

John Lederer 11.17.05 at 1:52 pm

From Amazon comments on the books about apitting on vets:

Jerry Lembcke’s work makes him sound like a wannabe, June 7, 2005
Reviewer: T. Cox (Pontiac, MO) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
I have been researching the homecoming stories of Vietnam veterans for the past three years or so for a Masters thesis, and Mr. Lembcke contacted me concerning my “possibly fictional” memories from veterans. I have to say that I don’t believe all of these soldiers lied about what was done to them at the airports. There are pictures of soldiers being hit with tomatoes and eggs, which are large enough to photograph well, but Lembcke seems to base his claim on the fact that there are no pictures of anyone spit on. How well does spit photograph anyway? And how quick would you have to be to capture it? I know security guards who worked in airports who witnessed it, I know a few protestors who claim to have done it, and I have talked to hundreds of soldiers who claimed it happened to them, either at the airport or out in public.
Mass hysteria? I don’t believe ir. And interestingly enough, Lembcke does not include in his book what branch of service he was in, or the dates, or his MOS. I have yet to read something, even emails, from Vietnam veterans who do not include that basic info on all their correspondence and writings.
What is he hiding? Save your money. Read the books written by the real Vietnam veteans who can tell you what happened to them, unanalyzed by a “sociologist professor” who claims to have been there. Another point strongly made by over 140 veterans I spoke to about this book: A true Vietnam veteran does not disparage the stories of his fellow veterans and call them liars.Lembcke’s work does not ring true. I have names of veterans this happened to, not, as he suggested, just veterans who know someone. They know where they were when it happened, and how it happened. They know how they felt when it happened. Lembcke’s work takes away what little dignity is left to the true Vietnam Veterans. Don’t give him the satisfaction of knowing another person bought his lies.

103

abb1 11.17.05 at 2:09 pm

…the difference—however slight—between accident and intent ought to be acknowledged…

Please, enough this denial crap. They’re mass-murderers, buddy, their job to fly missions was a crime against humanity, is this so difficult to understand? Fonda was exactly right.

Read this Wiki article on the dikes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Vietnam%27s_dikes and see for yourself.

104

jet 11.17.05 at 3:07 pm

Abb1,
Only because we are meandering way off topic, if you REALLY want to beat up on Nixon, read about the Bangladeshi war for indepence. Nixon threatened to nuke India because India was shelling Pakistani targets across the border in East Pakistan. Nixon went so far as to send a carrier fleet to the area for additional intimidation. India was doing this because the Pakistani army was in the process of a million person genocide of worst possible sort.

Nixon is the SuXX0rz

105

Alopex Lagopus 11.17.05 at 3:12 pm

Nobody’s going to read this at the bottom of 100+ comments, but… two observations anyway.

Had the US “cut and ran” in, say, 1967, it’s not inconceivable to imagine that a lot of the postwar horror would have been averted. Hardline sentiments tend to get sharper and uglier in almost extra ten years of brutal war. Apparently (some) people on the ground in 1966, like Caputo in “Rumors of War”, considered the war already lost. I don’t know, I was born in ’64, in a different country.

Those opposed to the Iraq war better get ahead of the backstabbing narrative, and soon.

106

Jerry Lembcke 11.17.05 at 3:48 pm

I am responding to John Lederer’s post #102 in which he reproduces comments about me and my book, “The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam,” posted by T. Cox on amazon.com.
I don’t know Mr. Cox and don’t remember contacting him about veterans’ “fictional memories” but I do have a lot of correspondence about the myth of spat-upon Vietnam veterans and some of it is in response to inquires from students (Mr. Cox says he’s working on a Master’s degree) about the spitting stories.
I have never seen photographs “of soldiers being hit with tomatoes and eggs” and if Mr. Cox, or anyone else, has those I would love to see them. My book has a photograph of an anti-war demonstrator with egg on his coat that had been thrown by a pro-war counter-demonstrator. I have found reports in newspaper stories of anti-war people being spat on by counter-protesters but no reports of anti-war people spitting on veterans or soldiers. At the time I wrote the book I had not even found any claims, made by veterans during the war years, of having been spat on. Since the book’s 1998 publication, I have received a copy of a Washington Post story c. 1968 (I don’t have the clipping at hand) in which a veteran claims to have been spat on.
Regarding my military service, I have never thought that being a Vietnam veteran is much of a credential for understanding the war or America’s post-war culture. That said, I was a Chaplain’s Assistant in the 41st Artillery Group in Vietnam in 1969.
I’ve never called anyone a liar for claiming they were spat on. I’m perfectly willing to repeat someone’s story in articles or lectures (although I now have collected scores of them so I can’t quote them all) but unless it is somehow corroborated, I have to note that as well. On a Los Angeles KABC radio call-in show a couple years ago I did tell a caller I did not believe his story that as he left the men’s room at LAX it was piled high with uniforms discarded by veterans deplaning from Vietnam (at the airport) fearful that they would be attacked by anti-war activists. I also politely excused myself from a recent conversation with a man saying he returned on a stretcher and “was covered in spit” in the time he was taken from the plane to an ambulance.

Jerry Lembcke

107

Noumenon 11.17.05 at 5:47 pm

I saw your comment #106 — don’t know what I gained by going through the entire thread, except for a healthy (and justified) suspicion of that palmed Social-Security-Number story in #39. If the argument had stayed directly focused on the article, such as the criticism about the Nobel winner not being an actual doctor, it would have been much more helpful to me. I had never heard about the whole antiaircraft gun thing before, but now I am sick of it already.

108

Uncle Kvetch 11.17.05 at 5:54 pm

I like how John Lederer’s highly reliable source apparently thought that putting the words “sociology professor” in scare quotes somehow contributed to his screed. Very classy.

109

Stephen M (Ethesis) 11.19.05 at 11:58 pm

“I note that none of the anti-Fonda-ers is prepared to condemn the far worse tortures that occurred in the South Vietnamese ‘state’ (in reality of course South Vietnam was a creation of the French and the US).”

I think torture is bad.

Torture is evil, stupid and bad, both negatively productive and morally wrong.

BTW, we never got spit on, but we did get ostracized at chruch when my dad was sent to Viet Nam. It was a cold year (my dad was enlisted, we were typical trailer park dependents).

There is a lot of gun camera footage of strikes against targets on the dikes — especially anti-aircraft guns mounted on the dikes.

Interesting issue there.

Anyone have a link to how it is impossible to suspend, partially or totally, someone from an arm that is also broken? Obviously there must be more details, any links would be appreciated.

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