cj#425> Valis on Vietnam


Richard Moore

Date: Thu, 18 Jan 1996
Sender: "•••@••.•••" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: A needed look back

Just recently a neo-liberal businessman won the presidency of Guatemala.
It was a marginal triumph of the capital's urban consumption patterns over
the Mayan peasants of the countryside, and right next door to Chiapas.
Thus we shall soon see one more "structural adjustment plan," one more
garage sale of a people's national properties for the benefit of the
insatiable multinationals.

Eventually, we shall also see two contiguous liberation movements merge
and the Pentagon make its move on behalf of remote, globalized power.
It will supply the hardware, but it is our responsibility that American
youth does not supply the requisite innocence.

I'd like to share with CJ readers the words of one of the lesser known
writers to come out of the Vietnam War; lamentable, because he's one
of the very best.  I hope that your subsequent comments will aid me in
coaxing him online with us, for his real subject is not war's gross tumult
but the more subtle violence of politics in a terminally confused society.

   "By the time I left Vietnam in the waning days of the Tet Offensive
  and the battle for Hue, I had become acutely aware that something had
  gone horribly wrong in Vietnam.  But I didn't know what.  I thought
  maybe it was me.  Men like Rusk and Bundy and Rostow were still
  insisting that the cause was worthy.  They would soon be replaced by
  men like Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, but these men, too, would
  insist [on] the worthiness of their cause right up to the very moment
  North Vietnamese tanks crushed the gates of the Presidential Palace
  in Saigon, achieving at an incalculable cost in human suffering what
  might have been achieved without the loss of a single life thirty
  years earlier.

   "I paid a terrible price for the bargain I struck with the people who
  sent me to wage war on Vietnam: more than a decade of nightmares and
  alcohol and self-loathing; a white-hot fury, shapeless and unpredictable,
  that seared anyone who came too close; a loneliness profound as the
  silence between the stars.  And I was lucky.

   "I have friends whose names are carved on that ugly black slab in
  Washington, D.C.  I have friends who were dumped into wheelchairs
  at nineteen and won't be taken out again until thay are laid into their
  coffins.  I have friends who still can't see an Asian face without
  trembling.  I have friends who live in shacks deep in the forests of
  the Olympic Peninsula.  I have friends whose wives are afraid to touch
  them when they are sleeping.

   "Okay.  My friends and I made a mistake and we paid the price.
  I've learned to accept my share of responsibility for that mistake.
  I can live with myself.  But where now are the people who asked us
  to take the risks?  Where have they been these past twenty years?
  Willy Crapser spent seventeen years in and out of psychiatric wards,
  and Robert McNamara became president of the World Bank.
  Ron Kovic never had the chance to have children before he was paralyzed
  for life, and McGeorge Bundy became president of the Ford Foundation.
  Kenny Worman and Randy Moore have been dead longer than they got to live,
  and Walt Rostow and Dean Rusk are respected professors at respected

   "Not once, not once in all these years, have I ever heard a single
  high-level policymaker of the Vietnam war apologize for what he did,
  ever admit that he made a mistake, ever show the slightest sign of
  remorse for all the havoc and misery, the shattered lives and shattered
  families and shattered nations left gasping in the wake of his decisions.
  There is no regret, no sorrow, no shame.  Some of these men merely skulked
  off the public stage quietly.  Others continue to this day to insist that
  their cause was worthy, and is worthy, and always will be worthy.

   "Honorable men, they asked my friends and me to get down and dirty in
  the ricefields only to abandon us under fire.  We did the killing and
  the dying, and then they left us to find our own way back while they
  went on with their honorable lives as if nothing at all were out of order.
  They struck a bargain with us, and then they broke it.  And they have
  refused ever after to admit that it was broken."

        From "A Letter to McGeorge Bundy" by William Daniel Ehrhart (1989)

Finally, last summer, there came McNamara, The Boss himself, with his
little-boy act of late-blooming contrition.  The actual book, I'm told,
is less contrite than its author was on his book tour.  I'm told by a vet
who has come a long way from the poor, dumb hillbilly boot he was in '65
that the book itself is a primer of improved, unobtrusive techniques of
imperialism for future American policymakers.
However, this counsel _before_ the fact was infinitely more valuable:

       Are we going to take the position that anti-Communism justifies
    anything, including colonialism, interference in the affairs of
    other countries, and aggression?  That way, let us be perfectly
    clear about it, lies war and more war leading ultimately to
    full-scale national disaster.

     -- from "What Every American Should Know About Indo-China"
                         Paul M. Sweezy & Leo Huberman
                                  Monthly Review, June 1954



 Posted by Richard K. Moore (•••@••.•••) Wexford, Ireland
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