Saturday, February 18, 2012 — The Fading Memory of the Vietnam War

As time moves for­ward, the mem­o­ry of the Viet­nam War slips away, and is replaced with a car­toon ver­sion. Almost entire­ly for­got­ten, now, after a tidal wave of Con­ser­v­a­tive filth has been unleashed upon the world, is that a major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans came to oppose that war, and were revolt­ed by its futil­i­ty and bar­barism. The wars of recent times have been just as cor­rupt and bru­tal, but jour­nal­ists are now tamed and “embed­ded”, and a gen­er­a­tion raised on infan­tile war fan­tasies does­n’t want to know what’s real. Con­ser­v­a­tive ide­o­log­i­cal hacks are now busy crank­ing out lie-filled revi­sion­ist accounts of the war, and the social con­flict that it brought to Amer­i­cans. These “revi­sions” are the exact equiv­a­lent of Com­mu­nist propaganda.

These three pho­tographs did a great deal to change the minds of Amer­i­cans about the war their Gov­ern­ment had got them into:

On June 8,1972, U.S./South Viet­namese forces dropped a napalm bomb on the vil­lage of Trang Bang. The vil­lage had been occu­pied by Viet Cong forces, but was still full of South Viet­namese civil­ians. The girl in the mid­dle, whose clothes were burned off by napalm, is Phan Thị Kim Phúc, who was nine years old at the time. She suf­fered severe burns to her back, but recov­ered. She now lives in Ajax, Ontario, Canada.

On March 16, 1968, sol­diers of “Char­lie” Com­pa­ny of 1st Bat­tal­ian, 20th Infantry, 11th Brigade, Amer­i­can Divi­sion, mas­sa­cred sev­er­al hun­dred civil­ians in the vil­lage of My Lai. Almost all were elder­ly men, women, and small chil­dren. As this pho­to­graph of some of the vic­tims spread around the world, domes­tic oppo­si­tion to the war got a firm foothold. Only one Amer­i­can sol­dier was con­vict­ed of the crime, though many had par­tic­i­pat­ed, and the oper­a­tion was direct­ed from high­er ranks, not a “spon­ta­neous” freak event. The vic­tims were South Viet­namese vil­lagers, the peo­ple that Amer­i­can troops were sup­posed to be “pro­tect­ing.” The pur­pose was to exter­mi­nate every liv­ing per­son in the vil­lage, leav­ing an indeli­ble imprint of ter­ror on the region. The killing was done method­i­cal­ly and sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly. Women and chil­dren were slow­ly col­lect­ed, herd­ed togeth­er, and exe­cut­ed cold-blood­ed­ly, not in any heat of battle.

The mil­i­tary moved quick­ly to cov­er up the mas­sacre. But there was an army pho­tog­ra­ph­er present, and his smug­gled pho­tos — which includ­ed one of a group of women and small chil­dren tak­en just sec­onds before they were exe­cut­ed — cor­rob­o­rat­ed the rumors that the mil­i­tary and U.S. gov­ern­ment attempt­ed to squash. Three Amer­i­can sol­diers who tried to stop the mas­sacre and pro­tect the vil­lagers were denounced by Con­ser­v­a­tives in Con­gress. They sub­se­quent­ly received numer­ous death threats and found muti­lat­ed ani­mals on their doorsteps. The con­vict­ed sol­dier, Sec­ond Lieu­tenant William Cal­ley, served three and half years under house arrest for mur­der­ing 22 vil­lagers. This was an arbi­trary fig­ure, since he actu­al­ly orga­nized and direct­ed the killing of a much larg­er num­ber. Con­ser­v­a­tives trum­pet­ed him as a hero and martyr.

On May 4, 1970, a small, entire­ly peace­ful stu­dent protest against the Viet­nam War at Kent State Uni­ver­si­ty in Ohio was attacked by the Ohio Nation­al Guard. The guards­men fired 67 rounds over a peri­od of 13 sec­onds, killing four stu­dents and wound­ing nine oth­ers. Some of the vic­tims were not pro­test­ers, but mere­ly peo­ple who hap­pened to be walk­ing near­by. Count out thir­teen sec­onds to your­self — it was not a quick moment of pan­ic or con­fu­sion. The demon­stra­tors were not doing any­thing that could have pro­voked or fright­ened the guardsmen.

Oppo­si­tion to the war was now wide­spread. Pres­i­dent Nixon, and Con­ser­v­a­tives in gen­er­al, con­duct­ed a mas­sive cam­paign of hatred against the gen­uine Amer­i­can patri­ots who opposed the war. The coun­try was filled with Con­ser­v­a­tive zealots who talked end­less­ly about the need to vio­lent­ly sup­press dis­sent, and assaults on “dirty hip­pies” were com­mon­place. I remem­ber dis­tinct­ly that one of the female vic­tims (a nurse, who was one of the passers­by, not involved in the demon­stra­tion) was wide­ly denounced by Con­ser­v­a­tives as a “slut” who “was­n’t wear­ing any under­wear”, which shows that the Con­ser­v­a­tive mind-set has pret­ty much always been the same.

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