Further Food For thought
Casualties tell the tale. Again, the US Army War College Library provides numbers. The former South Vietnam was made up of 44 provinces. The province that claimed the most Americans killed was Quang Tri, which bordered on both North Vietnam and Laos. Fifty four percent of the Americans killed in Vietnam were killed in the four northernmost provinces, which in addition to Quang Tri were Thua Thien, Quang Nam and Quan Tin. All of them shared borders with Laos. An additional six provinces accounted for another 25 % of the Americans killed in action (KIA). Those six all shared borders with either Laos or Cambodia or had contiguous borders with provinces that did. The remaining 34 provinces accounted for just 21% of US KIA. These numbers should dispel the notion that South Vietnam was some kind of flaming inferno of violent revolutionary dissent. The overwhelming majority of Americans killed, died in border battles against regular NVA units. The
policies established by Johnson and McNamara prevented the American soldiers from crossing those borders and destroying their
enemies. Expressed in WWII terms; this is the functional equivalent of having sent the American soldiers to fight in Europe during WWII, but restricting them to Italy, France, Belgium, Holland, etc., and not letting them cross the borders into Germany, the source of the problem. General Curtis LeMay aptly defined Johnson’s war policy in South Vietnam by saying that “We are swatting flies in the South when we should be going after the manure pile in Hanoi.”
Looking back it is now clear that the American military role in “Vietnam” was, in essence, one of defending international
borders. Contrary to popular belief, they turned in an outstanding performance and accomplished their mission. The US Military was not “Driven” from Vietnam. They were voted out by the US Congress. This same Congress then turned around and abandoned America’s former ally, South Vietnam. Should America feel shame? Yes! Why? For kowtowing to the wishes of those craven hoards of dodgers and for bugging out and abandoning an ally they had promised to protect.
The idea that “There were no front lines” and “The enemy was everywhere” makes good press and feeds the craven needs of those 16,000,000+ American draft dodgers. Add either a mommy or a poppa, and throw in another sympathizer in the form of a girl (or boy?) friend and your looking at well in excess of 50,000,000 Americans with a need to rationalize away their draft-dodging cowardice and to, in some way, vilify “Vietnam” the very source of their shame and guilt. During the entire period of the American involvement in “Vietnam” only 2,594,000 US Military actual served inside the country. Contrast that number with the 50-million plus draft dodging anti-war crowd and you have the answer to why the American view of its Vietnam experience is so skewed.
Johnson made two monumental Vietnam blunders. First he failed to get a declaration of war, which he could have easily had. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which LBJ regarded as the “Functional equivalent of a formal declaration of war” was passed unanimously by the House and there were only two dissenting votes cast in the Senate. This would have altered the judicial state of the nation, exactly as the Founding Fathers had intended. The Founding Fathers were all veterans of the American Revolutionary War and knew just how hard it had been to maintain public support during their war (at one point, 80% of the “American” people were against that War. If the Founding Fathers had bowed to public opinion, today we would still be British subjects not American citizens). A formal declaration of war would have allowed for control of the press. Had Vietnam been fought under WWII conditions folks who gave aid and comfort to the enemy, people in the ilk of
Jane Fonda and Walter Cronkite would have been charged with treason, tried, found guilty (their “treasonous acts” were on film / video tape). Second, LBJ exempted college kids from the
draft. Presto! The nation’s campuses immediately filled with dastardly little dodgers and became boiling cauldrons of violent rampaging dissent. The dodgers knew they were acting cowardly and could appease their conscience only if they could convince themselves that the war was somehow immoral. Once the “immoral” escape concept emerged and became creditable, it spread across the college campuses and out into the main streets of America like wild
fire. Miraculously, acts of cowardice were transformed into respectable acts of defiance. Anti-war protests and violent demonstrations became the accepted norm. However, when one goes back and scrutinizes those anti-war demonstrations, one quickly finds they were not really against the war. They were only against the side fighting the Communists! This of course turns out to be the side which had the army, from which the dodgers were dodging. Hummm!
Once the draft dodging gang’s numbers reached critical mass, the media and politicians started pandering to those numbers (with media it is either circulation numbers or Nielsen ratings; with politicians it is votes). Multi-million dollar salaries are not paid to people for reporting the news, in any form, be it written, audio or video. Multi-million dollar salaries (i.e., Cronkite) are paid to entertainers, stars, and superstars. One does not get to be, much less continue to be, a superstar unless one gives one’s audience what it wants. Once the dodging anti-war numbers started climbing through the stratosphere it was not in the media’s interest to say something good about Vietnam to an audience that was guilt ridden with shame and with a deep psychological need to rationalize away the very source of their burden of guilt.
A good example of this number pandering can be found in a 1969 Life magazine feature article in which Life’s editors published the portraits of 250 men that were killed in Vietnam in one “routine week.” This was supposedly done to illustrate Life’s concern for the sanctity of human life; American human life (during WWII the U.S. Media were not allowed to publish the picture of a single dead G.I until after the invasion of Normandy, D-Day 1944, was
successful). And furthermore, to starkly illustrate the Vietnam tragedy with a dramatic reminder (i.e., the faces staring out of those pages), that those anonymous casualty numbers were in fact the sons, brothers and husbands of neighbors. In 1969 the weekly average death toll from highway accidents in the United States was 1,082. If indeed Life’s concern was for the sanctity of American lives, why not publish the 1,082 portraits of the folks who were killed in one “routine week” on the nation’s highways?
Then they could have shown photos of not only the sons, brothers and husbands of neighbors, but could have depicted dead daughters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, babies, cripples, fools and draft dodgers as well. Life knew where its “numbers” were.
The most glaring example of the existence of the dodging guilt syndrome can be found in a statement made by the ranking head dodger himself. When asked for his reaction to McNamara’s book ‘In Retrospect’, Clinton’s spontaneous response was “I feel
vindicated.” Clinton is a lawyer and understands the use of the English language very well. For one to “feel” vindicated, as opposed to being vindicated, one must first have been, by definition, feeling guilty.