Lima Site 85: Vietnam Hero Awarded Medal of Honor

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger has finally received the recognition that he deserved back in 1968. Etchberger will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his saving the lives of his comrades in a battle in Laos — at the loss of his own life. The problem is that his heroism occurred in a place where our government stated publicly that there were no combat troops. To cover that lie, Etchberger’s bravery had to be buried with the truth.

While the military wanted Etchberger honored at the time, President Lyndon Johnson refused to reveal that the United States had lied to the public and international community (even though Laos itself was aware of our troops).

Etchberger was part of a secret U.S. Air Force radar base used to guide bombers that was located just 120 miles from Hanoi in North Vietnam.

In March of 1968, over 3000 North Vietnamese troops attacked the site, called Lima Site 85, that was defended by fewer than a couple dozen U.S. airmen and about a thousand Laotian soldiers.

Eight Americans were killed and several more wounded. Etchberger deliberately exposed himself to enemy fire “in order to place his three surviving wounded comrades in the rescue slings permitting them to be airlifted to safety.”

Legislation was need to waive the usual rule that such honors have to be awarded within two years of the subject action. Rep. Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota (Etchberger was from Bismarck) helped push for the reconsideration.

Congratulations to the Etchberger family which deserves this recognition from a grateful nation. It is no replacement for their loved one, but it finally allows a nation to honor his selfless courage.

Well done, Master Sergeant, well done.

Source: CNN

158 thoughts on “Lima Site 85: Vietnam Hero Awarded Medal of Honor

  1. I don’t know if I agree with honoring anyone that knowingly participates in American-backed clandestine aggression. I suppose his sacrifice is commendable if one ignores the situation that brought him there.

    I’m still holding out for the prosecution of Kissinger, et al.

  2. FFN, his sacrifice was commendable because he deliberately made himself a target in order to save his buddies. A good soldier reports to his duty station as ordered. He had nothing to do with the politics that sent him there, but protected his buddies at the cost of his own life. It was for heroism and gallantry of this magnitude that the Medal of Honor was created.

    As for Chief Master Sergeant Richard Etchberger: well done, hero. May your family and loved ones find the peace that evaded you.

  3. I doubt very seriously if a Chief Master Sgt. has much discretion as to where his duty station would be.

    Congratulations to the Etchberger family.

  4. I trust his name is also on the Wall.

    Well done, soldier.

    Politicians may ignore the sacrifice in order to protect their own slimy reputations but, in the end, truth wins. Present day pols take note … eventually it all comes out.

  5. FFN,

    To echo other posts here, the man’s actions were the very definition of heroism: selfless courage to save others. As to covert action, that doesn’t negate the heroism and I submit the proper parties to take issue with over it are the people who issued the orders (both civilian and military).

  6. Thanks, Chief.

    There were no doubt many soldiers in the fight that day, but Chief Master Sergeant Etchberger was an Airman. And his comrades would have addressed him not as Sergeant or even Master Sergeant, but by the title he earned by attaining the highest enlisted rank in the Air Force: Chief.

    Such valor, squandered in the service of a sociopath’s ambition. It is easy for Congress to recognize Chief Etchberger, and fitting despite the cheap self-serving motives that underlie virtually everything our Congressmen do. It would be harder, but no less fitting, for Congress to demand justice for those who sent the Chief to die.

  7. FormerFederalNothing,

    And so off to the brig and being charge with deleriction with duty and treason if he did not obey a lawfully given command. All commands are lawful until overturned by another commanding officer.

    I am pulling this out of my ass but during an Article 27 hearing I was once involved in, (and this one was not personal) a military member who fail to obey the lawful orders of their superiors risk serious consequences such as an Article 90 hearing UCMJ, which makes it a crime for a military member to WILLFULLY disobey a superior commissioned officer. Since it is possible to be given a lateral command he could have faced an Article 91 hearing as well for it is a crime to WILLFULLY disobey a superior Noncommissioned or Warrant Officer.

    And here is the kick ass one….. Article 92 makes it a crime to disobey any lawful order. In time of war, oh yeah were were not at war the disobedience does not have to be “willful.” Just failure to act….

    So, he in your statement was crewed in any direction he went. I say Honor ALL Veterans, especially those that followed even unlawful order. What was that guys name that leveled the entire village….and he was court marshaled…Lt…somebody…and lets not even bring Ollie into this one…he was from what I know following the leaders order.

  8. Anonymously Yours and everybody else,

    I understand that he would face punishment for disobeying orders (or whatever the exact charge may be) for refusing to go to Laos and/or refusing to bomb people in Vietnam, etc.

    The question is not 1) if he would be punished if he failed to do what the state told him to do nor 2) if, taking his predicament when he died as a given, he acted courageously. I think we all agree on those two points.

    My disagreement is elsewhere. OS says “He had nothing to do with the politics that sent him there.” I contend that is false. He could have absolutely refused to be deployed or have been a conscientious objector. (By warning of the chance of punishment if this happens, those of you in the thread have already implicitly conceded its possibility.) Or, he could have burned his draft card in the first place and never have entered the army (of course, that assumes a bit about how he got there — perhaps he joined the army because it was the only feasible choice given his state of poverty, for instance.)

    Everyone on this thread recognizes that doing something on principle often involves sacrifice — hence all the praise for the nominee. Etchberger would have faced hardship if he made a principled decision not to be party to criminal acts as well. Thus, we shouldn’t pretend that his earlier decision didn’t happen.

  9. Lets see, uh, CO, hmmmm, didn’t some president get his ass chewed for saying ok guys you can come home now…all is forgiven….wasn’t this a campaign issue that helped get him defeated. Its all peanuts to me. I didn’t have to go, but looking back on the way these people were treated even if they survived an unwar it was fairly shitting…

    So the question is I can get a deferment to do coke and fly jet over Alabama or my family didn’t have money to send me to school and my number get hit…..so then I do the honorable thing and join before I am enlisted involuntary…..damn choices keep popping up everywhere…..

    Now that I am stuck in this hell hole unwar, so I want to be sitting next to the guy firing the machine guns or the Lts wearing the shinny things…

    I think I want to be as far away from the unwar as possible…He did what he had to do…he died while doing it and to say that he is not deserving of the medal, because our government said the action didn’t exist is beyond my comprehension…..

  10. As Smedley-Baker said war is a racket. However, true that is it is our youth, filled with false ideas of patriotism, that go through hell hell, surrender their limbs and lives in misguided foreign adventures. Their sacrifices should be noted even if they and we were misled.

  11. FFN, you seem to have a fundamental lack of understanding of how things work in the military. First of all, he was NOT in the Army as you state, he was a Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. As for a draft card, he enlisted in 1951, during the time the North Koreans were trying to overrun the Korean Peninsula. He stayed in the USAF, rising to the rank of Chief Master Sergeant (pay grade E-9)the highest enlisted rank in the Air Force. He had a job to do, followed the orders of his superior officers, and had zero to do with the politics of the war. One does not rise to the level of Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force by not obeying orders.

    I do not wish to engage in a flame war with anyone. It is just that one of my sons sleeps forever in the National Cemetery, so I am more than a little touchy about this subject.

  12. Anonymously Yours,

    You’re completely misunderstanding my point. My point is not that participating in an aggressive war in Indochina was immoral because it was clandestine. Rather, my point is that participating in an aggressive war in Indochina was immoral because it was an invasion of 3 sovereign states’ territory that killed millions of their people, which has effects that still linger today — unexploded ordinance, dioxin poisoning, etc.

    The issue is not what you happen to do otherwise if you do refuse to participate in a criminal act. The germane moral issue is if you make yourself an accomplice to the crime by participating in it.

    Should we honor the people that knowingly and willingly participated in these crimes just because the government says we should?

    Normally the comment section in this blog is very critical of government power. But when it comes to “support the troops”-type advocacy, the adulation for the wisdom of the state is reflexive. MKULTRA’s comment being a case in point.

  13. Otteray Scribe,

    I understand the level of emotion on this subject. I think war is a terrible tragedy and that no one should have to pay its costs — it is a practice better avoided, which is often quite possible, but rarely are alternatives pursued by the hegemon.

    However, I do think that many, because of their emotion and the involvement of friends and family in US-directed wars, want to believe that what their loved ones are sacrificing for is somehow good and just. It’s a devastating revelation to come to the conclusion that someone you love had to die for a lie or an unjust cause.

    I don’t mean to target this comment specifically at you — I have no idea what your situation is (or your son’s) and am speaking rather generally, so I hope you don’t take my comments as a personal attack.

  14. FFN,

    You have a political point to make. Why do you need to deny this man’s selfless heroism to make it?

    I’m with BIL and the oh-so-succinct MKULTRA.

  15. Mike Spindell– A slight correction to your first sentence: “As Smedley-Baker said war is a racket”. Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, not only said it, he wrote a pamphlet titled “War is a Racket” in 1935. Sadly, Butler is little remembered today, but well worth reading about. He was awarded 2 Congressional Medals of Honor and earlier was awarded its equivalent “Brevet Medal” at a time when officers were not elegible for a Congressional Medal. He had fought in China, Mexico, Haiti, Cuba, and as he said “I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street”. In 1931 Butler made some derogatory remarks about Mussolini in a speech and was arrested and ordered court-martialed by President Hoover. The court-martial was dropped due to a hostile public reaction. Later he became a strong supporter of the 1932 Bonus Marchers and a vocal critic of American interventionism for the protection of American corporate interests overseas. Early in FDR’s first term Butler was approached by wealthy fascist Wall Street figures to lead a takeover of the White House by American Legion members. Butler passed this information to FDR and the putsch was prevented and the story was suppressed for many years. The books “War is a Racket” and “The Plot to Seize the White House” by Jules Archer are available at Barnes&Noble. I apologize for this lengthy off-topic post, but I find Smedley Butler to be a fascinating character and one I wish we had with us today.

  16. mespo,

    Sad but true. Or as Stephen King’s Roland Deschain might say, “They have forgotten the face of their father.”

  17. I would like to personally thank Congressman Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota for putting through the legislation necessary to honor this courageous Airman, Chief Richard Etchberger. It’s a great pleasure to see a Member of Congress do the right thing and correct a long delayed honor that was caused by covering up a dishonorable government lie. I’m sure Richard Etchberger’s family will greatly appreciate Congressman Pomeroy’s efforts.

  18. James M.,

    We hear similar arguments whenever any political figure dies. The most recent politician that comes to mind is Ronald Reagan. Whenever any criticism of Reagan would be raised, the news anchors (or whoever) would remind us that Reagan was a Great Man and it would be in bad taste to criticize him. And of course there’s an interest in suppressing any intelligent discussion of Reagan’s policies — otherwise people might realize what heinous crimes he was responsible for. Now, I would never insult Etchberger and insinuate that whatever he did (even under the most pessimistic assumptions) was remotely comparable to Reagan. However, it is important to still have these discussions about the context in which these people “served their country,” to use the jingoistic phrase.

    Also, “he was just following orders” is never a defense. (I know you didn’t say this, but this comes up often.)

  19. FFN,

    This is probably the last thing I will comment on to you, but I think your thinking is really fucked up.

    As a soldier he had a duty to obey even what you consider an unlawful order. Should we have been there, probably not. This person died in a line of duty that was a lie to the the American Public. Simple fact, I agree with you. Are you to decide what orders are lawful or not?

    This man is someone child an apparently someones father. They at least deserve some respect and acknowledgment that he died as a Hero. Not something that I think I could do in all honesty. What else this person died for was for the right of you and I and all of the others to disagree and still be at peace with our decisions.

    I cannot judge what he did, or why he did it. The fact is he died doing what he thought was the right thing. Fuck the Government, Johnson and all of the people that profited off of this unwar. If you can sleep at night saying that he died anything less than a hero you are one sick puppy.

  20. Anonymously Yours,

    “Are you to decide what orders are lawful or not?”

    No, the law does.

    “What else this person died for was for the right of you and I and all of the others to disagree and still be at peace with our decisions. ”

    Absolute poppycock. How did this person dying do anything for me? Did I profit off the Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos war in any way, shape or form? I didn’t benefit from people like Etchberger getting killed (in fact, if anything I suppose the average American lost out not only on the precious life of an individual, but also the tax dollars to finance him being there — a trivial cost when we are talking about life and death, I recognize). American aggression in Indochina was not in any remote sense of the word a fight for freedom (or whatever you are arguing). That is, unless you are talking about the freedom of the Vietnamese to elect their own leaders, which is what the war was all about preventing. He wasn’t in Laos for my sake — he was there for the sake of powerful American interests.

    But let’s enhance your case. Suppose I did profit from the Vietnam war. In fact, let’s enhance your case to the point of caricature. Suppose for every Vietnamese person that the American military killed, I make a dollar. Would the moral thing to do be to support the war to make as much money as possible? Absolutely not.

  21. Anonymously Yours (and anyone else that disagrees with me on this thread),

    It can often be hard to think objectively about the country / people to which one has certain strong emotional attachments, and I recognize that this phenomenon often dominates discussions about the US military. So let me draw an analogy and you tell me if you think you would respond to this situation differently.

    Suppose the German government (for some unknown reason) decided to suddenly honor the forgotten heroes of World War II. New evidence had emerged, which was previously kept secret from the public because of the sensitivity of the military operation, about events in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Apparently there was some Nazi soldier with a situation not too dissimilar to Etchberger’s. He died while selflessly trying to rescue his soldier buddies from an oncoming Czech attack. The German prime minister and parliament decide that this soldier’s family has gone too long without honor, and decided to give him the highest military decoration that Germany hands out.

    Now, what would our response be to this kind of event? Would we be drowned in the peans recalling his bravery and sacrifice? Would we say, in the words of Mr. Turley, “Congratulations to the [whatever] family which deserves this recognition from a grateful nation. It is no replacement for their loved one, but it finally allows a nation to honor his selfless courage. Well done, [rank], well done.”? No! We would remark that to celebrate even the “heroic” deeds of soldiers engaged in Nazi aggression demeans the German nation.

    So is Etchberger’s award any different from this situation? And if so, how? “It is ok when we do it but not when they do it” is not an acceptable answer.

  22. since the u.s. wasn’t suppost to be in Laos his orders most likely stated report to Lima site 85 with no country given. he may not have known it was Laos untill he got there.

    R.I.P Chief

  23. FFN,

    Legality of action.

    Heroism of the individual.

    Believe it or not, they are discrete contexts of human behavior.

    The Chief didn’t make his own assignment. Had he, you might have a point. That the civilians, and ultimately it was civilians in the American system who directed the illegal action, were not heroic in any way but rather criminal I will not question. But by the same token, I won’t discredit an individual’s heroic act simply because he was a solider and compelled to follow illegal orders.

    Why?

    Because when you adopt that mindset you end up with situations where people who are not in control of what job they are given in the military return home to people who think it’s appropriate to spit on them and call them baby killers even they conducted themselves with both honor and courage. Individuals are war criminals just as individuals are heroes.

    Heroism is an individuals act of courage in a bad situation. Nothing more, nothing less. This is one of the reasons I think the term “sports heroes” is deeply offensive. A guy scoring a touchdown or grand slam in the bottom of the ninth to win a game? They are not heroes. They are doing their job. If the QB or DH rushes into the stand to save a spectator dying from a heart attack even though it costs them professionally and personally? That’s heroic.

    You are impugning the bad acts of those who defined the mission on to those who were tasked the mission with limited recourse. Sure, he could have disobey orders to deploy and faces court martial but who are you to make that choice for another without walking in their shoes?

    Germany had heroes too believe it or not. So did the Japanese. People who gave their lives or were injured performing selfless acts of courage to defend others.

    I understand your distaste for illegal actions by the state. But you are misplacing that just anger on to people who had no control of the larger situation.

  24. BIL,

    Let me answer your arguments in reverse:

    “I understand your distaste for illegal actions by the state. But you are misplacing that just anger on to people who had no control of the larger situation.”

    I’m not trying to claim that Etchberger could have singlehandedly ended the war. Of course as one individual he has no control over grand strategy. However, he is responsible for the predictable consequences his actions. The local (as opposed to global) situation he _is_ responsible for, and we may appropriately judge his actions by that standard.

    “Germany had heroes too believe it or not. So did the Japanese. People who gave their lives or were injured performing selfless acts of courage to defend others.”

    That’s exactly my point — Americans would only react the way that everyone in this thread did to American “heroes,” not Japanese “heroes.” When’s the last time an American Medal of Honor was given to a Kamikaze pilot? I’m sure there are some in Japan who might think that a Kamikaze pilot was performing a “selfless act[] of courage to defend others” from American violence. Not that I accept that argument, of course, so I see no reason to do accept a similar one for an American, either.

    “You are impugning the bad acts of those who defined the mission on to those who were tasked the mission with limited recourse. Sure, he could have disobey orders to deploy and faces court martial but who are you to make that choice for another without walking in their shoes? ”

    Condoleezza Rice uses this defense to try and escape responsibility for ordering torture. Since she was under tremendous pressure after 9/11 and had to make “tough decisions”, she reasons, she was obligated to order others to torture. Do you accept her argument as valid?

    “Because when you adopt that mindset you end up with situations where people who are not in control of what job they are given in the military return home to people who think it’s appropriate to spit on them and call them baby killers even they conducted themselves with both honor and courage. Individuals are war criminals just as individuals are heroes.”

    Just because the consequences of an judgment are undesirable for some parties doesn’t mean we should withhold judgment. For instance, just because someone is going to be imprisoned for life for a clear-cut case of murder does not mean that we shouldn’t judge the person, lest people think ill of him. If someone kills babies, they’re a baby-killer, and we shouldn’t shy away from calling someone that if indeed it is an accurate label. Verily, might this knowledge that one is held responsible for one’s actions act as a deterrent for being a party to crimes?

  25. Wow, here we are fighting Nam again. One thing I learned from Nam … don’t blame the troops … especially if it is some civilian telling you to do so. I knew guys who found out they were in a country they weren’t supposed to be in but only after they were no longer there. Boots on the ground are not given that kind of info precisly so they can not refuse the orders.

    On this one I am 100% with AY

    (I’m shootin’ the Marbles, AY … just got back from a very loud and excellent Mex restaurant … the beverages have gone to my Head … found a “business center” …)

  26. FFN,

    “That’s exactly my point — Americans would only react the way that everyone in this thread did to American “heroes,” not Japanese “heroes.” When’s the last time an American Medal of Honor was given to a Kamikaze pilot? I’m sure there are some in Japan who might think that a Kamikaze pilot was performing a “selfless act[] of courage to defend others” from American violence. Not that I accept that argument, of course, so I see no reason to do accept a similar one for an American, either.”

    Straw man argument, an informal logical fallacy. The subject of the news story is American. This argument is tantamount to a refusal to recognize heroism in any context of conflict. That would be a bias, not a logical analysis of what comports as individual heroic behavior.

    “Condoleezza Rice uses this defense to try and escape responsibility for ordering torture. Since she was under tremendous pressure after 9/11 and had to make “tough decisions”, she reasons, she was obligated to order others to torture. Do you accept her argument as valid?”

    Another straw man argument couched in a false equivalence. Rice was a senior official, one of those civilians responsible for policy that results in orders, not a soldier. By extrapolation, she would be Dean Rusk or Henry Kissenger in this instance. Rice is an unindicted war criminal (along with her superiors Bush and Cheney) as is Kissenger and as was Rusk (he died in 1973). If you are upset with illegal actions, these are the appropriate targets for prosecution as they did have influence over the larger situation (unlike Chief Etchberger) and they are the ones responsible for ordering the illegal action(s). The Chief was a hero in spite of following illegal orders that came from Johnson and Rusk. More on that in a bit.

    “That’s exactly my point — Americans would only react the way that everyone in this thread did to American “heroes,” not Japanese “heroes.” When’s the last time an American Medal of Honor was given to a Kamikaze pilot? I’m sure there are some in Japan who might think that a Kamikaze pilot was performing a “selfless act[] of courage to defend others” from American violence. Not that I accept that argument, of course, so I see no reason to do accept a similar one for an American, either.”

    An assumption. I’m an American and I submitted that heroes can exist on all sides of a conflict to the argument as a true assertion thus belying your assumption.

    “Just because the consequences of an judgment are undesirable for some parties doesn’t mean we should withhold judgment. For instance, just because someone is going to be imprisoned for life for a clear-cut case of murder does not mean that we shouldn’t judge the person, lest people think ill of him. If someone kills babies, they’re a baby-killer, and we shouldn’t shy away from calling someone that if indeed it is an accurate label. Verily, might this knowledge that one is held responsible for one’s actions act as a deterrent for being a party to crimes?”

    Specious reasoning. The crime you question is the illegal action in Laos. False attribution of the prime cause and the people possessing the mens rea behind it to Etchberger is the equivalent of blaming the actions of Reinhardt Heydrich on a solider you have no other evidence against than he was under Heydrich’s chain of command. I’m all for accuracy, but punishing a brutal prison guard from Auschwitz is justice where punishing a guy who worked as a file clerk and committed no distinct war crime of his own is an injustice. Unless you have other evidence that Etchberger committed atrocities of his own, your disparaging of his heroism is still misplaced.

  27. CLARIFICATION:

    “That would be a bias, not a logical analysis of what comports as individual heroic behavior.”

    Should that be your bias, I will stipulate that without condoning it as a matter of logic or condemning it as a matter of principle, I do understand it.

  28. “This argument is tantamount to a refusal to recognize heroism in any context of conflict. That would be a bias, not a logical analysis of what comports as individual heroic behavior.”

    I don’t mean to say that there categorically can be no heroic actions in battle. Rather, any so-called “heroic” act that transpires after a criminal aggression is tainted by the original sin of that criminal aggression. Once one is a party to such a crime, and one is acting in furtherance of that crime, any claims to heroism are obliterated by the rot of the context in which the “heroic” act occurs.

    “If you are upset with illegal actions, these are the appropriate targets for prosecution as they did have influence over the larger situation (unlike Chief Etchberger) and they are the ones responsible for ordering the illegal action(s).”

    You are correct in saying that the ones at the top of the chain of command have much greater responsibility for the aggression than the likes of Etchberger (and I am certainly upset with them — note my first post on this story). However, merely because those individuals bear a heavier burden of guilt for ordering Etchberger to assist in the bombing of Vietnam does not absolve him of responsibility for willingly participating in the crime.

    “Unless you have other evidence that Etchberger committed atrocities of his own, your disparaging of his heroism is still misplaced.”

    I’m guessing that Etchberger wasn’t in a clandestine base in Laos stationed in “part of a secret U.S. Air Force radar base used to guide bombers that was located just 120 miles from Hanoi in North Vietnam” just to be a “file clerk.”

    But suppose he was. I think that he would bear a lesser responsibility, but (similar to my first response in this post) still a responsibility for facilitating the aggression. Just as someone who was merely tabulating Nazi gas chamber victims would bear some responsibility for the Holocaust in a lesser sense than the senior Nazi command.

  29. “However, merely because those individuals bear a heavier burden of guilt for ordering Etchberger to assist in the bombing of Vietnam does not absolve him of responsibility for willingly participating in the crime.”

    Again with the assumptions.

    I reiterate, he was a soldier. His recourse and his rights to resist are limited and even more so in wartime. You give up a lot of your Constitutional rights when you join the military. Article 90 of the UCMJ provides that the punishment for willfully disobeying a lawful order of superior commissioned officer can result in dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and up to 5 years in prison. “Lawfulness” would have been an issue for the trier of fact which in this instance would be a military tribunal. In a time of war the punishment for disobeying an order can be death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct (which can include indefinite detention).

    In a case where war criminals are issuing the orders and able to influence the process being superiors in the chain of command, do you really think he’d have gotten a fair hearing regarding the lawfulness of the order had he refused? They’d have invoked that old demon “the interests of national security” and at best case he’d have just been locked up. Worst case they’d have shot him.

    There is also the fact that he may not have been informed of where he was being stationed until he got off the plane, putting him into the position where he could have thought it was a lawful order only to find out too late that it wasn’t (a not uncommon occurrence for actions in Laos and Cambodia during that time).

    As to “tainted”? Absent proof that he committed war crimes himself and given that it was wartime, he can most certainly be held innocent of war crimes of his superiors because you are again making an assumption: that he was willingly participating in the crime (your exact words). The military and the military justice system are by their nature more coercive than civilian life.

    Your argument still sounds like rationalization for your bias and fails from your assumption of “willingness” alone. Unless you are psychic, you are attributing mens rea where none may have existed. You also assume that because the nature of the operation was clandestine that ipso facto he was committing crimes in the course of following orders he was compelled to obey when his role may have been of a support nature that in itself was innocuous.

    By your flawed logic, every soldier in the US military who have served in the Iraqi theater are war criminals for following the orders of Bush and Cheney – from those who’ve committed war crimes of their own like murdering civilians to the guy who works in the motor pool. The burden of guilt is proportionate to the bad acts of the individual or that’s not justice. It’s too inequitable to be justice even in a strictly hierarchical structure like the military. A fish rots from the head, but you propose a rotten head means the entire fish is tainted when the fillets may be just fine.

  30. Dulce et Decorum Est
    by Wilfred Owen

    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

    Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
    And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…
    Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

    In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

    If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

  31. Elaine M.,

    That is great.

    Something I don’t understand about some folks and it perturbs me greatly, is that children must listen to their parents even if they are wrong. It is a learned response, for some it is safety others security and the loyalty.

    It is my understanding that a member of the service is a person that gives up their individual freedom for the greater good of the whole. What one may consider a criminal act others may consider an act of treason or aggression.

    Taking the first instance if that same child is in the military and does what they are told to do, and they do are they any less a hero because they lost? Maybe it is age or some other reason but, I think that the veterans of the Viet unwar were treated less fairly than any others doing the same act at different times. Most of these folks did not want to be there and they certainly were unwelcome when they returned home by a vast majority of Americans.

    What is an interesting read is the way that Johnson after the Civil War or the Northern Aggression to the South initially treated the Southerns. Because of the “Act of Treason” they forfeited every asset that they owned. It became politically incorrect and the Southerns were eventually given back the homes and most of the assets that were taken and of course the commissions that they were assigned by President Davis.

    The only one that was in a position of power who lost all of his property, was eventually appointed President of a University is Robert Edward Lee, whom I still consider one of the finest Generals that the South had to offer. It was not until Grant became president that they Southerns were given back almost everything, taken as the spoils of war. Lee’s former estate which was in Arlington we now call the National Cemetery. He was also compensated in other ways as well.

    If memory serves me correctly a widow of one of the Southern Soldiers died about 2005. She received his pension until his death. Are these folks any less deserving of recognition? I think not.

  32. AY–

    “If memory serves me correctly a widow of one of the Southern Soldiers died about 2005. She received his pension until his death.”

    Are you sure about that year–2005? Did you mean she received his pension until her death? She wouldn’t have been a widow until her husband died.

    Did you have wild Saturday night???

    ;)

  33. Well I was “Beck” free so depending on your definition of wild…any sowing oats….

    You are ever so correct…the teacher lady has caught me again…I refuse to do detention…how about some licks….(I got my fair share or maybe someones elses as well)

  34. FFN,
    I usally find much to agree with in what you say. However, in this instance I think you are needlessly belaboring a point, that bears merit, but suffers from the same de-humanization that those who ordered these crimes rationalize away. LBJ, Nixon, Kissinger, et. al. were murderers who justified their behavior in the service of realpolitick, when in fact it was much more about proving their “manhood.”

    I played a small role in the Movemnt to oppose this murder in the service of ego. The anti-war movement failed precisely because of the type of mindset you have ably exhibited in this discussion. The country was coming around to understanding the wrongness of Viet Nam, when some of my compadres started blaming the troops as if their actions were the equivalent of the powerful murderers that perpetuated this war. Since many Americans had their children, kin or friends drafted into this insanity and were thus in harm’s way, the peace movement lost momentum due to its own unwillingness to make needed distinctions.

    I faced being drafted and two physicals saved me only because I had enormously high blood pressure. I wouldn’t have gone to Canada and I couldn’t get CO status. I could have wound up in Viet Nam with a rifle in my hand and to be honest about it I would have tried to kill the VC before they killed me. Who knows that in a moment of zeal, lost in the fear and shit of battle I too might have done something heroic.

    It is too easy in the glow of hindsight to judge people with little control over their fates. The real murderers in Viet Nam managed to live out their lives in comfort and even some glory. To me there is nothing wrong with recognizing the actions of some pawns in the game, who acted with self sacrifice.

    By all means shout your righteous anger where it belongs, but try to empathise with those who were powerless cannon fodder.
    As to your Nazi analogy, let me say this. As a proud and committed Jew the Shoah remains constant in my mind. I will never visit Germany or buy a German product. However, the Nuremburg trials and the dictum that “only following orders” was no excuse has always struck a false chord to me. If you were a young person with a family and were faced with the choice of your/their destruction, or following orders, it is facile to believe that you would have always done the right thing. Blame, approbrium and punishment should be meted out to those responsible for the crimes, since many of their perpertrating minions had little choice between obeying or dying. It is easy to postulate our own heroism when we are not put into the situation of where it is tested.

  35. HenMan,
    Thank your for filling the history of Smedley-Butler, who was truly a man whose story should be understood and honored.
    Unfortunately his authoritative narrative has been buried in the service of the propaganda that goes under the name of “history.”

  36. “Again with the assumptions.”

    “You also assume that because the nature of the operation was clandestine that ipso facto he was committing crimes in the course of following orders he was compelled to obey when his role may have been of a support nature that in itself was innocuous.”

    I already stated above my objection to his participation in the operation was not because it was clandestine but because it was part of an aggressive war. My objection would be no different if he participated in a widely disclosed operation.

    Like I said above, even if he participated in the most insignificant way in an aggressive war, he still participated. I am making no assumptions (aside from that he did participate in at least an insignificant way, an assumption I think is valid).

    I don’t see why my other characterization that you object to (his “willingness”) could even be questioned. Are you saying that he was coerced into being there? He was clearly there of his own free will. There’s an obvious alternative to agreeing to participate in the operation: refuse to go.

    “By your flawed logic, every soldier in the US military who have served in the Iraqi theater are war criminals for following the orders of Bush and Cheney – from those who’ve committed war crimes of their own like murdering civilians to the guy who works in the motor pool.”

    That doesn’t seem like flawed logic, rather an obvious conclusion.

    A flaw might be what you are doing: believing that less guilt (a grunt bears less responsibility than Cheney) is no guilt at all.

    ====================

    Your objections seem to fall into four main categories:

    1) What do you expect him to do he would have been severely punished for not following orders!

    Again, this is the “just following orders” objection. How severely he would have been punished for not following orders is beside the point.

    2) He would have had only a marginal effect on the war if he refused, so how can you put any blame on him?

    What effect he would have had is beside the point. The relevant moral dilemma for *him* is if *he* wanted to be a party to the crime of aggressive war.

    And, as you’ve stated, we don’t know exactly how many Vietnamese / Laotians (if any) he actually killed, so we don’t know who or what his refusal to participate would have spared.

    3) He didn’t know what he was doing because his superiors didn’t tell him.

    Whether he did or did not know about the exact specifics of what he was to be doing (or whether he knew he was in Laos as opposed to Vietnam) is beside the point. The information that he had already presented him with a stark moral decision: are you going to be a cog in the machine of an aggressive war, or aren’t you?

    4) Assuming a state of war… assuming a military justice system… etc.

    This is perhaps the most troubling for me, since normally you and the rest are so good about resisting this type of logical pigeonhole in other contexts. It’s the situation that a US leader, like Cheney or Rice, usually sets up for us: “When you’re in a state of war… then X, Y and Z are justified. Since we are in a state of war, we need those powers and should not be held accountable for what we do with them, even if they are criminal in a peacetime context. After all, we are at war.”

    This assumption needs to be questioned: WHY are we in a state of war? Is this state of war necessary? Could it have been avoided?

    In the case of Vietnam / Laos / Cambodia, I think we all recognize that what is called the “Vietnam War” was a criminal act of aggression meant to perpetuate American empire. It could have been avoided — it was totally unnecessary and unjustifiable in terms of any humanitarian or “defense” argument.

    So, since the assumption (a just war grants the state extraordinary powers) is unjustified, we also must reject what you are saying follows from this assumption (the soldiers can not be held accountable for actions that are not permitted during peace time).

  37. When’s the last time an American Medal of Honor was given to a Kamikaze pilot? I’m sure there are some in Japan who might think that a Kamikaze pilot was performing a “selfless act[] of courage to defend others” from American violence.

    I won’t belabor the points made by BIL about that quote, but wanted to point out another key difference that makes the analogy inappropriate: kamikaze pilots (and suicide bombers today) give up their lives for ideology and only “save” people through a nebulous benefit to the war effort. Heroes risk their lives to try to directly save specific people.

  38. Mike,

    “The anti-war movement failed precisely because of the type of mindset you have ably exhibited in this discussion.”

    I take precisely the opposite view: the anti-war movement failed to prevent future wars like Iraq and Afghanistan precisely because there was a reluctance to have an honest look at what America and Americans did in the Vietnam war.

    If one looks at how Vietnam is discussed now, the history of what happened is starkly different from reality. For instance, there’s a inkling that Vietnam was some crime that the Vietnamese inflicted on us (Deer Hunter, anyone?). Of course, what actually happened was quite the opposite — America supported the French recolonization of Indochina, and when that failed we installed our own repressive government (Diem), undertook immediately to undermine the Geneva Accords and other international agreements, sent the Air Force to bomb South Vietnam, continued escalating our troop levels, expanded the war to Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam, killing millions of people and virtually destroying three countries, leaving behind a legacy of destruction which persists to this day. This was not a “mistake,” it was not a “blunder,” and it was certainly not necessary or unavoidable. Looking in the mirror and admitting the depraved and criminal nature of our Vietnam adventure is a tough exercise that we have not yet collectively endured as a nation. But as long as we don’t, our imperialist tendencies will continue and many more people around the world will suffer because of it.

    This, of course, does not mean prosecuting every single soldier for his crimes in Indochina. Not only would that be infeasible for logistical reasons, but under some “truth or reconciliation” contexts (or similar arrangements) many are exempted from punishment because so much of society was participating in the horror. And, as everyone on this thread agrees, some Americans bear more responsibility for the war than others. Naturally, Westmoreland, McNamara, Kissinger, Nixon, etc. have more to answer to than a drafted soldier.

    An apropos quote from A.J. Muste: “The problem after a war is with the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay. Who will now teach him a lesson?”

    “However, the Nuremburg trials and the dictum that “only following orders” was no excuse has always struck a false chord to me.”

    I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be sympathetic to these soldiers’ plight or (as stated above) that some bear more responsibility than others.

    Actually, what actually happened at the Nuremberg trials is an illustrative example of how America refused to come to terms with its own transgressions:

    “Criminal acts were to be treated as crimes only if the defeated enemy, but not the victors, had engaged in them… The conclusion [is] that Nuremberg is to be understood as the judgment of the victors, rather than as the achievement of a new level of international morality.” — The Rule of Force in International Affairs, by Noam Chomsky (appearing in For Reasons of State, p.214)

    I highly recommend picking up this book if you’re interested in these issues.

  39. FFN,

    So, since the assumption (a just war grants the state extraordinary powers) is unjustified, we also must reject what you are saying follows from this assumption (the soldiers can not be held accountable for actions that are not permitted during peace time).

    No. We are a nation of laws, the highest of the which is the Constitution. Constitutional protections cannot be ignored simply because we are “at war”. However, you create a false equivalency between the individual and the nation. Soldiers do operate under a separate set of laws while at war (most blatantly, they can kill people).

  40. This, of course, does not mean prosecuting every single soldier for his crimes in Indochina.

    You just jumped from the macro-level premise that America was at fault in Vietnam and victimized three countries, to the conclusion “all American soldiers committed crimes in Vietnam”.

    What exactly do you think a crime is? What are the required elements of the crime you think those soldiers committed?

    You seem to have a strong visceral belief that “America was not only wrong but criminal” and simply project that onto all soldiers without any critical thought.

    I don’t think there’s really any common ground to be had, if that’s the case, so I think I’m done responding on this thread.

  41. The answer, of course, to the above dilemma as to “I was only following orders” is that we are a nation of laws, not of men.

    Thus, any order given for an invasion, incursion, intervention,
    subvention, infiltration, overthrow, removal, rendition,bombing,
    napalming, or obliteration of any country, people or government
    is illegal in the absence of a formal Declaration of War by the
    Congress of the United States of America, as provided for in the
    Constitution, Article One, Section Eight.

    If we are not a nation of laws, let us say so, close dowm the
    District of Columbia, and allow all those government employees
    to return home and apply their talents in the local economy.

    Arma Virumque Cano

  42. Then the CIA should be going out of business….They are the best infiltrator of any government you have ever had….do you really know who your co-worker is? How about your neighbor? What about owners of the newspapers? How about your local credit reporting agency….it is cheaper to find out who your service members own money to so that they won’t be susceptible to potential bribery….that is the quickest way to get a deployable person undeployable… owe a lot of money…do how do you think they figure than one out?

  43. James M,

    “No. We are a nation of laws, the highest of the which is the Constitution. Constitutional protections cannot be ignored simply because we are “at war”. However, you create a false equivalency between the individual and the nation. Soldiers do operate under a separate set of laws while at war (most blatantly, they can kill people).”

    You are attributing to me the exact views that I am arguing against. I am arguing *for* enforcement of the law. The most relevant here would be international law — the crime of aggression, the most grave and serious crime.

    It is strange that you regard the opportunity to kill others as a “protection.” Who is that protecting, exactly?

    “What exactly do you think a crime is? What are the required elements of the crime you think those soldiers committed?”

    It is fascinating that you have such an inability to comprehend that acting as a party to killing millions of people might be a crime.

  44. Anonymously Yours,

    I have no idea what you are trying to say here. But if you are arguing that the CIA should be dismantled, I agree. I can’t think of a single good thing they have done, but many of their evil deeds have influenced world events for the worse.

  45. FFN,

    My problem is that you insist on making someone culpable for an action over which they no control and were under a compulsion that carried death as a consequence for disobeying.

    For someone complaining about the deaths of others, you’re certainly willing to send someone to theirs for your point of view. Not everyone who aids a criminal conspiracy is an aider and abettor. Only those who do so willingly and knowingly.

    You are assuming based on your attributing mens rea and knowledge to parties that may have neither.

  46. I think heroism and courage know no external context but exist internally in the person. The context serves merely as the canvass for the artistry. It is not shameful or unpatriotic to acknowledge the heroism inplicit in the kamaikaze, who, misgudedly gave his life for his country. That virtue may sometimes blunder into the service of vice does not taint the soul of the virtuous (who acts bravely, though, to our eyes, mistakenly) nor exonerate the deceiver.

    Will Rogers comment that “he would rather be the man who bought the Brooklyn Bridge than the man who sold it” shows that naïveté does not equate morally to cunning. The former retaining the virtue but not the prudence; the latter possessing the prudence but none of the virtue.

  47. BIL,

    “My problem is that you insist on making someone culpable for an action over which they no control and were under a compulsion that carried death as a consequence for disobeying.”

    You’ve got things exactly backwards. Following his orders lead to his death. If he would have followed my advice and refused to participate in America’s act of aggression, he might have ended up in jail, but wouldn’t have been killed in Laos.

    “Not everyone who aids a criminal conspiracy is an aider and abettor. Only those who do so willingly and knowingly.”

    And, as I’ve said, he did have this knowledge. I really don’t know how you can continue to argue that, seeing America was engaged in an all-out war in Indochina and going to Indochina as an American member of the armed forces, Etchberger had no idea what he was getting into. What do you suppose he thought he was going to be doing there? Playing bingo?

  48. FFN:

    “What do you suppose he thought he was going to be doing there? Playing bingo?”

    ************

    You have a unique view of both moral and legal recrimination. Most folks accept that a person acting under duress of imprisonment is not committing a voluntary act. Thus if one commits an act that is criminal, but lacks the requisite mens rea because his will is overborne, he is not legally culpable nor, in my view, morally culpable.

  49. mespo et al,

    I think I get the point that FFN is attempting to make and it is a very sad one at that. Here is my take, she thinks that we shouldn’t have been there. I could not agree more. That the person that was there should have gone AWOL, Deserted and/or taken a CO status at the time it was an involuntary enlistment, if memory serves me correctly.

    Because the smart ones that joined went to either the Air Force or Navy usually didn’t see much action, unless stationed in a semi combat zone in the unwar. The others were taken in as grunts in either the Army or Marines and what a hell they went through in this unwar.

    Back to my take, because they shouldn’t have been there they deserved to get what was coming to them, regardless if they did not have a choice as to whether they should have been there or not. This is the part I think that they cannot comprehend. The only choice this person had was which branch he was going to join before he was drafted and told which base to report.

    Just because he died the way he did in saving others, she is stating that he is not deserving or his family is not deserving of Medal.

    I suppose if we hadn’t tactfully engaged in war preparation prior to our (questionable) entry into WWII, as all of the newest ships built were on maneuvers in the North Pacific, we’d all be sticking our right hands in the air, with the 4 fingers as straight as they could go and the thumb folded to the middle of the palm and shouting as loud as we could Sig Heil Der Fuhrer is the Greatest. Pardon me my German is stale, I-Tie I cannot do and I know very little Japanese.

    It appears that she suffers from a moral dementia and Nam or the lives of those that died meant nothing to her as she can sit in her fairy tell world and judge everyone but not want to be judged. Sig Heil my Fuhrer…. I am pleased to say in sarcasm only. I learned this from Buddha…….lol….

  50. “I take precisely the opposite view: the anti-war movement failed to prevent future wars like Iraq and Afghanistan precisely because there was a reluctance to have an honest look at what America and Americans did in the Vietnam war”

    FFN,
    Here is exactly where we differ and your reference to Chomsky only highlights it. My work in life and in protest politics was done with an eye towards saving real human beings from the suffering the powerful put them through. My ideals are at least the equal of yours or Chomsky’s, but my ego is such that I look to find means of improving people’s lot in life, or in the case of Viet Nam stopping an illegal and murderous war. To do that one has to assist in building movements that bring in people from divergent parts of society and saddled with divergent beliefs, much of which is propaganda.

    In my struggles in the 60’s and 70’s I also ran into another type of individual, Chompsky-esque so to speak, who found it much more important to hold the most correct views and thus intellectualized people’s suffering. To me people of that ilk are little better than those they rail against. I worked with and for people suffering. Having the right political analysis (to my mind being hipper than thou) does not cut it when the object is to get people to coalesce againt evil.

    Chompsky talks a good game but to him while he talks of human suffering it is an intellectual rather than a visceral exercize. Thus as brillient as he is, as cogent as his analysis is, he is really not helpful in changing a damn thing, but certainly has surrounded himself with a coterie of admirers who are also ineffectual in the fight against evil.

    You want to understand the failure of the Movement to stop the Viet Nam atrocites then read Rick Pearlstein’s “Nixonland” which explains how the Movemnt’s hubris helped to continue and expand the war through the Nixon years.

    It’s 35 years past and I’m still embarrassed by my being sucked into the ego games of people who I thought represented my side, but really were getting “their rocks off” to the detriment of a true Movement for justice that had a chance to succeed.

  51. Anonymously Yours,

    I see, so any kind of principled criticism of the Vietnam War or its participants means that America would have been overrun by the Nazis. With nuance like that, it is no wonder that an honest discussion of American crimes in Vietnam has been effectively stifled.

    And I never said anything like “he got what was coming to him.” File clerk or machine gunner, no one deserves to die in the jungle at the behest of the state which so callously squanders their lives.

  52. Mike,

    I’m not trying to “intellectualize people’s suffering.” I’m trying to change the attitudes in this country that lead us to glory in war. As long as we look at dying for the state in the context of an aggressive war as a heroic act, we are condemning ourselves to invade many further countries in the future.

    Of course it’s terrible that Etchberger died in Vietnam. I’m not trying to downplay his death (or anyone else’s death in Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia). It’s an awfully cynical thing for Kissinger (or whoever) to send people halfway around the world to die for an invading country. This obscenity is only compounded by trying to convince the world that such an activity is noble, and everyone on this thread is eating it up.

    “[Chomsky] talks a good game but to him while he talks of human suffering it is an intellectual rather than a visceral exercize. Thus as brillient as he is, as cogent as his analysis is, he is really not helpful in changing a damn thing, but certainly has surrounded himself with a coterie of admirers who are also ineffectual in the fight against evil.”

    This is just silly. He’s been one of the most effective peace activists on the planet. For someone that’s dedicated half of his life to preventing others’ suffering, you’re dismissing his work rather cavalierly.

    You’re drawing a false conflict between having an incisive, critical analysis of US power and caring about people. The two coincide, they do not contradict each other.

  53. No one is speaking about not having an honest discussion at all. What you stated and continue to state offends my sense of dignity which has a fairly high level. Hence, you can say a lot, before I take offense.

    What you are doing is digressing about what shouldda, couldda, and didn’t happen. With that you are saying that this mans life and the fact that the US government has denied that this man died saving others and that even post-posthumously his family does not deserve a hero’s medal is beyond belief.

    As Mike S has said…I commend you to re-read his post.

  54. If you wanna see how peaceful Chomsky is…why don’t you call him up on the phone. If you need his number I suggest you call MIT he is supposed to still be teaching classes. I found this on the web for you.

    All requests, invitations, questions, and general correspondence should be directed to Professor Chomsky’s MIT email address, available at: http://web.mit.edu/linguistics/www/chomsky.home.html

    I do not know if its valid or not.

    I suffered from a course that he loved. This was the coarses’ course that I have ever taken, it was the most miserable elective I have ever taken in my life, so much for linguistics…..

  55. FFN:

    “I’m trying to change the attitudes in this country that lead us to glory in war. As long as we look at dying for the state in the context of an aggressive war as a heroic act, we are condemning ourselves to invade many further countries in the future.”

    ********************

    This is the falsest of dichotomies. One need not love war to honor heroism, self-sacrifice, and courage. Even the personification of non-violence knew that:

    Strength in numbers is the delight of the timid.
    The valiant in spirit glory in fighting alone.

    ~ Mahatma Gandhi

    As for your implied assertion that every peace is a good one, I think history only shows every peace resulting in the triumph of the rule of law is a good one. The rest are merely interludes for on-going wars. Armed conflict is a potential of our existence, as every person walking alone along a dark alley instinctively knows. To deny that, commits one to a utopia tha has never existed nor is likely to exist. There are worse things that war. To do nothing against slavery and oppression, cower before inhumanity, stand-by mute at indignity directed at others, and failing to kick the ass of a bully, all seem far more damaging to the soul than any war could inflict. Patrick Henry knew that as did the majority of his brethren who mid-wifed this Country into its war-fathered existence. There are valid reasons to fight even if your own person isn’t threatened. Recall that the war we wage to protect ourselves may be waged with equal vigor in defense of others. We have an obligtion to fight and fight hard to defend ourselves and our countrymen. That is exactly what Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger did on that lonely rock outcropping 42 years ago – and did so to his and our Nation’s credit.

    Frater, ave atque vale!

  56. Bottom line is he and his comrades died for nothing. We lost. And we were doomed to lose from day one.

    The lose of someone that generous and brave is a tragedy, to lose someone that generous and brave for no good purpose is obscene.

  57. Marnie,

    You’re wrong. Three of the Chief Master Sergent’s comrades survived because of his heroism. That’s why he’s being honored.

  58. I think that what constitutes illegal orders is being overlooked here – as I understand it US v. New says that unless orders are illegal on their face they must be followed – it seems likely that the Chief Master Sargent was never issued any illegal orders and thus would inevitably be court marshaled and punished under the UCMJ for any disobedience. FFN you also seem to be saying that the Chief’s presence at a base directing the bombing of the enemy is tantamount to a war crime. As Buddha pointed out, both heroism and it’s opposite are individual achievements (and I share your distaste for calling athletes heroes as well, Buddha). You are only guilty of a war crime if you commit it yourself or order someone else to do it. Heroism is the same except that you can’t order anyone to do it for you. In my opinion the tragic mistake of Vietnam protesters was to ever think that the soldiers were the enemy rather than the civilian leaders and others high in the chain of command. Heroism is not about how someone got into a situation, it is about how someone handled themselves once they were in that situation.

  59. Marnie 1, September 5, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    Bottom line is he and his comrades died for nothing. We lost. And we were doomed to lose from day one.

    The lose of someone that generous and brave is a tragedy, to lose someone that generous and brave for no good purpose is obscene.
    ——————————————-
    That man did not die for nothing…he died for his comrades, his friends, he died for you and me and he died so we could have a chance to make a decision to NOT make the same mistake again… Hero

    Marnie, obscene is the definite word here….obscene because the lesson was not learned…now we are in Iraq and for oil…rather than having the mindset to begin freeing ourselves from the ugly chains of Big Oil interests we have allowed Corporate interests to plunder and spoil our shorelines, and sent, under the cloak of Halliburton and Blackwater [and all those other sheilded corporate beasts]our own force of destruction abroad at the expense of the ‘footsoldiers’ of the American economy. They have been traded for outsourcing and offshoring while a few greedy mindless profit. So we are making heroes everyday. I’d rather warm, living breathing people working towards a goal to uplift our lives in a better way…

  60. Marnie:

    “Bottom line is he and his comrades died for nothing. We lost. And we were doomed to lose from day one.”

    ***************

    Dying in an act of heroism and in service to our Country will never be considered death “for nothing” among those who value what this Country stands for in our finest hours. Take a stroll through Arlington one day hard past those 300,000 neatly situated marble monuments to American valor. You might learn more about your Country – and human altruism– than any book could say.

  61. The Right Honorable Mr. F.F. Nothing has sadly neglected to mention one of his all time heroes, one of the greatest peace advocates of the Twentieth Century, who said:

    “My good friends, this is the second time there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Now I recommend you go home, and sleep quietly in your beds.”

    Neville Chamberlain, misquoting “peace in our time” from the Book of Common Prayer, as peace for our time, on September 30, 1938.

    As mespo wisely said, “As for your implied assertion that every peace is a good one, I think history only shows every peace resulting in the triumph of the rule of law is a good one.”

    Had FF Naught’s pacifist policies been pursued to their logical end in 1938 through 1941, we would have a nice world today, divided between Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and Imperial Japan.

    The total hypocrite “Nothing” now has the nerve, gall, to demean the ordinary soldiers to pursue his folly of mindless pacifism. Let him take his theories back to his little discussion groups and preach them to the choir. Leave the soldiers alone.

    Or perhaps FF Zero should really live up to his principles, and take his message to picket lines at the funerals of soldiers who have died in battle.

  62. VT,

    I agreed with everything you have said and realize the last paragraph was said in sarcasm, unfortunately there are too many ASS HOLES doing just that.

    Maybe as a just reward the Desperado’s or Hell’s Angles should decide to have a party in the clearing to settle all disputes when it is FFN’s or FFZ as you stated time.

    After all we are only talking about nothing more than turf wars but on a global scale. Maybe FFN family can then have tattoos place on the arms and tears placed on the right eye…..How many more….

  63. Dear FFN

    Yes he could have burned his draft card (do you even know if he was drafted) or disobeyed orders (which orders were illegal?) or simply gone AWOL. In essence, you are saying he is a war criminal so he deserved to be killed. You are also saying that no one who served in Vietnam should have received any medals because they were all war criminals?

    The fact is that this man gave his life to save others. That’s a hero in my book and should be in your book too, assuming you’re a decent human being. The fact that it took place in a war which you personally object to is irrelevant.

    RIP Chief Etchberger

  64. Slarti,

    “In my opinion the tragic mistake of Vietnam protesters was to ever think that the soldiers were the enemy rather than the civilian leaders and others high in the chain of command.”

    I remember those days well. There were plenty of protests against the government and civilian leaders. There were lots of Vietnam vets involved in the anti-war/peace movement. My husband attended a peace rally on Boston Common. Many of us who were young at the time didn’t blame the soldiers–in fact, many of us had friends and family serving in Vietnam. One of my good friends was killed in Vietnam in 1969.

    LBJ decided not to run in 1968 because the war had made him and his administration so unpopular.

    Following are some of the protest chants form the Vietnam anti-war movement. The first three are the ones I recall best.

    “Hey, hey LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?”
    “Hell no, we won’t go”
    “One, two, three, four! We don’t want your fucking war!”
    **********
    “Johnson lied. People died.”
    “Eighteen today, dead tomorrow”
    “Bring our boys home”
    “LBJ – pull out like your old man should have!”

  65. I even look on LBJ in a different way now. He appointed an attorney who worked for the NAACP to the Supreme Court. That was revolutionary at that time.

  66. Swarthmore mom,

    If I recall correctly Marshall argued as Solicitor General before the Sct the case of Brown vs Bd of Education. I am unsure if he argued all aspects of the case as there was various segments. If I remember correctly he was on at the same time as one of my favorite Jurist and that was Brennan. For human and civil rights in the criminal arena you could not get much better than that Duo….

  67. Elaine,

    Having been born in 1969 my memories of the Vietnam era are mostly nonexistent – I should have qualified my statement so as not to imply that all anti-war protesters were against the soldiers. Sorry. The fact that some of the protesters anger was misplaced towards the troops (essentially painting the group with the war crimes of individuals) was, in my opinion, a tragedy.

  68. “I’m not trying to “intellectualize people’s suffering.” I’m trying to change the attitudes in this country that lead us to glory in war.”

    FFN,
    You miss my point. Chomsky is an “equal opportunity anathemizer” criticizing all on the political spectrum who don’t completely adhere to his analysis. My point is that to institute real change one must braoden the range of those who are allied for change. Chomsky turns off all those who don’t fully accept him. You and I agree about the evil and futility of Viet Nam, Iraq & Afghanistan. However, I understand that there are people that can become allied in the struggle against these wars, if they are not insulted. Many good Americans have children and kin in the military and they repect that commitment.
    LBJ, Nixon, Bush and Cheney are the war criminals, not those young people who were conned into sacrifice. By denying their ability to be heroic, even if the cause is bad, is to alienate potential allies who can help us end this madness.

    “This obscenity is only compounded by trying to convince the world that such an activity is noble, and everyone on this thread is eating it up.”

    None of us is trying to make the war noble. We are celebrating someone who selflessly gave his life for his comrades. By doing so we are actually expanding the base of people that can be convinced of the wars futility, rather than alienating them.

    “This is just silly. He’s been one of the most effective peace activists on the planet.”

    Could you give me some examples of his effectiveness as a peace activist? I know he’s got a cushy professorial job, a good authors income and appears a lot on TV and forums. But what peace exactly has he been able to bring about?

    As for me I’ve actually saved three lives from suicide. Two others from insulin shock and assisted in the treatment of people who were addicted and also had AXIS I psychiatric diagnoses. This is just a small part of my career. While a self promoter like Chomsky was working on his professorial tenure, I was constantly putting my career chances on the line by refusing to follow the stupid policies of my superiors. I’m not and never will be famous or wealthy, nor do I care to be. The most important accomplishments for me have been to raise a family and have time to spend with them.

    Chomsky’s main goal has been in service of his ego and comfort.
    He has found a nice niche for himself and talks a good game. Tell me though has he ever tried to clean feces from the floor of a schizophrenic client who we were trying to maintain in his lifelong apartment in his community, I have. The diffference between people like me and Chomsky is we actually walked the walk and didn’t reap the financial awards and the beatification
    he has achieved.

  69. I have all the paraphernalia from Johnson’s presidential campaign in my attic … preserved all these years. I hang onto the stuff because to this day I hate him for Nam and I love him for Civil Rights … I have never resolved the conflict within myself … I’m my own little Nam and my attic is still occupied.

  70. “There were lots of Vietnam vets involved in the anti-war/peace movement. My husband attended a peace rally on Boston Common. Many of us who were young at the time didn’t blame the soldiers–in fact, many of us had friends and family serving in Vietnam. One of my good friends was killed in Vietnam in 1969.”

    Elaine,
    you are quite correct. However, the so-called leaders of the peace movement were a different story. They, like Jane Fonda, made fools of those of us who wanted to bring the troops home safely.

  71. Blouise,
    What is hidden from us is that there could be real powers that be that can overrule any President. Remember JFK and the evidence he wanted out of Viet Nam and to rein in the CIA, with its’ Mafia connections. LBJ seems to have known from the beginning that the war would be a failure, but perhaps he had no choice but to continue. He did wonders with Civil Rights and in health care. A flawed man of course, but then what President isn’t? I would have rathered his election in 1968 than Nixon’s, because we can see how Nixon’s secret peace plan worked out.

    FFN,
    One final point I’d like to address. If you are talking about heroic philosophers and leaders I would invite you to read about Saul Alinsky, who gained fame by actually working out in the streets.

  72. Slarti,

    “Having been born in 1969 my memories of the Vietnam era are mostly nonexistent – I should have qualified my statement so as not to imply that all anti-war protesters were against the soldiers. Sorry. The fact that some of the protesters anger was misplaced towards the troops (essentially painting the group with the war crimes of individuals) was, in my opinion, a tragedy.”

    I think most people who didn’t live through those times have heard the narrative of how returning soldiers were mistreated by anti-war protesters–even spat upon. I’m sure some soldiers were treated poorly–but that was only part of the story.

    Those were indeed difficult times that changed our country. (They changed me too.) One of the incidents that speaks to those difficult times was the Kent State shootings in 1970 when Ohio National Guardsmen fired at students on campus–killing four.

  73. mespo–

    Thanks for posting the video. I had forgotten that song. The anti-war singers I remember best are people like Joan Baez and Pete Seeger–who wrote “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.”

  74. Blouise,

    I still have–somewhere in my house–an old campaign bumper sticker that reads: “Flick Dick.”

    I am proud to live in the only state in the US that didn’t go for Tricky Dick in the 1972 elections. I remember standing outside my polling place with a McGovern sign for many hours.

  75. Elaine,

    One of my math professors (who got his BS from Princeton in 1969 and his PhD from Berkley in 1973 – any inferences that you might draw about his politics from this are absolutely correct) was invited to give a talk at Kent state (in the late 80s) and told us about what a surreal experience it was for him. He talked about a statue with a patina of rust – except for the bullet holes (because people would put their fingers in the bullet holes). I went to Kent State for the 25th anniversary of May 4th and found it very disquieting to think about what it would have been like to have been there a quarter century before and how I would have acted…

    After seeing the makeshift shrine on the asphalt that day the following line became very powerful to me:

    “What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground?
    How could you run if you know?”

  76. Marnie,

    This is getting a bit off topic, but there are some (and I am partial to this view) that take the opinion that America won the Vietnam war. When determining whether a country “won” or “lost” a war, one must ask 1) what were the objectives of the war and 2) were those objectives achieved? It seems that the objectives of the Vietnam War were to punish a country for defiance of the Western agenda and send a message to those who otherwise might be considering independent development that they would be mercilessly attacked to the point of obliteration for it. This sense, the US won the war because the “domino effect” of independent development in Asia was avoided.

    Vince Treacy,

    Congratulations on being the second person in this thread to draw the “peace = giving in to Hitler” connection. And on your inability to distinguish Vietnam from WWII.

    Incidentally, I would like to see an analysis of the whole “failing to militarily confront Hitler in the years leading up to 1939 would have prevented WWII” claim. Just the very reason that it’s a sacrosanct tenet of Conventional Wisdom cited by every politician that is drooling for another use of American military force makes me suspicious of its validity.

    Anonymously Yours,

    “I agreed with everything you have said and realize the last paragraph was said in sarcasm, unfortunately there are too many ASS HOLES doing just that. ”

    I’m interested, who are these people who are supposedly protesting soldiers’ funerals today? Westboro Baptist Church doesn’t count (they “protest” everything).

    Mike,

    I think Chomsky would agree with you on many of your critiques — that he was not participating in the antiwar movement earlier enough and more vehemently, and that there are certainly a whole panoply of unknown people that deserve recognition for their sacrifices.

    I think, however, it would be false to say that he has been completely uncommitted or ineffective to the anti-Vietnam War cause. He wrote plenty of books about the subject, participated in rallies and resistance, and was on Nixon’s “enemies list” and almost prosecuted for his opposition.

    Outside of Vietnam, he has taken up the cause of many who were almost otherwise forgotten by the West. To name a few examples: the East Timorese, the Kurds in Turkey and the Palestinians.

    Howard Zinn, in his introduction to Chomsky’s American Power and the New Mandarins, relates on tale of Chomsky’s effectiveness. He flew to a Turkey to testify for the defense of a publisher who was being prosecuted for publishing Chomsky’s book which discusses American-to-Turkish weapons sales that were used to massacre Kurds. His mere appearance in Turkey made the prosecutor withdraw the charges, fearful of the publicity that the proceedings might bring to the subject. One small example, to be sure, but there are many more.

    Elaine M,

    The whole “soldiers being spat upon” phenomenon is probably false: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spitting_Image

  77. My favorite protest song:

    Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth (Something’s Happening Here)” (recorded 1967)(composer – Stephen Stills, her guitarist)

    First allow me to give you a short history of this protest song, followed by the lyrics and then a much later rendition by the Muppets to protest hunting … a good protest song has many uses.

    History
    “In the book Neil Young: Long May You Run: The Illustrated History, Stephen Stills tells the story of this song’s origin: “I had had something kicking around in my head. I wanted to write something about the kids that were on the line over in Southeast Asia that didn’t have anything to do with the device of this mission, which was unraveling before our eyes. Then we came down to Sunset from my place on Topanga with a guy – I can’t remember his name – and there’s a funeral for a bar, one of the favorite spots for high school and UCLA kids to go and dance and listen to music.
    [Officials] decided to call out the official riot police because there’s three thousand kids sort of standing out in the street; there’s no looting, there’s no nothing. It’s everybody having a hang to close this bar. A whole company of black and white LAPD in full Macedonian battle array in shields and helmets and all that, and they’re lined up across the street, and I just went ‘Whoa! Why are they doing this?’ There was no reason for it. I went back to Topanga, and that other song turned into ‘For What It’s Worth,’ and it took as long to write as it took me to settle on the changes and write the lyrics down. It all came as a piece, and it took about fifteen minutes.”

    Lyrics
    There’s something happening here
    What it is ain’t exactly clear
    There’s a man with a gun over there
    Telling me I got to beware

    I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down

    There’s battle lines being drawn
    Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
    Young people speaking their minds
    Getting so much resistance from behind

    I think it’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down

    What a field-day for the heat
    A thousand people in the street
    Singing songs and carrying signs
    Mostly say, hooray for our side

    It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down

    Paranoia strikes deep
    Into your life it will creep
    It starts when you’re always afraid
    You step out of line, the man come and take you away

    We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down
    Stop, hey, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down
    Stop, now, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down
    Stop, children, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down

    My favorite version came from the Muppets

  78. FFN,

    “The whole “soldiers being spat upon” phenomenon is probably false…”

    I knew that it may have been false–but I don’t know for sure that it never happened…anywhere. That’s why I wrote the following to Slart: “I think most people who didn’t live through those times have heard the narrative of how returning soldiers were mistreated by anti-war protesters–even spat upon.”

  79. “Congratulations on being the second person in this thread to draw the “peace = giving in to Hitler” connection. And on your inability to distinguish Vietnam from WWII.”

    Congratulations on being unable to distinguish when counter-example is being provided to draw the distinction between a just war and an unjust war just as you are unable to distinguish an individuals act of heroism even if occurs in unjust circumstance.

  80. The fact that some soldiers were spat upon is true. Some incidents reported may/probably never happened; however, there were incidents. And no one should deny that returning soldiers, as well as some on leave were mistreated by anti-war types who could not differentiate the warrior from the war. Some in civilian clothes, but who had military buzz-cut haircuts, were harassed or even assaulted.

    One of my friends was a Marine fighter pilot. He was spat upon in the airport terminal in the baggage claim area after returning from Vietnam. He was a Captain, and in uniform. He had to take the bus the rest of the way to the small town he came from. Upon arrival, he could not get anyone to give him a ride and had to walk several miles out in the country to his house, carrying his duffel bag. People drove past him, ignoring his attempts at hitchhiking, some giving him a one-finger salute. That is how all too many of our returning veterans were treated. It is sad to see some of the same attitudes still extant in people like FFN.

    My friend is now a college professor and head of his department. He is still bitter about how he and other returning vets were treated.

  81. Blouise,

    “Jim Henson was a wizard … he saw Cheney comin’ and tried to warn us!”

    lol

    *****
    For you–a little verse I wrote about Dick Cheney and his hunting prowess. It’s a takeoff of Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

    A Hunting He Will Go

    Who’s hunting here? I think I know.
    That’s why I’m certain I must go.
    Don’t want to get shot by mistake
    Because he thinks that I’m a doe.

    I hear his voice. He’s coming near.
    Oh, Lord! I know I’ve much to fear.
    I best be sprightly on my feet
    And get the HELL out of here!

    His rifle’s raised; he’s taking aim.
    “I’m a human being!” I exclaim.
    “Hey! Can’t you see I’m not a deer?”
    (Guess he’s decided I’m fair game.)

    Forsooth! Alas! He walks my way.
    I guess this ain’t my lucky day.
    I do not want to be his prey.
    I do not want to be his prey.

  82. More than a little OT, but the language lovers are here.

    I just saw a term for Palin I thought merited passing along:

    Tundra Tart.

  83. Sorry to change the subject but here is a new film about war and the hell that it plays on a soldier.

    “It was difficult trying to understand what was at the heart of the soldier’s experience coming home. I spent 2 years doing research before ever writing anything. What I hope the movie does is to bring awareness to some of the difficult issues that some of the soldiers are coming home to. What I found when I screened the film is that the soldiers had an honest and positive reaction. People who don’t know anyone from the military, however, feel as if it’s an over-dramatic portrayal. What that shows is that there is such is a disconnect in how the war is portrayed by the media versus what is really going on. They’re shocked that this experience is really happening.”

    http://www.dallassouthnews.org/blog/2010/08/12/the-dry-land-playing-at-the-angelika-film-center-and-cafe-in-dallas/

    I think one of the differences between Nam and now is that the TV reported what happened over there days and even weeks later. Today, we see and hear what the media coverage is allowed at almost an instant gratification.

    Something that may shock the conscience of some is that the Military only counts the number of its own, contractors and nation (such as the UN and the Country in) assists are not calculated in the casualties. Hence, if 9 are said to have died in combat it could be closer to 100 total. Kinda of sick book keeping if you ask me.

  84. BIL,

    “Congratulations on being unable to distinguish when counter-example is being provided to draw the distinction between a just war and an unjust war …”

    Vince Treacy did not mention WWII in the context of just/unjust wars. I’m not sure exactly why he trotted WWII out — it seems merely to compare me to Neville Chamberlain (a well known slander of militarists, and the only historical anecdote they seem to know, as I mentioned earlier).

    If we do accept that WWII was a just war (which I may question, but let’s not delve into that right now because we have enough on our hands with Vietnam as it is) then I certainly wouldn’t object to awarding medals to those who performed valiantly in service of a just cause.

    But, as I think we all recognize, we’re talking about Vietnam, which can not by any stretch of the concept be imagined as a just war.

  85. FFN,

    I do not know who you are and for that you are lucky. If I could figure that out I can assure you your email and phone would buzz all to often. People like you, are a disgrace to the people actually giving there lives so that you can be an ass to them.

    Tell me how would you want your child treated? Would you treat yours the same as you are advocating this man and his family be treated?

  86. FFN,
    Glad you brought up Zinn too. I also have little use for him. Have you ever heard these two speak, smug and self-congratulatory? My point wasn’t that they backed causes, my point is that they’ve done nothing to form the broad coalitions needed to actually change things. Talk is cheap. They alienate rather than coalesce, but damn they can congratulate themselves on being right. Hipper than thou.

  87. FFN,

    As a point of argumentation, I’m pretty sure I know where Vince was coming from, but I’ll let him address that himself from this point.

    However, the key part of my statement, which you ellipsoided over, was “just as you are unable to distinguish an individuals act of heroism even if occurs in unjust circumstance.”

  88. “The whole “soldiers being spat upon” phenomenon is probably false…”

    FFN I was born in 1944 so I was there, involved in the movement via the most radical union in the country. There was a lot of vitriol being heaped on the troops, especially by those too old to be drafted or who were 4F. It was the egotism, near sightedness and the following of party lines that turned me off to joining any of the various factions available to me. It also seemed that somehow the ones who talked the best game, were the ones with the least empathy for people. To me Chomsky/Zinn for instance.

  89. BIL,

    I didn’t respond to that part of your comment because I have already addressed it plenty in this thread, not because I was avoiding the topic, obviously.

  90. “Vince Treacy did not mention WWII in the context of just/unjust wars. I’m not sure exactly why he trotted WWII out”

    FFN,
    My take is he trotted it out as an example of how every peace activist, i.e. Chomsky/Zinn, might not be helpful in the battle against totalitarianism. Perhaps because you alluded to Chomsky as a leading peace advocate. Always keep in mind the “Law of Unintended Consequence.”

  91. Mike,

    I am not one to hold up idols. While I greatly admire the contributions of Zinn and Chomsky and others to society, I will by no means unconditionally defend them, or anyone.

    However, I understand your grudge against Zinn even less than Chomsky. Zinn was one of the first people to call for immediate withdrawal from Vietnam. And he also went to Vietnam, successfully negotiating the release of American POWs. Now, that is certainly doing something. And, like Chomsky, he has contributed notably to other movements as well.

  92. That word you keep using . . . addressed. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Unless of course you think it means stomping your feet about the illegalities of others whom are clearly not heroic and falsely attributing their bad acts on to others who are plainly heroic.

    In which case, never mind.

  93. FFN,

    I think the point that Mike S is trying to make (please correct me if I’m wrong, Mike) is that real democratic political change requires broad coalitions rather than small ideologically pure groups.

    Mike,

    I love the phrase ‘hipper than thou’.

  94. Mike Spindell: I am glad you are criticizing the anti-war left for attacking the soldiers who fought in Vietnam. They were the greatest victims of that war. I would guess that well over 80% of the Army under the rank of Sergeant(E-5) were draftees. I think FFN has a greatly exaggerated idea of the possibility of refusing an order in the military, particularly in a combat situation. I was drafted in January,1964 and served 2 years in the Army. I, and every draftee I knew had a common goal: to stay out of trouble, obey orders, learn to do your job and do it well so that if you went into combat, you and your friends would survive to achieve our greatest goal– to get the hell out of the Army in 2 years. In the Army during duty hours, you make virtually no decisions of your own-even the NCO’s are basically supervisors who pass along orders and assignments from the officers. Disobeying orders and regulations gets you nothing but trouble and you will always be the loser. You make your life easier by keeping a low profile. I was assigned to the Artillery which was not my decision. I was trained to be a Special Weapons Assembler – not my decision. I was levied to go to Vietnam- not my decision. Three days later I was taken off the levy to go to Vietnam- also not my decision. A few terms you will learn if you go the route of disobeying orders: Article 15 Company Non-Judicial Punishment, Court Martial, Stockade, Leavenworth, Dishonorable Discharge,etc. I hope you get my drift.

  95. Blouise…”I have all the paraphernalia from Johnson’s presidential campaign in my attic … preserved all these years. I hang onto the stuff because to this day I hate him for Nam and I love him for Civil Rights … I have never resolved the conflict within myself … I’m my own little Nam and my attic is still occupied.”

    I have 1 word…eBay

  96. Henman, I think FFN is despicable in blaming the victims of the war rather than the leaders.

    I would like to hear from him his own actions during the Vietnam era.

    He said: “Vince Treacy did not mention WWII in the context of just/unjust wars. I’m not sure exactly why he trotted WWII out — it seems merely to compare me to Neville Chamberlain (a well known slander of militarists, and the only historical anecdote they seem to know, as I mentioned earlier).”

    FFN is challenged in reading skills.

    Please, everyone, reread my post. I did place World War II in the context justified, necessary wars when I immediately quoted and endorsed Mespo’s wise statement: “As for your implied assertion that every peace is a good one, I think history only shows every peace resulting in the triumph of the rule of law is a good one.”

    FFN did not even read my post to the end.

    I did not slander Chamberlain. I quoted his words, verbatim, and accurately. If FF wishes to spell out his theory of “slander” by means of a persons own accurately quoted words, I am all ears.

    I will just say that I think FFN lied when he said my comparison of him to Chamberlain, merely by quoting Chamberlain in his own words, was a “slander.”

    So, FF , how is it slander to quote Chamberlain’s own words?

    We will wait for your answer, and respond whenever you post.

    The example of World War II is only one of many.

    If FFN does not like my example of Chamberlain as an example of pacifist delusion, then I will nominate that fool, Gandhi.

    Gandhi said “If I were a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest Gentile German might, and challenge him to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment. And for doing this I should not wait for the fellow Jews to join me in civil resistance, but would have confidence that in the end the rest were bound to follow my example. If one Jew or all the Jews were to accept the prescription here offered, he or they cannot be worse off than now. And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy…the calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews by way of his first answer to the declaration of such hostilities. But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant. For to the God-fearing, death has no terror.”

    “Hitler,” Gandhi said, “killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs… It would have aroused the world and the people of Germany… As it is they succumbed anyway in their millions.”

    In the November 1938 article on the Nazi persecution of the Jews quoted above, he offered non-violence as a solution:

    “The German persecution of the Jews seems to have no parallel in history. The tyrants of old never went so mad as Hitler seems to have gone. And he is doing it with religious zeal. For he is propounding a new religion of exclusive and militant nationalism in the name of which any inhumanity becomes an act of humanity to be rewarded here and hereafter. The crime of an obviously mad but intrepid youth is being visited upon his whole race with unbelievable ferocity. If there ever could be a justifiable war in the name of and for humanity, a war against Germany, to prevent the wanton persecution of a whole race, would be completely justified. But I do not believe in any war. A discussion of the pros and cons of such a war is therefore outside my horizon or province. But if there can be no war against Germany, even for such a crime as is being committed against the Jews, surely there can be no alliance with Germany. How can there be alliance between a nation which claims to stand for justice and democracy and one which is the declared enemy of both?”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohandas_Karamchand_Gandhi#World_War_II_and_Quit_India

    If former “Nothing” wishes to defend the obscene nonsense of Gandhi, who advocated Jewish acquiescence in the Holocaust, then be my guest.

    I repeat.

    That pacifist fool Gandhi remained neutral in World War II.

    I salute the brave soldiers of every country who fought against that tyranny in World War II.

    As for the origins of World War II, I think “The Gathering Storm” by Churchill makes the case cogently and persuasively that failure to confront Hitler, beginning with his reoccupation of the Rhineland, brought on World War II.

    There are numerous other scholarly studies that support his position.

    There have been apologist, revisionist pro-appeasement treatises since then, but I do not consider them persuasive. If FFN would care to recommend a treatment of his point of view, it will be considered.

    Moving along in history, the Korean War was a blatant example of naked aggression by Stalin and North Korea. The unified response by the West was justified and necessary. The expansion of the war to the north by MacArthur in 1950 may have been a disaster, but Eisenhower resolved the dispute without a wider war.

    I maintain that the first Gulf War was necessary and justified. The leaders learned from Korea and refused to expand the war by invading Iraq and occupying Beirut after freeing Kuwait. The opposition by the Left to this war revealed their intellectual bankruptcy.

    So.

    The FFN alternate history.

    1948. Truman abandons Berlin to the Communists. See the recent book, “The Candy Bombers” on the Berlin Airlift.

    1950. The west abandons South Korea to the Communists.

    1971. Kuwait is abandoned to Iraq.

    1981. Afghanistan is abandoned to the Taliban.

    Jump in anywhere, Nothing, on any of these topics.

    F.F. Nothing has nothing to offer.

    Ps, I think the operative term for Chomsky is “The Village Idiot.”

    Just kidding.

    Maybe.

  97. What BIL said, above. Vince, you nailed it, and a tip of the hat to HenMan too.

    FFN and people who think like that keep throwing up irrelevant arguments, red herrings and strawmen. My old philosophy prof would be horrified at the number of logical fallacies in the several comments left by FFN. How do you cram that many logical fallacies into a half-dozen comments anyway?

  98. James,

    I have taken just about every regular here to task about something at one time or another. Even the Prof. The one guy I’ve never taken to task?

    Vince Treacy.

    He’s a real “measure twice, cut once” kind of logician and debater. If he’s not one of your heroes now, just wait. He’ll win you over eventually. :D

    BTW, speaking of personal heroes, nice icon.

  99. FFN said: “Vince Treacy, Congratulations on being the second person in this thread to draw the ‘peace = giving in to Hitler’ connection. And on your inability to distinguish Vietnam from WWII.

    “Incidentally, I would like to see an analysis of the whole ‘failing to militarily confront Hitler in the years leading up to 1939 would have prevented WWII’ claim. Just the very reason that it’s a sacrosanct tenet of Conventional Wisdom cited by every politician that is drooling for another use of American military force makes me suspicious of its validity.”

    Since FFN aimed this post at me, I will respond.

    I think there is little or no doubt about the validity of the thesis that failure to confront Nazi aggression led to World War II.

    The Treaty in effect at the time Germany occupied the Rhineland limited it to 100,000 troops. If it had been opposed, its military threat would have dissolved.

    In the United States from 1939 to 1941, the isolationists and pacifists opposed all efforts at preparedness, including the repeal of the Neutrality Act in 1939, the Lend Lease Act, the allocation of 50 destroyers to Britain in exchange for leases on Atlantic bases, the military draft, and the extension of military terms of enlistment for a year in 1941, which passed the House by only one vote.

    The isolationist, pacifist positions would have left America completely unprepared for World War II.

    Of course, after Pearl Harbor, FFN would have simply apologized to the Japanese for having any ships in the Pacific, withdrawn the fleet to San Francisco, and given the Pacific to the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.

    It appears to be FFN’s view that United States military people should have simply laid down their arms and bowed their heads. I am happy to hear and discuss FFN’s views of this historical period.

    The next accusation by FFN is my “Inability to distinguish Vietnam from WWII?”

    Well, I think that depends on the leaders of the country, and the people who elect them, doesn’t it, now?

    Why does Mr. or Ms. F.F. Nothing vent his or her spleen so maliciously and gratuitously on the victims of the war, on the draftees, the people who volunteered under the compulsion of the draft, and the people who were already in the military?

    Why does FFN take this lofty sanctimonious, supercilious, holier-than-thou stance anonymously?

    Why should anyone pay attention to these ridiculous, carping criticisms aimed at an individual, the Chief Master Sergeant,who acted selflessly for his fellows? How was the CMS to know that his actions were illegal. He was not a lawyer, and there were no lawyers there to advise him.

    Where was FFN at the time. Was FFN available to advise the CMS on “international” criminal law of war, whatever that may have been?

    Significantly, I have yet to count any poster in this thread who has supported FFN’s views.

    I have actually spent a lot of time studying World War II, the Cold War, and the post-WWII world.

    FFN seems to be fixated on Vietnam, to the exclusion of everything else that has occurred since 1945. I have stated my views on the origins of WWII, and would be happy to hear FFN’s.

    As for Vietnam, perhaps FFN should study the actions of the leaders, of the people who elected them, and of himself and herself, and leave the individual soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines out of it.

    And, finally, we have yet to hear from the Olympian, anonymous, FFN about his or her own actions during the Vietnam era.

    Ordinarily I would not raise this issue, but FFN has brought this entire issue up.

    If FFN thinks that the CMS failed in his duty, let’s hear how FFN lived up to his or her ideals.

  100. Blouise,

    You reminded me of one of my favorite songs of the era and it happens to be by one of Stephen Stills compatriots, Graham Nash.

    “Chicago”

    So your brother’s bound and gagged and they’ve chained him to a chair
    Won’t you please come to Chicago just to sing
    In a land that’s known as freedom how can such a thing be fair
    Won’t you please come to Chicago for the help that we can bring

    We can change the world
    Rearrange the world
    It’s dying
    To get better

    Politicians sit yourselves down there’s nothing for you here
    Won’t you please come to Chicago for a ride
    Don’t ask Jack to help you ’cause he’ll turn the other ear
    Won’t you please come to Chicago or else join the other side

    (We can change the world)
    Yes we can change the world
    (Rearrange the world)
    Rearrange the world

    (It’s dying)
    If you believe in justice
    (It’s dying)
    If you believe in freedom
    (It’s dying)
    Let a man live his own life
    (It’s dying)
    Rules and regulations who needs them
    Open up the door

    Somehow people must be free I hope the day comes soon
    Won’t you please come to Chicago show your face
    From the bottom of the ocean to the mountains of the moon
    Won’t you please come to Chicago no one else can take your place

    (We can change the world)
    Yes we can change the world
    (Rearrange the world)
    Rearrange the world

    (It’s dying)
    If you believe in justice
    (It’s dying)
    If you believe in freedom
    (It’s dying)
    Let a man live his own life
    (It’s dying)
    Rules and regulations who needs them
    Open up the door

  101. To Buddha, Scribe, and James M, thanks.

    HenMan, having lived through that era, I know exactly how you feel.

    Also, Kuwait was 1991. [No edit function here].

  102. Woosty’s still a Cat,

    Never been on the site … I know, I know

    Probably just leave it all in the attic for my grandchildren to find and wonder about …

  103. Woosty’s still a Cat,

    Never been on the site … I know, I know

    Probably just leave it all in the attic for my grandchildren to find and wonder about …
    __________
    I was thinking about your ‘other attic’ ;)

  104. Songs is good–so’s poetry…

    The End and the Beginning
    Wislawa Szymborska
    (Translated by Joanna Trzeciak)

    After every war
    someone has to clean up.
    Things won’t
    straighten themselves up, after all.

    Someone has to push the rubble
    to the side of the road,
    so the corpse-filled wagons
    can pass.

    Someone has to get mired
    in scum and ashes,
    sofa springs,
    splintered glass,
    and bloody rags.

    Someone has to drag in a girder
    to prop up a wall,
    Someone has to glaze a window,
    rehang a door.

    Photogenic it’s not,
    and takes years.
    All the cameras have left
    for another war.

    We’ll need the bridges back,
    and new railway stations.
    Sleeves will go ragged
    from rolling them up.

    Someone, broom in hand,
    still recalls the way it was.
    Someone else listens
    and nods with unsevered head.
    But already there are those nearby
    starting to mill about
    who will find it dull.

    From out of the bushes
    sometimes someone still unearths
    rusted-out arguments
    and carries them to the garbage pile.

    Those who knew
    what was going on here
    must make way for
    those who know little.
    And less than little.
    And finally as little as nothing.

    In the grass that has overgrown
    causes and effects,
    someone must be stretched out
    blade of grass in his mouth
    gazing at the clouds.

    Szymborska received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996. She is one of my favorite poets.

    http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poet.html?id=6744

  105. I lived in Chicago at that time and witnessed some of the protests. Young people are certainly not interested in street fighting or protesting in the year 2010. They seem to prefer to work within the system and get a job with google, buy the latest apple products,and travel the world.

  106. ” Young people are certainly not interested in street fighting or protesting in the year 2010. They seem to prefer to work within the system and get a job with google, buy the latest apple products,and travel the world.” (Swarthmore mom)

    Why is that? I mean, it gives we adults less to worry about when it comes to our kids and grandkids (jail, police batons, etc) but ….

  107. That’s the difference, Elaine. Also I was listening to NPR the other day and there was a program on about the differences in military equipment. It is so much better that only 3000 were killed verses the huge number of people that were killed in Vietnam. I sat next to a young military man on a plane who kept signing up for more tours of duty. He liked the money, and said it was tax free. A lot of people look on a military career now as a job, and they don’t think about whether a war is “just” or not.

  108. There aren’t that many songs being written about Cindy Sheehan and a few middle aged war protesters at Crawford, Texas.

  109. Woosty,

    Here’s a Favorite Poem Project video of Vietnam War veteran Michael Lythgoe reading and talking about Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem “Facing It.” The poem is about a veteran’s visit to the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. I first saw the video when I participated in the first Favorite Poem Project Summer Poetry Institute for Teachers at Boston University in 2001. I remember visiting the memorial. I cried when I found my good friend’s name etched on the wall more than twenty-five years after his death. It was a truly emotional experience for me and my husband.

  110. Swarthmore,

    “It is so much better that only 3000 were killed verses the huge number of people that were killed in Vietnam.”

    The bad part of it is that thousands of soldiers are returning home with traumatic brain injuries–and PTSD.

    I’ve also read/heard that some are leaving military service to work for private contractors–where they can make a lot more money. There’s even term for it–it’s called “going Blackwater.”

  111. Elaine I am not trying to minimize the damages of war just trying to understand the differences in the perceptions. I was always against the war. My children remember that which is a good thing.

  112. A good military unit is like a family … a few of my children’s friends have made it a career and like the close-knit environment.

    Everything evolves

  113. Swarthmore mom,

    I didn’t think you were trying to minimize the damages. What troubles me so much is all the money these private “war” contractors are making–oftentimes, in devious and unethical ways. We’re depleting our treasury to fight wars in foreign lands. There’s little money left for the essentials back at home.

  114. Philip II of Spain had to declare four state bankruptcies in 1557, 1560, 1575 and 1596. Spain became the first sovereign nation in history to declare bankruptcy….

    At the time the Spain we know today was not the Spain that existed then.

  115. Swarthmore mom,

    TPMMuckraker
    NYT: Blackwater’s Shell Companies Won Millions In Secret Contracts
    by Rachel Slajda | September 6, 2010, 12:29PM

    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/09/nyt_blackwaters_shell_companies_won_millions_in_se.php

    Excerpt:
    According to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Blackwater has created 31 shell companies in order to win military and CIA contracts without revealing its notorious name.

    Chairman Carl Levin released a chart of the subsidiaries to the New York Times last week. According to the Times, at least three of the companies have been awarded secret contracts. One official said Blackwater, now called Xe Services, and its subsidiaries have been paid $600 million in classified government deals since 2001.

    Levin, who’s conducting an investigation into government contracting, said he asked the Justice Department to look into whether Blackwater had misled federal agencies by using its subsidiaries.

  116. “Levin, who’s conducting an investigation into government contracting, said he asked the Justice Department to look into whether Blackwater had misled federal agencies by using its subsidiaries.” (Rachel Slajda via Elaine)

    I LOVE IT!!!

  117. Swarthmore mom,

    The link in your post needs an ‘l’ on the end:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/07/exclusive-david-axelrod-r_n_707211.html

    I like Carl Levin too – he’s been my senator for as long as I can remember – he does Michigan proud. If the Republicans take over the House (or even worse, the Senate) it will be a sad commentary on how uninformed American voters are. Insanity is doing the same thing (electing Republicans) and expecting different results…

  118. “I am not one to hold up idols. While I greatly admire the contributions of Zinn and Chomsky and others to society,”

    “However, I understand your grudge against Zinn even less than Chomsky. Zinn was one of the first people to call for immediate withdrawal from Vietnam. And he also went to Vietnam, successfully negotiating the release of American POWs.”

    FFN,
    I’ve the misfortune of hearing Zinn speak and to me he is a pompous, self-serving asshole. As to his trip to Viet Nam it was a PR coup for the Viet Cong, but an even a greater coup for the perpetrators of our murderous war. He was held up as an example of the “traitorous nature” of the anti-war movement and thus hurt the movement’s ability to recruit allies from the American political middle. I’m still waiting to learn just what specific contributions they’ve made to society, except for their own self promotion. By the way VT is correct you seem to read everyone’s comments selectively and respond to only what you feel like responding to.

    “Mike Spindell: I am glad you are criticizing the anti-war left for attacking the soldiers who fought in Vietnam.”

    HenMan,
    Thank you for your more detailed explanation of what it was like to be in the Armed Forces. It shows how the “disobeying illegal orders” theory is just legalistic bluster covering the hard truth of a soldier’s life and work.

    “FFN,
    I think the point that Mike S is trying to make (please correct me if I’m wrong, Mike) is that real democratic political change requires broad coalitions rather than small ideologically pure groups.

    Mike,
    I love the phrase ‘hipper than thou’.”

    Slarti,
    Bingo. That is exactly my point and FFN seems to constantly refuse to address it. As for “hipper than thou” that is my creation and as such unusual for me who seems to be the champion of cliche on this blog. Once in a while I can be witty.

    HenMan

  119. FFN, you have nothing to say on the matter son, it pains me to accept it but Toady and his friends have you dead and buried here

    it is not the act or deed in itself that gains the honour, it is the manner and circumstances in which the man acts or performs the deed that merits the honour bestowed

    show respect for the man performing the deed and the manner in which he performed it

  120. Fascinating inputs from various people. But I notice no one in the know. As a sargeant in the USAF who helped fight the war in Laos, and elsewhere, at that exact time in history, I must say that most of you have no clue about what you writing. I was humping ammo and playing patrol in northern Thailand when this site was over run.

    The man is a hero. He sacrificed himself. He got the others out. He was the last man. I only wish I had known him. That man had guts. Chief, you are my hero. I would have gone anywhere with you.

    ps — I went back to college and now have my doctorate and am headed toward retirement. The convoluted thinking and misinformation on this subject is appauling. You remind me of freshmen who just want to hear themselves speak.

  121. What is not well publicized is that CMSGT Etchberger was only the 3rd USAF enlisted man to receive the MOH in the modern Air Force established since 1947 and only the 7th in the Army Air Corps/US Air Force history.

  122. Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but I think there are some things on here that I should respond to.

    First of all, after reading Lt. Col Dave Grossman’s book “On Killing,” (p.280) it seems like the spitting on returning Vietnam soldiers thing was actually a phenomenon.

    What remains is to deal with Vince Treacy’s posts.

    — Just/unjust wars —

    Vince Treacy: “Please, everyone, reread my post. I did place World War II in the context justified, necessary wars when I immediately quoted and endorsed Mespo’s wise statement”

    After rereading Vince Treacy’s post, I will say he did indeed place World War II in the context of justified, necessary wars. Perhaps there is some merit to the charge that I am “challenged in reading skills.”

    — Chamberlain slander —

    Vince Treacy: “I will just say that I think FFN lied when he said my comparison of him to Chamberlain, merely by quoting Chamberlain in his own words, was a “slander.””

    I’m not disputing Vince Treacy quoted Chamberlain accurately. And I’m not saying that Vince Treacy is slandering Chamberlain. I am saying Vince Treacy is slandering _me_ by attributing to me views that are generally held to be, as Vince Treacy put it, “mindless pacifism.” That is why I said “it seems merely to compare me to Neville Chamberlain (a well known slander of militarists.” Perhaps it is Vince Treacy who is “challenged in reading skills,” to quote him.

    Had Vince Treacy asked what my views are on just or necessary war generally, I would have been happy to provide them. But Vince Treacy didn’t — Vince Treacy assumed. That is why it is slander. A definition of slander is “words falsely spoken that damage the reputation of another.” Vince Treacy said I think something which I do not, and something which would damage my reputation. Slander.

    — Mindless pacifism —

    Since my views about war generally are in question, let me state them. I believe that wars are justified if they are legal. For a war to be legal, it must either 1) be in self-defense or 2) get the approval of the UN Security Council. I think that is a good criteria if a war is just, as well.

    Now, certainly, morality and legality are not the same thing and one _could_ make a case that certain wars were morally, but not legally justified. I have read that Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia to stop the Khmer Rouge atrocities might be a good case in point. However, I think it’s wise in this case to err on the side of caution, since liberal justifications for war (women’s rights, democracy, freedom) often are a mere facade for an ugly, inexcusable act.

    I certainly do not hold to the views of “mindless pacifism” that Vince Treacy attributes to me. To address the Gandhi/Jew example: yes, of course Jews would be justified in violently resisting Nazi oppression. I don’t know how he got the idea that I would argue otherwise.

    — First Gulf War —

    Vince Treacy: “I maintain that the first Gulf War was necessary and justified.”

    For use of force to be justified, all alternate means of resolving conflict must have been exhausted. This did not happen. Saddam proposed negotiable offers to withdraw from Kuwait — none were pursued by the US.

    See note 88 here: http://www.understandingpower.com/chap5.htm

    — Korean War —

    Vince Treacy: “the Korean War was a blatant example of naked aggression by Stalin and North Korea. The unified response by the West was justified and necessary.”

    The start of what is called the “Korean War” is much more complicated than Vince Treacy makes it out to be. In 1945 the US and USSR occupied their respective sides of the Korean Peninsula. For several years thereafter, incursions over the 38th Parallel by both sides, and other associated strife, claimed 100,000 lives before the supposed “start” of the Korean War on 25 June 1950. In fact, on that date, there was an incursion from South to North, not the other way around.

    The “The unified response by the West,” as Vince Treacy puts it, was really just a cover for a US-commanded and US-directed operation. Since he mentions Eisenhower, perhaps I can quote from the president’s memoirs. Here he is speaking about Vietnam: “The token forces supplied by these other nations, as in Korea, would lend real moral standing to a venture that otherwise could be made to appear as a brutal example of imperialism.”

    See “Killing Hope” by William Blum, Chapter 5

    — WWII start —

    Vince Treacy: “As for the origins of World War II, I think “The Gathering Storm” by Churchill makes the case cogently and persuasively that failure to confront Hitler, beginning with his reoccupation of the Rhineland, brought on World War II.”

    No doubt Churchill thinks that his actions were a good idea. George W Bush thinks the invasion of Iraq was awesome, too.

    I have not read any serious WWII scholarship. So the question of the West’s policy towards Hitler is something that I have no insight about. However, as I stated before, “Conventional Wisdom” on US interventions is often flat wrong. See my responses above about the First Gulf War and the Korean War. Therefore, I naturally wonder if the “failing to militarily confront Hitler in the years leading up to 1939 caused WWII” line is true. Were there alternatives? Were they pursued? What _was_ the attitude of different actors in the West towards Hitler? These are things I will need to research myself at a future date.

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