Previous posts in this discussion:
PostMoral Indignation over the Years: A Personal Journey (Robert Whealey, USA, 03/20/17 12:45 pm)
I read the accounts of Timothy Brown's "selective atrocities" (March 20th) as a morality tale. In 1937 at age 7, I heard on the radio about Japanese atrocities in China. My father also told me about his wartime experiences on the French Front from September 1918 to September 1919 as a Buck Private. However, from the 1930s to December 1941, he sheltered me by selecting his "good times" as well as his grim duties, ten miles behind the front lines. He became a dedicated Isolationist in 1919 and resented FDR's "road to war" in 1940.
I learned a different history from a moral point of view from 1951 to 1963 at the Universities of Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. I became morally a Truman Democrat in April of 1951, when he fired General Douglas MacArthur for expanding the Korean War to China. Timothy Brown had a different list of atrocities and a moral justification.
My study of World War I recorded hundreds of atrocities by all of the Great Powers, Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Russia, Italy, and the Ottoman Turks. The American War, 1917-Armistice Day, was a "Child's Crusade."
In 1951 sheltered at the University of Pennsylvania, I took a course on the French War in Indochina. I became a dedicated anti-imperialist and predicted that the French would lose. I knew in August 1964 that Johnson's Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was a fraud. Senator Fulbright himself was fooled temporarily by LBJ's trick, but in April of 1965 he denounced LBJ's "imperial war."
Sometime in the 1990s, I had a Friday lunch with a retired group of academics: Dr. J, who never had any experience in the military and never took a history course, was a dedicated atheist who blamed Christianity for all the wars of history.
I stopped him! "I don't believe that. Have you ever heard of the atrocities of Hitler, Stalin and Mao? If we look back in time, how about Tamerlane, who reigned from 1370-1405, The Ottoman Turks and Genghis Khan?"
LBJ's sense of history began at the Alamo and stopped when he was elected to the Senate from Texas in 1948. As President, he was forced to learn some new history from Sen. J William Fulbright and Sen. Mike Mansfield. Johnson did not believe any of the history as recorded by JFK or RFK. But unlike Richard Nixon, LBJ decided to leave the Vietnamese quagmire in February 1968. He did not have the audacity as he came closer to September and October 1968 to institute the draft of the National Guard.
Nixon continued the war for four more years and was finally forced out of office by a combination of factors, Henry Kissinger, The New York Times and Washington Post, the Democratic Senatorial doves, who had grown since, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the Watergate Hotel break-in.
So selective atrocities can be recorded by many soldiers in many wars. As a free-thinking Christian Liberal, Democratic Socialist and economist, I have to think that every politician and soldier who has been involved in combat has to make his own moral choice. There have been many good Christians and many bad Christians, good Jews and bad Jews, throughout Western Civilization.
JE comments: Robert, did your father remain in France all the way until September 1919? If so, I hope you can reach back in your memory and tell us some of his postwar stories. Among other things, he survived the Great Influenza that killed even more millions than the Great War that preceded it.
And what historical perspective on Indochina was presented in the early 1950s? I'd be fascinated to learn more about the U Penn course.