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Post Anti-Vietnam Protests from a Veteran's Perspective
Created by John Eipper on 09/28/16 4:37 AM

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Anti-Vietnam Protests from a Veteran's Perspective (Robert Gibbs, USA, 09/28/16 4:37 am)

First of all, I want to apologize for the unavoidable delay in this posting and one to follow. The delay is solely due to my hospitalization and later some really serious pharmaceuticals. Also, I want to apologize in advance for this otherwise unWAISly response.

I am truly happy that Patrick Mears (21 September) has so many fond memories of the halcyon anti-war protest days of his youth. Truly exciting times for all of us. But tell me, Patrick, do you ever think of the returning GIs that you and your friends utterly destroyed or the fact that you and your protesters were probably responsible and rival the VC for the death and destruction of many returning veterans just trying to get an education? You and your friends just drove many of them from campus, unless they scourged themselves before you and joined the movement.

With the help and encouragement of professors, you made an education almost impossible for those of us who did not bend to your will and bidding, but fighting back was not easy. (For me it meant getting the tires in my $75 car slashed, and I had to finish grad school walking 4+ miles to class. Also for me, this was a stroke of divine intervention as I met my future wife on one of those walks.) Tell me, did you ever thank the men who went to Vietnam in your place--or the place of any draft dodger or protester?

Protestors polluted San Francisco Bay with feces that was dumped on hospital ships passing under the bridge and thrown on those who disembarked from planes. Worse than that, you and your protest buddies attacked the children of the fallen GIs and those who were still "in country." Then you attacked the widows of the fallen. You and some professors drove a Marine widow out of a nursing program because she would not denounce her husband. You and your friends really hit the bottom of the barrel by showing the Westboro Baptists how to disrupt a GI's funeral sometimes grabbing the flag and running away with it--no doubt to burn. God that was brave. As if that were not bad enough, your friends would call the families (mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers and especially widows) in the middle of the night to celebrate the loss of their loved one. Even the Westboro Baptists do not do this. Of course they are not as clever as you protesters.

So enjoy the reminiscence of your youth. I remember those days, too.

JE comments:  I'm confident that Patrick Mears's protest days didn't include any such excesses, and Pat would probably be quick to point out that the anti-war movement saved the lives of many future GIs who would otherwise have been drafted and sent to Vietnam.

Still, there is no question that the hostility shown to returning Vietnam veterans was misdirected.

Pat Mears and Bob Gibbs are close friends of mine, and I know they'd enjoy a good conversation.  I hope to join them both for a mojito next year in Havana--my treat.

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  • Anti-Vietnam Protests; Response to Robert Gibbs (Patrick Mears, -Germany 09/28/16 11:45 AM)
    This is just a quick response to Robert Gibbs' note of September 28th, which I just read.

    When protesting against the Vietnam War, I never performed a violent, destructive or a directly confrontational act, unless you want to include in that last category carrying a sign against the War (and it didn't read, "Ho, Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, the NLF is sure to win" or anything akin to that). I did, however, exercise my First Amendment rights in criticizing that terrible war that was initiated by deceptive and misleading actions of the US in the Gulf of Tonkin, which actions were preceded by the CIA-inspired assassination of South Vietnam's President, Ngo Dinh Diem.

    As I stated in my earlier posting, I thought that the policies of LBJ and Richard Nixon in Vietnam were unwise, wasteful and unnecessarily destructive to American and Vietnamese lives, and I still believe that. Furthermore, I bore no malice to the US soldiers in Vietnam. Contrariwise, I wanted them all to come back home so that they could avoid unnecessary injury and death in pursing a lost cause that was being artificially propped up by an untenable "Domino Theory." In fact, I supported Vermont Senator George Aiken's proposal to declare victory in Vietnam and bring the boys home right away as the most moral and wisest thing to do in those circumstances.

    Finally, I plan to be in Havana in October, God willing, and would enjoy sitting down with Robert and any other WAISers to discuss these topics.

    JE comments: WAIS '17 kicks off in one year, one week, and one day (really!): October 6th, 2017. I'm setting a goal of 30 WAISers joining us. Save the dates!  The first mojito is on me.

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    • Vietnam Veterans and Anti-War Protesters Together: A Proposal for WAIS '17 (Michael Sullivan, USA 09/29/16 3:35 AM)
      After reading Robert Gibbs' and Patrick Mears' postings of September 29th, I am curious to see how many WAISers served in the Vietnam War or actively protested the war, as they would have to be in their 60s or older today. This could be a super discussion topic for Cuba WAIS ‘17, as so much has happened to all of us and to the world since the Vietnam War. Plus in the early 1960s prior to Vietnam, we had the Bay of Pigs and the Missile Crisis taking place in Cuba.

      With 43 years having passed since the last American troops participated in combat operations in Vietnam, I wonder how many of us older folks have changed our views from what we felt in 1965 at the start of massive US troop deployment, then after Tet and the My Lai incident in 1968, then in early 1973 when the fighting for US forces ceased, until now in 2016 where we have the advantage of hindsight?

      JE comments: An excellent idea: I wonder if this will be Cuba's first-ever panel discussion on the Vietnam war that includes US veterans. Another Vietnam veteran is our own Timothy Brown. Joe Listo in São Paulo told us the story of trying to enlist at the US consulate, but they turned him down because he's Brazilian. Who were the other WAISer protesters? Henry Levin was a politically engaged young academic at Stanford at the time, but unfortunately Hank has another commitment next October and won't be able to join us.

      Are there other Vietnam veterans or protesters in our ranks? Let me know so we can get this discussion panel set up.

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      • I Tried to Enlist for Vietnam (Joe Listo, Brazil 09/29/16 1:03 PM)
        As JE mentioned, I did try to enlist for a tour in Vietnam when I turned eighteen, obviously against my parents' strong advice not to get involved. It didn't stop me. Already disgusted with the deaths of so many American troops, news from Salt Lake that a Mormon who became a friend during his missionary duties in Brazil (although I am not a Mormon myself) had been killed only a week into his tour was what triggered my decision.

        After so many years, I still question the consulate's reason to turn me down based on nationality. With thousands of Americans refusing to serve and predicated on the fact that military training at the time was practically limited to 6 weeks--not only for grunts but also for Army helicopter pilots--why not take anyone who is really willing to fight, provided they are physically apt and able to speak the language?

        In fact, I believe the US military should consider accepting foreigners to serve should other wars erupt given the apparent lack of appetite of the current American generation to wear a uniform and defend the country. All they would have to worry about was to make sure of the enlistees' true allegiance to country and train them. I would do it again, but now at 68 they would have a true reason to turn me down.

        JE comments: Really happy to hear from Joe Listo--and I'm glad Michael Sullivan's post inspired him to write.

        Nations have accepted foreigners in their ranks since ancient times. The idea of a "national" or "people's" army dates only from--I'm taking a guess here--Napoleon's day? Only a few decades earlier, the British had Hessian mercenaries in their ranks when they tried to keep the pesky Americans in line.  A lot of the Hessians never went back to Germany.

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        • Mercenaries and Foreign Volunteers (Timothy Brown, USA 10/01/16 5:42 AM)
          In response to John E's comments on Joe Listo's post of September 29th, in my experience, mercenaries and foreign volunteers are very different animals.

          While I was Consul General in the French Antilles/Guyanne) the 3rd French Foreign Legion was officered by French nationals, but the rank and file were from all over the place, including the US. (They wouldn't let me take pictures when I visited them.) Prior to its independence, the main security force in British Honduras was a Gurkha battalion.

          During my assignment in Vietnam, there was a Thai Division in the Delta, and I had the Korean White Horse Division and an Australian Special Forces training unit in my district.

          Earlier in Thailand I was interpreter for the CG of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. When it was withdrawn it was replaced by a Kiwi counter-insurgency unit.

          There were a few Americans, Costa Ricans, Guatemalans, Mexicans and Argentines in the ranks of the Sandinista Front during the 1970s and '80s.

          The FMLN Faribundo Martí Liberation Front of El Salvador had several American volunteers in its ranks, plus a few Cubans.

          During my four years as SLO to the Contras, there were even foreign fighters in the Contras ranks, including a couple of dual national Nicaraguan-American descendants of Marine stay-behinds after the 1920s campaign.

          Mike O'Callaghan (QEPD), a former US Marine that lost a leg in Korea, once Governor of Nevada that was both my mentor and mentor of Senator Harry Reid, was a reserve volunteer Sergeant in the Israeli IDF that went there to help repair tanks once a year. A devout Roman Catholic, he also went to Kurdistan at least once a year. (FYI: As of this week, my daughter Tamara that many of you met at the last WAIS conference, is also in Kurdistan.)

          I suspect other WAISers can readily add to this list.

          JE comments:  A hearty WAIS hello to colleague Tamara Zúñiga-Brown in Kurdistan.  Tamara:  is this a visit or a long-term assignment?

          Tim Brown devotes a section of Diplomarine to his service with the Korean White Horse Division in Vietnam.  It's a compelling story, with lots of surprises.  (If you still don't own a copy of Tim's book Diplomarine, shame on you...)

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      • Vietnam Veterans and Anti-War Protesters Together: A Proposal for WAIS '17 (Edward Jajko, USA 10/06/16 2:57 AM)
        On September 29th, Michael Sullivan wrote that he was "curious to see how many WAISers served in the Vietnam War or actively protested the war, as they would have to be in their 60s or older today... [S]o much has happened to all of us and to the world since the Vietnam War. Plus in the early 1960s prior to Vietnam, we had the Bay of Pigs and the Missile Crisis taking place in Cuba."

        Michael said further, "With 43 years having passed since the last American troops participated in combat operations in Vietnam, I wonder how many of us older folks have changed our views from what we felt in 1965 at the start of massive US troop deployment, then after Tet and the My Lai incident in 1968, then in early 1973 when the fighting for US forces ceased, until now in 2016 where we have the advantage of hindsight?" And he proposed: "This could be a super discussion topic for Cuba WAIS ‘17."

        JE then commented: "An excellent idea: I wonder if this will be Cuba's first-ever panel discussion on the Vietnam war that includes US veterans."

        A couple of thoughts on this proposal. While it would be extremely interesting to have a serious discussion of the Cuban Missile Crisis, right there in Cuba, I have some reservations. Were the WAIS conference to be held again at Stanford, or Adrian, or Torquay, I would not find this at all problematic. To the best of my knowledge, when WAIS met at Stanford the last couple of times, there was little if any notice in our two major local newspapers and probably none in the Stanford papers (although I admit that I rarely see the student paper, the Stanford Daily, and only occasionally see the university's Stanford Review). But a meeting of an American-based international intellectual discussion fraternity, that was founded by a well-known Hispanist who in 1960 revealed to the world the preparations by Cuban exiles for an invasion of Cuba, is sure to be noticed and taken some advantage of by various elements of the Cuban government. A discussion of My Lai, of the opposition to the war, etc., would not necessarily be in our best interests.

        I think I'll just be blunt. I think that the context of the meeting needs to be taken into consideration. Is Cuba a place where there is free and open academic and intellectual inquiry and discussion? Or is it a place where such discussion among foreign academics and intellectuals might be used for purposes of propaganda? I note an article that appeared in the San José Mercury News several days ago, under title "US teen program sparks Cuba backlash." According to the article, just after the reestablishment of relations between the US and Cuba and President Obama's visit, a State Department program, the Summer Leadership Program for Cuban Youth, which brought a number of 16-18 year old Cuban kids for family stays and various tasks to show American life, has come under intense government-organized opposition, with campus protests organized to protest the program as a tool of US government subversion.

        From the article: "Cuba rejects the idea of any foreign government, above all the United States, working with Cubans independently of the government and the more than 2,000 state-run organizations that it describes as Cuba's genuine civil society. Virtually any organization operating without state approval is viewed as illegal and potentially subversive, particularly if it receives foreign aid." So much for the sweetness and light of Barack and Raúl.

        I would submit that a society that has been taught since the 1950s to think in this way, and to view the US as an enemy, will seize an advantage in a US-based group holding a conference of free inquiry, particularly if the topic of the inquiry is opposition to the US government and its policies. A WAIS discussion in Cuba, of opposition to US government policy, to the Vietnam war, etc., will be fodder for Cuban propagandists.

        I will add that I never served in the military. My wife's older brother, whom I never met, was a newly minted second lieutenant, a graduate of West Point, when he was killed in Vietnam in the Tet Offensive. He is buried in the USMA cemetery, near the Custer Memorial. My own older brother served in Vietnam before the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the big build-up. He was intelligence officer of IV Corps. He had a long career in the Air Force and as a most senior civilian employee at the highest levels of intelligence in the Pentagon, and now lies buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

        JE comments: A most appropriate comment from Ed Jajko, as WAIS '17 kicks off exactly one year from today.  Ed makes a convincing point: as a US-based group with ties to Ronald Hilton, who was a Cubanist even before the Revolution, we will be under unprecedented levels of scrutiny.  What do other WAISers think?  Should we avoid the most controversial topics?

        Greetings to our Polish-American colleague Edward Jajko (and all WAISworld) from Lublin.  We'll be here and in nearby Chruslanki through tomorrow, and then off to the city of Wroclaw.

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  • Veterans of All Nations Deserve Respect (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 09/29/16 3:23 AM)
    I'd like to convey to Robert Gibbs (28 September) all my comprehension for the nightmare he had to suffer at home and abroad. Insulting a veteran is very cowardly.

    By the way in 1919, Fascism in Italy was born when the veterans became sick and tired of being attacked and found the right leader.

    You may disagree with a government, but a veteran always deserves respect and thanks.

    I believe I understand Robert, because at that time in Italy the Reds were very active against the Vietnam war and I have been always against the Reds. Unfortunately we were few; moreover, not having been "political correct," I always was discriminated against.

    JE comments:  Respect the veterans, absolutely, and some would add that it is a moral imperative to protest an unjust war. There's no reason that one should necessarily exclude the other.

    Vietnam veteran and WAISer extraordinaire Michael Sullivan has written in a spirit of reconciliation, with an eye towards WAIS '17, Havana. Michael's post is next.

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    • What Does "Respecting Veterans" Mean? (Rodolfo Neirotti, USA 09/30/16 3:54 AM)
      When commenting on Eugenio Battaglia's post of September 29, John E wrote: "Respect the veterans, absolutely, and some would add that it is a moral imperative to protest an unjust war. There's no reason that one should necessarily exclude the other."

      I think that we need to define "respect." According to Lord Kelvin, an Irish mathematical physicist and engineer 1824-1907, "What is not defined cannot be measured. What is not measured cannot be improved. What is not improved always deteriorates."

      If we follow his suggestion, and considering that a great number of the homeless in this country are veterans, we can say that this society does not respect them and it is not grateful for their sacrifices. Respect means treating them for the Post Traumatic Disorder, drug addiction secondary to horrors of war, the residual problems related to their injuries, and to provide the conditions for their reintegration into society.

      JE comments:  I'd throw "respect" in the "I know it when I see it" drawer, à la Justice Potter Stewart.  But Rodolfo Neirotti takes a "put your money where your mouth is" approach to treating veterans:  they need material support more than parades, medals, and flag-waving.

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