Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Barack Obama said this in West Virginia:

One of the saddest episodes in our history was the degree to which returning vets from Vietnam were shunned, demonized and neglected by some because they served in an unpopular war. Too many of those who opposed the war in Vietnam chose to blame not only the leaders who ordered the mission, but the young men who simply answered their country's call. Four decades later, the sting of that injustice is a wound that has never fully healed, and one that should never be repeated.

Jeralyn Merritt responds with a post titled "Obama Disses Boomers Who Opposed Vietnam War":

In other words, Obama intends to battle the war-hero McCain by throwing us under the bus.

Hilzoy responds:

Um: no. Not unless you were one of the people who did, in fact, shun, demonize, and neglect soldiers who served in an unpopular war.

Merritt adds to her denunciation of bus-throwing by quoting a Jackson Browne song -- but since her point seems to be that no one in the antiwar movement ever "chose to blame ... the young men who simply answered their country's call," I'll quote a 1960s Buffy Sainte-Marie song back to her:

He's five feet two and he's six feet four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He's all of 31 and he's only 17
He's been a soldier for a thousand years

...And he's fighting for Canada,
he's fighting for France,
he's fighting for the USA,
and he's fighting for the Russians
and he's fighting for Japan,
and he thinks we'll put an end to war this way

...But without him how would Hitler have
condemned him at Dachau
Without him Caesar would have stood alone
He's the one who gives his body
as a weapon to a war
and without him all this killing can't go on

He's the universal soldier and he
really is to blame

His orders come from far away no more
They come from him, and you, and me
and brothers can't you see
this is not the way we put an end to war.

Yup -- war is every individual's fault. The powerful don't have more power than we do. The fish doesn't stink from the head.

I'm also reminded of a line from a story a friend wrote for our high school literary magazine in 1974, in which the narrator, an anti-war high school kid, imagines the conversation of the Vietnam vet brother of a drinking buddy:

Hey, Ed, I ever tell you about the time, heehee, over in Nam, we pushed the three gooks out of the helicopter?

That was how a lot of people saw the soldiers then. Wishing that fact away won't work. And criticizing that misapplied blame is not the same as criticize opposition to that war.


UPDATE: There's a heated discussion going on in comments. (Hey, where were you all yesterday when I wasn't saying stuff that was ticking you off? I felt like a standup comic who was bombing.) Seeing some of what's being said there, as well as this Corrente post with its reference to dolchstosslegende (the "stab in the back" theory), I want to ask one thing: Where in that Obama quote do you see him saying the antiwar movement caused us to lose the war?

Show me the words.


Incidentally, while we're having a lovely little internecine squabble, I have to say I love being accused of backing right-wing frames by someone (see the link directly above) who then goes on to say that people who want Hillary Clinton to drop out are just part of the, er, "creative class" of TV pundits. Yup, it appears to me that I'm being accused of embracing right-wing frames by someone who's borrowing lines of attack from Spiro Agnew and Dan Quayle.

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