Opinion » Bill Cope

More Vietnam Duty

Still quagmired, after all these years

Sometimes we chose our life's work. Sometimes our life's work chooses us.

I mean, how could I have known 35 years ago when I became a conscientious objector to the despicable war my country was waging against the people of Southeast Asia, that even into my late fifties I would still be arguing against the distortions of that travesty? Who would have thought, three decades after being shown decisively that we have neither the moral authority nor the practical capability to dictate how other folks run their countries, that I would still have to respond to war-worshipping baloney from fellow Americans who equate the slaughter of hut-dwelling peasants with our freedom? Could I have possibly foreseen, back in my age of great expectations, that now--when I should be concerning myself with comfortable house slippers and a reliable supply of Metamucil--I would still be protesting Vietnam?

I suppose I should be thankful we aren't still having sit-ins. Sometimes when I sit down, it takes a nap and a good strong boost to get me back up again.

I should probably let it pass and leave others to believe whatever the hell they choose to believe about that barbarous war. Most will, anyway. (I have discovered people tend to blame Vietnam on whichever past president they have the greatest grudge against. Put any three bitter old armchair historians in the same armchair, and while one will maintain it was JFK's fault, another will pin it on Johnson and the third on Nixon. Hardly ever will you find someone aware that our initial involvement on those killing fields was Dwight Eisenhower's bright idea. I guess everyone still likes Ike.)

But being a devout follower of the creed that our past is our future has convinced me history is too fundamental to abandon to those who would twist it to their own ends. And of late, there is so much obfuscating manure being spread about our hindsight of the Vietnam experience that I cannot sit quietly by and allow our roots to be smothered by this crap.

I put some of the blame on John Kerry. No doubt in my mind he served honorably. Still, by campaigning on the claim he had defended our liberty by volunteering for Vietnam, Kerry helped nurture the damnable lie that our liberty was ever at risk from the Vietnamese. An honest examination of the last 50 years would show that when it comes to our liberties, Americans had more to fear from our homegrown über-patriots than from the Viet Cong.

But what most recently chafed my aging butt were two guest opinions printed on Veterans Day in the local daily. Both were from Vietnam vets, and both in their own way added fuel to the folly that the war was worth fighting. In the more contemplative of the two pieces, the writer correctly establishes that America lost the war, that soldiers often returned to less-than-glorious receptions, and then makes the mistake of assuming we homesiders were angry at them for losing. He further asks that we jiggle our rearview mirrors enough that Vietnam might be seen as an unfortunate skirmish in the larger war against communism, and without the devastation and blood in the mud of Southeast Asia, the Iron Curtain might never have collapsed a generation later.

No. First of all, we homesiders were never as angry at the soldiers as conservative propagandists would have the gullible believe. The specter of filthy longhairs gathering at airports to scream "baby killer" to incoming vets has turned out to be an urban myth, and a close examination of the times would show it was largely those same returning soldiers who took the lead in opposing the war. It was the authenticity and depth of their rage and sacrifice that added enough gravitas to the antiwar movement that politicians had to pay attention.

Secondly, it wasn't Vietnam that brought down the reds. Communism by itself, without a modern superpower-sized army committed to spreading and enforcing it, was never a threat to the U. S. Vietnam remains a relatively stable communist system, and is still no more a danger to our way of life than Canada's Mounties. And as to the Soviet Union, if there was indeed an endless quagmire that bankrupted that superpower, it was their own horrific blunder in Afghanistan, not our horrific blunder in Vietnam.

I haven't told you the name of the man who wrote that opinion because I don't want anyone to confuse my disagreement with his premise with disdain for him or his service. As to the writer of the second view, however, I have no such problem. Nor will Robert Vasquez mind that I use his name, I'm sure. He seems to be in serious contention for that most dubious of distinctions--the "Idaho's Political Clown-in-Residence" (a post most recently held by Helen Chenoweth)--and if there's anything stink-stirrers of his ilk like, it's their name being tossed widely about, no matter the context.

Mr. Vasquez is probably best known for his showboating on the theme of illegal immigrants, which he performs on a regular basis from his stage as a Canyon County commissioner. At a later time, I plan to take a closer look at Vasquez's approach to the immigration dilemma, including his incredibly un-American stance that illegals have no rights simply because they are here illegally. But for the present, it's his incredibly un-American stance toward dissenting opinions that must be addressed.

He starts off his tribute to veterans--which he never allows us to forget he's one of--with the implication that it's absurd to support our soldiers without supporting whatever fool war some damn fool got them into. He then spends a few words on how smart Americans are for reelecting the foremost of those aforementioned fools, proceeds to how "members of the left-leaning political ideology" cannot grasp the concept of standing up to our enemies--in spite of the fact that there are more Democrat leaders who served in combat than in his party of draft deferment hypocrites and Texas Air Guard drunks--and then wraps up his case by boasting how he did what he did knowing that even we latte-swiggin', veggie burger- swillin' liberals would be kept safe to continue our utter scorn of people like him.

All I can say is, Robert, thanks a bunch. And just so's you know what a good job you did, I'll be damn sure to keep doing what we liberals do. And you can sleep tonight assured that we're doing it to keep even grandstanding flag-thumpers like you free to be grandstanding flag-thumpers like you.