Sunday, July 10, 2011

In case you don't understand the lingo, that's marijuana."

Continuing on with the theme of two sides to a coin.....

A colleague of David Culbert wrote this to him in July 1978, regarding an essay he wrote on the Adam's photo as well as a proposal for a grant he and Peter Rollins were submitting for the film they were working on.
You seem to be deliberately ignoring the ways in which government press releases, especially the releases from the  Saigon  government, but from  Washington as well, were propagandistic in their insistence upon the corner being imminently turned, the tunnel-end being imminently reached, the democracy of southeast Asia being imminently saved  (as though it had ever existed in the first place).
In short, the government was doing what you and Peter [Rollins]  seem to be doing: acting as though the military truth were the determining context, and, Dave, I swear that readers  and  viewers will remember that the context was one in which the traumatic divisions that tore the country apart was not one in which there was a division between those who thought we were winning and could win on the one hand and  those who thought we weren' t winning and couldn't win on the other, but between those who said that we could win and must and those who said that even if we could win we should not and that the military considerations were a complete obfuscation of the basic issues.  
What I like about this paragraph is the author's contention that the division in the country over the Vietnam war was between "those who said that we could win and must and those who said that even if we could win we should not."

What happens, as far as I can see, is that this Highlander - there can be only one - reality pits one against the other.  How do we handle a situation like that?  How about democratically, you know, put it to a vote?  We don't vote on war.  Our elected officials - who we did voted for - decide, and they decided that blood and treasure should be spent trying to meet our objectives in Vietnam. And, as was pointed out:
"[i]f we stick to it long enough - and this is not a short term proposition - [we were] confident that we shall have reasonable success in achieving our objectives."
See that word "reasonable" in that sentence?  Lets look at how that's defined:
"Having modest or moderate expectations; not making unfair demands"
In other words, based on what we set out to do, and what we knew about the enemy (see post), sticking with it should bring about the success of those objectives.

And then came Tet, the Eddie Adam's photo, and a reevaluation of the cost associated with achieving that reasonable success.  You know that saying "freedom isn't free?"  Well that's a tacit way of telling you it is going to cost blood and treasure.

Did "Uncle Walt" and the use of the Eddie Adam's change the hearts and minds of Americans to go against the war, or was it simply more a realization by more and more people that "even if we could win we should not?"

Here is what George Bailey told Rollins in an interview for the film (Lichty also talks about Walter Cronkite's impact) :

Rollins interview with Prof Lawrence Lichty and George Bailey
This assessment on the cost - and to whom it is applied to - had been going on way before Tet.  Case in point was a confrontation between the actress Eartha Kitt and Lady Bird Johnson (from: Lady Bird: A Biography of Mrs. Johnson By Jan Jarboe Russell):

Before Tet we weren't quite ready to hear about what the cost of the war was doing to those who were the "blood" part of the blood and treasure commitment to achieve our objectives, and Eartha Kitt paid the price - a la the Dixie Chicks - for being "ill-mannered negro."

I guess what I am struggling with in all of this is how should I feel about it now, compared with how I felt about it before I started doing my research on this?  It's not as easy as it should be because I am also troubled by my ignorance as a teenager heading into draft age who really was clueless about what it was all about.  That's where this is heading for me now.  I was, back in 1973, while the war was still going on, sixteen.  Had it continued I would have been that "blood" my fellow Americans were willing to spend to meet our objectives.

It hits close to home now, and that makes my objectivity towards the war, Tet, General Loan, and the absolutists tainted.

Should my near-miss play into how I see the war? Should it dictate how I feel about our effort, my government, my military, and General Loan?

It can't help but not affect my view of the war, which is exactly the same situation General Loan was put in on February 1st, 1968 when Nguyen Van Lem was brought to him with hands tied behind his back and wearing civilian clothes.

How one sees a situation is uniquely their own.  How dare we punish Eartha Kitt for voicing how she saw the conflict in Vietnam.  How dare we criticize Walter Cronkite and Robert Kennedy for speaking what they saw as the truth. How dare we degrade the men and woman who willingly and unwillingly offered their blood to give us "reasonable success in achieving our objectives."  And how dare we condemn General Loan for this one particular act - committed during a war, during an invasion - elevating ii up to a classification of "moral turpitude."

Condemnation is deserved for those who ignore the cost and reality that comes in to play when you go to war.

As Charles Heston said in Plant of the Apes: Damn them!  Damn them to hell!

Next Post: There but for the grace of God go I....

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