We all know that it's the big guys that talk of war, and the little guys that fight and eventually die for their rhetoric...The funny thing is that, much of the time, the young people that actually go over to places that they may not even be able to point to on a map, have absolutely no real idea why they're there! Yes, they read the same newspapers the rest of us do, perhaps, and they hear the same saber-toothed speeches given by the politicians du jour, but do they really know the history, politics, people, or culture of the region to which they are being sent to kill? More importantly, do they know what the foreign policy of the US has been with a given "enemy" over the course of, say, the last fifty years?
So many of those sad kids who actually made it back from Vietnam spoke of outrage
at the "lies" and "half-truths" they were told by those in command, before they
were shipped off to fight and kill. What they found when they got there was a
country full of simple but proud and determined peasants who never asked for their
help. After years of being under oppressive French rule, most Vietnamese just
wanted to be free to manifest their own destinies, communist or otherwise. What
the United States government failed to tell our soldiers was that the Vietnamese
people overwhelmingly wanted unity after driving out the French in 1954, and that
polls showed that as many as 80% of the Vietnamese people were prepared to vote
for Ho Chi Minh for head of state. But, the United States itself moved quickly
to stop the unification and democratic elections proposed by Ho Chi Minh and his
supporters, and instead installed a US backed "puppet government" in South Vietnam,
which was run by Ngo Dinh Diem, whose last residence before taking power in Saigon
was the state of New Jersey. As the author's of the Pentagon Papers themselves
asserted "South Viet Nam was essentially the creation of the United States." I
wonder if Johnny Smith from Fargo, North Dakota, or Terence Jones from Macon,
Georgia knew that before being shipped off to Nam?
In the early 1970s after the war against the war ripped our country apart, and the Watergate fiasco just rubbed more salt into our national wound, polls showed that the American people had outright disdain and mistrust for their government, the likes of which had not been seen since the great depression. The cynicism and mistrust
continued throughout the Ford administration when it became clear to many that the only real objective the government had was to both perpetuate itself and maintain the status quo. It had absolutely no intention of reforming itself in any way. This was evident by Ford's prearranged Nixon pardon, the light "country club" prison sentences that many in the Nixon administration received for their criminal participation in the Watergate scandal, and the overall lack of substance that resulted in the Ford presidency itself. The strides that seemed to be made by both the civil rights movement and the women's movement amounted to little more than token changes such as "affirmative action," with little improvement to the overall standard of living enjoyed by "minorities" themselves, and little increase in government accountability in Washington. The Equal Rights Amendment was never passed. Corporate control of our government continued to rise to unprecedented proportions. In fact, many corporations took advantage of the social upheaval to strengthen their power-grip on Washington, by saying something to the effect of "see, look what will happen if we let the liberals and progressives pass laws governing big business..." The state of our Union has continued to decline ever since, as was clearly evident during our last Presidential election, when rampant corporate sponsorship was ever more important than the grassroots organizing by voter constitutes.
I've heard it said that America goes through a sort of "cleansing process" every thirty years or so, thus reforming and renewing itself. But while the upheavals of the 1930s resulted in Roosevelt's "New Deal," in the long run, the "revolution" of the sixties fostered little significant government reform or social change. What we are seeing now is the continuation of a social call for change and government accountability, that has never been answered. This is not a new cleansing period, but merely a continuation of the last, after 30 yrs. of sleepiness and complacency on the part of thinking American citizens. This lack of attention on our part has resulted in the obvious "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" phenomenon we have seen in government for the last 40 years. Or rather, in today's world, what we are facing in our country is "meet the new boss, even worse than the old boss." Now, the stakes are even higher than they were in the 1960s, because Iraq is no Vietnam, and the middle east is potentially much more volatile than Southeast Asia was back then. As our very lives hang in the balance, it is up to us to define how we are seen by the rest of the world. All of us, especially those who may be called on to fight in this much debated war against Iraq, owe it to ourselves and the rest of the world to truly know and understand what is at stake here. Let's not wait for the bodybags to start rolling in before we say "hey, they lied to us!" Let's learn the truth before we fight this time...however uncomfortable knowing that truth may be...After all, in the long run, it will only be ourselves staring back at us, in that unforgiving mirror called history.
Lily Moretti is a free-lance writer and artist interested in progressive
politics. She can be reached at Democracynoww@aol.com