Friday, September 21, 2007

Vietnam again

Time Magazine notes John McCain's "tart" response to Code Pink hecklers while speaking before the NRA. John McCain's site provides video of the event. Time reports McCain's riposte as:

"Well, my friends, we beat you yesterday," he said. "We'll beat you today . . . And we'll beat you tomorrow!"

But that's not quite correct. What McCain really said, with a grin on his face (watch the video) was: "Well, my friends, we beat you yesterday, we beat you the day before yesterday, we'll beat you today and we'll beat you tomorrow. We won't choose to lose. We won't choose to lose this time".

This is one quote that is all about Vietnam and it is curious, but not unsurprising that a media obsessed with Vietnam doesn't report it for what it is. Maybe because it is a politically incorrect reference to an unfinished cultural conflict that didn't -- doesn't exist. The war's over, isn't it? McCain's outburst seemed to come straight from the collective subconscious that contains everything that isn't said but everything that is important. The "we" and "you" McCain refers to can be none other the enemies in the Cold War, with Code Pink implicitly in the enemy camp, right beside Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap. McCain's assertion that "we beat you yesterday, we beat you the day before yesterday, we'll beat you today and we'll beat you tomorrow" curiously juxtaposed with the apparently contradictory "we won't choose to lose. We won't choose to lose this time" is simultaneously a retelling of history; an affirmation of hostilities and it's renewal.

The Vietnam War officially ended for America in 1972. But the embers of that fire burn today. The Left declared a cultural victory for itself on that occasion, but as all would-be conquerors eventually discover, even victories are not what they seem.



Maybe the only way to understand McCain's response to Code Pink is from a story he tells about his experience as a POW in North Vietnam.

One of the men who moved into my room was a young man named Mike Christian. Mike came from a small town near Selma, Alabama. He didn't wear a pair of shoes until he was 13 years old.

At 17, he enlisted in the US Navy. He later earned a commission by going to Officer Training School. Then he became a Naval Flight Officer and was shot down and captured in 1967.

Mike had a keen and deep appreciation of the opportunities this country, and our military, provide for people who want to work and want to succeed. As part of the change in treatment, the Vietnamese allowed some prisoners to receive packages from home. In some of these packages were handkerchiefs, scarves and other items of clothing. Mike got himself a bamboo needle.

Over a period of a couple of months, he created an American flag and sewed it on the inside of his shirt. Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would hang Mike's shirt on the wall of the cell and say the Pledge of Allegiance. I know the Pledge of Allegiance may not seem the most important part of our day now, but I can assure you that in that stark cell, it was indeed the most important and meaningful event.

One day the Vietnamese searched our cell, as they did periodically, and discovered Mike's shirt with the flag sewn inside, and removed it. That evening they returned, opened the door of the cell, and for the benefit of all us, beat Mike Christian severely for the next couple of hours.

Then, they opened the door of the cell and threw him in. We cleaned him up as well as we could. The cell in which we lived had a concrete slab in the middle on which we slept. Four naked light bulbs hung in each corner of the room. As I said, we tried to clean up Mike as well as we could. After the excitement died down, I looked in the corner of the room, and sitting there beneath that dim light bulb with a piece of red cloth, another shirt and his bamboo needle, was my friend, Mike Christian. He was sitting there with his eyes almost shut from the beating he had received, making another American flag.

"Well, my friends, we beat you yesterday, we beat you the day before yesterday, we'll beat you today and we'll beat you tomorrow."

27 Comments:

Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

Then there is the story about McCain having both of his arms broken by his captors for refusing to go along with a Jane Fonda propaganda event.

McCain quipped,"my golf game has not been the same since."

Tough little guy, McCain. That can not be denied.

Then there was Snowden VP Candidate on the Perot ticket at the debate: "Who am I? Why am I here?".

When asked why he thought he was qualified to be VPOTUS, he said,"My main qualification is the fact that for nine years I ran a civilization as commander of POWs in Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War".

I admire both these men because of what they endured. It is difficult to fathom their suffering, tanacity and endurance. They are both better men than me.

Yet I can not support McCain for POTUS.

Salaam eleikum.

9/21/2007 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

In the long run the U.S. won in Vietnam, because it was merely a battle in a much longer war.

And because we won that larger war we did not go back to Vietnam, hat in hand, rather, they came to us, asking to be let in on capitalism.

The only thing the Left "won" relative to Vietnam was recognition of their ability to throw away a military victory in response to some highly public temper tantrums. The bad part is, for most of them, that is enough.

9/21/2007 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger jane said...

Choosing to lose. People do it all the time on the personal level, but what courage our POWs have shown privately when it counted for their integrity and our country. Our press and its political affiliates- next to none. They're free to speak their irresponsible idiocies on the backs of true brave men.

Found out today that my old Atlanta yardman, African-American with no college education, has four college grad kids and one a daughter in the service who has a couple of Iraq tours under her belt. The old fight may still be on, but young people are still signing up and stepping into the breach.

9/21/2007 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

RWE,

Very well put. Ho and Giap may have had the first 4GW victory of the 20th Century in the short run but the Capitalist system of USA prevailed in the long run in the Long War.

SE

9/21/2007 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

Jane,

Our press and i's political affiliates during the vietnam War were Ho and Giap's fifth column.

SE

9/21/2007 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger jane said...

Today, Marzouq, they're the 5th column (order Dork) of the pinks, greens, tranzis and Caliphatists (the DNC.)

9/21/2007 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

They are both better men than me.

Yet I can not support McCain for POTUS.
///////////////
It is a profound thing this idea of the best or better man. The bible suggests that the hunter was from old considered to be the better man than others in the story of abel and esau--or anyway both were dad's favorite.

Traditionally in the USA there has been a saying in competitive contests "May the best man win."

Leadership, is something different from being the best man. There's something innate in leadership like natural wisdom, or a strong body, a body built for wrestling or running or swimming, or a great speaking or singing voice or a natuarel mimic, or that strange quality that enables some men to be come one with their musical instrument or the related ability that involves math.

And yet typically the reason organizations decline is that the quality of the manhood of their leadership declines. Why is this? You have only to look at your own natural pride & vanity to understand this. Would you hire someone who was a better man than you.

The answer for most men is no.

That's why the quality of the leadership in many organizations declines over time. One generation of leaders after another chooses lesser men to be their replacement.

Great leaders are at least good men but what distinguishes them is that their own natural jealousy is overcome by a sense of service to a higher cause and a basic love & appreciation for men as men and a shrewd insight into what motivates men. This enables the great leaders to harness better men to their purposes or rather the higher purposes they believe their leadership has been called to serve.

9/21/2007 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger Douglas said...

Marzouq, it was Stockdale. James Stockdale. Left the serviced as a Vice Admiral, IIRC, and died a couple of years ago. Remarkable fellow. It's a shame if all he's remembered for is that strange, disoriented moment as Perot's into-the-breach running mate.

Personally, I backed McCain in 2000. Not sure about 2008, but I will say this: Our country owes more to people like John McCain, Mike Christian and James Stockdale than we can ever possibly repay at this point, after what they had to deal with on and away from the field of battle.

9/21/2007 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

Charles,

Excellent comment.

Douglas,

Sorry about that. Stockdale! man did I step in it!

You are absolutely correct about how remarkable a man he was.

It pains me to see the loss of remarkable men who serve in this current war. Then again, remarkable men arise from those situations where ordinary men face extraordinary circumstances.

This is why I pray for them daily as I pray for the mujahideen of True Islam to defeat the criminals of false Islam.

Salaam eleikum

9/21/2007 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

Dear "marzouq the redneck muslim,"

Since you seem to be a frequent guest here at Belmont Club, may we get acquainted with who you are as a Muslim?

Do you affirm and believe that every word in the Qur'an is timeless, uncreated, perfect, and literal truth? Do you believe that those words are right from Allah, and brought to Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel?

And do you believe that the later revelations to the Prophet cancel out/abrogate the earlier revelations?

9/21/2007 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh said...

I hear "we won't choose to lose this conflict" at the end. The meaning you draw Wretchard could indeed still be drawn from that, or it might not. Sen. McCain himself has said that his assessment of Iraq SHOULD NOT be attributed entirely to Vietnam; indeed, I think it a mistake for those who support US policy in Iraq to make this war another struggle over Vietnam. If there's one ironclad lesson of history, it's that it is perhaps our fate to continually draw the wrong lessons from it. I happen to think that the anti-war Left is doing exactly that with comparing Iraq to Vietnam, but I'd rather take the high ground, and focus on the enemy in front of us, rather than enemies past.

WH

9/21/2007 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

First came the Redshirts,
Then came the Blackshirts,
Next came the Brownshirts,
Here come the Pinkshirts.

9/21/2007 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

The past is never more powerful than when it conjures a mythical place to which we can actually return. Everyone knows such a place. The olive groves of what is now Israel to the Palestinians. Alsace-Lorraine to the French before the Great War. Israel to the Jewish diaspora. And the Garden of Eden for the rest of us.

One thing that grew out of the end of the Vietnam War, watered by memory, supported by some statistics and given a fatally powerful impetus by the fall of the Berlin Wall is the idea that the American Left Chose to Lose. Who can say if and to what extent this was actually true? But it doesn't really matter because that place -- the America which existed before defeat snatched from the jaws of victory -- has now become a mythical country. It is now the green place under a bright sky from which all the excesses of the Left have been banished that we can somehow return to -- if only we knew how.

But it doesn't exist. Not as we imagine it anyway. As in the case of original sin we are stained by the Leftist experience, complicit in it. It is too interwoven into the fabric of the civilization to be easily purged. "We have met the enemy, and he is us," is a saying that valid coming from either side of the ideological divide.

But like the idealized Israel or Alsace-Lorraine, or perhaps Paradise the vision of an America Before the Betrayal exists in some form; simply not the one we think. A 8 year old boy we know remarked to his aunt that "heaven is everything we dream of, but like nothing we can imagine". I suppose that's true in more ways than one.

The realistic way back to that mythical country, lies, I think, through the Democratic Party itself. Maybe through a convention which will return to them some of the things that were lost in Chicago, 1968. That will make them once again the party of Harry Truman and not, as it may have become, the party of Michael Moore.

The War on Terror has provided that rarest of occasions: the Second Chance. How powerful it might be if Hillary, Obama or Edwards might say of the War on Terror. This time we do not choose to lose.

9/21/2007 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

CHARLES: That's why the quality of the leadership in many organizations declines over time. One generation of leaders after another chooses lesser men to be their replacement.

In a democracy it's different. One generation of voters after another chooses those men who demonstrate they can bring home the biggest share of public monies, until, like Athens, the state eventually falls under the sway of a more dynamic outside power (and those public monies become tribute, rendering the whole concept of earmarks moot). We see that happening now as we mortgage our future to the Chinese.

9/21/2007 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

"I have many responsibilities to the American people, and I try to take them all seriously. But I have one responsibility that outweighs all the others -- and that is to use whatever meager talents I possess, and every resource God has granted me to protect the security of this great and good nation from all enemies foreign and domestic. And that I intend to do, even if I must stand athwart popular opinion. I will attempt to convince as many of my countrymen as I can that we must show even greater patience, though our patience is nearly exhausted so we can defeat our enemies. That is how I construe my responsibility to my country. That is how I construed it yesterday. It is how I construe it today. It is how I will construe it tomorrow. I do not know how I could choose any other course."--From the end of McCain's speech.

It appears he was on a roll with consistency. I do not think this battle is about Vietnam or even a more perfect imagined past, as much as it is about not allowing an imperfect past to repeat. Each side has their vision of that past, what was wrong and what went right. Both have pledged never again. It would be nothing short of a miracle if one side were to cry "UNCLE".

9/21/2007 08:18:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

Despite my thoughts above, I too am awed by what Senator McCain and all of our POW's faced and overcame. They are made of strong stuff, made stronger by their experience.

It was another, Sam Johnson, who said of our country, to paraphrase, "we can weather this debate standing on our heads." His perspective gives me hope.

9/21/2007 08:42:00 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

I am really shocked at how deficient of fact so many of my generation are of what really happened on the ground in the Republic of Vietnam. I was a senior in high school in 1972-73 and went into the Army after graduation. There, I met many soldiers who had the blue CIB on their boards, officer and enlisted, and all were very modest men who did not talk much about what they had experienced.

It was not until many years later that I began to read books and articles about the battles and the campaigns there. This material was scant on the bookshelves during and shortly after the war. How the MSM reported that war did not help matters. Anyway, when I finally was able to cut through the fog and get at the solid ground of real history I was astounded. And proud of my country and its military.

Too many in my generation have forced a meme and a myth that distorted the reality, and functioned as a symbol and rallying cry for crass political purposes. During my days "on the Left" (1977-87)many of the activist, vulgar Marxists I occasionally rubbed elbows with were always defaulting to the "Vietnam!" meme, without ever having the faintest idea that they were reveling in the vapors of unreality.

9/21/2007 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Wretchard,

You said "... the idea that the American Left Chose to Lose. Who can say if and to what extent this was actually true?"

That would be me, among others. Being much older than most of those commenting here, I was there and I remember all too well.

At that time I was a heavily-involved radical leftist, teaching at a university. We hoped, longed and yearned for the U.S. to lose in Vietnam. When the U.S. did lose, we felt enormous relief.

It is true. That was what the anti-war left was, and thought, then.

9/21/2007 10:10:00 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Addition to my comment above: That started in the early 60s for me and my co-lefties.

9/21/2007 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

Much as I love John McCain, I don't know whether he should have said it. He was certainly right. He was speaking for a lot of us, but it doesn't help with the political polarization that is plaguing us. These people are self-righteous and smug in their certitude, but the key point is that they do believe they are right and that they believe they are serving their country.

I saw something on PBS recently about the Camden 14 with one of the Berrigans and a bunch of other Catholics who resisted the war in Vietnam. The thing that struck me was how much I liked these people. They were betrayed by a member of their own group who was in turn betrayed by the FBI, J. Edgar and Nixon, as well. For these Catholics, the world was very simple. They believed that everyone is good. Everyone wants to be good, they are simply misled. Our leaders are the ones who are being stubbornly evil because they try to mislead the people, whereas the enemy leaders are just trying to free their people and feed the children. All very understandable. Easy to excuse. Besides, it's God's problem what the enemy does, not ours. The Camden Catholics were angry with the President because they couldn't see the hard choices he had to make. They ended up forgiving the man who betrayed them. But I don't think they could ever forgive LBJ or Nixon. They never even considered the question of whether to forgive the leaders of North Vietnam.

The people who confront the true evil of the world do not care to share their experiences with such innocents as these, but maybe they have been wrong about that. There is something quite simple that the protesters, at least some of the protesters, just cannot see, and maybe they need to have their noses rubbed in it. In a world where parents can be presented with the baked bodies of their children, true implacable evil does exist and often prevails. McCain would do better, I think, by sharing his POW experiences with some of these people rather than letting his frustration show. They respond to emotional narrative much better than they respond to logic or scolding.

9/21/2007 10:29:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

The Garden of Eden is just a shorthand as I use it. Everyone has lived their sixteen when they believed themselves immortal and the world they found before them had always been been and always would be. Most guys have had profound meditations on the quality of their manhood vs their dads/brothers/sons/cousins/etc . Most people I think have seen whole communities displaced either by people infrastrures or both. The war with the jihadists is the backside of the viet nam stuff that happened in 70s. Both the salafists and the Khohemini's sensed the internal weakness in the west for which the opec ministers ability to extort higher oil prices from materially stronger countries was exhibit A. They took it as a sign from allah that it was their time. and indeed historically islam has been a late empire religion.

That's what makes this age so confusing. Are we at the end of one age or at the beginning of another. The answer is both.

And of course all this snake swallowing tail stuff makes people see possible alternatives for the past.

It is more sensible to consider ways to build a better future.

For one thing the chinese need to have a two party system. Lacking one, the USA is forced to be the second party in their one party system. This is an innapropriate role for the USA. Not only does it distort Chinese & American politics but it distorts the international system.

9/22/2007 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Not only does it distort Chinese & American politics but it distorts the international system.
/////////////////
and the one party system in china cannot be expected to produce a good transfer leadership and policy as it did in the 1970's. The issues arising out of the quality of Chinese goods shows the extreme limits of Deng's policies that came out of that period.

The chinese and the moslems learned very different things from the viet nam war.

and it shows.

9/22/2007 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

David Gelernter's recent article "Defeat at any cost" made a nice distinction. It's not that Democrats are not patriotic, it's just that their patriotism is directed toward the International Community, or going Bronze Age, to the Earth (paraphrased). Given that set of beliefs, it becomes logical to long for America's defeat.

In Halberstam's last article, he wrote how he doesn't like to think that America or Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. He prefers to think that the USSR simply imploded on its own, due to economical structural weakness. That's like believing "guns cause homicide" as the police chief in Philly likes to put it.

Sweet deus ex machina, Batman!

Of course, Halberstam's vision of fatal weakness befelling the USSR doesn't quite fit with them funding and equipping 50,000 Cuban combat troops in southern Africa in the '70's, or Russia invading and occupying Afghanistan throughout the '80's. And then, while off in an unrelated world where America was resurgent economically and militarily and politically, the USSR simply imploded on its own.

See, if we hadn't made the Islamofascists mad at us, we'd be fine right now. I'm sure they're on schedule to simply implode any day now.

Let's move on to fighting the really important battle against Global Warming!

Are we allowed to question their patriotism yet?

9/22/2007 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Wretchard --

In no way at all can the Democratic Party EVER be patriotic, or pro-American, or pro-Defense, or even neutral on the question of whether America should be defeated by it's enemies (Dems clearly root for defeat).

Since 1968 the Dem Party has hated the IDEA of America and in particular average Americans. THAT will never change.

The reason is not a giant conspiracy, the "evil" nature of the Left, or anything along those lines. But rather the seizure of power by wealthy, elitist, risk-averse people. The Kennedy family, the Rockefellers, the Boxers, the Pelosis, the Coumos, etc.

These people (as Tony wisely puts it) feel loyalty only to their own transnational class of lifestyle aspirational "cool/creative" people. Why would they feel any responsibility for the uncool, not-hip, untrendy people of say, St. Louis? Or the "little Eichmans" in the WTC. American Patriotism as writer Frank Miller put it is a contract between the people and the nation of mutual protection. Dems have their own "gated communities" and so disdain protection for ordinary people. Since the whole point of "being rich" as Rose Kennedy put it is to prevent ordinary people from having "nice things too."

Look at who runs the Party: rich privileged folks, most of them trustafarians or Wall Street mavens or avid internationalist / anti-American currency traders. George Soros and David Geffen and Ned Lamont. Look at who are their shock troops: "lifestyle aspirationalists" who want to be rich and trendy: Daily Kos and Amanda Marcotte and Wonkette (Ana Marie Cox). Look at who votes for Dems: Lifestyle aspirants and minorities and gays/feminists.

The interests of a gay man in San Francisco is directly opposite that of a straight man in St. Louis. Economically, culturally, security-wise, and so on. [The gay gallery owner benefits from cheap labor and expensive land; the straight man the opposite. The gay gallery owner benefits from anti-marriage/family fiscal and cultural policy, the straight man the reverse. The gay man benefits from PC rules that put him high in a PC-Caste system and denies power to in particular straight white men (as "evil") while for the straight man it is the reverse. These are REAL differences brought out most starkly by the desire of elites to preserve power rather than fight against terrorist threats]

The nation IS divided and that will never change. The only question is who will have power, exercise it, and suppress the interests of the loser?

9/22/2007 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

whiskey:

In no way at all can the Democratic Party EVER be patriotic, or pro-American, or pro-Defense, or even neutral on the question of whether America should be defeated by it's enemies (Dems clearly root for defeat).

Since 1968 the Dem Party has hated the IDEA of America and in particular average Americans. THAT will never change.


So, are you prepared to let Vermont secede from the Union or are you prepared to use military force to keep Vermont in? How about Massachusetts? Maine? New Hampshire? Rhode Island?

One can make remarks about what the Democratic Party has been like since 1968, but never is a long time. If the "Democratic monolith" is so utterly treasonous, utterly unredeemable, and utterly entrenched, why bother having a Union when a significant part of the Union is died-in-the-wool Democrat? If the Democrats are so horrible, what's the point of keeping parts of the Union that keep on voting for people like Ted Kennedy, Bernie Sanders, Pat Leahy, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, and Barney Frank?

Personally, I do not regard approximately half of the American voting public to be a cancer to be excised from the body politic. Americans need to fight this war together, for all of our survival is at stake (whether the Left realizes it or not). Let's not forget what Iranian Islamists did to the Iranian Left during and after their revolution. Anyone who allies himself with an Islamist is like a man who keeps a boa constrictor as a pet; when the snake smells his owner, he smells dinner.

9/22/2007 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

Fred,

Email me. This thread is getting old.

Salaam eleikum!

9/23/2007 02:19:00 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

marzouk,

I am not interested in becoming a Muslim. I just wanted to know if you had the courage and the integrity to go on the record in a very public way about what you uphold about Islamic scripture, its provenance, and its way of being interpreted. Since you are not interested in making this public, you might find it harder to uphold credibility if I should post quotes from the Qur'an to support an argument from time to time.

9/23/2007 07:16:00 PM  

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