Guest Post: Why We Still Fight
I was reflecting on all the events of the past ten years, since I first became involved in studying and then contributing to the detailed history of the Viet Nam War. This has taken a tremendous amount of time for me but I have not been alone in this work. There are many veterans who are historians, and some historians who have been very sympathetic to the views many vets have about their service and the war in general.
But unfortunately, academia was invaded during and right after the war by those who were against the war, and the commonly publicized history of the war from the great majority of writing done from about 1965 through 1985 centered on what I will call The Narrative. And those antiwar professors trained others in their way of thinking, so academia is now heavily spotted with the second and even third generation historians who support The Narrative the way a preacher supports the Bible.
What is The Narrative? Well, it consists of a bunch of "accepted" or "well known" talking points, which go like this:
- the conflict in Viet Nam was between the true liberators from the French and the corrupt southern part of the country, which was ruled by an unelected power elite who were resisting the unification of the nation out of various selfish motives
- as a civil war, the USA had no business being there in the first place, and the excuse that it was about stopping international Communism was just propaganda
- the involvement of the USA was based on blatant lies such as the false reports of attacks on US warships and false theories like the Domino Theory
- fighting against the many true nationalists of the South, who were then aided by the aroused and committed brother patriots of the North, while the ARVN were never really able to fight well, was an impossible military situation, so the war was unwinnable from the start
- American meddling never did anything except worsen the situation for the Vietnamese people, and
's gross overuse of weaponry devastated much of the country irresponsibly, and caused deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents America
- American troops were disproportionately minorities, and the general bad attitudes of both the officers and men resulted in the routine occurrence of atrocities that were covered up
- in the end, the brave Vietnamese patriots, an irregular group of guerillas with old weapons and few resources, outfought the world’s biggest and best equipped army
- all of this could have been avoided if only the USA had lived up to the commitment made in the Geneva Accords for the holding of country-wide elections, which would have peacefully resolved the situation and unified the country under Ho Chi Minh
Every one of those points is false, and actually easily disproven by facts, records, and the personal testimony of those who were there, not just Americans, but plenty of Vietnamese as well. Yet the great majority of Americans, and foreigners for that matter, generally believe some or most of those points. And the media have done a great job as well in supporting The Narrative.
Fighting against this are a comparative minority of historians and witnesses to history, like me. I spent all of '68 running up and down I Corps, working with various grunt units, but also seeing things from the viewpoint of other units, like the HST teams, the pilots, the S-6 scouts, and others. I sure don't know everything, but I sure know we were not raping and pillaging and murdering every day, and in fact we were doing medical aid visits to every little village we stopped at. (And I have the pictures to prove it.) And we were certainly not outfought by either the VC or the NVA, although they were damn good fighters at times.
Since the war I have met many other vets, and some of our POWs, and many Vietnamese who were in the fight and survived to come here to live. I've ready many good books on events of the war, and cross-checked them with other books and sometimes with the people who were there for the events described in the books. So I have become a fairly decent amateur historian, and even wrote a booklet for students to help them avoid being led astray by The Narrative. See Whitewash/Blackwash: Myths of the
War. Viet Nam
I do lectures at high schools and colleges, and sometimes meet in the audience some antiwar people, and then the discussion gets a bit warm. I don't argue feelings, but stick to facts and logic, usually facts the other side has never heard, or chooses to disbelieve, and they aren't always too good with logic. And they invariably get angry at me, and things go downhill, and I get accused of being biased or lying or just really stupid. Most of the people listening to all this tend to start looking at me like I actually know something, and looking at the other guys with rejection in their eyes. But it never slows down the antiwar people, they are like committed disciples of
, and nothing makes a dent in how they see things. They just get more passionate as they argue, until they get really mad. Hanoi
But if I really help educate some people, change some minds, it seems like adding a drop of water to a dirty ocean. It takes up a lot of time, but more than that, gives me a lot of frustration and concern at a pretty high level.
And far, far too often, I get the terrible feeling that all of us still working at the true history of the war are fated to be Don Quixote, tilting at the windmills of academia. That the sheer momentum of that triple-damned Narrative cannot be overcome, or even dented seriously. It is a truly sickening thought.
But why do we go on, why must we go on?
Two reasons. The second is that it is a continuing part of our service to the nation, to try to get the real history studied and understood, so that we can eventually reap the benefits of really learning the lessons of that war. Or conversely, to help the nation avoid the disasters that will continue to accrue by accepting the false lessons of the war. This is no small matter.
But the first reason is all those names on The Wall, and all the others who served, and suffered. I include in that our brothers in arms of the ARVN and the Montagnards, some of whom still suffer to this day.
Long, long ago I had to memorize a WW1 poem, In Flanders Fields. Still applicable, still poignant. And the last verses echo today. "If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep"
I cannot but think of all those men, especially those I knew, whose faces are still bright in my all too declining memory, or those I saw die and held or carried, whose blood congealed, sticky, on my arms and hands. I cannot let their memories be trampled and sullied by these arrogant fools and enemies of the Republic.
So regardless of the discouragement, the deep worries, the time my wife says I can't afford, I'm in this for the long haul. It will end only when they close the lid on me, and I am back with those I knew in those awful times.
I want to say that I am proud and honored to be part of his group who are fighting to keep the truth alive. We are perhaps another band of brothers in another battle, one that is so terribly important. I salute them all on Memorial Day, and all the other vets still standing proud for their service; and perhaps we will yet knock over one of those cursed windmills.