Eisenhower – 56 years later

The military-industrial complex was and is a time-bomb.

In hindsight, it seems President Eisenhower was delivering more of a prediction, than a warning, when he spoke of a “military-industrial complex” in his short (15:44) farewell address, on January 17, 1961.

Ike, soft-spoken and modest, was not the kind of person who would have pretended to know what the future holds. But it seems evident now, after 50 years of serving his country – from West Point in 1911 through his second term as President ending in January 1961 – that Eisenhower may have known more than he realized.

Having witnessed the Nazi war machine, the use of nuclear weapons (a decision he opposed) to bring an end to the war with Japan, and the rise of the Soviet Union, Eisenhower recognized that we had entered an era unlike any before. “American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well,” he said. “But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.

Calling for “good judgment” and “balance” (a word used 9 times in his address), Eisenhower counseled that we “must not fail to comprehend” the “grave implications” of imbalance, and special interests. “We must learn,” he said, “how to compose differences not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.

If Eisenhower’s words were understood, they most definitely were not heeded.

The military-industrial complex was and is a time-bomb. Its explosive body is made up of thousands of defense contractors itching to rake in profits for themselves, and their shareholders. Its fuse is the weak and inferior minded politician, he who speaks of “peace and freedom” but who is forever angling for historical recognition which, in the American tradition, means finding a war.

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True Heroes

A true hero is a person who takes their commands from a higher authority. Relying on a deeper sense of right and wrong, he doesn’t always follow orders. Hugh Thompson and Lawrence Colburn are examples of this.

They put their lives on the line – confronted their fellow soldier – and put an end to the bloody rampage known as the My Lai massacre.

Hugh and Lawrence lived by the creed of one our finest, Five-Star General, Douglas MacArthur, who said “The soldier, be he friend or foe, is charged with the protection of the weak and unarmed. It is the very essence and reason of his being. When he violates this sacred trust, he not only profanes his entire cult, but threatens the fabric of international society.

They did right and now rest in eternal peace. Hugh and Lawrence represent the best of mankind.

King’s most moving sermon on Vietnam

No one spoke with greater conviction against the war in Vietnam and in defense of all victims – foreign and domestic – than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Less than a year before his assassination, on April 30, 1967, King made one of his most remarkable sermons ever, explaining why he opposed the war in Vietnam. As with his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King demonstrated his ability for thinking in broad terms, and in ways that united all who listened. He spoke not just of those directly affected by the war, but also of its impact on society, justice, and world order.

His points are timeless and apply equally to our current conflicts in the Middle East, as they did to the war in Vietnam.

His most profound message is directed towards those young men and women who are thinking of going to war, believing that their greatest purpose in life is to serve their country and to do so without question. To this King says: “Every man has rights that are neither conferred by nor derived from the State – they are God-given.

In other words, he implores us to put moral conviction – that which is instilled in us by our Creator at birth – before government and patriotic symbolism.

Below is an abbreviated version of King’s sermon.

 

Revisionism and Rationalization

… we are quick to seek pity, as if the Vietnamese had invaded our country, but seem to have little capacity to feel pity for the lives we took.

Historians call it “revisionism” when events are redefined to fit a particular narrative.*

In psychology, the term “rationalization” is used in a similar context to explain away bad behavior; some call it excuse-making.

Both words underscore a human need to maintain a feeling of contentment with who we are, what we have done, and how we think. We generally don’t question our beliefs, because doing so works against our state of well-being. Questioning stokes doubt and provokes unrest, or what psychologists call dissonance.

Unfortunately, for some this blog is a source of dissonance. It questions many of the assertions about the Vietnam War that have been repeated so often, and with such conviction, that we have come to accept them as absolute truths.

While many acknowledge the tragedy that was the Vietnam War, more react with denial, and at times anger, at the suggestion that America did wrong. Rather than recognizing the estimated 2 to 3 million men, women, and children killed during our time in Vietnam as our human equals, we remain fixated on the 58,200 American lives that are memorialized in Washington. (more…)

A Time to Regret

I closely track stories about Vietnam, and hardly a day passes when I don’t read an article honoring our Vets. Here’s a short sampling of what I mean, all published on October 12, 2016:

“Event to honor local Vietnam War Veterans on Thursday” Knoxville News Sentinel

DAR honors Vietnam War vets with tree planting” Richland Source

The Moving Wall-Residents honor Vietnam War Heroes” King City Rustler

Do Vietnam Vets really want to be honored, when so many feel regret? Are we not doing them, and ourselves, a disservice by not recognizing the horror that was the Vietnam War? Wouldn’t the conscience of the Vietnam Vet, and the nation as a whole, be better off if we recognized the truth about Vietnam? Or has the word of Christ (John 8:32) been forgotten? “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

Like so many of our politicians, and the powerful business elite we, as a nation, seem never to be wrong. We have lost the moral conviction to admit we did bad, and to ask for forgiveness. Worse yet, we have grown indifferent to the truth and to putting forward any effort to discovering it. Honoring Vets for a war we know nothing about – and care to know nothing about – is an easier course to take, and conveniently doesn’t put a dent into the smooth flow of patriotism that makes us feel good about being American.

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A Vietnam Memorial of One

In 1953, I was born into an America that was as humble as it was strong. We were proud of our heritage, but considerate of those who came before us and made our place in the world possible. It was a time when we did not boast of greatness, we demonstrated it. I was happy and felt blessed.

Within a decade my contentment was replaced by a deep and perplexing fear of something I barely understood. It was big, red, and epidemic. Its name: Communism.

Against this backdrop of hemorrhaging red evil, stood a far off and little-known country named Vietnam. It was there that the red disease would be arrested, and its poisons neutralized.

Naïve and immature, I believed as I had been taught. If not stopped in Vietnam, Communism would take over Southeast Asia and gain a foothold on the world. It was known as the domino theory, and the survival of America and its democratic values hinged on keeping the dominos from falling.

Killing was wrong, normally. But Commies were red and, as was said, one was better dead than red.

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