Voyage of the Damned:
As CNN's Aaron "These Spectacles Make Me Look Real Smart" Brown, in one of his faux insightful commentaries, intoned last night, "We can't seem to escape Vietnam." Brown and, later, Jeff Greenfield were discussing Moveon.org's ad calling on the Bush campaign to condemn the Swift Boat Vets for Truth's ad about John Kerry. At the beginning of Moveon.org's ad, an announcer gives a thumbnail version of Bush's missing service in the Texas Air National Guard, and it also includes the words of John McCain, that all-purpose hawk who is used for propaganda purposes like so many prisoners of the Hanoi Hilton, calling on Bush to condemn the Swift Boat ad. McCain also called on Kerry to condemn the Moveon.org ad, which Kerry did.
First off, it needs to be said that Moveon.org's ad sucks. Its copy sucks. Its production sucks. Its methods suck. Its rhetoric sucks. Its just a great huge sack of suck. If you wanna make an ad attacking Bush's Vietnam "service," then make that ad. Bush's war "record" is fair game. If you wanna make an ad exploiting poor, gimpy John McCain one more time to say that the President should condemn the Swift Boat Vets (piece of shit) ad, then make that one. This current one is just potshots and confusing bullshit, and it's final call, of "George Bush: Take the ad off the air," smacks of censorship. Would Moveon.org listen if John Kerry (or John McCain) told them to take their ad off the air? In fact, has John Kerry said that the Swift Boat Vets ad should be censored? And it gives the Swift Boat Vets far more credit than they deserve.
But let's get back to the issue at hand: why Vietnam? Well, the unspoken anxiety beneath all of this is the gut-wrenching, bowel-clenching fear and knowledge that, once more, we're into the breach with Iraq. That same horror is rising, a lot faster this time because of the "lessons" of Vietnam, that we are fighting for no good reason, and it's the nature of Americans to cling to their leaders like the starved children Ignorance and Want at the feet of the Ghost of Christmas Present. The violence against protesters during 'Nam was, in large measure, out of fear that they were right, that the government had lied and that thousands of soldiers died for that lie. In order to believe that, one had to overturn everything one had been taught about the innate goodness of America. Fuck, it's just easier to ignore it and spit on the protesters and say they deserve Kent State. Just like it's easier to beat up a homosexual than admit that you yourself are a fag.
We have to keep fighting over Vietnam because it's a way of projecting our fears about Iraq away from our current selves. Vietnam was a fucked-up, shitty goddamned war, a useless, murderous, maniacal policy pursuit that accomplished nothing but death, destruction, and dissent. People who volunteered to fight were suckered by the lies of the Johnson and Nixon administrations, that we were fighting some ultimate evil there before it made its way to our shores. The soldiers there committed atrocities, slaughtered innocents, and, yeah, all you John Fuckin' Waynes, shot people in the back. It was that kind of war, like every other kind of war, a degradation to humanity. The Swift Boat Vets have to condemn John Kerry because, in the end, he resisted that existential nausea of doing nothing when there is so much you can do. The Swift Boat Vets and the cowards in the Bush administration, many of whom supported the Vietnam war without firing a goddamn shot, have to cling to the myth that there was some good in fighting Vietnam because they have to cling to the myth that there's some good in fighting in Iraq. They have to believe it's good because America says it's good. Kerry embodies our national ambivalence about Vietnam and, indeed, about Iraq.
We are damned, yes we are, we are the condemned, because we forget the past, because we demand that the past be re-written, because if we don't fight the past, we have to justify our existence in the here and now. What horror that would be.
(And let's be clear here, Fox "News" fuckfaces who want to propagate the myth that John Kerry only served for 4 months in 'Nam: if Kerry was in the shit, facing down fire for one fucking day, it was one day longer than your man.)
(Oh, and let's be doubly clear: there's a vast world of difference between people who dodged the draft because they opposed the war - that's called principle; supporting the war but refusing to fight when you could? That's called being a little bitch.)