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When the War starts, try supporting the troops!

When the War starts, try supporting the troops!
Its up to you, and you are free to do what you want, but when the war starts, by continuing to protest you run a big risk of looking like a bunch of small, bitter, snide, self-serving, sore loser, assholes.

There is a time and place for political opposition, and a level of maturity is required to know that fighting the good fight, also means not letting history paint you in a negative light, as it has with the protestors who spit on the soldiers returning from the Vietnam War.

More than likely the country will close ranks and support the war, like they have with every conflict since the Vietnam War. (Grenada, Panama, Gulf War I, etc.)
How to do it 09.Mar.2003 22:47

Ted M

Support the Troops! Bring them home!

exactly - bring them home 09.Mar.2003 23:00


also means not letting history paint you in a negative light, as it has with the protestors who spit on the soldiers returning from the Vietnam War.

While soldiers do have the choice not to fight, military prison ain't no picnic. It isn't fair to mistreat these kids who haven't yet understood how they've been played.

Keep up the demonstrations, step up the civil disobedience and direct action, but try to help the soldiers understand. And prevent the military from dredging through the ghettos, barrios, and trailer parks for more innocents.

moron 09.Mar.2003 23:05



Ahh 09.Mar.2003 23:10

The Redcoat

Some people
in a world
of delusion
and some
in a
of truth

Troops? 09.Mar.2003 23:34


What troops?
You mean american and british mercenaries, do you?

Support the troops 10.Mar.2003 00:06


I don't think many people are against the troops. But it is the direction of the leadership that is in question. Many do not want a war in Iraq. But if we do go to Iraq it would be best to get it over with as quickly as possible. I damn sure don't want us to lose or suffer heavy losses. The hell of it is that if there is a quick and easy victory Bush will be encouraged to start another war.

Either way you cut it this is not going to be good. What we really need is regime change here.

2 cousins in the marines 10.Mar.2003 00:09


Dear sir,
Marching against an un-just war is not degrading our troops............ however sending them into Iraq so that a few oil tycoons can make $trillions$ is.
I have 2 cousins in the gulf right now, before they shipped out...... they told me the best thing I could do for them is to try to stop this insane march to war.
Personally I would love to see tham home for Christmas, alive. I will never degrade our troops and there are millions more like me.
God bless the world, and Peace to ALL mankind

It's lying 10.Mar.2003 00:32


It is a mis-representation on the part of people like you, the right wing and the media to suggest that because people oppose war that they then somehow don't "support the troops."

First of all, what does that even mean, to "support the troops?" As individuals, I have absolutely nothing against those who choose to enlist. But, I have every right to stand against a political policy of their commander-in-chief. So because I disagree with their leader, does that imply that I don't "support" them? What you and people like you seem to forget in these times of "patriotic" fervor is that free speech and dissent are rights that the soldiers and revolutionaries in our previous wars thought they were dying to protect (even if you argue they were just being used or lied to, it is what they believed). So, why don't you "support" the constitution? Because that's what all those soldiers who have died and those who are serving now have sworn to protect, not a fascistic media oligarchy where all free expression is suppressed due to "patriotism."

I can't tell you what it means to "support" or not "support" our troops (and I suspect you can't either). But what I can tell you is that I'd rather see them at home, safe and sound with their families, than anywhere near Iraq.

And nowhere, in any anti-war gathering, is anyone suggesting otherwise.

'just a thought'--quit LYING. try LEARNING. 10.Mar.2003 01:00

the spitting image

"protestors who spit on the soldiers returning from the Vietnam War"

NO SUCH THING ever occurred--

it's another reich wingnut manufactured myth.

The Spitting Image:
Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam

By Jerry Lembcke
New York University Press, 2000. 280 pp.

Jerry Lembcke, Holy Cross College
All rights to this published paper reside with the author.

In February 1991, I was asked to speak at a college teach-in on the Persian Gulf War. My presentation focused on the image then being popularized in the press of Vietnam-era anti-war activists treating Vietnam veterans abusively. Drawing on my own experience as a Vietnam veteran who came home from the war and joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), I called the image of spat-upon Vietnam veterans a myth. The historical fact, I pointed out, is that the peace movement reached out to veterans as potential allies in a struggle against an unpopular war, while many veterans were joining the anti-war movement by the late 1960s.

My talk was published as an opinion piece in the Hartford Courant and the response to it encouraged me to look further into the truth and origin of the spat-upon veteran stories. My research focused on three sets questions: the evidence for and against the claims that the alleged acts of spitting ever occurred; the political and cultural roles played by the stories; and the way in which the stories were constructed and popularized.

My strategy on the evidentiary question was two-fold. First, I assumed the position of the prosecution and asked myself what it was that someone trying prove that the alleged acts did happen would have to find as evidence and where would they find it. If these things happened as frequently as is now believed, I reasoned that it would be possible to find a record that someone at the time (the late 1960s and early 1970s) at least claimed that such acts were occurring. In newspapers of a city like San Francisco, where many of the spitting incidents supposedly took place, one would expect to find reports and perhaps even photographs that would constitute proof that the alleged incidents occurred. Other places to look included police reports and written histories about the anti-war movement.

My search for evidence turned up a couple of claims which, if interpreted generously, could have been construed to suggest that veterans or servicemen in uniform may have been spat on. But I also found research done by other scholars that showed quite convincingly that acts of hostility against veterans by protesters were almost nonexistent. No researchers cited reports that veterans were spat on (Beamish, Molotch, and Flacks, 1995).

I also found historical evidence for what I came to call "grist" for the myth. There are newspaper reports, for example, of pro-war demonstrators spitting on anti-war activists. In their retelling over the years, the oral accounts of these incidents could easily get reinterpreted and inverted and made into stories about activists spitting on veterans. There is also a record of military authorities warning GIs that they might experience hostility from opponents of the war. Most interesting in this regard were the warnings issued to Vietnam-bound troops that their families might receive harassment phone calls from communist sympathizers saying the soldier had been wounded or killed.

Another kind of grist is the claims by veterans today that they were spat on. During the 1980s these stories began to proliferate, which prompted Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene to ask Vietnam veterans to send him their stories of being spat on. Greene compiled the responses he received for a 1989 book, Homecoming.

These stories have to be taken very seriously, but as historical evidence they are problematic. In the first place, stories of this type didn't surface until about ten years after the end of the war. If the incidents occurred when the story tellers say they did, in the closing years of the war, why is there no evidence for that? Moreover, many of the stories have elements of such exaggeration that one has to question the veracity of the entire account. One that Greene published read,

My flight came in at San Francisco airport and I was spat upon three times: by hippies, by a man in a leisure suit, and by a sweet little old lady who informed me I was an "Army Asshole."
Besides the fact that no returning soldiers landed at San Francisco Airport, I find it hard to believe that the same veteran was spat on three times in one pass through the airport.

There are many stories like this one (the prevalence of San Francisco in these stories might be suggestive of a story-telling cliché) but my favorite example appeared in a November 2, 1998 New York Times story about Vietnam veterans taking a bicycle trip the length of Vietnam. (The trip was televised for broadcast on NBC a few weeks after the Times story appeared.) The Times story told what motivated Peter D. Kiernan the 3rd, a partner at Goldman, Sachs, to organize the trip:

"It was not until Mr. Kiernan spent a long evening three years ago listening to a top executive describe his Vietnam War homecoming—on a stretcher with a bullet in his leg—that he gave the idea much thought. 'He said college kids rushed up and poured rotten vegetables on him,' Mr. Kiernan related. 'They spat on him. He was so ashamed.'"
Given that under normal circumstances civilians without rotten vegetables could not get near the area where healthy returning GIs deplaned, this story seems highly implausible. My effort to correspond with the reporter, Laura Holson, to see why she and her editors found the story believable enough to retell, have been unsuccessful.
I cannot, of course, prove to anyone's satisfaction that spitting incidents like these did not happen. Indeed, it seems likely to me that it probably did happen to some veteran, some time, some place. But while I cannot prove the negative, I can prove the positive: I can show what did happen during those years and that that historical record makes it highly unlikely that the alleged acts of spitting occurred in the number and manner that is now widely believed.

The historical record shows that there was widespread solidarity between the anti-war movement and veterans. The earliest efforts by the anti-war movement to reach out to GIs had taken the form of legal aid for soldiers wishing to leave the service or simply fight for their rights within the military structure. Veterans of World War II active in the Fifth Avenue Peace Parade Committee in New York City were some of the first opponents of the war to propose that the movement recruit Vietnam veterans into protest activities. By 1969, large numbers of Vietnam veterans were joining the anti-war movement. During 1970, Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) began conducting educational activities designed to "bring the war home" to the American people. The most effective of these activities were the guerrilla theater reenactments of village raids that VVAW members conducted in public spaces and the Winter Soldier war crimes trials that it held to call attention to the brutality of US policy in Vietnam. Invoking my own version of the Pauli exclusion principle from physics (that two objects cannot simultaneously occupy the same space), I conclude that with the documentable mutuality between activists and veterans, it is unlikely that the alleged acts of hostility occurred with the frequency believed twenty-five years later.

The spitting image is a myth, however, not because the alleged acts of spitting did not happen, but because of the way the image functions in the society. The spitting image, I contend, helps to tell a story that is not true, namely, that the United States lost the war in Vietnam because of betrayal on the home front. In other words, the spitting image helps construct an alibi for why the war was lost. The alibi runs that we were not beaten by a small, underdeveloped, nation of Asians but rather by liberals in congress who "tied one hand behind our backs" and by radicals in the streets whose actions demoralized our troops and gave aid and comfort to the enemy. It is an alibi that helps preserve key elements of American national and racial superiority: we were not defeated by Asian "others" but by our own kind. In effect, the alibi allows those who wish to believe that we were defeated by the only power on earth capable of beating the United States: the United States itself.

The alibi also helps rewrite history in ways that displace from memory the uncomfortable image of war-veterans-turned-war-protesters. The image of the spat-upon veteran is the image of a victim-veteran, an image that is wholly incompatible with the image of angry veterans empowered and politicized by their wartime experience. Today, it is the image of the victim-veteran, spat on and deranged by his war and coming-home experience, that persists in the American memory. The historical fact that thousands of Vietnam veterans joined with other opponents of the war to help end the carnage in Southeast Asia is lost in the mythology of wartime betrayal. The mythology of betrayal, in turn, is deeply rooted in the social psychology of Western masculinity, a point to which I shall return.

On the matter of how the myth of the spat-upon veteran is created, there are three dimensions to explore. They are: the historical context that gives rise to the myth; the complicity of mental health professionals, journalists, and film makers in its construction; and the role of the human imagination in the process.

The myth was conceived in the context of the Moratorium Days against the war in 1969. Designated as a day when business-as-usual would stop for teaching and reflecting on the war, the first Moratorium Day, October 15, was a huge success. Thousands of Americans who had not previously taken a public stance on the war turned out for anti-war events. The success of the day signaled to the Nixon Administration that opposition to the war was reaching into mainstream, middle America. In response, the Administration launched a political attack on the anti-war movement that was intended to divide the radicals from the newly emergent liberal wing of the movement. By deploying a rhetoric of betrayal—those who are opposing the war are betraying the fighting men in Vietnam—the Administration hoped to discourage the continuation of mainstream America's involvement in protest politics (Wells, 1994).

The problem with the Administration's strategy was that by 1969, thousands of Vietnam veterans were, themselves, part of the anti-war movement and hundreds of men still in the service were openly opposing the war. In Vietnam on October 15, some soldiers wore black arm bands to show their support for the Moratorium; some combat units even refused orders to fight on that day. The Nixon Administration's response was to challenge the credibility of these anti-war warriors (Moser, Richard, 1996; Wingo, 1969).

Initially, that challenge took the form of raising questions about the authenticity of anti-war veterans. Administration spokesmen would plant doubt about the identity of protesting veterans by making statements to the press such as, "We've been unable to confirm how many of the self-identified veterans at the demonstration were really veterans." Or they would question the masculinity of radical veterans with gay-baiting remarks. In one of his speeches, Vice President Spiro Agnew joked that he heard one protesting veteran tell another, "If you're arrested, give only your name, address, and telephone number of your hair dresser" (Coyne, 1972). The administration also infiltrated the organized arm of veteran resistance, Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), to build a legal case against it. That effort resulted in the court case known as "The Gainesville 8," in which VVAW members were charged with conspiring to terrorize the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida. The "eight" were acquitted, and the course of the trial revealed that it was Richard Nixon's "plumbers," later convicted for crimes related to the Watergate case, who had infiltrated VVAW with agent provocateurs and attempted, unsuccessfully, to incite the veterans to commit violence (Cook, 1973).

If dissident veterans couldn't be dismissed as unauthentic or "not real men," their credibility could be impugned in another way, by raising doubts about their mental stability. Ultimately, this is the course that events would follow, a course that led to establishment of a new psychiatric diagnostic category, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and the marginalization of Vietnam veterans.

The use of psychiatric labels to stigmatize unwelcome social behavior has a long history in Western medicine (Conrad and Schneider, 1992). In Vietnam, disciplinary problems were sometimes "medicalized" and treated as psychiatric casualties (Bourne, 1970). The most famous example of this is probably Charlie Clements' case (Clements, 1984). Clements graduated second in his class at the Air Force Academy in 1969. After flying a few missions in Vietnam, he refused more assignments on the grounds that he opposed the war. His superiors sent him for psychiatric evaluation which led to his confinement in a military mental hospital in Florida. Following his release from the military, he graduated from medical school and in the 1980s became famous for founding the organization Medical Aid to El Salvador.

The extension of psychiatric labeling to cover the political behavior of dissident Vietnam veterans came about through the convergence of efforts by mental health professionals and journalists. Since 1969, a small group of psychiatrists had been working to formulate a new diagnostic concept that would apply to soldiers psychologically hurt by the war. A decade later, their efforts would bear fruit with the inclusion of PTSD in the psychiatric profession's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). But in the early 1970s, these psychiatrists were having difficulty finding a receptive audience for their concept, then called Post-Vietnam Syndrome (PVS). Their break came in the spring of 1972, when the New York Times published an op-ed piece on PVS written by one of them, Chaim Shatan. The acceptance by Shatan's article gave public visibility to the concept and bolstered the chances that it could gain legitimacy within professional organizations.

The Times' publication of Shatan's piece was timely. The Republican Party convention in August promised to be a raucous affair. Thousands of demonstrators were planning to be in Miami Beach to protest the expected renomination of Richard Nixon as the party's presidential candidate. Caravans of Vietnam veterans were forming to bring members of VVAW to the convention site. While the Times would report on the extraordinary occurrence of war veterans in the street to protest the war they had been sent to fight, the paper's interpretive pieces framed the veterans' political dissent as a mental health problem. On the very day the convention opened with over a thousand protesting veterans in the streets, the Times ran a major front page story on Post-Vietnam Syndrome. Entitled "Postwar Shock Is Found to Beset Veterans Returning From the War in Vietnam" (Nordheimer, 1972), the article alleged that 50% of Vietnam veterans needed "professional help to readjust." The association with mental illness was deepened in the text of the story that contained a liberal sprinkling of phrases like "psychiatric casualty," "emotionally disturbed," mental breakdowns," and "men with damaged brains." The story provided no data to support the image of dysfunctional veterans that it spun; what it did provide was a mode of discourse within which America's memory of the war and the veterans' coming home experience would be constructed.

If post-traumatic stress disorder was as much the construction of journalists as psychiatrists, it was not built from materials found within the veteran population. Its key concepts were imported from contexts outside the Vietnam war. The concept of "alienation," for example, was borrowed from the literature on youth rebellion; "survivor guilt" came from Robert Jay Lifton's study of Hiroshima bombing victims; and "flashbacks," which did not officially appear in the PTSD literature until the 1980s, was likely inspired by its use in Hollywood portrayals of Vietnam veterans as early as 1965.

The discourse of disability that came to frame the veteran experience accomplished several things that are important for understanding how America remembers the war. First, it displaced the war itself from people's consciousness and focused on the men who fought the war. Second, it contained the subtext of neglect and abuse that fed the myth that hostile Americans had spat on their own soldiers. Third, and most important, the image of the PTSD-stricken veteran screened out the memory of veterans who had been empowered and politicized by their wartime experience. While few people today remember VVAW, many are familiar with the image of the traumatized, spat on, and forgotten veteran.

Hollywood was a major accomplice in the construction and popularization of the victim-veteran image. Rambo: First Blood (1982) provided the most indelible image of the disturbed and dangerous Vietnam veteran. The film's story laid the problems of Rambo more at the feet of an America that had betrayed the military mission in Vietnam than the horrors of war itself. And it was his coming home experience—"I see all those maggots at the airport. Protesting me. Spitting. Calling me baby killer."—that ignited Rambo's rampage against the small town he had drifted into.

But betrayed vets were a Hollywood staple by the time Rambo went into production. The best of the pre-Rambo betrayal stories is Coming Home (1978). "Bob," played by Bruce Dern, comes home to "Sally," played by Jane Fonda. Sally is having an affair with another veteran, "Luke," played by Jon Voigt, and she has become an opponent of the war. Luke is a paraplegic and impotent. Luke, too, opposes the war and, consistent with the psychologizing of political behavior provided by the champions of PTSD, Coming Home portrays Luke's politics as a form of catharsis. Coming Home ends with Bob going into a rage, and after threatening to kill Sally and Luke, he commits suicide.

Coming Home added to the list of a couple dozen films that by 1978 portrayed Vietnam veterans as deranged, armed, and dangerous. It also gendered the betrayal of the military more graphically than any film prior to it. The Fonda character, Sally, was pretty direct in that regard: she was unfaithful to her soldier-husband and turned against the war while he was in combat. More interesting was the way film makers used images of masculinity to build the betrayal narrative. Bob's sexuality is problematized for us throughout the film. The bedroom scenes we see leave us wondering if his sexual performance meets his own standard of male machismo. His return from Vietnam to an adulteress wife is enough to destroy even a healthy sense of sexual self—but Waldo Salt, the screen writer who won an Academy Award for the script, gives us still more. Sally's impotent lover, Luke, is apparently able to give her more satisfaction than the virile Bob! Bob discovers it is not only that he can't give her what he wants that is the problem, but that she doesn't need what he wants to give her. She has, in effect, rejected the traditional image of masculinity in favor of a man who, by the traditional standard, is less than a man. Bob is betrayed, in other words, by more than just a member of the opposite sex. It is not only "the feminine" that Coming Home equates with deception and betrayal, but flaccidity in all forms. Although heralded as a feminist film in 1978, Coming Home can be seen two decades later as helping pave the way for the backlash politics of the 1980s and 1990s. At the turn of the century, it is the political Right's mantra that the same liberal "softness" that sold us out in Vietnam continues to reproduce an infectious permissiveness that threatens to rot the nation from within.

There is, finally, an important role played by the human imagination in the creation of the myth of the spat-upon Vietnam veteran. When I began research for the book I expected to find a "smoking gun" kind of origin for the myth. I thought, for example, that I would find that a leading political figure like, say, Vice President Agnew, claimed in a speech that activists were spitting on veterans and that, forward in time from that speech, I would be able to trace a path to the popularization of the image. But there does not appear to be any such point of origin. It appears, in fact, that around 1980 stories of spat-upon veterans begin to percolate more or less spontaneously—spontaneously, that is, against the backdrop of what I have described above. Why? And why do the stories take the form of spitting as abuse? Why not rock throwing or hitting with sticks?

There are two clues leading to the consideration of male fantasy as a factor in the origin of the myth. One clue is that many of the stories have it that it was women or young girls who were the spitters. Students of gender behavior are usually quick to point out that girls do not spit, at least not as a form of communication. That being the case, it seems all the more significant that defeated male warriors would make a point of giving the spitters a gender. One has to consider that the loss of war equates in the culture with a loss of manhood. Coupled with the tendency to alibi for defeat on the battle field, it is understandable that men might have fantasies involving hostility from women.

The second clue comes from research by Klaus Theweleit (1987). Theweleit studied the literature of the German Freikorps movement from the inter-war period. The Freikorps was a proto-fascist movement of German veterans who had been defeated in World War I. Theweleit read the letters, diaries, and stories written by Freikorps members and found tales of betrayal on the homefront. In Freikorps mythology, it was Jews, communists, homosexuals and women who had stabbed the military in the back. Freikorps literature often portrayed "the enemy" as not only female but female with the power to project. Freikorps fiction writers frequently represented the traitor as a proletarian woman with a pistol hidden beneath her skirt. The imagined pistol, Theweleit says, was an expression of the male's fear of a female with male power, that is, a female with a penis. In Freikorps stories, as in the stories of spat-upon Vietnam veterans, the body fluid projected was spit. A story told by Manfred von Killinger, leader of the Freikorps Ehrhardt Brigade went as follows:

I am presented with a slut..."What's the story with her?"
She slobbers out, "I'm a Bolshevik, you bunch of cowards! Lackeys of princes! Split-lickers! We should spit on you! Long live Moscow!" Whereupon, she spits into the face of a corporal.
"The riding crop, then let her go," was all I said.
Two men grab hold of her. She tries to bite them. A slap brings her back to her senses. In the courtyard she is bent over the wagon shaft and worked over with riding crops until there isn't a white spot left on her back.
"She won't be spitting at any more brigade men. Now she'll have to lie on her stomach for three weeks," said Sergeant Hermann (p. 183).
The element of spit in the coming-home stories of veterans who feel betrayed reveals a binary, man-nature dichotomy that lies at the heart of our understandings of human existence. When and how did mankind separate from nature? The answers are provided by creation myths that entail stories about the emergence of mankind from the sea. The prominence of water in creation stories correlates with the scientific understanding that human life emerged from aquatic life, but its psychological origin may have derived from the experience of biological birthing in which life emerges out of the amniotic fluid of the mother. Subconsciously, the individual feels a primal connection with the warmth and dampness of that in utero existence, and perhaps even desires to return to it, while consciously recognizing that life itself depends upon successful separation from the safety and comfort of that watery world.
Whatever its origin, the belief that human existence begins with its separation from water is accompanied by fears of an involuntary return to it. We find these fears reflected in stories of a great deluge that sometimes appear in conjunction with creation stories. The idiom of wetness in myth is also gendered in ways that help us understand why the stories of spat-upon veterans frequently tell of women or girls doing the spitting. From the age of Enlightenment, Western culture has emphasized a link between women and nature. Rationality, the sine qua non of humanity, was understood by Enlightenment philosophers to be an attribute of the male, emotionality, of the female. The control of women became representative of the control of nature, and with their equation to nature, women became the object of oppression. The "naturizing" of women was followed by their sexualizing. Seventeenth-century writers valued women for their erotic physiognomy, especially their breasts and vaginas. But the ambiguity inherent in humankind's post-aquatic existence was paralleled by the male's ambivalence toward women: revered for her life-giving powers, the female simultaneously beckoned the male to return to its folds and threatened to reengulf the life that had emerged from it. As Barbara Ehrenreich wrote in the introduction to Theweleit's Male Fantasies:

The dread arises in the pre-Oedipal struggle of the fledgling self, before there is even an ego to sort out the objects of desire and the odds of getting them: It is a dread, ultimately of dissolution—of being swallowed, engulfed, annihilated. Women's bodies are the holes, swamps, pits of muck that can engulf.
It is this misogynous equation of women=nature, sexuality, wetness, engulfment, deeply etched in the our culture, that is the basis for the myth of women spitting on defeated soldiers.
We are what we remember, but how do we remember? Writing about the legacy of Vietnam in Tangled Memories (1997), Marita Sturken reminds us that memory is a narrative rather than a replica of an experience that can be retrieved and relived. We remember through the representations of our experiences, through the symbols that stand for the events. While the events themselves are frozen in time, their representations are not. Our memories of what happened can be changed by altering the images of the events. The power to control memory is thus bound up with the power to control the representations of history.

Unlike a society with a strong oral tradition, America today remembers its history through visual imagery. Film, print, and electronic media are very capital intensive, which means that most Americans are consumers, not producers, of the images through which they remember. Our sense of who we are, derived as it is from the icons through which we collectively represent our historical selves, is heavily mediated by the institutions of popular culture and mass communication. As we approach the twenty-first century, the twisted imagery of Vietnam continues to infect our culture and cloud our political discourse. Today, mention of Vietnam veterans is likely to elicit a nodding recognition of the retarded Forrest Gump in the film of the same name, or the derelict, Russell, who self-destructs for Old Glory in Independence Day, both Hollywood products of the 1990s. To look into these films, observes film scholar William Adams (1989, p. 166), "is to watch an historical image in the making, a public memory in the course of construction."

Reclaiming our memory of the Vietnam era entails a struggle against very powerful institutional forces that toy with our imaginings for reasons of monetary, political, or professional gain. It is a struggle for our individual and collective identities that calls us to reappropriate the making of our own memories. It is a struggle of epic importance. Studies of the twentieth century will shape America's national identity for decades to come. How Vietnam is to be remembered looms large on the agenda of turn-of-the-century legacy studies.

Remembered as a war that was lost because of betrayal at home, Vietnam becomes a modern-day Alamo that must be avenged, a pretext for more war and generations of more veterans. Remembered as a war in which soldiers and pacifists joined hands to fight for peace, Vietnam symbolizes popular resistance to political authority and the dominant images of what it means to be a good American. By challenging myths like that of the spat-upon Vietnam veteran, we reclaim our role in the writing of our own history, the construction of our own memory, and the making of our own identity.


Adams, William. 1989.
"War Stories: Movies, Memory, and the Vietnam War." Comparative Social Research 11:165-83. New York: JAI Press.

Beamish, Thomas D., Harvey Molotch, and Richard Flacks. 1995.
"Who Supports the Troops? Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the Making of Collective Memory." Social Problems 42 (3):344-60.

Bourne, Peter G. 1970.
Men, Stress, and Vietnam. Boston: Little, Brown.

Clements, Charles. 1984.
Witness to War: An American Doctor in El Salvador. New York: Bantam Books.

Cook, Fred J. 1973.
"The Real Conspiracy Exposed: Justice in Gainesville." Nation, p. 295-302.

Conrad, Peter, and Joseph W. Schneider. 1992.
Deviance and Medicalization: From Badness to Sickness. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Coyne, John R. 1972.
The Impudent Snobs: Agnew vs The Intellectual Establishment. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House.

Moser, Richard. 1996.
The New Winter Soldiers: GI and Veteran Dissent During the Vietnam Era. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Nordheimer, Jon. 1972.
"Postwar Shock Besets Ex-GIs." New York Times, August 21, p. A1.

Sturken, Marita. 1997.
Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, the Aids Epidemic, and the Politics of Remembering. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Theweleit, Klaus. 1987.
Women, Floods, Bodies, History. Vol. 1 of Male Fantasies. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Wells, Tom. 1994.
The War Within: America's Battle Over Vietnam. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Wingo, Hal. 1969.
"From GIs in Vietnam, Unexpected Cheers." Life, October 24.

'just a thought'--quit LYING.  try LEARNING.
'just a thought'--quit LYING. try LEARNING.

I was spit on coming back from da nang 10.Mar.2003 05:35

roy h.

it happened to me, three times.

The third time the guy who did it lost two front teeth.

Moral choice does not disappear by enlisting. 10.Mar.2003 07:04

Lazy faire

Message to the Troops
Armies of Death and Armies of Life

"The shadow does not hold sway yet, not over you, not over me."

- I bring you a message and a choice in the name of the lord and protector of heaven and earth.
- I care not whether you believe that the living God is among us now, or that we have been left here alone, by a knowing hand or blind circumstance, on this fragile earth, to make our way together.

- I ask you to imagine - What kind army would you join, if you could choose its nature? And, if THAT army does not exist at this time, how could you help bring it into being?

- I tell you, a soldier's duty is to know his mission, to be conscious of the ends toward which the army's struggles are advancing. A soldier's duty is to see that the mission is just and honorable. To be just and honorable, that mission must aid, not harm, human life and society on earth.

- Humanity has a purpose. This is our cause - To transform the world into a place where all people, all children are honored, where sharing, working together, celebrating our differences, overcoming the pains and oppressions of life are our common tasks - To make the earth truly the home of all people. Nations, institutions, principles have no value in themselves. Their value is only how well they serve the cause of the people and the earth.
- The army of life holds this purpose above all tasks and duties. To fight for it is our mission. There are no higher orders, no officers superior, no generals, kings, presidents or governments who may justly lead, except they be aligned with this mission.
- Armies of life will arise in the Americas. In their caring hands, not weapons, but fruit and seeds and healing balm. On their lips, not hatred and deceit, but words of unity, hope and liberation.
- - - - -
- What mission do the armies of today embody? Consider the greatest of all armies of history - the United States Military Forces (for I presume you are a part of this army or one of its allied, subservient forces). Consider what it says, what it actually does and what must be its real mission.

- The leaders of these armed forces base their command on a foundation of continually repeated lies - We are taught that revenge is justice, that pride is honor, that greed creates value, that the right to oppress others is freedom, that complicity in aggression is service, that a victory won through the suffering of innocents can be glorious. These lies are not the result of misunderstanding, they are taught with great deliberation and power. Of course the leaders don't know what truth is; it is of no concern to them. Their words are used to sow confusion, division, contempt, hatred and fear. From these, the commanders of this army create enemies out of nothing. From these, they create blind allegiance, and blind allegiance is what they expect of you.
- They frame their great military campaign with great lies that they pretend are their missions. Today these lies are transparent to anyone dares to study them:
- "A War on Terrorism" - Look at the targets of the U.S. wars. Weak nations led by former clients of the U.S. who happen to be situated in strategic or resource-rich locations, or rebel forces and uncooperative nations that threaten the interests giant corporations who happen to be financially linked to the rulers of the U.S. Then look to your right and left, at the war machine of which you are a part. Who bears the weapons of terror? Who provides the weapons to others? Who has bases around the world from which to launch death (and plans more bases in space)? Who threatens and intimidates? Who does the most bombing, the most killing of civilians? Terrorism today is in most cases caused or directly perpetrated by the U.S. Military.
- "Defense of Freedom and America" - You face the designated enemy. But look behind you, at the land they say you're defending - its treasury looted, its resources plundered, its people descending into poverty, its constitution and bill of rights torn to shreds at the feet of tyrants. Freedom and America are under attack, but not by foreign forces in distant lands.

- You shall know them by their fruit. They have thrown their bombs and missiles on the poor. They destroy people's water works, their supplies of food, their means of obtaining health, their communication, their society. They spread their mines and cluster bombs on the ground so that children may die through mutilation. They blast and poison the earth, leaving barren wastelands, contaminated ground and epidemics of disease. Look upon what they produce. They dishonor earth, her creator and every living thing.

- No good will ever come of the U.S. Military. What is its real purpose, its real mission?
- The orders to the soldiers indicate an objective - unified, unchallenged military control of all lands and all people by U.S. Military bases around the world. A second, more hidden, objective is indicated by the military-based U.S. economy - Maintenance of small, weak opposing forces to create fear and justify ever-greater divergence of resources into war-making enterprises.
- Some say these objectives mean the mission of the U.S. Military is to protect the ventures of billionaires and corporations, so that they are free to exploit and oppress all lands for profit. Some say the mission is simply the military empire itself, constantly engaged in battle, yet never threatened. These missions are what your commanders call "civilization" and "order".
- Yet there is a third mission, a demonic purpose, directed specifically at you. In spite of all their walls of secrecy, in spite of their need for blind loyalty, your commanders need you to see a portion of what they are doing, to experience some their crimes. For they need you to join them willingly in their vile acts. Their mission is to corrupt you, so that you will become their perfect soldier - totally without honor.
- - - - -
- You must resist them. You must oppose them. There is another path open to you. Turn. Put away the weapons of death, and pick up the sword of righteousness. We need soldiers of true honor to take up the true cause of restoring and healing this shattered world. Turn from the army of death to the army of life.
- You may say, what good is an army that is only a dream against a real army, such a great army, that can destroy any nation, any society that rises against it? Surely millions of people demonstrating against war can not stop it; even millions of workers demanding jobs that create life, not death, could not stop it.
- Indeed this war machine is very strong. Yet, what is it without the cooperation of its soldiers? It is an empty, timorous husk. Without you, this mightiest of armies will crumble in the dust along with the engines of oppression that it protects. Yours is the power to defeat it.
- The choice is before you; the hour has come. Push the waving banners away from your eyes, so that you may watch all that passes; set your ears to hear messages on the wind, beyond the droning lies and dogmas, beyond the beat of martial music. Look for the action that will make a difference, and take a stand.
- - - - -
- And yet, beware. Jesus counsels us to be as gentle as lambs and as sly as serpents. Be deliberate, not rash. Protect yourself, your comrades and our hopes. Listen for the voice of a new ally.
- Those who command this empire fear your power, and they will not hesitate to brutally destroy any they imagine threaten their control. Expect no quarter. For all their grand pronouncements of "support the troops", and all the elaborate ceremonies for your funerals, you are as expendable as stock animals to them.
- Base your action on evidence, experience and judgement, not on personalities. A comrade can be blackmailed and intimidated into treachery. An enemy of any rank or station can become an ally in an instant. The path of righteousness is open to all, regardless of their past deeds; no one need be left behind.
- - - - -
- Have faith. It is you and your struggle that will be victorious. The machines of aggression and oppression will be overthrown. The masters of the corporations and the masters of war already know that national conflicts are obsolete. They behave so psychotically now because they sense their end is near. Their power fails because they can not accept change. Their strategy is narrow because there can be no future in their destructive ways. Their vision is cloudy because their greed has prevented them from caring about, or even seeing, the needs of humanity. Your power will be greater, your strategy wider and your vision clearer because you will accept change, because you can embrace all the unfolding possibilities of the future, and because you can honestly care for all the people of the earth.
- The hopes of all earth's people ride with you.
- Let us always be faithful to them.
- Pass it on.

Spitting fire 10.Mar.2003 07:17


bush and co are banking on the the possibility that people will forget the immorality of the war, forget the fact that he (a man who never served the military but instead went awol) is trying to send "troops" (that's PEOPLE) to their deaths for his own personal gain, forget that Iraq has nothing to do with 911, forget that weapons inspectors can't find evidence of his claim, forget that he's an unelected retard, and just fall in line to "support the troops" once the fighting starts.

in short, he thinks we're lemmings.

we're not.

as for the spit myth, yes, some returning vets were apparently spit upon -- by right wing fanatics who thought they should have won.

if you want to support "the troops" then remember that they're not "troops," they're people. just like the people of iraq, they have families and real lives that they deserve. they are not expendible pieces of a capitalist imperialist war machine, which is what "president" bush is trying to make them into.

if bush is so supportive of "the troops," perhaps he can explain why he deserted them in his youth. and if this is a democracy, perhaps he can explain why he was never punished for doing so, when any poor boy would have been. and if this is a "just war," then perhaps he can explain why that phrase is always used by the rich and powerful to send the poor and disenfranchised off to fight other poor and disenfranchised people. they said that about vietnam. they said they were going there for "humanitarian purposes" and that the people of south vietnam wanted them there. in point of fact, of course, this was a lie. we know that now, but they lied to us then.

let's not be lemmings again.

Scared spitless 10.Mar.2003 20:38

spit debunker

Indeed, the corporate media has pumped the myth of the spat upon vietnam vet. Conveniently, they forget to mention that although it did, in fact, occur, it was not as they say. The only credible account of spitting happened to be an incident in which vietnam vets for peace came back preaching against the war...and were spit upon by desperate, war mongering, beer swilling dolts who didn't like what they had to say. Veterans for PEACE?? Why, it was unamerican.

questions for 'roy h.' 10.Mar.2003 20:42


"it happened to me, three times. The third time the guy who did it lost two front teeth."

1. Did you "come back" from da nang [sic] on three separate occasions? or is this a single incident?

2. to what place in the US did you return? exactly where in the US did this incident occur--what city? was this at an airport? other public place?

3. Date of incident? (at least, provide the year)

4. was this the same person who spit on you, three consective times--that is, three separate, individual expectorations and globs of spit?

5. were there other people--besides the guy who lost two front teeth--who spit on you? or was it just the one guy?

Support the troops? 11.Mar.2003 11:34


"Support the troops"? Support them to do what?? Drop bombs onto the people of Iraq? No way. The "good fight"? What the hell are you TALKING about? Hasn't anyone told you? This is NOT a good fight.

Last time "the troops" went to get saddam, they dropped literally TONS of bombs on the helpless people of Iraq, apparently without a thought. Indeed, many of the bombs were decorated with silly sayings and little jokes drawn on by "troops" before they were dropped on cities, towns, villages, PEOPLE. You want me to support that? I will not.

Half a million children have died in Iraq in the last decade because of what "the troops" did there. And you're admonishing people in the peace movement about being portrayed negatively by history? By what? The corporate media? Who cares.

I don't believe any peace activist ever spit on any vietnam vets. But if they did, think about this. Ever see the pictures of the My Lai Massacre? Families standing outside their homes at gunpoint. Terror etched in their faces. In one photo, an entire family is in what appears to be their pajamas. A young woman holds a baby in her arms. The baby looks about 10 months old, and clutches at her. A man stands protectively beside them, one arm around them both. A frail little old woman and little old man are behind them. Some are crying, all are scared. Only moments before, they were just a family, just like yours. And moments after, they lay dead in a ditch, flies clustering around the big dark eyes that could no longer see anything. Baby still at the breast of its mother, where it would never again seek comfort.

You know who did that? American "troops." With American bullets, paid for by American tax dollars, supported by American lies. And this was only ONE incident in a sea of unpublicized events like it. We only know about this one because someone was there with a camera and half a conscience.

And you want me to support the troops. Spitting is not enough for the people who did that.

If I'm ever going to "support the troops," it will only be those who follow their consciences and their moral duty, and resist this war.