Biden Is The Latest President To Tout The Vietnam War As Proud History
By Norman Solomon
When Joe Biden flew out of Hanoi last week, he was leaving a country where U.S. warfare caused roughly 3.8 million Vietnamese deaths. But, like every other president since the Vietnam War, he gave no sign of remorse. In fact, Biden led up to his visit by presiding over a White House ceremony that glorified the war as a noble effort.
Presenting the Medal of Honor to former Army pilot Larry L. Taylor for bravery during combat, Biden praised the veteran with effusive accolades for risking his life in Vietnam to rescue fellow soldiers from “the enemy.” But that heroism was 55 years ago. Why present the medal on national television just days before traveling to Vietnam?
The timing reaffirmed the shameless pride in the U.S. war on Vietnam that one president after another has tried to render as history. You might think that—after killing such a vast number of people in a war of aggression based on continuous deceptions—some humility and even penance would be in order.
But no. As George Orwell put it, “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” And a government that intends to continue its might-makes-right use of military power needs leaders who do their best to distort history with foggy rhetoric and purposeful omissions. Lies and evasions about past wars are prefigurative for future wars.
And so, at a press conference in Hanoi, the closest Biden came to acknowledging the slaughter and devastation inflicted on Vietnam by the U.S. military was this sentence: “I’m incredibly proud of how our nations and our people have built trust and understanding over the decades and worked to repair the painful legacy the war left on both our nations.”
In the process, Biden was pretending an equivalency of suffering and culpability for both countries—a popular pretense for commanders in chief ever since the first new one after the Vietnam War ended.
Two months into his presidency in early 1977, Jimmy Carter was asked at a news conference if he felt “any moral obligation to help rebuild that country.” Carter replied firmly: “Well, the destruction was mutual. You know, we went to Vietnam without any desire to capture territory or to impose American will on other people. We went there to defend the freedom of the South Vietnamese. And I don’t feel that we ought to apologize or to castigate ourselves or to assume the status of culpability.”
And, Carter added, “I don’t feel that we owe a debt, nor that we should be forced to pay reparations at all.”
In other words, no matter how many lies it tells or how many people it kills, being the United States government means never having to say you’re sorry.
When President George H.W. Bush celebrated the U.S. victory in the 1991 Gulf War, he proclaimed: “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.” Bush meant that the triumphant killing of Iraqi people—estimated at 100,000 in six weeks—had ushered in American euphoria about military action that promised to wipe away hesitation to launch future wars.
From Carter to Biden, presidents have never come anywhere near providing an honest account of the Vietnam War. None could imagine engaging in the kind of candor that Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg provided when he said: “It wasn’t that we were on the wrong side. We were the wrong side.”
Mainstream political discourse has paid scant attention to the deaths and injuries of Vietnamese people. Likewise the horrendous ecological damage and effects of poisons from the Pentagon’s arsenal have gotten very short shrift in U.S. media and politics.
Does such history really matter now? Absolutely. Efforts to portray the U.S. government’s military actions as well-meaning and virtuous are incessant. The pretenses that falsify the past are foreshadowing excuses for future warfare.
Telling central truths about the Vietnam War is a basic threat to the U.S. war machine. No wonder the leaders of the warfare state would rather keep pretending.
Published under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Norman Solomon’s latest book, War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine, was published in summer 2023 by The New Press.
Our Wandering Photographer was not surprised to spot an alien on Congress Street last Sunday. After all, Exeter’s annual UFO Festival had taken place just a fortnight earlier. Consider how long it took for people to clear out after Burning Man—and those were mere terrestrial miles! What about light years? The surprising thing was the relatively plebian mode of transport. A Kawasaki Ninja—ho hum. We’d have expected a bug-eyed individual such as this to be riding a more exotic mode of transport.
114 Climate Defenders Arrested For Blocking Federal Reserve
by Brett Wilkins
A day after tens of thousands of climate activists marched through Manhattan’s Upper East Side demanding an end to oil, gas, and coal production, thousands more demonstrators hit the streets of Lower Manhattan Monday, where more than 100 people were arrested while surrounding the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to protest fossil fuel financing.
Protesters chanted slogans like “No oil, no gas, fossil fuels can kiss my ass” and “We need clean air, not another billionaire” as they marched from Zuccotti Park—ground zero of the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement—to pre-selected sites in the Financial District. Witnesses said many of the activists attempted to reach the New York Stock Exchange but were blocked by police.
“We’re here to wake up the regulators who are asleep at the wheel as they continue to let Wall Street lead us into ANOTHER financial crash with their fossil fuel financing,” the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition explained on social media.
Local and national media reported New York Police Department (NYPD) officers arrested 114 protesters and charged them with civil disobedience Monday after they blocked entrances to the Fed building. Most of those arrested were expected to be booked and released.
“I’m being arrested for exercising my First Amendment right to protest because Joe Manchin is putting a 300-mile-long pipeline through my home state of West Virginia and President [Joe] Biden allowed him to do it for nothing in return,” explained Climate Defiance organizer Rylee Haught on social media, referring to the right-wing Democratic senator and the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
As she was led away by an NYPD officer, a tearful Haught said Biden “sold us out.”
“He promised to end drilling on federal lands, and he’s selling out Appalachia’s future for profit,” she added.
Responding to the “block-long” line of arrestees, Climate Defiance asked: “Why are we getting handcuffed while people who literally torch the planet get celebrated for their ‘civility’ and their ‘moderation’?”
Brett Wilkins is a staff writer for Common Dreams. This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
[Note: As of Tuesday, September 19th, the New York Times seems to have deemed news about this protest not fit to print. — The Ed.]
Hundreds Of Signs Outside Capitol Protest Tuberville’s Blockade
By Ashley Murray, States Newsroom
WASHINGTON, September 19, 2023—More than 300 signs dotted the lawn outside the U.S. Senate Tuesday, each bearing the name of a military nominee blocked this year by Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama in protest of a Pentagon abortion policy.
Multiple Democratic senators delivered comments Tuesday at the sign installation organized by the progressive VoteVets Political Action Committee, which has run ads against the senator’s hold on nominees.
“I literally cannot believe that Tommy Tuberville is still doing this,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said. “I hope that he comes out of that building and sees these 300 signs that are in front of us right now because every single picture, every single name, every single title represents someone who has decided to put their life on the line for our country.”
Tuberville announced to fellow Republicans during a meeting Tuesday that he plans to force a vote Wednesday on Marine Commandant nominee Gen. Eric M. Smith, according to Tuberville’s spokesperson.
While the Alabama senator has no plans to release his blanket freeze on nominees, he will attempt to push Smith’s nomination to the floor individually—a move that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, has refused to take because of concerns over floor time.
Tuberville opposes the Department of Defense policy that grants leave and travel allowances for service members seeking reproductive care that is not covered by the federal government. Those services can include in vitro fertilization, egg retrieval or abortion.
The senators spoke Tuesday facing the hundreds of white lawn signs—resembling a memorial display. Each showed the nominee’s photo and rank alongside the hashtag #ConfirmThemToday.
Tuberville and Republicans are “sabotaging” the leadership nominations, said Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“They are injecting partisanship and politics into what should be clearly a meritorious decision. All of these men and women have earned their promotions,” Reed said.
Reed and Klobuchar were joined in delivering remarks by Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.
Signs elevated on easels behind the senators showed some of the highest ranking nominees delayed by Tuberville. They included Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff nominee Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Chief of Staff of the Army nominee Randy A. George, nominee to be Chief of Staff of the Air Force David W. Allvin, and Smith.
Admiral Lisa Franchetti, the first woman to be nominated for Chief of Naval Operations, is also among the nominees waiting for confirmation.
Tuberville’s hold on the Senate’s unanimous consent of the nominees has lasted longer than six months.
The routine unanimous process for nominations allows senators to approve hundreds of military promotions simultaneously rather than bringing them to the floor for individual votes, which could take up to three months, according to a calculation provided to the Senate Committee on Armed Services by the Congressional Research Service.
Something New Under the Sun
It may come from over across the Piscataqua, but as the above news story shows, the perspective of the Maine Morning Star seems similar to ours.
Launched on Tuesday, September 19th, the Morning Star says it’s “an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan news site covering state policy and politics—and how they impact the lives of Maine’s people. We focus on issues that Mainers grapple with every day: from the overdose crisis, to housing affordability, to tribal rights, to the challenges of the legal system, to the impact that our changing climate will have on the geography and economy of the Pine Tree State.
“We aim to hold powerful people and institutions accountable and explain how their actions affect communities from Kennebunk to Caribou. You might say we’ve got Moxie™.”
Daniel Fowle, our founder, wrote shortly after his 1754 imprisonment, “I should have been glad had I remain’d in Obscurity… and slid out of this noisy World unnoticed.” Our Editor knows the feeling. When the Fair Media Council asked for an interview, though, he was duty-bound to agree.
Respectable New York Media Critic Interviews Gazette Editor
After decades spent editing newspapers, one might begin to think there are few surprises left. If so, one would, of course, be wrong.
We were certainly surprised when we got an interview request from the Fair Media Council [FMC]. FMC bills itself as “one of the oldest, most successful media watchdogs in the country. We advocate for quality news and prioritize keeping local news local. Creating a media-savvy society that can successfully navigate today’s complicated media landscape is a growing part of our mission. FMC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered on Long Island, N.Y., inside the No. 1 media market in the world.”
Jaci Clement is the Executive Director of the organization. Speakers at its annual Folio Awards have included Dan Rather, Maggie Haberman, Al Roker, Helen Thomas, and Bob Woodruff.
Clements also hosts its “Fast Chat Podcast.” For a new series, “Local News in America,” she began as close to the beginning as possible—with The Nation’s Oldest Newspaper™.
Some people are said to have a face made for radio. Others have a manner of extemporaneous speaking made for judicious editing. Our editor, alas, has both. As Clements describes the interview, “This oral history offers a look at the Gazette’s beginnings and meanders its way through to the present day….” Nevertheless, FMC has forged ahead, and recently posted the video online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSKrJ-rANjk.
WSCA Interviews Portsmouth City Council Candidates
Portsmouth, New Hampshire will hold its municipal elections on November 7th, including for nine positions on the City Council.
To help Portsmouth voters make more informed decisions, the hosts of Seacoast Currents on Portsmouth Community Radio (WSCA 106.1 FM) will interview the City Council candidates over the next month and a half. The hosts of Seacoast Currents are Kathy Somssich and Larry Drake. Listen live from the radio station’s website https://wscafm.org/.
Here’s the schedule:
Thursday, October 12th:
8:00 a.m. – Esther Kennedy
8:30 a.m. – Kate Cook
9:00 a.m. – Peter Whelan
9:30 a.m. – Kevin Coyle
Thursday, October 19th:
8:00 a.m. – Rich Blalock
8:30 a.m. – Josh Denton
9:00 a.m. – Paige Trace
9:30 a.m. – Rick Becksted
Thursday, October 26th:
8:00 a.m. – Joanna Kelley
8:30 a.m. – John Tabor
9:00 a.m. – Deaglan McEachern
9:30 a.m. – Petra Huda
Thursday, November 2nd:
8:00 a.m. – Vince Lombardi
8:30 a.m. – Andrea Pickett
Due to scheduling difficulties, Beth Moreau will not be interviewed. Andrew Bagley and Kathleen Soldati were interviewed Thursday, September 21st.