Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Irony of American History

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

GEORGE McGOVERN: It doesn't do much good to bomb a rice field or to drop bombs on a primitive agricultural country like Vietnam. We haven't protected our men in the South with the bombing. This is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the American people. We haven't saved the lives of American troops in the South by bombing the North.
And how many lives has Israel saved by bombing Lebanon? And for how long? And how many lives as Hezbollah cost, by antagonizing Israel? And how many more times will they do it, expecting a different result?

HOWARD ZINN: You might say first that lies are natural to governments. And this is true, whether it's a totalitarian government or a democratic government. They lie most about war, because in war there is the sharpest difference between the interests of the government and the interests of the people, because in war the people will die.
True for Israel. True for Hezbollah. True for Syria and Iran.

True for the United States, too.

RON KOVIC: If I died in Vietnam, I would die serving the country that I loved. And I think that millions of young men who went to that war felt that way. And we believed them. We trusted them. We had faith in what they said we had to do was the right thing. And we went to that war, believing in our hearts that we were right and that our government would never lie to us.
And where are those Weapons of Mass Destruction, Mr. President? And why didn't we learn this lesson the first time?

U.S. SOLDIER: They took all your dignity and all your sensitivity and just inexorably grind it out of you, strip it off of you, and they make you into a little zombie.
Welcome to war. The fix is in.

GORE VIDAL: They used to say, “Contain China.” Well, I said, “Alright, if you want to contain China, why are you hitting the Vietnamese, who have been China's enemy for a thousand years?” But, you see, that's history, and the United States of Amnesia does not admit that there has ever been history or anything happening before Monday morning's New York Times, which is apt not to be historical.
And what has changed?

GLORIA STEINEM: And when the Vietnam War started, I found myself really feeling estranged, because I thought not only should we not be there, but if we're there, we should be on the other side.
Today she would have the internet to share her estrangement with.

GORE VIDAL: So they couldn’t think of a reason. They were containing China. They got tired of that one. And then I realized it was a war of imperial vanity. At least we are thieves in Iraq.
Not that we dare admit it.

GLORIA STEINEM: It’s really alienating to feel that your country is at war, and you think the other side has more merit.
"No one likes us, I don't know why. We may not be perfect, but heaven knows, we try..."--Randy Newman

GORE VIDAL: The Lyndon Johnson people were pissant fools, to use his colorful language. They were just fools. “How dare anybody stand up to us?”
And now it's the US to Israel and Lebanon: "Let's you and him fight!" Maybe we're not quite as foolish as we were. Of course, if we weren't bogged down in our own fight....

DICK GREGORY: Take the camera out of Vietnam, it's just another war. There’s something coming in my house, and these guys all look like John Wayne, and they’re hollering and screaming. And you hear folk cussing, man. “Get that motherf***ing helicopter over here!” You never heard this before.
The real lesson learned from Vietnam.

JIM BOWTON: I was a baseball player, so we got to war about three years late. I was called a communist. I was known as the communist on the team, on the baseball team.

DICK GREGORY: And then they made the mistake to sit and look at it with their children. Little children looking at Vietnam don’t understand bad guy/good guy. They was looking, seeing people being killed. This was in your living room!

JIM BOWTON: On a baseball team anybody who gets caught reading a book or having an opinion in politics was a weirdo. So I was considered a weirdo.
Everything is better in the future. Now we have the internets to be weirdos on. And no more war on the Tee-Vee.


DICK GREGORY: See, America had always had a nigger with us and would kick us, and we’d say, “Oh, boss, did I do something wrong? Excuse me, boss.” Then you went over there, thought it was a nigger. And he kicked at him, and that Vietnamese grabbed his foot. Now, he had never had his foot grabbed before in the history of America. And he ran across some niggers that wasn't scared of him.
Or of our superior technology. Or of our resolve. Or of our democracy.

Does history always have to repeat itself? And so quickly, too?

AMY GOODMAN: In January of ’69, Nixon and Kissinger told William Fulbright, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Just give us a year to end the war.” And, of course, the Democrats obliged. What's another year when it's not your kids' blood? American casualties continued, as high as 2,000 a week, with Nixon's bombing campaign intensifying to new levels. Deploring the killing, McGovern hit the Senate floor calling for an immediate end to the war. Not one United States senator joined him. He was ridiculed on Capitol Hill and scorched by the press. During the ’68 campaign, Nixon promised that he would unveil his secret plan to end the war. To this day, Nixon's secret plan has remained a secret.
Good to know there's a reason to think things will get better after November....

RICHARD NIXON: The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker. This honor now beckons America.
But seriously, folks....take my wife. Please!

FRANK MANKIEWICZ: There are a lot of Americans who were not offended by the idea that we're at war and killing a lot of natives. There were still a lot of people who felt, “Yeah, that’s a pretty good thing. Let's go get those gooks.”
Or A-rabs. Same difference; they're all foreign.

RICHARD NIXON: There has been and continues to be opposition the war in Vietnam on the campuses and also in the nation. As far as this kind of activity is concerned, we expect it. However, under no circumstances will I be affected whatever by it.
He didn't pay attention to polls, either, I'm guessing.

DICK GREGORY: The President of the United States said nothing you young kids would do would have any affect on him. Well, I suggest to the President of the United States if he want to know how much effect you youngsters can have on the President, he should make one long distance phone call to the LBJ ranch and ask that boy how much effect you can have.
If only we'd had bloggers then!

AMY GOODMAN: McGovern made a number of trips to Vietnam to see the battlefields firsthand, the jungles that were claiming so many lives. His first trip was in 1965.

GEORGE McGOVERN: I went to a hospital of American soldiers in Saigon. The very first person I talked to was a captain. And the nurse who was taking me around said the captain got the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. I said, “Well, congratulations, Captain.” And as I did so, his lip started to quiver. And I looked down on the bed, and his feet were gone. He had stepped on a mine and blown off his feet about six inches above the ankles. And I visited with him for a while. And I said, “Well, congratulations, again, Captain, on the Purple Heart this morning.” He said, “That's easy to get in this damn place.”

I went into a civilian hospital, where the Vietnamese were being cared for. They were the victims of shrapnel from American gunfire. One woman had a baby that she was holding. The baby's head was completely wrapped in bandages, except for the eyes. And I asked her if she would mind if I took a picture of her and the baby. She picked up an old rag to wipe some of the blood off the bandages on the baby’s face and then tried to smile widely. And I took that picture, which I still have.
Whose side are you on? The side of the Big Idea which will save humanity if we just do it right this time?

Or the side of the Savior, who said you'd find him in the least of us? Like that child, wrapped in bandages. And that Vietnamese mother. And the soldiers.

And the bodies in the rubble in Lebanon, and Gaza, and Israel.

PEACE (from The Hymnal of the E&R Church)

O Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy upon us.
Thou that sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy upon us.
Arise, O Christ, and help us,
And deliver us for thy Name's sake.

O Christ, when thou didst open thine eyes on this fair earth, the angels greeted thee as the Prince of Peace and besought us to be of good will one toward another; but thy triumph is delayed and we are weary
of war. .

O Christ, the very earth groans with pain as the feet of armed men march across her mangled form.

O Christ, may the Church, whom thou didst love into life, not fail thee in her witness for the things for which thou didst live and die.

O Christ, the people who are called by thy Name are separated from each other in thought and life; still our tumults, take away our vain imaginings, and grant to thy people at this time the courage to pro-claim the gospel of forgiveness, and faithfully to maintain the ministry of reconciliation.

O Christ, come to us in our sore need and save us; 0 God, plead thine own cause and give us help, for vain is the help of man.

O Christ of God, by thy birth in the stable, save us and help us;
By thy toil at the carpenter's bench, save us and help us;
By thy sinless life, save us and help us;
By thy cross and passion, save us and help us.

Then all shall join in the Lord's Prayer.

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