Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Fighting the Last War

While the computer was down, I had time to catch up on some reading so I went to the local library. I was looking for "Thunder Run" and a few books like that. Unfortunately, that book and Steve Vincent's "In The Red Zone" were both out. While I was in that section, I noticed a book called "Medal of Honor". I thought it was the most recent book out by that young author with lots of stories, but when I got it home, I realized it was a slightly older book. Then I noted that there was a writer I never heard of and commentary by "Mike Wallace". Yes, that Mike Wallace from CBS.

Still, I didn't let that deter me since I had flipped through the book quickly at the library and it had some interesting background and after information about Medal of Honor winners.

By story number three I noticed an interesting trend that came apparent by story number five that it was going to continue. Every single story (there were twenty I believe) had either commentary from the CMH holder or some brief information about their activities AGAINST the Vietnam War if they were alive at the time to experience that phenomenom. I'm not kidding either. Out of the hundreds of CMH winners that they could have profiled, they chose anti-Vietnam folks.

Believe me when I say I was not expecting the whole damn book to have almost every story end that way (and that's where it was, as if the writer had asked at the end of the interview for the opinion or had looked up the information about these men's activities) to include. I'm also not one to look for "agendas" of books that are largely supposed to be historical accounts, but I really couldn't help but notice it. In between the stories, Mike Wallace had independent commentary and every damn one, including the commentary on the civil war, some how veered into a direct comment or comparison to the Vietnam War era. About 3/4 of the way through, I stopped and looked at the first page of the book to see the copy right and it was 2002.

2002. Mike Wallace was still trying to make his case about the fallacy of the Vietnam War. The very last story in the book regarding Colonel Kelley who won the CMH during WWII and went on to serve through Vietnam, was the only story where a CMH holder said that he believed in his mission in Vietnam, but added the caveat that politics had hindered the fighting and that was what he was most upset about. However, it seemed that either Wallace or the writer pressed the man further to try to get more negative commentary and the man said again, after much reading a reflection away from the war, that it was fought wrong and might not have been a good thing to become involved in.

Last year, during the elections, I noted that Vietnam had shaped Kerry's entire life thereafter. Vietnam had apparently done the same for Wallace. I think that may be true for a number of baby boomers and slightly older folks. It's not WWII that made them who they are, but a war that was basically a loss. Baby boomers are still a large part of our aging population, but I think that a problem here is that my generation was far too young or not quite born yet, to have their ideas about America, wars and particularly Vietnam, shaped by that one war. It did not and does not define us.

If I had to pick a single defining moment, I'd be hard pressed to do so. For me, memory and defining history begins about the time I became a cognizant adult that looked at the world beyond school, fast cars, music and my personal angst. Those defining moments became the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the USSR and Tianneman Square which signaled the new beginning for the spread of freedom and a hope for a future without nuclear holocaust; the Gulf War which seemed to signify that the UN was coming into it's expected role of uniting nations against evil and a new world where technology could make war quick and relatively bloodless (however false that premise really is); the massacre of the Shi'ites, Somalia, Rawanda and the Serbian genocides which made the idea of a functioning UN and the motto "never again" a hypocracy of the worse sort and proved once again that mankind truly could sink to a morality so low even a snake would be embarrassed; and, finally, September 11.

I realize that I did not list the first WTC bombing, Oklahoma, Waco, Ruby Ridge, Kenya, Nairobi, the USS Cole and any number of other activities that might be defining moments for others, but, too me, these were more like "Lee Harvey Oswald and the Magic Bullet". Lone acts of terrorism or insanity that I had not yet linked to our current conflict. I suppose the other thing that defines me or my generation is the incredible leap forward in personal technology that seemed to re-enforce the idea that the sky was the limit and we could not be held back by such mundane things as real politics.

These things define me more than any others. To me, this last decade and a half has said, "Freedom is grand and desired by all men, but we should remember the depravity of mankind and, finally, know that our own freedom and security is not guaranteed."

Maybe others would define themselves differently. I don't know, but I certainly do not believe that the Vietnam War defines me or my generation. The stories about the heroes were extremely interesting and I plan to write about some here. These are people and actions that should not be forgotten. They remind us that ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances are and always have been the real heroes. I am just disappointed that a book published in 2002 about heroism spent a large part of its time trying to fight the last war.

Catch Cassandra on a similar topic Dogs of War.

3 comments:

Paul said...

I came here by way of Cassandra while reading comments to her Dogs of War where I read your most excellent post. Actually by the end of it, I was thinking, yes, this is how I feel too. Breaking bread with my worst enemy is so more preferrable to doing so with Ted Kennedy or Sheehan.
To your own blog, this post, I was defined by Vietnam and carry it constantly with me to this day. I see a return to the Lefts savagery of that era in everthing. I am happy to hear newer generations are not obsessed with that period, maybe that explains why so many of you became conservatives for your own reasons.
I'm not a good writer, even less a thinker, but you are good, indeed. I'll be reading you regularly. Thank you.

riceburner147 said...

Kat: Glad to see you puter is healthy again. Do you have much dust in the area where it is located. (This is NOT a comment on your cleaning aptitude:) Dust will/can kill a HD fast. Great post (as usual).

Dennis said...

I gave LBJ the bird when his helicopter flew over our ship. I was home by early 1967 after three cruises off Vietnam. I never suffered what so many others did in that war and never thought it affected me so deeply, till I saw Kerry reporting for duty at that convention. I'm not a wordsmith, so I'll use these words that were written by someone else that approaches voicing the contempt I feel for him and his ilk, back in the sixties till this very day.

We do not fight for land. We are loyal to an ideal-an ideal of liberty wherever man lives. We do not guard territory, bleed for a piece of dirt. We don't fight because we love violence. We fight for our freedom as individuals to live our own lives, to peruse our own survival, our own happiness.

Your unconditional rejection of violence makes you smugly think of yourselves as noble, as enlightened, but in reality it is nothing less than abject moral capitulation to evil. unconditional rejection of self defense, because you think it's a supposed surrender to violence, leaves you no resort but begging for mercy or offering appeasement.

Evil grants no mercy, and to attempt to appease it is nothing more than a piecemeal surrender to it. Surrender to evil is slavery at best, death at worst. thus your unconditional rejection of violence is really nothing more than embracing death as preferable to life.

You will achieve what you embrace.

The right, the absolute necessity, of vengeance against anyone who initiates force against you is fundamental to survival. The morality of a people's self-defense is in it's defense of each individual's right to life. It's an intolerance to violence made real by an unwavering willingness to crush any who would launch violence against you. The unconditional determination to destroy any who would initiate force against you is an exaltation of the value of life. Refusing to surrender your life to any thug or tyrant who lays claim to it is in fact embracing life itself.

If you are unwilling to defend your right to your own lives, then you are merely like mice trying to argue with owls. You think their ways are wrong. They think you are dinner.

If, hoping to appease it, you willingly compromise with unrepentant evil, you only allow such evil to sink it's fangs into you; from that day on its venom will course through your veins until it finally kills you.

Compromising with murderers grants them moral equivalence where none can rightly exist. moral equivalence says that you are no better than they; therefore their belief-that they should be able to torture, rape, or murder you-is just as morally valid as your view-that you have the right to live free of their violence. Moral compromise rejects the concept of right and wrong. It says that everyone is equal, all desires are equally valid, all action is equally valid, so everyone should compromise to get along.

Where could you compromise with those who torture, rape and murder people? In the number of days a week you will be tortured? In the number of men to be allowed to rape your loved ones? In how many of your family are to be murdered?

No moral equivalence exists in that situation, nor can it exist, so there can be no compromise, only suicide.

To even suggest compromise can exist with such men is to sanction murder.

Many teach that saying someone is evil is prejudiced thinking. it's a way of belittling someone already in pain for some reason. Such people must be embraced and taught to shed their fears of their fellow man and then they will not strike out in violent ways.

They are dangerous to everyone because they embrace evil with their teachings. In so doing, in trying to be kind, to be unselfish, in trying to be nonjudgmental, you allow evil to become far more powerful than it otherwise would. you refuse to see evil, and so you welcome it among you. You allow it to exist. you give it power over you. You are a people who have welcomed death and refused to denounce it.

You are an empire naked to the shadow of evil.

These people think of themselves as enlightened, as above violence. They are not enlightened; they are merely slaves awaiting a master, victims awaiting killers.