Where were Chuck Hagel and Bill Kristol in Vietnam era?

Israel/Palestine
on 101 Comments

Yesterday a friend wrote: 

The Chuck Hagel Defense Secretary nomination is a referendum on what America thinks about two Americans, exceedingly different in their politics, character, and life-experiences: Chuck Hagel and Bill Kristol. The anti-Hagel campaign was launched by Kristol, and with all his outlets (the Weekly Standard, Emergency Committee for Israel, AEI, WSJ), depend on it, not a flunky, blogger, or senator on his side of the game puts mouth to microphone without clearing the approach with him. I wish the IB (Internet Bigstream)–someone at HP or the Daily Beast or Salon or Slate–would turn the issue in this direction. Do a chronology of the life of Bill Kristol….Cheering the Vietnam war while dodging service (something Stephen Colbert brought up, in a 2006 interview, to Bill’s extreme embarrassment); assistant to wild-man Bennett and sleepy Dan Quayle; first big success, in his daily strategy-bulletins to Republicans in Congress on how to defeat Clinton’s health care plan; hot advocacy of impeachment of Clinton; promotion of Iraq war with false facts and sanguine predictions; promotion of war over Georgia, war with Syria, war with Iran; assistant and (possibly) liaison to Romney 2012 in effort to undermine Obama via accusations of disloyalty to Israel; above all, consistent defender of torture.

Where were Hagel and Kristol during the Vietnam era? First Hagel. These excerpts are from his book America: Our Next Chapter Tough Questions, Straight Answers (2008, written with Peter Kaminsky) and begins with Hagel’s childhood in the small town of Ainsworth, Nebraska, where his veteran father and mother were very active in the American Legion Post and American Legion Auxiliary: 

Whatever was true in Ainsworth, I thought, was probably true everywhere… Service was simply what people did. It’s the way neighbors helped each other and looked out for one another. It’s what the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville found so remarkable about our democracy and its people in the nineteenth century. Service to others. Service to your country… Service meant that when your country called, you answered the call. It would never have occurred to anyone to question it. If the president said he needed you, that was enough. It was enough for me at the age of 21 [in 1967], which is how I eventually found myself pinned down by Viet Cong rifle fire, badly burned, with my wounded brother in my arms.

I still believe, as my father did, in serving our country. But history has taught me that we must require better answers than we have been given before we ask our young men and women to sacrifice their lives for a greater cause. And when lives and families are put at risk, those questions should be probing, serious, and unrelenting. I would go so far as to say that it is unpatriotic not to ask them. I do not believe the people’s representatives pressed these questions strongly enough in the run-up to the Iraq war. …

If you listen to the tapes released by the Johnson Library, on which President Lyndon B. Jonson and Senator Richard Russell discuss Vietnam in the mid-1960s, you will hear President Johnson confess that we couldn’t win in Vietnam, but we couldn’t pull out because he didn’t want to be the first president to lose a war. Senator Russell said (and I’m paraphrasing): “Get out, it’s unfair to project this country into a situation where on the outside you’re saying, ‘Stay steady, stay the course, there’s lights at the end of the tunnel, we can win’ when privately you are saying we can’t win. That’s wrong.”

I wish someone had told me when I was sitting on a burning tank in a Vietnamese rice paddy that I was fighting for a lost cause just to save a president’s legacy. I volunteered to go to Vietnam to defend our nation, not to save LBJ’s place in history. The cold political calculation I heard on those tapes made me vow that I would never—ever– remain silent when that kind of thinking put more American lives at risk in any conflict.

Bill Kristol went on the Stephen Colbert report in 2006 and called for a larger military for the war in Iraq and other important operations, and Colbert asked him about his own non-military service. The dialogue is at 5:30 or so.

Colbert: Where are you going to get the soldiers. Are you going to go for a draft?…. If I was young enough to be drafted, I’d say yes.

Kristol: I’m open to a draft… I’m not against the draft as a matter of principle. We don’t need a draft to increase the army by a couple of divisions.

C; Were you drafted. You were Vietnam age?

K: No I was a little too young.

C: How old were you in 1972?

K: 19.

C: That’s old enough.

K: No I was in the lottery for one year, and Nixon canceled the draft, and so I didn’t volunteer.

C: Great man.

K: [Uncomfortable laughter.]

My anonymous friend notes:

Kristol was born (Wikipedia) December 23, 1952, making him 19 in 1971. The war was still at full throttle. Doubtless he took a student deferment. He could have volunteered, as Chuck Hagel did. He always describes himself as having been at the time a “Scoop Jackson Democrat.” Jackson was pro-war. So were Kristol’s parents, who in 1972 circulated a signed statement Democrats for Nixon–a portent of neoconservatism. Half of this Colbert probably knew, the rest he intuited. These things are NEVER spoken of as if they mattered. Well, now they do.

P.S. To be clear, I demonstrated against both the Vietnam and Iraq wars, and surely would have dodged the draft if I had been exposed to it in the Vietnam era. My sense of service growing up in an academic Jewish family was very different from Hagel’s.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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101 Responses

  1. just
    January 10, 2013, 10:26 am

    What a wonderfully illustrative piece, Phil!

    How I hope the “mainstream” media will pick this up, and run with it.

  2. MarkF
    January 10, 2013, 10:36 am

    I remember Taki writing something about not finding atheists and neocons in foxholes.

    Bill typically has a canned response to criticism of his non-service. He deflects the accusation and brings up his friendships with those that have children that serve and discusses their pain and anxiety, and shifts it to point out that he feels we need a larger military to reduce this burden. Even if he does get pinned down on it, he doesn’t care, and he continually gets what he wants.

    The problem is there are no negative consequences for his actions, only rewards. He can kick decorated veterns like Hagel or Kerry in the nuts and still win. There is no G-D…….

  3. Sin Nombre
    January 10, 2013, 11:07 am

    Phil Weiss wrote:

    “My sense of service growing up in an academic Jewish family was very different from Hagel’s.”

    Well don’t leave those of us who didn’t grow up in an academic Jewish family hanging, Phil, tell us a bit about it.

    • John Smithson
      January 10, 2013, 3:36 pm

      Very different from this?: “Service was simply what people did. It’s the way neighbors helped each other and looked out for one another. It’s what the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville found so remarkable about our democracy and its people in the nineteenth century. Service to others. Service to your country… Service meant that when your country called, you answered the call. It would never have occurred to anyone to question it. If the president said he needed you, that was enough.”

      Please elaborate on your sense of service – we unsophisticated midwestern Catholics need some learnin’.

      And I’d really come to like and respect you – please help me.

    • Mooser
      January 10, 2013, 3:55 pm

      If I am not mistaken, there are several excellent articles in the Mondo archives by Phil on the subject, more or less, of his family life and social and political attitudes in his crowd.

  4. Kathleen
    January 10, 2013, 11:12 am

    Bloody Kristol was totally old enough to volunteer or be drafted. But he did not. Does he have children? Did he encourage them to serve?

    Chris Matthews keeps pointing out how Kristol, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Feith etc have never served in the military. Have never put their own lives on the line for what they claim is necessary. This is the worst kind of hypocrisy..sending other people’s family members to wars especially those completely unnecessary and not having ever been willing to serve yourself. Or encourage your own relatives to do so. The height of hypocrisy.

    Kristol, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Feith (Tom Friedmann too) are yellow bellied cowards covered in the Iraqi people and American soldiers blood. I say drop these kinds of cowards down in the middle of Baghdad butt ass naked and let them run for a hole in the ground. Seems more than fair for the death and destruction they have caused. Or put in cages and put on trial for war crimes like Mubarak.

  5. tommy
    January 10, 2013, 11:18 am

    Sorry, just because Hagel repudiates his obedience to kill Vietnamese as a defender of America does not exonerate him from the crimes he committed in Vietnam as service to the war pigs he has been nominated to lead. Hagel and Kristol are both venal and militant Chauvinists who accept the American mission to dominate the world with a capitalist dictatorship.

    • American
      January 10, 2013, 11:55 am

      What crimes did Hagel commit in Vietnam?

      • sardelapasti
        January 10, 2013, 1:23 pm

        American: Just obeying the order to go where a war of aggression is taking place, in the service of the aggressing party’s government, is enough to make you (“technically” say some) a criminal against humanity. See the verdicts about the Germans who were “obeying orders”. It also seems that he was a combatant (got wounded) so there is absolutely no doubt about his crime of aggression and war crimes. I can’t believe your question.

      • American
        January 10, 2013, 3:47 pm

        @sardelapasti

        I can’t believe you either…if there’s one thing I despise it’s sniviling, crouching ‘moral superitory’ .
        The US government–the politicians were the criminals there…not the naive boys who were told to do their duty.
        They were victims too you pretentious, posturing idiot.

      • chuckcarlos
        January 10, 2013, 6:07 pm

        It is not all that simple. “Fire in the Lake” or Karnow, or NVA Colonel Bui Tin or NVA Major General and Time’s Saigon Correspondent Pham Xuan An all have excellent documentation of BOTH Vietnamese sides to the struggle.

        To humble Americans some, we are now looked on with fondness in Vietnam and welcomed to live and work there. The Vietnamese regard us as only a very secondary part of their history and we pale in their eyes to the terror of the French or Chinese.

      • Hostage
        January 11, 2013, 4:03 am

        American: Just obeying the order to go where a war of aggression is taking place, in the service of the aggressing party’s government, is enough to make you (“technically” say some) a criminal against humanity. See the verdicts about the Germans who were “obeying orders”.

        The members of the German armed forces who raised the defense of superior orders at Nuremberg were the Reichsmarschal of the German Air Force, two men who had served as Commander in Chief of the German Navy, the Governor-General of Poland, the Chief of the German High Command, and the Chief of Operations for the German High Command.

        Simply going to where a war of aggression is supposedly taking place has never constituted a crime. The Rome Statute and the General Assembly’s customary definition make aggression a leadership crime that can only be committed by persons in a position to control or direct the political or military action of a State. The jurisprudence of the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg and the International Military Tribunal for the Far East used a less strict standard which allowed for the prosecution of persons, like top level industrialists or allied government officials, who were in a position to shape or influence the planning, preparation, or initiation of acts of aggression either as leaders, organizers, instigators or accomplices.

        It also seems that he was a combatant (got wounded) so there is absolutely no doubt about his crime of aggression and war crimes. I can’t believe your question.

        It doesn’t logically follow that being a combatant and getting wounded constitutes evidence of a war crime or crime against humanity.

      • American
        January 11, 2013, 8:56 am

        @ Hostage

        I didn’t say that sardelapasti did…..just in case you got us confused.
        But thanks for adding info to.

      • Hostage
        January 11, 2013, 5:41 pm

        I didn’t say that sardelapasti did

        I know, I was just quoting his post verbatim.

      • sardelapasti
        January 13, 2013, 11:42 am

        Well yes, of course the leaders are the only ones tried and convicted if and when it ever comes that far.
        But there is another level without which it all remains meaningless, the level of the populations. If people are allowed to have absolutely no personal responsibility just because court trials, if any, are only about leaders, the obligation on the individual to use his eyes and brain to refuse to become a thief and a murderer disappears. It is then enough to have been ordered about by some bully, and hop … not only you are washed from your stupid or sadistic crimes, even some “leftists” in the US will call you a “hero”.
        No. No matter what lawyers think of it, the only way the institution of war crimes and crimes against humanity become effective in real life is by reminding the single persons among the populations that they are each under an obligation to refuse any orders that help the crime of aggression. Vietnam (and Iraq) deserters and draft burners got the message that the likes of Hagel did not. In fact, no matter the subjective considerations, he volunteered to participate in a huge crime of aggression.

      • sardelapasti
        January 13, 2013, 12:03 pm

        Of course. For the purpose of trials, if ever it comes to that, it applies to the leaders only. That’s all that the lawyers are about and no further.
        There is another level, though, which is the only one through which any international law can be effective, and that is the level of personal responsibility in the general population. Each individual is supposed to have eyes and a brain and some sense of what he is supposed to do; refusing orders to abet a crime of aggression and war crimes should be topmost on that list. The fact that the only ones who can be dragged to war crimes tribunals are the leaders does not exonerate the private or even the support worker in an invaded area, or any government worker involved in it.

        Otherwise what happens is what happens in this country, of criminals (if out of the best intentions or stupidity or poverty or sadism is not relevant here) being hailed as “heroes” even by what passes as the left in this place, while deserters who had working brains and clear values from the start are left unsupported. In fact, American’s reaction here is the one I always expect from any Americans.

        And yes, getting wounded in a war of aggression on the aggressor’s side marks you as a criminal –not that anyone can prosecute but still a criminal.

      • sardelapasti
        January 13, 2013, 12:20 pm

        Hostage: Of course. For the purpose of trials, if ever it comes to that, it applies to the leaders only. That’s where lawyers often stop and look no further.
        There is another level, though, which is the only one through which any international law can be effective, and that is the level of personal responsibility in the general population. Each individual is supposed to have eyes and a brain and some sense of what he is supposed to do; refusing orders to abet a crime of aggression and war crimes should be topmost on that list. The fact that the only ones who can be dragged to war crimes tribunals are the leaders does not exonerate the private or even the support worker in an invaded area, or any government worker involved in it.

        Otherwise what happens is what happens in this country, of criminals (if out of the best intentions or stupidity or poverty or sadism is not relevant here) being hailed as “heroes” even by what passes as the left in this place, while deserters who had working brains and clear values from the start are left unsupported. In fact, American’s reaction here is the one I always expect from most Americans.

        And yes, getting wounded in a war of aggression on the aggressor’s side marks you as a criminal –not that anyone can prosecute but still a criminal.

      • Hostage
        January 13, 2013, 4:54 pm

        Of course. For the purpose of trials, if ever it comes to that, it applies to the leaders only. That’s all that the lawyers are about and no further.

        You invited comparisons with verdicts against Germans, but didn’t actually cite any that might be relevant.

        There is another level, though, which is the only one through which any international law can be effective, and that is the level of personal responsibility in the general population.

        If you think that being a combatant or being wounded is sufficient evidence to establish guilt of crimes against humanity or the crime of aggression, then you don’t have much room to lecture anyone else about the nuances of international law.

      • sardelapasti
        January 13, 2013, 6:16 pm

        Sorry for the server’s antics (and the reviewers’ letting the repetitions in.)
        I was trying (way too many times) to explain that this isn’t about the law itself but the lower levels where said law is supposed to exert its preventative influence and be useful to the people, i.e. that of the peons (who of course cannot be prosecuted) and the population at large. For anyone wounded in the service of a war of aggression has certainly committed the crime of at least obeying an order of aggression; in the case of a combatant it is at least attempted murder. Even under compulsion, in the case of draft, it means the guy didn’t even have enough brains to desert before being sent. The clear-cut difference between deserter and volunteer should be felt in the way we treat either of them. One is a criminal whichever way you want to slice it, while the other one deserves our respect. This is the only level at which all the legislation on war crimes, aggression etc. can have a shred of a hope to be preventative. Not that of jailing some poor slob of an African or Yugoslav dictator who didn’t kiss enough Western ass.

      • Hostage
        January 13, 2013, 7:48 pm

        I was trying (way too many times) to explain that this isn’t about the law itself but the lower levels where said law is supposed to exert its preventative influence and be useful to the people, i.e. that of the peons (who of course cannot be prosecuted) and the population at large.

        Sergeants don’t launch invasions of other countries. The law is intended to deter persons in a position to direct or control the armed forces of a state from the planning, preparation, or initiation of acts of aggression either as leaders, organizers, instigators or accomplices.

        For anyone wounded in the service of a war of aggression has certainly committed the crime of at least obeying an order of aggression;

        Foot soldiers could certainly be tried for any war crimes they commit in connection with an act of aggression, but simply being a combatant or getting wounded is not a crime. Many of the acts of aggression were only committed years after the US began providing military assistance and advisors to the government of South Viet Nam, and were conducted as part of covert operations that were kept confidential from those service members without a need to know. Under those circumstances, enlisted combat and combat support personnel are not in a position to decide whether a NATO, SEATO, or other coalition’s use of force constitutes “a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations”.

        The “Elements of the Crime of Aggression” are as follows:

        1. The perpetrator planned, prepared, initiated or executed an act of aggression.
        2. The perpetrator was a person in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of the State which committed the act of aggression.
        3. The act of aggression — the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations — was committed.
        4. The perpetrator was aware of the factual circumstances that established that such a use of armed force was inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations.
        5. The act of aggression, by its character, gravity and scale, constituted a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations.
        6. The perpetrator was aware of the factual circumstances that established such a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations.

        Here is an article about the draft definition and elements (that were adopted by the Kampala Review Conference of the Rome Statute in June of 2010): link to intlawgrrls.com

      • sardelapasti
        January 13, 2013, 10:10 pm

        Hostage: It seems that you are a born lawyer. A good thing when one needs scholarship and explanations. A bad thing when one tries one’s best to ask you to look at concepts like personal responsibility like a normal human.
        It’s this simple: You know your government is committing the most heinous crime, that of aggression. Said government orders you to participate in it by murdering or invading or assisting murder or invasion. You obey or even volunteer. You are guilty, no matter what the lawyers say.

      • Hostage
        January 14, 2013, 5:15 am

        No. No matter what lawyers think of it, the only way the institution of war crimes and crimes against humanity become effective in real life is by reminding the single persons among the populations that they are each under an obligation to refuse any orders that help the crime of aggression.

        It’s a fundamental principle of international law that there are no collective punishments for individual acts. Simply repeating that you think everyone in the military was guilty of the crime of aggression only demonstrates your ignorance. Frankly the only way to prevent war crimes and crimes against humanity is to have a well trained and disciplined force that includes people who recognize unlawful orders and won’t obey them.

      • Hostage
        January 14, 2013, 5:31 am

        And yes, getting wounded in a war of aggression on the aggressor’s side marks you as a criminal –not that anyone can prosecute but still a criminal.

        I don’t happen to think that automatically includes people who were wounded by North Vietnamese forces while they were fighting alongside South Vietnamese units that were defending themselves and their own country. If you really think that every medical corpsman who gets wounded on a battlefield is a criminal, then you’re obviously a dimwit.

      • Hostage
        January 14, 2013, 6:21 am

        Hostage: It seems that you are a born lawyer. A good thing when one needs scholarship and explanations. A bad thing when one tries one’s best to ask you to look at concepts like personal responsibility like a normal human.

        Actually it just seems like you’ve never served in the military; don’t know the meaning of personal criminal responsibility; and like to discuss your personal theories about wars and aggression. We train and pay our military professionals to enforce the applicable international humanitarian laws when they encounter a violation, not to react by washing their hands of the situation and walking away.

        I personally think that most wars are a crime, but that belief is not reflected in the current state of international law or in most other people’s moral codes. There still are cases where I think the UN or regional arrangements or agencies for dealing with the maintenance of international peace and security do have the necessary legal charters and moral rights to authorize the use of force in to curtail aggression. At the same time, I don’t believe that includes things like the deployment of NATO forces in Afghanistan or Pakistan, or worse still the use of civilian intelligence agencies with their own fleet of drones and “disposition matrix”.

        That situation requires more people in the chain of command who are willing to abide by the applicable humanitarian law, not fewer good people.

      • MRW
        January 14, 2013, 7:45 am

        For anyone wounded in the service of a war of aggression has certainly committed the crime of at least obeying an order of aggression; in the case of a combatant it is at least attempted murder. Even under compulsion, in the case of draft, it means the guy didn’t even have enough brains to desert before being sent.

        So, military service is a Catch-22? Damned if you do and damned if you don’t? And somehow someone is to intuit what the orders will be before he signs up?

        The clear-cut difference between deserter and volunteer should be felt in the way we treat either of them. One is a criminal whichever way you want to slice it, while the other one deserves our respect.

        That should read “deserves your respect” IMO.

        Can you clarify, because it is unclear from the sentence constructions? Is the deserter the criminal, and the volunteer the one who deserves our respect? Or is it the other way around?

      • Mooser
        January 14, 2013, 11:33 am

        “It’s a fundamental principle of international law that there are no collective punishments for individual acts.”

        Gosh, that might make it tough to give the “Jewish lobby” the “maximum force” treatment it deserves!

    • marc b.
      January 10, 2013, 11:55 am

      and i’m sorry, tommy, i’m not a great fan of hagel (i see his appointment more of a defeat of the likes of kristol, than a victory for the anti-war crowd) but there is no equivalence between hagel and kristol. whereas hagel was idealistic, naive, (and who isn’t naive at 21), he was literally willing to die for his principles, erroneous or not. kristol, on the other hand, was/is cynical, manipulative, simultaneously an unalloyed coward and a bully, a pathological liar; in other words, what passes for ‘sophisticated’ in some circles. kristol is an adept of the occultic practices of strauss, proponent of the ‘big lie’ and manipulation of the masses, someone else’s blood always the fertilizer to grow their pet projects. frankly, i can’t imagine what is going on in the minds of critics who cite his ‘charm’ or ‘rhetorical skill’ as rationales for his longevity and success. he’s neither charming nor especially intelligent; he had an influential father and inherited a podium, not unlike a long line of aristocratic dolts of past centuries. vile, absolutely vile.

      • marc b.
        January 10, 2013, 12:10 pm

        irving kristol from ’84:

        Isolationism has a strong traditional appeal to the American people and one can understand why it should reemerge today, or why the prospect of fighting “dirty little wars” in remote places should be so repugnant. What is difficult to understand is why American Jews seem to be among those who are not shocked and appalled by this new trend. Can anyone believe that an American government which, in righteous moralistic hauteur, refuses to intervene to prevent a Communist takeover of Central America, will intervene to counterbalance Soviet participation in an assault on Israel? Can anyone believe that the American people could make sense of such contradictory behavior? Yet a large number of American Jews, perhaps even a majority, appear to believe it.

        Have these Jews taken leave of their reason? Of course not. It is simply that their thinking is beclouded by anachronistic presuppositions about the kind of world we live in and about the appropriate responses by the United States to the kind of world we live in. This real world is rife with conflict and savagery. It is a world in which liberalism is very much on the defensive, in which public opinion runs in the grooves established by power, in which people back winners not losers, and in which winners not losers provide the models of the future. In such a world, we are constrained to take our allies where and how we find them—even if they are authoritarian (e.g., Turkey), even if they are totalitarian (e.g., China).

        If American Jews truly wish to be noninterventionist, they have to cease being so concerned with Israel, with Jews in the Soviet Union, or indeed with Jews anywhere else. To demand that an American government be interventionist exclusively on behalf of Jewish interests and none other—well, to state that demand is to reveal its absurdity. Yet most of our major Jewish organizations have ended up maneuvering themselves into exactly this position. They cannot even bring themselves openly to support the indispensable precondition for the exercise of American influence on behalf of Jewish interests in the world: a large and powerful military establishment that can, if necessary, fight and win dirty, little (or not so little) wars in faraway places. It is the winning or losing of such wars that will determine the kind of world our children inherit—not striking pious postures or exuding moralistic rhetoric.

        link to commentarymagazine.com

      • seanmcbride
        January 10, 2013, 1:13 pm

        There is the entire neoconservative agenda encapsulated in a single article by a founding father of neoconservatism — Irving Kristol — the father of William Kristol.

        It is not difficult to figure out what is the real program here and the narrow interests that drive it.

        This article from July 1984 in Commentary needs to be framed and placed prominently on the wall of key neocon documents. Never forget a single word of it. These ideas drove Americans into the disastrous Iraq War.

        In Semantic Webese:

        /article /author Irving Kristol /title The political dilemma of American Jews /publication Commentary /date July 1984 /url link to commentarymagazine.com

      • ritzl
        January 10, 2013, 1:22 pm

        @marc b.

        IK: “It is the winning or losing of such wars that will determine the kind of world our children inherit—not striking pious postures or exuding moralistic rhetoric.”

        Well that sums up the whole stench of the neocon/Beltway view of the world, doesn’t it.

        Isn’t the exact opposite actually the belief (if not the reality) – outside those circles?

        IOW: “It is the starting or avoiding such wars that will determine the kind of world our children will inherit — not striking soulless, mechanistic postures or exuding militaristic rhetoric.”

      • seanmcbride
        January 10, 2013, 2:16 pm

        Irving Kristol mentions variations on the word “Jew” more than 60 times in this single article.

        Making a list of these occurrences in the context of their phrases would be illuminating.

        One could conduct that exercise on the total dataset of Commentary articles from its first issue to the present.

        Commentary is the lead journal of neoconservatism. When people who were knowledgeable about the content of Commentary mentioned the Jewish role in neoconservatism in the run-up to the Iraq War, they were greeted with howls of outrage. And they still are to this very day. Alice in Wonderland. Orwell. Stalinism.

        And this comment itself will stir up outrage — for simply stating the obvious truth.

      • American
        January 10, 2013, 4:30 pm

        Frame this one too.

        WAR IN CONTEXT

        Jewish groups showed cavalier disregard for the welfare of American troops
        by Paul Woodward on January 8, 2013

        Advice from Defense Secretary Dick Cheney to American troops stationed in Saudi Arabia in 1990: keep quiet about the “Jewish lobby.”

        In 1990, American troops deployed to Saudi Arabia in advance of the Gulf War against Iraq, were advised by the Pentagon — then under Dick Cheney’s control — that they should not make pro-Israel, anti-Arab remarks while stationed in the Islamic kingdom.

        That might sound like a no-brainer — clearly it was advise crafted for the purpose of making sure that young American soldiers lacking knowledge about the Middle East might avoid getting themselves in trouble or alienating themselves from their hosts.

        But that’s not how organizations such as the American Jewish Committee, the World Jewish Congress, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center responded to the advice laid out in the Defense Department’s “Troop Information Handbook.”

        In a letter to Cheney, Sholom Comay, AJ Committee president, and David Harris, its executive vice president, made it clear that they regarded the presence of American troops in the Gulf as being primarily to serve the interests of Israel.

        The Jewish Telegraph Agency reported:

        “No one can be under the illusion that our presence in Saudi Arabia is intended to protect a fellow democracy,” Comay and Harris wrote, dismissing the kingdom and its neighbors as “current allies” of the United States.

        Perhaps the most egregious element in the Pentagon handbook — the part that most offended these Jewish organizations — was that they were included as one of the taboo topics of conversation and referred to as the “Jewish lobby.” Troops were advised not to discuss the “Jewish lobby” or “U.S. intelligence given to Israel.”

        The Associated Press reported:

        Writing to Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, the World Jewish Congress said it wishes to convey “our sense of distress at what appears to be a capitulation to bigotry and a surrender of our democratic values…”

        The letter, from WJC Vice President Kalman Sultanik, urges that the material be withdrawn from circulation.

        The American Jewish Committee, expressing to Cheney its “deep sense of hurt and anger,” says U.S. troops should not be asked to “submerge entirely those values of tolerance, pluralism, and open-mindedness that have made the U.S. a unique democratic society.”

        Cheney neither withdrew the handbook nor apologized for its contents.

        During the current hullabaloo over Chuck Hagel’s use of the term “Jewish lobby“, it’s reasonable to ask: given the level of loyalty to Israel which so many members of the Senate seem to expect from America’s top civilian defense official, would Dick Cheney also face strong opposition from his own party if he was once again nominated as defense secretary?

      • MRW
        January 14, 2013, 7:49 am

        Re: irving kristol from ’84

        Pompous ass.

        …about the appropriate responses by the United States to the kind of world we live in. This real world is rife with conflict and savagery.

        So, Kristol Pere bangs his kitchen pots to add to it, and drags the Jews into it, which he succeeded in doing, didn’t he. (The great danger of groupthink, which is called, euphemistically, ‘community’ or ‘our community’.)

      • Chu
        January 10, 2013, 12:33 pm

        Marc, That was impressive & concise takedown of Kristol.

      • Bumblebye
        January 10, 2013, 2:34 pm

        Neocon Zio-extremists seem to equal modern day ‘Witchfinder General’. What they do appeals to the exact same fearful mindset, resulting in wanton death and destruction on a much grander scale though.

    • Kathleen
      January 10, 2013, 11:58 am

      When you are 18, 19 etc and your government and media lie and lie and keep telling you over and over again that in Vietnam or Iraq you will be protecting your country it is somewhat understandable that these mostly young men fall for it. The US military knows how hormones work on the psyche ..these warmongers study war for a living. They know what works. Now I am not totally excusing their responsibility to be better informed but many of these young people come from less privileged backgrounds than Kristols. Often the reason the military wants youngsters from rural areas is that they are often all ready gun users. Hunting and all. Many young folk use the military these days to get jobs, access college etc. Many join out of desperation…the military knows this.

      While I think the public went way overboard this time around exempting our soldiers from any responsibility in going to Iraq etc many of these younfrg people bought the Bush administrations endless repetition linking 9/11 to Iraq.

      Will never forget standing next to Steve a young African American man during the Obama inauguration four years ago. We talked for a long time (we had a lot of time waiting in the freezing cold) about how he had just gotten back from Iraq four months prior to the inauguration. He shared some of the things he had done in Iraq. One of them being part of the team to prepare dead soldiers bodies for their return to the US. We both started weeping. I asked him why he had joined. Steve responded “because I believed what the Bush administration was saying about Iraq being linked to 9/11.” I asked him what he had learned? Steve” to try my best to make sure no other young people are sent into a war based on lies” We wept some more. Obama started to speak we leaned our heads into one another and he said “I will never forget this moment” I let him know that never in my life would I forget that moment and that I was proud of his intentions to protect his country and that I was deeply sorry that those honorable intentions had been so seriously misused by the Bush administration.

      Hagel is not to be blamed for Vietnam. Those in control of the military our government are to be blamed. Hagel believed as Steve believed. Hagel learned and so did Steve.

      • American
        January 10, 2013, 4:20 pm

        The 1960’s were far different from today and privileged or not, most young people weren’t political and didn’t have access to the information we have today…..even the older adults were not as sophisticated about their government and politicians as they are now.

        The ‘tradition’ of service to your country was still part of most of society then in a way it isn’t now. That tradition is still a good thing to have in society if people also have the ‘truthful information to know what to fight and what not to fight.
        After all the people the Neo and Zio chicken hawks have caused to be killed and maimed.?… I’d sign up for a blood and guts war against them tomorrow.

      • Mooser
        January 14, 2013, 12:51 pm

        “That tradition is still a good thing to have in society if people also have the ‘truthful information to know what to fight and what not to fight.”

        If you think “truth” and “fighting” (war) have any relation to each other, I feel sorry for you. For all practical purposes, truth ends where violence starts. The only people who know the “truth” about war are dead, and they don’t speak. I do admit that accepting that principle makes most entertainment worthless, but that’s the price you pay.

    • Chu
      January 10, 2013, 1:03 pm

      There was a point when I was young, I thought about joining the military as part of the UDT. Only later did I realize I would have been a pawn that has little influence on what the orders are from upstairs.
      A lot of men didn’t want to go to Vietnam, but were following orders and the law of the draft. I guess you were never on the draft list, Tommy?

      • tommy
        January 10, 2013, 2:04 pm

        I turned 18 the year the draft was abolished, and never even registered. Had I been drafted, I hope I would have had the courage to object conscientiously, like the real heroes of that conflict did. It is true, though, that unlike the volunteers who served in Iraq, most of the troops who served in Vietnam were conscripts. However, being a conscript is no excuse for obediently committing war crimes, but may mitigate punishment.

      • Chu
        January 10, 2013, 2:44 pm

        A lot of people went into a shitstorm in Vietnam that none were ready for. They were teenagers fighting for a coercive government. Al Gore was there to photograph the entire event, and he was vice president.
        Marc makes a great point that comparing Hagel and Kristol is night and day. I think you realize that.

    • mhuizenga
      January 10, 2013, 11:27 pm

      You’re kinda looking with hindsight here. I personally don’t think we know the half of it as far as Vietnam service is concerned. It wasn’t just physical danger, injuries, and the fear of death, but the knowledge (half knowledge in a lot of cases) that the war was wrong, that scarred these service people. That anguish must last a long time. We have the photos, newsreels, books, and movies that confirm it. We have yet to see the same from the Iraq war, but I’m pretty sure they will surface, especially if Hagel is confirmed and there’s a significant turn in foreign policy. We may not have the newsreels any more, but my guess is we will have a new generation of “Born on the 4th of July’s” coming soon.

      • Bumblebye
        January 11, 2013, 3:46 pm

        For one of the two Vietnam vets I knew, things got worse rather than better as time passed. There were times when he couldn’t even look at his own little girls. Destroyed his marriage. It’s over 30 years now since he killed himself by falling off an oil rig in Sierra Leone.

  6. just
    January 10, 2013, 11:56 am

    Tommy– I always appreciate that people can and do change.

    I don’t know if Mr. Hagel has wanted forgiveness and asked for it in private; I know from his stance now that he is antiwar, and that is good enough for me.

    I also have profound respect for Mr. Kerry who came home and protested the war he served in.

  7. pabelmont
    January 10, 2013, 11:58 am

    Hagel bio: “And when lives and families are put at risk, those questions should be probing, serious, and unrelenting. I would go so far as to say that it is unpatriotic not to ask them.” He is speaking of questions of the USA going to war.

    This quote means — I would say — that Hagel was saying (and I agree!) that the WHOLE USA Congress was unpatriotic because it UNCRITICALLY and ENTHUSIASTICALLY bought various Bush lies in support of war, most important of them the idea that an Iraqi WMD (whatever that might have meant, not necessarily nukes!) would be (if true, and uncritical acceptance of “truth” by Congress is another issue often mentioned) a national security threat to the good-ole USofA.

    This is the same Congress he is now asking to confirm his nomination. Good ole boys, all.

    • Kathleen
      January 10, 2013, 12:46 pm

      When Hagel spoke at Univ of Colorado some years ago he even brought attention to how desperation, humiliation etc play into the I/P conflict and indicated in a round about way that racism played a part in the wars in Vietnam and Iraq.

      He exprssed empathy without being mushy

  8. just
    January 10, 2013, 12:38 pm

    All I ever needed to know about how sickening Kristol is was his founding of the odious PNAC with Kagan.

  9. W.Jones
    January 10, 2013, 12:49 pm

    “My sense of service growing up in an academic Jewish family was very different from Hagel’s.”
    Yes, there is a tradition of Catholics as a minority trying to prove themselves militarily, going back to the Civil War, although that does not apply to all Catholics, who are also generally more leftist.

    • John Smithson
      January 11, 2013, 9:22 am

      W Jones – what the heck are you talking about ‘Catholics as a minority trying to prove themselves militarily, going back to the Civil War’

      Never, ever, heard of that before.

      • W.Jones
        January 12, 2013, 12:12 pm

        I heard it at least once as hearsay.

        The Irish were also enjoined to fight for both the honor of the old country and the salvation of their new, adopted country. …in the end, for most enlistees the strongest motive dealt more with the needs of the Irish in America. In the words of soldier, journalist and Union propagandist Charles Halpine, the Irish recruit was motivated by ‘the thought that he was earning a title which no foul tongue or niggardly heart would dare to dispute, the full equality and fraternity of an American citizen.’

        link to historynet.com

        There were also Irish, by the way, who resisted the war, but not out of racism. While rich (non-Irish) people bought their way out, kind of like Phil’s suggestion about Kristol- a chickenhawk. (Although I think he is just going on the assumption Kristol got a college deferment).

        Peace.

  10. W.Jones
    January 10, 2013, 12:52 pm

    Did Kristol actually dodge service by taking the deferment, or is this just assumed? {I can’t see Kristol leaving himself open to being in the army, so it’s not a bad assumption. He is like a chickenhawk. :) }

  11. Philip Munger
    January 10, 2013, 3:13 pm

    I got my draft notice in 1965, when I was 18. After I was honorably discharged, I helped the AFSC get draft dodgers into BC from Washington State. And I worked with a lot of young people getting their draft notices, all the way up through 1972, when the first draft lottery was performed. My younger brother came up with #313. All the way through 1971, most notices went to 18- or 19-year-old young men.

    If Kristol was in the February 1972 lottery, he would have been 20 by then, which means to have avoided being drafted earlier – from after his 18th birthday on – he needed some sort of deferment, or to have lived under the jurisdiction of a local board that was selectively targeting some kids, and neglecting others (it happened).

    Regarding tommy’s comment above, accusing Hagel being of being a “war criminal,” Bravo! on your hatred of war; Boo! on your lack of understanding either the motivations or sense of morality millions of young men were subject to c. 1965. How was Hagel to understand this morality you stand by? One in a hundred young American men outside of the most liberal college campuses at that time had any sense of how wrong Vietnam was. Most who avoided the draft who I worked with up into 1969 sensed the war was wrong, but seldom described it as a war crime. After My Lai became public in late 1969, that changed, but not markedly.

    • Mooser
      January 10, 2013, 5:18 pm

      “After My Lai became public in…

      And today the USS Turner Joy (having survived torpedo-boat attack) sits restored and moored in the Bremerton Wa. municipal marina as a tourist attraction! Come down and see the radio room, the radar installation…

      • Philip Munger
        January 11, 2013, 2:36 pm

        “Come down and see the radio room, the radar installation…”

        — and the shredder next to a scupper…

      • Mooser
        January 11, 2013, 5:11 pm

        I believe the holes from North Vietnamese torpedoes have been repaired, but their locations are marked with shrines.

  12. David Doppler
    January 10, 2013, 3:34 pm

    In 1969 or 70, the lottery was created and most deferments were terminated. The draft was eliminated in 1971 or 72. By saying he was in the lottery for one year, Kristol probably meant that if the draft had reached his number he would’ve been called, but it didn’t, and then the All Volunteer army went into effect. And he didn’t volunteer. In 1967, when Hagel was drafted, it was different, selection was randomized, there were lots of deferments to consider, and a lot more people naively assumed the US was fighting a good war. By 1971, there weren’t many of those left. Even Nixon had campaigned in 1968 and and won on his “secret plan” to end the war. So by 1971 the best you could think was I’m serving Nixon’s secret plan to get peace with honor, which hasn’t gone very far, and was long ago revealed as a cynical campaign promise. Not to defend Kristol, who should be run out of town on a rail for his role in lying us into Iraq, but 1967 and 1971 were different times.

    • marc b.
      January 10, 2013, 4:51 pm

      david, read this from a collective ‘biography’ of sorts of some of the seminal neo-con figures:

      link to nytimes.com

      It was in the nature of the times to talk back. Oratory as ridicule, the language of 1960s activists, troubled the Harvard University administration nearly as much as windows smashed and buildings blockaded. Even in the fall of 1970, with the decade officially closed, anti-war demonstrations ebbing, and the media declaring the death of the New Left, caustic retort (in reply to the Establishment version of truth) remained a highly developed art form inside Harvard Yard. William Kristol, Harvard class of ’73, patently rejected the political ethos of his generation. He was, nevertheless, a master of its style, a first-rate smart aleck.

      He arrived that fall pumped full of trenchant ridicule for the anti-war activists who, just eighteen months earlier, had spilled blood on the steps of University Hall as four hundred helmeted police swinging nightsticks broke up their sit-in. Two-thirds of Harvard’s students had protested the crackdown by boycotting class. But Kristol derided the “stupid, self-congratulatory” Leftists at Harvard and elsewhere who continued to attract attention and sympathy. Only seventeen, he wore the casual arrogance of a young man who had graduated at the top of his class from a rigorous Manhattan prep school and then qualified for an accelerated three-year track toward graduation from Harvard. He had playful eyes under a high forehead, and brows that seemed to carry on their own conversation as he issued barbed wit under his breath.

      this passage illustrates one of the important distinctions between hagel and kristol: kristol, the privileged smart ass, is already a fully formed personality by the time he reaches his late teens. being such a pampered pr*ck, he’s never confronted with anything remotely like an existential crisis that would cause him to question his teen ideology, and so there was no trajectory of psychological and intellectual maturation, just decades of carefully calibrated variations of his argumentation and tactics. the only difference between kristol circa 1969 and 1971 (and 2001) is the chronoligical passage of 730 days and the sloughing off of some dead skin cells. he didn’t oppose the war in 1969 (and wouldn’t have volunteered if he could) and didn’t oppose the war in 1971 (and avoided service, voluntary or conscripted, then as well.), and has been war-mongering at the risk of someone else’s spilt blood ever since. kristol’s essentially been reading the same text over and over, and can recite it with the ease of a fundamentalist citing passages of the bible, but he isn’t any more sophisticated than that fundie, and he doesn’t know sh*t beyond that text. sorry, i’m ranting. what passes for an intellectual in this country is pretty depressing.

      • David Doppler
        January 11, 2013, 12:32 pm

        Thanks for the reference, marc b. Very good background material. This passage reminds me of a news clip from Harvard back then, a distinguished-looking professor was engaging one of the defiant protesters on the steps of some building, who said something outrageous, to which the professor replied, “you worry me, boy,” whereupon the student took great offense, “don’t call me boy.” The professor apologized profusely, solicitously pried his name out of him, maybe it was “William” then exactly repeated his phrasing and intonation, “you worry me, William.”

      • Mooser
        January 11, 2013, 1:34 pm

        “kristol, the privileged smart ass, is already a fully formed personality by the time he reaches his late teens. being such a pampered pr*ck, he’s never confronted with anything remotely like an existential crisis that would cause him to question his teen ideology, and so there was no trajectory of psychological and intellectual maturation, just decades of carefully calibrated variations of his argumentation and tactics.”

        Yes, but being public intellectual to that enormous cohort of Americans who glory in the same defecit has always been a very competitive field.

      • Citizen
        January 12, 2013, 8:10 am

        marc b.

        thanks.

      • marc b.
        January 13, 2013, 1:18 pm

        de nada, citizen. there is nothing redeeming about kristol. not one single thing.

    • chuckcarlos
      January 10, 2013, 5:23 pm

      correctomundo on the facts,

      but if Kristol was all for the Warlord Government of South Vietnam (after we had Diem killed) and thought that was some kind of noble calling then he should have volunteered when he turned 18 in 1970 or maybe 17 in 1969. Romney demonstrated FOR the War at BYU but then copped out by doing his “Mission” to France (one can just imagine that).

      In any event all those guys, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Kristol are just war mongering blowhards…basically cowards…

      • Citizen
        January 12, 2013, 8:18 am

        chuckcarlos,

        Cowards? They would never choose to be pawns in any game, even on their own side? They already had the resources and contacts to prevent that at eighteen or nineteen.

    • lysias
      January 11, 2013, 11:53 am

      I believe the lottery started rather early in 1969. Facing the draft, I enlisted in the Air Force in January 1969. That was before the lottery. After basic training, I was sent to Romanian language training at the Defense Language Institute (otherwise known under its former name of the Army Language School) in Monterey, California in March 1969. The next Romanian class to arrive at the school, three or four months later (if memory serves), had been subject to the lottery.

      • marc b.
        January 11, 2013, 12:34 pm

        well there you go. small world. i’m a DLI grad myself.

  13. Les
    January 10, 2013, 3:36 pm

    Is there any correlation between those calling for a pardon for superspy Jonathan Pollard and the opponents of Hagel’s nomination?

  14. David Samel
    January 10, 2013, 5:36 pm

    Michael Moore says it best in his New Year resolution list:

    4. Stop saying “I support the troops.” I don’t. I used to. I understand why so many enlisted after 9/11. Sadly, many of them were then trapped and sent off to invade Iraq. I felt for all of them. I understood those who joined because of a lousy economy. But at some point all individuals must answer for their actions, and now that we know our military leaders do things that have nothing to do with defending our lives, why would anyone sign up for this rogue organization?

    5. Apologize for #4. I have enormous respect for anyone who would offer to sacrifice their life to defend my right to live. Is there any greater gift one can give another? It’s not the troops’ fault they’re sent to invade other countries for dubious reasons and outright lies. It’s OUR responsibility to prevent this, to elect representatives who believe in peace, and to only put our troops in harm’s way when it’s absolutely necessary. My uncle was killed in World War II. Today would have been his 90th birthday. My dad still misses him. Our family has served this country in the military since the Revolutionary War. None of them watch Fox News.

    link to michaelmoore.com

    • Mooser
      January 11, 2013, 3:44 pm

      “I understand why so many enlisted after 9/11.”

      After such an overwhelming demonstration of American incompetence and prevarication? I sure as hell don’t.

      • Mooser
        January 11, 2013, 5:15 pm

        “I understand why so many enlisted after 9/11.”

        Sure, with “Desert Storm” billed as a glorious walkover for Americans, everybody wanted to get in on the victory and glory and here was their chance!

  15. ToivoS
    January 10, 2013, 6:32 pm

    This is good political sense. Keep Bill Kristol in the spot light during Hagel’s confirmation hearings. It is clear that AIPAC and ADL want to separate the coming hearings from Israel and what constitutes antisemitism. They are actively working to minimize the damage they have already suffered. Bill Kristol remains their open sore — we should keep on picking at it.

  16. Nevada Ned
    January 11, 2013, 1:55 am

    Conservatives and Republicans love to clamor for war.

    But in their personal lives, they behave as if they were pacifists. So the real term for this political posture is neither hawk nor dove, but

    CHICKENHAWK.

    And the ranks of the neoconservatives includes a whole FLOCK of chickenhawks!

    • Mooser
      January 11, 2013, 1:35 pm

      “And the ranks of the neoconservatives includes a whole FLOCK of chickenhawks!”

      Ned, you haven’t noticed that the chickenhawk is the new American eagle?

  17. Citizen
    January 11, 2013, 1:09 pm

    Hagel: “Service to your country… Service meant that when your country called, you answered the call. It would never have occurred to anyone to question it. If the president said he needed you, that was enough. It was enough for me at the age of 21 [in 1967], which is how I eventually found myself pinned down by Viet Cong rifle fire, badly burned, with my wounded brother in my arms.”

    Phil: “My sense of service growing up in an academic Jewish family was very different from Hagel’s.”

    Wanna be specific, Phil?

  18. Mooser
    January 11, 2013, 3:48 pm

    “Wanna be specific, Phil?”

    Citizen, my memory isn’t too good, but I think I remember a series of articles from Phil dealing with this very subject, and more.

  19. Mooser
    January 11, 2013, 3:53 pm

    “Service to your country… Service meant that when your country called, you answered the call. It would never have occurred to anyone to question it. If the president said he needed you, that was enough.”

    “I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
    I am not on his pay-roll.”

    Edna St. Vincent Millay

  20. Keith
    January 11, 2013, 8:42 pm

    “I volunteered to go to Vietnam to defend our nation….”

    Yes, the signs of an imminent Vietnamese attack on a peace-loving America were everywhere. Pretty hard to miss if you ask me. Our only hope to launch a blitzkrieg before their Panzer divisions struck.

    Lets have fun! I’m going to change one word in a Chuck Hagel quote. See if you can guess which one.

    “Service meant that when your country called, you answered the call. It would never have occurred to anyone to question it. If the Fuehrer said he needed you, that was enough.”

    Seems to me that we have finally licked the Viet Nam syndrome. It took awhile, but it was sure worth it. It is once again fashionable to proudly proclaim “My empire, right or wrong!”

    “Totalitarianism is patriotism institutionalized.” (Steve Allen)

    • Hostage
      January 12, 2013, 5:55 pm

      Yes, the signs of an imminent Vietnamese attack on a peace-loving America were everywhere. Pretty hard to miss if you ask me. Our only hope to launch a blitzkrieg before their Panzer divisions struck

      Oh please. Most Americans volunteered to protect Vietnamese people from the sort of aggression that drove millions of them to become refugees and boat people to avoid being imprisoned or worse in “re-education camps”. Ordinary service members were not responsible for the lies or aggression committed by the US leadership under the guise of covert operations and the “Strategic Hamlet Program”.

      • Keith
        January 13, 2013, 5:47 pm

        HOSTAGE- “Most Americans volunteered to protect Vietnamese people from the sort of aggression that drove millions of them to become refugees and boat people to avoid being imprisoned or worse in “re-education camps”.”

        Oh Lordy, what have we here? White man’s burden and all of the deceit which goes with it? Let us begin with the obvious. I quoted Hagel saying he volunteered to go to Vietnam to “defend” his country. This is from a book published in 2008 by a 62 year old man, not some innocent kid. The notion that he was “defending” the US is ludicrous so I justifiably ridiculed it. Hagel’s comments indicate that, unlike Smedley Butler and others, he learned nothing from his wartime experience. Re-read his comments. His big beef is that we persisted in an unwinnable war, not that it was wrong and immoral, which it was. When has Hagel ever criticized any US led war on moral grounds? When has Hagel ever criticized empire? Basically, he is a pragmatic imperialist, not all that different from the alternatives.

        Now look at your comment to me. Seems as if your heart remains in the Central Command as you seek to justify militarism and empire as noble efforts to stop “aggression”, etc. Aggression? The Vietnamese invaded Vietnam and attacked us? What you need to do, Hostage, is to emulate Smedley Butler and open your eyes to the reality of empire.

        The reality of US involvement in Vietnam is that the US opposed a nationalist government headed by Ho Chi Minh right from the get-go and supported French efforts at re-colonization, going so far as to supply the French with transport and munitions, and to threaten economic termination of post World War II assistance to France if they negotiated with the Vietminh. The Geneva accords of 1954 (which the US refused to sign but agreed to abide by) specified elections to be held in 1956. The US violated the provisions immediately, sending in the CIA under Edward Lansdale. US proxy Ngo Dinh Diem refused to participate in the elections which he was sure to lose. In his memoirs, Eisenhower concluded that “…possibly 80 percent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh….” (see all of chapter 19, “Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II,” William Blum)

        And the consequences of our “noble” efforts? Surely you have heard of “search and destroy missions” and “free fire zones?” Surely you are aware of B-52s carpet bombing the Mekong Delta, the heaviest populated area of Vietnam. If these aren’t war crimes, than the words have no meaning. Andre Vltchek describes it thusly: “The entire nations of Indochina were bombed back to the stone age, because Western demi-gods would not tolerate, and felt they did not have to, tolerate, what some yellow un-people in Asia were really longing for. Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos – millions of tons of bombs dropped on them from strategic B-52’s, from dive-bombers, and from jet fighters. The falling bombs rained on the pristine countryside, murdering children, women, and water buffalo – millions of people perished. No apologies, no admission of guilt, and no compensation came from the tyrant-nations.”
        link to counterpunch.org

        From a review of Oliver Stone’s “Untold History of the United States:
        “The carnage brought to Southeast Asia by the United States is mind-boggling, as Stone and Kuznick document:
        *nearly four million Vietnamese killed.
        *more bombs dropped on Vietnam than by all sides in all previous wars throughout history, and three times more dropped than by all sides in the Second World War.
        *19,000,000 gallons of herbicide poisoned the land.
        *9,000 of 15,000 hamlets destroyed in the South of Vietnam.
        *In the North, all six industrial cities devastated; 28 of 30 provincial towns and 96 of 116 district towns leveled by bombing.
        *The United States threatened to use nuclear weapons thirteen times. Nixon chided Kissinger for being too squeamish about this. Nixon said he, himself, just didn’t give a damn.
        *After the war, unexploded bombs and mines permeated the landscape and took an additional 42,000 lives. Millions of acres of land have still not been cleared of live ordnance.
        *Agent Orange and other defoliants have caused severe health problems for millions of Vietnamese.
        *Nearly all of Vietnam’s triple canopy forests were destroyed.”
        link to counterpunch.org

        I will conclude by pointing out what should be obvious. Empires are not in the business of doing good deeds. They exist to impose their will on others, frequently by military force. The US is particularly prone to use force insofar as our economy emphasizes military Keynesianism, we are a warfare state. At least the British were more honest about it. “If our ancestors had cared for the rights of other people, the British empire would not have been made.” (Lord Salisbury)

      • Hostage
        January 13, 2013, 9:45 pm

        Oh Lordy, what have we here? White man’s burden and all of the deceit which goes with it?

        Well since you mention it, I did contract infectious hepatitis when the members of our mobility support groups were deployed to assist the civilian authorities (State Department, INS, etc.) and setup the network of camps and communications that were used to handle the flow of Vietnamese refugees from the Philippines to bases in Florida, Arkansas, and New York. But the work really wasn’t all that different from other deployments I’d gone on to assist authorities in Turkey after an earthquake or to Oklahoma after tornados there destroyed or damaged nursing homes, hospitals, and utility systems in the towns of Stroud and Drumwright.

        His big beef is that we persisted in an unwinnable war, not that it was wrong and immoral, which it was.

        He actually said that he thought it was wrong and unjustified. He called it “a noble cause gone wrong”. That’s a moral judgment. The big beef between him and his brother was over the question of whether the war was justified. He said that he came around to his brother’s point of view when he heard the tapes in which Johnson had privately acknowledged that the US wasn’t going to win, but would keep dragging it on to get the best deal. Hagel was making yet another moral judgment when he said they were sending people to a slaughter in the interests of political damage control. See “The private war of Chuck and Tom Hagel ” link to salon.com

        Now look at your comment to me. Seems as if your heart remains in the Central Command as you seek to justify militarism and empire as noble efforts to stop “aggression”, etc. Aggression? The Vietnamese invaded Vietnam and attacked us? What you need to do, Hostage, is to emulate Smedley Butler and open your eyes to the reality of empire.

        No, you need to learn from Raphael Lemkin. Smedley Butler was dead and gone before Pearl Harbor and the Holocaust. Nothing that he said about serving Empire was relevant to the question of military intervention to prevent aggression, occupation, and genocide. You can argue that the Rwandans were only attacking fellow Rwandans or that Sudanese were only attacking their brethren. The fact remains that Viet Nam was formally divided into two states that were killing thousands of their own people, e.g. link to hawaii.edu

        There are thousands of people in Kuwait today who would disagree with you about the personal benefits that accrued to them when the so-called “Empire” ended the Iraqi occupation of their country. In case you didn’t notice, diplomacy and sanctions didn’t work, and the UN Security Council had delegated its authority to the government of Kuwait and a coalition of other UN member States to end the occupation. In other words, it was the international community of states, not Central Command, that authorized the use of force in that case. Thousands of Kuwatis were systematically murdered or vanished during the brief Iraqi occupation.

        I agree with Hagel that in the case of the subsequent war in Iraq the Bush administration lied when it said it would exhaust all diplomatic efforts before resorting to war. The same can be said for the conflicts in Palestine, Libya, and Syria where the US and its allies have ignored calls from the UN for an arms embargo or sanctions and have resorted to heavily arming and supporting one side against the other.

      • Hostage
        January 14, 2013, 12:10 am

        And the consequences of our “noble” efforts? Surely you have heard of “search and destroy missions” and “free fire zones?” Surely you are aware of B-52s carpet bombing the Mekong Delta, the heaviest populated area of Vietnam. If these aren’t war crimes, than the words have no meaning.

        Here are some of my past comments on those subjects:
        *The DoD stopped using “free fire zone” in its fire control lexicon after the War in Vietnam due to the common misconceptions that surrounded its intended meaning. In many situations there was a risk of casualties from crossfire originating from adjacent friendly forces. So prior coordination was required before units could safely open fire on any military objective. Free fire zones did not imply any authorization to violate the laws and customs of war which prohibited attacks on unarmed civilians or persons who were hors de combat. They simply allowed valid military objectives to be targeted in isolated areas without further coordination between the unit and a higher echelon or South Vietnamese fire control center.
        link to mondoweiss.net
        *Company grade officers, like Colin Powell, took the law into their own hands and simply ignored the laws of war and the rules of engagement. As a result many of the South Vietnamese people that he and other service members were sent there to protect from aggression were systematically murdered instead.
        link to mondoweiss.net
        *I was amazed when John Kerry complained during his Presidential campaign about Operation Phoenix, a joint CIA-Special Forces undertaking in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. William Colby who directed the Operation was supposedly “on temporary leave of absence” from the CIA, working for the USAID. [Note: Richard Holbrooke had also worked for USAID in the Mekong Delta prior to Colby's assignment to Vietnam]. Senator Kerry publicly condemned the operation as an illegal assassination program on Meet the Press, but in the very next breath complained that Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban leadership had escaped from a very similar joint CIA-Special Forces undertaking in Afghanistan.
        link to mondoweiss.net
        *The USAID/CIA/Special Forces people under William Colby and Richard Holbrooke were not always killing the insurgents in the Mekong Delta in order to protect the inhabitants of South Vietnam. After all, the insurgents were South Vietnamese. Lt. Bob Kerrey was operating in friendly territory when he rounded-up the inhabitants of Thanh Phong and shot them. Colin Powell approved of burning entire villages to the ground to “drain the swamp” and approved of the procedure of summarily executing “men of military age”. It’s obvious from their own accounts that they ceased to make the proper distinctions between the civilian population or persons who were out of the fight and valid military objectives.
        link to mondoweiss.net

        Commentators, including Chomsky, assume that the absence of detailed plans, like those for strategic bombing of targets in North Vietnam, means that Arc Light missions in the South intentionally massacred civilians. That may have happened, but I don’t know of any specific instances. link to chomsky.info

        The B-52s were providing Close Air Support (CAS) to ground forces via taskings they received from of tactical air control parties or operators in ground-control-radar facilities of the Tactical Air Control System. That was a Command and Control network, much like the airborne AWACS, that assigned targets to the available aircraft within an area of operations. The bombers were intended for tactical ad hoc use against enemy base camps, troops concentrations/firefights, and enemy supply lines. They were not intended for use in indiscriminate bombing of the civilian population of the Delta.

      • Donald
        January 14, 2013, 1:33 pm

        I was disappointed to see you link to Rummel, Hostage. He’s not a serious source on “democide” and certainly not on the Vietnam War. Scroll on down this page and see what a specialist on the Vietnam War says about Rummel–

        Edwin Moise’s bibliography on atrocities in Vietnam

        The impressive thing about Edwin Moise is that he criticizes propaganda wherever he finds it, whether on the left or the right.

        I wouldn’t trust Rummel on anything. Not that everything he says is wrong, but if you want to find out about atrocities in a given time and place you’re much better off reading the specialists in the field, not some rightwing libertarian hack trying to make a point about the evils of government.

        On the Mekong Delta, I don’t know how many civilians were killed there, but Operation Speedy Express is mentioned by Fitzgerald in “Fire in the Lake” and I think in a Halberstam book and when Chomsky writes about it he’s only conveying information he got from others link The problem there was not at the lower level–Julian Ewell was a general who pushed for a high bodycount and got what he asked for.

        Here is Nick Turse’s article on Operation Speedy Express (mentioned in the Edwin Moise bibliography above)

        one my lai a month

        I tend to agree with one of your points, which is that we shouldn’t be going after the average American soldier in Vietnam or for that matter, today. Sure, I’d love it if the average person had a somewhat jaundiced attitude towards our wars and their justifications, but the real villains are the political elite who mislead people.

        On the Gulf War, would you say that it was justifiable to force Saddam out of Kuwait, but not justifiable to bomb Iraqi infrastructure as we did, thereby setting the stage for the sanctions to cause increased mortality rates?

      • Keith
        January 14, 2013, 7:34 pm

        HOSTAGE- “He called it “a noble cause gone wrong”.

        Noble cause? It was “noble” to assist the French in re-colonizing Vietnam? It was “noble” to threaten to withdraw French assistance if they negotiated with the Vietminh? It was “noble” to not sign the Geneva agreements and to initiate covert operations to thwart their implementation? It was “noble” to support Ngo Dinh Diem when he refused to hold elections which he was sure to lose? Elections, I should add, which would have united the country which had been temporarily divided along the 17th Parallel until elections could be held to unite the country. When popular resistance to Diem became a hindrance to US imperial objectives, he was assassinated, different Satraps installed, and the war against the Vietnamese people greatly intensified. The bottom line is that the US wouldn’t tolerate elections in which their candidate was sure to lose, therefore, they blocked a peaceful settlement and made war against the Vietnamese people. This is your idea of “a noble cause gone wrong”?

        “The fact remains that Viet Nam was formally divided into two states that were killing thousands of their own people….”

        The Geneva agreements temporarily divided Vietnam until elections could be held in 1956, elections which the US scuttled. The US controlled collaborators did launch a reign of terror, however, to imply that this was not the result of US support and US policy is sufficiently bizarre to question the author’s sanity. As for your link, I don‘t know where you dug this guy up, but he describes the Vietnam carnage as “democide in Vietnam and by Vietnamese….” In other words, the Vietnamese simply killed each other, the French, Japanese, and Americans apparently not a factor. That you would quote and cite this insanity says volumes about you. Yes, the French, Japanese, and Americans had Vietnamese collaborators, however, the death and destruction is rather obviously the consequence of imperial aggression. You are trying to make it sound like Vietnam was one big civil war which Uncle Sam magnanimously got involved in to save lives. Yeah, right, we dropped “more bombs… on Vietnam than by all sides in all previous wars throughout history….” in order to save lives. Sadly, I think you actually believe that.

        “Nothing that he said about serving Empire was relevant to the question of military intervention to prevent aggression, occupation, and genocide.”

        Everything Smedley Butler said about empire is relevant to current events. Empires engage in aggression, occupation, and genocide, not prevent it. Humanitarian intervention doesn’t exist, its all about power. The Vietnam Veterans Against the War and the Iraq Veterans Against the War understand this, even if you don’t. As for the Rwandans, are you referring to the fact that “The United States has financed and given overall direction to the worst genocide since World War Two, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since 1996, Washington has drenched Congo’s eastern provinces in the blood of over six million people. The governments of Rwanda and Uganda, the direct perpetrators of this holocaust, are in every sense of the word agents of U.S. foreign policy, who operate with impunity under the imperial umbrella.
        link to zcommunications.org

        “The B-52s were providing Close Air Support (CAS) to ground forces via taskings they received from of tactical air control parties or operators in ground-control-radar facilities of the Tactical Air Control System.”

        B-52s are not a tactical aircraft, they are strategic bombers. They didn’t drop a bomb here and fire a missile there. Each bomber was converted to carry slightly over 100 five-hundred pound bombs which were dropped together in a “long box pattern” (carpet bombing). I have seen aerial photography of Arc Light destruction in process. It is a large area that is completely pulverized, seeing all of those 500 pound bombs exploding is terrifying. In Laos, the peasants lived in caves during the day to escape, venturing out only at night. Parts of the Plain of Jars turned into a moonscape. We dropped “more bombs… on Vietnam than by all sides in all previous wars throughout history….”, yet you continue to insist that it was a carefully controlled, cautious effort, rather than the obvious massive wholesale bombing. “In the North, all six industrial cities devastated; 28 of 30 provincial towns and 96 of 116 district towns leveled by bombing.” “But the bombing of South Vietnam was tripled in scale, and much more devastating….He (Bernard Fall) was an American advisor. He describes how he flew with the American planes when they napalmed villages, destroyed hospitals. He described it very graphically. He was infuriated about it, but he describes it.” link to chomsky.info

        All of this imperial death and destruction, all of this massive bombardment of a Third World country (peasants, for God sake), and you keep claiming that it was all the consequence of some low level bad apples who didn’t follow orders. Funny how “insubordinate” Colin Powell got promoted. The notion that the senior officer corps are not responsible for the troops under their command would be laughable if not so serious.

        I’m going to end this now, confident that you will respond with voluminous irrelevant and/or misleading material which you will attempt to use as a distraction from the rather straightforward facts of the matter. I pursued this because I’m shocked that you could, in effect, infer that Vietnam was a humanitarian intervention, a noble cause gone wrong, rather than mass murder, a monstrous crime against humanity by an empire which is indifferent to the suffering it causes in it’s pursuit of power. I wanted it to be clear that under your veneer of legalese, there beats the heart of a militarist and imperial apologist. I am dismayed that none of the other Mondoweiss commenters have so far seen fit to challenge your bizarre interpretation of the Vietnam war.

      • Hostage
        January 15, 2013, 9:08 am

        I was disappointed to see you link to Rummel, Hostage. He’s not a serious source on “democide” and certainly not on the Vietnam War.

        Well that deserves a thoughtful reply. Rummel has received an award for Distinguished Lifetime Contribution to the Field of Genocide and Democide Studies and Prevention from the International Association Of Genocide Scholars (IAGS). Those are the serious experts on the subject.

        During most of his career, Rummel’s research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).

        Scroll on down this page and see what a specialist on the Vietnam War says about Rummel

        Moïse is a historian who relied heavily on the official North Vietnamese newspapers and archives to impeach the reliability of reports to the contrary about the number of executions carried out under the Land Reform program and in other purges.

        First of all Rummel estimates that between 280,000 and 900,000 died as a result of the various purges. While Moïse quibbles over possible errors of 100,000 in Rummel’s estimates, the published errata on his own book admits larger errors in his own published figures. He says that new information proves that he was seriously wrong about the moderating influence of the Chinese on the North Vietnamese Land Reform Program. He admits that the Chinese advisors did push the Vietnamese into committing grave errors, despite his published objections to the contrary – and that he still doesn’t know why.

        He blames Rummel for “borrowing mistakes” from careless authors, but admits that he had relied on a report in the New York Times that contained a typographical error about President Nixon’s estimates that was off by +450,000.
        link to clemson.edu

        FYI, Rummel uses multiple raw sources and explains that his methodology, statistical factor analysis, compensates for over and under reporting. He figures are only “estimates”. link to hawaii.edu

        The weakness in Moïse’s approach is that, in most cases, no one is tasked to collect and document reliable numbers or to conduct audits while people are being slaughtered or put to death en mass. Its also risky to assume that official state propaganda organs are basically honest about the subject of genocide.

        Regarding his bibliographic notes:
        *Moïse’s first two criticisms are that “Rummel has relied on careless authors” in constructing the narrative about the underlying motives for Communist Land Reform programs. He implies that resulted in an over-estimate of the size of the group of landowners who were executed, but doesn’t provide any details.
        *The third complaint claims that Rummel’s source, who said there was a quota for execution of landlords, had employed a term that meant the quota only applied to about 4,000 villages in the region, not to the 15,000 village subdivisions Rummel reported on. But in his own book on the subject, Rummel’s source, a former North Vietnamese official, had claimed 500,000 persons were executed. After applying a factoral analysis and consulting other sources, Rummel only estimated a total of 283,000 (regardless of the original author’s terminology or ulterior motives).
        *The fourth criticism is like the first two, that Rummel has relied upon a summary by a careless author, Douglas Pike, who didn’t realize that accounts about a rebellion in Nghe An, and similar accounts about a rebellion near Vinh referred to the same incident.
        *Finally, Moïse says that Rummel’s figure of 360,000 for the total number of people the Communists killed in the period 1953-56 was achieved partly by counting 100,000 of the people killed in the land reform twice. But in that particular case, Rummel makes it clear that there is considerable overlap in his figures for the various purges and that he is only estimating 283,000 total, not 360,000. link to hawaii.edu

      • seanmcbride
        January 15, 2013, 9:55 am

        Wouldn’t you know that Keith, who describes himself as a “radical dissident” in his Mondoweiss commenter profile, would go on the attack against R.J. Rummel.

        By the way, what’s the difference between a radical dissident and a hard leftist?

      • Hostage
        January 15, 2013, 10:49 am

        when Chomsky writes about it he’s only conveying information he got from others link The problem there was not at the lower level–Julian Ewell was a general who pushed for a high bodycount and got what he asked for.

        I supplied a link in which Chomsky made an argument from silence about the lack of detailed strategic planning in the Pentagon Papers (he obtained from Ellsberg) regarding the bombing campaign in the Mekong Delta. He noted that, by way of comparison, great care had been taken in regard to the plans for bombing North Vietnam.

        The problems in the article you cited were manifested at the lowest levels of command, even down in the rice paddies. Halberstam documented the fact that it was Defense Secretary McNamara who first introduced the policy of collecting statistics on costs vs. enemy body counts – which in and of itself was not criminal in its intent.

        If the General expected higher enemy body counts, as a result of the tremendous amounts of ordinance that was being expended, then he certainly did not get what he wanted when his subordinates interpreted that to mean that they could achieve the same results by killing unarmed civilians instead. Even if that’s what the General had in mind, then there’s an old maxim in the military that asks the rhetorical question: “What’s he gonna do if we don’t, take away our birthday?” My point was that you need people on the scene who won’t carry-out flagrantly illegal orders or interpret legal ones in ways that are illegal. You need people who do insist on observing international humanitarian laws. According to Sardelapasti even the whistleblowers, like the “Concerned Corporal” in your story, is a stupid war criminal merely because he went to Vietnam.

        It goes without saying that William Colby and the Special Forces were not operating behind the back of the Commander of MACV. But the details of those classified covert operations were not being publicized to support elements, other units in theater, or the American public. There are complaints similar to the ones you noted about General Ewell regarding his Naval colleague, (then) Captain Roy Hoffman, who was in charge of Senator’s Bob Kerrey and John Kerry’s units in the Mekong Delta, i.e. he was allegedly “the classic body-count guy” who “wanted hooches destroyed and people killed.” link to salon.com

        The most ironic thing to me about the whole Swift Boat Affair was that everyone was so distracted by the smear campaign over Kerry’s decorations. Kerry came home from the war and testified about serious war crimes that he had witnessed. Then during the Swift Boat campaign the public once again ignored much more serious admissions about downright criminal acts supposedly committed by the protagonists and antagonists alike. So we ended up with the spectacle of public allegations that should have resulted in formal criminal investigations being ignored, not once, but twice. And all the while the media was fixated upon the endless and idle speculation as to whether or not Kerry had earned his medals.

        I remember Pete McCloskey, who was a Kerry supporter, explained to Chris Matthews that 1) destroying villages was a war crime; and 2) that everyone knew it was a war crime to burn villages, while they were doing exactly that in Vietnam. When the seriousness of that situation didn’t register with Matthews, McCloskey reminded him that the Allied Tribunal at Nuremberg had hanged General Yodel for the same offenses that our personal knowingly committed in Vietnam (on much broader scale).

        On the Gulf War, would you say that it was justifiable to force Saddam out of Kuwait, but not justifiable to bomb Iraqi infrastructure as we did, thereby setting the stage for the sanctions to cause increased mortality rates?

        No, I recall saying at the time, that it was a crime to attack infrastructure that was essential to the civilian population of Iraq in the first place.

        The authorization from the UN Security Council had the limited objective of forcing Iraq to implement resolution 660 by withdrawing its forces unconditionally from Kuwait to the positions in which they were located on 1 August 1990, the day before the invasion of Kuwait.

      • Hostage
        January 15, 2013, 11:56 am

        Noble cause? It was “noble” to assist the French in re-colonizing Vietnam?

        Once again you are only making an ass out of yourself and misrepresenting the situation and my comments about it.

        Eisenhower made public statements to the effect that the US would not intervene on behalf of the French and that they shouldn’t try to re-establish colonial rule in Indochina. The American public supported that position.

        No matter whose statistics you employ, the North Vietnamese were known to have killed hundreds of thousands in land reform programs, slave labor camps, and political purges, that caused a million refugees to flee to South Vietnam in the 1950s. The story was depressingly similar to developments in the Korean Peninsula or to the plight of Palestinian refugees. The majority of Americans were in favor of our government taking actions to prevent a repeat performance in South Vietnam by providing military training assistance and foreign aid.

        The Eisenhower administration publicly advised the newly appointed President of South Vietnam that American aid would be conditioned on much needed political reforms – and the American public supported that position too. Those were the “noble causes” that went wrong.

        I wanted it to be clear that under your veneer of legalese, there beats the heart of a militarist and imperial apologist.

        Most of the people here understand that I haven’t defended the crimes that were committed in Vietnam. But unlike you, I don’t think members of the general public can be blamed “from the get go” for the deviations from the publicly announced policies and democratic or humanitarian ideals that they genuinely supported and endorsed.

        The rest of your arguments and critique are either infantile or completely cynical, but definitely not worth the bother.

      • Donald
        January 15, 2013, 11:59 am

        Hostage, the point I’d make about the death toll in North Vietnam during the 50’s is that there are no reliable figures. In fact it’s mostly guesswork. I don’t have to believe Moise’s figures to distrust Rummel’s. One of the things I learned from closely following the debate over the Iraq war death toll was how in many cases the death tolls we read in the paper are tissue-thin in terms of the evidence behind them. I’ve also learned a little in that department from reading about the death tolls traditionally assigned to Stalin–

        Hitler vs Stalin who killed more

        It’s been awhile since I read Rummel, but it was crystal clear that he’s got an ideological ax to grind. I think the whole project is a dubious one in a sense–I’m one of those people who is interested in the number of people killed in various atrocities throughout history, but I think serious study has to be done by expert historians and demographers on a case by case basis, not by someone bent on proving some grand ideological thesis about “government”. What Rummel does seems more like amateur hour, and if I want that then I’ll go for someone who isn’t pretentious about it, someone like Matthew White link

        As for his funding, during the Cold War era I don’t doubt a scholar could get funding for claims that our enemies were guilty of “democide” on a massive scale, while our crimes were statistically tiny in comparison. It strikes me as yet another case where social science was used for propaganda purposes. In fact whole fields of social science seem tainted to some degree in that way–economics for one. I think the social sciences are often in the position that astronomy was in back in the time of Galileo–if powerful interests today depended on people believing in the geocentric hypothesis I suspect the University of Chicago would teach it that way.

      • Donald
        January 15, 2013, 12:27 pm

        Googling a bit I found another thing about Rummel that I’d half-forgotten–his “democracies don’t wage war against other democracies” thesis. There’s a criticism by Ted Galen Carpenter online that you can find. One can clearly see how convenient Rummel’s thesis would be both for the US and Israel. It’s really a moral claim masquerading as a social “science” claim–the fact that the US has overthrown democracies is waved away and as Carpenter points out, the American Civil War is an obvious counterexample.

        On Vietnam and your argument with Keith, I have no dispute with the notion that the Vietnamese communists were ruthless killers. So was our side. So were we and I think the Nick Turse article I supplied shows that the responsibility for our war crimes goes all the way to the top. That obviously doesn’t mean that the average American soldier over there was a war criminal. In fact, one thing about “Speedy Express” is that it was clearly more brutal than the average US operation–not to say that the others were fine, but what led Buckley and Shimkin to realize that something was wrong was precisely the fact that the official statistics were out of line with what was typical in other cases–for instance, the captured weapons to official VC death toll figure was much lower than normal, and the VC dead to American dead ratio was much higher than normal. Which suggested more than average brutality. It seems that the soldiers in the field took their cues from their leaders and if Julian Ewell wanted a high body count, he got what he wanted.

      • Hostage
        January 15, 2013, 1:06 pm

        Hostage, the point I’d make about the death toll in North Vietnam during the 50′s is that there are no reliable figures.

        That’s fair enough, but it’s the same conclusion that Rummel reaches after surveying the available sources. His high and low estimates are half an order of magnitude apart. Here’s a quote from the link I cited earlier:

        The estimates cover different periods; and some cover strictly the “land reform” campaign while others appear to mix up the “rent reduction” campaign with the “land reform” or “political struggle” campaigns, with on going repression and retaliation, or with democide associated with the suppression of rebellions. I try to handle this by dividing “land reform” estimates in terms of their ostensive inclusiveness. Thus I first present estimates of “executions”; then those executed and otherwise “killed”; and then those who also otherwise “died”, such as those tagged as wealthy peasants who were deprived of their land, officially ostracized and thus denied food and shelter. Consequently, in consolidating the “land reform” dead, I made sure that the figures subsumed the consolidated killed estimates, that this in turn subsumed the consolidated execution estimates, and that this subsumed the rent reduction killed. In determining the final democide “land reform” total, I only added the final “land reform” dead to those killed in political struggle, etc., and the suppression of uprisings. The probable democide for this four year period then totals 283,000 North Vietnamese. There was also those who died in prison or at forced labor from 1945 to 1956. One estimate of 500,000 dead from President Nixon, which may have been based on secret intelligence estimates, cannot be accepted without some publicly available confirming information or similar independent estimates. Based on other estimates of the prison/camp population I assumed a 50,000 camp population per year and an unnatural death rate of 2 percent per year, on par with the Chinese rate and much lower than for the Soviet gulag. This gives me a low of 24,000 dead. Then also there were the POWs from the French Expeditionary Force that were killed. Based on the sources, I only dare estimate this number at 13,000. Putting together all these consolidations and calculations, I figure that for the years 1945 to 1956 the Vietnamese communists likely killed 242,000 to 922,000 people.

        The democide estimates for democracies tells us nothing about their propensity to commit genocide against others. It would be an odd state of affairs if true democracies killed inordinate numbers of their own electorates. In general I’d accept the proposition that it was safer to live in Sweden or Switzerland during the 20th Century than in Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Hitler’s Germany, Wilson’s Indian Reservations, or one of the many League of Nations Mandates in the Third World.

      • sardelapasti
        January 15, 2013, 1:10 pm

        Donald
        “I tend to agree with one of your points, which is that we shouldn’t be going after the average American soldier in Vietnam or for that matter, today. Sure, I’d love it if the average person had a somewhat jaundiced attitude towards our wars and their justifications, but the real villains are the political elite who mislead people.”

        And there you throw away the only thing that may ever have a chance to avoid or slow down the relentless repetition of crimes against humanity:
        refusal to obey on the part of the underlings.

        If one does not insist on treating each participant, no matter if he has to desert to avoid participating, if people do not spit on the returning soldiers or refuse to talk to them, if the single soldier of government employee is not seen as a criminal himself, all the highfalutin talk about preventing these crimes becomes exactly what it has become in this country: empty bullshit to make it appear as if all were well, and give some self-satisfaction to literal-minded attorneys who feel their daily good deed is done, satisfactorily with no concrete results.
        Right now, a majority of the public see plain soldiers as irresponsible morons who “must” obey orders. No. There is something called personal responsibility, no matter the formal level where lawyers pretend to be stuck, thereby ensuring that the orders from the owners, those for keeping people obedient, continue to be fulfilled.

      • Keith
        January 15, 2013, 5:14 pm

        HOSTAGE- “Eisenhower made public statements to the effect that the US would not intervene on behalf of the French and that they shouldn’t try to re-establish colonial rule in Indochina.”

        Which proves what? Either that Ike was a liar or that he changed his mind. Curious how the government misinforms the public concerning their intentions and activities. A few quotes below.

        “The initial, fateful step was the decision to make large-scale shipments of military equipment (tanks, transport planes, etc.) to the French in Vietnam in the spring and summer of 1950.…Upon the defeat of Japan, the Vietminh took power in the North, while the British occupied the South, but soon turned it back to the French.”

        “American bombers, military advisors and technicians by the hundreds were to follow the initial aid shipments, and over the next few years direct American military aid to the French war effort ran to about a billion dollars a year. By 1954, the sum had reached $1.4 billion and constituted 78% of the French budget for the war.”

        “A (National Security) Council paper recommended that “It be U.S. policy to accept nothing short of military victory in Indo-China” and that the “U.S. actively oppose any negotiated settlements in Indo-China in Geneva”. The Council further stated that, if necessary, the US should consider continuing the war without French participation.”

        “…while the (Geneva) conference was still in session in June, the United States began assembling a paramilitary team inside Vietnam. By August, only days after the close of the conference, the team was in place. Under the direction of CIA leading-light Edward Lansdale, fresh from his success in the Philippines, a campaign of military and psychological warfare was carried out against the Vietminh.” (all quotes from “Killing Hope,” by William Blum)

        Hostage says: “No matter whose statistics you employ, the North Vietnamese were known to have killed hundreds of thousands in land reform programs, slave labor camps, and political purges, that caused a million refugees to flee to South Vietnam in the 1950s.”

        If that was even remotely true, then the Vietminh would have been much hated, sure to lose the internationally supervised elections agreed upon at Geneva scheduled for 1956, which the US client refused to go along with. Hardly conceivable that the anti-colonial resistance movement which fought against the French and Japanese would have so little popular support. What did Ike say? “I have never talked with or corresponded with a person knowledgeable in Indochinese affairs who did not agree that had election been held as of the time of the fighting, possibly 80 percent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh….” (Blum) How to explain that? Either the Vietnamese are unbelievably masochistic, or your talk of slave labor camps and millions of refugees is pure propaganda. Unless, of course, you are referring to refugees from our bombing campaign.

        To any unbiased person of conscience, it is abundantly clear that our involvement in Vietnam was for strategic reasons, and resulted in the US committing mass-murder and other crimes against the Vietnamese people, whose country was totally destroyed by a vicious and unprecedented bombing campaign. As a career military man who participated in all of this, you appear incapable of acknowledging your complicity in these horrendous crimes against humanity. As a consequence, you have engaged in apologetics and a wild distortion of reality, in effect, cold war propaganda. When it comes to evaluating the history of empire, particularly US military aggression, you are a highly biased and unreliable source.

      • Donald
        January 15, 2013, 6:04 pm

        “much lower than for the Soviet gulag. ”

        As I said, it’s been awhile since I read him, but when I did Rummel was one of those using the figure of many tens of millions for Stalin’s death toll–again, a figure based on not very much evidence. Timothy Snyder in the link I provided above thinks the true figure is lower based on what we’ve learned from the internal documents of the era. Again, I don’t think Rummel is the person to read for serious research and to be fair about this, I don’t think Chomsky is either. (Chomsky is useful for cutting through mainstream bias and for supplying sources that one might not have heard of otherwise, an important service in the pre-internet days, but if I really want to know the history of any given conflict I might start out reading Chomsky, but I don’t end there.) Estimates of death tolls are almost worthless unless one knows what the facts supporting them are. You can write pseudo-scholarly analyses of the numbers, but it could well be a case of garbage in garbage out. That’s one thing that I learned from following the debates on both the Iraq War and the Stalin years. The other thing I learned is that people in these debates present numbers with far greater confidence than is often justified. In fact, the vast majority of people use numbers like medieval chroniclers or propagandists, to impress the reader rather than convey accurate information–they use very big ones if talking about the crimes of those they oppose, the bigger the better, and they use the smallest plausible ones if their ideology drives them in that direction.

        On democracies and democide, my impression (again from memory, since I long ago decided Rummel wasn’t worth any further effort) is that he wasn’t just talking about democracies killing their own. Obviously they won’t be slaughtering their own voters. In fact, you’re making a point I’ve often made on precisely this topic–you can reasonably expect democracies to have far superior human rights records compared to dictatorships if you are talking about the voters within that system, but don’t expect democracies to be much better than authoritarian regimes when it comes to people outside the voting population. The southern part of North Vietnam, for instance, was turned into a moonscape by American bombing there. Hanoi was mostly spared because of the diplomatic presence. (Though it was hit during the Christmas bombing of 1972). I wouldn’t guess the death toll there–it would depend almost entirely on the effectiveness of North Vietnamese civil defense procedures.

      • Hostage
        January 15, 2013, 7:03 pm

        I’d half-forgotten–his “democracies don’t wage war against other democracies” thesis.

        I’m not a fan of his thesis, but I think his collection of raw data and the consolidation of third-party reports regarding high or low reported deaths are still useful information.

        I have no dispute with the notion that the Vietnamese communists were ruthless killers. So was our side. So were we and I think the Nick Turse article I supplied shows that the responsibility for our war crimes goes all the way to the top.

        Obviously I would agree. The way that Johnson escalated and prolonged the war and bombed the enemy to the negotiating table; or the way Nixon covertly widened the war into neighboring countries and mined Haiphong harbor were examples of aggression directed from the top. I’ve also cited examples from the Mekong Delta and Central Highlands where obvious reports of war crimes were never even investigated and our armed forces behaved as if we were waging war against the civilians they supposed to be protecting from aggression.

        It seems that the soldiers in the field took their cues from their leaders and if Julian Ewell wanted a high body count, he got what he wanted.

        It’s unsurprising that soldiers in the field would try to shift blame elsewhere for acts they committed that were flagrantly criminal. The thing that is most disturbing is that, to date, no has been formally investigated to determine if the alibis have any merit and no one in the chain of command has been prosecuted as a result of these revelations. At one and the same time, our government is still interested in pursuing investigations, extraditions, and trials of Nazi nonagenarians.

      • Hostage
        January 15, 2013, 7:32 pm

        HOSTAGE- “Eisenhower made public statements to the effect that the US would not intervene on behalf of the French and that they shouldn’t try to re-establish colonial rule in Indochina.”

        Which proves what? Either that Ike was a liar or that he changed his mind.

        It proves that you rush to write pointless screeds based upon your own cynicism and hindsight and completely ignore the publicly announced policies that volunteers, like Hegal, supported and have in mind when they say that things went wrong. That’s a recipe for making irrelevant and false judgments about the motives of other people during the Vietnam era.

        I don’t find your obsession and commentary about “Empire” to be particularly enlightening when you use it as a prop to explain everything you don’t understand.

      • Donald
        January 16, 2013, 11:55 am

        “It’s unsurprising that soldiers in the field would try to shift blame elsewhere for acts they committed that were flagrantly criminal. The thing that is most disturbing is that, to date, no has been formally investigated to determine if the alibis have any merit and no one in the chain of command has been prosecuted as a result of these revelations.”

        I’m not excusing the soldiers who killed civilians in the Mekong Delta, but from reading the Turse article (and everything else I’ve ever read) it seems quite clear that the emphasis on bodycount by Ewell is what led his troops to think they were to use indiscriminate firepower. I know that “just following orders” isn’t a valid excuse–at the same time, it’s my understanding that the biggest responsibility in such cases would fall on the shoulders of the person in charge.

        No disagreement at all on your second point, but then, I don’t really expect governments to do serious investigations of themselves unless forced to in some way. The US government was never going to do a serious investigation into American war crimes in Vietnam, one that would follow the responsibility up the chain of command and all the way into the White House.

      • Hostage
        January 17, 2013, 12:51 am

        it’s my understanding that the biggest responsibility in such cases would fall on the shoulders of the person in charge.

        The Generals are certainly responsible under customary law. Its called “The Yamashita Standard” or “The law of command responsibility”. But it’s a travesty of justice to excuse anyone who has committed premeditated murder as part of a criminal enterprise.

        The role of commissioned officers, and ultimately Commanders, is to impose regular military discipline, including Courts Martial, in order to deter the commission of atrocities and other crimes.

        In cases where there is a widespread pattern and practice of atrocities over such a long period of time, like the ones we are discussing here, the Commanders were criminally derelict in performing their legal duties.

        In addition to the trials conducted by the international criminal tribunal in Tokyo, there were over 2,200 prosecutions conducted outside Japan against 5600 Japanese nationals, including General Yamashita, for war crimes.

        So it isn’t just a matter of either prosecuting a handful of the top Generals or the foot soldiers. The US and other countries have investigated and prosecuted thousands of cases involving both types of enemy offenders. There really is no statutory limitation for investigating or prosecuting these US crimes if the facts and evidence point in the right direction, e,g. Ex-officer may face justice for atrocities link to toledoblade.com

        If the DoD or DoJ can’t act, the persons responsible can still be extradited to countries that can.

        I don’t really expect governments to do serious investigations of themselves unless forced to in some way.

        Agreed, but what more do our authorities require in addition to all of these public scandals? Even after Seymour Hersh’s My Lai Massacre led to a successful prosecution, The Commander in Chief stepped-in and committed a deliberate miscarriage of justice over the protests of the governments own Prosecutor. See Letter written by Capt. Aubrey M. Daniel to President Nixon, April, 1970 link to law2.umkc.edu

        John Kerry testified to the Senate on national television about a litany of war crimes and cover ups when he returned home from Vietnam. The responsible Senate Sub-Committees held other hearings in which Colby testified at length about Operation Phoenix and the dubious value of body counts involving unidentified civilians. The massacre carried out by Bob Kerrey’s unit was fodder for dozens of national news programs, like 60 Minutes, which did full exposés. Then the issue of atrocities in the Mekong Delta was rehashed once again in the midst of the Presidential campaign.

        None of those examples were cases where the suspects invoked the defense of superior orders. They used the defense that Zionist propagandists employ, i.e. everyone else was/is still doing it – and worse things were being done somewhere else.

      • Citizen
        January 17, 2013, 9:05 pm

        “Right now, a majority of the public see plain soldiers as irresponsible morons who “must” obey orders. ”

        Really? What public, where?

    • Mooser
      January 14, 2013, 11:39 am

      “Yes, the signs of an imminent Vietnamese attack on a peace-loving America were everywhere.”

      It’s very lucky for us they didn’t. Years later, after the war on Vietnam was over, I first ate Pho. Pho is the lunch of champions, and gives one the strength to do what needs to be done, and digests very well. Not mention delicious. And I could never, ever raise my hand against the people who invented it, and brought it to America. It’s lucky I didn’t get drafted. One taste of Pho, my first look at Asian women, and pure herion? Adds up to one deserter.

      • Hostage
        January 14, 2013, 6:27 pm

        “Yes, the signs of an imminent Vietnamese attack on a peace-loving America were everywhere.”

        FYI, in the 1950s and early 1960s the mainstream press and the US government did portray the situation to the public as one in which a Soviet and Chinese-backed third State was interfering militarily in relations between the US and second party State by carrying out a series of terror attacks against western diplomats and US military advisors. The situation was compared to the proxy war on the Korean Peninsula.

        The US had been providing foreign aid and military assistance to France before the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. Despite Eisenhower’s public statements opposing intervention, he covertly ordered the US Air Force to assist the French with hundreds of bombing sorties during the battle. Afterwards the US supplied foreign aid and military assistance to the government of Emperor Bao Dai and Prime Minister Diem as a show of support. The Vietminh naturally attacked our “military advisors”, but the public were led to believe the US role had been limited to training the South Vietnamese armed forces. The details about American participation in the battle of Dien Bien Phu weren’t revealed until several decades after the war. So the public did view the attacks as unwarranted acts of aggression.

  21. eGuard
    January 12, 2013, 11:34 am

    Kristol was born (Wikipedia) December 23, 1952, making him 19 in 1971.

    Better: he was 18 throughout 1971, turning 19 only at the end of that year. So Kristol was right saying “in 1972 I was 19″.

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