The Vietnam era was a horrendous time for America. The whole debacle, from the false pretenses that initiated our military role, to the no-win war strategy of our civilian leadership, to the abandonment of the South Vietnamese people to the communist butchers of the North, was a travesty. It was a war that ended in humiliating defeat for the mightiest military in world history – at the hands of a pipsqueak tyranny that could have and should have been quickly crushed with little loss of American blood and treasure.
Also appalling was the treatment accorded to our combat soldiers upon returning home. Carolyn Abell documents the injustice over at Gulf1. She writes:
"Largely due to intentional misreporting by anti-war press members, a number of myths and falsehoods were generated and have continued to be perpetuated about this war and the men who fought it."
Among the lies and myths are:
"The few isolated atrocities committed by American servicemen were blown out of proportion, causing the general public to wonder if they had evolved into savage and inhumane beasts reminiscent of the degenerate boys in “Lord of the Flies.” The truth is that while we had a few incidents, the North Vietnamese routinely committed such atrocities against our side—a fact that seldom got reported."
Ms. Abell debunks the commonly held beliefs that drug abuse was rampant among the troops and that the war was fought disproportionately by the poor, uneducated, and blacks. She reports that “A 97 percent rate of honorable discharges among Vietnam veterans should quell any myths that they were largely lawless heathens”.
One of the worst stains on the period (and on 20th Century America) was the existence of the military draft. Unfortunately, Ms. Abell apparently doesn’t see it that way. Instead, she simply denigrates a whole swath of the population as “draft dodgers and cowards”. This is common among those seeking to restore the well-deserved honor of those who served in Vietnam. Your nation needed you, the thinking goes, and you refused to answer the call of duty. Therefor, you must be condemned.
I’ve left the following comments which, for reasons best known to the website, were removed within a day:
I fully support the Senate’s move to give Vietnam veterans the official national recognition they deserve. Exposing the lies and myths surrounding American servicemen perpetrated by New Left nihilists and others, documented here by Ms. Abell, is long overdue.
I must, however, take issue with Ms. Abell’s implicit designation of all draft dodgers and those who did not serve as “cowards”. Those who today “claim credit for military service they never gave” justly deserve condemnation. But many “draft dodgers” were simply acting in accordance with their moral convictions, a basic human right.
The term “draft dodger” was created by that sinister, un-American institution of the time, the military draft. Draft dodger conjures up images of young men ordered to report into service but who illegally evaded it. But remember that there were many, many more legal draft “dodgers”, myself included, who avoided service first through deferments and then through luck because of that ridiculous birthdate lottery system of picking draftees, or who simply claimed “conscientious objector” status based upon religious or moral beliefs. It's been reported that 60% of draft-age men between 1964 and 1973 – some 15+ million - escaped the draft in this manner. Are they all to be branded as “cowards”?
America was founded on the principle that each individual owns his own life. According to the Declaration of Independence, which is the philosophical blueprint for this country, each person has the unalienable right to exercise his liberty to pursue his own goals, welfare, and happiness. America is the first and only country that explicitly endorses a non-sacrificial way of life.
The draft runs completely contrary to these American ideals. The draft forces some people into involuntary servitude to “the nation” in defiance of the concept that “we the people” – each and every individual one of us – are the nation. Ending the draft was Richard Nixon’s greatest tribute to Vietnam veterans, many if not most of whom were forced into involuntary servitude – directly or indirectly – to fight a war that served no national purpose or interest. Forced sacrifice was and always is un-American. The Vietnam era draft dodgers, avoiders, or evaders, whatever their motivations or means, were Americans who should not have been put in the position of having to either break the law or use the law in order to exercise their unalienable right to say no to military service. The right to simply say no is inherent in the American ideals grounded in individual rights, the protection of which is what America’s military is supposed to be engaged in.
Under the rights-respecting volunteer armed forces we have had since, American servicepersons elect to take on the job the rest of us pay them to do through our taxes – defend ALL of our rights. Those Americans who choose to serve do so to defend the ideals that they presumably believe in and that America stands for. They are voluntarily fighting for their belief in America’s non-sacrificial way of life enshrined in the Declaration, because those are the only conditions they presumably wish to live under. Otherwise, why did they volunteer? Yes, it is “noble and honorable” to serve in the American armed forces, because those who do are defending the supreme nobility and honorability of every individual’s unalienable right to his own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
I certainly appreciate Carolyn Abell’s vigorous defense of our Vietnam veterans. It’s time to set the record straight. But, to complete the record, we must recognize the fundamentally corrupting role that conscription had on the Vietnam era and our historical perception of it. By all means, let’s recognize and thank them every March 30th. Having been forced to fight in a war they were forbidden to win only to be treated like villains by many Americans is unforgivable. But let’s not denigrate non-vets in the process.