Hey, Buddy, Wanna Buy A Used War?

Roundup
tags: Vietnam War, war



I was raised by two historians. My father had a Harvard PhD in history and was a history professor, and my mother was ABD (all but dissertation) in history from Johns Hopkins. History was a conversational mainstay at our family dinner table, and whenever someone accused my father of being less than entirely truthful about something, he would loudly declare, “But I am an historian, and am thus constitutionally incapable of lying!”

In this environment I grew up with a deep respect for the sanctity of history, and the truthful telling of history. One might not always like the way history turned out – who won and who lost – but it was important to be truthful to the historical record. We owed that to future generations. It’s almost cliche by now, but there’s still a lot of truth to it: those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it. And one can’t learn the lessons of history if the historical record is a lie.

That’s why it makes my blood boil that the Pentagon, with the apparent blessing of the Obama administration, is going to spend somewhere between $15 million and $65 million in an attempt to rewrite and whitewash the history of the Vietnam War. That’s enough money to provide a year of health care to 5,000 – 23,000 veterans. 

Almost four million Southeast Asians and 58,000 Americans died in the war. If the Vietnam Veterans Memorial contained the names of all the Southeast Asians who died in the war, the 247-foot wall would stretch out for five miles. That’s bad enough, but now the government is going to heap insult on injury by lying about the war. It’s bad enough that about a trillion (current value) dollars that should have gone to President Johnson’s War on Poverty was squandered on (what was largely Johnson’s) war – now more of our national wealth is going to be squandered on a Pentagon-orchestrated public relations campaign of lies, distortions, half-truths and omissions. 

There’s a Department of Defense Vietnam War Commemoration website. Read it and weep. There’s no mention of the Southeast Asians killed in the war. No mention of the 19 million gallons of Agent Orange sprayed on 6 million acres, an area the size of Massachusetts. No mention of the 3.8 million Americans and 4.8 million Vietnamese exposed to Agent Orange. No mention of the estimated one million birth defects tied to Agent Orange. The website goes on and on about honoring Vietnam veterans, but there’s no mention of the government’s ironclad and years-long denial of the health effects of Agent Orange on the veterans it holds so dear. ...




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