Ideology and "Psychology", was Re: identifying with the enemy

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Mon May 21 11:02:36 PDT 2001


>For all I know, he might also blame the American
>public for starting the war, as well as having an unsportsmanlike
>attitude about its outcome.

It occurs to me that you've never read anything by Tim O'Brien (or by any other Vietnam veteran writer), aside from the brief excerpts posted here (if you've actually read & understood them at all). Much of what he writes concerns criticism of U.S. government (especially its "plausible denial" [= lies]); self-criticism of the young man that he was who didn't have the courage to follow his conscience ("I was a coward. I went to the war") & by implication others who likewise followed orders instead of their conscience; criticism of those Americans who supported the U.S, government (to the end of the war & beyond); plight of grunts during the war; atrocities committed against the Vietnamese; etc.

Ordinary Americans didn't start the war, but a sizable number of them *supported* the U.S. government throughout the war (whether or not they were ever "in country" -- some dodged the draft by joining the National Guard & the like *while supporting the war*), *actively opposed* anti-war activists (including using violence against them), etc; and after the war, American opposition to U.S. imperialism *waned drastically*, in part due to the U.S. government's & ruling class's propaganda victory:

***** ...Countless Americans came to see the people of Vietnam fighting against U.S. forces as anything but an enemy to be feared and hated. Tens of millions sympathized with their suffering, many came to identify with their 2,000-year struggle for independence, and some even found them an inspiration for their own lives.

But in the decades since the war's official conclusion, American consciousness of the Vietnamese people, with all its potential for healing and redemption, has been deliberately and systematically obliterated. During the first few years after the war, while the White House and Congress were reneging on aid promised to Vietnam, they were not expressing the feelings of most Americans. For example, a New York Times/CBS News poll, published in July 1977, asked this question: "Suppose the President recommended giving assistance to Vietnam. Would you want your Congressman to approve giving Vietnam food or medicine?" Sixty-six percent said yes, 29 percent said no. Ironically, it was only after the war was over that demonization of the Vietnamese began to succeed. And soon those tens of millions of Americans who had fought against the war themselves became, as a corollary, a truly hateful enemy as envisioned by the dominant American culture....

(H. Bruce Franklin, "The Antiwar Movement We Are Supposed to Forget," at <>) *****

After the war, a far larger number of Americans have come to believe in a mythical possibility of American prisoners of war tortured by the fiendish Vietnamese than in an obligation to help the Vietnamese to reconstruct the country destroyed by the U.S. military power (which to this day has been plagued by mines, unexploded bombs, residues of Agent Orange, etc.). Hence the success of American economic sanctions on Vietnam.

***** Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) May 12, 2001, Saturday, Metro Edition SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 1A HEADLINE: A lesson on war brought home; In choosing to focus on one Minnesota man's case, students learning about the Vietnam War and MIAs found a personal and powerful project. BYLINE: Chuck Haga; Staff Writer DATELINE: Holdingford, Minn.

When juniors at Holdingford High School took on the Vietnam War and the issue of U.S. soldiers still held prisoner or listed as missing in action, they made it personal.

They examined the case of William Stannard Forman, a native of Pipestone, Minn., and a Navy pilot who's been on the MIA list since 1966. And they pressed Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., for an accounting of U.S. efforts to learn what happened to Forman.

On Friday, Dayton brought two Pentagon officials -- including the investigator in charge of Forman's case -- to meet with the students. Also in the audience, a surprise to the students: Bill Morgan, of Sartell, Minn., Forman's uncle, and Mary Sorensen, of St. Paul, the missing pilot's sister.

"It's another way to say goodbye," Sorensen said. "I'm here out of appreciation for what the students have done. And, for me, it's time to say goodbye."

Wearing a T-shirt listing the names of dozens of POWs and MIAs, including her brother, she was surrounded in the school auditorium by about 90 11th-graders and representatives of several veterans organizations.

The black POW-MIA flag, with its silhouette of a soldier, head bowed, was hung near a table bearing a single red rose in a vase tied with a yellow ribbon.

The rose was in remembrance of them all, student Tina Pilarski said. She also read the names of about a dozen POW-MIAs whose bracelets Holdingford students wear.

In 1983, 10 years after Vietnam released the prisoners of war it acknowledged holding, Courtenay Forman insisted that her son still could be alive.

"Say he will be 47 years old this year," she asked a newspaper reporter then. "It irritates me when people say he was."

But she also said, "You waver between believing he is alive and hoping he is dead, so he wasn't tortured."

Courtenay Forman died in 1999. Her husband, William, died earlier this year. They had been told by U.S. military officials that there was no oil slick on the water in the Gulf of Tonkin when their son's plane went off radar. His copilot's helmet was found off the coast, miles from where the plane disappeared.

The plane's life raft -- uninflated -- was found on a "friendly" fishing junk.

Ron Cima, a Vietnam War veteran and now an analyst in the Department of Defense POW-MIA office in Washington, D.C., was able to tell the Holdingford students a little more.

But first, he had bad news. The April 7 helicopter crash that killed 16 MIA investigators -- nine Vietnamese and seven Americans -- forced a temporary suspension of the search for remains and other evidence. In addition, one of the Vietnamese who died was a senior Army officer who had worked on the Forman case.

"They were in an old Soviet helicopter, a relic of the war," Cima said, as the hushed students took in this latest casualty report. "There was bad weather, and they flew into a mountain.

"These people were on a mission."

The last contact with Forman was a radio message in the early morning of Jan. 22, 1966, in which he reported that he was going to check a sighting in the waters off the coast of what then was North Vietnam.

Hanoi Radio reported that an anti-aircraft unit stationed on an island 70 miles off the mainland in the Gulf of Tonkin claimed to have shot down a U.S. Navy plane about that time.

MIA investigators recently found material in a Vietnamese museum that identified the unit that shot that plane down, Cima said, and the Vietnamese colonel -- the man killed in the April 7 helicopter crash -- talked with residents of the island and interviewed the unit commander. The commander had kept a diary in which he recorded the action: Forman's plane went down off the coast of the island, it said, and no bodies were recovered.

"It's up to us to go back and talk with the commander again," Cima said, "to ask where exactly the plane went down. How far off the coast? If it was close, then there is a chance we could still find it."

But the copilot's helmet "showed signs of a high-impact crash," Cima said. "The chances of Lieutenant Forman having survived a high-impact crash are almost zero."

In addition, no returning POWs have ever reported seeing Forman, he said.

"There is no evidence that he survived that crash."

How long will you continue to search for evidence of what happened to him? one of the students asked.

"As long as it takes," said Larry Greer, the other Defense Department official who came with Dayton to Holdingford.

"We have to be realistic about what's possible," he said. "But the motto of our unit is, 'the fullest possible accounting.' "

Morgan said that his nephew graduated from St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., with a degree in history and English, but he joined the Navy right after graduation in 1957 and intended to make it his career.

He was married and had two young daughters when he went missing, Morgan said. His wife has died. The daughters live now in Texas and Arkansas, and sister Mary and other siblings live in the Twin Cities.

"I think his siblings have accepted his death," he said. "But I don't think my sister, his mother, ever did."

Teacher Peg Noskowiak said that some of her students suggested asking U.S. officials about POW and MIA recovery efforts after studying the war period. They also said they wanted to "adopt" one MIA, to put a face to the issue, and an advocacy group suggested Forman.

The students trimmed a tree outside their school with yellow ribbons earlier this year on the anniversary of his disappearance.

"Some of their dads and uncles fought in Vietnam," Noskowiak said, "and we read some pretty powerful literature."

Dayton and the defense officials commended the students for honoring the POW-MIA pledge to "never forget."

"It's awesome, as my sons would say, what you have brought together here today," Dayton said. "You're showing the kind of patriotic spirit and views that led [Forman] into service for his country."

"We wanted to make a difference," junior Tiffany Herzog said, speaking for her classmates. "We hoped our voices would be heard."

Nearly 2,000 Americans are still listed as unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, including 39 Minnesotans, according to the Pentagon and POW-MIA groups.

But even now, more than 25 years after the nation's longest war ended, a few of the missing come home.

In March 1999, the Pentagon announced that it had identified the remains of Air Force Maj. John Bailey of Minneapolis. He was on a combat mission on May 10, 1966, when his F-105D Thunderchief crashed with its canopy in place. His remains were recovered from the site during a joint U.S.-Vietnamese excavation in August 1995 and returned to the United States for burial.

Chuck Haga is at crhaga at *****

That's the prevailing "less on the war brought home" now.

>In any case, it _is_ the American
>_public_ O'Brien attacks, explicitly, in the passage I quoted
>yesterday, not its ruling class, and I think we have to go by
>the text.

Don't the American public -- including you & Tim O'Brien -- have a moral & political obligation to resist any unjust war started by the U.S. government, oppose any policy designed to repress people here & elsewhere (even when the policy doesn't amount to a conventional war) such as economic sanctions placed upon Vietnam after the war, etc.?

>Yoshie Furuhashi:
>> ...
>> Have you ever thought about what the Vietnamese people might feel
>> about the American POW myth & demand based upon it? The Vietnamese
>> had to cooperate with Americans, due to the Vietnamese government's
>> desire to have the American economic sanctions lifted.
>> ...
>I was thinking about that. Suppose somebody had invaded
>America and gotten kicked out, and there were now, oh,
>Tasmanians tramping around New Jersey looking for remains of
>missing warriors. I would consider it salutary, I think, a
>coming-to-consciousness about war and what it produces. And
>some of my fellow Americans would no doubt see in the
>Tasmanians sources of entertainment or commercial opportunity
>as well. Of course, Vietnam has a different history and
>culture from the United States, so I can trust my imagination
>only to a very limited extent on this question. What _do_
>the Vietnamese think of it all -- let bygones be bygones?

Do you consider it "salutary" for Americans to dictate the Vietnamese to do their bidding, just because America is a superpower? Like demolishing the modest house of Nguyen Thi Teo at least once during the war, & once again after it, all because of an American obsession? Do you think it's "salutary" for Vietnamese to have to accept the demolition of her house, to be forced to submit to being used as cheap labor digging up holes in search of elusive American remains, etc.? All because of the country's poverty & political powerlessness to which the USA has contributed greatly?


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