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April 23, 2004 2:21 PM   Subscribe

The truth that MeFites don't want you to know. As a follow-up to this post on "the Coffins GWB doesn't want you to see," it is revealed that many of the photographs that ran rampant over the Internet and wire services weren't of fallen American soldiers, but were of the crew of the Columbia.
posted by swerdloff (109 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't know about anyone else, but all the pictures I've seen display a lot more than 7 caskets.
posted by clevershark at 2:25 PM on April 23, 2004


indeed
seems kinda fishy to me too
posted by Elim at 2:26 PM on April 23, 2004


many? Theres 350 seperate photos on that site.

And the military still didn't want them getting out it doesn't change the story.
posted by bitdamaged at 2:27 PM on April 23, 2004


"...all the pictures I've seen display a lot more than 7 caskets."

A casket for each piece they found?

/ghoul
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:28 PM on April 23, 2004


The truth that MeFites don't want you to know.

Yeah, it's such a secret that it's posted twice in the thread you linked to. Wow, what a coverup. Way to go, Mulder.
posted by COBRA! at 2:29 PM on April 23, 2004


Well, why don't we give Bob a call and find out?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:31 PM on April 23, 2004


I was going to post this earlier as an AskMeFi question, but I decided it might not be appropriate. Now that I see a way in: If the government doesn't want the press to cover the Dover casket ceremonies, doesn't want pictures of the flag-draped caskets published, etc., why are there hundreds of nicely composed, dramatic photographs?
posted by emelenjr at 2:47 PM on April 23, 2004


The Air Force released the photos — which the Air Force itself had shot — to Russ Kick, operator of a Web site called the Memory Hole after he filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to have the photos released. Under the Freedom of Information Act, government agencies are generally required to disclose records requested in writing by any person.
posted by Hackworth at 2:50 PM on April 23, 2004


What does the fact that some [many is way over the top] of the images were from Columbia? Does that mean that no one died serving their country in Iraq? No.

Does it lessen their loss? No.

Carry on, now. Nothing to see here. This is not the thread you were looking for.
posted by plemeljr at 2:52 PM on April 23, 2004


So they say "18 rows of images". A row on the memory hole gallery was what, 3 or 4 images? So we're talking 361 total images - 60 to 70 images?

That doesn't mean all the photos were mislabled, though perhaps 20% were from the shuttle funeral.
posted by mathowie at 2:54 PM on April 23, 2004


Way to go, Mulder.

LOL
posted by tbc at 2:59 PM on April 23, 2004


There seems to be a need for some conservatives to feel as though they're being persecuted by some force or other, leading to headlines such as the one for this FPP...

Not that it's a new thing, I remember Rush Limbaugh's assertion that America was "under siege" when Clinton got into office.
posted by clevershark at 3:00 PM on April 23, 2004


Well, the guy has a point - we can't possibly have the American people mistaking the 7 flag covered caskets of astronauts for the 707 flag covered caskets of soldiers killed in Iraq. That might mislead people into thinking there's 714 dead soldiers. We can't have that, at least not until a couple of days pass and there ARE 714 of them, right?
posted by pyramid termite at 3:04 PM on April 23, 2004


The anecdote that swerdloff wants you to skim over quickly: "...Critics suspect that the ban has its origins in an incident involving the president during the first Gulf War. Television networks used a split screen to air footage of returning coffins during a press conference held in 1991 by President George Bush. The elder Bush was allegedly very angered, as he was seen laughing at one point as the other side of the screen showed the unloading of military coffins."

Now let's see that golf swing again, Mr. President.
posted by digaman at 3:05 PM on April 23, 2004


MTV being used as a source here, not once but twice? Oy how times have changed.
posted by mathowie at 3:09 PM on April 23, 2004


70 were previously released pictures of the crew of the Columbia.

Let's see, 350 minus 70 = 280 pictures of American fallen.

Here are Faces of the Fallen
posted by y2karl at 3:12 PM on April 23, 2004


Basically, any of the images showing an honor guard in blue uniforms and caskets being loaded into a hearse are depicting the return of the Columbia astronauts' remains. I can't get to the site right now to verify, but I believe that the style of cargo plane is different, too -- the one carrying the Columbia remains has a high wing that droops down from the fuselage. The cargo plane carrying the Iraq/Afghanistan remains looks more like a civilian DC-10, I believe.

It looks like an honest mistake on the part of The Memory Hole -- in their FOIA request, they asked for pictures of coffins arriving at Dover AFB, taken from February 2003 to the present...a time period which includes the Columbia accident.
posted by Vidiot at 3:13 PM on April 23, 2004


Argh. The perils of eating lunch in mid-post.
posted by digaman at 3:14 PM on April 23, 2004


So I finally found a mirror, and there are 4 images per row, so of the 361 images, 72 are from the shuttle disaster, meaning 289 of the photos are actually of those of the fallen who served their country in Iraq.

That does not, I repeat, does not invalidate the sacrifice those soldiers made for our country, nor does it make the embargo on photographs by a democratic nation such as ours any less shocking.
posted by mathowie at 3:21 PM on April 23, 2004


Way to go, Mulder.

Bush campaign's new slogan for the faithful:

I WANT TO BELIEVE!


he he
posted by sic at 3:24 PM on April 23, 2004


And for the record, as noted on MetaTalk, to which I won't link because it's in a comment otherwise addressed to another member:

As for posting about Iraq--jeez, people have complained about this and I am trying not to overdo it. I switched to trying a once a week post limit on Iraq posts and people complained. So, I've gone to every two weeks. The same people will going on about how I do it daily when and if I do post something Iraq related.

It all depends on the usual set of variables but I do have something in mind for the next time. At the same time, I'm kind of Iraqqed out--it's so depressing to read the news, for one, and then the pollyannas' spin on it here, for another.

On review: What Matt said.
posted by y2karl at 3:30 PM on April 23, 2004


By the way, there was a far more egregious photo misidentification yesterday.
posted by Vidiot at 3:31 PM on April 23, 2004


We can't have that, at least not until a couple of days pass and there ARE 714 of them, right?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:04 PM CST on April 23


Sick.
posted by the fire you left me at 3:36 PM on April 23, 2004


So did the USAF give some items incorrectly to the Memory Hole guy, or did he phrase his request so that they could be "clever" and give him these?
posted by smackfu at 3:42 PM on April 23, 2004


I guess that means people aren't actually being killed. Silly us.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:56 PM on April 23, 2004


That does not, I repeat, does not invalidate the sacrifice those soldiers made for our country, nor does it make the embargo on photographs by a democratic nation such as ours any less shocking.

Cause, you know, it's not like we want to use the corpses of the fallen (who, normally, we call "baby killers") for any sort of political agenda or anything. Nope. No-sir-ee. No way.
posted by hadashi at 3:59 PM on April 23, 2004


it's not like we want to use the corpses of the fallen (who, normally, we call "baby killers") for any sort of political agenda

There are people that want dead soldiers on the front page of the paper to push their agenda, and I think that's a sick thought and not the reasons why I think the photos should have been made public as they were taken. I don't want another person to die in this campaign. We've already lost a great deal of men and women in their prime and every loss is a setback for our nation.

For me is simply comes down to the issue of respect. It seems disrespectful to hide these images. It has a sense of discounting the sacrifice they've made because they're just a number and we can throw 600 and 700 around and compare them to numbers in vietnam or ww2 or car accident numbers and it's incredibly dehumanizing when the reality is that we never see a coffin.

For any sitting president, photos of coffins are obviously a potential PR disaster, but it wouldn't have been a big hit to the Bush campaign if the photos of coffins were public for the past two years.
posted by mathowie at 4:11 PM on April 23, 2004


Hear hear, Matt.

As I said over in the other thread, I think Josh Marshall hits the nail on the head:
But one needn't oppose the war to find something morally unseemly about the strict enforcement of the regulations barring any images of the reality behind these numbers we keep hearing on TV. There is some problem of accountability here, of putting on airs of national sacrifice and not having the courage to risk the real thing, some dark echo of the Rumsfeldian penchant for 4th generation, high-tech warfare where data transfers and throw weights replace bodies at every level.

Of course, the rationale for this policy of barring these images is that to publicize them would be an invasion of the privacy of the families. And certainly if the issue were one of barring photographers from private funerals, perhaps that notion would have merit. But the idea that the privacy of the families is advanced by barring any sort of public grieving and witnessing of these sacrifices just seems ridiculous on its face -- especially when we are often talking about rows of anonymous flag-draped coffins.
posted by Vidiot at 4:15 PM on April 23, 2004


Indeed. This "protect the privacy of the families" stuff is just more Bushian Newspeak, like "protecting the sanctity of marriage" from lesbian couples who have been betrothed to one another for 40 years.
posted by digaman at 4:18 PM on April 23, 2004


Cause, you know, it's not like we want to use the corpses of the fallen (who, normally, we call "baby killers") for any sort of political agenda or anything.

Cause, you know, it's not like Bush and his ilk wanted to use (and let us empasize the verb use....as in use up....waste) these formerly living humans for any sort of political agenda or anything. Nope. No-sir-ee. No way.

And swerdloff? I'm a little unclear on the concept here. Maybe you could actually support your statement, by pointing to the Mefites who wanted to keep this all hush hush, as opposed to, say....the well known group of Mefite ostriches who echo the American right wing in constantly bleating we should stick our heads in the sand over anything to do with Iraq....and over any criticism of the administration.

Heavens, we gotta keep Iraq off Metafilter's and America's front page, right swerdloff? It doesn't make the powers that be look very good to remind people about the thousands dead and dying in Iraq, right swerdloff? Gee, I wonder why the Mefite Iraq censorship cabal is so silent on this particular Iraq front page post, eh?

~chuckle~
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 4:21 PM on April 23, 2004


the fire you left me - it IS sick. Forgive me for expressing the sickness of our times so plainly.
posted by pyramid termite at 4:34 PM on April 23, 2004


This says it all for me. I don't need the other 360.
posted by caraig at 5:03 PM on April 23, 2004


I think the photos should be publicized because we're in a war and we have a responsibility to see the cost.

For any sitting president, photos of coffins are obviously a potential PR disaster

Apparently they're OK for Bush to use in his campaign ads, as long as they're flag-draped coffins from September 11.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:23 PM on April 23, 2004


Conservatives going for conspiracy theories when faced with reality? What a surprise! Hey swerdloff, how's the Vince Foster investigation going?

More conservative "thinking" today:

We must respect the families of the fallen by not publicizing the fallen. Holy shit is that Tillman? He's an american hero! No, I don't have writing to use his name from his family.

The Doonesbury guy is doing a strip about Iraq? Bitch is a naughty word right?
posted by skallas at 5:43 PM on April 23, 2004


(who, normally, we call "baby killers")

Once again...

There is no documentation of anyone ever calling American soldiers "baby killers" during the Viet Nam war or any war thereafter, just as there is no documentation of anyone ever spitting on a soldier. Unverifiable anecdotes abound but there simply is no documentation. There was a chant the Weathermen and their ilk used--Hey! Hey! LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?--at marches, and it was this which was conflated into this beloved right wing myth but there is no evidence anyone ever called a soldier a baby-killer. People did not hate soldiers. Viet Nam veterans were ignored, mistreated indirectly through neglect, refusal to fund veteran's programs and such but there are no examples of people disrespecting American soldiers to their faces with spit of epithets of baby-killers from the war in Viet Nam.

The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam

Myth Making and Spitting Images from Vietnam
The fact is, there is absolutely no record of any peace activist taunting or spitting upon returning veterans. It is myth, and like most myths it is hard to dislodge.

In 1995 sociologist Thomas Beamish and his colleagues analyzed all peace movement-related stories from 1965 - 1971 in the NY Times, LA Times, and SF Chronicle (495 stories). They found no instance of any spitting on returned troops by peace movement members, nor any taunting. Indeed, they found few examples of negative demonstrations involving returning troops of any kind, or even of simple disapproval of returning soldiers. Three years later, sociologist Jerry Lembcke conducted a similarly exhaustive study for his book, The Spitting Image, with like results. He discovered war protesters being spat upon by war supporters, and hostile acts toward Vietnam veterans by conservative, pro-war groups like the VFW, but no taunting or spitting on returned veterans by peace movement members. Returned veterans and in-service GIs were welcomed in the peace movement, and many assumed leadership roles. Yet the myth endures

Cultural myths are often created in a collective fashion over time, as such they represent widely shared values in the group. But myth making is seldom divorced from the politics and power struggles that are always present in society. That is, some myths are created or perpetuated to serve the particular political interests of subgroups. Similarly, some general cultural myths may be reconstructed to serve special interests at the expense of the common good. Myths also help us deal with events that don't fit our world-view. How could a superpower be defeated by a small, "primitive" country? The spitting myth helps redirect that responsibility to an unsupportive peace movement at home.
posted by y2karl at 6:20 PM on April 23, 2004


If it had happened, we would have heard about it then--believe me. The American public was overwhelmingly for the war up until around My Lai. Local TV news would have jumped on any such story like rats on cheese, had an incident happened. But they didn't because they didn't happen. Oh, taunts or spitting possibly might have happened once or twice but not on any scale above what could be counted on the fingers of one hand. And that is being generous. No documentation. What part of that phrase do you not understand? Myth, myth, myth, myth, myth. Like Mulder's poster in The X Files--you want to believe. In a fairytale.

Supporters of the war spitting on protestors--now those incidences were reported. That happened all the time.
posted by y2karl at 6:35 PM on April 23, 2004


By the way, let's tip a glass to our brave Astronauts, fine men and women who prefer death by Science to riding a desk.
posted by crunchburger at 7:02 PM on April 23, 2004


in deed sir/maam a salute to them! (sip)
And two more for the others, and three for those still in iraq.
posted by Elim at 7:59 PM on April 23, 2004


y2karl, I don't know where you were doing the Vietnam war, but my current husband, who lived on the East Coast at the time, was a Vietnam Vet (Navy), was called a baby-killer when he came back to the States.

My first husband, from Los Angeles, who did two tours in 'Nam (Army) and suffered from the resulting post-stress syndrome, was also called a baby-killer upon his return.
posted by lola at 8:04 PM on April 23, 2004


Metafilter: The truth that we don't want you to know.
posted by iamck at 8:53 PM on April 23, 2004


Yes, lola, but these are stories--anecdotes. There is no documentation of servicemen being spat upon. Protestors being spat upon, of this there is documentation aplenty, yes, but not servicemen.

Well, Ron Kovic was spat upon and he was a decorated veteran--but it was at an antiwar demonstration and he was spat upon by a war supporter.

Allegations abound but there is no documentation. Those who protested, protested against the architects of the war--not those who were drafted to fight it. There is ample documentation of anti-war literature. You will no disparagement of soldiers there. You will, however, find ample evidence of soldiers and veterans who marched, organized and protested against the war.
posted by y2karl at 9:05 PM on April 23, 2004


The Myth of the Spat-Upon Veteran

The relation between Vietnam veterans and the peace movement was generally good, since the antiwar people saw the mostly working class vets as just as much victims of the war machine as the Vietnamese peasants. We should remember that in that war, as many as 550,000 GIs went AWOL or deserted. A Harris Poll in 1971 showed that only 1% of the veterans encountered hostile reactions when they came home, and they did not think the antiwar movement was hostile to them.

There are practically no reports of spitting during the war itself (1965-75). The first reported instance occurs during an International Day of Protest featuring "Veterans for Peace in Vietnam." Here it is the war supporters who are spitting on the pro-peace veterans. In 1965, World War II veterans who were taking part in an antiwar demonstration were reviled as "cowards" and "traitors."...

Vietnam veterans did not come home in bulk at the end of the war as WWII vets did; they dribbled back after their usually one-year tour of duty. As the war progressed, thousands of WWII and Vietnam vets turned against the war. The Nixon administration launched a campaign to differentiate between "good" (pro-war) vets and "bad" (antiwar) vets. Spiro Agnew, who would soon be hounded out of office as a felon, led the charge. Overnight, conservatives changed the debate from "our objectives in Southeast Asia" (anti-communism, democracy) to "supporting our men who are fighting the war." (Everyone will remember a similar shift during the Gulf War.)

The single image of the spat-upon Vietnam veteran became the perfect myth of the Nixon-Agnew strategy to discredit the antiwar movement. What solidified the image of the reviled, spat-upon, and eventually crazed Vietnam veteran was the movies. It started in Jane Fonda's Coming Home, where a returning vet is verbally accosted as he returns home: "We don't want your rotten war!" Trouble is, peace activists quietly picketed soldiers going to Vietnam, not returning. But it was the 1977 movie Tracks in which we got the good pro-war veteran and the bad antiwar activist, Mark, who repeatedly spits on his opponents. Hollywood's role in creating the myth of the spat-upon veteran had begun.

And the end result was Rambo, the crazed Vietnam veteran: "But somebody wouldn't let us win. I come back and see all these maggots at the airport. Protesting me, spitting, calling me a baby-killer. Who are they to protest me? Huh?"


It happened in the movies, that's for certain.
posted by y2karl at 9:17 PM on April 23, 2004


MEDIA MYTH: Vietnam Vets and Spit - A Sociologist Reports

In early May, Slate.com hummed with controversy over the issue of spat-upon Vietnam veterans. Slate administrator, Jack Shafer, had written a May 2 editorial taking to task the New York Times and U.S. News and World Report for their references to spat-upon veterans in stories related to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the peace in Vietnam...

The spat-upon veteran stories have been likened to urban legends in that they are manifestations of something in the nation's collective subconscious, perhaps lingering unsettledness about the war. But unlike urban legends, which believers seem willing to relinquish their hold on once the mythical side of the stories is exposed, the accounts of defiled veterans seem to be proliferating and their tellers are surprisingly defensive about the veracity of the tales. Shafer's thoughtful Slate.com editorial received nearly 300 postings, one of the largest ever for that site. Many of them defended the spitting stories and several respondents, claiming to be veterans, offered new versions of having been welcomed home by spit, human feces, and worse. One veteran claimed a "hippy chick" spat dog semen on him after giving her puppy a blow job. Some of the postings contained expressions of hostility against Shafer and me that writers debunking, say, the "hookman legend" would never receive. The volume and vehemence of the defense of the spat-upon veteran stories, in other words, suggest that there are some deeply cultural elements at work in their telling.

posted by y2karl at 9:26 PM on April 23, 2004


swerdloff! we didn't want anyone to know this.
posted by mcsweetie at 10:57 PM on April 23, 2004


Gee, I wonder why the Mefite Iraq censorship cabal is so silent on this particular Iraq front page post, eh?

well, i find it extremely humorous the metatalk cabal keep trotting out that old saw about "number one has said he hates iraq posts and wishes people wouldn't make them" and yet here's number one participating and contributing in the latest. i shall remember this, cabal!
posted by quonsar at 11:38 PM on April 23, 2004


I'm late to this party, but I'd like to kick in my C$0.02 anyway:

If the ban is "to protect the families," then please, please let us see the ban apply to all families that are victims of tragedy.

The news is choc-a-bloc full of obnoxious reporters hassling families of people who've been killed in random acts of violence, who've been perpetrators of violence, who've been found guilty of horrific crimes, who've been found innocent of horrific crimes, who've been close to death in a terrible accident, etcetera.

In almost all cases, the families are distraught and the invasion of privacy by these vulture reporters is an additional stress these poor people do not need.

I'm all for a ban on such lousy journalistic practices. Let's apply it evenly.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:32 AM on April 24, 2004


If someone has killed babies, what should we call them?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:23 AM on April 24, 2004


pro-choice?
posted by David Dark at 2:35 AM on April 24, 2004


South American freedom fighter(let's ask Negroponte)?

Or former girlfriend of a POTUS.

Fun game Dark, care to go another round?
posted by dglynn at 2:59 AM on April 24, 2004


I wish my memory for names was better but I can't help thinking about that big fat guy from some famous think-tank back in the '70s who kept telling us that we could easily survive a nuclear war because such a war would only kill about 40% of the population. So, for the defense department et al, this is just kid stuff.
posted by donfactor at 3:37 AM on April 24, 2004


Oh yeah, I hate that big fat guy.
posted by mokujin at 5:26 AM on April 24, 2004


Herman Kahn
posted by y2karl at 6:33 AM on April 24, 2004


This just in - Chalabi out:

U.S., U.N. Seek New Leaders For Iraq
posted by y2karl at 6:55 AM on April 24, 2004


If someone has killed babies, what should we call them?

pro-choice?

Beautiful.
posted by hama7 at 7:11 AM on April 24, 2004


Beautiful.

as trolls go.

you smarmy little goosesteppers are simply too wet behind the ears to know anything about it: my lai, anybody? baby killers indeed. and if you don't wake up soon, you'll have the same thing happening again. and the same names will be called. go annoint yourselves in wesson and worship your god of death. we have to clean up your damn mess.
posted by quonsar at 7:26 AM on April 24, 2004


...but it wouldn't have been a big hit to the Bush campaign if the photos of coffins were public for the past two years.

Sure, we'd be desensitized to it by now. That's better than not being able to see them at all, right?
posted by Witty at 7:44 AM on April 24, 2004


my lai, anybody?

quonsar, you know I never put it together--My Lai, that's the other source of the myth. Just as the iconic picture of the South Vietnamese colonel shooting the Viet Cong prisoner in the head in the street during the Tet offensive became the Viet Cong forcing Christopher Walken to play russian roulette in The Deer Hunter, so My Lai becomes stories of homecoming soldiers being spat upon and called baby-killers by mostly young women.

I still maintain it was never said. I was there--in the polls, up until the end, the war was popular, in the polls people even wanted to escalate, and the local TV news was pro-military and upbeat as hell, well, except for the weekly reading of obituary notices for soldiers from the greater metropoltian area, that is. Anybody who spit upon a returning veteran in an airport or called them baby-killer in any public place would have been stomped into ground round. In an instant.
posted by y2karl at 8:05 AM on April 24, 2004


hhhmmm... "baby-killers"... as y2karl's already pointed out it's a nice right-wing urban legend. but let's see the details just for the sake of the argument... (emphasis mine):


"Meanwhile, the 1st Platoon, commanded by Lt. Calley moved from the southeast into My Lai. “The first killing was an old man in a field outside the village who said some kind of greeting in Vietnamese and waved his arms at us…This was the first murder,” Herbert L. Carter, a tunnel rat for Calley’s 1st Platoon, later testified.
(...)
Some villagers were accidentally hit by gunfire and went to the soldiers for help. The men of the 1st Platoon cut them down. “She came out of the hut with her baby and Widmer shot her with an M16 and she fell. When she fell, she dropped the baby and then Widmer opened up on the baby with his M16 and killed the baby too,” said Carter in additional testimony to the Army C.I.D.
Another soldier, Pfc. Varnado Simpson, shot a woman, a baby. Afterwards, he went into a kind of shock. “The baby’s face was half gone,
my mind just went…and I just started killing. Old men, women, children, water buffaloes, everything…I just killed…That day in My Lai, I was personally responsible for killing about 25 people,” said Simpson.
The platoon advanced further into My Lai without receiving any enemy fire at all.
(...)
“In at least three instances inside the village, Vietnamese of all ages were rounded up in groups of 5-10 and were shot down…Women and children, many of whom were small babies, were killed sitting or hiding in their homes,” later wrote Lt. General William Peers, who performed the Army’s investigation into My Lai in 1970. Numerous rapes were committed against the young girls of the village, sometimes while their families were forced to watch. Everywhere, dead bodies of women and children littered the roads and fields of the burning hamlet. Captain Brian Livingston, a helicopter pilot and commander, wrote in a letter back home on that very day: “I’ve never seen so many people dead in one spot. Ninety-five percent were women and kids.”
Several minutes later, Calley returned and saw the civilians still alive. “I thought I told you to take care of them?” Meadlo responded by saying, “We are. We’re watching over them.”
“No, I want them killed!” Calley said. Then, as the terrified villagers cowered in fear deep inside the ditch, Calley lowered his M16 from approximately ten feet away and began to fire his weapon. Meadlo was ordered to do the same.
Later, he explained his actions to the Peers Commission in this way: “It’s not your right to refuse that order, and you go out there and do it because you’re ordered to.” For several minutes Calley fired into the panic-stricken crowd as babies and old people were torn to shreds. Meadlo finally broke into a crying fit and could not continue. But Calley pressed on. One by one he killed each survivor who tried to stand including mothers who attempted to shield their children. Months later, the Army’s investigative report summed up this event in very simple terms: “The villagers were herded into a ditch with the larger group of 60-70…At approximately 0900-0915 hours, Vietnamese personnel who had been herded into the ditch were shot down by members of the 1st Platoon.”


heh.
"baby-killers".
such terrible left-wing slander.

_________

also, to go on with the parlor game / troll of the year:

If someone has killed babies, what should we call them?

pro-choice?

South American freedom fighter(let's ask Negroponte)?

Or former girlfriend of a POTUS.


cool.
hamasheaven, I sincerely envy you (and the good God-fearing Fetus Folk), because Monty Python wrote a song for you:

Every sperm is sacred,
Every sperm is great,
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate.

Let the heathen spill theirs,
On the dusty ground,
God shall make them pay for
Each sperm that can't be found.

Every sperm is wanted,
Every sperm is good,
Every sperm is needed,
In your neighborhood.

Hindu, Taoist, Morman,
Spill theirs just anywhere,
But God loves those who treat their
Semen with more care.

posted by matteo at 8:43 AM on April 24, 2004


matteo: first of all you don't need to copy in a whole load of text when you've already linked to it.

second the 'Every Sperm is Sacred' song is more a reference to the Catholic stance on contraception than it is to abortion.

thirdly, David Dark's comment was above all, a joke. And I for one found it quite droll.

and last, y2karl wasn't saying My Lai was a "nice right-wing urban legend" he simply asserts that the baby-killing that did occur there evolved into the cultural myth that soldiers were spat on and called 'baby killers' when they returned. Sure, that is a debatable point but you fail to demonstrate you even understand it let alone can discredit it.
posted by pots at 10:06 AM on April 24, 2004


Thanks y2karl, for the fat guy's name and the link
posted by donfactor at 10:58 AM on April 24, 2004


y2karl wasn't saying My Lai was a "nice right-wing urban legend" he simply asserts that the baby-killing that did occur there evolved into the cultural myth that soldiers were spat on and called 'baby killers' when they returned. Sure, that is a debatable point but you fail to demonstrate you even understand it let alone can discredit it.


I'm happy when people lecture me about stuff. especially when they didn't understand (or didn't want to understand) my point in the first place.

I got karl's point all right.
he correctly stated that the legend here is that there were many incidents of people spitting on veterans. there's no proof of that.
it's an urban legend, a useful right winger's myth.
I didn't want to demonstrate anything, I simply linked a story re the actual baby-killing.
the. actual. baby-killing.
nice details huh?

funny how the part that disturbed you the most about all that (like, the baby whose face was blown off by a US soldier) is that I linked too much stuff in this page. it says a lot about you, about what irks you.
I'm irked by babies slaughtered by soldiers.
you're irked by long quotations.

re Monty Python: the joke is, I (like the MP) generally find the Fetus Folk terribly funny (when they're not threatening abortion doctors, of course, then they become criminally scary).
if life begins at conception, well, why shouldn't that begin in the gonads?
hence, if a fetus (or even a few-days-old bunch of tissue) is a human life, maybe a sperm is sacred, too.

and thanks for defending David Dark. I agree, his comments are jokes. all of them. unfunny, but jokes.

oh, also thanks for the MeFi etiquette instructions -- your 57 comments here make you a master of ceremonies.
or do you have multiple usernames?
;)
posted by matteo at 11:05 AM on April 24, 2004


No multiple user names and of course, you're right - my lack of comments entirely undermines any criticisms I might make...

I'd appreciated your My Lai link and had no issue with you posting it - as someone largely ignorant of the details, I'm you posted it. However, the pasting in annoyed me precisely because I'd already read it and simply didn't need to be spoon fed it.

And I doubt that the "Every sperm is sacred" song was some dig at the absurdities of pro-life arguments. At the time the song was written (and even now) the level of public debate about abortion in the UK was pretty minimal. It just seems very unlikely that the MP guys would be referring to a debate that simply wasn't being had and an argument within that debate that most likely hadn't occurred to them. I can only accept it for what it seems to be - a hilarious dig at Catholic views on contraception. But perhaps you can prove otherwise.

Which leads to the David Dark comment. Where I live the pro-choice/pro-life debate is less bitter, so perhaps I'm more capable of taking an attempt at o/t humour at face value. Perhaps even, I took a dead-serious comment as humour when it wasn't. I don't know. Anyway to me, you're response seemed so self-righteous, so right-on and humourless (in spite of the MP link) I couldn't help but take a dig in response.

As for the y2karl comment response, I'll just say, "fair enough". I misunderstood what you wrote and got on my high horse. Mea culpa.
posted by pots at 12:16 PM on April 24, 2004


I think the spitting myth, to some degree, grew from the somewhat understandable resentments of largely working class Vietnam soldiers had against the largely middle and upper class protestors.

Other incidents can be ascribed to legitamite but misdirected anger from both sides. Chanting "Ho! Ho! Ho Chi Minh!" or waving a Viet Cong flag would probably piss off someone who had a son overseas.

The tales of rabid mobs attacking returning soldiers are certainly exaggerated, but don't try and tell me that the anti-war movement didn't have it's moments of stupidity and ideological excess. I'm saying this as someone trying to learn from past mistakes here, not as a pro-war hawk. The anti-war movement has to look critically at itself, too.

If someone has killed babies, what should we call them?

All she said is that her husbands served in Vietnam (as did my Dad, a couple of other relatives, and numerous freinds of mine). None of whom have bayoneted any infants. Yes, My Lai and other atrocities happened. But to tar all veterans with that image is as much a disservice as tarring the whole anti-war movement with the spitting-on-vets image.
posted by jonmc at 12:44 PM on April 24, 2004


a hilarious dig at Catholic views on contraception.


it is, it is.
but you know perfectly well that the very strict view of the Church on contraception are based on a very simple fact -- as proven as of late by the Evangelium Vitae encyclical letter by the Pope ("To the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, Men and Women religious lay Faithful and all People of Good Will n the Value and Inviolability
of Human Life, 1995.03.25) the common roots of contraception and abortion are very clearly stated.

hence, the Chruch syas, no condom buddy -- even in Africa, even if you'll catch AIDS. cause you'll kill all those sainted spermatozoa
snuffing out a potential human life


None of whom have bayoneted any infants. Yes, My Lai and other atrocities happened. But to tar all veterans with that image is as much a disservice as tarring the whole anti-war movement with the spitting-on-vets image.

fair enough.
but even if we assume that spitting on a veteran is exactly as bad as killing a baby (which I'm not ready to do) we have to admit that the baby-killing (in MyLai but not only there) DID happen and there's evidence, inquiries, confessions.

the spitting incidents are not documented. there's anecdotical evidence of possibile isolated incidents, but see karl's links, the big story itself is an urban legend.

so it's fact (slaughtered babies) vs fiction (a massive bukkake-in of spit organized by salivating peaceniks)
;)
posted by matteo at 1:41 PM on April 24, 2004


Chanting "Ho! Ho! Ho Chi Minh!" or waving a Viet Cong flag would probably piss off someone who had a son overseas.

I went to a few demonstrations in my time, and while there was always your cult left wingers there, the sort that evolved in the Revolutionary Communist Party, who chanted stuff like that, it was an isolated few. Most kids back then had an anti-authoritarian attitude but beyond that, were apolitical. The hard core lefties were considered un-hip, because, well they usually were--clueless boring jerks who couldn't stop yammering the same revolutin' yadda yadda at parties while calling any black men present "brother". God, they were a pain in the ass.

Servicemen and veterans were not abused. Scour the net for documentation, jonmc, and you will not find any suggestion in the literature promoting the abuse of soldiers. Organizing, yes, but not abusing.

The returning vets got treated like pariahs by groups like the VFW, less than benignly neglected by Congress and such, but Americans did not spit or yell "baby-killer" at soldiers or veterans. If they had, it would have made the news. You have no idea of how hated the so-called hippies--meaning, in this case, anybody with long hair--were.

I was in Chicago in the summer of '68 about six or seven weeks after the Democratic Convention, visiting my aunt and uncle, and I remember this lady ramming me and my brother oh so gently with her car while we were crossing a street near their house. Sure, people demonstrated in college towns and larger cities but if you went out into the country, man, it was chilly.

I remember going into a restaurant with my ride in Muskogee, Oklahoma, in 1970 while hitch-hiking cross-country: the waitress wouldn't look at me, asked the guy giving me the lift, "What's he want?" and some guy got up and played Merle Haggard's The Fightin' Side Of Me on the jukebox. You can imagine how the food was--there weren't any microwaves yet but that BLT and burger were nuked to a crisp, I tell ya. I told the guy it was a bad idea to go in there, but no-o-o, he wouldn't listen.

These anecdotes might suggest the immutable truth: there were very, very few arenas in which it was even possible a person could safely abuse a soldier or veteran and get away with it had they wanted to. You simply could not pull that crap in an airport or train station without a swift and severe economy sized, industrial strength can of whoop-ass being opened on your head. And that would be before the police got there for round two--and you have no idea how truly mean cops can be, buddy. Those guys had a license to whack then and, man, they did any chance they got. Once I saw billy clubs and tear gas used to shut down a party, for chris'sake.

There was a well-oiled propaganda machine in the Nixon administration and they were beating the patriotic drum non-stop. They would have taken any story of protestors spitting on or yelling 'baby-killer' at soldiers and run it into the ground. There would be a record somewhere if this abuse happened. There isn't. That should tell you something.

I certainly wasn't tarring all veterans with the My Lai story--I was just saying that's a big thread of what got turned inside out into these soldiers-being-called-"baby-killer" stories.
posted by y2karl at 1:49 PM on April 24, 2004


You have no idea of how hated the so-called hippies--meaning, in this case, anybody with long hair--were.

Actually, I do. I've known plenty of people from every side of the equation, and I've read just about every bit of literature connected with that era. Hell, I spent most of the 80's wishing it was the 60's and taking a fair amount of shit for it. Believe it or not, I'm on your side, but I'm just trying to think critically about the whole thing.

The hard core lefties were considered un-hip, because, well they usually were--clueless boring jerks who couldn't stop yammering the same revolutin' yadda yadda at parties while calling any black men present "brother". God, they were a pain in the ass.

I'm here to tell you that they're still around and getting louder and more obnoxious. As an anti-war person, I just kinda want them muzzled or kept on leash because they have a tendency to drive people away. And as you said the media will seize on those type of things. There's no need to provide them such easy pickings.


you have no idea how truly mean cops can be, buddy.


Oh, I've had an encounter or two with cops in my time. I have an idea. But, at the same time, I understand that they have an unpleasant job to do and I respect it.

I'm not at war with anyone here, I just have my own perspective to add, as well.
posted by jonmc at 2:26 PM on April 24, 2004


I went on a march last year and I didn't see anything but teenagers, kids and parents. People with babies in strollers, grannies, that sort of crowd. No left wingers except a couple of guys with a megaphone who got shouted down when they tried to start a chant. They quit forthwith. There's a lot less of that sort visible now than back then. Way way less.
posted by y2karl at 2:51 PM on April 24, 2004


There is no documentation of servicemen being spat upon.

There would be a record somewhere if this abuse happened. There isn't.

No documentation doesn't necessarily mean it didn't happen. I was passing through SF airport in uniform, some clown spit on me, I started for him, he ran away. Where was I supposed to complain? What was I supposed to say? I never saw barrages of saliva spattering platoons of veterans, but I can absolutely attest to at least one incident. If your experts want documentation, direct them to this thread.
posted by joaquim at 3:41 PM on April 24, 2004


And I for one found it quite droll.

*blushes*

Thanks, pots. Some people hold grudges around here, maybe you've noticed . . . apparently my cracking a joke negates the possibility that I've ever had an opinion worth taking seriously. . .

y2karl, given your personal history you were kind enough to share, your desire to maintain that no vet was spat upon and no insult was uttered is understandable. And to maintain that the stories have grown into more myth than reality, as stories are wont to do, is even reasonable. But to call every Vietnam Veteran nationwide a liar who never dodged spit or got called a baby killer is pretty low. How could you possibly know that? Even in this thread, lola, sharing her first-hand accounts of two separate Vets she was married to, and therefore, presumably extremely intimate with, you claim she's being hoodwinked by two liars while you alone have cornered the truth of the subject matter. Do you think every soldier who stepped off a plane wearing his dress blues was received by media coverage? Every soldier who wore his uniform while attending a wedding, funeral, or small town parade was constantly followed by reporters?

This is what you can say with certainty: "I never spat on a Veteran. I never called a Veteran a 'baby killer', and I never witnessed either occurrence." The rest is conjecture, and downright disrespectful to lola and anyone else who may have been called a name by one of your while sitting in a coffee shop after returning home.

joaquim, thank you. His story-- anecdote-- illustrates exactly the point I was trying to make.
posted by David Dark at 4:23 PM on April 24, 2004


There's a lot less of that sort visible now than back then. Way way less.

Maybe, in Seattle, but not in New York. I'm not saying you're wrong, just telling you what I've seen.
posted by jonmc at 4:38 PM on April 24, 2004


Did any individual who was protesting the war ever spit on any servicemember?

Given that spitting is a time-honored way in Western culture for rude people to express contempt for others, and that the anti-war protesters must, by the laws of statistics, have included some rude people among their number, it seems quite likely that it did happen to someone somewhere at least once.

However, the message of the urban legend, as it's generally related, isn't that one anti-war protestor spat on one servicemember--it's that anti-war protestors constantly, or usually, or generally spat on returning servicemembers.

Given that there were a number of pro-war, anti-protest journalists seeking out stories to discredit the anti-war protestors, it seems unlikely that it happened very often--and certainly not as a matter of course--as there was no coverage of it at the time.

The Legend of the Expectorating Protestor came into being years after the fact. This is not to suggest that no rude asshole ever spat on a servicemember as part of a misguided and uncouth attempt to protest the Vietnam War--there is hardly anything so childish that some rude asshole hasn't done it at some point.

But the Legend is more than the sum of all the occurrences of the action it relates, and the Legend is pretty flimsy in its connotation, regardless of the likelihood of it actually happening to some people.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:40 PM on April 24, 2004


I would point out that nobody has yet found any contemporary reference--not just in a published source, but in a personal journal or letter that can be reliably dated--to a returning servicemember being spat on by an anti-war protestor.

Again, that doesn't mean it never happened; but it does suggest it wasn't very common at all.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:43 PM on April 24, 2004


Jim Miller has written an interesting article:
The Rules of Engagement vary from war to war and battle to battle, but in Vietnam the rules were designed to minimize civilian casualties, very much at the expense of the GIs. When you don't use suppressive fires, the enemy has a big advantage. There is nothing but what the GI has with him to keep the defenders from killing the attackers.

I was talking to Mark Berent, a retired Air Force fighter jock and bestselling author (Rolling Thunder, Steel Tiger), bemoaning the fact that our GIs were called "baby killers" when they lost so many trying to avoid civilian casualties. "I'd say at least half the casualties on the Wall were a direct result of our efforts to avoid civilian casualties."

"I'd say all of 'em," Mark replied.

From an Air Force perspective we could have turned all of Vietnam into blasted earth and dead people and not lost a man.
My Lai was a tragic exception by a very few who crumbled under immense fear and pressure. But the fact that it DID happen gives some underthinkers an excuse to get out their broad stroke paintbrushes, making it seem like the "documented" American rule of war. Is it unreasonable to assume that some of y2karl's non-friends, the unhip hard core cult left wingers, might have cynically tossed the phrase a time or two at a man in uniform?

Hell, look what's happening at protests today (oddly enough, very unlike y2karl's calm description of grandmommies pushing baby strollers).
Dan, from Allentown Pennsylvania said he was also attacked, “I was attacked by 3 different people, 2 at the same time... I was also called ‘baby-killer’ throughout the day.”
Does that qualify as 'documentation', or is it still just an urban legend?
posted by David Dark at 4:59 PM on April 24, 2004


*Gently nudges Sidhedevil.*
posted by David Dark at 5:01 PM on April 24, 2004


Then there was Bob Greene's book, Homecoming, which is a collection of letters from Vietnam Vets who talk about their experiences returning from the war.
Syndicated columnist Bob Greene heard the stories about anti-war protesters abusing Vietnam veterans, and wondered if they were true. He asked his readers to tell their stories, and then he checked them out. Despite denials from the Left, Greene found that protesters and others did, indeed, spit on and abuse returning veterans.
I haven't read it, but it is a contemporary reference in a published source.
posted by David Dark at 5:42 PM on April 24, 2004


I grew up in the Viet Nam era (my older brother just missed being drafted), and I know and work with many Viet Nam veterans. Most of them don't like to talk about their experiences while there, or afterwards. They came home after their tour of duty having been drafted, or enlisting to avoid being drafted, to a country that they felt disowned them. It's like it was an embarrasment to have served the country, done what they were basically forced to do by the government. They weren't the returning war heroes from WW2, and didn't come home to praise and fanfare. They were put in a crappy situation, they survived, and they feel like they got blamed for it. I have one good friend that once mentioned that he was there, and I had had no idea. He told me he didn't like to talk about it, but he did tell me he had been in the infantry. Instead of asking him what went on while he was there, or how he felt about it and all that, I simply thanked him. You can have all your studies about whether someone was spit on or not (to me that's just academic bullshit which looks at a symptom, but totally avoids the cause), but the prevailing attitude towards these returning soldiers was a cold shoulder. They were on a losing team that never had a chance because of lousy leadership, and no one likes a loser. While the political leadership went on masturbating all over eachother, the soldiers took the blame.
posted by Eekacat at 5:43 PM on April 24, 2004


Oh, the fun boys and girls of ANSWER. David Dark, as I said earlier in the thread, the best thing the ethical anti-war protestors (who to be fair, are probably in the majority) could do is muzzle those fucks. In New York, half the demonstrations have been polluted by them. On the day of the biggest rally in NYC half the signs I saw people carrying were emblazoned with "Provided by International ANSWER."

This is bad for three reasons, one, it makes all anti-war people look like fruitcakes, and two when they act up and hurl stupid invective, others caught up in the frenzy feel more comfortable joining in. Three, I could never march besides people who have publicly supported Stalinism, and I'm sure I'm not the only one, so they're alienating people who could actually help the anti-war effort.

This is coming from someone who would like to see the war end, mind you. But hey, whatever.

Eekacat, that was probably the most cogent entry in this thread. When it comes to the misfortunes of the Vietnam veteran, everybody can step up and eat a slice of blame pie.
posted by jonmc at 5:47 PM on April 24, 2004


From The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam:

Another kind of grist is the claims by veterans today that they were spat on. During the 1980s these stories began to proliferate, which prompted Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene to ask Vietnam veterans to send him their stories of being spat on. Greene compiled the responses he received for a 1989 book, Homecoming.

These stories have to be taken very seriously, but as historical evidence they are problematic. In the first place, stories of this type didn't surface until about ten years after the end of the war. If the incidents occurred when the storytellers say they did, in the closing years of the war, why is there no evidence for that? Moreover, many of the stories have elements of such exaggeration that one has to question the veracity of the entire account. One that Greene published read,

My flight came in at San Francisco airport and I was spat upon three times: by hippies, by a man in a leisure suit, and by a sweet little old lady who informed me I was an "Army Asshole."

Besides the fact that no returning soldiers landed at San Francisco Airport, I find it hard to believe that the same veteran was spat on three times in one pass through the airport.


Bob Greene published a bunch of undocumented anecdotes. They checked out? What, we take his word for it sans any proof? Where's the beef?

Spat on three times in an airport. Like that could happen.

From MEDIA MYTH: Vietnam Vets and Spit

But there might be something deeper than political socialization that accounts for the news media's attraction to these stories. Journalists, after all, have been implicated in the myth of spat-upon veterans since the mid-1980s when Chicago Tribune syndicated columnist Bob Greene reproduced dozens of the stories in his book, Homecoming. (Much of the critical correspondence I receive on my book The Spitting Image refers to Greene's book as "evidence" that I'm wrong.) Moreover, the press establishment seems to ignore the challenges to the myth mounted by me and others. Both the Boston Globe and the local Telegram & Gazette (as well as other major city papers) have done feature stories on my book yet their writers continue to use the image of spat-upon veterans in their work.

A further clue that something more than miseducation is at work in the retelling of these stories, is that many of the recent invocations of the abused veteran image are used to talk about things only tangentially related to what they are ostensibly about. It's as if stories of spat-upon vets have become a kind of trope, a way of talking about things related to the war that we don't know how to otherwise express.


Once again, no such story was ever mentioned in the press at the time.These stories appeared later. Anecdotes. Bob Greene presents anecdotes collected and published in 1989. 1989 is not exactly contemporary with the Viet Nam war and those anecdotes are not exactly proof.

Eekacat--I know and have know plenty of veterans. I had a friend who came back crazy and eventually killed himself in the most absolutely gruesome and horrible way. The guys I know don't even want to talk about it, except for the wild things they did in bars and on leave. The war stuff they talk about never. There's a lot of guys my age who still use a bit of pidgin French they picked up from the Vietnamese when they were there.

They were lied to, thrown into an ugly, ugly war and expected to come back and plug right in. I don't know about thanking them as thinking what they deserve is an apology and cpmpensation for the torment we subjected them to by sending them there and then stiffing them when they got back. Yes, they were treated like the ghost at the banquet when they came back and shelved all the while this whole other fantasy Viet Nam was being invented in the movies and deep cultural voodoo and becoming the Viet Nam of the popular imagination. It's a crying shame.
posted by y2karl at 8:26 PM on April 24, 2004


Drooling on the Vietnam Vets by Jack Shafer

Lastly, there are the parts of the spitting story up that don't add up. Why does it always end with the protester spitting and the serviceman walking off in shame? Most servicemen would have given the spitters a mouthful of bloody Chiclets instead of turning the other cheek like Christ. At the very least, wouldn't the altercations have resulted in assault and battery charges and produced a paper trail retrievable across the decades?

The myth persists because: 1) Those who didn't go to Vietnam--that being most of us--don't dare contradict the "experience" of those who did; 2) the story helps maintain the perfect sense of shame many of us feel about the way we ignored our Vietvets; 3) the press keeps the story in play by uncritically repeating it, as the Times and U.S. News did; and 4) because any fool with 33 cents and the gumption to repeat the myth in his letter to the editor can keep it in circulation. Most recent mentions of the spitting protester in Nexis are of this variety.


posted by y2karl at 8:43 PM on April 24, 2004


you smarmy little goosesteppers are simply too wet behind the ears to know anything about it: my lai, anybody?

I thought better of responding to this, but then I thought again.

The parties responsible for the incident at My Lai were prosecuted. Whether or not it was justified is still in question, because the area was a Viet Cong stronghold, and the VC had no compunction about recruiting "civilians", children and women to do their dirty work. The U.S. pullout from Vietnam gave rise to one of the most bloodthirsty leftist regimes in history.

When the enemy immorally uses the civilian population as quite-possibly-and-very-often-bomb-wielding human shields, there is little option but to reduce their field of potential recruits. That My Lai occurred is inexpressibly tragic, but that a hundred thousand My Lais at the vicious, bloody hands of the Communist enemy were not prevented is even more infuriatingly horrific. The Viet commie cause was morally wrong, and the United States' support of the South Vietnamese was not. The Viet Cong no longer exists, nor does the Hussein regime.

If atrocities mean anything to you, as you claim in certain cases, then these photographs should open the gates of Hell.
posted by hama7 at 8:55 PM on April 24, 2004


From the Progressive Sociology Network Discussion Archive : [Fwd: [sixties-l] The Myth of Spitting]

When Dr. Robert Lifton began giving psychiatric evaluations of returning veterans, his work would serve to pave the way for the recognition of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS.) Dr. Lifton reported that no veterans gave any examples of this kind of behavior. The fact of the matter is that the most abusive treatment of veterans did not come from hippie girls, as the fourth rate hack Bob Greene of the Chicago Sun Times reported, but from the administration and VFW halls across the nation.

Many veterans that I have spoken to remember being abused by VFW members who often ridiculed them. They did this by telling the returning veterans that their war was not a real war or often asked them, "why they couldn't win their war?" The other group to abuse veterans was Richard Nixon's administration whose VA refused to treat them for agent orange poisoning. Nixon also used informants against the veterans that opposed the war and turned the FBI loose to disrupt their activities.

There was, however, one group that did indeed spit on veterans. The young republicans who spat upon on Ron Kovic and other veterans at the 1972 republican convention. The veterans were protesting and calling for an end to the war in Vietnam and were greeted by the young zealots of the GOP who cursed and spat upon them. Let's get the record straight once and for all. It was the administration who abused veterans by sending them to fight and die and then not taking care of them afterward, not the anti-war movement.


So, Kovic was spat upon by Young Republicans--the ironies just never quit.

I would like to know more about that Dr. Lifton, too.
posted by y2karl at 9:18 PM on April 24, 2004


Besides the fact that no returning soldiers landed at San Francisco Airport, I find it hard to believe that the same veteran was spat on three times in one pass through the airport.

Plenty of servicemen in this freepers thread were in uniform and passing through SF Airport upon returning from Vietnam.

Spat on three times in an airport. Like that could happen.

Is this seriously your best attempt at debate? Like that could happen? Unreal.

y2karl, I'm sorry, your logic is ridiculous, and you're starting to repeat yourself. Not good signs for convincing anyone to support your unverifiable, unprovable argument over the word of thousands of Vietnam Vets.

And I believe joaquim is still waiting for you to stop beating around the bush and just call him a filthy liar to his face.
posted by David Dark at 9:19 PM on April 24, 2004


Whether or not it was justified is still in question, because the area was a Viet Cong stronghold, and the VC had no compunction about recruiting "civilians", children and women to do their dirty work.

And babies, of course. If there's one thing I'll never forgive the VC for, it's their recruiting of babies to do their dirty work.
posted by soyjoy at 9:23 PM on April 24, 2004


David, do you also believe (as y2k cites above) one veteran's story that a "'hippy chick' spat dog semen on him after giving her puppy a blow job" or is that veteran a "filthy liar"? It certainly seems that somewhere along the line, personal anecdotes have in many cases became clouded and distorted.

Or, in other words:
David, I'm sorry, your logic is ridiculous, and you're starting to repeat yourself. Not good signs for convincing anyone to support your unverifiable, unprovable argument over the absolute dearth of recorded evidence contemporary to the events.

Y2k is repeating himself no more than you are; you fall back on saying, "the word of thousands of vets" as much as y2k repeats the fact that there is no record whatsoever prior to the 80s.

Really, everyone is repeating themselves now. I think its fair to say this argument has reached what my philosophy teacher liked to call the staring contest stage. Everyone has said their piece, and all that's left to do is stare at each other and think, "I can't believe that you believe those terrible things!"
posted by rafter at 9:45 PM on April 24, 2004


hama7 - then again, even if I were to accept your characterization of the post 1972 Vietnamese regime ( "The U.S. pullout from Vietnam gave rise to one of the most bloodthirsty leftist regimes in history."), would you deny that US bombing, in Southeast Asia, during the Vietnam War killed several million civilians?

Free Fire Zones? Napalm?
posted by troutfishing at 10:45 PM on April 24, 2004


Consider the alleged burning flesh of children - real ? fantasy ?
posted by troutfishing at 10:53 PM on April 24, 2004


Vietnam and Other American Fantasies - The Antiwar Movement We Are Supposed to Forget

Especially after the 1968 Tet offensive, antiwar sentiment spread widely among the combat troops in Vietnam, where peace symbols and antiwar salutes became commonplace. Some units even organized their own antiwar demonstrations to link up with the movement at home. For example, to join the November 1969 antiwar Mobilization, a unit stationed at Pleiku fasted against the war and boycotted the Thanksgiving Day dinner. Of the 141 soldiers classified below the rank of specialist fifth class, only eight showed up for the traditional meal; this "John Turkey Movement" spread to units all over Vietnam. When Bob Hope introduced General Creighton Abrams, commander of all U.S. forces in Vietnam, to the 30,000 troops assembled for a Christmas show at the sprawling Long Binh base, the entire throng leaped to their feet and held their hands high in the "V" salute of the peace movement. But the main activities of antiwar U.S. servicepeople in Vietnam were not peaceful demonstrations...

An ongoing dilemma for the antiwar movement back home was the difficulty of finding ways to move beyond verbal protest and symbolic acts to deeds that would actually interfere with the conduct of the war. The soldiers in Vietnam had no such problem. Individual acts of rebellion, ranging from desertion and sabotage to injuring and even killing officers who ordered hazardous search and destroy missions, merged into mutinies and large scale resistance.

As early as the spring of 1967, sporadic small scale mutinies were being reported in the French press but not in the U.S. media except for the movement's own press (see chapter 5). The most serious occurred on April 14 at the base of Dau Tieng (east of Tay Ninh, north of Cu Chi), when a unit of the Third Brigade of the Fourth Infantry Division defied orders to proceed on a search and destroy mission near where another unit had been badly cut up. The commanding officer ordered other soldiers to fire on the rebels, who returned the fire. One report indicated dozens of men killed or wounded and three helicopters destroyed. The base was sealed off and no outside personnel were admitted for three days.

Combat refusal and outright mutinies spread rapidly after the Tet offensive in 1968. But news about this form of growing GI resistance was kept rather efficiently from most of the American public until August 1969, when correspondents reported firsthand on the unanimous battlefield refusal of a badly mauled infantry company to go back into combat . During the next two years, the press published numerous reports of entire units refusing direct combat orders, and the public actually got to see two incidents of,rebellion on network television.


Viet Nam is not so simple as people like to make it out to be.
posted by y2karl at 11:18 PM on April 24, 2004


Vietnam and Other American Fantasies book review
posted by y2karl at 11:30 PM on April 24, 2004


y2karl, I don't know what you mean by this : "I don't know about thanking them as thinking what they deserve is an apology and cpmpensation for the torment we subjected them to by sending them there and then stiffing them when they got back"

This person is a good friend of mine, and it was quite a revelation when he said he had been there in the infantry. Thanking him was something I did on a personal level, and from the look on his face, I don't think anyone had ever said anything like that to him. I told him I appreciated his service and was sorry for all he had to go through. Was I supposed to hand him 20 bucks as my part of his compensation? (sarcasm) I agree that the nation owes them an apology, but as individuals we should have treated the returning soldiers with more respect, and to do so now as well. Go ahead and worry about whether or not returning soldiers were spit on or not, I'll spend my energy treating my friends and coworkers with respect.
posted by Eekacat at 3:32 AM on April 25, 2004


rafter, if you had read that article closely (and maybe you did) you would have seen that the comment you are referring to was posted to the internet on Slate.com in response to Jack Shafer's editorial "Drooling on the Vietnam Vets" posted May 2, 2000. As a member of Metafilter, I'm sure you realize that not all comments on websites are made in earnest, and in fact, many are made for the sole purpose of making another commenter look foolish. I tried to find the entire comment over in Slate's Fray archives to get a better idea, but the archives only go back to November, 2000, and therefore the only thing I can really be sure of is that the words "hippy chick" were used, since that was the extent of the comment Jerry Lembcke felt compelled to quote directly. This comment was likely an instance of someone who feels the same way as y2karl and Shafer poking fun at another commenter's story, or perhaps it was just a thirteen year old girl trolling for kicks. Regardless, you can't possibly expect me to give random internet posters as much weight as I'd give war veterans whom Bob Greene personally verified as being who they said they were while documenting sources for his book. The very notion is absurd.

Read further down the article, and Lembcke writes,
Some of the postings contained expressions of hostility against Shafer and me that writers debunking, say, the "hookman legend" would never receive. The volume and vehemence of the defense of the spat-upon veteran stories, in other words, suggest that there are some deeply cultural elements at work in their telling.
That's one possibility, I suppose. Another possibility is that veterans who did endure this type of behavior, feeling betrayed once already by their countrymen, don't take kindly to being stabbed in the back yet again by a Sociology professor with a theory that those who did the stabbing the first time around are actually the real victims of the veterans' lies. The tone of Shafer's article isn't exactly friendly, either, and comparing a veteran's experience with the "hookman legend" is a slap in the face, itself.

Jerry Lembcke, by the way, is the author of the book The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam. He's also the author of two articles on the same subject, which y2karl linked to 4 times, and is the primary source for each of the other 3 articles y2karl linked to regarding this topic. In truth, there is only this one man's theory and this one flimsy argument propping up y2karl's position, and that is "no documentation", which accounts for y2karl's repetitiveness in comment and reference. (My use of "the word of thousands of vets" appears once in this thread, in word or idea, and I'd like you, rafter, to point out where I've repeated myself about anything. Your insinuation is a blatant lie, and no one even has to leave this page to fact check that.)

Let's take a look at Lembcke's core arguments:
I cannot, of course, prove to anyone's satisfaction that spitting incidents like these did not happen. Indeed, it seems likely to me that it probably did happen to some veteran, sometime, some place.
I'm not sure why we're even discussing this. But for the sake of argument, let's use y2karl's 1% figure. "According to a Harris Poll in 1971, only 1% of the veterans encountered hostile reactions when they came home." Great. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the total number of American military personnel engaged at one time or another in the Southeast Asian war--including bases in Thailand and elsewhere and on ships at sea--was over eight million. 1% is 80,000 vets. Is that a big number? If only 1% of those were spit on, that's 800 vets. Is that a big number? Because it's more than the number of caskets in the pictures we're supposed to be talking about. But moving on . . .
In February 1991, I was asked to speak at a college teach-in on the Persian Gulf War. My presentation focused on the image then being popularized in the press of Vietnam-era anti-war activists treating Vietnam veterans abusively. Drawing on my own experience as a Vietnam veteran who came home from the war and joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), I called the image of spat-upon Vietnam veterans a myth.
Well, that's quite a bit of research you did, Mr. Lembcke, drawing on your own experience to paint those with differing experiences as insane liars. Moving on . . .
Remembered as a war that was lost because of betrayal at home, Vietnam becomes a modern-day Alamo that must be avenged, a pretext for more war and generations of more veterans. Remembered as a war in which soldiers and pacifists joined hands to fight for peace, Vietnam symbolizes popular resistance to political authority and the dominant images of what it means to be a good American.
DING DING DING! We have a winner, ladies and gentlemen. A man can always rationalize his choices in life by painting his own position in the best possible light, and what's a little revisionist history when there are future wars to protest against? And therefore, we have the rationale for the birth of the myth of the myth.
posted by David Dark at 4:07 AM on April 25, 2004


There was no documentation of any such event--save for the Young Republicans who spat on Ron Kovic--in the media of the time. No TV reports, no articles, nothing. What you have are stories that appear some years later. What these stories, and they appear to be in the hundreds if not thousands, say is that hundreds if not thousands of individual Americans spontaneously chose to spit on homecoming soldiers.

There was no suggestion in any anti-war literature that people should go out and taunt soldiers or spit on them. None at all. So where did all these alleged spitters get the same idea? Telepathy? Precognitive clairovoyant viewing of the Rambo movies? It just doesn't compute.

And why were none of these people who spat or taunted vets beat up by those they spat upon and outraged passer bys? Why were none arrested? There are no newspaper accounts, no TV stories, no arrest records from the time. None. That just doesn't seem likely.

To believe that this was a common event is to suppose that A) ordinary Americans would go out of their way to spit on soldiers in enormous numbers and B) none of them would ever get caught, arrested, photographed or reported doing it.

The alleged spitting stories are and remain alleged spitting stories. David Dark can not produce documentation so DING! DING! AD HOMINEM DING! he attacks Jerry Lembcke the man. He questions Lembcke's motives. He does not refute his research, he does not provide any corroboration or documentation of any anecdote.

Where's the caught-on-tape, where are the police reports--Jesus, why didn't any one person ever call the cops and just make one report!?--or newspaper stories, photographs, or the indignant editorials what surely would have been written and reprinted and reprinted and reprinted had these stories been reported in any medium of the time? They were not. If you want to believe the stories, well, as noted by rafter above, it's a matter of belief.

PS. Eekacat, I wasn't criticizing you for thanking that veteran. You can thank a person for their service, certainly, but what if the service was in a mistake? We should have never gotten involved in Viet Nam in the first place. It was folly. But you can thank him for his personal willingness to serve, for the obedience and faithfulness with which his service was given--there's nothing wrong with that by me. I was just saying that I felt we owed them a huge apology for sending them over there at all. I don't see that as a negation of your comment.
posted by y2karl at 8:18 AM on April 25, 2004


there is little option but to reduce their field of potential recruits

Jesus Christ.
I admit I'm a little appalled. we're accustomed to your constant repetition of staunchly fascist views, but... advocating the slaughter of unarmed civilians like you just did is... actually, beneath even you. and that's saying a lot.
I didn't think that was possible, frankly.
posted by matteo at 9:32 AM on April 25, 2004


Where's the caught-on-tape, where are the police reports--Jesus, why didn't any one person ever call the cops and just make one report!?

As I said before: for me, it just wasn't worth the hassle. Was I supposed to miss my flight back home so I could whimper that someone spat on me?

...just call him a filthy liar to his face.

David Dark, I don't think y2karl is intending malice or derogation. He has heard two sides to the issue and has chosen not to believe mine. That's pretty much the outcome of all arguments, isn't it?
posted by joaquim at 2:01 PM on April 25, 2004


would you deny that US bombing, in Southeast Asia, during the Vietnam War killed several million civilians?

I appreciate the brevity of your question.

I would argue that the cause was just, and that the U.S. was not the aggressor in the conflict, but the defender of South Vietnam, against a well-funded, and far more murderous communist regime. I would also argue two more things. One is that the term "civilians" does not apply here for reasons I mentioned above. What number is attributable to whom? Second, the point of a war is to eliminate the enemy, or force surrender.

advocating the slaughter of unarmed civilians like you just did is

The inappropriate actions of a platoon of soldiers does not make the entire U.S. action in Vietnam wrong, or immoral. It makes the commander subject to criminal prosecution, which he was, as stated above. It's right there.

Speaking of killing children, and echoing David Dark's comment above, are you aware of the deaths of 40 million in the United States since 1973? That's roughly equivalent to the population of South Korea. More in Asia. Aren't there more responsible methods of birth control?
posted by hama7 at 3:55 PM on April 25, 2004


a clarification from the memory hole: when the Air Force asked for clarification during the process, I specifically told them that I wasn't requesting photos of the Columbia astronauts, only military personnel killed overseas.
(Not that I have anything against astronauts. One of the tricks for writing successful Freedom of Information Act requests is to make your request as narrow as possible.

posted by amberglow at 4:20 PM on April 25, 2004


David Dark can not produce documentation so DING! DING! AD HOMINEM DING! he attacks Jerry Lembcke the man. He questions Lembcke's motives. He does not refute his research, he does not provide any corroboration or documentation of any anecdote.

Logical fallacies? et tu, argumentum ad ignorantiam.

Providing documentation to defeat Jerry Lembcke's argument is not necessary, since it is entirely based on a logical fallacy. Lembcke's theory doesn't hinge on whether or not there is documentation, it hinges on whether or not the lack of documentation proves that the claims of veterans are false. This is called argumentum ad ignorantiam, arguing from ignorance, since something can not be proven true, it must be false.

I'm pointing out that not only is it logically flawed, it's unreasonable and counter-intuitive. Yet it leads you to write this:

If it had happened, we would have heard about it then--believe me. But . . . they didn't happen. Oh, taunts or spitting possibly might have happened once or twice but not on any scale above what could be counted on the fingers of one hand. And that is being generous. No documentation. What part of that phrase do you not understand? Myth, myth, myth, myth, myth. Like Mulder's poster in The X Files--you want to believe. In a fairytale.

Yet, out of 17,000 members in the blue, we have three corroborated incidents. You're quickly running out of fingers, and we have 8 million veterans yet to go through. The only one stubbornly believing in fairytales is you, karl. Lembcke's thesis is an opinionated piece of garbage, and you're a spoon-fed information regurgitating bobblehead. How's that for ad hominem?
posted by David Dark at 4:51 PM on April 25, 2004


I honestly have never heard anyone in my life, friend or stranger, even during the Viet Nam say anything against servicemen. Back then there was this thing they called the Draft, and consequently the Army loomed large in our futures, and there but for fortune went you or I. Soldiers? All who were of eligible age had walked more than a mental mile in their shoes. Oh, there was a lot of disrespect for men in uniform going on at the time: the police, the Man. But not soldiers. They weren't the Man, they were Us.

People are just not that aggressive in general and spitting itself is an extraordinary and rarely reported act of public aggression. When it is done, it seems more likely to be done in public. You need a mob--a group of like minded people who give each other permission to violate the taboo. Civil rights demonstrators were spat upon at demonstrations, for instance. I have read that men are far more likely to spit upon other people than women, which would make sense, as women as a group commit any sort of violent act far less than men.

To support the number of stories that are told would require an enormous number of persons who were all by themselves, in public, willing to spit upon soldiers all by themselves in public the moment they saw them and take the quite likely chances there would be instant retribution.

Which is why, I think the spitters are mostly women, because it provides an answer to the immediate likely question--So, um, why didn't you just kick his ass? You were young then. But now you require large numbers of women, who as a group spit upon people in far fewer numbers than men, and large numbers of women with an enormous contempt and hatred for soldiers to do this.

Spitting is a startling and symbolically violent act. I have seen it happen twice in my life and the source in each case was a homeless de-institutionalized former mental patient--a street crazy. I have had frightening and unpleasant things happen to me at the hands of strangers but I have never been spat upon by a stranger. Your mileage may vary but I suspect by not that much.

So, you have to have an extraordinary number of extraordinarily hateful people willing to commit an extraordinarily uncommon hateful act in public on the drop of a dime when they encounter a soldier. This requires a level of social permission that would be reflected in the literature and music and culture of the time. Where are the hate the soldier songs? Where are the the hate the soldier pamphlets, the hate the military movies? There are no records of these things being suggested or promoted just as there are no reports of these things happening.

And that's another thing--where are the witnesses? A guy gets spat upon three times in an airport? You'd think somebody somewhere would have noticed and got offended and wrote a letter to the editor somewhere and the paper would send out a reporter to check out the story. So where are the reports in the paper?

Where are the repentant hippy chick spitters? Why haven't they been on Oprah spilling their guts? Why aren't they on right now? People seem quite willing to confess to far more shameful acts in front of a camera.

Has there been any other period in this country, Civil War and Reconstruction excluded, where soldiers have been treated with contempt by the public at large? Were Korean War veterans treated with this contempt, say? I just can not believe a social phenomenon on the scale apparently necessary to support these narratives could happen without notice or comment at the time. Especially not during the Nixon presidency.

I was there. The papers and the television stations were about as patriotic and pro-war then as now in my recollection. When your most overtly anti-war program on television at the time is the Smothers Brothers, you don't exactly have the atmosphere to support this sort of thing.

I find it highly unlikely that instances of individuals spitting upon soldiers could happen more than a literal handful of times without it becoming a topic of public discussion at the time. It did not. There are no reports in the press at the time. There may have been isolated acts but not in the numbers make this theme more than a myth, a folk story.

And of course I mean no ill towards joaquim and as for his story, why should I dispute his account? I have no need to challenge him--it is not impossible, not out of the question. I wasn't there, he was. All it means to me is he's among a select few, an exception that proves the rule. I just don't think these things could have happened so often as to be what amounts to a major social phenomenon without being noticed, reported, debated or studied at the time. At any rate, I'm not the one in this discussion with the habit of calling other members liars.

I'm going to write Jerry Lembcke and get his take on the discussion here.
posted by y2karl at 6:31 PM on April 25, 2004


Spitting is a startling and symbolically violent act. I have seen it happen twice in my life and the source in each case was a homeless de-institutionalized former mental patient--a street crazy.

That's a great little story--excuse me, anecdote-- and I'd really love to believe you, but . . . I'm afraid I'm going to need to see some contemporary documentation of that, or else I just can't believe it.

So, could you point me to the newspaper article about this incident, or maybe the police report, maybe a song someone sang about it, or when can I expect the Oprah special? Anything? No. Hmmmm.

hama7, I meant to thank you earlier for your many links to the My Lai tragedy. Very informative, and your points are well received.
posted by David Dark at 1:04 AM on April 26, 2004


hama7, I meant to thank you earlier for your many links to the My Lai tragedy. Very informative, and your points are well received.

Many thanks to you too, sir.
posted by hama7 at 1:19 PM on April 26, 2004


Yet, out of 17,000 members in the blue, we have three corroborated incidents.

Corroboration? Where? Repeating one's or someone else's story is not corroboration. Corroboration means outside witnesses and contemporary records--people who saw it at the time and people who reported it at the time.

Other folk myths of our contemporary culture include satanic ritual abuse and alien abductions. Here also are personal testimonials galore, but of supporting witnesses or official records, there are none. X files are X files, no matter how much you want to believe.

These alleged spitting and taunting incidents in total would require a couple of battalions of crazed hippie chicks stationed full time in major airports throughout the Viet Nam war. There was no mass epidemic of people spitting on returning soldiers or calling them baby-killers. If there were, there would be a record outside of tales told years later. It is that simple.

So, could you point me to the newspaper article about this incident, or maybe the police report, maybe a song someone sang about it, or when can I expect the Oprah special? Anything? No. Hmmmm.

Why should you believe me? I told a tale with no corroboration. However, if there were an epidemic of street crazy spitters, there surely would be an article or police report or two, three, ten or fifty; several songs and more than one Oprah special.

I told a story, which by your standards of proof is all that is needed. You mock me and prove my point at the same time.
posted by y2karl at 3:23 PM on April 26, 2004


*patooey*... on all y'all. :P
posted by Witty at 4:50 PM on April 26, 2004


Witty, you're about to be arrested for that shit. We've got to make sure these things are documented.

Meanwhile.

skip . . . skip . . . skip . . . someone please tap the y2-phonograph.

I mock you and prove your point at the same time? Karl, buddy, for the last time, your point can not be proven, not even by one as clever as I. But yes, I do mock you. At least I've gotten you to start reading more carefully, which is a victory of sorts. I've happily noticed that you've changed your story from "IT DIDN'T HAPPEN" to "there was no mass epidemic" which is quite telling. Can't wait to see how you'll cave next. And don't forget to let us know how your argumentum ad verecundiam turns out.
posted by David Dark at 4:56 PM on April 26, 2004


It didn't happen as a mass social phenomenon--which is what these stories would have to represent to attain any status other than myth, propaganda and political fairy tales--and that has always been my contention. I have to concede that a handful of cases, and I mean handful, might have happened. But as common events, no. The evidence--personal narratives and personal narratives only--is no better than that for alien abductions.

On another note, Jerry Lembcke responded:
Karl: This is some of the best stuff yet! I want to print out your questions and respond as best I can to those, first. Then, take a second look at the thread and see if there is some place for me to enter the discussion. Back to you as soon as I can--and thanks.
Jerry
--so stay tuned, folks.

The questions to which he refers were in my email to him. I will print those and the answers and any comments he chooses to send verbatim, as I told him I would do and as I have done above.
posted by y2karl at 6:26 PM on April 26, 2004


PS, David Dark:

Yet, out of 17,000 members in the blue, we have three corroborated incidents.

corroboration

n : confirmation that some fact or statement is true [syn: documentation, certification]
Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.

What's the Latin for You are talking out of your ass once again ?
posted by y2karl at 6:31 PM on April 26, 2004


PPS, David Dark:

There is no documentation of anyone ever calling American soldiers "baby killers" during the Viet Nam war or any war thereafter, just as there is no documentation of anyone ever spitting on a soldier.

This was my thesis. Where have I caved on this?
posted by y2karl at 6:39 PM on April 26, 2004


cor·rob·o·rate (k?-rob'?-rat')
tr.v., -rat·ed, -rat·ing, -rates.
To strengthen or support with other evidence; make more certain.

Granted, it should have been -ing, not -ed, but the point was the personal incidents are the corroborating evidence of the contention that this was a widespread and unreported phenomenon. You can bust my balls all you want over a suffix in a comment, but the fact remains that you are now holding up only two fingers (a fitting image for your underlying motives, I'm sure) due to an extremely small sample of people.

Not only that, but picking out one word and making an issue of it on a forum without the benefit of editors is pretty weak, especially while you ignore the crux of the comment, which appealed to the logical flaws in your side of the entire discussion.

But if you want to play it that way, fine.

the·sis (the'sis)
n., pl. -ses (-sez).

1. A hypothetical controversial proposition: contention, contestation. See opinion.
2. Something taken to be true without proof: assumption, postulate, theory. See reason/unreason.

Your bolded quote is not a thesis, sweetheart, it's an observation. Your thesis is this:

[Local TV news would have jumped on any such story like rats on cheese, had an incident happened.] But they didn't because they didn't happen.

Poorly worded and difficult to cite without context, but that's it. You have slowly caved throughout the thread from 1. No incidents, to 2. One or two, not more than five, to 3. Not in numbers that would imply a mass epidemic (or a mass social phenomenon). 4. Okay fine, not more than five.

I do look forward to reading your question and answer period with Jerry, though it feels a little like Darth Vader interviewing the Emperor about the claims of the mistreated peoples of Alderaan, but whatever. This should be interesting. Truly, I do hope that this meme catches fire and gets thrust into the spotlight of the nation instead of remaining under the dark light of the internet; hell, maybe we'll get really lucky and fellow VVAW-er John Kerry will endorse Lembcke's theories, himself. Coupled with Kerry's Winter Soldier testimony, they'd hear his campaign implode in Baghdad.
posted by David Dark at 1:09 AM on April 27, 2004


Jerry Lemcke:
I appreciate y2Karl’s invitation to join the discussion over spat-upon Vietnam veterans. The topic is of more than historical importance, since a year ago “support the troops” rallies regularly tried to dampen opposition to the war in Iraq by associating the current anti-war movement with that 60s ilk that spat on our boys when they came home. During March and April of 2003, stories circulated in several communities about today’s service personnel being spittled just like the Vietnam vets supposedly were. Reporters following-up on those reports in Burlington, VT, Ashville, NC and Spokane WA found no support for them.

y2Karl has done a good job of referencing what I’ve written on this issue, making it doubtful that I can do more than reiterate a couple of points that are fleshed-out in those other pieces.

One thing to keep in mind is that no one can prove a negative. I can’t prove that no Vietnam veteran was spat on and I have never claimed that I could. Nor, in response to David Dark, to I construe, in any way, my own spitless homecoming experience as evidence for my argument. I can tell you that I’ve never found any material corroboration for those claims such as photos or news reports or even claims made in the day that such events were occurring. And note that stories of spitting are often accompanied by charges that “we were hit with eggs” and (re lola’s posting) “the protesters carried signs calling us `baby killer.’” While spit on a uniform might be hard to photograph, eggs and signs are magnets for photojournalists. To make that point, I included in my book, THE SPITTING IMAGE, news photos of an anti-war activist with egg on him and protesters with a placard reading “We like soldiers, we don’t like war.” While I can’t say there is no photo of a protester holding a “baby killer” sign, I do believe that, had they been part of the protest repertoire, we would have no trouble finding an example in the newspapers from those years. I have never seen one.

The burden of proof for the spitting stories lies with those who claim it did happen. And, contra postings by Joaquim and David Dark, thirty-year-old accusations that protesters spat on GIs are just that—accusations, not evidence. Saying, as I do, that, if you want me to believe someone’s story I need to see some corroborative support, is very different than calling that person a liar.

But as y2Karl suggests, the myth is not about the veracity of one, two, or even a handful of such stories. The myth is the betrayal narrative for why we lost the war, i.e. that we lost because of betrayal at home. The spat-upon vet stories function in our culture the same way the stab-in-the-back stories functioned in inter-war Germany—to help construct an alibi for the war lost and a cause for the repression of dissent at home.

y2Karl speculates that women are often identified as the spitters in the stories because that provides an alibi for why the victim didn’t punch the lights out of the assailant. He’s right that most of the stories indict women or young girls as the perps and he might be on to something with his attempt to understand that. What I did was put the spitting girls together with similar stories from other studies of lost-war cultures to deepen the clue as to where such tales come from. My chapter “Women, Wetness, and Warrior Dreams” waxes Freudian in an attempt to understand these tales as emanations from the subconscious of defeated male warriors.

There came a point in my research where the absence of evidence supporting the claims of spat-upon veterans, or even evidence that such claims were made during the war years, forced me to recognize that imagination plays a prominent role in their origin. In pursuit of that idea, I was led onto a Freudian path by Klaus Theweleit’s book MALE FANTASIES in which he examines stories told by German veterans of WWI with similar images of female spitters. I borrow on Theweleit to suggest that the loss of war is experienced by some men as a loss of manhood and, rather than acknowledging the superiority of the real enemy, they subconsciously scapegoat civilians at home (and civilian culture) for their defeat and image that home-front enemy as their gender opposite, female. For the “wetness” in the chapter, you’ll have to buy the book.

These are important issues because of the comparisons being made between the war in Iraq and the war in Vietnam (worked to death in the media last week). The subtext of that comparison is whether or not the country will rally around the flag this time or sell-out the mission again and spit on the troops when they come home. The stories of spat-upon veterans construct a false issue that deflects attention from the politics and economics of the war itself.

We shouldn’t filter our support or opposition for the war in Iraq through the lens of Vietnam nor should we conflate the means and ends of war by using the soldiers themselves to justify the positions we take, pro or con, on the military mission.

Jerry Lembcke
-- Round One: Making the Case -- is a bibliography of press reports about the Viet Nam war that lead to the creation of the Vietnam War Memorial. Instead of any headline indicating animosity between war protestors and returning soldiers, there is this headline:

Wounded Unembittered by War Critics, Nan Robertson, New York Times, 11/15/69, 1:20

From an abstract of Who supports the Troops? Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the making of collective memory:

But after analysis of Vietnam era media, we find that the media of the time--consistent with most subsequent published accounts--did not report the movement as "anti-troop." Although policymakers frequently attempted to imply that protesters were anti-troop, we find virtually no instances of protesters themselves being reported as targeting the troops. Our findings show that the memory of protester-troop antagonism is not so much the product of conflict between these two groups, but rather of a selectively remembered and edited past.

That was published in the academic journal Social Problems in 1995. I am going over to the UW to read and copy the article and will supply some more extensive quotes later this week.

As for recently debunked stories of spat upon soldiers, from Asheville, NC, here is

Spit And Polish
posted by y2karl at 2:36 PM on April 27, 2004


Poorly worded and difficult to cite without context, but that's it. I've happily noticed that you've changed your story from "IT DIDN'T HAPPEN" to "there was no mass epidemic" which is quite telling.

Like you said, one can't prove a negative. Poorly worded? How about

There was no widespread but unreported phenomenom of protestors spitting on returning veterans ?

Five possible exceptions do not a widespread but unreported phenomenom make. It didn't happen.
posted by y2karl at 4:24 PM on April 27, 2004


Just for the record:

Sex And The Spitting Girl

Many veterans in the slate.com file identified their attackers as female or male hippies and their stories frequently contained sexual innuendo or overtly sexualized imagery. One of the more interesting in that regard was from C.W. Davitz (May 4) who is worth quoting at length:
Viet Vets getting spit on is a myth? Wrong, stud! My group of GI's had to be escorted through the San Francisco airport by cops. The "Long Hairs" were like a mob and were throwing bags of feces on us, eggs, & other trash at us. All the while screaming at us. One thing that still to this day stands out in my mind was this girl, filthy, sandals, the whole bit, was holding this dog in an American flag and she was giving the dog a blow job. And then she spit at us. Other people in the terminal were cheering this hippie trash as security cops surround us. ...So don't tell me, backaroo, about "myths."
Endnotes

...6 The slate.com has archived only Shafer's editorial and a few of the exchanges. I have a hard copy of the entire file which is available on request.


The News And The Myth Of Spat-Upon Vietnam Vets: What We Can Learn From The slate.com File
Jerry Lembcke
Humanity And Society, Volume 26, Number 1, February 2002
posted by y2karl at 9:23 AM on May 3, 2004


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