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This is not Vietnam all over again.

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Many people look at both Brit and American politics and rather hope that one of the major parties may have a moral objection to slaughtering poor people, yet experience shows otherwise. The Democrats got America into Vietnam. Labour, the People 's Party, got us Brits into Iraq. So is there a difference between political decisions made if both Dems and Labour members are now wealthy?

I have long argued that rich people (Blair, or, more so, Kerry) cannot make rational judgements concerning fundamental issues and their role should be confined to paying taxes (I have cooled down from .... paying taxes then being put up against a wall!) The present difficulty that the She Clinton has over Iraq does not surprise me at all. Rich folk just understand other rich folk 's arguments better, that 's all.

Vietnam was a difficult war for me and I was ten thousand miles away! I supported it at first as I was young, an alter boy and Kennedy (a very rich Dem) had been involved. I even made up a poem, which I remember, but am too embarrassed to print. When a cool, older friend pointed out the error of my ways, I quickly U turned.

Tet '68 was about the time, as it was for many Americans as well, but for different reasons. The Americans had finally got the Viet Cong out in the open and there was a real possibility of total slaughter. The press then became conscious and saved the day. People have suggested that if the present day media had been as supine then, as they were over the weapons of mass destruction farce, that the US would never have left Vietnam. The music helped too. 1, 2, 3 What are we fighting for?

The figures are well known. Fifty thousand US troops dead (and an equal number have committed suicide since.) The US gave up, as it could not cope with this horrific toll. The fact that the Vietnamese suffered proportionally much more massively, maybe occurred to some people, but this seemed only incidental.

I saw a documentary on some veterans living in the woods, in Oregon I think, as they could not cope with the public. One man described how he was discharged with 2 days notice and no advice or counselling. He had been trained for 2 years and had killed many people behind enemy lines. He was huge and looked powerful, yet seemed a gentle man. The "stumbling vet " was a popular movie theme for a while culminating in "Rambo ". However I preferred the documentary. By Rambo 2 I wanted the bad guys to win.

The rehabilitation of the Iraq Vets must begin with their contribution being recognized. It is a despicable act to hide the coffins away and I am flabbergasted that there is not more outrage. The fact that a huge proportion of people now survive horrendous injury means that a lot of our young people will be at risk of self harm and this must be seen as a national priority.

Another proud moment for the press was when Nixon resigned. I was in Italy where I had met some Americans. We were celebrating, confident that a new understanding in the world would be reached. A German shouted "Nixon kaput ". We smiled. We watched the sun set over the water in Venice and toasted a new dawn that would break, ushering peace and happiness. Well, it never quite turned out like that.

I have always struggled with the fact that Nixon was forced to resign because he told a few fibs, took some petty cash and abused his position to become re-elected. So what? He bombed Vietnam and Cambodia into the Stone Age. The Cambodians were so disrupted that Pol Pot was able to take over and massacre at will. Nobody seemed to worry about that apart from the few honourable usual-suspects, including Noam Chomski.


I had studied him in '72, as a ground-breaking linguist. The way we used language and the way it developed. However, it was what he said about war that was more important for me. "I dedicate this book to the brave young men who refuse to fight in a criminal war. " I saw him interviewed recently and he showed no signs of mellowing with age.

Jane Fonda had been photographed with the North Vietnamese. At an anti-aircraft gun site! Not actually shooting at the boys, dropping their bombs, from 8 miles high, on a fragile city. But she was obviously supporting the enemy, who had the temerity to defend themselves. Henry Fonda called her "My alleged daughter ". The Americans have got long memories and she is still reviled by some. In a more enlightened epoch she will be rehabilitated. She is still lovely. An interviewer noticed she could still get into her jeans and it seemed clear that he wished he could as well.

The present situation is more obviously about stealing resources than the Vietnam debacle. At the time of Vietnam it was not so clear. The 'Commie threat ' was potent and it worked for me. Recent writers (Missy Beattie for example) have pointed out the horror of having a relative die making the world safe for Halliburton. There are causes important enough to put your life on the line. This is not one.

Where is the press? Where is the Labour movement? The students? Brave politicians? We need them. We once had their support. There will be a strike at Iran without them.

Then this will become worse than Vietnam.

 

'Hamish ' is an antiwar writer socialist- scientist and musician living in Scotland.
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