The Republicans and their candidate for president want to impress upon the electorate how well Senator McCain 'served' his country. A young John McCain was shot down and captured during his 23rd bombing run over the small city of Hanoi.
Senator McCain, older members of his campaign staff, TV anchors and news commentators have surely not forgotten the mass death and devastation the great nation of the United States threw down on this little agrarian Asian colony of France! They only want the voting public not to recall this shame.
It serves McCain's campaign well that all mention of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s blistering condemnation of the war on Vietnam as a crime against humanity has been intentionally suppressed in media and school books.
War mongering conglomerate-owned media are always very busy deceiving the public on present wars and future possible wars, presenting them, and all past wars, as necessary and just. The New York Times, The Washington Post and most major media slammed King as unpatriotic after his truthful 1967 Riverside Church speech denouncing his country as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world."
For years now, 'big brother' media has re-painted that Vietnam War as good, and as having been a heroic adventure for all politicians who took part in it as military personnel. Whew, talk about brain washing!
But before voters accept Senator McCain's credentials as having served his country well, they might better look at some of what Rev. King Jr. said forty-one years ago in his Beyond Vietnam speech [courtesy via the BRC-NEWS], as, within it, King gave clear historical context of US crimes.
"I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam ... for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.
The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation. They were led by Ho Chi Minh.
Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its re-conquest of her former colony. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination and a government that had been established by indigenous forces that included some communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.
For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to re-colonize Vietnam. Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs.
Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of their reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at re-colonization.
After the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva Agreement. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords, and refused even to discuss reunification with the North. The peasants watched as all of this was presided over by United States influence and then by increasing numbers of United States troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused.
When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictators seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace. The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received the regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform.
Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees.
They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.
What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?
We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's only non-communist revolutionary political force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men.
Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call "fortified hamlets." The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these. Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These, too, are our brothers.
Perhaps a more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front, that strangely anonymous group we call "VC" or "communists"? What must they think of the United States of America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem, which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the South? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of "aggression from the North" as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings, even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.
How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent communist, and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam, and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will not have a part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them, the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded.
Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again, and then shore it up upon the power of a new violence?
Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.
So, too, with Hanoi. In the North, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French Commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva.
After 1954, they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which could have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again. When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva Agreement concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send troops in large numbers and even supplies into the South until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.
Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the North. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor, weak nation more than eight hundred, or rather, eight thousand miles away from its shores.
At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called "enemy," I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours."
This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote: Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the hearts of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.
If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people.
The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.
I would like to suggest ... extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict: End all bombing .... Declare a unilateral cease-fire ... ... curtailing our military buildup ... Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops ... Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done."
Rev. King's 1967 sermon made bold type headlines on the front pages of newspapers all over the world, so it is unimaginable that young bomber-pilot John McCain did not hear of it before taking off on his first bombing mission of North Vietnam only days afterward. In any case, senior citizen Senator McCain must have known of King's Vietnam war condemning speech when he voted against making Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday.
McCain has on occasion suggested that the United States should have bombed Vietnam more, and is still critical that the war was allowed to be 'lost'. (That the Vietnamese, by 1975, had already suffered more than thirty years of war, and more than one hundred and fifty years of cruel racist French colonialism, before the Japanese arrival, never seemed worthy of taking into account, for McCain.)
Informed and honest Americans, though either angry or merely pitying McCain for his lack of contrition, could perhaps let bye-gones be bye-gones --after all, its thirty-three years since the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam. But McCain supporters, in lauding McCain's Navy pilot career experiences as exemplary, heroic and as a reason to respect, trust and vote for him, have wrenched the horror that was that despicable Vietnam War from our painful memories back into the spotlight of our guilt.
Our beef is not with McCain, who would be not worth talking to, were he not threatening to become our president. Our main enemy is always the slick corporate media entertainment/news cartel that washes American brains of self-criticism and the undistorted facts of current situations.
And it is not lost on millions of us, that the devastating denunciation of America's massive murderous military actions in Vietnam by the only American with a national holiday on his birthday has long been carefully blacked out from public attention, while adulation is awarded to, and heaped upon, all, and every politician, who 'served his or her country in Vietnam--read, helped disgrace their country by participated in that unfair and shameful slaughter of millions of people who never meant America any harm.
May the day come, when Rev. King Jr.' Beyond Vietnam' is required reading in high schools throughout America. Knowing history can prevent its worst repetitions.