Letter to the Editor

· Oct 2, 2001 Tweet

Vietnam, Horowitz need closer examination by students

The Badger Herald is not usually part of my daily reading, but I read it when it comes my way. This past Friday I happened to be in an area where the paper is available, and couldn’t help seeing the full-page add “An Open Letter to Anti-War Demonstrators from David Horowitz.”

I also can’t help responding.

Most students at the UW don’t know much about the Vietnam War, the opposition to it or David Horowitz. To know more about all three would give students a helpful context for forming their own perceptions of the current situation.

The Vietnam War was fundamentally a colonial war the United States inherited from France, who pulled out after the infamous Dien Bien Phu defeat of 1954. Under the guise of the “Cold War” campaign of defeating “communism” anywhere in the world, our government poured billions of dollars, many thousands of troops, the CIA and a vast propaganda machine into the Vietnam effort, with the aim of propping up a seemingly endless sequence of puppet dictators whom we called “democratic.”

After mounting casualties in excess of 55,000 American soldiers, millions of Vietnamese killed, the waste of vast resources and mounting opposition at home, the war effort was abandoned in 1975. It has been called a defeat, but there was never anything about it to win or lose in the first place. The opposition to the war was many faceted, Mr. Horowitz’s contention of “Marxism” notwithstanding. It included clergy, civil-rights activists, intellectuals, artists, the baby-care author Dr. Spock, mothers of killed soldiers and Americans of all walks of life. It grew larger and larger, and the federal government, directed by then-President Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon, held on until way past the time any sensible withdrawal should have taken place.

Mr. Horowitz states that “Unlike the Vietnam War, this one has no ambiguity.” He goes on to say that “Our enemies have pronounced a fatwah, or “death sentence,” against every man, woman and child in this country. Now is the time to stand up and defend it.”

Merriam-Webster defines ambiguous as uncertain, or capable of being understood in two or more possible senses or ways. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon can be understood in a number of ways. Since no one has actually produced a fatwah document, and the known perpetrators come from a number of Middle Eastern countries, an Islamic holy war is certainly a strong possibility. Another might be a single attempt to rid the Middle East of American meddling. Revenge for perceived U.S. terrorism might also be a reason.
Whatever the reason, there is much ambiguity in how to respond to the attacks.

The knee-jerk right-wing response is scorched-Earth military action. Another approach would be to look at the acts as criminal in nature, and try to ferret out the organizers and funders of the crimes.

A long-run approach for the U.S. government, and the corporations that sponsor it, could be to act with a sense of honor, reciprocity and respect toward all peoples of the world.

This is almost too radical to contemplate, but is the only way I see to avoid the unimaginable death and destruction that will inevitably follow, given the momentum of what our government and corporations have done in the past.

Which brings us to the futile and frustrated life of David Horowitz. I remember David Horowitz when he wrote for Ramparts magazine in the 1960s. He was a good writer, and his writing was very much like it is now: a sense of mission, and a romantic approach to his own place in that mission.

Since that time, Mr. Horowitz has been something of a right-wing ideologue. He is not part of the Republican establishment, most likely because he is seen as a turncoat, or some sort of interloper, likely to change spots when the terrain changes. Whatever the case, he looks to the college campus as his land of opportunity.

The thing I find most amusing about Mr. Horowitz’s “Open letter” is his admission that his former opposition to the Vietnam War “crossed the line between dissent and actual treason.” If he is so remorseful about his past crimes, I wonder why he hasn’t followed up on his pronouncement of self-guilt with a passing of sentence and execution. After all, the penalty for treason was certainly death in those days, and still is for some offenses.

The best thing a college student can do is develop the skills to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. We are entering very difficult times. We have an infinite-growth economic system on a finite planet. We are poisoning our environment. The weather is changing. We have a corrupt idiot for president, who was installed in office after benefiting from massive vote fraud.

Much of the world hates the United States because of what our government, in service to its ruling elites, has done around the world. The generation preparing to be our nation’s next body politic is facing the most difficult challenges of any in our history. I wish you all the best, and hope we all come out of this era with a humane and mutually beneficial civilization.

John Hamilton, Madison; U.S. Army, 1968-71


This article was published Oct 2, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Oct 2, 2001 at 12:00 am


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