FIRST, let's note about Indiana Representative Mark "Abstinence" Souder that the malformed and disappearing Indiana Republican Amphibian--Souder, Buyer, Burton, Hostetler, Randall Tobias, and the poisonous Pygmy Daniels among them--sends a clear message about our damaged environment which is too often being ignored.
Anyhow, if you've been around here a while you know that the only thing I enjoy more than admiring the legislative accomplishments of Prairie Republicans over the past thirty years, it's listening to someone draw sweeping conclusions about some Generation or Other, based, as usual, on several hundred sitcom scripts written by someone who wasn't there:
THE problems faced by Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s attorney general, over his depiction of his military service are indicative of a broader disease in our society. The issues of integrity in business and politics that plague us today — the way elites are no longer trusted — are rooted in the dishonesty that surrounded the Vietnam-era draft.
Okay, minor quibble: I'm sorta leaning toward the idea that "the issues of integrity in business and politics"--it's a bit like "the issue of underreporting celebrity activity", or "the problem of excessive literacy on network television", innit?--have less to do with "the way elites are no longer trusted" than "the fact that said elites turn out, almost invariably, to be pathological jackals whose sole allegiance is to self-enrichment".
But set that aside. Let's take a trip down Memory Lane, and the glorious era before the Vietnam-era draft first taught humans to be dishonest:
"The American aid program in Vietnam has proved an enormous success, one of the major victories of American policy."
Spetember 7, 1959
"The training, transportation and logistical support we are providing in Vietnam has succeeded in turning the tide against the Vietcong."
October 10, 1962
"Victory is in sight."
March 5, 1963
"The Vietcong are going to collapse within weeks. Not months, but weeks."
"It's silly talking about how many years we will have to spend in the jungles of Vietnam when we could pave the whole country and put parking stripes on it and still be home by Christmas."
October 10, 1965
"Hold on a little longer and pretty soon we will have them on their knees at the bargaining table."
January 9, 1966
"The North Vietnamese cannot take the punishment anymore in the South. I think we can bring the war to a conclusion within the next year, possibly the next six months."
September 12, 1966
"The enemy cannot achieve a military victory; he cannot even mount another major offensive."
"[L]ight at the end of the tunnel."
September 13, 1965
"[A] light at the end of what has been a long and lonely tunnel."
September 21, 1966
"I see light at the end of the tunnel."
December 12, 1967
"Come see the light at the end of the tunnel."
one month before Tet
I'm sorry, Senator; if I recall, you were saying something about dishonesty?
The Vietnam War drove members of my generation in different directions. Some served because they believed in the war, others didn’t believe in the war and protested, but when drafted felt an obligation to go. Others were simply drafted. Some refused service out of principle, others out of fear, and still others because they felt that taking the time to go to Vietnam would slow their careers.
I smell "sweeping trans-generational miniseries set in rural Kansas, but with suitable urban subplot featuring Alfre Woodard and a bedraggled but lovable mutt" coming this fall to ABC". Or maybe just a Hair revival.
Many of those who didn’t serve were helped by an inherently unfair draft. I don’t fault anyone for taking advantage of the law. Where I do find fault is among those who say they were avoiding the draft because they were idealistically opposed to the war — when, in fact, they mostly didn’t want to make the sacrifice.
Ah, the old Footprint of the American Chicken routine! And I thought that one died of shame back in 1996, when Al Franken included "Operation Chickenhawk" in Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot And Other Observations".
But, hell, if you wanna bring it back, fine. Maybe you could start by showing your work.
To you the greatest sin was an 18, 19, 20-year-old kid claiming opposition to the war just because he didn't want to serve? Really? That trumps collecting multiple deferments, specious medical or religious exemptions, or pulling strings to land a stateside job while vocally supporting the war, or supporting it in retrospect? How about skipping your own opportunity to serve before becoming a war hawk once safely out of range?
The problem is that for every person who won a deferment or a spot in a special National Guard unit, someone poorer or less educated, and usually African-American, had to serve.
Hey, Harvard-educated guy in the New York Times: here in the sticks we don't really need anyone to tell us that the poor and less educated wind up on the firing line, draft or no draft. Thanks anyway. Meanwhile, African-Americans served in Vietnam roughly in proportion to their numbers in the general population. You, and Tom DeLay, can look this sort of thing up, although, granted, getting something right about Vietnam might establish an unfortunate precedent.
Thus, many in my generation knew they were using a broken (but legal) system to shirk their duty. They cloaked themselves in idealism but deep down had to know they were engaging in a charade. (I, too, was against the Vietnam war and felt that people should protest, but not dodge their draft responsibility.)
Hold up. In what sense did one "oppose" the Vietnam war, yet feel morally that it should be fought? I can see opposing it on pacifist or humanitarian grounds, in which case one would also oppose taking part; I can see opposing it as a bad idea, politically, one was yet obligated to serve in, if called, but I don't see how that constrains other people's response; and I can see opposing the war because it was an immoral skein of lies, profiteering, and faux-patriotic militarism which sought to prop up the decayed corpse of European colonialism in the name of "our" opposition to someone else's economic system at a cost of millions of lives and the international moral high ground we'd claimed after WWII, which tossed our young men into the cauldron so our old men could win elections.
The correct answer is [c].
This intellectual justification continues to this day, only now these men are among our country’s leaders.
I'm sorry; what intellectual justification continues to this day? Lying your ass off? Hiding behind vague moralisms? Grabbing the brass ring? I think those date to 1492. On this continent, I mean.
I had a unique opportunity to observe the best and brightest of my generation — first as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford in 1964 and then when I attended Harvard Law School after serving in Vietnam. Among both sets of my classmates were some who used elaborate steps to avoid the draft. (At school, I recall articles circulating that explained how to fail Army physicals.)
In private conversations with my classmates, I was told over and over that they didn’t want to serve in the military because it would hold up their careers. To the outside world, though, many would proclaim they weren’t going because they were opposed to the war and we should end all wars. Eventually they began to believe their “idealism” was superior to that of those who did serve. They said that it was courageous to resist the draft — something that would have been true if they had actually become conscientious objectors and gone to prison.
I take it back. Don't show your work.
Some guys at Oxford and Hahvahd Yahd. Jesus Christ. A veritable Domesday Book.
Now that flawed thinking has been carried forward. Many of these men who evaded service but claimed idealism lead our elite institutions. The concept of using legal technicalities to evade responsibility has been carried over to playing with derivatives, or to short-changing shareholders. Once my generation got in the habit of saying one thing and believing another, it couldn’t stop.
Y'know, Senator, maybe it's late, but: our governing document originally counted African-Americans as 3/5 human. The list of our broken treaties with the aboriginal inhabitants of this ground is almost totally congruent with the list of treaties. We were the last Western nation to outlaw the slave trade, and did so only after the half our citizenry who chose to fight to perpetuate it had been defeated; more's the pity more of them didn't look for loopholes. We abdicated our responsibility for Reconstruction, and we twisted the Reconstruction Amendments so they benefitted everyone except freed slaves. A succession of immigrants fared little better. We fomented war with Mexico and Spain in order to seize territory, and we used our military and economic might to subjugate the rest of the Hemisphere. In the 20th century we turned a blind eye to the reinstitution of racism in many ways worse than the slave times. We played forty years of Global Thermonuclear Brinkmanship. Despite our Marshall Plan and United Nations rhetoric we propped up the British at the end of the War so they could prop up the despicable colonialism of the French in Indochina, lest someone start asking questions; then we just went ahead and did the job ourselves. And when that still didn't work we just rewrote the history so it was all Walter Cronkite's fault. And it's still going on as of May 18, 2010, in the Op-Ed pages of the Times. It occurs to me, Senator, that if your Hahvahd colleagues learned to lie from the Selective Service Act they must not've paid any more attention to history than you have.