Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 23, 2010

Rules of Engagement and engaging with a NY Times reporter

Filed under: Afghanistan,war — louisproyect @ 6:12 pm

CJ Chivers

A key part of the Vietnam syndrome has been how to win American objectives in one armed intervention or another without antagonizing the local population. This has meant fine-tuning the “rules of engagement” that separate normal killing from out-and-out war crimes. James Webb, the Virginia Democratic Party Senator who was Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy (go figure), was executive producer and co-writer of the 2000 movie “Rules of Engagement” that is a convoluted defense of war crimes under extenuating circumstances, including a slaughter of Yemeni protesters who apparently had it coming to them, based on this NY Times review of the movie:

When Childers [Samuel Jackson] becomes involved in a situation in Yemen that seems a contemporary My Lai, he seeks out Hodges [Tommy Lee Jones] as legal counsel. ”I don’t want some Starbucks drinker who’s never seen combat,” Childers growls. In rescuing the United States ambassador (Ben Kingsley, employing the same dead-voiced American accent he used as the vice president in ”Dave”) and his family from the embassy while under attack, Childers ordered a retaliatory strike on a crowd. He’s the only surviving member of his unit to have witnessed the crowd’s fire on the defenders, but to the rest of the world it looks as if he initiated an attack on innocent civilians.

Yes, you don’t want to be associated with a Starbucks drinker who has never seen combat. That’s more or less the vibe I got from NY Times reporter CJ Chivers, a former Marine who has more journalism awards than James Webb has medals. When I took him to task for today’s article that drew attention to American GI’s chafing under the rules of engagement established jointly by Obama and McChrystal, he asked me if I had ever been in a firefight. I replied:

I have been in zero firefights. In 1967 I came to the realization that the USA has no right to police the world and did everything I could to stay out of the army. After reading so many articles in the NY Times about Afghan weddings, etc. being bombed by drone attacks, it just shocked me to see your article. Too bad Chris Hedges is not overseeing what gets printed rather than Pinch Sulzberger.

To Mr. Chivers’s credit, this is the first time I have ever heard back from a NY Times reporter after sending them email. Generally, I don’t expect a response when I do so. For me it is mainly a way to relieve frustration, more or less the function that a “close” button serves in many elevators. The elevator will not go anywhere until a certain amount of time has elapsed, like 30 seconds or so, but allowing the passengers to press the button gives them the feeling that they have some control over their environment. That’s pretty much the function of emailing a NY Times reporter, I’m afraid.

According to Mr. Chivers, the troops in Afghanistan are tired of having their hands tied behind their back:

The rules have shifted risks from Afghan civilians to Western combatants. They have earned praise in many circles, hailed as a much needed corrective to looser practices that since 2001 killed or maimed many Afghan civilians and undermined support for the American-led war.

But the new rules have also come with costs, including a perception now frequently heard among troops that the effort to limit risks to civilians has swung too far, and endangers the lives of Afghan and Western soldiers caught in firefights with insurgents who need not observe any rules at all.

Young officers and enlisted soldiers and Marines, typically speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs, speak of “being handcuffed,” of not being trusted by their bosses and of being asked to battle a canny and vicious insurgency “in a fair fight.”

Who knows what it means to stop “being handcuffed”? More wedding parties getting blown to smithereens? After 8 years of war, the only thing that makes sense is for the U.S. to withdraw immediately. The controversy over McChrystal’s “insubordination” is practically beside the point. The real question is imperialism, the 800 pound gorilla that the newspaper of record prefers to ignore.

Everything going back to September 11th is related to American imperialism. The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was the inevitable outcome of a foreign policy that is designed to safeguard oil resources and uphold American hegemony in Central Asia. I think that Mr. Chivers knows this, like all clever ivy-league educated reporters at the NY Times, but will have to wait until he is retired from the bourgeois media to tell the truth—that is, if he has 1/100th of the guts and integrity that Chris Hedges has.

Finally, it should be understood that despite the undeserved reputation that the newspaper of record has for upholding liberal values after a fashion, it has been the source of many articles in the past that adhere to the “being handcuffed” narrative. This one by Hanson Baldwin titled “The Case for Escalation”, written on February 27, 1966 will live in infamy:

What any military man who is not Genghis Khan must do is to try to wage war as to hurt the enemy the most at the least possible cost to his own men and to innocent bystanders. The United States is trying to do this in Vietnam. This does not mean that there are not lapses, vicious divergences from the norm. But those who shed tears over the horrors of tear gas, the poor, bound Vietcong captives, the children, the civilians wounded and killed should look at the other side of the coin. The American soldier maimed by a grenade thrown by a 10-year old child, the village chief whose family was murdered by the Vietcong—are these, too, not worthy of tears?

Log of exchanges with CJ Chivers:

1. LP:

Unleash the military in Afghanistan? Really? This is the same nonsense I used to hear in the 1960s but not so much from the NYT. It tended to come from people like John Wayne, Georgie Jessel, Al Kapp and my barber.

2. CJ:


i’m surprised you read that article that way. no one said they want to see the military “unleashed.” the troops do have strong concerns that they are being asked to work in ways that neither pressure the taliban nor allow them to protect themselves. you might not like that point of view; fair enough. but it’s a point of view in play on the ground and part of the ongoing discussion about the workings of the war. how many firefights have you been in? do you think those who are in the fighting should have any input in the rules guiding how they fight? things to consider.

thanks for writing, and keeping an eye on our copy.


3. LP:

I have been in zero firefights. In 1967 I came to the realization that the USA has no right to police the world and did everything I could to stay out of the army. After reading so many articles in the NY Times about Afghan weddings, etc. being bombed by drone attacks, it just shocked me to see your article. Too bad Chris Hedges is not overseeing what gets printed rather than Pinch Sulzberger.

4. CJ:

i respect your sense of this, louis. i just would hope that you might differentiate between the troops thinking through, and asking aloud, whether the rules are too tight and advocating bombing weddings.

war is a fucked-up and terrible thing; it presents problems of all forms. some of its miseries and horrors happen to be experienced by soldiers. whatever you think of them or the decisions that send them to afghanistan, their voices have a place in the conversation. that the nyt has covered errant strikes and civilian casualties — i have covered many myself — shows we clearly see the ground-level perspective of the afghans, too. and whoever will be commanding this war going forward faces unrest from the ranks, which is news.

thank you again for writing. really.



  1. Hello,

    Hope all is well.

    This is not a war nor two wars in the Middle East but a hostile occupation. I have sympathy for the soldiers on the ground who have to deal with the everyday dangers of war. Our entire society feels their pain as they come back physically or mentally wounded. And to our ‘brave young men and women’when they return home we give minimal support and care. I have more sympathy for the people who live in Afghanastan who’s lives and country are being destroyed. I always route for the oppressed to win over the oppressor. This may sound anti American and it is. Here at home I am routing for the Sioux, Navajo, Lenne Lenape, The Iriquois Nation, etc.

    I am glad that we can all agree that war is a terrible thing. Instead of fighting in a war we should all be fighting against war. Ending the occupation in Afghanastan would bring the troops home and rid us of the suffering of our American men and women statinoned there.

    Here is the sum of the madness. War costs an enormous ammount. It costs human lives, property damage and resources. Not only that but there are the devilish engineers who sit around thinking of better ways to kill and destroy who’s talents are wasted. If we took all the resources that we dedicated to war and applied it to benefical things for the people of the Earth we would be far far better off.

    What have the people of Afghanastan done to us? Even if you believe that Osama Bin Laden attacked us on 911; does the seeking the life of one man or even one group warrant the evil that is being committed in the name of America?

    This is not a war like WWII or even Korea.

    Their is the dream of America. A land of freedom, prosperity and good will. The reality of Afghanastan is a nightmare of murder, oppression and evil. If and when America fufills that dream many nightmares will end.


    John Kaniecki

    Comment by john kaniecki — June 23, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

  2. “The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was the inevitable outcome of a foreign policy” I would be more careful with throwing around big words like “inevitable”

    Comment by PfromGermany — June 23, 2010 @ 8:48 pm

  3. What nonsense this Chivers person spouts. If the Afghan resistance has no rules of engagement of their own and they’re mindless killers, then how come they enjoy a level of support from the rural populace that the occupation can only dream of? The support they enjoy implies very meticulous and very strict rules of engagement. Chivers doesn’t like these rules because his pals the occupiers find themselves on the bullet and shrapnel end of these rules, so better deny that such rules even exist; better dehumanize the enemy who must be mindless and at the same time, the people who support them.

    What Chivers and his pals on the ground want is that the US occupation can lay waste to the countryside, hound the farmers to the cities were they can be brutally kept under control, and where they can only expect to live in fenced ghettos unemployed and starving, dying in dozens and hundreds daily. THAT is how they hope they can beat the resistance. And it’s THAT precisely Chivers is asking the American public to support.

    I’m sure Chivers and his pals, if they ever get their way, will not call these fenced/walled areas “concentration camps” and “ghettoes”, that would be in poor taste; they’ll be calling them “Liberty Villages”, “Hope Districts” etc.

    Anyone can see that this is the thinking of an evil man.

    Comment by Antonis — June 23, 2010 @ 8:58 pm

  4. The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was the inevitable outcome of a foreign policy”….

    I agree but would only add that foreign policy can only be an extension of domestic policy.

    Nothing wrong with the word “inevitable” in this case. When you put a loaded pistol to somebody’s skull & squeeze the trigger your white robe is bound to get ruined.

    Blowback is indeed inevitable. The best argument for the causes of 9/11 are the blowback resulting from 50 years of imperialist turpitude against MidEasterners, mainly on behalf of the profits of Big Oil & Pentagon contractors.

    After JFK took Ike’s football and ran with it, he carried on Uncle Sam’s monstrous international crimes, including dropping napalm on Kenyan women & children, re-starting the war in Vietnam, and attempting to invade Cuba. For that he too earned some blowback, but this time it wound up on his wife’s dress at the hands of Oswald a Marines-trained sharpshooter. After all, Malcolm X didn’t get so much heat for saying “chickens coming home to roost” for nothing. Speaking truth to power takes courage, something sorely lacking in mainstream American politics.

    I wonder if frequent poster Bhasakar is also going to call Lou “repugnant” for his line: “The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was the inevitable outcome of a foreign policy”? Why not? It’s the same thing I said.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 23, 2010 @ 9:43 pm

  5. Louis: bit of trolling here but am intested in your analysis. With two generals sacked : what price a military coup in the US?

    Comment by David Ellis — June 23, 2010 @ 10:22 pm

  6. RULES OF ENGAGEMENT provides a hysterical justification for shooting down children–the likable maimed Yemeni girl from early in the film turns out to be a pathological killer, and “has to be” shot down with the rest of the ranting Yemeni crowd. It’s one of the most disgusting Islamophobic passages in recent film, and since it was released in 2000, it doesn’t even have the excuse of 9-11. It features prominently in Jacquie Salloum’s PLANET OF THE ARABS, which is not be be missed:http://www.jsalloum.org/videos.html.

    Jim Webb, the author of the novel it was based on, is sure’nuff better than George “Macaca” Allen, but he’s also sure’nuff one twisted puppy. Anyone who writes a love-letter to the American Scots Irish (BORN FIGHTING: HOW THE SCOTS IRISH SHAPED AMERICA), without mentioning their propensity for Fenian-killing, Indian-killing, and slave-holding, must be watched carefully. For a much smarter story, see Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz on the Scots-Irish in RED DIRT OKIE.

    Comment by Jim Holstun — June 23, 2010 @ 10:59 pm

  7. D. Ellis —

    Are you asking what are the chances of a military coup in the US that usurps control of the White House?

    In his early 80’s book “Generals Over The White House” the late Sam Marcy documents how the influence of Generals over the White House has always been underestimated in this country.

    Nevertheless, I realize you requested Lou’s analysis but rest assured it won’t be much different than this: A US military coup over the civilan leadership, no matter how many generals get sacked, is totally unnecessary for the ruling class, and therefore extremely unlikely, for the simple reason that the US working class is weaker than almost anytime in it’s history, it’s literally on its knees, being drop-kicked while they’re down, and of course totally unorganized, along with the entire Left in general.

    According to Lou’s reading of Trotsky on the historical genesis of fascism, which I happen to agree with, a military coup in the US, in other words a fascist takeover, is unthinkable without the threat of a highly developed class consciousness amongst a thoroughly organized working class riding the popular wave of a genuine socialist movement.

    So what price you ask? There is no price, at least not in today’s terms.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 23, 2010 @ 11:02 pm

  8. “If the Afghan resistance has no rules of engagement of their own and they’re mindless killers, then how come they enjoy a level of support from the rural populace that the occupation can only dream of?”

    Could it be because they are a reactionary force based on the mullahs, landowners and khans (that originally rose in response to attempts by a leftist party in power to transform society)?

    “It is particularly important to bear in mind . . . . the need to combat Pan-Islamism and similar trends, which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialism with an attempt to strengthen the positions of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc.” – Lenin

    Comment by The Idiot — June 24, 2010 @ 5:21 am

  9. Thanks for that response Karl. However I’m not so sure. Is there a leftist sort of Military Watch which records and publicises the political activities of the military? It just seems that the Tea Party style opposition to Obama would find a reflection in the military but also there must be some who fear civil war if the tea party gets much bigger and would want to step in as an authoritarian preventative measure. I’m just rapping really as I don’t know much about the internal machinations of the US military but two sackings in 12 months by Obama must indicate something going on.

    Comment by David Ellis — June 24, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

  10. David:

    Yes leftists watch the military. They read between the lines of the NY Times & Wall Street Journal. It’s pretty much a zero sum game. Whenever the Pentagon takes action — poor, working, and historically oppressed peoples always suffer. Any exceptions only prove the rule.

    With the absence of a strong left, there’s a huge contingent of tea baggers that are fairly independent from the 2 party system. So for example at sites like PrisonPlanet.com almost every other article fears Pentagon machinations that they see are a collusion with banks to form a one world government in a New World Order(NWO)with 1 currency that’s highly militaristic. Mixed in is of course all kinds of reactionary nonsense but none of it supports more cops at home or more troops abroad. In fact it’s the only time outside the left or religious circles that I’ve heard ordinary Americans excoriating Uncle Sam for vaporizing Pakistani wedding parties and kicking in doors then murdering Iraqis. They’re also 100% anti-Israel, albeit in many cases for the wrong reasons, however you can see a struggle amongst posters to distinguish Jewish people from Zionism.

    As far as sacking a couple generals in a year, that’s not so alien to U.S. history, especially when you read how many generals Lincoln sacked during the civil war.

    Like Trotsky argued and Lou has reiterated over & over, historically the ruling class only resorts to fascism when it feels threatened by a viable movement that advocates a system to replace capitalism. That system is socialism. With no socialist movement there is no possibility of fascism. Now in the wake of all these capitalist disasters should a viable socialist movement re-appear, certainly in the realm of possibility, then watch out, as all bets would be off.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 24, 2010 @ 1:55 pm

  11. I don’t have much sympathy for our brave soldiers. They know what they are getting into and the deal they are making. And those who don’t are sociopathic to begin with – not uncommon in the crack units demanding to have the reigns taken off. Boarding school liberals seem to have an affliction for the innocent US soldier-analysis. Those who went to working class public schools and faced the same choices, less so.

    Comment by purple — June 24, 2010 @ 11:37 pm

  12. I’m not sure how much bravery it takes for a bunch of felonious young thugs with machine guns and night vision goggles to kick down the dry rotted door of a mud hut in Iraq in the middle of the night and shoot the dog then handcuff all the unarmed men in pajamas then drag them off to some dungeon for enhanced interrogation.

    Some argue the volunteer army is like an economic draft in an economy with no jobs. But notice in the movie Farenheit 911 the recruiters didn’t have much luck in Flint, MI., not that the youth there didn’t need jobs and education money but rather the “mission” was alien insofaras Flint looked more bombed out than Bagdad.

    In reality these volunteer soldiers differ little from the same young people that join police forces. In fact many return home to become cops. More often than not they vote for Christian Conservatives. Like many sociological studies of police officers demonstrate, they consciously choose to alienate themselves from the rest of society and it has distinct social consequences.

    9 out of 10 cops have no friends other than fellow police officers by their 3rd year
    on the force. Cops & soldiers have unusually high suicide rates. Many in the public won’t admit it but secretly they loathe cops. Can feelings about soldiers be far behind as more and more Pakistani wedding parties get vaporized?

    Cops in Tucson, for example, will not eat anywhere besides places like Subway where they can watch their food being prepared. Word on the street is this is due to a report some years ago where some cook at a Denny’s allegedly wiped his ass with the tortilla used in a cop’s burrito. Apparently the burrito tasted very funky and the cop wondered why some cook was peeking suspiciously through the kitchen door at his table. One thing lead to another and lab tests were made an arrest followed. Ever see the hero sandwich made for the cop in the movie CASINO? Victor Spilatro hocked a lugie onto it before wrapping it up to go. Cops live in dread of this for a distinct social reason. Per a former police academy drill seargent in LA, in the New York City police academy rookie cops are taught members of the public are referred to as “shitheads.” In Dallas they are referred to as “turds.” In LA they are called “assholes.” The public reciprocates in kind.

    After all, if your sat a bar and ordered a beer and struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to you and you learned he was a cop, how open can you be with such an aquaintence? You certainly wouldn’t feel partiularly frank in your conversation and would probably look for an exit sooner rather than later. This of course is not true with vets at the moment but there are many similarities between police and volunteer soldiers. Their missions are similar. An army is a state on wheels. The state is armed gangs defending property. The police are the state’s armed gangs. The military is the state’s armed gangs. Foreign policy is an extension of domestic policy.

    The real bravery lies with the Iraqi resistance fighters. Unorganized cells of 3 or 4 souls with minimal resources, having to improvise even more things than the Germans at the end of WWII. If it weren’t for them sending a sufficient amount of those volunteer cops home in body bags then George W. Bush would be regailed as some kind of of genius uber hero with enough mindless popularity & disgusting patriotism to rework the constitution in order to decree himself a third term. Fortunately for the ingenious system the American ruling class has painstakingly devised the public gladly ushered in Obama to carry out the work that would otherwise have been done in Bush’s 3rd term.

    “Suckers!” — that’s the secret high five mantra of the grand bourgeousie, particularly when it comes to the dupes who volunteer to serve them in betrayal of their class.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 25, 2010 @ 1:12 am

  13. You had me right until the 2nd to last paragraph there Karl. You were spot on about the forces of the state, but then turned around and praised the forces of a reactionary religious state trying to be born.

    Comment by The Idiot — June 25, 2010 @ 7:22 am

  14. Idiot–

    Praise? Pointing out that if it weren’t for Iraqi resistance then guys like Bush (and Cheney) would be considered geniuses is not the same as praise. Who was braver in the conflict between David & Goliath?

    So if there were no resistance in Iraq, that is, the imperialists were able to just do as they wished there, are you saying that’s a more preferable outcome? Yes or no?

    Would you argue the resistance cells accurately depicted in the movie “The Battle of Algiers” — the French situation there being analogous to the American one in Iraq — were just reactionaries unworthy of support?

    Does the defeat of imperialist armies abroad tend to strengthen progressive forces at home? Yes or No?

    What would the American political scene be like today if, as Cheney predicted, the Americans were “greeted as liberators”?

    Speaking of “reactionary religious states”, Uncle Sam is pretty high up there, what with all the born agains in the Bush Admin., and every President in history blathering “God Bless America” in every speech, and last month Texas just spending $800 million during a depression to erase evolution from public school textbooks.

    If Saddam was presiding over such a “reactionary religious state” before Uncle Sam invaded then why not just come out and join the camp of Christopher Hitchens?

    Regarding Islamic fundamentalism in the region, however, an enormous portion of blame rests historically with the Stalinists, without which the oppressed in the region wouldn’t have such stifled imaginations.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 25, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

  15. Purple,

    Hi hope you are well.

    Well I know from personal experience that at age twenty I was very naive and messed up. That is a by product of living in America and the indoctrination her citizens receive called education.

    Compare the soldiers to the weapons makers, politicians, bankers and so forth who manipulate and control our society. At twenty I can forgive somebody for being ignorant and confused. However the older you get the less valid the excuse becomes. There is a point where one must wake up and see the reality of the world and the oppression therein.

    Regarding an economic draft I do believe in it. In my limited experience I know one individual who joined the national gaurad and was taken twice away from school. Once to go to Iraq and once to go to the Mexican border. On the Mexican border they sat all day in a room with their weapons doing nothing.

    I know older people who were involved with trying to end the war in Vietnam. One of the mistakes they made in their opinion was the harsh treatment of the soldiers returning from combat. For example spitting on them. I do not minimize the evil that has been done by these soldiers I just have compasion on them.

    Please do not take these statements out of context of my original statement.


    John Kaniecki

    Comment by john kaniecki — June 25, 2010 @ 5:19 pm

  16. Dear John:

    Sorry but there’s never ever been a documented case of anybody spitting on returning Vietnam vets. Period. It simply never happenened but was instead an urban legend invented by the reactionary propaganda machine.

    You could probably confirm that fact on scopes.com, but regardless, it’s a myth. Sure you kind find a 100 jackasses claiming they were spit on or claiming they know somebody who was but to a man they’re all lying.

    Moreover, I don’t know what “older” people you’re referring to vis-a-vis the anti-war struggle as it was the youth who were decisive, but the only entities that ever treated Nam vets harshly was the Veterans Administration.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 25, 2010 @ 8:14 pm

  17. Karl,

    Hi hope you are well.

    Of course I am not talking about first hand experience. When I say older I am referring to people older than me who participated in the struggle against the war. I plan to see the individual who made that statement to me I referred to and will discuss the matter with him.


    John Kaniecki

    Comment by john kaniecki — June 25, 2010 @ 9:05 pm

  18. Dear John:

    Save yourself some time. Don’t bother getting that person all worked up as I can assure you some Vietnam protestor’s spittle never touched anybody you know. It’s always “they heard” it, just like the sources in every other urban legend.

    In the highly unlikely event you talk to somebody who insists they were spit on by protestors then please ask them the approximate date, city, and location. Were they getting off a bus after being released from the army or what exactly were the circumstances?

    Rest assured they won’t have any such details, or if they do they’ll be stammering them out like a confused liar, because it never happened — not once in American history.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 25, 2010 @ 9:36 pm

  19. Karl,

    Hope you are well.

    You are a little confused. My friend was a protester and his conclusion was he did not know whether the spitting every occurred.

    What my freind did say was that he thinks what the movement against the Vietnam war did wrong was not embrace the soldiers. That is not to reach out to them and try to bring them into some part of the solution.

    Over tea also talked about the anonymous face that this present war is taking. Gone are the days of seeing the carnage on television and the caskets of dead soldiers coming home.

    I know war and the army has dire consequences to those who are involved with it. You once asked me “What trauma did I go through to believe Jesus was the greatest revolutionary that every lived?” And I will answer you now that it was enough to send me into psychiatric hospitals eight times. You develop a talent for not getting commmitted when you learn the right things to say. Regardless I have been locked up with many people who suffered from their experiences in the army. Not all of which actually saw combat. There were even some poor lobotimized victims in one state hospital.

    You can tell the people who saw combat by the matter of fact way they describe their experiences. They will tell you how they killed someone like telling you what they had for lunch, all with that dead vacant look in their eyes. These people hate talking about it but they like people who know how to listen.

    Anybody who brags about killing somebody either never did so or are psychopathic.

    So Karl if it is not for the Love of God nor the Love of man then understand that these ‘survivors’ are a necessary part of correcting the world. But I do believe Karl that you do have the Love of man inside of you, else you would not be so passionate about your cause.


    John Kaniecki

    Comment by John Kaniecki — June 25, 2010 @ 11:36 pm

  20. John: What my friend did say was that he thinks what the movement against the Vietnam war did wrong was not embrace the soldiers. That is not to reach out to them and try to bring them into some part of the solution.

    The point of view expressed by your friend seems to make little sense given the important part that soldiers actually played in the movement against the Vietnam war. Two documentaries, Sir No Sir and FTA, if you haven’t seen them, present some of this hidden history.

    Comment by Lajany Otum — June 26, 2010 @ 2:28 am

  21. Lou did review both of the documentaries here, though the WordPress search facility doesn’t seem to be much help in finding the reviews. A search for “fta” seems to bring up every page with a word containing the string fta, eg chieftain etc.

    Comment by Lajany Otum — June 26, 2010 @ 2:37 am

  22. Dear John:

    You’re confused not me. I sympathize with your positions, albeit from a religious angle, but I consider yours a righteous religious angle, with your face consistently toward the downtrodden, so don’t get me wrong on that score, I respect you.

    Where you’re confused, however, is in the fact that precisely because they were largely reluctant conscripts, versus the volunteer cops going abroad today (virtual mercenaries) — the left during Vietnam FULLY EMBRACED the veterans, contrary to the mythology where they were allegedly spat upon.

    Just google THE SPITTING IMAGE:


    According to Wiki:

    “The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam is a 1998 book by sociologist Jerry Lembcke. The book argues that the common claim that American soldiers were spat upon and insulted by anti-war protesters upon returning home from the Vietnam War is an urban legend intended to discredit the anti-war movement. Lembcke’s book argues, further, that posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a socially-constructed diagnostic category that disparages the image of Vietnam veterans and provided another way to discredit the many veterans in the anti-war movement. Lembcke writes that this discrediting of the anti-war movement was foreshadowed by Hermann Goring’s fostering of the stab in the back myth, after Germany’s defeat in Europe in 1918.”

    Next google the incredible film: “Sir, No Sir” which featured GI Union organizers like Andy Stapp of the Workers World party, who worked alongside SWP organizers (Socialist Workers party) back in the day.


    Then there’s the F.T.A movie:


    Along with places like SHELTER HALF in the Seattle Area:


    Try looking up the for example the FORT HOOD 3:


    The brother Andrew Pulley ran for President on the SWP ticket in the 70’s.

    Look, so that there’s not a sense of sweeping condemnation, people do change. There are indeed contemporary groups of Gulf War vets who are worthy of praise insofar as they’ve concluded that what Bush & Cheney were up to were war crimes. They just don’t hold as much sway as the conscipts during Vietnam.

    yet any broad based movement for socialism must have as its platform the airing of grievences of duped volunteer soldiers so that there’s an avenue for their imagination on what a better world could be.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 26, 2010 @ 4:00 am

  23. “Does the defeat of imperialist armies abroad tend to strengthen progressive forces at home? Yes or No?” what about “can go both ways” or “have no strong effect”?

    Comment by PfromGermany — June 26, 2010 @ 10:36 am

  24. Sure it’s theoretically possible that the defeat of an imperialist army doesn’t strengthen leftist forces but I can think of no historical example where the defeat of imperialist armies didn’t strengthen the left.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 26, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

  25. Karl,

    Hope you are well.

    Thank you for fufilling you obligation in educating the younger revolutionaries such as I. I did not enjoy reading the post but it was edifying and informative. The image of the CIA agent cutting the woman from her vagina to her breasts will live with me to the end of my life.

    I think of my high school education and upbringing in general. The resistance to the Vietnam War was mentioned but it was never brought to a human level. (Resistance to World War 1 was never taught.) The Vietnam war was taught in the context of an America which was righteous in every matter. Evidence of this superiorty was the fact that the United States had never lost a war. My teacher even claimed victory for America in Vietnam! This war in Vietnam was necessary to stop the ‘godless’ communists from taking over the world and destroying all that was good and holy.

    Never was I taught the fundamental reasons for opposing the war and never, never, never did we examine or question the imperialistic or capitalistic system which created the Vietnam war!!! When we were taught Imperialism we looked at Spain not the United States.

    I recall in my teenage igonrance having this question in my mind, ‘If communism is so bad then why do all these nations practice it?’

    Understand too that I was brought up seeing Rambo. In effect Hollywood did what the United States could not do and that is to win a victory in Vietnam. It is shameful but truthful how the whole movie theatre cheered as Rambo with his machine gun, that never ran out of ammunition or got to hot to fire, blew away Vietnamese people time after time. Of course in our eyes the Vietnamese were not even people.

    Lord have mercy,


    John Kaniecki

    Comment by John Kaniecki — June 26, 2010 @ 4:28 pm

  26. Dear John:

    It wasn’t until that post of yours that mentioned the “spitting on vets” myth that I realized how young you must be as everybody who was of thinking age during that war was aware how active vets were in the anti-war movement. Soldiers really made the ruling class tremble in fear when they began “fragging” their commanders by either shooting them outright or by lobbing grenades into their officer’s tents. That prospect was the beginning of the end of a conscript army and so after Vietnam the all volunteer army was born.

    If you haven’t heard of Ron Kovic go rent the Oliver Stone movie “Born on the 4th of July” for a very entertaining education about his life and how the Vietnam war changed him irrevocably.

    While your at it also be sure to watch Stone’s movie “Salvadore” so you can get a better sense of the incredibly monstrous crimes Uncle Sam perpetrated on those Central American peasants back in the 80’s.

    Sone noteworthy history. Before the Americans invaded Vietnam the French had invaded it. Before that the Japanese invaded it. But in what I consider the most amazing battle in all of human history the Vietnamese defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu, against all odds, by literally carrying heavy artillery by hand up steep cliffs making human chains under the cover of darkness until they surrounded the French fortress with big guns and gave them hell.


    It’s a little known fact that from the end of WWII until Dien Bien Phu the US Government paid for 80% of France’s military budget in Vietnam, that is, Uncle Sam bought and paid for France’s enormous crimes there.

    There’s some great documentaries about it you can Google. Here’s one of the episodes from the history Channel caled and there’s another fascinating series posted on YouTube called “The 10,000 Day War.”

    I admire how some young people come to their own independent conclusions about the Communist Revolutions of the 20th century. Like you, my father back in 1960, who was a Libertarian politically, wondered why you’d have historically oppressed people over a dozen time zone in Russia, then a billion Chinese, then Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, etc. — why would they all have these socialist revolutions and why was Uncle Sam always opposing them so bitterly? The class based world divided by haves and have nots became suddenly clear to him despite all the propaganda to the contrary.

    He happenned to take a trip to Russia when he got out of college studying Biology and was still a Libertarian. This was during the Cuban missile crisis when Kennedy threatened to blow up the world because the USSR had put a couple of nuclear missiles in Cuba.

    So on one of the junkets my dad asked this Russian bus driver, who spoke English, about why would the Soviets provoke JFK that way? The driver pulled the bus off to the side of the road, turned in his seat, and said: “Provoke? The USA currently has 1000 nuclear missiles pointing at us on their base in Turkey which is right on our border. So we attempt to put 2 missiles 90 miles away from the US in Cuba and JFK threatens World War 3 — what kind of hypocritical madness is that?”

    You see my dad hadn’t thought through the situation in that way, due in large part to American propaganda, and that conversation got him to thinking and as a result his politics changed forever. He realized that only the capitalist’s neverending search for greater and greater profits drove all these wars and all this slaughter and as a bilogist he realized such a system was incompatible with the long term interests of the planet.

    The war in Afghanistan and the BP disaster in the Gulf are but 2 glaring contemporary cases in point.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 27, 2010 @ 12:19 am

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