Tuesday March 19, 2013

Reading your editorial of March 15th on the parade to say a belated thank you and welcome home to Vietnam veterans, I came away with the impression that this was just so much military boosterism. I have no reason to begrudge an event honoring our Vietnam era vets and in fact I plan to attend. I recognize that our area has many military veterans and that most of our parades are held to honor them. That said, in this era of endless war with almost no public opposition, there are compelling reasons to question our present romance with militarism.

It seems to me that after 50 years, we could have an honest discussion about what a military and foreign relations disaster the Vietnam War really was. This in no way reflects on our veterans since the strategic decisions that led to this outcome were made by officials such as President Lyndon Johnson, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, General Westmoreland and so on. All of us of the Vietnam generation know that the hurt and divisiveness generated by that war remains unhealed and reappears unexpectedly when you just scratch the surface. This is not helped by some of the urban legends that have grown into conventional wisdom over time. One such story widely believed is that returning vets were spit upon by antiwar protesters. There is no evidence that this ever happened. Still nobody disputes that the vets returned to an America where the war was deeply unpopular and where antiwar street demonstrations were common.

The Selective Service (draft) gave me plenty of opportunities to be part of the Vietnam War effort. Fifty years later, my decision not to take part (read draft dodger) still seems like an exceptionally good one. For 10 years I took part in demonstrations and vigils against the war. I was reviled by my fellow citizens (as I may be for this letter). We were told that if we didn't stop the Commies in Vietnam, they would soon be landing in Hawaii and California. The government advanced all sorts of far fetched rationales and outright lies justifying the war. Much of today's distrust of government dates from that time.

Today we are awash in information but there is a decided lack of critical thinking. You have only to look at our political situation to verify this. So before we recruit another generation of warriors to go to into combat against Iran or North Korea, maybe someone can answer this question - more than 58,000 GIs died in Vietnam; for what?

CHRIS WILLIAMS

Shaftsbury