Ready for Memorial Day?
When I visit the local Vietnam War Memorial I have a hard time controlling my emotions. I knew some of the people whose names appear on the memorial, but not a lot of them compared to the thousands and thousands listed. The abject horror of it all and the sorrow so many of us feel for those who suffered and died is enough to get me shaking with rage and grief.
Why? Why did it happen? We asked then, "Are governments really that dumb?"
The answer is yes, yes they are. Governments are perfectly capable of a kind of mechanistic thinking and behavior that's suited to military endeavors. Whether they are botched or not is beside the point. The point is the thinking process and the behavior it produced and produces.
This is why changing the players in the goon show doesn't significantly affect the show nor in many cases does it change the outcome. Once the commitment was made to "Vietnam" in 1950 -- ie: then still part of French Indochina -- to keep it free of Communist taint, the die was cast and the meatgrinder went into action, slowly at first, then with increasing speed and determination. Once put in motion, there was no stopping it, unless...
Unless the meat refuses to be ground.
That's what this film is about. When the troops -- most of them drafted -- refused to obey or in some cases actively resisted and or even from time to time liquidated their officers, the Vietnam War had to come to an end. There was -- and is -- no way to keep a war going if the troops won't follow command, or do so only in such a way as to make any semblance of 'victory' impossible.
It takes courage, a level of courage that is almost impossible to fathom these days, to go against the tide, to say "No," and to risk everything in the face of an implacable machine like the US military.
But enough men and women in uniform did so in the '60's to slow the war machine in Vietnam and ultimately bring it to a halt in the '70's.
Only to have it re-emerge in clandestine garb in Central America in the '80's, among proxy and private mercenaries, where guerrilla warfare raged for years, wiping out hundreds of thousands of mostly indigenous villagers who wanted nothing more than to be left alone with at least some shred of dignity and a modicum of justice. For wanting these things, they were tortured and murdered and their torturers and murderers were celebrated in the White House as "Freedom Fighters."
Yet even then, there were the courageous ones who say "No!"
And in our nation's current global war against the phantoms of yesterday, there are still troops -- not enough of them in my view -- who say... "NO!"