Donal Trump caught some well-deserved blame for attacking John McCain, the American senator and fighter pilot who spent seven years in captivity in North Vietnam. And my point is neither about McCain, nor Trump, both of whom I like for different reasons. It is about the endless nonsense that Americans make about Vietnam. It seems the same people who deeply opposed the war, also cannot let it go.
One such article resurrected against McCain was by Sidney Schanberg, which documented – supposedly – McCain’s attempts to deny that US prisoners remained in Vietnamese prisons after the peace accords had been signed. The article had been written in 2008 in the left-wing magazine, “The Nation”, but had been resurrected now that Trump had been caught in a temporary foofaraw with Senator McCain.
Whatever is asserted by Schanberg about prisoners held back by VietNam, and held for ransom which never came, is probably true. And here I dare to say that, amidst all the tragedies of that war, it is not really important. Like the millions of Vietnamese, French and American war dead. Tragic but not really important.
I realize this is provocative, but I have finally come around to the view that there is a lot of truth asserted in political disputes, to which the answer is best given as “so what?”.
I have little doubt that the Viet Communists kept some prisoners, and treated them all abominably, as a policy. I have little doubt that the Americans would be keen to suppress news of this fact. Let us assume the truth of what was written there. And yet I dare to ask: “so what?”
John McCain and others spent years being tortured by the Vietnamese communists. Most broke under torture. Who would not? So what? He has an anger problem, it is said. Who doesn’t, except the depressives, and I am not so sure about them, either.
What exactly does anyone propose to do to repatriate aged men from prisons, when even the author of the article, Sidney Schanberg, doubts that any are still alive in captivity?
What is anyone going to do, exactly, about lost POWs? Bomb Hanoi?
Vietnam is now our ally against the Chinese.
Cam Ranh Bay is a US naval station, again. No amount of finger-pointing or chest beating or self-flagellation will return one live ancient POW slave prisoner.
Trump is largely right in attacking the immigrant crime question. You can tell he is striking a nerve by attacking Mexican/illegal immigrant crime rates. Good on him. But Trump has a large fast loose mouth on him, and he is wide of the mark in attacking McCain, for all his faults.
I think Trump serves a useful purpose, just as Nigel Farage, Geert Wilders and Ezra Levant do. My point is not about the usefulness of disturbers of the peace of the complacent, and the dissenters from the twaddle that passes for thought in political life.
At some point, you just have to let it go. Your bad marriage and worse divorce. Your difficult teenagerhood. Your wretched mother, or father. For the Americans, it is the Viet Nam war.
On the subject of McCain and lost prisoners, the usual US hysteria is at work.They cannot admit to themselves that they were defeated and that the pain of defeat sucks. Losing is way worse than winning is good. The same hysteria of denial is at work on other issues as well. For example, there are still people who think President Franklin Roosevelt kept back information from the US naval and air commanders in Oahu in 1941, when in fact the commanders would not have acted intelligently even if they had had correct information in time. Armed with prior information about unknown Japanese threats, the commander of the Oahu airbases grouped his planes closer together on the ground and doubled the watch – against domestic Hawaiian Japanese saboteurs! – thus making Japanese bombing more effective
No one imagined the Japanese would do anything so bold and effective as bomb Pearl Harbour. And no one in charge of US policy realized that the Viets would lead their own people to the slaughter and accept any casualties short of nuclear war to win, but they did accept those losses, and they won, because we did not kill them in numbers large enough to stop them, and no US politician could have bombed them into submission, except Nixon – and look what the left did to him.
Sometimes the US loses, and it always invents conspiracies and coverups when the plain fact is, they lost, and defeat sucks. The measure of how bad defeat sucks is the fact that articles like the one Sidney Schanberg wrote are still being written forty five years after the last American got out, except for the possibility of some poor captives held for ransom. Would a good Jewish liberal like Sidney Schanberg have supported the cruel and bloody measures needed to extract American PoWs after the Paris Peace Accords had been signed? Would he or his political ilk have supported re-flattening Hanoi? The US Democratic-controlled House and Senate would not even supply their South Vietnamese allies the money to fight the Communists, after Nixon had resigned. It was the greatest betrayal of an ally in US history. Do you think they were in a mood to bomb the Vietnamese again for a thousand missing prisoners of war when they would not help thirty million South Vietnamese?
And Americans can’t stand the fact that Viet Nam was a defeat, not a mistake, so they write articles like the one Schanberg wrote. Someone must be blamed, and after forty-three years, anyone is fair game. It was McCain’s turn this week to have ancient calumnies resurrected against him.
It is just noise – that article. Just political noise.