The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Friday, August 19, 2005

Paul Begala - Anti-War Imagery and the Iconography of Hate

Anti-War Imagery and the Iconography of Hate

By Paul Begala

From: TPMCafe Special Guests
It seems to me the American people never really forgave the Democrats for being right about Vietnam.

The left was right, of course, about Vietnam. Even my CNN colleague Bob Novak, who was extraordinarily hawkish on Vietnam, now admits America should have pulled out years before we did.

And yet, despite being right, the left lost politically when America lost militarily. Why? And what can we who oppose President Bush's war in Iraq learn from that?

One of the grave sins of the anti-Vietnam War movement was, I think, a conflation of the conflict with the combatants. Instead of focusing their fire and their ire on the commander in chief, too many liberals wound up blaming the conscripts who so bravely fought Mr. Nixon's war. This was a tragic error. First, and most important, because decent, honorable men were smeared. Some were called "baby killer." Others were tainted by popular media that depicted them as unstable.

So one important lesson of Vietnam is, the first casualty of an unwise and unjust war are the American troops called on to fight it. Their service should be honored.

Second, what we political consultants call the "optics" matter. The popular memory of the anti-war movement calls to mind (even for those of us too young to clearly recall it) the indelible image of young Americans burning the American flag. Cops were called "pigs." Cherished American icons were trashed.

It seems to me the new anti-war movement has learned these lessons well. And it is the pro-war right that is repeating the mistakes of the past.

For me, one of the most incendiary moments of the entire Bush war in Iraq occurred when a right-wing thug ran his pickup truck over hundreds of crosses bearing the names of heroic Americans killed in Iraq. He also took out scores of American flags in the process. Police say the perp is Larry Chad Northern, a Waco real estate agent and gun nut. Mr. Northern is, of course, entitled to the presumption of innocence, despite the fact that the local sheriff's office says Ol' Larry was spotted at 9:30 Monday night changing a tire on his pickup truck. Citing sheriff's office reports, the Waco Tribune-Herald, reported that, "Small white crosses were found stuck in the truck's undercarriage."

Nice, Larry. Real Nice.

I don't think they taught Larry Chad to desecrate crosses at the Columbus Avenue Baptist Church. And I doubt his Army buddies from Vietnam are proud to see him running over American flags and disrespecting a memorial for the war dead.

So what could drive a true-blue - or should I say Bush red? - American patriot to commit such a heinous act

Such is the hatred of the far right at the dawn of the 21st Century. And my how the optical worm has turned. Today it is the left invoking faith, flag and family, while the right destroys crosses. Today it is the left that honors the war dead, raises up a Gold Star Mother and publicly prays for our troops, while the right viciously attacks a woman who gave her country everything. Today it is the left that patiently and peacefully respects the Office of the Presidency, while the right diminishes the office by claiming it's more important for the President to go bike-riding with a sports hero than comfort the mother of a war hero.

For the last two presidential elections it has been the Democratic Party whose nominee was a Vietnam War veteran, while the Republicans have sputtered out spurious defenses of their candidate's deceitful draft-dodging.

On Thursday, Dick Cheney, who said he had "other priorities" in the Vietnam era, and so helped himself to five draft deferments, will address the 73rd Convention of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. I do not think he will express remorse for the callousness with which he explained his cowardice. Nor do I expect him to apologize for the shocking, mocking Republicans who, at their New York Convention a year ago, sported Band-Aids with tiny purple hearts to mock the blood shed by John Kerry and so many other heroes in that misbegotten war.

No, Mr. Cheney, surrounded by body guards who would gladly give their life for him, will no doubt wrap himself in the flag. A flag Larry Chad Northern wrapped around his axle on Prairie Chapel Road.


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