Some urban legends never seem to die. I guess that's kind of the nature of the beast with such things.
This business about how antiwar protesters during the Vietnam War spit on soldiers just keeps popping up. The latest I came across is this one: Salute to US troops from those at home by Mark Sappenfield Christian Science Monitor 05/31/05.
The article focuses on the National Guard office in Baltimore and also on the - what should we call it? - war-critical group Military Families Speak Out and a group called AdoptaPlatoon that gathers contributions for gifts to soldiers. And it talks about something the reporter apparently considers a remarkable phenomenon: that normal adults can make a clear distinction between the soldiers who are sent to war and the war policies that sent them there.
Since this phenomenon is presumably as old as, say, war itself, it should be mystifying why it comes as a surprise to Mark Sappenfield. But it's no mystery. It's consciously promoted ideological pseudohistory. And it gets translated into print like this when reporters don't do enough homework on their subject:
In the past, Americans' views of their soldiers have in large part depended on their support for the mission, either to the glory of World War II's so-called Greatest Generation or to the rancor that greeted troops returning from Vietnam. Today, however, even as Americans' support for the war in Iraq ebbs and flows, support for the troops has remained steadfast.
The change in attitude suggests a shift, as Americans increasingly separate the men and women in combat from their own opinions about the rightness of the mission, with antiwar protesters even donating Kevlar body armor to soldiers in Iraq.
It is, in part, a determination not to repeat the Vietnam experience.
What "Vietnam experience" might that be? The one where a lot of veterans came back and became critics of the war and even active protesters against it? The one where the antiwar movement that is now accused of being "rancorous" against the troops was led to a large degree by Vietnam veterans? The one in which vets played a significant role from the very start?
Or would that be the "Vietnam experience" we saw last year when the Swift Boat Liars for Bush trashed John Kerry's service record based on the rancor of Republican Party politics?
No, apparently Sappenfield was persuaded to present this as the "Vietnam experience" without offering any reality-check to his readers:
"People are saying, 'Regardless of what my political opinion is, we have to stand behind the troops,' " says Ida Hägg, executive director of AdoptaPlatoon, which helps civilians send aid to soldiers and their units. "People are so divided about Iraq, yet they have still come together to help the troops." ...
Hägg still remembers the stories of soldiers being verbally abused and even spat upon when they returned from Vietnam. "I don't think the American people want Vietnam to repeat itself," she says. (my emphasis)
I keep coming back to this over and over. So here I'll put in my obligatory reference to Jerry Lembcke's book The Spitting Image (1998) that investigates not only the spitting legend but also looks at how the popular image of the anti-Vietnam War movement has been affected by various factors, not least of them the attempts by the Nixon-Agnew administration to demonize them as anti-soldier.
In the last post I made on this subject, a commenter, itsmetoo628, provided a link to an article that looks at one of the many accusations that Swift Boat Liar types direct against Vietnam veterans who were antiwar. Specifically, in this instance, against those who presented stories at the famous Winter Soldier Investigation about atrocities committed by American troops in Vietnam: Swift Boat Swill by Nicholas Turse Village Voice 09/21/04
On its website, the SBVT [Swift Boat Liars for Bush] tries to debunk the Winter Soldier Investigation by using the same rhetoric that apologists for the Vietnam War have long employed: They paint the vets who attended the Detroit meeting as a parade of fake veterans offering false testimony. "None of the Winter Soldier 'witnesses' Kerry cited in his Senate testimony less than three months later were willing to sign affidavits, and their gruesome stories lacked the names, dates, and places that would allow their claims to be tested," the SBVT claims. "Few were willing to cooperate with military investigators."
While numerous authors have repeatedly advanced such assertions, U.S. military documents tell a radically different story. According to the formerly classified army records, 46 soldiers who testified at the WSI made allegations that, in the eyes of U.S. Army investigators, "merited further inquiry." As of March 1972, the army's CID noted that of the 46 allegations, "only 43 complainants have been identified" by investigators. "Only" 43 of 46? That means at least 93 percent of the veterans surveyed were real, not fake. Moreover, according to official records, CID investigators attempted to contact 41 people who testified at the Detroit session, which occurred between January 31 and February 2, 1971. Five couldn't be located, according to records. Of the remaining 36, 31 submitted to interviews—hardly the "few" asserted by SBVT. Moreover, as Gerald Nicosia has noted in his mammoth tome Home to War, "A complete transcript of the Winter Soldier testimony was sent to the Pentagon, and the military never refuted a word of it."
Thanks to itsmetoo628 for that link. As Al Franken says, liberals are sometimes at a disadvantage when rightwingers pull out whoppers that emanate from, uh, dubious sources.