Thursday, September 9, 2010

Jerry Lembcke on Propaganda, Myths, and War, from Vietnam to Iraq

Talk Nation Radio for September 9, 2010

Scholar and Vietnam War veteran Jerry Lembcke joins us to talk about propaganda, myths, and war, from Vietnam to Iraq. Who betrayed U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War era? Who is betraying them today? We discuss the similarities along with imagery in popular culture that now substitutes for real history lessons.

Jerry Lembcke is a professor of sociology at the College of the Holy Cross. His 2010 book about actress Jane Fonda is titled, 'Hanoi Jane, War, Sex, and Fantasies of Betrayal'. His previous book was, 'The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam'. He has been trying to set the record straight about war in general and he is exposing a political tactic of scapegoating peace activists like famed actress Jane Fonda.

Jerry Lembcke has explained that stories about US soldiers being spat upon as they returned home have been wildly exaggerated to the point where people get the impression of peace activists lining up to spit on returning soldiers as they arrived at airports. (Does that sound like the peace activists you know?) In fact, the spitting myths are but one of many devices used by the right to attack the left, and in the process bury the truth about the lives of U.S. soldiers and the Vietnam War.

Jane Fonda is blamed, peace activists are blamed, for U.S. failures, rather than the architects of the Vietnam War war itself. Such rewriting of history adjusts our attention away from grotesque U.S. policy blunders and atrocities.

Produced by Dori Smith, Storrs, CT, syndicated with Pacifica Network
TRT: 29:25
Download at Pacifica's Audioport here and at and

Since the 2004 swift boat propaganda campaign against then Presidential candidate John Kerry, U.S. political campaigns have seemed more like a review of Vietnam War era 'patriotism' than current Iraq and Afghan War policies. The glaring absence of real debate about America’s trillion dollar wars has left a void that the political right wing has stepped into just ahead of the 2010 Congressional vote. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, for example, is boosting fear and anger with appearances on US television. He is re-framing political discourse about Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran, into an old-fashioned cold war era battle against Islamic extremism. Blair helped former President George W. Bush, former VP Dick Cheney and former Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, sell the Iraq War back in 2003 and 2003. He is now doing the same thing for President Obama, arguing that if he were still in office he would likely attack Iran. Blair refuses to admit that he was wrong about the invasion of Iraq based on the argument that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He didn't. We hear clips of Blair onPBS and ABC.

The cost of war against Iran today would be immeasurable, would likely kill millions according to global security experts. The general public is nevertheless being denied real media debate about the costs. In fact, the American people are not getting the truth about the motivations of those who are designing new rhetoric about old arguments for attacking Iran. An additional cost of such an action could be the reinstatement of a military draft.

We review an era when the draft pulled in lots of different kinds of Americans, many of whom would eventually become peace activists like Jerry Lembcke. Why were their stories folded into a new narrative, who has distorted Vietnam War history, and why?

The most important truth about the cost of the Vietnam War is that 58,159 US Military personnel were killed, over 303,000 were wounded, many suffered in Indochinese POW camps. Four million Indochinese civilians perished during saturation bombing by US forces and in the ground warfare. (From U.S. Military records available online and Wiki, in more detail: here and here for civilian casualty numbers.)

Underwriting for this program was brought to you by, political analysis from outside the standard framework. He is founder and editor of and a recipient of the Project Censored 2010 Award. “New at, the piece, ‘Turning Back From the Point of No Return: Implications of the Threat to Bomb Iran.’ He wrote it to counter the public narrative arguing that an air strike on Iran might be necessary in order to prevent a nuclear holocaust.”

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