Talk Nation Radio for September 15, 2010,
Jerry Lembcke on his book, Hanoi Jane, part 2
Produced by, Dori Smith in Storrs, Connecticut and syndicated with Pacifica Network
Download at Pacifica's Audioport here or at Radio4all.net and Archive.org. Here is an active link: http://ia360700.us.archive.org/11/items/AnInterviewWithJerryLembckeOnHisBookHanoiJanePart2/2010-09-15-Jerry-Lembcke-Part2-Myths-and-War-Vietnam-to-Iraq-Afghanistan.mp3
We hear more from Vietnam War veteran and scholar Jerry Lembcke as we continue our conversation about propaganda, myths, and war, from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan. Jerry Lembcke is a Professor of sociology at the College of the Holy Cross and served as a chaplain’s assistant during the war. His 2010 book about actress Jane Fonda is titled, 'Hanoi Jane, War, Sex, and Fantasies of Betrayal' published by University of Massachusetts Press, 2010. (See Amazon)
Jane Fonda visited Vietnam in 1972 as one of hundreds of peace activists. They were trying to reach out to the enemy and send a message to both the American people and U.S. forces, that the war was wrong. Like others before her including Pete Seeger and Noam Chomsky, she made an appeal for peace on Radio Hanoi, accusing the Nixon administration of lying to the troops. Her message to U.S. pilots according to Lembcke was, 'If they told you the truth, you wouldn’t fight, you wouldn’t kill'.
Jane Fonda was accused of demoralizing the troops and POW's with the broadcasts. Yet during his research for the book, Jerry Lembcke had trouble finding any U.S. veterans who remembered even hearing the radio dispatch. It was in fact the hard right wing, the John Birch society, even the Klu Klux Klan* that went after Jane Fonda. They began calling her Hanoi Jane and making all sorts of charges that she was a traitor. The FBI had in fact created a file on her, and Jerry Lembcke found an undated page stating that Fonda “denied being a Communist”. A memo from 1972 classifying her though as quote: “not dangerous”. It was the height of the Cold War, but there are many similarities to what is happening in the media today,
During the Vietnam War era many Americans were struggling to cope with the heavy cost of the war and confidence in the Nixon administration was shaky. There were regular news reports showing the devastating consequences of U.S. carpet bombing on Vietnamese civilians in vivid detail.
The Hanoi Jane myth was later folded into Hollywood’s portrayal of soldiers who were psychologically damaged by the war. The crisis in confidence that was really caused by the fact that the U.S. Military lost Saigon, was covered up in a smokescreen of excuses about U.S. peace activists like Fonda who were supposedly causing the loss, and because of her tremendous beauty she was also accused of castrating soldiers. In truth, the soldiers became invisible, replaced by macho mythology that helped to disguise America’s failed policy and hide those responsible for it.
During the Presidency of George W. Bush, and in the wake of 9/11, rhetoric about U.S. war policies was in many ways similar to rhetoric from former President Nixon. Americans were divided into hawks versus doves, and Nixon created a political smokescreen, covering up policy failures by turning U.S. attention to questions of honor. He was talking about a cessation of hostilities, but at the same time escalating U.S. forces.
The Vietnam War was very costly to both the U.S. and Vietnamese forces. There were 58,159 U.S. military casualties, more than 303,000 were seriously wounded. The highest price for the war, however, was paid by the people of Indochina. U.S. bombing and ground war killed most of the 4 million civilians who perished in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
The famous CBS News man, Walter Cronkite said of April 29, 1975, the day U.S. forces were airlifted from Saigon, that it was "a mad dash out the door into the parking lot for the waiting helicopter. And then it was farewell to Vietnam." He also said, 'We should be very cautious. We should be sure that we understand what we're getting into when we dabble in the affairs of other nations. And that is particularly true when dabbling gets to the point of committing military forces'. Walter Cronkite reflecting on U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam.