Why is Jane Fonda still hated? And why am I bringing this old subject up now?
Well, it’s connected with the process of thinking about my “A mind is a difficult thing…” series once again. It’s also connected to a passage I read in David Horowitz’s Radical Son, a book which has to go back to the library soon if I don’t want my library fines to reach epic proportions. And it’s related to this column by Quang X. Pham that appeared in today’s Boston Globe.
Fonda’s offenses were not limited to her Hanoi trip, although that’s the focus of most of the more recent publicity about her. But it’s her (and ex-husband Tom Hayden’s) other activities against the Vietnam war that interest me now, in light of what’s happening politically in this country concerning reports of dwindling support for our efforts in Iraq.
Our pullout from South Vietnam, and then our withdrawal of financial support to the struggling ARVN (arguably, a far greater betrayal), and that country’s subsequent Communist fall thirty years ago as well as subsequent bloody events in Cambodia, still rankle and fester, providing food for countless arguments. Who was at fault, and why did it happen?
One cannot underestimate the power of public opinion in this country, and it is an indisputable fact that those on the left were instrumental in shaping that opinion. In this post, I discussed how and why it was that so many on the anti-Vietnam War left still refuse to acknowledge the effect their activities had, post-Vietnam War, on the people of Vietnam and Cambodia. What I didn’t describe in that post was how far some of them–such as, for example, the prominent pair Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden–actually went in their antiwar activities. They were not simply protestors; they were (there’s no other way to put this) active lobbyists for the enemy cause, and polished and successful ones at that.
Fonda’s recent apology (or re-apology) doesn’t even begin to address the subject. And in fact, most of the critiques of her activities focus on her over-the-top behavior during her 1972 Hanoi trip. In my opinion, terrible though her actions there may have been, they didn’t really matter as much to American policy as her subsequent domestic lobbying activities, as detailed by Horowitz in Radical Son:
Hayden and Fonda organized an “Indo-China Peace Campaign” to cut off remaining American support for the regimes in Cambodia and South Vietnam. For the next few years [the early 70s], the Campaign worked tirelessly to ensure the victory of the North Vietnamese Communists and the Khmer Rouge. Accompanied by a camera team, Hayden and Fonda traveled first to Hanoi and then to the “liberated” zones in South Vietnam, to make a propaganda film. Called “Introduction to the Enemy,” it attempted to persuade viewers that the Communists were going to create a new society in the south. Equality and justice awaited its inhabitants if only American would cut off support for the Saigon regime.
Assisted by radical legislators like Ron Dellums and Bella Abzug, Hayden set up a caucus in the Capitol, where he lectured congressional staffers on the need to end American aid. He directed his attention to Cambodia as well, lobbying for an accommodation with the Khmer Rouge guerillas. Nixon’s resignation over Watergate provided all the leverage Hayden and his activists needed. The Democrats won the midterm elections, bringing to Washington a new group of legislators determined to undermine the settlement that Nixon and Kissinger had achieved. The aid was cut, the Saigon regime fell, and the Khmer rouge marched into the Cambodian capital. In the two years that followed, more Indochinese were killed by the victorious Communists than had been killed on both sides in all thirteen years of the anti-Communist war.
It was the bloodbath that [the Left's] opponents had predicted. But for the Left there would be no contrition and no look back.
Quang X. Pham’s Globe column is about the American betrayal of people such as his own father, a South Vietnamese officer and pilot trained in the late 50s in the US, who ended up imprisoned for a decade after the North Vietnamese takeover. He ends his article with the following poignant question: Now talk of exiting the war in Iraq has increased. What will happen to the Iraqis who believed in us? Will we let them down too?
Iraq is not Vietnam. But it appears more and more that the left is trying to make it into Vietnam. Jane Fonda is no longer especially active, although every now and then she makes some general statement against the war in Iraq. Hayden, likewise, is no longer the mover and shaker he once was. (Some of the more powerful antiwar cast of characters, however, are identical then and now–but that’s another story for another post).
But when I read the following words about the Iraq war by Tom Hayden, I got the proverbial chill down my spine. If he’s not as powerful as he used to me, it’s not for lack of desire or lack of ideas. The man has a plan, and his plan–strangely enough–is to repeat what worked for him back in the early 70′s:
…the [Leftist anti-Iraq war] movement needs to force our government to exit. The strategy must be to deny the U.S. occupation funding, political standing, sufficient troops, and alliances necessary to their strategy for dominance.
The first step is to build pressure at congressional district levels to oppose any further funding or additional troops for war. If members of Congress balk at cutting off all assistance and want to propose “conditions” for further aid, it is a small step toward threatening funding. If only 75 members of Congress go on record against any further funding, that’s a step in the right direction – towards the exit.
The important thing is for anti-war activists to become more grounded in the everyday political life of their districts, organizing anti-war coalitions including clergy, labor and inner city representatives to knock loudly on congressional doors and demand that the $200 billion squandered on Iraq go to infrastructure and schools at home. When trapped between imperial elites and their own insistent constituents, members of Congress will tend to side with their voters. That is how the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia were ended in 1975.
So there it is, in black and white–the plan is to repeat the glory days that led to the boat people and the killing fields of Cambodia. Pressure Congress to stop the funding, just as in 1975.
It is really, really recommended that you read Hayden’s entire document, in order to get a flavor of the unrepentant and unchanged quality of his thought processes and strategies. Just as in the 70s the Left undermined the idea of Vietnamization, Hayden is determined to undermine plans for Iraqization:
…we need to defeat the U.S. strategy of “Iraqization.” “Clearly, it’s better for us if they’re in the front-line,” Paul Wolfowitz explained last February. This cynical strategy is based on putting an Iraqi “face” on the U.S. occupation in order to reduce the number of American casualties, neutralize opposition in other Arab countries, and slowly legitimize the puppet regime. In truth, it means changing the color of the body count.
Note that one of the rationales for opposing Iraqization is the idea that it’s based on a sinister and cynical racist exploitation of the Iraqis, rather than their empowerment and the need for the US to ultimately bow out when no longer needed.
There is no sign, aside from Pentagon spin, that an Iraqi force can replace the American occupation in the foreseeable future. Pressure for funding cuts and for an early American troop withdrawal will expose the emptiness of the promise of “Iraqization.” In Vietnam, the end quickly came when South Vietnamese troops were expected to defend their country. The same is likely to occur in Iraq …
Not if we have anything to say about it, Tom.
(Linked to Mudville Gazette’s “Open Post.”)