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What Are We Doing To Ourselves, Page 2
GALICIA. I think we've all sat here, and we've pondered your question and its magnitude. I think that maybe the answer's really simple. That we're just going to have to get the _____ out of there. And that we're going to have to stop doing the things that we as veterans all know we do. And treat the ones that are among us now who are actively seeking it. I think that in time it would go away, like all other natural things, including floods and fires. It would just disappear. I feel compelled to end my part of this thing by saying just this. One of my severest critics brought up a point to me, my wife. She said, while we were out for supper, that she had some fear in her mind that because of the presentation of some of the panels, the words that were being used, the appearance of the people here, that maybe what they were trying to do would have a dampening effect upon the people who were here, who represented the people that they were trying to get to, and that person is the middle American, whatever the devil that means I think we've all got our concept of it. I'm not back long enough to not identify with these people. I identify with them tremendously, and we haven't used such terms up here as "_____" and so on. We all know they exist. And even the kids to my left and right have refrained from this. But I would like to come to these people's defense only from the standpoint that they are trying to tell you what it was really like. And for the most part, I know they are telling you the truth. And that was the language of Vietnam; that was one of the few avenues of expression open to them. You can't try to express an idea without that kind of thing coming back, I think that the thing that impresses me most is not that a man will come up here and tell you about the things he's done. I think that takes some courage. But I think the real courage is for a man to come up here with the gall he's experiencing and tell the things he's done with the definite knowledge in mind that he might not be believed.

CLOKE. I'd like to try and follow up on the question, if I could. And also try and follow up on some of the things that Sid mentioned because I think they're quite relevant. I think this discussion has been interesting so far because a large number of things have, I think, been presented to us both in terms of what has been talked about and what hasn't been talked about. I'd like to try and find a way of tying those things together because I think they tie together. I think the framework that we have to work from is expressed in a very famous statement by the Baron von Clauswitz, who everybody knows is a master strategist of war, who said that "war is a continuation of politics by other means." And I think that that's a fundamental fact that has to be appreciated about war. You cannot separate the problems of individual psychology and the individual psychological problems of people in a wartime situation, or the individual problems whatever they are, that are faced in that wartime situation from the problems of the society as a whole. So, what has not been talked about, except there was one mention of it, are the thousands of different forms of chauvinism and bias and prejudice which we manifest in every aspect of our daily life. The thousand different forms of self-doubt, of self-hatred, of social schizophrenia, which take place not just individually among individual Vietnam GIs, but among everybody in the population. There's not a single person in the United States today who feels like a whole human being. Not a single individual who feels creative, or loved, or worthwhile; or all of those things. And I think that that's a terribly fundamental fact, and it's not just the individual who's involved in that understanding. It's the total society that we live in. So I think that what has to be gotten to is a kind of social psychology of imperialism. A social psychology of the relationship between colonizer and colonized; between racist and the subjects of racism, and in terms of sexism. Another fact that was not mentioned is just the mere simple fact that GIs are in a totally male environment, which encourages and increases all of the natural forms of male dominance and male chauvinism that exists in the society as a whole. The other thing that I think has to be gotten to is some attempt at definition to understand what we're talking about; to begin to put it in some kind of a context so that chauvinism doesn't just appear like an abstract word coming down from the mouths of professionals, but has a reality to it. The same thing is true of the question of atrocities.

What attempts have been made to define the question of atrocity. And I think that that's an important thing that has to be done. The reason it's important is because of the fact that all of those things have subjective meanings, if you will. Subjective, not in terms of the individuals involved, but also in terms of the social classes involved, also in terms of where people are coming from in terms of their attitudes. One does not trust the white colonizer, in Algeria, to make decisions as to what is a colonialist type of behavior. One does not trust a white American to be able to understand all of the different forms of racism within the society, or a male to be able to talk about the question of chauvinism in terms of really defining the ways in which it works, the ways in which it has to be understood. The reason for that is because the facts are just not available to them. We've been raised in an environment which is oppressive in a thousand different ways. And I think that we have to begin to understand the ways in which we have been affected, the ways in which all of our thinking has been affected by that. For example, and this is a problem throughout this whole discussion, I think, is to begin to try and differentiate between form and content, between phenomenon and essence, between the structure of things and the reality, the essence of things. And, on the superficial level, the violence between the United States and the Vietnamese is identical; they both kill one another. They both shoot one another. They deprive each other of human life. But, in fact, the violence between Vietnam and America, on the part of the National Liberation Front and on the part of the American forces in Vietnam, is not at all identical. It's totally different. And the reason it's totally different is the reason behind the violence. The same thing is true with respect to atrocities. That is, that atrocities are subjective; each side defines atrocities in a different way. And it's not just a question of balancing out the atrocities on one side against the atrocities on the other side. It's a question of understanding why they occur; what caused them to occur in the first place. For example, the wiping out of water buffalo in Vietnam which is considered by the Vietnamese to be an atrocity. Americans don't consider it to be an atrocity because they don't particularly care for water buffalo in the first place. The same thing is true with defoliation.

The same thing is true on a number of different levels. While the sides are at different points in time able to come together and engage in agreements as to what constitutes an atrocity, nonetheless, the major atrocity in the war in Vietnam is the war itself; is the fact of imperialism. Is the fact of exploitation and oppression in Vietnam. One of the reasons why people feel guilt about the use of violence is not just because of the fact that they've used violence, but because they used meaningless violence, violence without any sense, without any direction, without any purpose or cause. So, therefore, for example, the poll that was taken by the Harvard Crimson, I believe, among black veterans in Vietnam, found that 53% of the veterans in Vietnam, while opposing the war, believed that they would use the techniques that they learned in the Unites States military to fight against racism and for Black Liberation in the United States. I think that the question of why My Lai happened is a very important question, and, again, everyone here knows that My Lai was not an isolated incident, that it didn't just happen at some single point in time, but has happened throughout the war. But the reason that My Lai happened is not because we're winning the war, but because of the fact that we're losing it, because of the nature of guerilla warfare, because of the inability to resolve the basic conflict that the United States military and, through the form of basic training, prepares people for. The same source of dissatisfaction, you know, "can't get no satisfaction" and all of that, is true for everyone in this society, and we've got to begin to understand the ways in which the problems that the Vietnam veterans face in Vietnam are relevant to us here at home. We aren't just going to learn at this conference of Winter Soldier Investigation from Vietnam veterans about what happened in Vietnam, I hope. I hope that we will also learn about our own lives, about our own problems, about our own sources of oppression within this society as a whole. And that's the thing that we have to begin to pick up on, to see the interrelationships between all of these different forms of oppression at home and abroad. It's impossible to think about, or to look at, a situation where someone commits an atrocity without attempting to examine the reason that that atrocity was committed in the first place. There's a law which says that internal contradictions are reflected externally. I think the same is true in reverse.

Not only is it true in reverse in the sense that external contradictions are reflected internally, but also the resolution of those contradictions is reflected both internally and externally. And, therefore, we can through meetings of this sort, through gatherings of this sort, through protest, through struggle, through the use of every apparatus available to us, engage in an attempt to discuss these things. Maybe we can begin to see some ways in which we can begin to resolve that problem internally and externally. But you cannot nearly treat the problem of the war in Vietnam in abstract. The only solution, to answer the question that you asked is a total solution and what that total solution amounts to is not decided by us. We are aware of the problem. We're aware of the nature of the sources of oppression within the society. But it's basically up to the ruling class of the United States, including several gentlemen residing here in the city of Detroit, to attempt to give an answer to that basic problem. If we can solve the problems of this country by running people for office, then I think we ought to do that. But, all you have to think about, I think, is what would happen if Huey Newton were elected President of the United States (and how that would be accepted by various people in the United States) to understand that violence is not a problem that is only going to happen in Vietnam. The struggle in the United States, the movement against racism, against war, against repression, against sexism, against militarism, against imperialism in the United States, is a struggle which is already violent. We saw what happened already at Kent State. We have seen the numerous different forms through which violence has affected people in the military, and I think that we have to begin to turn this discussion inward and to deal with our own problems in that respect. The last thing that I want to say primarily is that the solution to the problem is people, and the phrase about "Power to the People" ought not to be just abstract rhetoric. It has a real meaning and people ought to think about the meaning and try and understand that meaning. Brecht I think summarized it very well--and I don't have a copy of the poem with me so I'll have to try and paraphrase what he said. He said, "General, your tank is a mighty vehicle. It can crash through forests and tear down buildings. It has only one defect. It needs a driver. General, your airplane is a mighty instrument. It can fly thousands of miles and drop bombs from thousands of miles above and wreak terror on whole populations. It has one defect. It needs a driver. General, your army is a mighty institution. It has conquered whole peoples and subjected whole peoples to your oppression. But your army has one defect and your soldier has one defect. He can think."

MODERATOR. Thank you, Ken.

MCSHEFFREY. I have one short thing to say. I don't know how they can call all these things atrocities because really it's nothing but an All-American with a "Kan" [?] way of living.

MODERATOR. Dr. Lifton?

LIFTON. I'd like to add something also. I agree with much of what's been said, but I guess I've got my additions and qualifications, too. I'm a little wary of the phrase "total solution." It's been used badly in the past. We do need fundamental solutions and I guess we all agree on that. We can't, it's true, we cannot separate My Lai from the rest of American society, and we've got to dig deep into American society and into ourselves about My Lai. But, if you really believe the solution is people, as I think all of us on this panel and in the audience are committed to, then we've got to really consider the people in that solution, and what they become and what they are and how they behave as human beings. In that regard clearly one has to be militant. And I think one has to, in this regard, distinguish, as has been done, between forms of violence and motivations for violence. But I think we should beware of, rather than welcome, the use of lessons in violence learned in Vietnam, in our own society, and elsewhere.

MODERATOR. Dr. Bjornson?

BJORNSON. I thoroughly agree with that. I would also like to point out that one of the major problems in the United States is obviously its economics. Two-thirds of our federal budget goes to this war or past wars. We're paying now about a 14 billion dollars per year interest debt, mostly for past wars. One of the solutions is very simple; no more wars anywhere, anytime.

MODERATOR. I would like to open this up to the people in the audience. I imagine we've stimulated their thought a little bit and I'd like to throw it open for questions. This gentleman here had a question.

EGENDORF. I asked for the microphone because although I thought I had testimony to give, for quite some time I was scared and I didn't want to give it. And I didn't come forward until today. They couldn't fit me in, but I wanted to be on this panel. My name is Arthur Egendorf. I served with the 525 MI Group in Saigon, later with a group called the Field Support Group in Washington. I got particularly interested in this discussion because they were talking about the working class, as well as part of the solution being no more war. But people began to hint about institutions, and I think I have some things to say from my own experience in intelligence as to what extent the institutions of this society are very much a part of the phenomenon that we're discussing tonight. It's not something we can deal with just by treating veterans, or by getting the government out of the war in Vietnam, or by proposing a moratorium on future wars, but by looking at all these institutions that the radicals are saying are all wrong. In fact, those of us who came from my background never suspected to be actually involved in the things that we later found out we were involved in. I went to Harvard, majored in economics, worked on a project studying multi-national corporations, did research in Europe on them before being bothered by the draft board, and I enlisted in intelligence. I was told that I would be in area studies because people with my background should be in area studies and not with the infantry. And I found out in the first day of intelligence school that area studies is spying. I was later sent to Vietnam, and because I speak French, I was set up in Saigon in a position I really wanted. I didn't want to be out in the field. I didn't want to have to be under fire. I ran French spies back and forth into Cambodia. And one of the first things that I had to do there was to arrange to get press cover for my spies.

This, some of the people in the press corps might have heard about, and they might also have heard last year the Army's denial of this fact--that press cover was need for espionage operatives. But it's been a standing policy, covert, of course, since the beginning of the war. Later I found out about Esso Standard Oil being used to provide cover for people in Cambodia; that was a proposed operation. Later when I was sent back to Washington, I found out about x-hundred different companies working through the CIA with Army Intelligence and providing cover and accommodation addresses. About how Internal Revenue Service documents were falsified in order to hide income paid to spies, as well as Treasury Department and Immigration Department documents falsified to aid operatives overseas. And, in fact, a large number of the institutions that I had studied in college, believing that these were things that were going to help toward world peace, the multi-national corporation was going to weld the world together--were in fact working for Uncle Sam; not totally, not everybody committed to Uncle Sam, but the institutions provide a cover for things that are not published in this society. Not because it would be a threat to our national security, but because the people of this country, if they found out about it would probably feel what I feel now. Which is quite a bit of desperation. The feeling that Dr. Lifton talked about--the word is rotten (It's not articulate enough), but that's what I feel. It's rotten. All these old alternatives are no longer there. They have the same taint that the Army has. They're not viable alternatives. I don't know where the new ones are to come from. People who are not only just working class or not the great middle America, but are shining elites are faced by the same problems. We're all in the same boat.

MODERATOR. One of the situations we face in this investigation is that as publicity has kind of got out about what we're doing people such as this gentleman have come forward at the last minute, we've found out we're not alone. And maybe that's the good thing about it. A lot of men at the last minute have come forth and said they'd like to testify. They have something to offer us. There are an awful lot of people who are in the same boat. I'd like to open it now to more questions.

QUESTION. The question is do the gentlemen of the panel feel that there is something about the United States which more or less predestined and preordained that the course of this war, the policies of this war, the way it was prosecuted, would go the way they have gone, or do you feel that perhaps with wiser leadership, with a different sort of policy making procedure and so forth, it might have been different? Was this an inevitable tragedy, or was it a tragedy that could have been avoided?

BJORNSON. All right, Tim, I can answer this. I would like to answer this very quickly from personal experience. When I was in Vietnam they had seven changes of government. We were on red alert twice for removal of all U.S. troops because we were in danger of possible take-over of the government by a South Vietnamese government self-appointed which we could not get along with. We were ready to pull out all American troops as early as August 1964. I'm sorry we didn't.

LIFTON. I'll say something as long as we, he asked the two of us at this end of the table, whatever his reason. I'm willing to use the word genocide for what we're doing in Vietnam. I think it's an appropriate word. Because genocide means killing of whole population groups. It also involves moving and destroying the land or as a colleague of mine used the term, ecocide, meaning destroying the entire ecology with defoliation and bombing and the various fire power that we're using in Vietnam. Even though it's true that a sizable population still exists and lives in South Vietnam and North Vietnam too. I think the word genocide, given the extent to which things have gone, is not excessive. I think it's a reasonable word and here, incidentally, I'm willing to follow Jean Paul Sartre when he says that you create a situation, that almost inevitably leads to genocide under certain conditions. These are: a country from an alien but highly developed technology, moving into the area of an alien country with a very low developed technology in a situation of revolution and counterinsurgency. Given that situation, and I must agree with my colleagues here, we must look at this historical and political situation along with the psychological issues, some kind of genocide is very, very likely to result. But, in terms of the second question, inevitably, I think one has to be careful about inevitability about anything. Whenever you study human behavior it's hard to say anything is inevitable, but you can have certain conditions where things are more likely. And given a lot that's been said about the institutions in American life, things that happen in Vietnam have been all too likely. Therefore, I think that we should not, on the one hand, take a position of absolute inevitability; then we wouldn't be able to change things. We've got to change things. Nothing is absolutely inevitable. On the other hand, the war was not a simple accident that we blundered into through some foolish leadership. But rather has to do with a lot of things. Yes, it's a kind of neo-imperialism. It's also a kind of remnant of cold war ideology that has to do with pure American virtue and absolute Communist evil, no matter where these arise. And even though this particular revolution we're ostensibly combatting happens to be over 40 years old and arises from deep national aspirations, as well as being Communist, as you know. So these illusions are a source that run deep into American foreign policy, in the fabric of American life and yes, into the American class structure. But I don't think we should take a position of absolute inevitability, rather of making fundamental changes in institutions that take a very different course and avoid that kind of outcome.

PECK. Well, I would just like to follow up that comment first of all by stating that the evidence for genocide is clearly there. Whether one looks at the use of biological and chemical means of warfare as Professor Messleman has at Harvard, in terms of the genocide that has taken place; whether we look at the indiscriminate use of napalming, the use of anti-personnel pellet bombing, or whether we take a look at the bomb tonnage that has been dropped in Vietnam during this period, greater than all the bomb tonnage in World War II, an average of bomb tonnage equivalent to nearly three Hiroshima bombs a week in Vietnam. Now I was in Hiroshima and Nagasaki last August and I talked to the survivors and victims of the atomic bomb. I saw and visited the museum at Hiroshima. And yet in Vietnam that means every 2 1/2 days a Hiroshima bomb is dropped. Now why does that take place? Why is the United States doing that? Why is the United States in Vietnam? That's just a very, very simple question. One could say that we stumbled into Vietnam; that we sort of tricked ourselves into it by a series of miscalculations, a series of errors, a series of misjudgments on the part of the State Department during the Truman Administration and from then on into now. But the fact of the matter is that the United States emerged as the dominant world power in the immediate post-World War II situation. And we emerged in that way because our whole industrial, political and social base was unscathed in this horrible international holocaust. I mean, we were not bombed, we were not destroyed here, but the fact of the matter is that the industrial base in England, in Japan, in Germany, in Italy, in the Soviet Union, in every major industrial power was destroyed, except the United States. In addition, we had attained the use of nuclear power and we proclaimed in initiating our ascendancy to a position of preeminence in the world, the introduction of the American Century, Pax Americana. Gar Alprovitz, in his very, very important work on atomic diplomacy has documents in a very definitive way, that the dropping of the bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were primarily for political and diplomatic reasons and, in fact, initiated the cold war. Now you can read the evidence if you like. The point is we entered Vietnam because Vietnam is part of our whole Pacific rim strategy, our whole effort to maintain presence in the mainland of Asia and to effect control over what we consider to be an important market resource area. And when the French, in their colonial rule, a kind of graft-ridden colonial control based on the uses of a coastal elite in oppressing and exploiting the Vietnamese peasantry, when the French finally, through the continued perseverance of the Vietnamese movement for a national independence, were in the throes of defeat, we went in there with everything we could. From 1950 to 1954 we poured in nearly 3 billion dollars. Even prior to the defeat at Dien Bien Phu, our now president, Mr. Nixon, along with Admiral Radford and others, was floating the Operation Vulture program, which would have meant American expeditionary intervention at that time including possible use of a nuclear strike. Now, what we are trying to say is that there is a history to our involvement and those of us who never knew where Vietnam was in February of 1965, when LBJ, our peace candidate (of course we all wore buttons, you know, "part of the way with LBJ"), initiated unilateral bombing of North Vietnam.

We didn't know anything about Vietnam or Indochina and we had to teach ourselves right from scratch; and that's what the teach-in movement was about. And we learned plenty. We learned that the war was not a mistake, that it was not an error. But, it was a calculated expression of American neo-imperialist policies. What went wrong? What went wrong, my friend, is that we could not pull off the Dominican Republic. If we could have pulled it off in five days, there would have been no protest movement. There would have been no struggle against the war. But what we did not expect in Vietnam and what the Secretary of Defense, who was esteemed for his use of computer programming could not program at that time, was the deep will to resist on the part of the Vietnamese people and the fact that their struggle for national independence was rooted not only in an immediate forty year period, but went throughout their centuries of history of struggling against foreign oppression. That it was rooted in their very culture. Therefore, we were immediately faced in fighting a people. We were fighting against a people's war. And, where does our strategy come from? It comes from one of the, I assume, instructors of our young brother here, Samuel Huntington at Harvard and Kissinger, too, no doubt. But, I mean, what did Huntington say? What you have to do to defeat a people engaged in a people's struggle against foreign intervention and oppression is to dry up the ocean so that the fish don't have any water. That's to say, destroy the logistic base of a movement struggling for national independence.

And, if you want to destroy the military arm of that movement, then you must destroy the people. You must destroy their social fabric. You must destroy their very infrastructure. You must uproot them from their land, you must move them into concentration camps and you must kill them indiscriminately so that a sufficient number are so destroyed, so uprooted, so demoralized, so broken apart that the rest will submit. But if there's anything that I've learned from the Vietnamese, they will never, never submit. Never! I think that what all of us are saying here is that we are fundamentally appreciative of the Vietnamese for that struggle because in the process they save us, as human beings. They give us the opportunity to struggle for our own freedom, our own independence, and our own liberation here.

MODERATOR. I'd like to simply add that if anybody doesn't believe the gentlemen that have participated in the panels today and the panels that will be given the next two days about the question of genocide, that he simply take a trip to Vietnam and go ask a rice farmer how he feels about having his crops blown away; that he ask a Vietnamese mother who has borne a deformed child how she feels about the question of genocide, and you'll get a pretty good answer.

PECK. When I was in Vietnam, I did have a chance to visit some of the bomb victims. We're under the impression, of course, that bombing of Vietnam has really ended north of the 19th parallel since the April Fool's speech of LBJ. Also, we think that that's the case since October 1968. But, I carry with me, and I always will these photographs of three bomb victims that I met. I asked the attending physician to have these photographs made after I met with them. This is the young woman, aged 21, Miss That who was the victim of a napalm bomb in December 26, 1969; and you see her leg. It's as though she's resting it on a bench. Well, the fact of the matter is, that's the permanent position of her leg. The napalm has so shriveled up that skin that the leg cannot stretch out at all. And they've done innumerable skin grafting already and they will continue to do it. She just doesn't have use of that leg and it will retain itself in that permanent position. The next one is a 22 year old saleswoman, who was struck by a pellet bomb, on March 28, 1970 and only survived because a person, who was killed by the pellet bombs, fell on top of her. But she has six pellets embedded in her body and they can't be removed. One is on the back of her neck and, as a consequence, the arm is completely paralyzed and subject to every whim and change of the temperature and to touch.

I just sort of reached out to her hand, and she just retreated in pain. And then here is a young farmer, aged 26, who was bombed in late '68. And he was bombed by a phosphorus bomb. Phosphorus makes for intense burning of the skin and his whole body is disfigured. You can see his arms and his whole face was blinded by it. He has one of his eyes restored. And I don't believe that I am responsible for that bombing. I mean I'm trying to say that to myself. But when you look and when you talk to Vietnamese and you see what is being done to a whole people (and this is just three of a whole number of people, every family in Vietnam no longer has members of it and I think you just have to understand how deeply loyal and close they are to their own kin and to their own family) you know what this means. I can only tell you when you ask is there genocide in Vietnam, I've seen the villages that have been leveled. I've seen the fantastic bombardment that has taken place there. I haven't seen it in the South as the GIs and others have seen it. But anybody going to Vietnam can tell you that the people are being destroyed and it's summed up in that horrible, absurd, dehumanized, brutalized phrase that in order to save the village we had to destroy it.

GALICIA. I think that each of us comes home with this kind of thing. I offer you a picture that was sent to me by a good friend of mine of a young Vietnamese girl. This was a 2nd Lt. who did my work for me down in the Delta. He's written off the back, "In the eyes of a child one can see what to most of us is a memory of life and love and being free. A child again can I ever be? Signed, Steven." And he says, "This child's sister was just killed by wounds inflicted by misdirected U.S. artillery fire. Pray for peace."

GEYMANN. How many times on television at night can you see John Wayne killing dirt yellow _____ on television? It happens every day. I dare somebody in this city, in Detroit to go to a TV network during the day and not find at least one war movie where they're killing yellow _____. That's genocide on just more than the Vietnamese. That's on the whole yellow race. You don't see them killing Germans because they're white. You don't see them killing Italians 'cause they're white. But something from the Orient's yellow, and it's not to be trusted.

QUESTION. I was with the 4th Infantry and 9th Infantry in 1967 as a rifleman. Ever since I got back, I've been working in the peace movement, mainly with veterans. I want to direct this question to Mr. Lifton. I skimmed over his book on Hiroshima and I kind of get the picture that you're not sure of what's going to happen with those of us who've returned and have this feeling of wanting to die, that you mention, or wanting to kill. And there's 2 1/2 million veterans and I don't know what percentage involved in the peace movement, I was just wondering if you could comment on that? Secondly, I know that we've been trying to get work within the government to try to get help and make the problems of the Vietnam veteran known. How are you coming along with this?

LIFTON. The first question has to with really the fate of millions of Vietnam veterans. Will they take a direction of violence and chauvinism and really tie themselves to reactionary and chauvinistic political movements in this country and tendencies? I think there's a real danger of that and I think we should be aware of it. We were discussing informally and we don't know how large an issue this is, but it may be a very large one indeed.

There is a tendency of a number of GIs to get out of service earlier by showing a willingness to join the police force. Now it's very possible, we can't prejudge it, but it's very possible that the most chauvinistic of the GIs, those who want to keep on a violent pattern that they learned in Vietnam or they learned before that but had intensified enormously in Vietnam, that they'll simply maintain that. I think there is an important psychological point here. Anybody who comes back from Vietnam, just as anybody who underwent an atomic bomb in Hiroshima, in fact, anybody who undergoes any extreme experience involving massive death, becomes a survivor of that experience and in Vietnam one has the added element of having been, as I suggested before, an executioner as well as a victim in many ways.

Now the survivor can fundamentally go one of two directions. He must, no matter what direction he takes, find significance and meaning in his life, because he's struggling to, in some way, reintegrate himself, find integrity in his life in a very personal way and in his overall world view and his general, larger political and ethical position. He can, in the traditional way of veterans, as veterans usually have in this country, take the direction of more chauvinism, more war, defending war and fighting as you saw in those little demonstrations outside today, objecting to anybody who wants to take peaceful direction or direction of fundamental change and transformation. There's a very real danger that a large number of veterans in this country will follow that. What I think is encouraging, on the other hand, is the enormous number of veterans who are struggling against very great odds, but with considerable success, to take the other direction, that is, finding meaning and exposing the very meaninglessness of the Vietnam war. But not only that, but finding what led to the war, giving form to the experience. That's more difficult, but a much more profound and a much more beneficial and noble direction that veterans are taking. And I think that it may be that if all of us work hard enough, we can swing the thing for the great majority of Vietnam veterans to move in that direction. Because there are large and important ties between veterans and youth culture and between veterans and militant political groups of a number of kinds.

The thing I would add to that is that it's a complicated personal transition and I think it's all too easy to reverse the NL paradigm I mentioned before, the cold war ideology; that America possesses all and total virtue and America's alleged enemies, the Communists, reflect total depravity. It's easy to reverse that, to see all too easily, I think, America as possessing total evil, the only evil that's ever been felt in the world. Clearly that's not true. But it happens that America is perhaps the most destructive force, given our technological and social structure, that the world now faces. If that's so, what we have to do is draw upon whatever positive and humane traditions, and there are some, the fact that we meet here in this way perhaps attests to this, that exist in American life, and strengthen them and deepen them and transform the rest of American life into that positive direction. Not sink in a mire of breast-beating about total evil. I want to say another word about the second question that he raised because that's important, too. I did testify before the Cranston Subcommittee. I do believe that veterans need much better facilities at all the veterans hospitals. That they've been a scandal; everybody knows that. In fact, the administration has apparently blocked whatever efforts Cranston's group has made to increase facilities for veterans. But I confess that my appearing before that committee, as I made very clear to the people when I went there, was not for the purpose of getting better facilities primarily, although that would be fine if that happened, but rather for the sake of publicizing the full breadth of the problem that we've been discussing tonight about brutalization of our whole society as reflected in the veterans' problems. And I guess what I really believe in (it's a small thing but lots can grow from it) are, as some of you in the audience know, informal rap sessions in offices of peace-minded veterans groups. They help vets to really come to terms with themselves and find their bearings along the lines we've been discussing, but also they help again gain information and publicize and spread over various media some of the things that we've been talking about tonight. I think that can grow in various ways that are unpredictable; along with many other movement efforts.

QUESTION. (not audible)

LIFTON. I was asked whether the process of basic training can be compared to a so-called thought reform process that I described in an earlier work on Communist China, or so-called brainwashing. Let me make clear that when I described that process in an earlier study, what I tried to do was take a specific series of examples and then apply them universally. The issue there was not even the nature of the political movement so much as the process by which men's minds could be molded and narrowed. The McCarthy movement in America at that time, which was then rampant, was another very vivid example that I spoke of and developed. The problem then became not Chinese thought reform so much as a general tendency anywhere, in any society, toward totalistic thought, toward an absolute point of view which totally taints with guilt and even non-existence, the threat of non-existence, whether through murder or some other form of the equivalent of non-existence by being tossed out of society, as in the case of certain Russian writers now who are protesting that that pattern of totalism, or ideological totalism, has to be defined. And I tried to set up certain criteria for it. Getting back to basic training in American military units; I think it falls into most of those categories and a colleague of mine, who I hope will be here tomorrow and the next day, Peter Bourne, who has studied basic training and also studied combat, has actually used examples and quoted work that I and others have done about thought reform or totalism and demonstrated their existence in American military basic training procedures. You must remember that what is characteristic of this kind of process is that a man is made to feel extremely guilty, as if he doesn't exist at all, can't exist, and is threatened with terrible harm unless he takes a very narrow, and in this case, very brutalized pattern, adopts it as his own, internalizes it, and then expresses it. I think basic training has to be looked at very severely in this light.

MODERATOR. I had a question passed up to me. It says, you speak of racism. Why is there no representative of black GIs on the panel when more blacks, per capita, are sent to Vietnam--and it's signed, "A White Canadian." If the gentleman hadn't run off to supper, he would have seen a very interesting discussion on racism with a black vet, a Chicano, an Indian veteran, an Oriental veteran and a white veteran. We have quite a few black veterans who are going to testify. Let me say one thing else on the subject of racism. Blacks have been talking about racism for years; they've been trying to get it across to white people. I think it's important that we whites are understanding it now; that we're talking about it, too. And the fact that these veterans who are predominantly white, understand that it's racism that's screwing up the works is very important step in building a new America.

QUESTION. Not much of the panel is along these lines true because if we need a total solution, we have to understand that there's a total problem. When we're talking about genocide I don't think we want to think only about the genocidal acts in Southeast Asia, but the genocide of 25 million blacks in America. I'm not talking about the repression of the Panthers. I'm not talking about Angela Davis. We expect intellectuals to be repressed and to be killed off. I'm talking about the people in the ghettos. Five years after the Hough fires those houses are still standing, gutted, homes for rats and for other things which are not good or healthy for babies and other living things. I would like the panel to discuss for a moment the effects of having two-thirds of our national budget being spent in Vietnam and what this does to genocide of 25 million blacks.

MODERATOR. I'd like to open that with just one thought. The war in Vietnam and racism are so closely related that now the National Guard has M-16s in my home state, which is Ohio, and you know Detroit and lots of other places, that are inner-city areas, have been subjected to the concept of free fire zones, which were developed in Vietnam. So I think there's definitely a close tie. Ken, would you like to talk on this point?

CLOKE. Sure. I think that one of the things that needs to be said about that problem is the way in which the United States creates, intentionally creates, categories which allow racism to foster and to develop. The primary category is poverty. The ways in which that happens in terms of the international relations of the United States and the ways in which it happens at home are very nearly identical. I think that part of the discussion has to deal with a question of the economics of racism in terms of the way in which poverty is reinforced by a social system which, I think everyone will recognize, can be called capitalism in which there are large numbers of people who own the major instruments of production and distribution in the society and who, by virtue of that ownership, force other people to sell their labor power and work for a wage. That fact ought to be clear to people here in Detroit more than maybe in other places in the country.

But the creation of a whole class of people, a whole category of people who are incapable, rendered incapable, not by virtue of their own activity but by virtue of the activity of the social system in which they operate, of participating in that society as equals, is part of a total historical process and I think that it has to be dealt with in that way. I don't think that it's possible to look only at the United States of America in the 1970's and to examine the question of racism and to think that it has to be examined on an historical scale. For example, the ways in which the United States forced Cuba to produce sugar cane. The ways in which the United States forced other countries of the world to produce items which would be economically beneficial to it. And all in the name of what some people have referred to as the multi-national corporate scheme of world development.

The fact is that at present the United States is, and American ruling interests are, deeply involved in the extraction of the wealth of the world from different parts of the world. That wealth exists not only in the form of natural commodities, that is, items for sale, but in the form of the human commodity also, labor and labor power. And it's important for us, I think, to see the question of racism in those terms. In addition to that, there develops alongside of that, and with that, a kind of social psychology of racism. A kind of social psychology of oppression which, I'd recommend a book which I'm involved in reading right now, which is a book by E. Meme called Dominated Man, which talks about the problems of racism, the problems of colonialism, the problems of sexism in terms not of one country at a given historical period in time, but it attempts to extrapolate from that experience and to generalize in the experience. And the conclusion, I think, that you come to is a conclusion which Sartre reached in his introduction to Franz Fanon's book, The Wretched of the Earth, where he says, at one point, that the engine of colonialism turns in a circle and that you can hardly distinguish its daily practice from its own objective necessity. In other words, you can hardly distinguish what is done on a daily basis from the necessities of that system in operation.

The most important thing I think which we've been trying to develop here is the idea that all of this is part of the system. That is, that there are not just isolated individual sources of oppression that exist within the society as a whole, here is not just on the one hand, the oppression of blacks and on the other hand, the oppression of women, on the other hand, the oppression of Vietnamese. But that all these dovetail; come together and integrate and that part of the process of our political awakening is discovering ways in which these things are integrated. When I spoke earlier about total solution, that was what I meant. That the only way in which you can begin to reach the fundamental problems of oppression first particular groups of people is to see the general oppression that exists throughout the society; to understand some of its general features, its historical evolution; the ways in which it originated and grew.

The difficulty in terms of dealing with questions of racism and sexism and imperialism, I think, are primarily, at this point, problems in how we organize ourselves in such a way that we understand that even though we're against this process in some kind of total sense, the ways in which we exemplify and participate in this process on a day-to-day level. This is particularly coming to the fore right now with the women's organizations that are growing and multiplying around the country. But it's a problem that exists for Vietnam veterans also. It's a problem that exists for everybody in the society. The ways in which the process that you go through, the political process that you go through, tends not to be critical of the society that you operate in. It tends to assume all kinds of things and to take things for granted. The ways in which, for example, in the early phases of the civil rights movement that whites moved into the South and essentially, in many respects, ran the civil rights movement.

These kinds of problems I think lead to one general thought in terms of a solution and that is, the integration of united and separate organization. The integration of, on the one hand, the right to complete total self-determination, the right to complete total separation at the same time as demonstrating in some concrete ways the ways in which our interests are all united. The ways in which we have to get together in order to solve the fundamental problems. And it's not just a question of eliminating racism, or sexism or the various forms in which we've been brutalized by this society. It's also a question of complete and total necessity on our part to recognize the ways in which we act and the ways in which we oppress other people in order to be able to reach a point, a level of development, where they can provide a real basis for a voluntary agreement between people; where we can unite women, blacks, white working class intellectuals, mental workers, people from towns, people from counties, people who are in the military, people who are civilians.

What I think we have to keep in mind is this dynamic that exists in terms of separateness and unity. The only other thing that I'd like to say about it is that there is no clearcut solution to any of those problems. The part of the process that we're going through right now is the discovery of the fact that even revolution, in places where revolutions have taken place, has not solved those fundamental problems. That what is required is some form of revolution inside the revolution. That process is not something that takes place at one appointed period in time, but it's a process that takes place throughout that period in time. So, therefore, I think that attention should be called to the use of the word "boy" in terms of black people; the use of the term "girls" in relationship to women; these have occurred right here in this panel and have been part of this very presentation. The absence of black people and women on the panel, I think, is something that illustrates that basic point. And what we have to be conscious of is the fact that as Vietnam veterans can tell us--Vietnam veterans who came into the war effort believing in all of the ways in which this country is oppressive and manifesting that oppression in their own relationships with other people--we have to realize that we're in the same boat. That we have to begin to deal with those problems also in order to be able to do anything about it.

MODERATOR. We have time for one more question.

QUESTION. I'd like to ask Mr. Lifton a question about violence. I'm a Vietnam veteran. Other veterans have come back from other wars expressing a certain intense hatred or dissatisfaction, perhaps not based on quite the same kinds of things that we base ours, Robert Ardrey, Desmond Morris and others, perhaps more respected than they, have written about territorial imperative, basic instincts of man towards violence. I wonder if you'd comment on this as it might pertain or if it does pertain, to Vietnam, and our participation, or anybody's participation there? And beyond that, whether or not youth culture, or youth consciousness is any kind of solution?

LIFTON. It's a big question for the last one. But I'll try to answer in a few sentences. The question, of course, is about violence, and how much of it is kind of instinctual and inevitable producing, Vietnam, and even after Vietnam in other wars. I'll make two simple points; one, that I think that violence always follows upon war, because there is such a thing as a habit of violence, and there are lots of other psychological and other patterns that perpetuate violence after war. But I think that there are degrees of violence, and there's an unusual or unique extent to which the Vietnam veteran feels used, betrayed, victimized, and therefore his violence, his potential for violence, may be considerably greater. It doesn't mean that that's inevitable, returning to that word. I don't believe in the Ardrey and other--Konrad Lorenz' theories about instinctual violence. I think that those are old 19th century, biological visions, that most thoughtful people in this realm don't accept, even though they've received a great deal of publicity. It doesn't mean that human beings aren't a violent race or violent species. Indeed, we seem to be among the most violent. But I don't think one can simply explain that away by biology. What you must say is that human beings, in a combination of history and upbringing or socializing or civilizing, call it what you will, have an enormous potential for violence, but that there's an enormous variation depending on the way in which it's symbolized, and the symbolizing patterns, the principles of relationships between people, and that's why, yes, male-female issues are very pertinent to all this. Relationships in families, domination and suppression, all these perpetuate, or make the maximum potential for violence emerge. So, I don't think violence is inevitable and instinctual. I think it's always there as a possibility. I think one has to work terribly hard to create new forms, in which youth culture, as you say, is a beginning. Youth culture is at the beginning of an idea; it's not the end of an idea. And it has a magnificent kind of idea about moving beyond violent solutions. But it's just the beginnings of that, and there's an enormous amount of work that must be built from there and from other sources.

CLOKE. I'd like to add just one short comment to that. I think that one of the sources of violence within the society is contradiction, is irreconcilable contradiction among people. That contradiction can be of many different sorts and varieties, but the basic problem of violence, I think, is not resolvable without dealing with the problem of where the violence came from to begin with. And how you can eliminate that violence is the most important aspect of that. For example again I think that we have to go back to the Vietnamese and the reason why that's so important is because that superficially it's quite possible to compare the violence of the Vietnamese and the Americans. But, in fact, the violence of people fighting for their own right to survival is of a whole different category from the violence of people who are attempting to prevent them from surviving in any viable way. I think the same thing is true in the United States again, and that only eventually can you speak about the elimination of violence. And only in terms of the eventual elimination of violence, can you begin to get a grip on it, if you begin to see where that violence comes from in this society as a whole.

There's also a kind of logic that works in modern society, which inverts the real cause of the relationship, and makes the effect seem like the cause. For example, I can analogize from law. The law that says "Thou shalt not steal" originates at a certain period in time. There is an attitude among lawyers in the society that that law exists for all periods in time and describes all relationships. But it's just an elementary thought that leads you to conclude that the law "Thou shalt not steal" arises at a particular point in time, and that particular point in time is when on the one hand, there is movable private property, and on the other hand there is a need to steal. That is, scarcity, poverty, and, therefore the law "Thou shalt not steal" in fact indirectly reflects a social need to steal on the part of the society. And that's true with a number of different laws. A law which says that thou shalt not drink is illustrative of a society that has created inside of it a need to drink. A law that, or a society that promulgates laws against possessing weapons, has created a need to shoot, etc. In all of these areas there's not a simple one-to-one correlation, but someone mentioned the question of inevitability, and while it's true that there is not absolute inevitability, there is relative inevitability. And those are the kinds of things that are relatively inevitable. Perhaps the major source of violence in the society as a whole is that contradiction between people that we've been speaking about, and the only way of eliminating that even at its most basic levels, is to eliminate that source of aggravation of it.


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