Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hubert Humphrey and Vietnam Bombing

I’ll tell you the one thing that makes my blood boil and that is politicians who feel they can say anything with impunity. They are not held accountable for some of their comments, unless, of course, they maligned a particular race, gender or sexual identity. If the only people affected are soldiers in the field, no one really cares...

If such is not the case, then explain how presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey could run for office and condemn the bombing that the Democratic Administration was carrying out during the Vietnam War and no one seemed to notice.

Yes, I know the war had turned unpopular by the time of the presidential campaign of 1968 but the point was that in 1968 (while I was actually serving in Vietnam, I might add), there were soldiers in the field. Their lives were on the line as they attempted to do what the government had asked them to do... or since this was 1968 and the draft still existed, forced them to do.

Anyway, Humphrey was running around campaigning and complaining about the bombing in Vietnam. But he called his boss, Lyndon Johnson and told him that he didn’t really mean it. His was just political rhetoric, appealing to a specific voting population, looking to be elected.

He apparently didn’t think about the soldiers in the field and what the reaction of them might be. Remember, in 1968, you had to be 21 to vote in an election and many, many of the soldiers in Vietnam were not 21. They were not a voting block to worry about.

Never mind that the bad guys in this, meaning the communists might be listening to him and believing him. Never mind that his statements might inspire them to hang on when they might otherwise have quit. Never mind that he was, basically, giving comfort to the enemy. He was running for office and he didn’t care what damage his words might have on the soldiers in the field. They wouldn’t vote for him anyway. In fact, many couldn’t.

What struck me was that no one in the media, when this conversation between Johnson and Humphrey came to light thought in terms of what consequences it might have had to those in the field. He wanted to be president and if a few soldiers died in Vietnam, well, that was the price.

In today’s world, it is even worse. Say something in Pennsylvania about not supporting the president’s war in Iraq, and the terrorists hear it immediately. They can watch it on the Internet. It can inspire them to new and bolder attacks on the men and women in uniform in those far off places. Say what you believe your voters want to hear because getting reelected is more important than the lives of some soldiers who probably aren’t even from your home district.

I once asked a peace demonstrator if she ever thought that the enemy might be listening and that her words might make the job of the soldiers more difficult and deadly. She said that such things weren’t her concern. Besides, they were all volunteers anyway. It’s not as if we drafted them.

Here’s the point, and it is one I attempted to make to the battalion commander as we sat in our tactical operations center (TOC) outside of Baghdad... you don’t say and do things that give aid to the enemy. The time to protest is before the soldiers are engaged... or to wait until they disengage. To protest after the war starts has consequences and unless you think about and understand those consequences in relation to the soldiers in the field, you ought to keep your mouth shut.

Yes, I know that this is a free country and we can say practically anything we want. But we can’t shout "Fire" in a crowded theater because there can be fatal consequences... and we shouldn’t say things about the war if we don’t understand how those statements will be interpreted by the enemy and how they affect the soldiers who are fighting it...

Maybe we should all pay a little more attention so we don’t end up with soldiers fighting in a war we might not like... but hey, I can’t think of a war that I would like. Sometimes it must be done...
And remember, we really didn’t start this one.


  1. Let's see if I've got this right. If my country is executing a war that I feel is immoral, I should keep my mouth shut because of some sort of vague threat to soldiers on the ground? Not in this lifetime. The BEST thing I can do to get a soldier out of harms way in an immoral war is to speak out, protest and convince the political leadership to bring that soldier home.


    1. Yeah, And all those Vietnam protests were REALLY about Vietnam. Funny no crowds of people in Time Square when the troops came home. All it was about was wanting America to lose.

    2. Don't worry Paul,,there's no draft, so you won't be asked to sacrifice.........of course, in a decade or so, if the left has their way, you district chinese commisar will expect you at your work station, and will be very happy to speak with you when you protest his "illegal occupation"

    3. Don't worry Paul,,there's no draft, so you won't be asked to sacrifice.........of course, in a decade or so, if the left has their way, you district chinese commisar will expect you at your work station, and will be very happy to speak with you when you protest his "illegal occupation"

  2. Nope, not what I said.

    I said that if you think about the consequences, if you understand that in the world today that comments will be seen and heard by the enemy, and if you understand that the comments could make the job of the soldier more difficult, then by all means speak up.

    The real time to protest was before the soldiers were engaged. And once they are disengaged, then hold those responsible for the war accountable.

    But also understand that the enemy in this are the people who flew airplanes into building and they are watching what we say and do. Actions have consequences.

    And as a retired soldier, with a tour in Iraq, please don't do me any favors.

  3. Funny how Harry Reid wasn't mentioned. That rat bastard stating the "War Is Lost" as should've got him a Treason Charge of some kind.