There’s a popular tweet going around saying “Do you know what the 58,220 American Dead from the Vietnam War will have in common with the 58,220 American dead expected this midweek? Donald Trump refused to fight for either one of them.”
The tweet has thousands of shares and made it to the front page of Reddit today. Liberals love it.
While it is certainly legitimate to criticize Trump for his many spectacular failures in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, it is entirely illegitimate to criticize him for dodging America’s most evil and idiotic war in living memory. Anyone who avoided fighting in Vietnam was absolutely right to do so, regardless of their motives and regardless of the means they used.
For years hitting Trump on his “bone spurs” medical deferment of questionable validity has been a common line of attack used by mainstream liberals, and by self-described progressive pundits like TYT’s Cenk Uygur. We are seeing this attack reinvigorated as Trump’s critics begin highlighting the fact that the official number of US Covid deaths is about to surpass the US death toll in the Vietnam War, as in this Washington Post article titled “This pandemic is Trump’s Vietnam. He has earned his bone spurs.” which opens, “President Bonespurs finally gets to fight a war. Unfortunately for us, he’s re-fighting the Vietnam War.”
This criticism has been leveled many times since Trump’s election, and we can expect it to get a lot more mentions as November draws closer. And everyone using it will have one thing in common: a lack of appreciation for how senseless, pointless, worthless, destructive and unforgivably evil the Vietnam War actually was.
Not one good thing came about as a result of anyone killing or being killed in that war. Not a one. All of the US soldiers who died in Vietnam died for no legitimate reason, and nothing was accomplished by their deaths. They did not fight for Americans. They did not fight for freedom. They fought for the same thing all US service members fight for in modern wars: war profiteers and idiotic geostrategic agendas of global domination.
Americans were deceived into beginning the Vietnam War, were deceived throughout its duration, and were deceived into continuing it. Millions of human lives were violently ended. Unarmed civilians were horrifically massacred. Unspeakably brutal weapons like napalm and Agent Orange were used liberally. The CIA’s Phoenix Program routinely tortured enemies and suspected enemies using starvation, gang rape, rape using snakes or eels, attack dog maulings, electrical wires attached to genitals, and other vicious methods designed to inflict unimaginable human suffering.
US soldiers were sent into hell, for no legitimate reason and with no discernible objectives. The horror, brutality and insanity of it all left hundreds of thousands of veterans struggling with mental health disorders for decades. Commanders being murdered by their own troops became commonplace. Young men were sent to be killed, wounded, ruined and driven into madness for nothing. For nothing.
That is what you are condemning Trump for when you slam his medical deferment. For using the means that were available to him to escape a situation in which he would have been forced to inflict permanent trauma and have permanent trauma inflicted upon him for no legitimate reason whatsoever and to no gain for the greater good at all.
The Vietnam War was an unforgivable evil that should never have happened, and this sort of “draft dodger” argument kills off the natural revulsion and outrage we should all still hold about its having been inflicted upon our species. It’s impossible to make such arguments without the tacit assumption that there was something good and noble about going to fight in that inferno of insanity, and there simply wasn’t. You are necessarily implying that those who went were morally superior in some way to those who avoided going, and they simply weren’t.
Whenever I voice this unpopular opinion, Trump’s critics often claim, correctly, that the president didn’t dodge the draft for any kind of moral reason; he wasn’t a conscientious objector, he was a privileged kid who didn’t want to get killed. But I insist that this doesn’t matter. There is no wrong reason for avoiding a monstrous war that should never have happened, and every single person who did so was absolutely right to do so regardless of their motives.
People sometimes claim, correctly, that Trump was a rich man’s son who had access to means which would have enabled him to dodge the draft that less privileged individuals would not have had available to them. But I insist that this, too, doesn’t matter. Everyone who avoided the Vietnam draft was right to do so, regardless of the means they used to do so. The fact that others did not have Trump’s means does not mean he was wrong to make use of them. Anyone in his place would have been absolutely right to do the same.
People sometimes claim, correctly, that Trump is sending soldiers off to kill and be killed (usually kill) in foreign wars while himself being unwilling to fight in Vietnam. But this argument cannot be made without taking it as a given that someone who had gone to kill Vietnamese people and undergo irreparable trauma would have had more legitimacy in waging those wars, and this is simply not the case. America’s warmongering was evil and inexcusable during Vietnam, and it is evil and inexcusable today. Trump has the same amount of moral authority to continue these endless wars that Vietnam veteran John McCain would have had if he’d beaten Obama in 2008, namely zero. Mass murder by someone who also murdered Vietnamese people isn’t any more moral than mass murder by someone who stayed home.
There are many, many, many perfectly valid criticisms that can be accurately leveled against Trump, from pretty much anywhere on the political spectrum. From my point of view he’s a vicious warmonger who has been advancing many longstanding agendas of the same corrupt political establishment he pretends to oppose, claiming he’s draining the swamp while maintaining a cabinet filled with establishment swamp monsters. There is no shortage of accurate and productive criticisms to level at this president, and indeed anyone who values truth, justice and peace will do so frequently. But dodging the Vietnam draft is not one of them.
The only blame to be case for the Vietnam War lies in those who inflicted that terrible trauma upon our world. Nobody who avoided it was wrong to do so, and in fact it would have been better if everyone would have avoided it altogether. The US armed services are continuing to leave generation after generation of soldiers damaged, desperate and suffering, and the more people find ways to avoid being funneled into the gears of the American war machine, the better.
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