Monday, February 26, 2007

Jane's Back: The Effect of War Protests

In January 2007 there was a war protest and march in Washington DC. Speakers at the rally included the usual politicians and Hollywood luminaries. One name stuck out at me though: Jane Fonda, otherwise known as Hanoi Jane. Ms. Fonda is infamous for her Vietnam War era outspokenness, when she spoke at college campuses extolling the virtues of communism, called herself a socialist, and told students we should all "pray on your knees that we would someday become Communist." She also called returning POWs "hypocrites and liars" for saying they had been tortured despite Fonda's claims the previous year that US POWs were treated well. Perhaps most infamous is her trip to North Vietnam during the war. On this trip she made ten radio addresses propogandizing about the goodness of North Vietnam and how US soldiers were "war criminals". She was even photographed laughing with enemy soldiers while sitting in the very same anti-aircraft guns that were used to shoot down US planes and ended in the pilots' torture and death.

Many have accused Jane Fonda of treason. They say she aided the enemy during a time of war. This is what came to mind as I read that she had spoken at the anti-war rally- the first time she has publicly protested the Iraq War. It is interesting to note the juxtaposition of her actions 35 years ago with the current round of protests. It seems most have learned a few lessons from Vietnam, as no one calls soldiers baby killers, war criminals, or "hypocrites and liars" this time around. In fact, these protestors take great pains to pledge their support to the troops.

However, despite these self-imposed limitations on their rhetoric, are the protestors aiding the enemy? This is a charge vehemently denied and one that will earn the accusor swift condemnation. But I wonder if it is true?

The Wall Street Journal interviewed Bui Tin in 1995. He was the North Vietnamese officer that forced the South's surrender. He said that the anti-war movement in the US, including the protests and statements made by Jane Fonda and others, were "essential to our strategy" and that North Vietnamese leadership listened to the US news reports "to follow the growth of the American anti-war movement." He further stated that "through dissent and protest (the US) lost the ability to mobilize a will to win." The North Vietnamese strategy became one of holding on long enough for the protestors to win the war for them. Eventually the protests forced the US to withdraw from Vietnam, leading to the Communist takeover of the entire country. This communist government, the one that Jane Fonda told us to pray for, went on to kill an estimated 2 million people in the years immediately following the war.

How does this apply to Iraq? If anything, the battle for public opinion has become even more important since Vietnam. In February 2004 CNN reported on a letter written by al Zarqawi and intended for al-Queda leaders in Afghanistan. The letter details Zarqawi's concern over American resolve, and explains the next steps the terrorists would take. In order to make things worse in Iraq and test US resolve, Zarqawi pledged to incite sectarian violence by singling out Iraqi targets to bomb. Less than a year later the Samarra mosque was destroyed and sectarian violence became a daily occurence. Now, one year after that terrorist designed bombing, US public opinion has been swayed, Jane Fonda is again marching in protest, and our Congress is passing "non-binding" resolutions denouncing the war. Are we due for a repeat of history? What will be the death toll this time as we abandon another country to chaos? Will Iraqi terrorists consolidate their power to the tune of 2 million murders, just as Communist North Vietnam did? I hope we won't have to find out.


Kelly said...

Is any good really being done in this war against terror anyways. What would really happen if we just pulled out? I think that even if we do stay, in the long run it will just end up the way it always has been. These people don't want to be helped, you can't continue to keep telling them they do need the help.

Charles D said...

The parallel between Vietnam and Iraq is that in both cases, the US attacked another country without provocation or rational justification. As a result, the citizens of the country fought to repel the invasion and end the illegal occupation of their nation.

In Vietnam we developed a cadre of collaborators who were seen as traitors. In Iraq we have developed a cadre of collaborators who are seen as traitors by their countrymen. To make matters worse this time, we have precipitated a civil war which threatens to widen into a regional conflict.

Unfortunately those who supported this illegal misadventure now want to pose the choice as one between staying the course and pulling out rapidly. The obviously intelligent course of working with Iraq's neighbors and the UN to make conditions for an orderly exit and transition are off the table.

Cameron said...


Welcome, and thanks for the comments.

You ask what would really happen if we pulled out. That's actually a question nobody wants to answer. Speaker Pelosi was asked it not too long ago, and she responded with some impressive political squirming, but no answer. I think no one is talking about it because everyone knows full well what will happen, and it won't be good.

Cameron said...


What is your view of protesting in times of war? Does it harm the war effort?

To clarify, I'm not arguing against the priviledge to disagree with the government. But are these protests actually helping the people that we are fighting against? Does that matter?

Intuitively, it seems that "harming the war effort" is exactly what the protests' intentions are.

What do you make of the implication that the Vietnam protestors strengthened the resolve of North Vietnam while weakening our own, which led to the death of tens of thousands of US soldiers and then 2 million more people after they took power?