McDaniel and Botkin Are Wrong: The Troops Never Defended Our Freedom in Iraq and Vietnam
by Jacob G. Hornberger
The controversy surrounding Sheldon Richman’s article “The American Sniper Was No Hero” generated the repeated use of a bromide that is inculcated in the American people from the time they enter the first grade in the public (i.e., government) schools that their parents are forced to send them to — a bromide that holds that the troops defend our freedom when they invade and occupy other countries.
A good example of this phenomenon appeared in an article entitled “Smackdown! War Hero Pummels ‘American Sniper’ Critic,” which appeared Sunday on the conservative website WND.com. The article featured two Vietnam veterans, Navy Captain Eugene “Red” McDaniel, a POW in the Vietnam War, and Marine Major Richard Botkin, author of a book entitled Ride the Thunder: A Vietnam Story of Honor and Triumph.
Both men criticized Richman’s article. Oddly, neither of them addressed the central point in the article: that the United States was the aggressor nation in the Iraq War and that Iraq was the defending nation. Instead, both men focused on the standard bromide: that if it weren’t for the military establishment, Americans wouldn’t be free. Here is how McDaniel put it:
I would ask him how he thinks this “freedom” he talks so much about will be preserved. The people who are willing to put their lives at risk to defend it are the ones who provide this freedom, both for him and for his children and grandchildren.
Here is how Botkin put it:
People like him are kept free by better men.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, neither McDaniel nor Botkin explained exactly how the troops that invade and occupy foreign countries preserve and defend the freedom of the American people.
The reason they didn’t is that they can’t. Not only is it a bromide, it’s a false bromide.
Let’s consider Iraq. Pray tell, Mssrs. MdDaniel and Botkin: Tell me exactly how the troops in Iraq defended our freedom. You can’t do it.
Were Iraqi officials coming over here to take over the IRS and take our money from us so that they could give it to brutal foreign dictatorships?
Were they coming over here to take over the DEA so that they steal money from people on the highways under the asset-forfeiture program and put even more people away in jail?
Were they coming over here to take control over the Social Security Administration so that they could plunder and loot young people who are just getting started in life?
Were they coming over here to take charge of the NSA so that they could secretly monitor the activities of the American citizenry?
Were they coming over here to take command of the School of the Americas so that they could instruct Latin American military thugs in the techniques of torture and assassination?
Were they coming over here to take over the reins of the CIA so that they could destroy democratically elected regimes and install brutal military dictatorships?
The answer, gentlemen, is an unequivocal “NO” to all those questions.
So, I repeat: What were the Iraqis doing to take away our freedom?
The truth is that the Iraqis were doing nothing to take away our freedom. That’s what made the U.S. government the aggressor nation in the conflict. As both McDaniel and Botkin know full well, the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, which had the full support of U.S. officials, labeled a war of aggression a war crime, regardless of who is committing it.
I repeat: What did the troops in Iraq do to protect our freedom?
The answer is unequivocal: The troops in Iraq did absolutely nothing to preserve, defend, or protect the freedom of the American people. That’s because the freedom of the American people was never threatened by Iraq.
As a matter of fact, the U.S. military invasion of Iraq and the war of aggression against the Iraqi people is what has threatened the freedom of the American people. That’s because the killing of countless Iraqis generated the same deep anger and hatred for the United States that the 11 years of brutal sanctions that the U.S. government enforced against Iraq prior to the invasion generated — sanctions that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi children — deaths that motivated the terrorists to retaliate against the United States on 9/11, which launched “the war on terrorism,” a war that is set to last even longer than the “war on communism.”
More anti-American anger and hatred leads to more terrorism, which leads to ever-increasing budgets for the military-industrial complex (What a nice coincidence!), not to mention the ever-increasing infringements on our liberties here at home at the hands of the federal government, in the name of “keeping us safe”’ from the terrorists that the troops produced with their invasion of Iraq.
Let’s be blunt: The national-security establishment, including its armies of countless “defense” contractors and subcontractors feeding at the public trough at the expense of overburdened taxpayers, is, to use the words of former U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, nothing but one great big racket, a racket by which the troops and the CIA purportedly protect us from the supposed threats to our freedom that they themselves generate with their invasions, wars of aggression, partnerships with brutal dictators (including Iraq’s very own Saddam Hussein in the 1980s), foreign aid and military training for pro-U.S. tyrannical regimes, and, of course, never-ending regime-change operations in other countries, many of which destroy experiments with democracy in order to install brutal pro-U.S. military dictatorships in their stead. And then they use those purported threats to our freedom as a justification for ever-increasing budgets and ever-increasing infringements on our freedom here at home, all in the name of “keeping us safe” and “defending our freedom.”
Show me a bigger racket than that. You can’t do it.
I can only assume that both McDaniel and Botkin are familiar with the term “military-industrial complex.” That’s the term coined by President Dwight Eisenhower in his Farewell Address in 1961. Ike knew a bit about the military. Let’s see what he said about the vast military establishment that still characterizes our nation despite the fact that the Cold War, which was its original justification, ended a long time ago:
Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Imagine that: The president of the United States and the former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during World War II warning the American people that the vast military establishment, which was entirely alien to America’s original, constitutional governmental structure, poses a grave threat to the liberties and democratic processes of the American people.
I wonder if Captain McDaniel and Major Botkin and WND.com would have smacked down and pummeled Five-Star General Dwight Eisenhower for issuing that warning to the American people. Indeed, would they have dared to smack down and pummel Marine Corps Major General Smedley General Butler, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history up to his time, for speaking the truth about what a racket foreign military interventionism is?
I also wonder what Ike would say today upon learning that we now live in a country in which the military and the CIA wield the power to take people into custody, including American citizens, place them in a concentration camp or military dungeon, torture them, and even execute them after some sort of kangaroo military tribunal.
Undoubtedly, McDaniel and Botkin call that type of system “freedom,” notwithstanding the fact that the American people would never have approved the Constitution if they knew that it would bring into existence a warfare state apparatus that is characteristic of totalitarian regimes, not free societies.
The WND.com article pointed out that McDaniel suffered six years of captivity and torture at the hands of the North Vietnam communists after the plane that he was piloting over Hanoi was shot down.
Apparently the reason that that information was included in the article was to demonstrate how McDaniel made a tremendous sacrifice to, once again, preserve and defend our freedom.
Okay, here’s a challenge to both Vietnam veterans McDaniel and Botkin: Show me exactly how the freedom of the American people was being threatened by the government of North Vietnam. You can’t do it.
Go back to the questions I asked above. Replace Iraq with North Vietnam. Was North Vietnam coming over here to take over the IRS, the DEA, the NSA, the public schools, Social Security, the School of the Americas, the CIA, or any other of America’s socialist or interventionist programs, departments, and agencies?
Nope. They didn’t give a whit about taking over any part of the U.S. government. Like other governments in history, their goal was to unify their country in a violent civil war.
For some 50 years, people like McDaniel and Botkin have maintained that if it hadn’t been for them and the U.S. invasion of Vietnam, the rest of the dominoes would have fallen to the communists and that Americans would be speaking communist.
Really? Then why are we not speaking communist today? Oh sure, we all speak welfare-state socialism today but that’s not because of Ho Chi Minh. That’s because of President Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal.
Permit me to remind Mssrs. McDaniel and Botkin of a discomforting truth: The United States lost the Vietnam War! At the risk of belaboring the obvious, the United States is still standing. The dominoes never fell. The North Vietnamese never came to get us and order us to talk communist.
The truth, as discomforting as it might be to McDaniel and Botkin, is that U.S. troops in Vietnam never preserved and defended the freedom of the American people because the freedom of the American people was never under any threat by the North Vietnamese.
The truth is that those 58,000 plus American soldiers who lost their lives in the Vietnam War died for nothing. Nothing at all. Unless you want to call lies, deceptions, and falsehoods, including the one relating to the Gulf of Tonkin, something worth dying for.
The reason that people like McDaniel and Botkin continue to subscribe to the freedom bromide, notwithstanding its obvious emptiness and falsehood, is that they simply cannot accept the fact that what they did in Vietnam — all the death and destruction they wrought — all the suffering they underwent and caused — was for nothing.
Consider McDaniel’s six years of captivity and torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese. He cannot bring himself to recognize the truth — that it was all for nothing. Those six years that were taken from him — those six years of captivity and brutal torture — had nothing to do with defending the freedom of the American people. After all, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, if McDaniel had been here at home instead of dropping bombs on the people of North Vietnam — people who never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so — he wouldn’t have spent six years of life in a North Vietnamese prison being tortured.
Perhaps I should mention the fact that there was no congressional declaration of war against North Vietnam, just as there wasn’t against Iraq.
Why is that important?
Because the U.S. Constitution prohibits the president from waging war against another nation without a congressional declaration of war.
Why is that important?
Because every soldier, including McDaniel and Botkin, takes an oath to support and defend the Constitution when he becomes a soldier.
But I suppose McDaniel and Botkin might argue that the job of a soldier is to blindly obey the orders of the president regardless of what the Constitution says. After all, isn’t that how the U.S. military and the CIA justify torturing people, just like the communists did to McDaniel?