Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Traitors Among Us

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

I miss Calvin and Hobbs. Whether contending with his long-suffering teacher or stomping on his sandbox cities, Calvin represented an existential angst and the rich possibilities within us all. One of Calvin’s most apparent traits was utter self-absorption. He asserted his will and dared the laws of physics, especially when racing downhill on a simple sled. He also refused to believe that he deserved any of the consequences that followed his egregious deeds, and in a cartoon child, such narcissism tickles us, but in real life, with lives and lands at risk, we can only view such self-absorption in stunned silence. I, for one, cannot comprehend the depravity that allows one man to ruin the lives of others for his own selfish ends, but such men exist. One such man was former President Richard M. Nixon, a man much vilified during and after his tenure as president.

Rachel Maddow, from behind her desk on The Rachel Maddow Show (TRMS) reported a story about former President Richard M. Nixon and his role in prolonging the Vietnam War. In disbelief, I searched for other sources and found confirmation for the story. Here is a brief summary of what happened.

In 1968, our nation was as polarized as it is now. There was an age divide with youth leading the way in opposition to the war in Vietnam. Police thumped the heads of protestors in the belief that they were doing their righteous duty to quell unwarranted civil disobedience. Returning servicemen and women often felt the frustration and rage directed at the war and a citizen’s impotence in altering our role in it. Those veterans of a war fought on foreign soil often resented anyone who didn’t appreciate their sacrifice, and they were sometimes ashamed of what some men became--homeless, addicted, lost--after being trained as a warrior.

And in 1968, according to the story reported on TRMS, the war was almost over in 1968. The last years of the Vietnam war could have been avoided. President Johnson had negotiated an end until candidate for president Richard M. Nixon, campaigning as the only man who could bring about peace, betrayed the nation and those soldiers who would fight through his first four-year term and on into his second.

Records from the Johnson White House now prove that Nixon contacted Hanoi and talked them into rejecting what the Johnson administration offered. Yes, a candidate for the highest office in this nation, self-absorbed during a personal contest, picked up a telephone and worked with a declared enemy of this nation to stall the peace. Consequently, thousands more died. Children matured without one of their parents. Incomes and homes were shattered and rebuilt. Millions of dollars were lost because one man sought the power of the presidency.

President Johnson was complicit as well. He remained silent even though Nixon’s actions were uncovered almost immediately. He did so because admitting to knowledge about Nixon's phone calls would expose U. S. espionage so Nixon got away with it. In his last days, the former and disgraced president even reclaimed some of his reputation through his efforts to open pathways to China. In fact, many now remember him as a fine elder statesman instead of a traitor to the office of the president and to all those soldiers.

Now we must ask, as Maddow did, to whom should we turn for justice? Upon whom may we heap our disdain?

The men who toyed with the lives of others are dead, but their heirs are among us. They are the ones who invented a fiction that led us to a short war to rescue Kuwait from Iraq during the George H. W. Bush administration and a decade-long debacle in Iraq during George W. Bush’s administration. From these wars come more numbers: hundreds of thousands dead and 2.2 trillion dollars of debt, off the books, never budgeted until Barack Obama took office. These are the tragic consequences of greed and hubris, and the architects--Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, and more--are very much alive. What shall we do to them?

Rachel Maddow answers that question. She declares that that we must not allow these men and women to go to their graves with reinvented legacies, reclaimed dignities. We must and should hold them accountable. Our young men and women deserve at least that much from us. Their lives are not like those little toy soldiers that Calvin mowed down. They are often true believers, boys and girls who wish to contribute, to live a life of service, to claim the character of brave patriots. They are so much more than inexhaustible resources. They have names and faces and mothers who bore them and fathers who take pride in them. They are us, and they are our future. They should not and shall not die in vain.