A Vietnam Myth

The supposed hatred by the Left of Vietnam veterans was one of the foundational critiques against the Left, and Charles Pierce calls bullshit on it (boldface mine):

Back in 1982, when I was a baby alternative journo, I was in Washington on assignment when the Reagan Administration handed the Veterans Administration over to a guy named Robert Nimmo, and one of Nimmo’s first acts as a loyal Reaganaut apparatchik was to close all the VA’s outpatient psychiatric clinics that had been doing such yeoman’s work dealing, especially, with Vietnam veterans who were suffering from PTSD and other consequences of that horrible war that ruined so many lives so long after it ended. This, of course, happened while that same Reagan Administration was inflating the Defense Department budget to gigantic proportions. And it struck me even then that we were spending an awful lot of defense while short-changing the human beings who actually did the defending.

(And thus doth fall one of the great wingnut myths of all time — that draft-dodging hippies trashed the Vietnam veterans when they got home. It was the antiwar Left and its remnants that ran the GI coffeehouses, and that listened to the terrible stories and took them seriously. It was those remnants — and, if I can brag a little, the alternative press of the day — that helped force the issue of PTSD, and the complications from Agent Orange, and the other ancillary horrors into the spotlight. By contrast, the conventional veterans groups were next to useless; I still remember Vietnam vet sources of mine cursing what they called “the class of ’45.” And the Reagan people told them what a noble cause it was in which they had fought, and then cut the funding that was helping them back here.)

That’s also when we began to see large numbers of homeless vets.

More for the historical record than anything else, but it’s worth remembering, as really was part of the denigration of the Left, and, by extension, liberals (that the 60s Left and liberals, many of whom were responsible for the war, disliked each other is also conveniently forgotten).

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5 Responses to A Vietnam Myth

  1. Kerry Maxwell says:

    I’ve been calling bullshit on that myth for years. My other pet peeve is the “All the hippies became rich capitalists selling tie dye t-shirts” myth.

  2. Dave Dell says:

    The only magazine (that I recall) to pay attention to the Vietnam Veteran physical, psychological, re-integration and and economic problems was Penthouse. Their Vietnam Veteran’s Adviser column was written by William Carson. Here’s some interesting stuff on an incredible career:


    • Dave Dell says:

      I’m sorry, William Corson.

      I recall reading the adviser columns in Penthouse and thinking, “Thank goodness I don’t have these psych problems.” As my nephew says, “Ha!”

  3. rr says:

    when I got out of vietnam a lot of vets didn’t feel that the VA was ever going to be any help at all. Now I see it wasn’t just the difficulty of dealing with things like agent orange it was the usual hypocrisy of ‘Thank you for your service – now get lost’.

  4. anthrosciguy says:

    Not only the VA fought against Vietnam vets; the VFW joined in fighting against our vets. And this went on for years and years. It was one of the most disgraceful episodes in our recent history.

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