Vietnam: Still an Unjust War

Military enthusiasts in Pennsylvania have begun re-enacting, not the Civil War, but the Vietnam War. The stated purpose is to honor and pay tribute to Vietnam veterans. “It was time for us to be proud of what were called on to do, even though it turned out to be a very unpopular thing,” said one Army veteran.

I know two Vietnam veterans that would disagree. James Glaser and Michael Gaddy are not proud of their service killing in Vietnam.

Since the death of Walter Cronkite, I have heard some conservatives moaning about some things he said during the Vietnam War.  After a lecture I gave earlier this summer, a critic in the audience tried to defend the Vietnam War. But the war in Vietnam wasn’t just a mistake or mishandled, it was an unjust war that senselessly slaughtered millions of Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians for the crime of being “commies,” “gooks,” or just being in the way. 58,000 American soldiers died while helping to perpetrate this slaughter. Why should we pay them tribute? The war in Vietnam is undefendable. It is still an unjust war.

The Shahrukh Khan Affair – The Aftermath

Following up on the brief detention of Shahrukh Khan, one of India’s most famous actors, at a US airport, the star of the upcoming “My Name Is Khan,” which explores the treatment of people with Muslim surnames in the United States, says that he will never again visit the US.

His detention, which has created something of an international incident and a major headline story in India, stems from his surname allegedly matching one on one of the assorted US watchlists. Khan says he has never been treated so shabbily, and that the airport officials refused to let him contact anyone for over an hour despite several Indian and Pakistani travelers on the scene vouching for his identity as one of the most famous men on the subcontinent.

His mistreatment may in the long-run be good for him in the US, as it will no doubt draw attention to the American release of his next movie, which is expected sometime next year. The outcry from the Indian population will no doubt fade over time as well, because Khan’s detention lasted only a couple of hours.

But ultimately this isn’t about Khan or his movie, or about Newark Airport employees not recognizing an international celebrity who, among the non-Indian population of the US, is lets face it, relatively unknown.

Rather it draws attention to something that is happening to hundreds, perhaps thousands of people on a daily basis across the US. People get hauled out of line, on the basis of a name, or a nationality, or a religion, and subjected to God-knows-what behind closed doors. Khan’s detention was no doubt considerably shortened by the Indian embassy springing into action the moment it discovered one of the nation’s favorite sons was in custody. Suppose this didn’t happen to Shahrukh Khan the actor, but Shahrukh Khan the small business owner, or Shahrukh Khan the dentist. Would we even be talking about it? Would he still be in custody?

We don’t know the full details of what happened to this fellow yesterday, and maybe we never will. But his story is common enough that it seems unlikely the airport officials broke any serious rules with what they did. It’s business as usual in the US these days, and instead of chastising these people for not treating an international celebrity with due decorum, shouldn’t we be asking whether or not these rules need a major rethink?

Outrage in India over Detention of Popular Actor at US Airport

Indian Press Slams “American Paranoia” in Wake of Detention

The Indian government has formally demanded an explanation from the US for the detention of Shahrukh Khan, one of India’s most famous actors, at a Newark Airport. Khan was traveling to Chicago to attend an event related to India’s independence day.

Shahrukh Khan
Shahrukh Khan
Khan, who ironically enough has just finished production of the much-hyped movie “My Name Is Khan,” which details racial profiling of people with Muslim surnames in the United States, was held by immigration officials for an undisclosed reason and was only released after the Indian embassy had been informed of his mysterious capture.

The strange case of life imitating art has caused enormous outrage in India, and Indian newspapers are chastising it as a case of “American paranoia.” The incident comes with last month’s public frisking of former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam when he tried to board of flight to the US still fresh in the minds of many Indians.

US Ambassador to India Timothy Roehmer said the embassy was looking into the incident but denied that anything untoward had occurred, insisting Khan is “a very welcome guest in the United States.” It just didn’t seem like that when they were dragging him into a back office for interrogation.

Hiroshima AND Nagasaki: The Inside Story

    At 8:16 on the morning of August 6, 1945, the world got a glimpse of its own mortality. At that moment, the city of Hiroshima was obliterated by a fireball that sent waves of searing heat, then a deafening concussion, across the landscape. Three days later, a second bomb hit Nagasaki. … [President Dwight D.] Eisenhower said in 1963 "It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing."
    … Besides the Manhattan Project’s internal momentum was an external motive. Its leaders had to justify the $2 billion ($26 billion in today’s dollars) expense to Congress and the public… Byrnes…warned Roosevelt that political scandal would follow if it [the atomic bomb] was not used. … "How would you get Congress to appropriate money for atomic energy research [after the war] if you do not show results for the money which has been spent already?" …the U.S. had produced two types of bombs–one using uranium, the other plutonium. Whenever anyone suggested that the moment the bomb was dropped the war would be over, [bureaucrat] Groves countered, "Not until we drop two bombs on Japan." As [historian] Goldberg explains… "One bomb justified Oak Ridge, the second justified Hanford." Hiroshima was hit with the uranium bomb, nicknamed "Little Boy"; the plutonium bomb, "Fat Man," was used against Nagasaki.

From Why We Dropped The Bomb By William Lanouette, CIVILIZATION, The Magazine of the Library of Congress, January/February 1995

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ADDENDUM (After 32 comments):

It’s hard for Americans who identify with the U.S. Government to accept the idea that that organization could have engaged in such horrendous acts — twice in three days — without pristine motives.

Here’s what Vietnam era U.S. Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara — who was part of Gen. Curtis LeMay’s command when the bombs were dropped — thought about it:

McNamara: “He, and I’d say I, were behaving as war criminals.

JJ Goldberg Disappoints

Former Forward editor in chief J.J. Goldberg has a fairly positive reputation among progressive Jews, and although he has never been a radical about Israel or the Middle East, neither is he a reflexive hawk or neoconservative. Hence it is particularly disappointing to read his recent hit piece on Roger Cohen in the Forward, a piece that is long on condescension and sanctimony but short on any real engagement with the issues. Goldberg’s thesis is that Cohen is cynical, or naive, or both – that his writing on Iran has been motivated fundamentally by a careerist desire to “sound provocative,” but that he is an amateur “in over his head.” It is not clear whether this analysis applies equally to anyone else fighting back against the alarmism of the “bomb Iran” crowd. Does he feel that Cohen’s anatagonists – the Abe Foxmans and Jeffrey Goldbergs of the world – are models of subtlety and expertise? Last I checked Foxman was defending East Jerusalem settlements and (Jeffrey) Goldberg was arguing that Iran is the new Amalek.

I won’t try to respond to (J.J.) Goldberg’s arguments, principally because he does not see fit to make many actual arguments as opposed to ad hominem dismissals. I would, however, just like to highlight one passage that was immediately picked up by some of the usual suspects, in which he discusses Cohen’s treatment of Obama Middle East advisor Dennis Ross, known as the administration’s foremost Iran hawk:

Ross’s role in the administration raises many questions in Cohen’s mind, but the one that comes up over and over throughout the article, “a recurrent issue with Ross, who embraced his Jewish faith after being raised in a non-religious home by a Jewish mother and a Catholic stepfather, has been whether he is too close to the American Jewish community and Israel to be an honest broker with Iran or Arabs.” In the crisis atmosphere following the Iranian election, “Can this baggage-encumbered veteran… overcome ingrained habits and sympathies?” Indeed, “Will the Iranians be prepared to meet with Ross?” – a “reasonable question given Ross’s well-known ties with the American Jewish community.”

That, in effect, is the dilemma facing American policy toward Iran at this pivotal moment: Is there too much Jewish influence? We’ve heard the question before in Hamas sermons, in Al Qaeda videos and on some left-wing blogs. Now it’s been incorporated into the nation’s newspaper of record.

Of course, Roger Cohen is far from the first person to question whether Dennis Ross is too closely associated with Israel to be an effective Middle East policymaker. It was Aaron David Miller, Ross’s former colleague on the Clinton administration peace process team, who famously claimed that the U.S. had been acting as “Israel’s lawyer” under Ross’s leadership. Another Clinton administration colleague, former ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer, published a book containing complaints from both American and Arab participants in the peace process that Ross was “biased towards Israel and not ‘an honest broker'” (as Time magazine put it).

Are Aaron David Miller and Dan Kurtzer fomenting propaganda cribbed from “Hamas sermons” and “al Qaeda videos”? Could Miller and Kurtzer be closet al Qaeda sympathizers? Goldberg is off in Commentary/ZOA territory here, and it is beneath him.

Iran’s Worst Barbarism: Honesty About Torture

The current government is Iran is a bunch of damn rascals and thugs, and there are boatloads of questions about the honesty of their last election.

The regime’s brutal crackdown on protestors reveals its true character. (But the Iranian government is not novel in this sense: the Syrians have been as brutal with their dissidents, and the Israelis have been more oppressive in Gaza).

What is even more shocking is that the Iranian government admits that it is torturing the protestors rounded up in recent weeks.

How can we ever trust a government that won’t lie about its atrocities?

No wonder so many Americans are convinced that the Iranian government is morally inferior to the U.S. government.