Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Weekly Jackass Number Eighteen: Jane Fonda

It's not a sin to protest wars. Not everyone shares the same sense of morality, and political dialogue without the ability to dissent is not dialogue at all. There is no shame in John Kerry testifying on Capital Hill against the Vietnam War. There's a hell of lot of shame in buying into the 'Winter Soldier' garbage and testifying that we routinely engaged in war crimes with approval at the highest level. Atrocities were committed in Vietnam, yes; people were prosecuted, and court-martialed, and some got away with murder, literally. The vast majority of soldiers, though, did their level best and counted the days until they could be home with friends and family.

Consider, then, the case of Jane Fonda, long known as 'Hanoi Jane' for her Vietnam era antics. There is no more reason to begrudge Fonda's opposition to the war than there is Kerry's. Breaking bread with the enemy, however, goes a long way past legitimate opposition. Fonda didn't just oppose the war, she engaged in propaganda against America. Right-wing fantasy?'s an extended excerpt from July 1972...actress Jane Fonda arrived in Hanoi, North Vietnam, and began a two-week tour of the country conducted by uniformed military hosts. Aside from visiting villages, hospitals, schools, and factories, Fonda also posed for pictures in which she was shown applauding North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gunners, was photographed peering into the sights of an NVA anti-aircraft artillery launcher, and made ten propagandistic Tokyo Rose-like radio broadcasts in which she denounced American political and military leaders as "war criminals." She also spoke with eight American POWs at a carefully arranged "press conference," POWS who had been tortured by their North Vietnamese captors to force them to meet with Fonda, deny they had been tortured, and decry the American war effort. Fonda apparently didn't notice (or care) that the POWs were delivering their lines under duress or find it unusual that she was not allowed to visit the prisoner-of-war camp (commonly known as the "Hanoi Hilton") itself. She merely went home and told the world that "[the POWs] assured me they were in good health. When I asked them if they were brainwashed, they all laughed. Without exception, they expressed shame at what they had done." She did, however, charge that North Vietnamese POWs were systematically tortured in American prison-of-war camps.

To add insult to injury, when American POWs finally began to return home (some of them having been held captive for up to nine years) and describe the tortures they had endured at the hands of the North Vietnamese, Jane Fonda quickly told the country that they should "not hail the POWs as heroes, because they are hypocrites and liars." Fonda said the idea that the POWs she had met in Vietnam had been tortured was "laughable," claiming: "These were not men who had been tortured. These were not men who had been starved. These were not men who had been brainwashed." The POWs who said they had been tortured were "exaggerating, probably for their own self-interest," she asserted. She told audiences that "Never in the history of the United States have POWs come home looking like football players. These football players are no more heroes than Custer was. They're military careerists and professional killers" who are "trying to make themselves look self-righteous, but they are war criminals according to law."
That's not opposition, it's treason...

Now Fonda is in the news again. She's got a book to sell, so she's trotting out an 'apology' that isn't even an apology. As Michelle Malkin notes in this excellent editorial, writing and saying that you engaged in a 'betrayal' and suffered a 'lapse in judgment' is not an apology, it's a confession. Despite her pledge to 'set the record straight' in her new book, Bryan Curtis writes in Slate:
Fonda has little new to say about Vietnam and offers few words of contrition�and these only for posing in front of an anti-aircraft gun, which she says she wandered in front of by mistake.
Finally, there's this, from MSNBC:
Fonda, whose memoir �Jane Fonda: My Life So Far� comes out next week, said she did not regret meeting with American POWs in North Vietnam or making broadcasts on Radio Hanoi. �Our government was lying to us and men were dying because of it, and I felt I had to do anything that I could to expose the lies and help end the war,� she said.
Let's sum up, then, lest I be accused of thrashing at a straw man: Fonda admits that her trip was a betrayal, but she doesn't regret it, nor the broadcasts, nor the use of American POWs who were being tortured as objects to make her political point with. She does regret getting too close to an anti-aircraft gun, though...that's a relief.

Is what Fonda did unforgivable? That's not up to you and me...I'll leave that to the POWs and the Almighty. Fonda's not asking our forgiveness, though...she's justifying betrayal because her country, she feels, was betraying its citizens. In other words, two wrongs making a right...pathetic.

It's entirely possible to come to the conclusion that Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon are war criminals (I'm not saying I agree with that, I'm saying it's possible to come to that conclusion); Christopher Hitchens has certainly crossed that river - but Hitchens would never conflate his opposition to his nation's policies with a tacit endorsement of tyranny. I suggest a protest of our own against Fonda, in the most reliable way I know of; just don't buy her book...

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