Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
--Daniel Patrick Moynihan

January 31, 2013

The Other Vietnam Veterans

By David K. Shipler

            With John Kerry confirmed for Secretary of State and Chuck Hagel in hearings to become Secretary of Defense, much is being made of the breakthrough that they represent: the first time that veterans of the Vietnam War will have occupied those two senior cabinet positions. These men, each sobered in his own way by combat, know the miseries of warfare, and seem to have absorbed their lessons.
            But outside the glare of this spotlight on uniformed veterans, there are other Americans, those who went to Vietnam out of uniform, who also saw the miseries close at hand as they tried to do some good for ordinary people. I have watched recently as a farflung community of those invisible Vietnam vets have connected by Internet because one of them is dying. They are sharing reminiscences, are writing about the traumas they still carry, and are reaffirming the moral opposition to the war that moved them to activism decades ago.
Some avoided the war by persuading their draft boards that they were conscientious objectors, and then went to Vietnam anyway, in civilian clothes and unarmed.

January 25, 2013

Will Obama the Constitutional Lawyer Please Stand Up?

By David K. Shipler
     Published in The Nation, issue of Feb. 11, 2013
There’s something about Barack Obama that induces
Americans to imagine what they cannot see. The right
envisions a vile socialist, while many on the left picture
an inspired liberal, politically restrained in his first term
but now free to pursue his true beliefs.
No hard evidence exists to sustain either view. Obama
behaves like a centrist who leans tentatively left on certain
social programs but boldly right on military force and civil
liberties. His supporters, who have watched him duplicate and
codify some of the Bush administration’s most damaging civil
liberties violations, are now reduced to wishful thinking that an
authentic Obama will soon step forward and return the country
to the constitutional footing that was abandoned after 9/11.

January 18, 2013

Russia and the West: The Continuity of Culture

By David K. Shipler

            In 1977, after a deadly fire killed at least twenty and blackened the walls of Moscow’s massive Rossiya Hotel, a West German television crew was stopped by a police lieutenant from filming on the street outside. Why? asked the correspondent, Fritz Pleitgen. The officer explained: “We do not want to let foreigners laugh at our misfortune.”
            It was a quick glimpse into the xenophobia of Soviet times, and into Russians’ agony over the way they pictured themselves being seen by the outside world. Think how much pain and isolation it takes to imagine foreigners eagerly laughing at your tragedy.
            Given recent events, it’s worth asking how much Russia’s complex about the West has changed in 35 years.