Quote Of The Day

Friday, Oct. 13, 2006

It's a lot safer than it was when he didn't go the first time.

— Ben Barnes
the former Texas lieutenant governor, when asked if he had any advice for President Bush as he prepares for his first-ever trip to Vietnam next month

An Open Letter To President Bush from Louis Beam


Dear Mr. Bush,

I hear that you are going to Viet Nam now.  As a veteran of that war, having served two tours of duty "in country," I, like former Texas Lt. Governor Ben Barnes, have some advice for you.

First, you won't be needing a gun now; we surrendered the country over to the commies on May 1st, 1975.  You may recall that as Communist tanks rolled into Saigon over the bodies of Vietnamese Special Forces and Airborne troops, President Ford was playing golf here at home with some of his Democrat buddies.  A Republican, like yourself, he talked a lot about "peace with honour" and "staying the course,” and other such popcorn-puffed potpourri tossed out at the American public.  In the end, President Ford's golf balls meant more to him than the death of fifty-eight thousand American servicemen.

You should consider yourself lucky as hell that your daddy kept you from going until now. Things became worse after we left those poor people there to the tender mercies of the North Vietnamese Communists.  The soon forgotten Vietnamese and abandoned American soldiers where tortured and starved to death in "reeducation camps."  Then, after the commies were paid to send a few of the American POW's home, they ended all pretense of humane treatment for the rest and hid them in the jungle never to be seen again.  Just think, Mr. Bush, you could have been one of those airmen shot down over Vietnam or Cambodia had your daddy not been a big wheel in the government.  You might still be there right now eating rotten fish heads in some stinking bamboo cage.  Damn, you are lucky!  Though, come to think of it, maybe the country would be a lot better off if you had run with the real men who showed up for duty and flew their planes into hell rather than joining the Texas Air National Guard and flying over Houston, Texas.  All the politicians in Washington have since talked for thirty years about "bringing the POW's home,” but in the end, they were just left.  By the way, since you have been President, do you ever talk about the POW’s coming home?  Or have you dropped that during your two terms as Chief Bullshitter to the American people?  (I am sorry if I sometimes sound a bit perturbed about all this, but I left some of my friends there and I know all your friends stayed here with you.)

I suppose you will be welcomed by the commies for the American tax-payer money you intend to give to them.  As you will be far away from the jungles and staying with the ruling communist headsmen, you know, the ones that me and a million other men of my generation were fighting in the 1960s, you will not be needing mosquito repellent or combat boots. Leeches won't be a problem either, at lest not the aquatic kind. Back then, your daddy, U.S. Congressman Bush, and his fellow politicians in government sent us with guns, boots, and repellent.  We needed them too.  The Viet Cong shot at us “pretty regular” and we shot back at them most of the time too.  You know, except when we were in “no fire zones,” “restricted fire zones,” or “you will go to jail zones if you shoot here.”  It was very hard to tell the difference as they shot and killed us from all those zones and it troubled a lot of us that we had to ask permission to fire back even when we were receiving fire.  It was a difficult way to fight a war and still try to win it. It had thus occurred to me over the years after I came home that maybe the politicians in Washington like your father, had never really wanted to win. Then, after former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara said twenty-five years later on live television that “We never intended to win in Viet Nam,” I knew that it was true.  Hell, why didn't they tell us that in the first place?  Most of us would have stayed home, and like you, chased pretty girls and raced our “super cars” up and down the streets. 

I mean, really, when I flew into Saigon from the states the Army Lieutenant told us at our  "Welcome To Viet Nam Introduction Class" at Long Binh Army Depot, that we were there to “Insure the freedom of the South Vietnamese people and protect them from communist aggression."  You're in government now; would you please find out if that young Lieutenant was lying to me and those other soldiers too?  Or, if maybe somebody lied to him and then he lied to us all on our first, full day “in country.”  Either way, it seems to me that there was a lot of lying going on to nineteen and twenty year-old men whose budding lives were at stake.  It is no way to start a war; with a big lie to the men who will fight it. 

Does your administration lie to the men in Iraq and Afghanistan nowadays?  I really think it is important to hurry up and find all those “weapons of mass destruction” before those men and women in Iraq getting shot and blown the hell up start feeling like they are being lied too also.  One other thing, sending young girls into combat is a new low for this country.  Think on it for a moment, it's bad enough to send boys, but y'all must really be desperate when you start sending girls into combat.  Any of your daughters over there?

Mr. Bush, you will find those "weapons of mass destruction" in Viet Nam.  The United States Government left thirty billion dollars worth of military equipment there for the communists when we pulled out.  Are you going to bring any of that home with you?  If so, I hid a fifty caliber machine gun there in the 25th Aviation Battalions arms room on the air strip at Cu Chi.  When I was acting arms room sergeant for a short time, I traded a LRRP team member (long range reconnaissance patrol) one brand new M60 for it.  It is underneath the arms counter wrapped in cosmoline in a water tight box.  I bet the commies never found it.  I would like to have it back.  Sometimes I have dreams about the lying politicians who sent us there. 

I suppose that all the Agent Orange is dried up and you don't need to be warned about its “life changing” effects now. Why didn't your daddy or any of the other politicians and business men running the war tell us about that?  Eighty thousand men died of cancer and other diseases after coming home to the states; another hundred thousand or so feel like crap most of the time.  Dow Chemical sent me $450.00 in the “Agent Orange Settlement Suit.” I don’t think I got my body's worth.  I understand soldiers are like toilet paper, that politicians use and throw away, but nonetheless, my joints have swollen up and hurt for thirty-seven years now and I think the military industrial complex really got off light in that settlement.  I know vice- president Cheney was a big corporate businessman before he took over sending young men to war, do you reckon he could get Dow Chemical to spring for a few more bucks for the Nam vets?  I figured it up.  $450.00 for 37 years of pain is not that much.  It's something like $11.31 a year.  With inflation and all, that is just not that much.  How much do you and Cheney make a year?

That little pay off by Dow Chemical is no way to treat veterans.  But then, we never were treated with a hell of a lot of respect.  When we got home anti-war demonstrators threw bags of feces at us while yelling “baby killers” and trying to spit on us.  What do they call you for evading having to serve in Viet Nam? 

I understand that you bring the dead home secretly from Iraq and don’t let the loved ones go and meet the men in caskets anymore.  People nowadays don't spit on their soldiers anymore so is that to keep grieving parents, pregnant wives, and children who won't remember their dad's face from wanting to spit on you?  Either way, I can understand.  It changes your attitude for life to fight a war for “freedom and democracy” and then come home and have people try to spit on you.  Guess your home coming from Guard meetings went better (when you did show up for them.)  

Speaking of ripping off veterans, you stripped several billion dollars from the VA appropriations bills this year, last year, and the year before that.  Those boys coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan could use some first class care now.  Artificial arms and legs cost big bucks and they deserve the best.  Also considering inflation, the amount you “compensate” disabled veterans with is pitiful.  You and Cheney spend as much on a single hunting trip to Texas as we veterans get in a year to care for ourselves and families.  

By the way, if you do bring the 50 cal home with you, could you please put a few thousand rounds of ammo with it into the box?  I read in McNamara's book, In Retrospect, about his apology for being one of the politicians in my youth’s generation who sent us off to fight a no-win war.  I want to meet with him and let him know how I feel about his apology.  While I can’t speak for the 58,000 dead American soldiers, I can speak for myself.  He can go straight to hell. 

What did you do during Tet 68?  I hauled so many eighteen-year-old lifeless bodies on my helicopter during those months that those days have never left me.  I still have vivid memories sometimes of those rides back to base camp with them spread out across the floor of the helicopter bay. The rushing wind in my face unable to dissipate the smell while gore and blood rippled on the floor of the chopper from that same wind. Once delivered having to take a bucket of water and slosh it across the floor to clean up, while wiping up someone's life with my hands and a dirty rag.  All of it from some kids who  twenty-thirty minutes ago were thinking about mom, a girlfriend, a wife or home.  Tell me again what they were fighting for.

Can you even remember where you were during Tet?  Perhaps you were somewhere in Houston partying or getting arrested for a DWI and such.

Does sending another generation of nineteen-year-old kids to Iraq to fight for “freedom and democracy” ever give you bad dreams? I would be concerned about it were I you. Especially since there is no freedom or democracy in Iraq worth American lives.  What was it George Washington said about avoiding foreign entanglements? ("The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.")

You know Mr. Bush, George Washington led his men into battle. Remember Valley Forge, or Washington on the Delaware? You should be more like him.  Cancel the trip to Viet Nam. Really.  That war has been over with for thirty-one years.  Follow Washington's example and go to Iraq and lead the troops personally.  You want people to support the war there now?  Do it!  Then people will believe you are sincere about everything you say about "helping people be free" when you say it from the battle field in Iraq.  Showing up thirty-one years late in Viet Nam is no way to persuade people you are a genuine "commander-in-chief," rather than some two bit political lackey for corporations and a shill for the money hungry military/industrial/police state complex that fosters smarter bombs and dumber children.  (Please do not send the black boots to check my library card for saying this.)

Then and only then will the American people believe you are sincere about your desire to help those poor Iraqis you profess to care so much about.  Why did you not want to help the people in Viet Nam also by serving there?  They wanted democracy, they were dying for freedom.  Mr. President Bush, it is just hard for me to believe you really care about Iraqis after your no show in South East Asia.

Hope you have fun in Viet Nam now that you are finally getting to go.  I had very little fun there myself.  It’s a nice place and very pretty.  But thousands of people trying to kill you every day ruined it for me.  I guess the politicians there will treat you better than they did us.  After all, you are one of them too.  Mr. Bush, if you do not fill personally up to leading the troops in Iraq, maybe you should think about just staying in Hanoi.  A lot of good American airmen spent years there after becoming POW's.  They chose honour, duty, courage.  History also records your choice.

Lots of people wish you would just stay there.  Count me as one of them.



Spc. E4 L.R. Beam

Co. A. 25th Avn. Ben, 25th Infantry Division 1967-68.







From President George Washington's 1796 Farewell address to the nation:




Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. ... In the execution of such a plan nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded, and that in place of them just and amicable feelings toward all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur.

So, likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld; and it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country without odium, sometimes even with popularity, gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial, else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. ...

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand, neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the Government to support them, conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that by such acceptance it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

To read in it's entirety http://www.utulsa.edu/law/classes/rice/Constitutional/Washingtons_Farewell_Address.htm