February 1, 2018

50 years ago today: The execution of Nguyễn Văn Lém becomes a powerful photograph.

The unforgettable image of the moment of death shapes opinion about the Vietnam War.
On the second day of the Tet Offensive... Around 4:30 A.M., Lém led a sabotage unit to attack the Armor Camp in Gò Vấp. After communist troops took control of the base, Lém arrested Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Tuan with his family and forced him to show them how to drive tanks. When Lieutenant Colonel Tuan refused to cooperate, Lém killed Tuan, his wife and six children and his 80-year-old mother by cutting their throats. There was only one survivor, a seriously injured 10-year-old boy. Lém was captured near a mass grave with 34 civilian bodies. Lém admitted that he was proud to carry out his unit leader's order to kill these people. When Lém was captured and brought to him, General Loan summarily executed him using his sidearm, a .38 Special Smith & Wesson Bodyguard revolver, in front of AP photographer Eddie Adams and NBC News television cameraman Vo Suu. The photograph and footage were broadcast worldwide, galvanizing the anti-war movement; Adams won a 1969 Pulitzer Prize for his photograph.

89 comments:

cubanbob said...

The media conveniently forgot to mention that Lem was a mass killer and summarily executed for his murders. Perhaps had that part of the story been told at the time things might have turned out different.

n.n said...

Outside the veil.

Rob said...

Fascinating. I remember that photograph when it originally appeared, and of course it's been referred to often in the last fifty years, including in the recent Ken Burns documentary. But the information about why Lem was executed has been almost entirely ignored. Clearly it didn't fit the desired narrative.

Drago said...

Lem could have been a very much desired "Dreamer" if we had that program then.

After all, there's lots of capitalist targets here.

Of course, Lem's hypothetical American victims would have parents that a republican President of the day would invite to a SOTU address and the dems would not applaud them either.

gilbar said...

if you want to be treated according to the laws of war, maybe think about wearing a uniform

mockturtle said...

He needed executing.

FIDO said...

The press lying and distorting facts to the public is a lot older than just the recent TDS. They have been liars all along.

It is only now that the hoi polloi also realize this.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile the NVA were busily killing something like 2000 civilians in Hue. It's all in your perspective.

bagoh20 said...

In years of discussing the Vietnam War with people, I have never met a single person who knew this backstory, or how the Tet offensive was a failure, or how the American forces won every battle, or how the Viet Cong leaders admitted later that they were preparing to sue for peace, and how that was all buried by our press. Of all the fake news ever created, this may have been the fakest, the most expensive, the most destructive, and the least exposed to daylight as it continues to stay in the dark cave of lies where the American press hold court.

Drago said...

FIDO: "It is only now that the hoi polloi also realize this."

Indeed. Trump's election has clearly exposed all of LLR Chuck's beloved MSM hacks for precisely what they have always been.

Trump's election is such an astonishing watershed moment in our history that you almost have to pinch yourself to believe that it is real.

Megaera said...

Adams later stated that he regretted the use the left made of the picture,especially since he knew the facts. Didn't do anything to dispel the impression it made,though.

Francisco D said...

War is brutal, but it has become less so over the centuries. Nonetheless, leftists seem to expect that it will be perfectly sanitary and conducted by culturally sensitive troops.

"Gentle citizens sleep peacefully at night knowing that rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

Winston Churchill (paraphrased)

eddie willers said...

In years of discussing the Vietnam War with people, I have never met a single person who knew this backstory.....

Which is why I wince when I read a comment from people who act like "fake news" only started a few years ago. Not in the "Good Old Days" when THEY were young.

People....it goes back years and years and years.

JaimeRoberto said...

Huh, I had no idea of this background. Kind of changes my opinion of the photo.

Leland said...

Just a reminder that fake news has been happening for a long time.

Oh, and we are two weeks away from the 120th Anniversary of the loss of the USS Maine in Havana.

eddie willers said...

Winston Churchill (paraphrased)

Actually, George Orwell
(which makes it surprising)

Greg Hlatky said...

If you want to be treated according to the laws of war, maybe think about wearing a uniform

American troops have been brainwashed by the North Koreans, tortured by the North Vietnamese and murdered in captivity by Islamists. None of our international bleeding hearts, transnational progressives and global humanists protested about their treatment while Lem's shooting provoked their outrage. So even a uniform is no protection.

eddie willers said...

Huh, I had no idea of this background. Kind of changes my opinion of the photo.

And, I hope, your opinion of the media.

Oso Negro said...

I'm glad he's dead, that fucking red, I'm glad General Loan shot him in the head.

JaimeRoberto said...

And, I hope, your opinion of the media

Oh, I've had a low opinion of the media for a long time.

William said...

Well, we know what the last thing that passed through his mind was........There are stereotypes for religious fanatics, fascist generals, and greedy capitalists. Why is there no stereotype for Marxist guerrillas such as this man. No, not Che Guevara. I mean men like this. He fought with fervor, devotion and utter ruthlessness but for what. Is the Leninist capitalism that replaced the crony capitalism worth the sacrifice of his life or of the lives of the family he killed?

tastid212 said...

Never knew this or heard this before. Only that he was some sort of captured Viet Cong (thus making him a martyr? and underscoring the notion of a noble insurgency vs. a brutal, corrupt puppet?) Yeesh. No wonder GIs were greeted with contempt on their return.

Mr. Majestyk said...

Nice poem, Oso Negro.

You have inspired me to try my hand at haiku. Here goes.

Bad red knifes kids dead.
Police shoot red in his head
Yeah! Bad red is dead.

Etienne said...

That's what I like about martial law: it's very martial. Judges are only needed in civilized societies.

My Uncle Raymond was conscripted into the French Colonial Army and sent to the rubber plantation of Vietnam in 1931. But things were going to hell in China, so he was transferred to Shanghai, and died in battle in 1932 in Tientsin. He was the oldest, born in 1904, and too young to serve in WW1.

I still wonder if his grave is still there, or whether it has been paved over.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

The picture that got Richard Nixon elected President? You can see the dramatic effect of Nixon's change of policy by looking at the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War by year:

216 in 1964
1,928 in 1965
6,350 in 1966
11,363 in 1967
16,899 in 1968
11,780 in 1969
6,173 in 1970
2,414 in 1971
759 in 1972

Johnson ran as the peace candidate in 1964 and then proceeded to get 36,756 U.S. soldiers killed. Nixon drew those numbers down fairly quickly, if not quickly enough. By the time the Pentagon Papers were published in June 1971, the draw down was very far along. It's no wonder Nixon won the 1972 election in such a huge landslide.

Etienne said...

I've known the back-story on this since the late 70's. I think there was a newspaper article about the General when he came to America. I had no sympathy for the insurgent before that. I always felt his death was too easy.

He should have been hung, slowly strangled, and stoned in a public square.

Then burned to make electricity...

Rich Vail said...

The photographer has since statedthat that he wished he'd never taken the pic, as he knew the circumstances of the justifiable execution. That is never mentioned.

Lyle Smith said...

I always thought the guy with the gun was the bad guy.

chickelit said...

The story that Jane Fonda pushed at the time was that the poor man being shot was innocent.

Rabel said...

NY Times write-up on Gen. Loan's death.

The rest of the story from...Wikipedia.

They've been vile scum for a long, long time.

Francisco D said...

Eddie,

Yes. You are right.

At least I knew it was a Brit.

Small consolation for what appears to be an increasing number of brain farts.

- Cisco

cronus titan said...

If the same picture were taken today, the end result would be much different. At the time, the media turned on the war and advanced a narrative of bloodthirsty murder. THere were no other voices to match it. Today, we would learn the full background and there would be an even chance that the narrative would be different. There was no choice in 1968 but the three networks, PBS and major newspapers. Those days are gone, and that is good. More information is better.

But it also explains the insane behavior we see today from media and liberal politicians, THey no longer control the narrative exclusively, and they are rebelling against the interlopers.

Francisco D said...

Eddie,

Orwell and Churchill are almost as widely quoted (and misquoted) as the Bible, Albert Einstein and Wm. Shakespeare.

"Politics and the English Language" is a wonderful Orwell essay.

Robert Cook said...

"The media conveniently forgot to mention that Lem was a mass killer and summarily executed for his murders. Perhaps had that part of the story been told at the time things might have turned out different."

So...it would have been copacetic for someone to have summarily executed Lt. William Calley for his massacre at My Lai? (I'm not even necessarily disagreeing with you about Lem...but Calley and his men were also mass murderers. Summary battlefield execution for them?)

Robert Cook said...

"War is brutal, but it has become less so over the centuries. Nonetheless, leftists seem to expect that it will be perfectly sanitary and conducted by culturally sensitive troops."

Not necessarily, or not all leftists. It's more that we shouldn't fight wars that are not necessary, that are political, or wars of acquisition.

"'Gentle citizens sleep peacefully at night knowing that rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.'"

Winston Churchill (paraphrased)"


Perhaps...but none of the wars we've fought since WWII were necessary or had anything in the least to do with protecting American citizens, and no soldier who has fought since WWII has done a thing to "protect our freedom."

Robert Cook said...

It's also hard to agree wars have become "less brutal over the centuries." They still involve the mass killing of mostly innocent civilians, mass rape, mass torture. Our weapons are more deadly and brutal, and keep killing for years after conflicts end, (unexploded mines, defoliating agents that poison the environment and lead to still-borns and deformities in babies for decades after...as is true in Vietnam.

Etienne said...

Calley and his men were also mass murderers. Summary battlefield execution for them?

If they were caught red-handed, certainly. As it was, the exposure of the crime took awhile.

At that point, the accused should have been tried, and then executed by hanging, just as any war criminal is supposed to be.

Alas, politics played a bigger role than the murders, and they all were released back into society.

The helicopter pilot that intervened in the murders had ordered his gunners to kill the Army troops if they continued. He was not willing to execute them for what they had done up to that point. Probably some fear of repercussions.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

FIDO said...
The press lying and distorting facts to the public is a lot older than just the recent TDS. They have been liars all along.

I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are.

If I had my choice I would kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure we would be getting reports from Hell before breakfast. - William Tecumseh Sherman

buwaya said...

"So...it would have been copacetic for someone to have summarily executed Lt. William Calley for his massacre at My Lai?"

Copacetic for who? Who is the audience for this sort of argument?

If they had been captured by the Viet Cong the VC could have made a compelling case - at least propagandistically for their side.

The interesting thing is that the US media made this shooting a compelling propagandistic case AGAINST what one would assume is their own side.

Etienne said...

U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War by year

Not all of those were combat deaths.

buwaya said...

" Our weapons are more deadly and brutal"

This is not true. History does not support this. Mass murder of defenseless civilians does not require high technology and never has. Almost all historical examples featured bladed weapons, if not deliberate or callous starvation, illness, dehydration.

The major exceptions, by far, are the Nazi death camps, where they used non-military poisons, and the various bombings of cities, mainly by the Allies, in WWII.

buwaya said...

War is hell

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biscari_massacre

Francisco D said...

"Perhaps...but none of the wars we've fought since WWII were necessary or had anything in the least to do with protecting American citizens, and no soldier who has fought since WWII has done a thing to "protect our freedom."

I understand Cookie. You would never fight against Communism. You would only fight against Nazis because you were fooled into thinking they were right wingers rather than socialists.

Jupiter said...

"General Loan summarily executed him using his sidearm, a .38 Special Smith & Wesson Bodyguard revolver,"

I wonder where that gun is. Probably worth a lot. I know I'd like to have it.

Greg Hlatky said...

Not necessarily, or not all leftists. It's more that we shouldn't fight wars that are not necessary, that are political, or wars of acquisition.

Was the European Theater of Operations necessary? Between August, 1939 and July,1941 the CPUSA didn't think so. Nazi Germany never attacked the US and lacked the force to do so. It couldn't even mount an invasion of Great Britain. In Operation Torch we invaded the territory of a nation with which we had diplomatic relations. Roosevelt: war criminal!

buwaya said...

"but none of the wars we've fought since WWII were necessary"

Arguably getting into a war with the Japanese was "unnecessary".
They were deliberately pushed into a corner.

Anonymous said...

Wow Cookie, so you're saying war is bad?

Immagonnahavta check Wikipedia on that.

Drago said...

Robert Cook: "They still involve the mass killing of mostly innocent civilians, mass rape, mass torture."

Actually that is not true of the United States and Israel.

Naturally, it goes without saying the US and Israel basically get all the blame from Cookies Marxist minions.

Anonymous said...

I just bought a General Loan Signature Model .38 Special Smith & Wesson Bodyguard revolver last year!
Funny, these coincidences.

Comes with a reusable body bag.
And an earring. Attached to an ear.

Hoo-Ah!

Jupiter said...

buwaya said...

"Arguably getting into a war with the Japanese was "unnecessary".
They were deliberately pushed into a corner."

You mean, the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Corner"?

cubanbob said...

Robert Cook said...
"The media conveniently forgot to mention that Lem was a mass killer and summarily executed for his murders. Perhaps had that part of the story been told at the time things might have turned out different."

So...it would have been copacetic for someone to have summarily executed Lt. William Calley for his massacre at My Lai? (I'm not even necessarily disagreeing with you about Lem...but Calley and his men were also mass murderers. Summary battlefield execution for them?)"

As our resident Communist, if Calley and his men were caught red handed by the NVA and executed for the massacre would you object?

mockturtle said...

I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are.

In the vastly underappreciated film, The Year of Living Dangerously, there is a scene where the correspondent in the hotel lounge in Indonesia gets up from his bar stool, goes to the phone and gives his [totally made up] 'report' then goes back to his perch. Many, if not most, reporters abroad never leave their hotels.

mockturtle said...

"Arguably getting into a war with the Japanese was "unnecessary".
They were deliberately pushed into a corner."


How so, buwaya?

Sebastian said...

"the interesting thing is that the US media made this shooting a compelling propagandistic case AGAINST what one would assume is their own side." One would assume wrong. They happily made common cause with the enemy.

I have mixed feelings about the war itself. But fully discovering the malicious anti-American propaganda by the MSM helped make me a conservative.

n.n said...

Arguably getting into a war with the Japanese was "unnecessary". They were deliberately pushed into a corner.

I have heard that. FDR, and accompanying interests, foreign and domestic, right? Something similar happened on the Eastern front. Statesmanship under the table, under the veil.

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

If I recall, it was something about restricting commerce on the high seas, which isolated and placed the Japanese in a pressure cooker, so to speak.

Etienne said...

It's called an Embargo.

If you are going to embargo a military superpower, at least put your ships to sea.

Pearl Harbor was an inside job.

buwaya said...

Trade embargo and financial freeze, making it impossible to import.
They had only a few months of petroleum, making a quick decision imperative.
The Japanese had a choice, to negotiate a withrawal from China and Indochina, or go to war.
I think the Presidential intentions were poorly coordinated with the Pentagon.
The Army and Navy seem to have expected to have another six months or so.
McArthur and USAFFE staff seem to have been of this opinion.

Murph said...

Actually, George Orwell
(which makes it surprising)

An informative book, Churchill and Orwell, by Thomas Ricks, examines the political philosophies and careers of the two men, as it follows their development over time.

http://a.co/g3QshCE

Paul said...

Tough nuts Lém. You got what you deserved.

Gahrie said...

Arguably getting into a war with the Japanese was "unnecessary".
They were deliberately pushed into a corner.


Really> Was that before or after they invaded China and started raping and murdering civilians?

Gahrie said...

Tough nuts Lém. You got what you deserved.

Given the reaction to his death, I'm sure he would tell you it was worth it.

Francisco D said...

Thanks Murph.

Those two men fascinate me with their intellectual honesty and willingness to challenge their own belief systems.

buwaya said...

The Japanese behavior in China was cruel to such a degree and in such a scale that one has to keep open the possibility of demonic possession.

Still, war for the sake of China was a "war of choice" for the US. And even so, the worst part of it had been going on since 1937. Japan was by 1941 bogged down in China, an expensive quagmire with no end in sight.

What prompted Roosevelt to war was not the plight of China but the danger Japan posed to the European colonial empires in Asia, the loss of which would have terribly weakened the British war effort. And war with Japan would bring the US, most likely, openly into the European war, and so it did. His main concern was Europe, not Asia, and he wanted the US in that war.

FIDO said...

Well, according to Sherman, the press wasn't on his side even a 150 years ago, so I'd prefer some reports from Hell, quite frankly.

FIDO said...

I have mixed feelings about the war itself. But fully discovering the malicious anti-American propaganda by the MSM helped make me a conservative

Welcome! We take all kinds here.

Robert Cook said...

"I understand Cookie. You would never fight against Communism."

When have we ever been attacked by a communist country?

"You would only fight against Nazis because you were fooled into thinking they were right wingers rather than socialists."

Someone's been fooled, but it's not me.

Anonymous said...

@Buwaya You are usually pretty close to the mark, but to excuse the Japanese from starting a war they could never win ignores their history prior to 7 December 1941. Even you mention that the Japanese could have withdrawn from China and Korea and rejoined the normal commercial world that they now participate in. The Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere was not an American idea.

eddie willers said...

So Cisco.

You got me thinking so I did a little research on the "Rough Men" quote I had always seen attributed to Orwell.

The current best story is that Orwell talked about Kipling's great poem, Tommy and the lines:

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap.


He believed the sentiments, of course, and repeated similar thoughts.

In 1993 an essayist, Richard Grenier wrote about Orwell and said "As George Orwell pointed out, people sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

Notice that he did not use quotation marks. He was writing Orwell's gist.

The next time the phrase was used was in a 1997 piece by the National Review columnist Kate O’Beirne. She added quotation marks and it has been that way ever since.

So the original thought was from Kipling....which is OK because he was a marvelous writer and thinker.

The above is a summary of a page from Quote Investigator

Francisco D said...

"When have we ever been attacked by a communist country?"

Gee Cookie. You must be thinking very literally.

We were never at war with the Soviet Union. They were always our allies.

Until Trump, you know.

Greg Hlatky said...

When have we ever been attacked by a communist country?

When have we ever been attacked by Germany?

Gahrie said...

When have we ever been attacked by a communist country?

June 1950.

David said...

"Adams won a 1969 Pulitzer Prize for his photograph."

Imagine the prizes if he had photographed the "moment of death" of the 34 civilians Len had just killed.

Lem got what he deserved in a manner completely appropriate to the moment.

Lem said...

#TIL

Jason said...

Game, set and match Gahrie.

Better put some ice on that, Cookie.

Michael McNeil said...

Since we’re talking about both Winston Churchill and George Orwell (a.k.a. Eric Arthur Blair) — and their words being mistaken for one another’s — given that, let’s see what Orwell had to say about Churchill during the Second World War.

Two years before the end of the War, Orwell (author of Animal Farm and 1984) wrote this letter to the editor/poem — entitled “As One Non-Combatant to Another” — to the London Tribune in response to another letter (by an apparently pseudonymous “Obadiah Hornbooke”) which well illustrates pacifist attitudes in Britain in the midst of total war. Note that Orwell, a socialist himself, was emotionally and ideologically opposed to Churchill — but observe Orwell’s reaction to the leftists such as Obadiah who trashed the wartime great man (quoting…):

O poet strutting from the sandbagged portal
Of that small world where barkers ply their art,
And each new “school” believes itself immortal,
Just like the horse that draws the knacker's cart:
O captain of a clique of self-advancers,
Trained in the tactics of the pamphleteer,
Where slogans serve for thoughts and sneers for answers —
You've chosen well your moment to appear
And hold your nose amid a world of horror
Like Dr Bowdler walking through Gomorrah.

In the Left Book Club days you wisely lay low,
But when “Stop Hitler!” lost its old attraction
You bounded forward in a Woolworth's halo
To cash in on anti-war reaction;
You waited till the Nazis ceased from frightening,
Then, picking a safe audience, shouted “Shame!”
Like a Prometheus you defied the lightning,
But didn't have the nerve to sign your name.
You're a true poet, but as saint and martyr
You're a mere fraud, like the Atlantic Charter.

Your hands are clean, and so were Pontius Pilate's,
But as for “bloody heads,” that's just a metaphor;
The bloody heads are on Pacific islets
Or Russian steppes or Libyan sands — it's better for
The health to be a C.O. than a fighter,
To chalk a pavement doesn't need much guts,
It pays to stay at home and be a writer
While other talents wilt in Nissen huts;
“We live like lions” — yes, just like a lion,
Pensioned on scraps in a safe cage of iron.

For while you write the warships ring you round
And flights of bombers drown the nightingales,
And every bomb that drops is worth a pound
To you or someone like you, for your sales
Are swollen with those of rivals dead or silent,
Whether in Tunis or the B.B.C.,
And in the drowsy freedom of this island
You're free to shout that England isn't free;
They even chuck you cash, as bears get buns,
For crying “Peace!” behind a screen of guns.

In 'seventeen to snub the nosing bitch
Who slipped you a white feather needed cheek,
But now, when every writer finds his niche
Within some mutual-admiration clique,
Who cares what epithets by Blimps are hurled?
Who'd give a damn if handed a white feather?
Each little mob of pansies is a world,
Cosy and warm in any kind of weather;
In such a world it's easy to “object,”
Since that's what both your friends and foes expect.

{Continued on the next page… page 2}

Michael McNeil said...

{Continued from preceding page… page 2}

At times it's almost a more dangerous deed
Not to object; I know, for I've been bitten.
I wrote in nineteen-forty that at need
I'd fight to keep the Nazis out of Britain;
And Christ! How shocked the pinks were! Two years later
I hadn't lived it down; one had the effrontery
To write three pages calling me a “traitor,”
So black a crime it is to love one's country.
Yet where's the pink that would have thought it odd of me
To write a shelf of books in praise of sodomy?

Your game is easy, and its rules are plain:
Pretend the war began in 'thirty-nine,
Don't mention China, Ethiopia, Spain,
Don't mention Poles except to say they're swine;
Cry havoc when we bomb a German city,
When Czechs get killed don't worry in the least,
Give India a perfunctory squirt of pity
But don't inquire what happens further East;
Don't mention Jews — in short, pretend the war is
Simply a racket “got up” by the tories.

Throw in a word of “anti-Fascist” patter
From time to time, by way of reinsurance.
And then go on to prove it makes no matter
If Blimps or Nazis hold the world in durance;
And that we others who “support” the war
Are either crooks or sadists or flag-wavers
In love with drums and bugles, but still more
Concerned with cadging Brendan Bracken's favours;
Or fools who think that bombs bring back the dead.
A thing not even {“Bomber”} Harris ever said.

If you'd your way we'd leave the Russians to it
And sell our steel to Hitler as before;
Meanwhile you save your soul, and while you do it,
Take out a long-term mortgage on the war.
For after war there comes an ebb of passion,
The dead are sniggered at — and there you'll shine,
You'll be the very bull's-eye of the fashion,
You almost might get back to 'thirty-nine,
Back to the dear old game of scratch-my-neighbour
In sleek reviews financed by coolie labour.

But you don't hoot at Stalin — that's “not done” —
Only at Churchill; I've no wish to praise him,
I'd gladly shoot him when the war is won,
Or now, if there was someone to replace him.
But unlike some, I'll pay him what I owe him;
There was a time when empires crashed like houses,
And many a pink who'd titter at your poem
Was glad enough to cling to Churchill's trousers.
Christ! How they huddled up to one another
Like day-old chicks about their foster-mother!

{Continued on the next page… page 3}

Michael McNeil said...

{Continued from preceding page… page 3}

I'm not a fan for “fighting on the beaches,”
And still less for the “breezy uplands” stuff,
I seldom listen-in to Churchill's speeches,
But I'd far sooner hear that kind of guff
Than your remark, a year or so ago,
That if the Nazis came you'd knuckle under
And peaceably “accept the status quo.”
Maybe you would! But I've a right to wonder
Which will sound better in the days to come,
“Blood, toil and sweat” or “Kiss the Nazi's bum.”

But your chief target is the radio hack,
The hire pep-talker — he's a safe objective,
Since he's unpopular and can't hit back.
It doesn't need the eye of a detective
To look down Portland Place and spot the whores,
But there are men (I grant, not the most heeded)
With twice your gifts and courage three times yours
Who do that dirty work because it's needed;
Not blindly, but for reasons they can balance,
They wear their seats out and lay waste their talents.

All propaganda's lying, yours or mine;
It's lying even when its facts are true;
That goes for Goebbels or the “party line,”
Or for the Primrose League or P.PU.
But there are truths that smaller lies can serve,
And dirtier lies that scruples can gild over;
To waste your brains on war may need more nerve
Than to dodge facts and live in mental clover;
It's mean enough when other men are dying.
But when you lie, it's much to know you're lying.

That's thirteen stanzas, and perhaps you're puzzled
To know why I've attacked you — well, here's why:
Because your enemies all are dead or muzzled.
You've never picked on one who might reply.
You've hogged the limelight and you've aired your virtue,
While chucking sops to every dangerous faction,
The Left will cheer you and the Right won't hurt you;
What did you risk? Not even a libel action.
If you would show what saintly stuff you're made of,
Why not attack the cliques you are afraid of?

Denounce Joe Stalin, jeer at the Red Army,
Insult the Pope — you'll get some come-back there;
It's honourable, even if it's barmy,
To stamp on corns all round and never care.
But for the half-way saint and cautious hero,
Whose head's unbloody even if unbowed,
My admiration's somewhere near to zero;
So my last words would be: Come off that cloud,
Unship those wings that hardly dared to flitter,
And spout your halo for a pint of bitter.

(/unQuote)

(George Orwell [Eric Arthur Blair], “As One Non-Combatant to Another [A Letter to ‘Obadiah Hornbooke’],” London Tribune, dated 1943-06-18)

Quaestor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Quaestor said...

Thank you, Michael McNeil.

I thought I might add a few footnotes to a very clear and damning indictment which ring true even today.

If Blimps or Nazis hold the world in durance...
Orwell is referring of course, not to the lighter-than-air aircraft, but to character Colonel Blimp, probably to the rather viciously satirical cartoon version created by David Low in 1934, and most likely not to the much more sympathetic career soldier portrayed in the brilliant film, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. While superficially glib, Low's Col. Blimp jokes are in hindsight almost criminally naive.

Or for the Primrose League or P.P.U. ...
A phrase intended to embrace the opposite ends of British, or American for that matter, political ideology. The Primrose League, named for Primrose Hill, a fashionable suburb of London, was a Tory-sponsored booster club chartered to promote the positions and candidates of the Conservative Party. The P.P.U. was and remains the Peace Pledge Union. Look them up. Appalling, an early example of the curious fact that fascism and soi-disant anti-fascism are indistinguishable.

Footnote to my footnote:
Why is Orwell's Blimp not the Col. Blimp of the eponymous film? Because the movie premiered on 10 June 1943 and Orwell's poem was published just eight days later. Orwell had little money and spent what he had on raw survival and a few books and periodicals. He almost certainly didn't see it. And even a writer as driven as he was probably could not get published so quickly.

Robert Cook said...

"'When have we ever been attacked by a communist country?'

"June 1950."


Nope. No communist country attacked us in June 1950.

Robert Cook said...

"When have we ever been attacked by Germany?"

We haven't been, but Germany declared war against the United States days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Michael McNeil said...

Thank you, Quaestor. (By the way, an unrelated matter: I was sad that you ultimately deleted your lengthy historical comment about Philip II of Spain that you’d posted a couple of weeks back.)

Michael McNeil said...

Robert Cook: U.S. destroyer Reuben James was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-552 near Iceland on October 31, 1941, with the loss of 100 seamen including all the officers.

Way beyond that: after Germany declared war on the United States, I suppose no attacks occurred? How is it that Germany declaring war on the United States (!) somehow means that they never “attacked” the U.S? Thereafter a lot of “attacking” went on going both directions!

Caligula said...

"Trade embargo and financial freeze, making it impossible to import.
They had only a few months of petroleum, making a quick decision imperative.
The Japanese had a choice, to negotiate a withrawal from China and Indochina, or go to war."


OR to capture the Royal Dutch Petroleum assets in Indonesia (which they did anyway).

Can one truly make a case that the USA had an obligation to support the Japanese war effort in China?

In any case, the Japanese war effort was doomed once it attacked the United States. Just as surely as Germany's war effort was doomed once it invaded the USSR and declared war against the USA, due to vast mismatch in resources between the belligerents.

Jupiter said...

Caligula said...

"In any case, the Japanese war effort was doomed once it attacked the United States. Just as surely as Germany's war effort was doomed once it invaded the USSR and declared war against the USA, due to vast mismatch in resources between the belligerents."

Neither one expected to defeat the US. They expected us to get tired of fighting and retire behind our oceans.

Robert Cook said...

Michael McNeil,

I was really just answering another poster's question "When has Germany ever attacked us?", which derived from my original assertion (and main point) that no communist country had ever attached our country.

That said:

I was not aware of the October 1941 German attack on a US warship. Given that Germany declared war on the US just six weeks later, this was obviously their preemptive strike at one of our military vessels. Also, an attack on a US military vessel in international waters--near Iceland, as I just read--is not the same as a military attack on our country, (else, we would not see the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as the spark that took us into the war, but the October German attack on our military vessel). When I refer to "an attack on our country," I mean a military invasion or strike on our mainland.

Michael McNeil said...

Re extinguished Philip II posting. Or was that buwaya? I forget at this point, sorry.