I’m feeling like the political history police this week. Today’s entry involves a Salon piece by David Sirotaabout the lack of consequences for Iraq War policy makers and pols. I have bold faced the bit I’d like to to discuss:
To appreciate how little political fallout the Iraq War generated,
consider how different the reaction was to American history’s most
recent antecedent to the Iraq conflict. A generation ago, a similarly
misguided war of choice in Vietnam resulted in such a fervent political
backlash that a president was forced to opt against running for
reelection, a slate of anti-war legislators was swept into Congress,
and pro-Vietnam War icons like William Fulbright and Thomas Dodd were
voted out of office. At the same time, the leading voice in the
establishment media dared to adversarially report fundamental flaws in the pro-war argument, to the point where it has become a mark of shame to admit you publicly backed the conflict.
J. William Fulbright was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the Vietnam War and he *did* sponsor the Tonkin Gulf resolution but became one of the leading critics of the war. His committee held legendary televised hearings on the war and his book The Arrogance of Power was a scathing critique of cold war politics and Lyndon Johnson’s disastrous war. He was defeated for re-election in 1974 in a primary by fellow Democrat Dale Bumpers after the “Vietnamization” of that conflict. He was not swept out of office by anti-war fervor, instead he was old and out of touch with his state; a classic Senatorial tale. If anything, Fulbright’s anti-war position helped get him beat.
On to Tom Dodd. I’m not out to defend or praise Chris Dodd’s daddy-O. Sirota is at least 75% right. Dodd was a hawk and he *was* partially defeated for that reason but he had been censured by the Senate and was a rather dubious character who had a severe drinking problem. I’ll score this one mostly for Sirota.
Here’s my main complaint: do some research, dude. It is so easy in the age of the Google to check a basic fact like Fulbright’s position on the Vietnam War. It changed quite dramatically after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. In fact, he was one of the Senators that LBJ referred to as a “traitor” for *opposing* the war. He also felt personally betrayed since he and Fulbright had once been allies.
I realize that Sirota is a polemicist making a point. The problem is that his misuse of history caused me to stop reading his piece. All he had to do was to do some very simple research on his computer and he’d have learned something about the Vietnam War era. People change their minds on issues all the time and when it is sincere, it should be praised. In the case of Vietnam, only 2 Senators voted against the Tonkin Gulf resolution and such leading doves as George McGovern and Teddy Kennedy were not among them.They changed their minds and meant it.
Anyway, David, I usually like your stuff but even a mere blogger such as myself does a bit of fact checking from time-to-time. The intewebs makes it easy: it’s called a search engine. Use it next time.