Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Story Behind the POW/MIA Flag

From Newsweek:

You know that racist flag? The one that supposedly honors history but actually spreads a pernicious myth? And is useful only to venal right-wing politicians who wish to exploit hatred by calling it heritage? It’s past time to pull it down.

Oh, wait. You thought I was referring to the Confederate flag. Actually, I’m talking about the POW/MIA flag.

I told the story in the first chapter of my 2014 book The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan: how Richard Nixon invented the cult of the “POW/MIA” in order to justify the carnage in Vietnam in a way that rendered the United States as its sole victim.

More here.

This is a lot less, well, black and white than the Confederate flag issue. That is, regardless of the politics at play, I don't think I'm ready to call the POW/MIA movement a sham. Families really did have loved ones in prison camps; service personnel really were missing in action. It wasn't all politics.

But I'm certain that Nixon would definitely not have been above politicizing it for his own gain. That doesn't mean he did it, mind you, but it's well within the realm of possibility given how he operated--I mean, he actually interfered with LBJ's peace talks which were close to succeeding, telling the South Vietnamese they'd get a better deal with him in office, which extended the war by years, so politicizing POWs would be rather tame in comparison to what we already know he did.

But like I said, politicizing it doesn't delegitimize it.  And now there's a massive controversy about the essay.