Saucers of Mud

June 16, 2008

Perlstein and Hershberger on Jane Fonda and POWs

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 12:04 pm

Talking Points Memo’s front page linked to this article about John McCain’s National War College thesis about the alleged effect of anti-war dissent on POW behavior. It mentioned (in a photo caption) that one POW, Sgt. Abel Kavanaugh, shot himself after his release, when the military began to court-martial him for collaboration. Searching for more information about this, I found this fascinating review by Rick Perlstein of Jane Fonda’s War by Mary Hershberger. Perlstein (and Hershberger) talk about Fonda’s antiwar activism and her visit to POWs in 1971, and some of the myths around the anti-Jane cult. It’s an interesting read in combination with the article about McCain.

There doesn’t seem to be much about Kavanaugh on the web (here’s a contemporary article that briefly discusses his suicide). The main text of the Times article seems almost actively deceptive by omission; it says:

Court-martial charges were filed against two officers and seven enlisted men, he noted. “Probably more would have been charged if the Vietnam War had been like other wars in which this country has engaged,” Mr. McCain wrote. (Top military leaders quickly quashed charges against those nine.)

It seems like it would be worth mentioning in the main text that the charges weren’t dismissed until after one of the POWs had committed suicide. Hounding a POW to death was much harsher than anything done to, say, the perpetrators of the My Lai massacre; William Calley served three and a half years house arrest.

UPDATE: aimai has more thoughts on this. My favorite part:

Its often forgotten that the war at home was a “war” because the Government insisted that on it–insisted on the language and tactics of war at home, on the protesters, their families, and their motives and their lives. And that that was in defence of an incredibly unpopular war that by democratic means–the vote–the people had essentially already voted to abandon.


  1. Hey matt, I just wrote a long comment on your comment over at IIRTZ. I didn’t know you had your own blog. very nice.


    Comment by aimai — June 18, 2008 @ 12:24 pm

  2. That article on the “cult of Jane Fonda” (the cult of HATING Jane Fonda) scared me.

    Comment by Matt's mom — June 19, 2008 @ 12:22 pm

  3. I used to work at Underwriter’s Laboratories. It’s a dead end for a lot of military engineers, as well as the legion of purbright young mechanical engineers doomed by the failure of the industrial sector of the US economy.

    The old Vietnam era motorpool guys had the Jane Fonda hate paraphernalia plastered all over their cubicles. I always thought it was just some trash they used to assuage the loss of American material prestige, and then upon further reflection I thought it might be a more disturbing manifestation of a group psychosexual disorder.
    But now it’s plain that this is just more dochstosselgende horseshit.
    I’m still worried by the fact Republicans have become such visible allies with erectile-function-compromised bikers (who are largely the printers and distributors of this junk). It’s as though the Hell’s Angels are Bush’s ready-made blackshirts.

    I’m scared too, Matt’s mom.

    Comment by coozledad — June 21, 2008 @ 5:58 pm

  4. Thanks for the comments, guys! I actually have two blogs that I neglect in ridiculous fashion. Including, as you can see, taking forever to respond to comments.

    Comment by matt w — June 24, 2008 @ 6:05 am

  5. Re your two blogs, I am reminded of a joke I was told by a computer programmer who was proud of the name “hacker.”
    –“Why should a hacker have a wife and a mistress?” –“Because the mistress will think he’s with the wife, and the wife will think he’s with the mistress–and he can be at work hacking!”
    (I didn’t say it was funny.)

    Comment by Matt's mom — June 25, 2008 @ 10:45 am

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