"She should have been shot, and will never be forgiven."

Date: Fri, 07 Nov 1997 19:40:35 -1000
From: Ryan Lee (rlee@aloha.net)
Organization: St. Francis High School
To: Richard Geib (cybrgbl@deltanet.com)
Subject: fonda

jane fonda was a traitor, naive or not. She should have been shot, and will never be forgiven.
She embraced an enemy of our system of free government, embraced communists who had killed and indoctrinated people. Her argument is that they have won their civil war and so deserve to have the victory. The counter argument is that the wrong system of government won - the communist one -- and we and our children are continuing to live in a more dangerous world because of it.

      Dear Ryan,

      I have been frankly surprised by the number and hostile tone of so many of the e-mail this URL about Jane Fonda has produced. You see by the nature of what I wrote that I am no big fan of that lady and her ill-advised trip to North Vietnam either. It was a naive at best, traitorous at worst, as you noted. But she was hardly the only individual to do something terribly stupid back in the 1960s in her salad days when judgement was green. As evidenced on my webpage, Fonda will forever suffer judgement for her rash actions. Jane Fonda was not an evil person but rather merely an ingenue. Like so many of the gullible Western communists in the 1930s, she was used.

      I do not like placing the war between South and North Vietnam - the U.S. enmeshed in the middle of it - in an ideological context. The free world will survive "Saigon" being renamed "Ho Chi Minh City," and that war was more a typical dog-eat-dog Third World struggle between two villains more than a good vs. evil epic. The war brought nobody any honor - as was poignantly evidenced by the boat people and the ignominy of the predictably dour and repressive subsequent Vietnamese communist regimes. Let them lie in the bed they have made for themselves. But let the healing from that war continue.

      Very Truly Yours,

      Richard Geib

Date: Sat, 08 Nov 1997 19:16:50 -1000
From: Ryan Lee (rlee@aloha.net)
Organization: St. Francis High School
To: Richard Geib (cybrgbl@deltanet.com)
Subject: fonda

You are a voice of moderation, and so I respect much of your approach and your council. We all do certainly need to get on with life.
However, I take issue with your values neutral statement. One ideology is not the moral equivilant of all others.
The Vietnam war cannot ever be placed in any context other than ideological- it was the power of private ownership of property, of open free markets, to uplift humanity from warlords, from feudalism, that drove the Brits, the French, and the US and allies to fight for southeast asia for fifty years. Do you forgive Fonda et al for favoring the warlords over her own country 1) because she is a naive ingenue? or 2) because communism was/is attractive to young people in the 30s and 60s hoping for a utopian governmental system? or 3) because the subsequent Vietnamese misery continues to be dour and repressive?
What such a suggestion implies is that all positions in the 60s regarding the Vietnam War were honorable if strongly felt, and honorably and vigorously pursued.
That is bizarre.

Think about it.

      Dear Ryan,

      I don't see it as my place to forgive Jane Fonda or not for her ill-advised trip in 1972, being only five years old at the time. I see Fonda and her "New Left" compatriots of the age as soft-headed in the best light, complicit in the commission of serious crimes in the worst. In my opinion, the Quixote-like passionate devotion of Fonda and many of her baby-boomer compatriots - as well as the American communists of the 1930s - only exacerbated their potential to be duped and used.

      Yet I do not accept your explanation of recent Southeast Asian history as an epic struggle between capitalism and communism. The weakest - perhaps fatal - chink in our armor in the Vietnam War was the instability, corruption and oft witnessed cowardice of the South Vietnamese government and military. If they be not resolute in fighting for "private ownership of private property" and "free markets," why should Americans fight and die at their sides?

      More likely it was a situation akin to that of Nicaragua in the 1980s where sandanistas squared off with contras and both sides were despicable - "two weasels fighting in a hole," as Yeats described such struggles - with little glory or honor forthcoming for anyone involved. The ideological Right claimed the contras were freedom fighters and the ideological Left pronounced the sandanistas liberators of the poor. A person with common sense could see the situation was entirely more complex.

      For the record, I do not have a "values neutral" vision of morals or politics. In a hundred different locations my webpages fairly wreak of my moral judgments. For example,


...to keep things purely in the realm of Asian politics.

      I have also often passionately heralded the superiority of open societies and in allowing individuals a maximum degree of freedom in pluralistic political systems.

      Very Truly Yours,

      Richard Geib

At 10:39 PM 11/12/97 -1000, you wrote:

Why should we fight and die at their sides if they be not resolute and behave as despicable weasals?

1 Because we were fighting for US not for them?.
2 We were fighting for our system of doing things, our ideas of ownership, of governance, courts, etc. which of course Vietnam did very poorly, at best, because of their corruption......
3. Because the Asian century is coming and we needed to have a toehold on the Asian mainland (the geopoliticall argument) when the sleeping giant awakens......
4. Our officer corps had not experienced battle in the field and we needed to train another generation of soldier leaders (pentagon needs active combat every twenty years).
5. Our weapons inventory was heavily WW2 in content and we needed to use up or replace 1950 s vintage weapons systems, bring new fighters iinto the inventory.... etc.
6. which means we needed some research and development in the field... field testing of air to ground tactical weapons, then new computerized guidance systems, laser guided missiles and bombs, electronic counter measures etc.
7. we needed to demonstrate to other SEATO members that our alliances and our bases were backed up by unlimited spending and logistical support power of the USA (trying to keep our bases at Clark AFB in the Phillipines and elsewhere, many of which we've since lost anyway)
8. Lastly, because our country's president sent us there, with the support of Congress. Until they pulled us out...... didn't we have an obligation? Isn't there any obligation left?

So, you say we should have fought only for the noble and the brave and the resolute........ how very American, how very individualistic, let's at least back a winner............and blow off our obligation to the country if we are uncomfortable with backing the weasals. That pretty much puts our individual personal agenda, lives, etc. first most of the time.

      Dear Ryan,

      In fighting a war, I would take it by a case by case example. For example, I strongly urged military intervention for the Bosnian Muslims:


...even as they were hardly a "winner" in that struggle.

      Every American citizen need honestly look at each potential armed conflict and decide whether they support such action and vote accordingly. In Vietnam, consensus seems to be coming forth, we made a mistake. I probably would have gone to war there rather than go to jail in protest of that war. But best would have been never to involve ourselves in such a profitless afray. I have heard arguments such as yours to the contrary and am not moved. I cannot regard Vietnam as much less than a self-laceration by the United States in the 1960s. I think the Domino theory totally unsatisfactory in justifying such huge investment so much American money and lives. My father, a soldier for one year in the Vietnamese jungle, often wonders if he did not waste a year of his life in Asia for little or nothing.

      I would support collective American military action overseas in situations where I thought is justified. For example, WWII, Bosnia, the Persian Gulf... On the other hand, I would not go ANYWHERE to protect ANY ally, as Kennedy proclaimed. Such was the end of innocence in American foreign policy as it matured into a world power with global responsibilities. Let us hope such simplistic thinking is a thing of the past as we are a more mature country. The world is a more complex place than that, and the cost of military action is counted in bloodshed and lives lost.



At 08:08 PM 11/13/97 -1000, you wrote:

Dear Richard,

Your father and I did not waste our year there. I think Vietnam, together with support of Cuba and rebel forces in central and south america and elsewhere, while competing in a space race, missile race, etc. financially exhausted the soviet resources too.... and did much damage to their economy, (if not as much as it did to our political consensus at home)....but after putting down Afganistan, and with unrest in Uzbekistan and everywhere, by the time the star wars thing came along..... their economy was a shambles........and they crumbled. That is my version of the domino theory at work. Vietnam was a piece, small perhaps, but a piece.

Let's distinguish between theoretical and political support and service to one's country. During Vietnam people were drafted - your Dad perhaps, and me.

It is one thing to form a historian's consensus on whether it was a mistake or not. It is another to make heroes out of people who avoided the draft, or left the country, to avoid service to their country. Fonda did that. Clinton does that. The self serving 20 20 hindsight of the peace people nauseates me, and serves our country poorly.

Individuals should support or not support at the polls, OK. But service to the country in the armed services, or some non-violent equivilant public service, should not be just a job, it should be a universal responsibility.

      Dear Ryan,

      I agree with all you said about the Cold War, etc., and I have said as much in many places. Yet I think the most powerful weapon we had and still have are our open society and pluralistic political system. As long as we still had the right to speak our minds, criticize the gov't, and punish a regime by voting it out of office, I think we need not fear much from the enemies of society - no matter who they might be.

      I also believe in the concept of service. It was originally such a sense of service that led to work in law enforcement and then as an inner-city teacher:


I am a good deal more pessimistic about all that now, seeing gov't as pretty inept and all too often ineffectual. But I still respect the concept. I respect it a lot more than some Joe who just wants to make money anyway he can. I think today there are more examples of the latter than the former.

      My dad was not drafted but was ROTC and then was sent to Vietnam one month after he was married. While a ROTC student at Harvard, he missed a music class given by Leonard Bernstein because he was learning how to take machine guns apart and clean them. He is proud of his military service, but I get the feeling he does not see it as the apex of his life. He hates Jane Fonda bitterly. I also think the vast majority of young people today who know next to nothing of the Vietnam War are going to respect those who went and served more than those who evaded the war. I personally respect those who had the guts to go to jail rather than fight. They made a statement and paid for it with their freedom. I have little or no respect for those who went to Canada.

      I am divided about your call for universal public service. I did such a service, and am not sure it did much good. I often wonder if the greater good is served by letting people individually pursue what interests them. I think about how in Cuba every Sunday they make everyone go and help work on public projects. Supposedly you have these engineers and doctors who know nothing about construction just sitting around. A total waste of time I don't know. I personally think that every human being has a responsibility to live for others and not simply be a burden to the earth. But this is an internalized belief that has little or nothing to do with my concept of citizenship. Well, perhaps the citizenship thing is important also. But I hope to God I would have the courage to betray my country if I lived in a place like Nazi Germany.

      I am curious as whether you have read "Starship Troopers" by Robert Heinlein. The book is a classic not to be confused with the movie being released right now, and it echoes many of the same concerns you bring up. If you have not already, I recommend it. You could read it in three hours. I wrote a bit about it at:


Keep in mind that it is a rough draft, but I think it goes to the heart of some of what we have been discussing.

      Very Truly Yours,

      Richard Geib

At 07:28 PM 11/15/97 -1000, you wrote:

I read over your home page, Richard, and thoughts worth thinking is surely a gold mine of stuff worth the time reading. Why do you do it?

      Dear Ryan,

      Why do I do it? Because I wanted to share with the world a few of the ideas, poems, and thoughts in this world which are most beautiful. The Web can be a pretty vapid and mindless place devoid of beauty. I would like to think my few webpages are a blow against all that.

      I have been working on them in one form or another since I was 21. It is a variation on the scrapbooks that people in the age of Emerson kept.

      I hope you get many hours of enjoyable reading from them in the evenings when you are curious to read something interesting and hear the voice of a friend.

      That is why....

      Very Truly Yours,


P.S. All the other more gory details can be found at the too long:


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