Sorry, that wasn't the lesson then, and it's not the lesson now. But it's one the media love to teach. As a Washington Post writer opined, "These (prison) photos are us. ... These photos show us what we may become, as occupation continues, anger and resentment grows (sic) and costs spiral..." and so, hysterically, on. Woe to us all if we buy this again, that American soldiers -- we -- are the enemy. Such twistedness lost us Vietnam at home, and it may lose us Iraq, also at home.
Just as the media stampede to depict the U.S. military as a bunch of war criminals came sweeping by, a posse of good guys in white hats -- Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- stood up to say it wasn't so. That is, it wasn't so in Vietnam, they said with great seriousness at a remarkable Washington press conference (which the Associated Press, incidentally, failed even to report), directly contradicting everything John Kerry has maintained since jump-starting his public career with tales of unproven wartime atrocities in 1971. "It is a fact that in the entire Vietnam War we did not lose one major battle," said Robert Elder, a member of this organization of sailors who served with Mr. Kerry and who believe he is unfit for the presidency. "We lost the war at home," Mr. Elder continued, "and at home John Kerry was the field general."
Strange that a man who once marshaled the forces of the Vietnam antiwar movement to transform, symbolically, the American soldier from good guy to baby-killer would vie for the presidency at a time when the still inchoate forces of the Iraq antiwar movement seek a poster boy, an atrocity, a way to pull the plug. That slander long ago, amplified by a willing media, eroded support for the Vietnam War, leading to our unconscionable abandonment of the South Vietnamese people in 1975. No wonder the rush to tar our armed forces as "torturers" today has that sick-making '70s ring. Abu Ghraib, however, doesn't have to be a turning point -- unless we let them make it one.