I don’t care much about Jane Fonda one way or another. What I do care about is truth, hypocrisy and revisionist history. There are consequences to actions (and that includes words). I can admire true heartfelt remorse.
However, the remorse that comes from getting caught and exposed is just hypocrisy and demonstrates a real lack of character (it’s a form of moral cowardice). Vietnam Veterans might be a lot of things but they’re typically not cowards.
The Hanoi Jane moniker has surfaced once again after Jane’s recent dustup with Megyn Kelly (another person I really don’t give two hoots about). In 1972 Jane visited Hanoi as part of a protest against the Vietnam War—I think that visit was ill-advised. She has said many times over the ensuing years that she regrets having gone there—as well she might. I think she really does regret the decision but not for the reasons she gives—she regrets it because she paid a huge price (though not the price 58,000 American service men and women paid) in personal credibility. The chickens came home to roost—thus Hanoi Jane was born.
I have no lingering hatred for Vietnam anti-war protesters (although I was on the other side of the argument). Shortly after my return from a 13-month combat tour in Vietnam (1967-1968) I started to question the war myself and eventually to strongly criticise it. When it became known that the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the resolution that followed it were bogus we knew that our government had lied to us. When the New York Times published the first installments of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 we came to understand that four consecutive presidential administrations had systematically lied to the American public.
That’s when public confidence in government began to die. The Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon’s impending impeachment and eventual resignation all served to clinch the deal for most of us. Government along with many other institutions (religious, educational, medical and business) have never regained my trust or are they likely to. It’s like a marriage, once trust has been betrayed it is lost forever. You can forgive a betrayal of trust but you can never forget it—I neither forgive nor forget. I will die a skeptic and a cynic—this former believer believes no more.
I don’t judge Jane Fonda for being against the war, I judge her for being less than honest and trying to play the victim. If she was sincere in her regret she would say something like: I was young, naive and ill-informed—I was against the war (and I don’t make any apology for that) but I shouldn’t have said what I did and I do apologise for that. Instead she flat-out denies saying certain things and for the rest she now claims she was duped and used. Bullshit. You are not the victim in this scenario—the 58,000 men and women who died are the victims. You’re a damn good actress but not a particularly admirable human being.
One of the things she denies and won’t even talk about is calling for the execution of American POWs. She did it and no amount of revisionist history (no matter how convenient) will change that fact. Until she owns up to the truth she will never get my forgiveness (not that it’s in any way important to her). Some Jane Fonda apologists claim she never said those words, in rebuttal I offer this 16-second soundbite as proof-positive of my charge. I don’t expect an apology for her anti-war stance, what I do expect is an apology for her outrageous (and treasonous?) words on enemy turf.
Field Notes: I entered the Marine Corps DEL (Delayed Entry Program) in March 1965 at the age of seventeen. I turned eighteen in May and entered boot camp at MCRD San Diego in early July 1965. Platoon 151 began with over 80 recruits and we graduated about 65 (the rest having fallen by the wayside)—I graduated #2. After infantry training and MOS training I was stationed at MCAS Yuma, Arizona for short spell before being deployed to Vietnam in early January 1967 as a nineteen-year-old Sergeant. I returned home from Vietnam in February 1968 after the Têt Offensive. Some of my friends and comrades-in-arms didn’t. Semper Fi.