Hero or Traitor?


And it’s one, two, three,

What are we fighting for?

Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,

Next stop is Vietnam;

And it’s five, six, seven,

Open up the pearly gates,

Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,

Whoopee! We’re all gonna die.

Country Joe McDonald


mcnamara_650-1Robert McNamara, next to a map of Vietnam…in 1964 he participated in propagating the “Tonkin incident” lie, a false flag incident which drew the US openly into the conflict (previously “US advisors” had been fighting covertly in Vietnam). By 1968 he became disillusioned and decided to resign – another million people died after he had left the scene.

Photo credit: AP


We seem to have opened old wounds and inflicted new ones with our comments on the late Muhammad Ali.  Over the last two days the Diary Mailbag has been like the Tet Offensive – with bullets flying and bombs exploding everywhere.

Few argue that the war was a good idea. But some believe it is a young man’s duty to fight whenever the Deep State asks – even with no vote in Congress and no chance that the enemy would ever pose a threat to the homeland.


Country Joe McDonald rendering his Vietnam song at Woodstock


In any event, whatever the U.S. military was trying to prevent happened nonetheless… and why ever it was trying to prevent it, it turned out not to matter anyway. About three million people died (the number of Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodians killed is very uncertain).

For what? Nobody knows. People are neither pure cowards nor undiluted heroes. It depends on the circumstances. Former secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was surely a coward for not coming forward and telling the nation the truth when it might have done some good.


McNamara medalMcNamara is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction – the highest civilian honor awarded in the US. McNamara’s medal was eventually sold at an auction in 2014.

Photo via natedsanders.com


In 1968, he accepted his medals – the Medal of Freedom and a Distinguished Service Medal – as a hero. But he didn’t mention that the war for which he was largely responsible was a mistake, even though he said later he had already come to that conclusion. At least another million people died in the war after he left the Pentagon.

It was nearly three decades later that he found the courage to tell the public, with tears in his eyes, that it was “wrong, terribly wrong.” (additional footnote: He went on to serve the Deep State as head of the World Bank).

Judging from our Mailbag comments, half our readers agree with him; they believe the Vietnam War was a mistake and anyone who went along with it was a fool. The other half doesn’t believe we should think about it at all; you did your duty… or you were a traitor. That was all there was to it.


Jungle on Both Sides…

“What do you think?” we lobbed a softball at a cousin who had done two tours in ‘Nam.

“I think I was an idiot for getting mixed up in it. The smart boys stayed in college or went into the National Guard, or found some way to dodge out of it. I went in because I didn’t have anything better to do.


vietnam jungleIt looked sort of peaceful for a moment: Jungle patrol in Vietnam in 1967

Photo credit: Gilles Caron


“But your readers should give us all a break. Most of us didn’t know what the hell we were doing. We did what we were told. We did what we had to do. Or we did whatever we could get away with.

“And you never know what will happen. I was a lieutenant in the Army. I was an engineer. I was supposed to be building runways and roads.

“Like Ali said, I had no quarrel with the Viet Cong. I didn’t want to be there. And I damned sure didn’t get in a fight with them. But you never know…


A U.S. crewman runs from a crashed CH-21 Shawnee troop helicopter near the village of Ca Mau

Shawnee down: a U.S. crewman runs from a crashed CH-21 Shawnee troop helicopter near the village of Ca Mau in the southern tip of South Vietnam, Dec. 11, 1962.

Photo credfit: Horst Faas


“One time, we were coming back from a patrol. I was leading it. We had just three Jeeps, four men to a Jeep. It was supposed to be a safe area. But I knew something wasn’t right. It was too quiet.

“Then we came around a bend… I heard shots and all Hell broke loose. One of my men slumped over. We couldn’t tell where the shots were coming from. It was a jungle on both sides of the road. So we just blasted away with everything we had.


A father holds the body of his child as South Vietnamese Army Rangers look down from their armored vehicleMust make your hearts steel….a father holds the body of his child as South Vietnamese Army Rangers look down from their armored vehicle March 19, 1964. The child was killed as government forces pursued guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border.

Photo credit: Horst Faas


“Then I noticed that one of the guys behind me was just sitting there. It was the strangest thing. The middle of a firefight, and he was just sitting there.

“I yelled at him, ‘What’s the matter with you? Help us out here!’

“He said he couldn’t. He said he was a conscientious objector.


Trying to avoid intense sniper fire, two American medics carry a wounded paratrooper to an evacuation helicopter.Getting shot at while trying to save a life: Trying to avoid intense sniper fire, two American medics carry a wounded paratrooper to an evacuation helicopter during the Vietnam War on June 24, 1965 near Thoung Lang.

Photo credit: Horst Faas


“What the hell? How did a conscientious objector end up in my Jeep with the VC shooting at us? It took me a couple seconds to process that information.

“Then my gun barrel was red hot from shooting. I pressed it to his forehead and I told him that if he didn’t pick up his gun I was going to blow his head off.


gallows humorGallows humor: A dig at Newsweek –  a U.S. Marine shows a message written on the back of his flack vest at the Khe Sanh combat base in Vietnam on Feb. 21, 1968 during the Vietnam War.

Photo credit: Rick Merron


“People are funny. I think I would have done it. And he got the message. He started firing his gun. I bet that to this day he’s got a circle on his forehead.

“Patriotism? Fighting Communism? It’s all bullsh**. We fought because we had to. Or we didn’t know any better.”


headBad things that happen in war time….a U.S. paratrooper of the “hatchet team” of B Company, 502nd Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, holds the severed head of a Viet Cong guerrilla who was killed in hand-to-hand jungle fighting 12 miles northwest of Ben Cat during the Vietnam War, Dec. 12, 1965. The company had chased a squad of Viet Cong guerrillas, one of whom dropped a grenade that wounded several soldiers. Soldiers jumped the the guerrilla and beheaded him by hatchet. Charming – undoubtedly lots of mentally well balanced people emerged from that jungle.

Photo via flashbak.com


Image captions by PT (only the portions in italics below the war pics)


The above article originally appeared at the Diary of a Rogue Economist, written for Bonner & Partners. Bill Bonner founded Agora, Inc in 1978. It has since grown into one of the largest independent newsletter publishing companies in the world. He has also written three New York Times bestselling books, Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt and Mobs, Messiahs and Markets.




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10 Responses to “Is It Our Duty to Fight When the Deep State Asks?”

  • wmbean:

    Mr Bonner,

    It’s nice to cherry pick your facts but I think you might want to go back to the beginning. That is, the aftermath of world war two. The country was tired after four years of war although England had suffered through a few more before our entry into that conflict. The war in the Pacific was being fought on several fronts. We were pursuing the Japanese across the Pacific but when they surrendered they still had forces in southeast Asia and China. The nationalist Chinese under Chiang Kai-Shek (may be misspelled) had battled both the Japanese and the communist Chinese. As a general, both strategist and tactician, he was a disaster. In 1946 the communist under Mao started their war of revolution against the Nationalists and finally prevailed in 1949 despite our best efforts at supplying the Nationalist armies. President Truman had to take the blame for “losing” a free Chinese government to the communists. Of course by that time we were discovering the red menace and their foxes in our hen house. While many Democrats and quite a few Republicans disdained McCarthy and hounded him out of politics, his accusations of communists agents in government employ and their spying for Stalin proved far more correct than originally thought.

    When the communists in North Korea launched their war to take over the southern portion of that country, Truman was quoted that we would drive them back and settle the matter. Korea was not going to be lost on his watch. Moscow has pursued a “cold war” but found that one of the ways of gaining spheres of influence and later direct control over other nations was to infiltrate communist agents and start up civil wars. It worked in China except for the fact that Mao was not about to take a back seat to Uncle Joe. So we had ourselves a little police action in Korea and saved the south . Meanwhile the Vietnamese were being infiltrated with communist agents from Russia. Funny thing about Vietnam and China is that those two countries have always hated each other. civil wars broke out and the French showed that they were incapable of thinking clearly in a military situation. They liked big set piece battles. The Viet Cong got wise to that tactic after losing great numbers of men to a couple of those set piece battles. They changed their tactics and effectively defeated the French. When Dien Bien Fu was being besieged by the Viet Cong regulars, The French came to see Ike. You see, they had no four engine bombers and wanted our Air Force to fly a few missions for them.

    I love the irony of this situation. The Majority leader of the Senate was Lyndon Johnson and the speaker of the house was Sam Rayburn, both democrats. Ike said that if the house would authorize the missions and if the Senate would approve, he would consider the matter done. There was even talk of using a french nuclear bomb or two. Johnson and Rayburn both backed down and the rest is history. Kennedy was not too crazy to get involved beyond sending a few thousand army and Marine “advisers” to help train the South Vietnamese Army and Air Force. But Kennedy died in office and Johnson inherited the mess. Truman’s words became the rallying slogan, “Not on my watch.” First a detachment of Marines were sent in and developed the “Hearts and Minds” concept of helping the locals with their fight the irregulars from the north. Not that all irregulars came from the north. Enter the next coming of MacArthur, Eisenhower, and Bradley, William Westmoreland. And what was his favorite tactic? Big set piece battles except the Viet Cong and the NVA weren’t born yesterday. Well, McNamara to the rescue. Engineering is what was wanted. We need to measure to show results. Oh goody, the greatly accurate body count. Except we, like the Chinese managers, tended to make the numbers up. I mean, who was going to know?

    Was the war winnable? Of course it was. The British showed us how to kick the Kuomintang out of Malaysia. Sure, it took them a few years and the methods weren’t the nicest, but that is what war is about. We should have mined Haiphong Harbor or at least sunk a couple of oil tankers in the channel. But the Russians were supplying arms, food, and money to North Vietnam and we weren’t too certain that they would remain neutral allies of North Vietnam.

    You see, wars are winnable but only if you are serious, only if you are willing to engage in a life or death struggle. You must be prepared to kill a lot of people, including your own. It is not enough to merely subdue another nation, another people, you must be prepared to wipe them off the face of the earth. Dead people don’t rise up later to kill you. If you really want to have a long term peace you really have to kill most of the people of the country you invade. Regime change is never enough. You don’t fight war for trivial reasons like making the world safe for democracy. You fight a war for survival. Anything less is a waste of time and resources.

    As for Western Civilization, we are terrible at fighting wars that result in lasting peace. We think war should have morals and it doesn’t. There is absolutely nothing moral about war. We have gone in out thinking from fighting a war like gentlemen to fighting a war in an ethically responsible way. We now talk about war crimes. War crimes are committed by the losers, not the winners. How obscene that we drag in some moral code as if it really matters. We talk about surgical strikes and reducing collateral damage. How absurd to make war mentally hygienic.

    But to answer your question about serving one’s country by going to war. I’ve been, Vietnam, thank you. I’m not wild about dying but i am not afraid of death. Note the difference. Death is inevitable, no one gets off this planet alive unless one is an astronaut and even then they have to return. We all die, the question is when, where, and how. No, I don’t believe in most of the wars being fought these days. I will fight to keep my family and friends from being enslaved but beyond that, I can’t see much percentage in it. The communist regime in Vietnam really didn’t win, it lost. It has had to become westernized and capitalist. Centrally planned economies never work of long, they die and have to change. And that change is to some form of capitalism and free market economies. I just don’t see why I should be willing to die simply to overthrow a centrally planned economy when it will implode in the future.

    • JohnnyZ:

      ” It is not enough to merely subdue another nation, another people, you must be prepared to wipe them off the face of the earth. Dead people don’t rise up later to kill you. If you really want to have a long term peace you really have to kill most of the people of the country you invade.”

      You are either a psychopath or you drank their cool-aid too long! You demand the peace of a graveyard, exterminating whole populations!

      What business has the USA in Vietnam at all? Don’t you realize that the same types of psychopaths control(-led) both the USA and the USSR and played their pseudo game of MAD, while actually supporting each others cause when in need? What is you job to determine whether the Vietnamese are communists or not?

      Kissinger said what you are:

      ““Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.”

      Now you try to find more meaning in what you did, in order not to go crazy. But it seems you are not finding the right path (see above).

      • wmbean:

        Oh my, I can see that critical thinking is not your forte. We in the west, particularly those who subscribe to a progressive liberal view of world progress, believe that regime change is the best way to promote nation building. All the people need is a little democracy and all will be well. Would you care to tell me in how many countries that has been the successful conclusion of American or any other world power’s diplomacy? We in the west play at war and come up with all manner of stupidity for rationalizations for our actions. Our supposed business in Vietnam was to keep it from going under communist political control. that is what the cold war was about, you simpleton. It seemed like a valid policy at the time, look how many well meaning people bought into it. Was it really a pseudo game of MAD? No, not at all. Each side saw the other as the ultimate evil. How many communist party members actually believed in all fervent honesty that they were action for the generations to come and that communist was the hope of the world for peace and prosperity? And how many on the non communist side believed that the hope of the world would come through democracy? Politics is a god damn religion. It’s a belief system with all the fervent faith in some process that is suppose to transport us to that ideal state, that garden of Eden here on earth. that is the lunacy of our age.

        But to call me a psychopath for pointing out that if a country or a people really wants to be successful in war they must wage total and complete war or else they end up fighting the same people again years later. Well, you must be delusional. If you want a complete end to the middle east problems then simply nuke all the inhabitants into heaven and be done with it. Otherwise, learn to live with these people as best you can. And if we can’t live with them, then decide how much war you want from them in the future. It is all very rational, not irrational.

        Do I advocate total war? No, not unless it is the last option. Normally I don’t go looking for fights and I never did have the ability to walk around and win a few. But if someone was going to try and kill me you better believe I would fight to the death, not turn the other cheek. and if someone was attacking my children or my wife you better believe I would be fighting to the death to protect them. I don’t like violence and aggression, it’s a waste of time, energy, and emotions. But I recognize that there may come a time when one cannot avoid such things.

        As far as meaning in my life, I believe I have found a great deal of meaning in my life. You don’t seem to think I have found the right path, but what exactly do you know about the issue? It’s a stupid man who makes such asinine assertions so blindly. I was a captive civilian who was forced into Uncle Sam’s group of Merry Pranksters. And when my time was mine once again, I went back to the basics of living. But really, invoking Kissinger? Now that is the pot calling the kettle black.

        • JohnnyZ:

          All American wars were fought on false pretexts. “War is a racket”. And you keep bitching that the US did not won them properly?

          • wmbean:

            You are confusing pretext or reasons/excuses for moral action. Let me clue you in. One, there are no moral wars. Never has been and never will be. Two, war is amoral in itself. three, one can look at war in a multitude of ways and never find the “correct” one, not that there is a correct way to look at war. You want reason and meaning to exist for war, there are none. The war in Korea, it was called a police action, another attempt to clothe human activity it moral turpitude, is still going on. It has not been won, only a truce has been declared. and certainly one can make the argument that Patton made when he said we should not have stopped after defeating Germany. We should have gone on to defeat Russia and the communists. the world of war is filled with armchair generals expounding on how the last war should have been fought.

            I’m not bitching about how we did or did not fight to a proper conclusion. All I have done is to state the case that if one is going to fight a war one should take into consideration the total outcome. If you remember your Old Testament the Jews usually put the population to the sword and then settled om that land. Total war. Final solutions are final. But before one enters into such a system one better literally have god on one’s side.

            Now, do all countries for wars on some pretext? Go ask Poland in 1939. You don’t understand history, you don’t understand war, and you certainly don’t understand human behavior. Yet you claim to hold the high ground of moral turpitude. I call it bullshit of the worst kind. Go take a couple of courses in critical thinking and analysis and then come back to the world of ideas and show us what you have learned.

          • John Galt III:

            Whereas every other war in human history was not. Be good boy now and take your meds.

    • You got the script of the stage show down very well. A lot of it was written by Stalin and FDR at Yalta and other meetings.

      What was accomplished? What is always done when Constitutional Republics go to war. The Republic is destroyed and the government becomes supreme, along with its cronies.

      The US hasn’t done very well winning wars the last 70 years. The people of the US have a 100% loss record, as we lost much freedom, put in a lot of labor and lives and still owe the bill for the labor we put in. I think they call that bondage.

      Regardless of system, the world and its rules still boils down to who controls the labor of men. The higher the taxes, the more of it is controlled by government and their beneficiaries. The difference between a free society and a totalitarian one boils down to who makes the economic decisions and how the fruits of labor and capital are distributed. Taxes are always paid by the consumer and labor, over the long run, as the value of labor relates to the productivity of the industry or system. The goods cannot be sold, over the long run for less than cost.

      Today, the US is mired in a rut, not much different than the system we claimed to be fighting in the 50’s and 60’s. Funny money, known as bank credit, regulations and taxes rule over the cost of production. These are all government imposed systems. One cannot call banking free market or capitalist, as long as the rules are rigged to where the bankers never really have to cover their liabilities. It is at best a Ponzi scheme where the group on the other side of their transactions, never win, in sum. Even the insurance can only be paid by the deposits, themselves. There is no other money to pay, save for another fake IOU.

      No one benefits from war, but the arms dealer, the undertaker, those that share in the loot and the lenders to the winning side. Figure out who the Dulles brothers were, who McNamara was and a few others and it might give a clue as to the truth behind the entire mess. None of the wars ever engaged in by the US has ever had a damn thing to do with our freedom, nor have the people of America been more free afterwards than before.

  • John Galt III:

    War is like that and we shall find out soon again. Islam is at war with the world. The world will eventually fight back. When we do, the fighting will be fierce and uncontrollable. Mohammed wanted it that way. He will get his wish.

    By the way, ask the homosexuals who survived Orlando if Islam is the religion of peace. They may differ with RINO’s like Bush and Democratic politicians who want to jam Muslim immigration down our throats like Obama, Clinton and Sanders. The Democrats will begin to lose their constituent groups, one by one, as the Islamic War of Conquest continues. It has been going on for 1,400 years. Toss the PC (Political Cowardice) stuff aside like Trump wisely has. It is way too late for self-defeating Cultural Marxist shit like that.

    You may not like the war with Islam but it surely likes you.

    • JohnnyZ:

      John Galt III,


      1. The war on terror is completely fake and contrived. ISIS, just like its previous version Al Quaeda, is a product of the CIA, Mossad and other Western spooks agencies, is financed and abetted by the West in its constant search for make-believe nemesis to justify its militaristic imperial expansion and illegal wars of aggression.

      2. All such “terror” events are false flags (at best) and staged hoaxes, using crisis actors (at worst). The Orlando one seems to be of the latter group. If you think that such things are impossible, consider the “Tonkin incident”, Operation Northwoods, Operation Gladio, and 9/11. The fact that it was politically incorrect only adds to the evidence of a convenient hoax.

      3. You can always radicalize a part of any religious group by skillfully manipulating and attacking it. The overwhelming majority of Moslems are no different than any other religious group.

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