History Repeats Itself

This photo, which aptly illustrates the saying, "History repeats itself," was originally published on our blog with the heading "This One Needs No Further Comment." We received it in e-mail from a friend who happens to be a Vietnam vet, and published it exactly as it was received.

After some reader feedback, however, we've discovered it apparently does need some explanation.

We've realized that some of our younger readers, and perhaps even many of those currently serving in OIF and OEF, may not recognize the woman in the photo on the left, and thus, may not understand the implication.

The quote is:

"Those who cannot learn from history
are doomed to repeat it."

You may have also heard it stated, "Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it." Both seem to be true.

Hanoi Jane Fonda
The young woman in the photos is Jane Fonda. The date is July 1972, and she is wearing Vietnamese clothing and a communist helmet, visiting a SAM (Surface-to-Air Missile) or AAA (Anti-Aircraft-Artillery) site near Hanoi. (For those of you who are really young, that's in Communist North Vietnam.)

To Jane's right is an anti-aircraft gun used to target American planes, and the North Vietnamese Army AAA battery crew in uniforms are gathered around her.

There are rants about "Hanoi Jane's" anti-war activities all over the internet. If you're interested, just go to Google search and type "Hanoi Jane" Fonda. You'll find more than you have time or interest to read.

To this day, she is hated by many Vietnam vets. (We know this because we've heard them say so. There happens to be a Vietnam vet in our house, so we have many friends who are also Vietnam vets.) You can still get a heated reaction from almost any Vietnam vet simply by mentioning her name.

The basics are this:

Jane Fonda was a vocal anti-war protestor and activist during the Vietnam War era. At the time she was married to fellow political activist Tom Hayden. She made a highly-publicized trip to North Vietnam, where she met with Communist leaders to "encourage" them (in her words), posed for a photo opp at the SAM site near Hanoi, and broadcast anti-war messages to the American servicemen and women from Hanoi, calling them "war criminals" and telling them that the orders they were receiving from their superiors were illegal. Her radio propaganda broadcasts earned her the nickname "Hanoi Jane," a reference to "Tokyo Rose," who from Tokyo to American service members in Japan during World War II.

Fighter pilots in Vietnam during the time she was there will readily admit to dropping bombs over Hanoi with her name scrawled across the side of the bomb in chalk or grease pencil, or whatever else was handy.

And the "Hanoi Jane Urinal Sticker" is legendary. If you'll just think about it for a minute, I don't think I need to tell you where these were placed, or their purpose.

There is e-mail widely circulated on the internet (we received it, and you may have, too) telling a story of American POWs at the famous Hanoi Hilton (where Senator John McCain and many others were held) being forced to meet with her, and then her betraying them by handing over to their captors notes they had slipped to her to bring home.

We have published a letter from Mike McGrath, former president of NAM-POWS, refuting that story and setting the record straight.

Much of the story is not true. Fonda was never taken to the Hanoi Hilton, the infamous Hoa Lo prison in downtown Hanoi, but she did meet with some POWs in an alternate location for a photo opportunity.

The men named in the false e-mail story have tried to have their names disassociated with the story, but it keeps circulating as truth. Here is their plea, written and circulated by Mike McGrath, former president of NAM-POWs.

You will likely remember from the 2004 Presidential Election that John Kerry and Jane Fonda were severely criticized for their anti-war activities, and for their trips to Paris to meet with North Vietnamese officials.

Treason? Traitor?

There are many who still believe that Jane Fonda was/is a traitor to the United States, and that her activities in North Vietnam amounted to treason.

"Treason" consists of "levying war against" the United States or "adhering to their enemy, giving them aid and comfort." (U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 3.) It seems she was clearly "adhering" to the enemy, at least for the duration of her two-week visit to North Vietnam as the high-profile guest of the government, and that she was "giving them aid and comfort" in the form of anti-American propaganda, such as her radio broadcasts and her photo opps with American POWs and at the AAA or SAM site.

Whether or not she could ever be convicted in a court of law of the offense of treason, thousands of Vietnam veterans are vehement that Jane Fonda was a traitor, and that additional American service members died as a result of her actions.

Fast-forward thirty-five years. . . .

America is engaged in a global War on Terror. Its major "front" at the moment is in Iraq. It is well-known that many of the terrorist fighters now doing their best to kill as many Americans as possible are crossing into Iraq from Syria. It is widely reported that the Syrian government is supporting and financing terrorist activity throughout the Middle East.

American policy has attempted to isolate Syria and discourage other world leaders from meeting with them. Diplomacy has been nearly non-existent in an effort to stop Syria's support of terrorist groups such as Hezbollah. Yet newly-elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a political move to travel to Syria and meet with President Bashar Assad, against opposition from the Bush White House.

There can be little doubt that the purpose of her trip was an attempt to gain votes for Democrats from Americans opposed to the war in Iraq.

The fact that the 2008 Presidential Election was only 19 months away did not escape even the Syrians. "There was a feeling this visit had more to do with domestic politics than us," commented Jihad Yaziji in The Syria Report.

The Washington Post opined, "Ms. Pelosi's attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it is foolish."

Does it amount to treason? Probably not. Does it give "aid and comfort" to the enemy? Perhaps, if you believe 1)that Syria's support of terrorism makes it an "enemy" of the United States in its Global War on Terror, and 2)that the publicity (propaganda?) generated by Pelosi's visit provided any sort of aid or assistance to the Syrian government, or lent an air of legitimacy to the government and its policies.

So there you have it. The explanation of why the photo of Jane Fonda at a North Vietnamese SAM site was labeled, "Vietnam's Useful Idiot," and why the photo of Nancy Pelosi, with head scarf in place honoring a foreign culture that treats women as property, was labeled, "Syria's Useful Idiot."

We appreciate your comments, and encourage you to let us know what you think. Use the Facebook comment form below, or our contact form. Return to top of History Repeats Itself

NAM-POWs Set the Record Straight

Vietnam Veterans Facts

Val Kilmer Insults Vets

The Value of the American Flag to POWs

McCain: Leadership and Service for More Than Forty Years

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