The ‘Shame’ of the Vietnam Memorial Wall

National Review writer Jay Nordlinger, like most right wingers, really hates it when reality intrudes on their fantasies about war and American nationalism. Any mention of actual facts they seek to drown out by turning up the Lee Greenwood and shouting “USA USA USA” while bleating on about flag burning. Like this:

I know it’s been a long time — almost 35 years. I should have been reconciled to it by now. The whole nation loves the Vietnam Memorial, apparently. It’s a treasured national site.

I’m sorry, but it’s still a black slab of shame. It is a disgrace. I don’t think I’ll ever be reconciled to it. Phyllis Schlafly called it “a tribute to Jane Fonda.” It is. It’s the Left’s view of Vietnam, in stone.

For the record, the Vietnam Memorial is a huge wall with the names of all the Americans who died in combat during that way, over 58,000 of them (which does not include those who died from Agent Orange later). How silly, that “left’s view” of Vietnam that focuses on those who died when they should be focused on mindless cheerleading instead. If they did a wall for all the Indochinese victims of the war, it would take up far more space since that number is more along the lines of 2-3 million people. But I’m sure Nordlinger refuses to even give those people a thought. They are the “enemy” (by our choosing, not theirs) and therefore not worthy of consideration.

And for what? A war started on a lie (the Gulf of Tonkin incident) against an “enemy” who posed no threat to us whatsoever even by the wildest stretches of the imagination. A war with not a single achievable objective, according to the Pentagon’s own analysis found in the Pentagon Papers. Yeah, that’s “the left’s view.” It also has the great virtue of being true, which is why Nordlinger hates it so much and rejects without even attempting to make a rational argument against. He is writing for the National Review, so all he has to do is apply the label “liberal” to it and everyone will nod in agreement.

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  • Chiroptera

    Boy, that’s a blast from the past.

    I remember when the chosen design for the memorial was first announced, the right wing screeching was almost deafening. Because the design wasn’t particular heroic in an Albert Speer sense, but also because it was designed by an Asian American.

    Now it turns out that the memorial is an important destination for tourists in DC, and it even has tremendous support among veterans. I don’t know of any other monument where replicas regularly show up, making “tours” all across the country.

  • keithb

    I think the problem is that this is a memorial for those who *served* not the chickenhawks who cheered from thousands of miles away. And they can’t stand that.

  • Larry

    If one can visit the wall and see all those names and believe it is a tribute to Jane Fonda, he/she is one sick puppy. Try that view on one of the many visitors there who lost someone and who’s name is on that wall. If you walk away with any teeth, you’ll have been fortunate.

  • erichoug

    I highly recommend Barbara Tuchman’s incredible book “The March of Folly” for a good review of the Vietman war.

    If you haven’t already, Tuchman will make you understand how we were not the good guys in Vietnam and how we could have been by telling the French to get bent and recognizing a nation that quoted from our Declaration of Independence, in declaring their own independence from a predatory foreign power who saw their country and it’s people as little more than a resource to be extracted and slave labor to extract it.

  • John Pieret

    He’s right! We should have a monument to our glorious victory in Vietnam!

    Oh, wait …

    I suppose we could have a monument with a helicopter taking off from the roof of a building with people hanging onto the skids.

  • Chiroptera

    erichoug, #4: If you haven’t already, Tuchman will make you understand how we were not the good guys in Vietnam….

    I’ll repeat something I’ve put on this blog before: I recall reading an American Vietnam veteran as saying: We Americans tend to think of Vietnam as something that happened to us. We forget that it was something we did to them.

  • keithb


    That book will also put the lie to the Barton “founding fathers inspired by God garbage.” A little bit of flexibility on either side could have ended the war and kept us a colony. Both sides had valid grievances.

  • Modusoperandi

    It’s a hippie memorial. It should be An American Memorial, with Jesus, waving an American flag and dispensing red hot Freedom from His M16, standing on a mountain of pinko skulls.

    And, yes, it does feel weird defending a Democrat party war. I assume LBJ stole the idea for it from Nixon. Luckily, I can still attack LBJ for not exploding enough Vietnamese. That’s what really cost us The War, you know. That and you hippies. And the Liberal Media.

  • richardelguru

    Irony Dept:

    Whilst reading this I noticed a stick-on tag I previously missed on my brand new shoes.

    It says ‘Fabriqué Au Vietnam’

    Funny old world…

  • gridlore

    What part of “memorial” do these wingnuts not get?

    The most amazing thing about the Wall is that, shortly after it opened, veterans and families began leaving items at the wall. Letters to dead buddies, pictures, medals, unopened beers, unit patches.. an endless parade of items of great significance. Over 400,000 things as of a few years ago.

  • Alverant

    Wow! So he thinks that remembering those who died and served is a bad thing. I wonder what he did when he saw homeless veterans on the street with missing limbs or psychological issues? I wonder what he does now with wounded veterans from our current wars of choice.

  • busterggi

    “I’m sorry, but it’s still a black slab of shame. It is a disgrace. I don’t think I’ll ever be reconciled to it.”

    See, all proper memorials are white slabs.

  • umlud

    Maybe he would have preferred a cenotaph instead?

    Seriously, war memorials all over the nation are normally characterized by having the names of the war dead somewhere on it or around it.

    I wonder if he likes the WW2 memorial, which has no names; just stars mutely commemorating 100 dead and lost soldiers. I mean, if Washington DC had a WW2 memorial with all the names of the 400,000+ dead soldiers, those names would either have to be cut very small or that monument would have to be ginormous.

  • howardhershey

    He really wanted a statue of Dick Cheney heroically striding over Viet Cong soldiers after volunteering for military service. Oh, wait…

  • Marcus Ranum

    If it had the names of the Vietnamese and Cambodians, it would stretch to Rockville, MD.

    Besides, the ignart probably forgot that there is the obligatory bronze soldiers with guns statue.

  • eoraptor

    richardelguru@9 …my brand new shoes. It says ‘Fabriqué Au Vietnam’

    Yeah, funny thing that. Also, a promo for Boeing’s 787-9, being shown at the Paris Airshow, shows a Vietnam Airways 787 making low passes and steep turns.

    The protagonist in a novel I recently read was a Vietnam vet. His comment, after dealing with a couple of Vietnamese in his county was, “Maybe we won after all.”

  • martinc

    I suspect the right wing’s problem with the Vietnam Memorial is actually a problem with Vietnam being remembered, rather than anything about the architecture. The other memorials of war are much more palatable, because the right wing can wrap themselves in the heady smell of victory. With Vietnam, they’d just like to quietly erase it from history, and pretend it never happened. After all, it represents the failure of something many of them would like to assume is a given: that massive military power will always prevail.

  • had3

    The most sobering thing about that memorial is how easy one could add the name of a loved one to the wall. That wall puts reality to the fantasy/romanticism of war. My dad served in Vietnam and survived, but I cry every time I visit the memorial because I recognize that thousands of other dads didn’t make it.

  • Darren VanDusen

    The fact that this tard actually think that his opinion on this issue matters is laughable. I’m not saying he doesn’t have the right to his opinion, it’s just that in this case his opinion is worth jack squat. This isn’t a taste issue; or an artistic one. The memorial is first and foremost for those that lost friends/relatives. They are the voices we should listen to. Secondly, the design of the Wall was done so that everyone who sees it will see the names. No faces. Not achievements. Not anything but names so that no one would be left out. My father served in Vietnam (thankfully without any injury). He thinks it a wonderful monument. That’s good enough for me. Thanks Jan Scruggs for all your tireless effort.

  • dingojack

    Maybe the wingnutz would prefer something a little easier for them to understand*.



    * The Monument to the War of 1812. Douglas Coupland. Toronto, Ontario.

  • dingojack

    Statues of soldiers that mesh with their military experience —

    plastic soldiers, fighting pretend wars.

    @@ Dingo

  • davidworthington

    There is much academic work about the wall and American memory. Carole Blair et al is about the best article I’ve seen (from Quarterly Journal of Speech). Ross Perot was one of the biggest complainers about the wall, he and others went racist when they found out the architect (Maya Lin) was of Asian descent. The statue of the 3 soldiers that stands near the wall was a concession to the traditionalists. Perhaps the most ironic memorial on the Mall is the women’s Vietnam statue which is also near the wall but is, in fact, about men. Its a powerful place and one of the few places where the domestic toll of war is told, and that, I suspect, is why the right really hates it, it puts into perspective the cost of their proxy wars and their efforts to justify empire building.

  • sugarfrosted


    Irony Dept:

    Whilst reading this I noticed a stick-on tag I previously missed on my brand new shoes.

    It says ‘Fabriqué Au Vietnam’

    Funny old world…

    Yup, Vietnam is very quickly industrializing. It’s one of those countries that are capitalist in the US sense (ie not state capitalist like the soviet union actually was), but are communist in name only. In the long run the war was completely meaningless.

  • colnago80

    Re sugarfrosted @ #23

    Vietnam is now our pal as they are expecting the US to keep China off their backs.

  • Broken Things

    I assume Nordlinger gets all choked up watching old John Wayne movies and pictures of W standing on the aircraft carrier announcing ‘mission accomplished’. Years ago in Smithfield, NC, a group called NC Stop Torture Now held a rally to protest the use of a local airport as the home base of a CIA operation that ran rendition flights to countries that would torture alleged terrorists. The wingnuts turned out in force to stage a counter-rally. At one location occupied by the wingnuts, a van had its stereo blasting a speech in which a father told his son, in a grave and manly tone, what freedom and patriotism were all about. It was so false that I was amazed that anyone could listen to it with a straight face. A similar spoken or engraved tribute to the people who die in any of the US’s current and past foreign adventures would be insulting to the dead and the veterans. I feel like Nordlinger wants a memorial that has the same cloying saccharine sweetness.

    The main impact to me of the Vietnam memorial is that you cannot look at it without asking the question “Why? Why did all of these people die? What was gained?”. Anyone who doesn’t have that question resonating in their mind after viewing it has given up (or lacks) the empathy needed to have an intelligent opinion on the concept of war.

  • caseloweraz

    That’s quite a rant Mr. Nordlinger indulges in. It includes this gem:

    In Italy, they don’t have families anymore. In many European countries, they don’t have families anymore. Those nations are dying, literally. Do we still have families?

    But in the main it appears to be disgruntled remarks about a tour of Washington, DC, where he once lived. That’s where the Vietnam War Memorial comes in.

    Too bad Mr. Nordlinger can’t take a tour of North Viet Nam as it was when we were bombing it. But there’s a pretty good approximation: Here is your Enemy, by British journalist Ralph Cameron. Of course, he’ll never read it.

    Criticism of the Vietnam War comes from the other side, too. Perhaps the prime example came from the late Marine Corps Lt. Col. William R. Corson. His 1968 book is The Betrayal. Nordlinger won’t be reading that one either.

    In Corson’s book, William J. Lederer wrote:

    “If the proposals Colonel Corson puts forth at the end of his book were to be accepted by the United States, we could win the Other War. The people of Vietnam would also win. And then the shooting war would no longer be necessary.”

    “In short, Corson shows us how we have lost, he shows us the reasons why, and he describes how to be successful in the future. He has given us a key to peace in Asia.”

  • sigurd jorsalfar

    America’s nazis need their Dolchstoßlegende too.

  • colnago80

    Better yet we could have followed the advice of General MacArthur, namely don’t get into a land war in Asia.

  • whheydt

    Some things to remember about Viet Nam. First, at one time it was a province of China and Chinese policy is “once part of China, always part of China.” Mostly we hear about that with respect to Taiwan (and the Taiwanese right-wing agrees, they only differ on who should be in charge).

    During the Viet Nam War, the major supplier to Viet Nam was the USSR, *not* China.

    Second, in some respects, the Viet Nam War was the last gasp of WW2. After the Axis defeats, France wanted its colony back and the Vietnamese objected. they objected strenuously enough that they kicked the French out in 1954. The French asked the US to take over.

    Following the war, Viet Nam had a couple a rather sharp and vicious border wars with China.

    There are a lot of men my age that could have been on that wall had a few minor things gone differently.