FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

So Long, Champ! We’re Going to Miss You!

All of a sudden, it’s chic to have been a war resister during the decades of US aggression against the tiny (militarily) nation of Vietnam during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Forget all of the hateful speech against draft resisters and deserters and those who went AWOL and those who went to prison and gave up years of their lives and careers and all the so-called cowards in general. Forget the stinking, rotten so-called amnesty during the Ford administration and poorly promoted amnesty during the Carter administration and the tens of thousands who never received any amnesty at all, while the criminal Nixon got his free pass on the Monopoly board of life with a full and free and clear pardon with a great pension thrown in. With the death of Muhammad Ali, a boxing great, humanitarian, and antiwar legend, it seems to be all the rage to have been antiwar… indeed a principled stand if one were to do a casual perusal of the US media. How did this reversal of fortune take place?

From the New York Times (Muhammad Ali Evolved From a Blockbuster Fighter to a Country’s Conscience,” June 4, 2016):

Nonetheless, Ali’s embrace of the pro-black, anti-integration Nation of Islam alarmed the country. Almost overnight, a cocky young fighter became a scary black man. In 1967, he claimed conscientious-objector status and refused the Army induction to fight in Vietnam, saying to the press: “I ain’t got no trouble with them Vietcong. It ain’t right. They never called me ‘nigger.’ ” His defiance brought out competing paradoxes: Until America reconciled its war with itself, how could it ask a citizen to fight somewhere else?

He was fined $10,000, sentenced to five years in prison, stripped of his boxing title and forced to wait three and a half years for the Supreme Court to overturn his conviction. He lost prime fighting years and gained honor. The roaring monster in Leifer’s photo now appeared on the cover of Esquire, in his boxing trunks, his bare chest shot with arrows just like poor, martyred St. Sebastian. Another astonishing transformation: The scary black man had become a national folk hero.

So, then, if we who were resisters, both of the draft and the military kind are to believe the decades that followed of sanitizing this vicious aggression against the Vietnamese people, and the Cambodian people, and the Laotian people, we really never had anything to worry about in terms of how the history of that era would be written. And in any case, it now seems that we were right all along and it’s just that nobody told us. But then came the election of Ronald Reagan, “The Great Communicator,” and he told all of the world that “Theirs was a noble cause,” referring to those who took up the cause of  war in Southeast Asia that resulted in the deaths of millions of people there and over 58,000 Americans. How many thousands of veterans were left with inadequate care or became homeless?

And since we’re always right as a nation, it’s not a big issue that President Obama’s recent trip to Vietnam was all about the US getting a better trade deal with that nation, while the work of attempting to bring some sort of relief to Vietnam (there would never be a Marshall Plan there) would mainly come from the efforts by groups like Veterans for Peace, which has had an ongoing program to help with the effects of Agent Orange sprayed by the US on the people of Vietnam.

Prominent draft resisters turned super patriots are now coming out in support of the bonafide war resister, Ali. It appears that former President Bill Clinton, a draft resister if there ever was one, will eulogize Ali this coming Friday in Louisville, Kentucky, Ali’s hometown. Hopefully, the egregious Clinton sponsored bombing campaign of the 1990s in Kosovo won’t come up, or his administration’s sanctions against Iraq, or Clinton’s championing of laws that have incarcerated thousands and thousands of African- American men and women and removed massive numbers of people from welfare rolls in an economy with few jobs for those harmed by decades of poverty.

Hopefully, Clinton’s appearance is not a cynical attempt to push the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, a person whose actions are so diametrically opposed to Muhammad Ali’s principled stands against racism and war that the two individuals may just as well have occupied different planets because there is so little with which to compare them. What could be more removed from Ali’s heroic position and actions about war than Clinton’s bellicose actions regarding Iraq and Libya?

Rest in peace, champ! You were right all along, perhaps a hero (I think so), even when being right brought the wrath of a sizable part of this nation down on you. There are those in power and many, many others who don’t know that sometimes a boxer has to fight through all the rounds of a match just to show them who’s right by the simple fact that he’s still standing at the end of it all.

More articles by:

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

December 19, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russophobia and the Specter of War
Jonathan Cook
American Public’s Backing for One-State Solution Falls on Deaf Ears
Daniel Warner
1968: The Year That Will Not Go Away
Arshad Khan
Developing Country Issues at COP24 … and a Bit of Good News for Solar Power and Carbon Capture
Kenneth Surin
Trump’s African Pivot: Another Swipe at China
Patrick Bond
South Africa Searches for a Financial Parachute, Now That a $170 Billion Foreign Debt Cliff Looms
Tom Clifford
Trade for Hostages? Trump’s New Approach to China
Binoy Kampmark
May Days in Britain
John Feffer
Globalists Really Are Ruining Your Life
John O'Kane
Drops and the Dropped: Diversity and the Midterm Elections
December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail