Thursday, February 01, 2007

And Even More on Spitting

Coincidentally, as I was composing the previous blog entry, I got a post on my old "spitting on vets" post. Someone who prefers to hide behind anonymity cites a reference to an alleged CBS news story from December 1971 that "proves" that Vietnam vets were spit on. And based on this single citation he claims that "hundreds" of Vietnam vets were victims of expectorant attacks.

Okay, I'll bite. I looked at the source. Just as I suspected, it is not a documented contemporary account. It's just some guy saying after the fact that he was spit on at the Seattle airport on his way back from Vietnam. There were no arrests, no incident reports filed by airport security or local police, no contemporary newspaper accounts, nothing. Just one guy's after-the-fact claim.

Some proof.

Saying so
does not make it so. When I came back from Vietnam in 1969, we landed at Travis Air Force in California. Then we were loaded on busses and carted off to the Oakland Army Terminal for processing out. Finally I took a taxi to the San Francisco airport and caught a flight to Seattle.

So I went through both of the airports that figure prominently in most of those "spitting on veterans" stories, without incident. So did my fellow Vietnam vets; out of all the veterans that I know -- and I know a lot of them -- NO ONE has reported that they were spit on.

And when you think about it, just how would anyone know you had just returned from Vietnam? Why were no other soldiers, sailors or Marines in uniform spat on? If they were, why haven't they reported it? It seems to me that those rabid leftwing pinko-commie antiwar protesters full of spit and looking for a place to explode wouldn't be that discerning.

After I returned I went back to college and became active in the anti-war movement. No one I ever met in the movement called me a baby-killer or spit on me. Quite the contrary, returning vets held a special cachet because it was felt that we had been there and seen it all, and we could speak with authority. Members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, in the early days before the ideological split, were honored with prominent spots in the antiwar rallies and demonstrations.

Ironically, it was the warhawks who dissed the Vietnam vets. I've said before that we were made to feel uncomfortable in the American Legion and the VFW -- they looked at us as losers, slackers and stoned-out druggies who were unable to win our own war the way they had won theirs.

So if anyone was routinely disrespecting Vietnam vets, it was not the anti-war movement. Let's get that straight once and for all.

Okay. But let's just say, for argument's sake, that the CBS story is correct, and he actually was spit on by an anti-war protester at the Seattle airport.

So what? One incident proves nothing. One incident is just that, one incident. It certainly does not serve as the basis for the blanket statement you see everywhere, that Vietnam vets were routinely spit on when we returned.

It's easy to see why the rightwing wants to promote this canard. But it's sad to see so many of my fellow vets buying into it and manufacturing false memories of it happening to them.

Remember, there is ZERO evidence that these spitting incidents ever occurred. None. Not a single arrest, police report or newspaper/media account contemporary with the event.

If you can find one (and not some bogus after-the-fact reminiscence), send it to me and I will eat my words.


C-dell said...

I have heard that Vietnam Vets were mistreated, but I never heard of them being spit on. I wouldn't put it passed people. They focused their anger on the soldiers returning.

Anonymous said...

Well get your fork ready Farnsworth. It happened to the guy in front of me on the the flight back to the 'world' in '68'. All was well in the 707 at 30,000 feet. I had just waked up from my usual recurring nightmare as I turn to my right and thought I saw an angel bent over the guy across the isle, so I reached up to 'heaven' grabbed a handful. She not only launched skyward, but I swear she sprayed a few guys opposite me. I didn't know it then, but everyone on that flight was having the same dream.........
Pony Up,

Anonymous said...

The social-science case against spitting on veterans rests on Jerry Lembcke's book and the underlying studies. Lembcke's evidence that it didn't happen is, essentially, threefold:

(1) The anti-war movement welcomed veterans with open arms (which is a terribly disingenuous argument. What about guys that didn't embrace anti-war positions. Lembcke is not an unbiased observer here)

(2) No arrest records or photographs have ever been produced. (which is an idiotic standard of proof. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Give me photographic proof of anti-semitism in country-clubs in the 50's and 60's Insisting on this level of proof is bad faith worthy of David Irving.)

and finally
(3) Lembcke's claim that thorough studies have revealed no contemporary news accounts

This is really the central pillar of the whole argument. It is why people cite Lembcke's book as "proof" that it is all a legend. Okay.
Here is what Lembcke says in his book (look it up yourself on Google books) pp. 73-74.
"Slightly less but still compelling evidence might be found in news reports from the late 1960's and early 1970's" ... "The fact that there are no news reports of spitting on veterans raises doubts about whether such incidents ever occurred...If spitting on veterans had occurred all that frequently, surely some veteran or soldier would have called it to the attention of the press at the time."

Well, Lembcke's wrong. There is "compelling evidence" of exactly the sort he says doesn't exist. "Surely some veteran would have called it to the attention of the press"? There it is on the CBS Evening News. A contemporary account from 1971, just like Jerry Lembke says didn't exist. CBS was the top of the food chain as far as news outlets in 1971. That is surely the tip of the iceberg.

So yes. That destroys Lembcke's credibility as a researcher.

Bear in mind that Lembke absolutely buys into the validity of the Winter Soldier investigations which were no more than first-hand accounts.

After that, you are left with people arguing that the many, many first-hand accounts from vets, who are willing to to give their names, are all lies. Based on what? Some gut instinct that it didn't happen or a level of proof that is irrational and/or impossible to meet. At that point there is no longer any intellectual respectability to the position.

And, get over the anonymity thing. If you don't want anonymous posts, change your system to not allow them.

(3) No photographs

Farnsworth68 said...

Charlie: LOL.

Farnsworth68 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Farnsworth68 said...

Bowman, you can believe whatever you want to believe. One after-the-fact reminiscence does not turn into routine spitting incidents and you know it.
So Lembcke missed one news report on CBS in 1971. So what? It doesn't destroy his case, and the challenge is on the table to prove that the spitting happened.
Put up or shut up.

Anonymous said...

In a court of law, eyewitness testimony is sufficient to prove that an event occurred beyond a reasonable doubt. What level of proof are you demanding? Lembcke says news reports from the 60's and 70's are "compellimg evidence." I guess you disagree.

The one from 1971 shows that Lembcke is a hack. There are plenty of other vets who say it happened to them. Here is a small sample found from 5 minutes with google:,9171,920248,00.html,M1,M1,M1

Fine. They are all liars. You are right. Everybody believes what they want to believe.

Farnsworth68 said...

Bowman, learn some HTML so when you post links, they actually work.
I'd be glad to check out your "evidence" but I'm not going to do your work for you.

Anonymous said...

Oh, for crying out loud, just copy the links into your browser. They work fine. Or just do your own Google books search. There are lots of vets out there telling there stories.

Farnsworth68 said...

So fucking what?
At the risk of being redundant, saying it's so doesn't make it so.
Prove it. That's all I ask. Prove that it happened. It's not my job to prove that it didn't happen.
Until you can prove it by something other than some years-after-the-fact recollections (which is all that you are citing in those book search links), you can help yourself to a big steaming cup of Shut-the-Fuck-Up.
Which you can't do, so I guess this conversation is pretty much over.

Anonymous said...

Oh for crying out loud, Farnsworth! You know if it is on the NET it is true and that is that. Even more so than if you saw it on TV...

Pull your head out of your ass! Nobody writes a book for profit; they are all true and accurate stories! No one on this planet would write a book and embellish on the truth to increase book sales and profits!


Sorry, just had a huge case of DRIPPING WITH SARCASM!

thanks for the laughs, much better than your usual unveiling of the truth. You're scaring the crap out of me while I watch my civil liberties go out the window!

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that this non issue is getting so much play. I think all of us Veterans can at least agree that if in actuality we were not spit on (didn't happen to me), that the spit in the face was a metaphor for our treatment by the government and the people of this country. FYI the antiwar movement was not our friend. I was living in Boston in '68'and I saw what effect the 'Winter Soldier' war crimes investigation had on defenseless and psychically wounded Combat Veterans. It was pure horror show. Thirty years latter I went to an 'art' exhibit at Boston University sponsored by BU and the students. It was an exhibit that called itself art. It was a 'peace and friendship' exhibit of veterans of the US and Vietnam (the NVA). What I actually saw was a powerful propaganda exhibit by our NVA 'friends' that was both powerful and masterful in it's deception and guile. I've seen the brutal reality of how the VC/NVA operated, and this 'exhibit' bore no relation to the reality of my witness. I noticed a large roll of paper near the exhibit exit, where you were suppose to record your feelings. I noticed a number of Vietnam Vets recording their thoughts that bore a sickening likeness of the 'Winter Soldier' war crimes business 30 years before. The Veterans Administration actually had a PTSD program where you invited back to Vietnam to 'unburden' your wounded soul. First stop the 'War Crimes' exhibit in Saigon and Hanoi by consensual agreement by the VA and the government of Vietnam. You then were assigned a ex-NVA handler to help through this painful 'journey'. I'm not sure why exactly this thread brings up these painful feelings, but there it is....'it don't mean nothing', but we know that was never really true.


Anonymous said...


This is your blog, so you should get the last word. I just wanted to note that some stories of vets being spit on have nothing to do with slamming anti-war folk. Like this one from 1973:
That Vietnam Vets were not treated as well as they should have been generally in the U.S. is the primary truth--maybe something we can agree on.
I still think Lembcke's a hack, but I'll cop that anyone who posts contrary opinions on a blog called "One Pissed Off Veteran" probably deserves whatever abuse he brings down on himself.

Best regards,

Anonymous said...

"This is your blog, so you should get the last word. I just wanted to note that some stories of vets being spit on have nothing to do with slamming anti-war folk"

"slamming anti war folk"? What the fuck are you trying to say? Were you one of the 'chosen' that fit this description? Sorry you got bruised. We (combat veterans) do not hate you nor disagree with you about the nature of 'War'. Is it possible for you to understand the impossible nature of this inquiry? You have my profound respect in 'stepping up to the plate on this blog. I may be wrong but I think Farnsworth's 'free fire' zone blog never was based on the premise that he had to have the last word....
UH1Charlie 'over'

Farnsworth68 said...

Yes, it would be easy to get the last word, but I do that enough at home -- to my everlasting regret -- without it carrying over.
Bowman and Charlie are right on in that the whole spitting thing is emblematic, symbolic of the poor treatment Vietnam vets received, and we all are in complete agreement on that score.
This is one of the reasons I am active in Veterans for Peace. We blame the war but not the warrior, and we refuse to allow the current crop of veterans to come home to the indifference and hostility that greeted us.
Bowman, thanks for reading and thanks for your comments. It'd be a pretty boring world if we listened only to those who agree with us.
Come back any time.

Anonymous said...

Oh Bullshit! I get the last word!

TahitiNut said...

Viet Nam veteran here. E-5, USARV-HQ, Long Binh. DEROS's in mid-November 1969. MAC flight back through Alaska to Travis. Outprocessed at OAB. Ride to SFO for mil-standby flight to DTW. As I was headed for gate, walking out the concourse, a group of 3-4 younger guys were coming in the opposite direction ... and spat at me. It happened. The last thing on my mind was to get into a fight or delay getting home (ETS'ing) by trying to make some stupid report (to whom?). I've read Lembcke and others and all the stupid, specious 'logic' and find it disgustingly laughable. For me, it's just the same despicable dismissal and demeaning of Viet Nam veterans that's been going on for decades.

Just as there were strangely so many people falsely claiming to be Viet Nam veterans, an 'explosion' of such claims beginning in the early 80s, there were probably many of those same people claiming other 'experiences' they never had. After being ignored and alienated for years, it somehow became 'fashionable' in some circles to claim veteran status. There's more bullshit flying about this than can be found in a stockyard.

Anonymous said...

Hey Farnsworth,

I don't KNOW if Vietnam Vets were spat upon or not, nor can I PROVE it, nor can I DISPROVE it.

I do KNOW that Vietnam Vets WERE called "baby killers" (mostly from the "oh so tollerant" Liberals in this country)

If you're asking for PROOF for all things, then can you PROVE that life on this planet EVOLVED from simpler life forms? There has yet to be a SINGLE scientific experiment to PROVE macro evolution.

Hell, where's the PROOF that the burning of fossil fuels (or cow farts) is THE CAUSE of "Global Warming" (oris it being called "Global Climate Change" now)? Where's the CONTROL Planet Earth without fossil fuels and cows to PROVE that "our" Earth exhibits Global Warming, and the "other" Earth doesn't?

I guess we could use Mars as our control (oh, wait, Mars' temperature is up, and ITS ice sheets are melting - perhaps that PROVES that Martians exist, huh?)!

Personally, I am grateful to each and every person (man and woman) who serve (or served) in this country's armed forces (whether they volunteered or were drafted).

And, I (symbolically) spit at ANYONE who dishonors THEIR service by words or actions (or lack thereof).