The above are the opening lines from a hate filled opinion piece by Rick Perlstein that appeared in this week’s Newsweek magazine. Working from the bottom up in my rebuttal, I should like to point out to Mr. Perlstein that the Confederate flag, an assemblage of three horizontal red and white bars with a blue field in the upper corner containing a circle of 13 white stars, was never and is not now the target of liberal hate campaigns. Mr. Perlstein is obviously referring to the Confederate battle flag, an assemblage of 13 stars in a blue saltire (Saint Andrew’s cross) on a red field, introduced because the official flag of the Confederacy, the”Stars and Bars,” was too easily confused with the Union flag in the heat of battle.
In their apology for publishing Perlstein’s piece, Lou Dubose of Newsweek wrote,”“Perlstein is an accomplished historian ...” Really? I should think an accomplished historian would know the difference between the Confederate flag and the Confederate battle flag, and would not confuse the two in a nationally promulgated article.
Working up from there, Mr. Perlstein’s purpose in writing this article is evident from his opening overuse (and misuse?) of emotive language. He refers to a “pernicious myth,” and to “venal right-wing politicians” who wish to “exploit hatred.” It’s quite clear Mr. Perlstein’s target is not the POW/MIA flag but “venal” right-wing politicians – whatever he means by that. Venal means susceptible to bribery, and I am truly at a loss to understand what that has to do with the POW/MIA flag. Perhaps if I were “an accomplished historian” ...?
Mr. Perlman goes on to proclaim that, “Richard Nixon invented the cult of the “POW/MIA” in order to justify the carnage in Vietnam in a way that rendered the United States as its sole victim.” But later in his article, he admits that, “The flag was the creation of the National League of Families of Prisoners of War, later the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, ... The organization was founded by POW wife Sybil Stockdale, during the Johnson administration, in an effort to embarrass LBJ and challenge his line that all in Vietnam was going swell.”
So “accomplished historian” Perlman would have us believe that Nixon invented a movement that was initiated during the previous administration. And, oh yes, Sybil Stockdale started this scam for the sole purpose of embarrassing Lyndon Johnson.
Vice Admiral Stockdale was one of the most decorated heroes of the Vietnamese conflict, with 3 Distinguished Service Medals, 4 Silver Stars, 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 2 Bronze Stars, The Legion of Merit, and 2 Purple Hearts, as well as the nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.
And his wife Sybil was awarded the Navy’s highest civilian decoration, the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award. But maybe an “accomplished historian” wouldn’t know that. Or maybe, if he did, he’d ignore it in an effort to make us believe the Stockdales’ only concern was to embarrass Lyndon Johnson.
After a desultory meander through the movie The Deer Hunter, Chinese duplicity during the war, and irrelevant allegations of South Vietnamese atrocities, Mr. Perlstein comes to the following conclusion: “That damned flag: It’s a shroud. It smothers the complexity, the reality, of what really happened in Vietnam. We’ve come to our senses about that other banner of lies. It’s time to do the same with this.”
I should like to suggest that anyone, even an “accomplished historian,” who sees evil in a piece of bunting is, at the least, emotionally disturbed – and at worst a liberal. Oh, wait. Aren’t they the same thing?