Re: torture, let's be more like we were in...Vietnam?!

Writing in The Washington Post, National War College Professor John Stuart Blackton criticizes the Bush administration for not making clear to the troops in Iraq that they shouldn't torture. Which is all well and good, but he makes his case by comparing Bush's faults with what Lyndon Johnson did in Vietnam, where great efforts were made to "ensur[e] an environment in which every American combatant understood the basic rules of the Geneva Conventions".

Blackton goes on for awhile about the praiseworthy steps taken by the USA, up to and including having every soldier carry "a plastic pocket card bearing the signature of our commander in chief, Lyndon Baines Johnson" stating that "It is both dishonorable and foolish to mistreat a captive. It is also a punishable offense."

Unfortunately, Blackton never turns his attention to what actually happened in Vietnam, as opposed to the PR steps taken by the administraion. As journalists Perry Deane Young and John Pilger recall, that plastic pocket card didn't do much in the face of an ingrained culture of brutality and racism that resulted in the indiscriminate targeting of civilians and the extensive use of torture.

American conduct in Vietnam was a lot of things, but it certainly isn't an ideal to strive for.

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