Today, December 8th, is the anniversary of John Lennon’s death. He was shot and killed on December 8th, 1980. It’s too bad for 4.5 million Vietnamese people that he wasn’t killed about 10 years earlier. Shocking and offensive? Yes. True? Yes. No I don’t hate John Lennon because he ‘broke up the beetles’ (couldn’t care less) some of his music I enjoy and some I very much dislike (Imagine is hardly more than a catchy communist manifesto) but what I really dislike about John Lennon was that he helped to end the US Involvement in Vietnam, not only helped but played a significant role in that, and subsequently changed the political tide in the US to one of abandonment. The 80 million people of Vietnam were left to rot and to be enslaved by the Soviet backed communists of Vietnam, who ended up killing 2 million people and then moved on to Cambodia to commit the single worst genocide as a percentage of population the world has ever seen, taking millions of more lives. Neighboring Laos fell to communism and remains communist to this day. Vietnam is still an oppressive communist hell hole today, and is ranked by Freedom House as one of the ten most oppressive nations on the planet.
The Vietnam war helped to contain the global spread of communism. At the height of the Vietnam war more than half of the Soviet Unions global foreign aide was funneled into Vietnam. The Vietnam war delayed the spread of communism into many other nations around China, and drove a major wedge between Chinese communism and Soviet Communism, which remained until the collapse of the Soviet union. The Vietnam war was not a war of expansionism or for tin or rubber, it was a war of the US and the Soviet Union fought in Vietnam. The people of Vietnam were the greatest victims in all of it, and the efforts of the United States, though often flawed and even sometimes flagrantly immoral, were to secure the people of South Vietnam from invasion by the soviet backed north. It was a war in defense of self determination and freedom.
Was Lennon rallying for their cause? Did he, like sadly few other prominent Vietnam war protestors, latter change his mind and try to rally humanitarian support for Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia? Did he care to follow, as the years dragged on, what actually happened to Vietnam? Did he care at all? Or did he, like most people, just bury his head in the sand, convince himself nothing bad would happen, and give himself a big ol pat on his back for his moral fortitude?
While the opposition to the draft was absolutely justified, it dominated only the early protests. In the larger geopolitical context of the era, that of containing the spread of soviet communism, the Vietnam war was a justified war and was in our self interest. It is interesting to note that Nixon DID declare peace and end the war, and Kissinger and one of the generals of the North Vietnamese army received the Nobel Peace prize. The war was OVER and WON in early 1973. Nixon did not resign until more than a year after the war was over and won.
But of course the communist north disregarded the Paris peace accords and continually attacked South Vietnam. By May of 1973 there were no combat troops left in Vietnam and South Vietnam was more than capable of defending itself against the perpetual invasions launched by the north, it only required military material aide, just as we have provided with South Korea over the past 50 years. However the democratically controlled congress soon made it illegal to provide any aide, even only military aide, in Indochina, thus condemning the South Vietnamese to slaughter and communist imprisonment. In two years the Soviet backed north defeated the globally isolated defenses of the south, and Saigon fell in April of 1975. In the 6 months following the fall of Saigon more people were killed in Vietnam than were killed in the whole of the Vietnam war. In one particular incident more than 70,000 ‘boat people’ (refugees who had fled to the south china sea) were forced to drown at sea because neighboring nations did not want to deal with refugees. Note this was more than the number of Americans killed in the entire war. The North Vietnamese communists eventually spread communism to Laos and Cambodia, the latter of which committed one of the worst genocides in the history of mankind. Laos and North Vietnam are still incredibly brutal states today.
The very vocal protests of people like Jane Fonda and John Lennon did a lot to raise public awareness of incredibly disingenuous over simplifications of a complex geo political situation, and probably directly influenced public opinion which eventually led to the callous disregard and abandonment of Vietnam. This abandonment led to the murders of nearly 4.5 million people throughout Indochina *after the war ended*. Defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory. Where was Lennon, who allegedly cared about these people?
The opponents of the Vietnam war, after the draft was indeed, were almost entirely funded by global communist parties. At every step of the war the media perpetually reported inaccurately or with gross distortions. One infamous case was that of a South Vietnamese general executing a North Vietnamese prisoner, caught on camera. The South Vietnamese general was a close friend of the then prime minister of South Vietnam Nguyen Cao Ky, who has gone record stating that the general in question was the most honest general in the army. At one point he investigated some of Ky’s own family members for suspected corruption, and given the corruption in the previous administration this was a noble undertaken. Ky admired him and historically Ky is now considered one of the best prime ministers of South Vietnam. The man executed had just killed many members of the family of a friend of the generals and this was witnessed by the general himself. Yet the newspapers still labeled him as a ‘suspect’ The journalist who took the photo, and was later awarded a Pulitzer prize for it, later stated that it was the worse photo he took in his life and he wished he never had. He knew how that incident was spun and was a major salient point in the changing of public opinion about the war in Vietnam, a public opinion strongly influenced by prominent figures of the protest community. Consider also the Hue massacre, where the North Vietnamese communists killed over 4,000 civilians on the eve of one of Vietnam’s most important holidays, burying many in a mass grave still in the celebratory clothing. This massacre ran on page 5 of the New York Times. The Mai Lai Massacre, where US Soldiers killed over 100 civilians, was splashed on the front page of every newspaper. The bias was persistent and perpetual through the course of the war and did a lot to change public opinion enough to simply abandon Vietnam..
Did Lennon have a major influence on public opinion? I don’t know, how do we quantify such a thing? I think he did have a significant influence. Even so, I hold him responsible for his own direct actions and the ideas he promulgated, without even trying to assess how successful he was at promulgating them. Whether or not an advocate of oppression and slavery gets another person to believe his non sense does not change the fact that he is spewing very harmful nonsense and as such I can morally condemn him all I want, no matter how good I might thing is songs are.
Maybe Lennon didn’t have much of an influence, but one must still hold him morally accountable for the despicable things he preached. And we need to remember that we are all to willing to believe the things we want to believe in order to think the things we want to think. Do you convince yourself that Lennon had little influence so that you still get to like him because of his music? Well that is very convenient. What I often see when expressing this sentiment is people trying to convince themselves that even though he advocated, essentially, brutal enslavement and mass murder, that well he didn’t really have any major effect so they get to still like him because he made good music. Sorry, politics trumps good music especially when the musician uses the popularity he gained from being a good musician to make himself a political figure and then preaches horrendous politics.
I admit it is extremely difficult to determine the influence that a public figure like Lennon had on the populace, but given, as example, the adulation and respect still given to him this day, even when he openly supported one of the most brutal regimes to walk on the face of this planet, it’s clear his influence was strong and long lasting. If he had been singing about Nazism in world war II, would people think so highly of him still? Why the evasion, Communism has killed 10 times as many people as Nazism did. It is no laughing matter. To look at a idealistic communist and think ‘well, he just meant well he didn’t harm anyone’ when he was a major public figure in the forefront of the protest movement which eventually turned the tide of public opinion of the Vietnam war and sentenced millions of people to slavery and death is completely intellectually dishonest.
What Lennon did was use the popularity he acquired through making good music to oppose the defense of people who desired to be free and determine the course of their own lives and to ultimately contribute, to an extent which is of course debatable, to their enslavement and murder. As a Lennon fan, you can either come to terms with the fact that a musician you like helped a murderous tyranny come into power or you can continually evade the question or simply convince yourself that he had absolutely NO political influence, which hardly seems reasonable at all. How do you KNOW what his political influence was? How do you KNOW it was next to zero, do you just FEEL IT? Do you think that all of those millions of people who loved the Beatles and liked John Lennon, every one of them, completely and utterly ignored his political commentaries and actions? If your admiration for Lennon relies on the fact that he had next to zero influence on the eventually abandonment of Indochina to communist aggression, does that mean that if it was shown beyond a reasonable doubt he did have influence, perhaps even a significant one (he certainly put a hell of a lot of effort into trying to be a significant influence) that you would reconsider your assessment of him as a person? Or perhaps reconsider his net contribution to the world? .
From Wikipedia on John Lennon [emphasis added]
"Give Peace a Chance,” recorded in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War, marked Lennon’s transformation from loveable mop-top to anti-war activist, and began a process that culminated in 1972 when the Nixon Administration sought to silence him by ordering him deported from the US. The Vietnam War mobilized a generation of young people to take a stand opposing US government policy, but few pop stars joined them – antiwar protest was something for folkies like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Lennon however was determined to use his power as a superstar to help end the war, especially after he left the Beatles and teamed up with Yoko Ono. They declared their honeymoon at the Amsterdam Hilton in March 1969 a "bed-in for peace," winning world-wide media coverage. At a second bed-in in Montreal in June, 1969, they recorded “Give Peace a Chance” in their hotel room; the song quickly became the anthem of the anti-war movement, and was sung by half a million demonstrators in Washington DC at Vietnam Moratorium Day in November 1969"
"When John and Yoko moved to New York City in August 1971, they became friends with antiwar leaders Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, and others, and planned a national concert tour to coincide with the 1972 presidential election."
Remember, too, what "peace" is in this context, it is a wanton surrender of a people that yearn to be free to a murderous Stalinistic soviet communism. Peace must not be removed from the context that surrounds it. Should we value peace over all else when a murderer comes to our home? When our wife is getting raped? The ‘Peace’ movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s was not a movement of peace, but one of absolute pacifism, and absolute pacifism does nothing but reward militant aggression. If a warlike society was bent on taking over the world, the peace movement of that era would have paved the way with their bodies. Lennon’s cries for peace during the Vietnam war were essentially cries to abandon the Vietnamese people to mass murder and enslavement, as all the politicians supporting the war warned countless times and as came to pass, just like every other time communism has come to power in a nation. Lennon’s cries for peace in this era were appeals for the people of South Vietnam to stop fighting the people and system that sought to enslave them. They did not value his ‘peace’ more than their freedom.
Well, you might say “he wrote some beautiful songs. That’s what matters to me.”
Well I am sure Hitler wrote some nice poetry and Stalin had some decent sketches he made for his grand children. I am not so willing to forgive someone for their flagrant support of brutally murderous regimes. Every single ideal of freedom, libertarianism, objectivism, would have gotten you immediately purged, smashed, hung, executed, imprisoned, and or disappeared in every single communist nation. Lennon publicly opposed fighting one of the most brutal regimes of this kind to have ever existed at the very least, and worse case scenario actually helped bring one to power. But hey, who cares, he made good music! I am sure that is wonderful consolation to the 4.5 million people murdered! Now, I am not comparing him directly to Hitler or to Stalin. I am making the point that one should not disconnect someone’s artistic or musical contributions from their political or intellectual contributions. Both are fundamental reflections of the nature of their character. I see a lot of people saying "I dont care what he did, I care that I like his music" What I am saying is, "I don’t care that his music was good, I care what he did"
It doesn’t matter how good or nice someone is in other aspects if his actions result in a terrible amount of pain and suffering. People glaze right on past Lennon’s complacency in bringing a murderous regime into power, and look only at his music. Did his music do more good for the world than his opposition of stopping a murderous regime from rising to power do harm? I don’t know, I’d ask the 4.5 million people in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, but they are all dead now. Had Lennon made any of his music in the nations he opposed defending, he would have been imprisoned and executed.
To my comments in the post, one might say “What insensitive comments regarding Lennon’s death. Whatever his politics, he certainly wasn’t guilty of a capital offense. Show some compassion.”
I ask then, where was Lennon’s compassion for the millions of Vietnamese murdered? More than 50,000 Vietnamese peasants had been murdered *in the north* by the North Vietnamese communists *before* the Vietnam war (that is, the involvement of the US) even started. Where was his compassion for them? For their plight? For their desire for freedom? For the desire of the freedom of the people of South Vietnam? For the 500,000 boat people that died at sea, seeking their freedom. For the 3.5 million people smashed and starved to death by Pol Pot in Cambodia, who was brought to power by the North Vietnamese communists. Ironically, John Lennon’s “Imagine” was used as the trailer theme song to 1984’s “The Killing Fields” which poorly told the story of the Cambodian Genocide, a genocide which came about by a government literally attempting to abolish property.
Did John Lennon deserve his fate? Did the 4.5 million people who died in Indochina as a result of the US abandonment deserve their fates? Well, peace now reigns, even though North Vietnam is still one of the most oppressive regimes on the planet, at least they have peace! John Lennon’s callous disregard for the lives of the people of Vietnam is what is disgusting and insensitive. No one deserves a horrible death, but John Lennon, at the very least, opposed fighting a regime which wrought more horrible deaths on the world than had been seen in 50 years, and at worst helped them come to power. That you disregard all of this, that you couldn’t care less that all of these millions of people died, each of whom I am sure loved their lives as much as Lennon did his, is the essence of a callous disregard.
This is not a commentary about music, I actually really like the Beatles and many of Lennon’s songs. There are many different levels one can enjoy music on, but I also weigh the philosophical message of a song in that assessment very strongly. I feel very strongly about the tragedy that the people of Vietnam have suffered, and as such I dislike people who helped to bring that tragedy about. Lennon’s very public opposition to the Vietnam war was cruel and inappropriate, and it was based on horrible philosophical premises additionally, and I hold him accountable for his actions, no matter how good the music he made ways it can not outweigh a complacency to mass murder.
Lennon was an ideological communist or, worse, an anarcho-socialist, as such he was anti-life, anti-mind, and anti-human. No ideology in the world has been more harmful to human life than communism has been. He is not worthy of any praise, even if America’s system at the time had faults (it certainly did and still does), he was not working to correct them, but to enact an even worse system of statist slavery. He was a communist who sought to turn the world into a communist utopia. Do you value your life? He sought to own it, or at least confiscate it and grant it as property to the state. Do you own property and value the means to interact with a material world to sustain your life? He sought to take that away, and have the state give you permission to live. His music, his most famous song now, still works to spread that message.
What of the 4.5 million people who died in Indochina *AFTER* the end of the Vietnam War. What of the plight of the 2.5 million refugees and boat people, many of whom were apprehended and forcibly returned to Vietnam (one need not wonder too deeply what became of them)
We like to laugh a snicker at someone who disdains communism as much as I do, but those people laughing and snickering are never cognizant of the fact that communism has killed more than 10 times the number of people that Nazism has. Do we laugh and snicker at our vile disdain for Nazism? No, yet communism has killed over 100 million people. John Lennon was a communist, and helped the communists come to power and enslave 80 million people by undermining their last best hope for freedom and self determination.
If Lennon did have a significant influence on the ending of the US involvement in Vietnam (as 500,000 people singing “Give Peace a Chance” on the Washington Mall surely suggests) then if he had been killed 10 years earlier, before he was able to develop such a large influence, it might very well have saved over millions of lives. It is difficult to ascertain the extent of his influence, at the very least he publicly opposed defending a free people against a communist tyranny, and worse case he actually helped them come to power and brutally enslave over 100 million people in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The fact that John Lennon never uttered a single word about Vietnam after the fall of Saigon is telling. He could not have actually cared for the well being of the people of Vietnam, but instead sought only to promulgate a political ideology. Since he was a communist (In one Lennon Biography, he was quoted as saying “I really thought that love would save us. But now I’m wearing a Chairman Mao badge, that’s where it’s at. I’m just beginning to think he’s doing a good job” (Lennon Remembers, p. 86) when Mao Ze Dong’s policies had killed over 40 million people in China, something well known by the time) He could have been advocating nothing less than the abolition of freedom, speech, and property (the last being the only material means in which we can sustain our existence and something a right to life is directly dependant upon) John Lennon might have very well played a key role in the abandonment of Indochina to the Soviet backed communists which subsequently led to the murder and enslavement of millions and millions of people and no matter how good or enjoyable you might think his music is, for this and this alone he deserves condemnation.
Rest in turmoil John Lennon.
Mark Humphreys excellent compilation of Vietnam war related links.
R.J. Rummels Freedom Democide and War home page
Lennon Wikipedia entry