these days, for obvious reasons.
And so I've been thinking about the history and purposes of conspiracy theories in American politics. There's obviously much to explore, to learn, and to analyze.
One particular conspiracy theory I haven't seen discussed at much length is the whole MIA movement that began after the end of the Vietnam War. You can still see those black MIA flags flying from post offices and elsewhere, long after the theory should have been put to rest.
This occurs to me while reading Doug Anderson's "Keep Your Head Down: Vietnam, the Sixties, and a Journey of Self Discovery."
The bulk of the book concerns his tour of duty as a combat medic in Vietnam in 1967-68. It's an amazing and brutal story.
Years later he revisits Vietnam with other veterans. His description of PTSD, and his compassion for the Vietnamese are striking.
Then there's this:
"...the price paid [by the people of Vietnam to drive the US out] was staggering. Three million Vietnamese, military and civilian, died during the war. I don't know the statistics on Vietnamese wounded, but the number of wounded is often triple the number of dead. Four hundred thousand are still missing in the North alone. When I think now of the black POW flags I've seen flying from police and fire stations mourning the two thousand missing Americans, a number that is much smaller compared to other wars, especially in a jungle war where the retrieval of bodies was more difficult, I wonder what the POW issue is really about. I don't believe that Communist Vietnam held back some POWs for political reasons, or for perverse 'Oriental' reasons. I think simply that they are dead, and that keeping hope alive for their families is perverse."
I too have often wondered what that whole movement was about. My impression is that the POW issue was mainly a right wing Republican thing, and fed into the whole "liberal government is holding back the truth" BS we see so much of today. The POW myth became the basis for the Rambo movies with their revisionist history of the war, at the same time Reagan was declaring it "a noble effort." The line in Rambo where the hyper-masculine hero asks some sinister government character, "This time are you going to let us win?" or words to that effect, is a perfect example of the papering over of the realities of that war. Then too, as I recall there were quite a few scams connected to the issue, with sleazy characters milking families desperate to believe their loved ones were still alive.
Anyway, I highly recommend anything by Doug Anderson. He's an especially amazing poet. I started with his book "The Moon Reflected Fire" and went on from there.