The author below writes of the “well-dressed malingerer, the best educated, the most cunning, the most creative of the [Vietnam] generation, they live with their little secret: their citizenship came of age on a note of avoidance . . . which in turn bred a profound cynicism toward their responsibilities in a free society.”
This may be compared to the “well-dressed malingerers” of Northern society in the early 1860s who remained home, a few after tasting 90 days service, and realizing the resolve of their opponent seeking independence; then they avoided the draft with substitutes and paying for exemptions from physicians seeking extra income. They dug deep into their pockets as well for town, county, State and federal bounty money to pay the poor and recently-released criminals to take their place. They then applauded Lincoln for seizing dispossessed black Southern farmhands, and taught them to loot and burn Southern farms and towns, for “the Union.”
Victory Seals Union Theft and Destruction
“General Sherman had done the dirty work for the Union. To him had fallen the duty to break the spirit of the rebellion, to punish the rebels, whatever their sex or station. His unsparing, relentless hand had given the Union victory.
The dirty work of the Vietnam War was consigned to a small percentage of the Vietnam generation; the poor, the uneducated, and the youth who fought who were wounded, who died. Most of those who went to Vietnam, the studies show, saw moderate to heavy combat. It is only the glories of modern medical science and the speed of the helicopter that prevented the names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington from being etched in much smaller print.
If the cruel charge of substitution is valid against any group, it is valid for the sixteen million who avoided Vietnam illegally. By their avoidance, the country had, de facto, reverted to the practice of the Civil War, where a man could buy a substitute. Had it not been for this overall turpitude, a Lt. William Calley could never have been an officer in the US Army.
Sherman’s dirty work ended in victory, and the victory swept away in the North any preoccupation with the manner of victory. Victory sealed over for the Union veteran his memory of theft or wanton destruction in Dixie.
In Vietnam, defeat and atrocity are fused. The wanton violence of Sherman’s bummer and Westmoreland’s grunt differs as looting differs from stealing, but neither time nor morals are static. The patterns of behavior in both armies were encouraged by the official policy and extended the rules of permissible conduct in the same degree.
The burning of Columbia and the slaughter at My Lai were exceptional only in their dimensions. The formal order for civilized behavior contrasted with the informal message toward atrocity in precisely the same way.”
(Sherman’s March and Vietnam, James Reston, Jr., MacMillan Publishing Company, 1984, excerpt pp. 167-168; 170)