The time-worn phrase “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels” might be Allen Weh's motto.
This post concerns Weh's dishonest and despicable mailer attacking Tom Udall's patriotism.
Ironically, I received the mailer from a friend I had coffee with Tuesday. He had served in Viet Nam. He was wearing a cap that read, “I'm a Vietnam veteran – and proud of it.” He handed me the mailer, in which Weh touts his 38 years in the Marine Corps and questions Udall's patriotism. My friend wondered whether Weh crossed his fingers when he swore to uphold the Constitution, since Weh's mailer suggests he doesn't believe in the free speech portion of that document. .
Nothing wrong with serving in the Marines. (My Marine father flew bombers in the Pacific during World War II.) Nothing wrong with bragging about it. But.
Udall not only serves in the Senate but comes from a long line of Udalls serving the country and the Southwest effectively. I'm see no basis for attacking his patriotism, and Weh offers none – except that “Tom Udall protested the war in Southeast Asia.”
Writing off the substantial number of people who rightly opposed that War shows Weh is unqualified to lead among civilians.
The Viet Nam War was wrong. It was immoral and against the interest of the U.S.
That surprised me when I was 19, just back from civil rights work in the South. I read everything in English regarding Viet Nam, and concluded the war was wrong – just as many U.S. leaders were concluding it was just plain dumb, though they continued to tell us how well it was going. Many who fought in the War later concluded the War was wrong and stupid. I think even Jim Harbison, who read a lot of the same books I did while he was already in uniform and headed for 'Nam, would agree the War was wrong, though he's proud of his service and remains loyal to his military comrades.
A recent high school reunion reminded me of those days. I met again some people who'd almost “unfriended” me over my civil rights and antiwar advocacy. Once I almost got beat up by guys on my own softball team for complaining when one of them said “Nigger” just because a black man had entered the bar to buy cigarettes. At the reunion, a couple of friends made a point of reminding me – and telling me they'd later come to agree with me on both issues.
So I don't see anything unpatriotic about speaking up when my country is going off the tracks – or even breaking the law (nonviolently) to make a point.
Blacks and whites are equal. We had no good reason to destroy Viet Nam and the lives of so many Vietnamese and young Americans. Those are facts. If Allen Weh doesn't think so, I question his intelligence or his commitment to seeking and speaking truth. (I wouldn't question his patriotism. Although the war did great damage to the U.S., he didn't make the relevant decisions. He did what he was told.)
Weh's mailer touts his allegiance to the U.S., which is fine, though not particularly helpful in assessing his leadership qualities.
He accuses Udall of having no allegiance to the U.S. That's nonsense. It exposes Weh as either a moron or a man who'll tell us anything in order to get elected – or both.
In effect, he accuses me of having no allegiance to the country, because I've questioned its commitment to its ideals, such as equality and freedom, and criticized a wasteful and tragic war before most people came to share those views. I feel as if standing up for the interests of my country, at great personal cost, I exercised more patriotism than contemporaries who weren't soldiers and weren't antiwar advocates, but stuck to their own personal concerns.
Allen Weh is way out of line.
He might also be dangerous. His mailer shows he'll say whatever's expedient, without regard to truth. It says that even though most of the folks who ran the war for us, like McNamara, either recognized then or realized later that it was not good for us, Allen doesn't. And by attacking Udall for exercising his right to free speech, he suggests he'd support a more authoritarian regime in which such rights were severely restricted.
Why would New Mexicans ever want to put him in a position to attempt that?
[I wrote hastily as a possible replacement for the Sunday column I'd just sent in when my friend showed me the mailer and mentioned how appalled he was by it. (Maybe Weh will question his patriotism too, now, since he was indeed in Viet Nam.) Then I decided to stick with the column I'd already submitted.
Note: I render Viet Nam as a two-word name because it originally was, and I used to feel that our country's failure to note even that symbolized our country's ignorance about (and lack of respect for) the country it was destroying.]
[My ex-soldier friend reminds me that the mailer is a little strange in another way: Weh brags about fighting in the jungles and offers himself as "A commander who will lead." But he's not running for a command position. He's running for a legislative position, which is very different -- and part of his duty would involve listening intelligently to his constituents' diverse views.]
[Finally, I wondered about the accuracy to Weh's accusations based on Udall's votes:
He accused Udall of voting to reduce cost-of-living adjustments for military retirees. Maybe, maybe not. Near as I can figure, the vote he references was to invoke cloture (end a filibuster in the Senate) with regard to a vote to concur with a proposed House amendment to a senate amendment to H.J. Res. 59, the Continuing Appropriations Resolution. The cloture vote succeeded, 67-33, so Udall had plenty of good company, including some prominent Republican Senators.
Fact is, the vote wasn't about COLA. It was to stop a filibuster to a compromise between the House and Senate Budget Committee Chairs. Rules called for a one-hour debate. Some right-wing dissidents tried to ignore the rule, and the Senate voted to close debate and vote. The measure included the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. It looks as if Weh's minions took this one way out of context to mislead voters.
Udall's vote was a vote not to let right-wing fanatics shut down the government over ideology -- not, it appears, a vote against COLA. I'm not sure how voting to keep the government open amounts to "turning his back on our veterans," as Weh alleges, when those veterans would be among the first victims if the government had to shut down.
Similarly the allegation that Udall "Voted against the protecting the second amendment for vets" turns out to be an effort to surmount an NRA campaign to block Newtown-inspired legislation aimed at keeping assault weapons out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them. The amendment sponsor, speaking on the Senate floor, said the real problem was that we were "no longer a moral nation" and that Congress should deal with that problem, not the gun problem, which he called a mere symptom.
That is, as I rather expected, Weh lifted these votes way out of context to mislead voters.]