combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 01 Number 04 Fall ©Oct 2003

When All the Myths are Dead

Myths and stereotypes may not be deliberately obstructive, but they definitely obscure things. What happens in misdirection is that the important things are missed, or some unimportant things preoccupy our attention; and the lapse is only recognized when it's too late. Most of the disinformation promulgated about the Second Indochina War would've been quashed by strategic censorship, except for the contradictory political motives of the contending war-lords. War-zone myths were enhanced by stateside stereotypes to exacerbate the political environment, which intensified the irrationality of combat, and tacitly condoned privileged cowardice. From desertions and addictions to racism and insubordinate 'fraggings', the unsanctioned conflict without viable objectives slowly disintegrated an arrogant populace, who're irresponsibly inhabiting an uncooperative nation. Among the deceptive omissions is an accurate portrayal of the soldiery, of known characteristic effects of close-combat, of effective ratios between combat and support personnel. No one bothered to explain to the "silent majority" that intelligence and logistics have won more battles than heroism. No one bothered to condemn the dastardly traitors, or rescind their abused privileges. No one bothered to refute the propaganda with facts, or debate the allegations with authentic witnesses. No one has memorialized the enemy atrocities at Hue (murders: 1968), at DakSon (flamethrowers: 1967), or at CaiLay District School (mortars: 1974) so as to counteract the massacre at MyLai (murders: 1968). It's easier to believe that ancient transgressions by the Chins or Mongols against the Viets, or by the Viets against the Champas or Khmers, endorse the plethora of contemporary feuds. It's easier to believe that distant injustices visited on foreign peoples must have been deserved. It's much easier to believe that the fall of Saigon typified an immoral collapse, than that it represented another Dunkirk katabasis. It's so much easier to believe that any form of peace is preferable to continued strife. Words are impotent and ideas are transparent to a man who's endured the lies and fought the illusions. If the combatant is fortunate, he will survive with some idea of respect, which will enable him to function, or with some concept of honor, which will permit his accommodation to the mythical world that dispatched him into unreality. Without loss of integrity, he must somehow offset all the accumulated hate and intolerable pain, because everything else has been sacrificed to the necessities of unimpeachable confrontation. The only reason to stop fighting is because all the myths are dead, and only essentials remain.

by Pan Perdu
... who is a former soldier and VA counselor; this work has been excerpted from Fragmentations, a book in progress.