Culture, Science & Faith

POW Flag: The New Symbol of Racism?

Michael Swartz · Aug. 14, 2015

Like most leftists, author Rick Perlstein is not a fan of our nation’s efforts in Vietnam, despite the fact he was born in 1969 and, thus, too young to remember much of it himself. Thanks to an op-ed in the progressive Washington Spectator that was picked up by the now online-only Newsweek magazine, we’ve learned that a venerable symbol of that war was just another example of American racism.

Perlstein opens the article by saying, “You know that racist flag? The one that supposedly honors history but actually spreads a pernicious myth? And is useful only to venal right-wing politicians who wish to exploit hatred by calling it heritage? It’s past time to pull it down.”

“Oh, wait. You thought I was referring to the Confederate flag. Actually, I’m talking about the POW-MIA flag.”

Realizing the gravity of his words in the heated aftermath, both Perlstein and Washington Spectator editor Lou Dubose apologized for calling the POW-MIA flag racist. Perlstein admitted, “The word was over the top and not called for.” But his enlightenment didn’t happen before a firestorm of criticism rained down on him from conservative outlets like National Review and RedState.

On the other hand, those on the Left are still defending Perlstein, which isn’t completely surprising in this age of “everyone who disagrees with me is racist.”

As the article goes, it’s just more wailing and gnashing of teeth over events that played out while Perlstein was still in diapers. For example, he asserted, “Richard Nixon invented the cult of the ‘POW/MIA’ in order to justify the carnage in Vietnam in a way that rendered the United States as its sole victim.” He continued, “[Nixon] declared their treatment, and the enemy’s refusal to provide a list of their names, violations of the Geneva Conventions — the better to paint the North Vietnamese as uniquely cruel and inhumane. He also demanded the release of American prisoners as a precondition to ending the war.”

In other words, it was like almost every other war Americans have fought.

Yet Perlstein droned on, “Whenever Nixon or one of his minions talked about the problem, they tended to use the number 1,400. The number of actual prisoners, was about 550. The number of downed, missing pilots were spoken of, prima facia, as if they were missing, too, although almost all of them were certainly dead.”

“And in 1971 that damned flag went up.”

Yes, it’s that familiar black flag — not of war or nationalism, but remembrance. It makes one wonder if Perlstein has something against yellow ribbons, since that’s also been associated with remembrance in wartime thanks to a once-popular song.

The obvious question, though, is why now? It’s been four decades since we abandoned South Vietnam in disgrace, leaving it to the wolves of the Viet Cong. The legacy of protesting that war has been a lesson learned in how to turn public opinion against a just cause — a template the Left has followed all too well with the Long War against Jihadistan. The current regime doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to wage that war. Aside from a fading recollection of 9/11, many Americans seem far more concerned about the latest dustup involving Donald Trump than our ongoing air war against the Islamic State that is the latest chapter in this epic struggle. One could answer that Perlstein is doing a pre-emptive strike against escalating in Iraq by alluding to Vietnam once again.

The answer may be much simpler than that, though. Perlstein has a book that’s just been re-released in paperback, and what better way to create buzz than to spin a new angle on old news. His article uses the leftist dog whistle of equating racism with the Confederate flag and applies it to a war we fought against others who don’t look like us — for others who don’t look like us, we might add.

When it comes to war, it might be the only flag that satisfies Perlstein is a white one. Or is that racist, too?

Click here to show comments