A Veteran Speaks--Against the War
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  1. #1

    Cool A Veteran Speaks--Against the War

    Bob Muller, Vietnam Veterans Against the War
    Presented at a meeting of the Student Assembly of Columbia University Student Assembly, July 23, 1971.
    Vietnam is something you have to experience firsthand to believe. I know I didn't believe what anybody told me about Vietnam before I went; it was something I had to go through myself.

    Let me go back and tell you who I am and what I'm about. I'm a retired first lieutenant in the Marines -- retired, because today, when you're separated from service for a disability, you're put on a retired basis; you're not simply discharged as you were in World War II. [Mr. Muller spoke from a wheelchair, the result of a crippling injury sustained in Vietnam.]

    In 1967, I was in my senior year in college at Hofstra University. And one day that spring, I went into the Student Union Building, and there was a Marine officer standing there. He looked very sharp: he had his dress blues on, and he had the old crimson stripe down the side of his trousers. I said, "That looks good! I'm going to be a marine."

    Right there, in that sentence, is really the tragedy of my life, as I view it. The tragedy of my life was not being shot in Vietnam; the tragedy in my life is one that has been shared by all too many Americans, and is still being shared today. For me, knowledge of the fact that my government had seen fit to involve us militarily in Vietnam was sufficient for me. I never asked the reason why. I just took it on blind faith that my government knew a hell of a lot more than I ever could, and that they must be right. My opinion has changed since then....

    Still the fact is, I went. I went all the way, with no reservation. I said, "If you're going to fight, you might as well go all the way." So I joined the Marines, and then became an officer. I didn't request the infantry, and I didn't request to go to Vietnam; I literally demanded it. I was "the Marine's Marine:" I could run faster, do more push-ups and more pull-ups. I had leadership capability and so on and so forth. I got what I was after.

    When I was in the Marine Corps, as I said before, I never really asked "Why are we in Vietnam? What's the history behind our involvement in that country?" I went in -- boom! There's something you have to understand about a system like the military: once you become a part of the machinery, it works on you. By the time it came time for me to go overseas, I was a fanatic; I was the epitome of John Wayne; I wanted but one thing: I wanted to kill.

    You go through this environment of the military, and everything sort of works on itself. Your instructors, the guys you're going through with, your peers, what have you -- all the time it's an indoctrination. "We're out there, and we're fighting the `gooks.'" You get a couple of hundred guys out in the field, and they put the old bayonet on the rifle. "Kill, kill." Who do you kill? "Luke the Gook" and "Link the Chink." You get psyched up on this stuff.

    I was "Gung-Ho" as they say. And I went to Vietnam with this in mind: here is a country, South Vietnam, that is a freedom-loving people, that want their independence, their right to self-determination, and they are being subjected to a massive Communist invasion from the North. I had some close family friends who were fairly high in the military; they had gone to Vietnam, and their experiences sort of backed up what I was being told: that we were fighting to repel an invasion of these freedom-loving people from the North. I said, "Wow! That don't go! I'm for the liberation of anybody who wants to be free."

    We get small-arms fire from a village, we get a sniper, and do you know how we return that small-arms fire? We return it with anything -- and that goes from whatever's organic to the unit you're working with -- your mortars, for example -- to heavy artillery, to gunships to jets, to napalm, to big bombs, even Naval gunfire; we had the battleship New Jersey on station with the sixteen-inch guns. We'd come across villages where we'd take fire, and for the one or two people in there that might be V.C., we'd level that village. Now militarily, that might make sense; but you just stop and think for a minutes what it means when, to get two people, you kill 150.

    Is My Lai an isolated incident? Hell, no! It may not have happened so often that one platoon commander, in an immediate situation, rounds up people as Calley did, and just summarily executies them. Granted, I had the same experiences Calley had. I had had guys in my platoon that were blown away by kids. We had a company set-up outside a village, and during the day, kids came by. And the guys were giving them C-rations and chocolate and they took them into the perimeter. And they were giving them cigarettes, what have you, and being real nice. And the kids were ten years old, eleven years old. They were manning the water-buffalo. I said, "Don't let the kids in the perimeter." That night the company got hit by a VC mortar and rocket squad, and they had our positions mapped out. They knew where the CP was, they knew where all our defensive positions were, and how they got the information was from the kids. And yes, you do have, among the kids, among the women, VC sympathizers. That's the majority of what I came into contact with, anyway, in Northern I-Corps. But because you have people who are VC sympathizers mixed in with the population what's the solution? What have we done in Vietnam? Actually follow a policy of genocide? And it is genocide, because of the nature of the war. It's not a conventional war; it's not the same as World War II, it's not the same as Korea. We don't have fronts, we don't acquire land, hold it, and then move on and acquire more land. What we do is, try to win the minds of the people; and since we're doomed to fail, there's only one other answer: liquidate them. And that is what we've done.

    have a friend who spent four years in Laos. Don't try to tell him what we're doing in Laos is winding down the war; that's hogwash. He can tell you about day after day after day in Laos -- a country that we're not even at war with -- where our guys are going over and not limiting themselves to the Ho Chi Minh trail, but are going throughout the entire region of populated areas, and knocking out the villages. These stories about people living in caves and tunnels; that's no joke; it's reality. It's what's going on.

    Perhaps you think I'm just a bitter person -- and only because I got hit in Nam. I am bitter. You're damn straight I'm bitter! There is no way I could give you the essence of what I'm talking about. I could sit here all night, and tell you a series of war stories. A lot of them would really make your hair stand on end -- but I'm not going to do that. You had that with the film ("Winter Soldiers").

    They say that because we Vietnam veterans are called upon to kill, we're dehumanized, we are callous. I will agree with that statement and disagree with it, too. While I was in Vietnam, and a combatant, I was very callous. One time I had the guy on the right and the guy on the left of me both get hit, and I didn't blink an eye; it wasn't me; I didn't get hit, they did. They might have been my friends, but it wasn't my ass that got blown away. As I said before, kill another person? You do it. You're in that situation and you're going to kill.

    But there's something even more to the fanaticism that led me. After I made up my mind that the war was wrong, I still fought. The last day I was in Vietnam, the day I got shot, I knew the war was wrong; but I still went up that hill, assaulting North Vietnamese positions, with only one idea in my head, and that was to kill -- not for any ideological reason, but simply out of hatred. I'd lost friends in Nam, I'd gone through hell for eight months, these guys were the enemy to me, and I went out to kill them.

    You might say I got caught up in an insanity. It's very simple back here in the States to pass judgment on what goes on in the heads of the guys in Vietnam. It's very easy for somebody to say, "How the hell can these things happen, that the guys are talking about? These guys should all be thrown in jail!" It's very easy to just be here and say, "What a barbaric act!" But that's the kind of war this is.

    Vietnam is ten thousand miles away to you people. I don't want to sound condescending, but it's a reality! It's going on today! Right now, there are guys out on ambushes, there are guys on "long-range reconnaissance inserts," in Laos, in Cambodia. The killing is going on right now! The psychological pressures that are in these guys' heads is going on right now. Don't let this statistic of "eleven deaths last week" throw you. There is a full-fledged war going on, with all the horrors that go along with it. If you don't physically see the horrors of war, it's easy to forget. It's easy to forget it. Maybe it's something you try to forget.

    But, dammit, I can't. It's with me every day, whether I like it or not, I cannot forget what is going on in Vietnam. Everybody in this country seems to be thinking, "The War's over. They're going to work out some great plan. They're going to have a withdrawal of troops. Fine and dandy!" But that war is still going on. And until it's politically expedient for Nixon to get a withdrawal out of Vietnam, and a negotiated settlement, how many more guys are going to have to die? And again, I'm not only talking about Americans.


  2. #2
    There are a lot of things about Vietnamization, but the tragedy of it is this: that it continues the war. Now you can sugar-coat the rest of it any way you want to: "We're not doing the fighting anymore. We're only giving them air support." But the fighting continues! And if it's not obvious now -- after how long we've been there, after having over half a million American men totally committed to trying to seek a military victory -- that this war cannot be won militarily, short of the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons -- then I don't know when it will be. But if you consider wiping out North Vietnam a victory, and rubbing out major sections of South Vietnam a victory, then I say, "Well, that's your definition; to me, that's no victory."

    Vietnam did something to me, it shook me out of the rut in my life. There's this whole thing about the Pentagon Papers and the need to make yourself knowledgeable. This is the essence of what I try and say -- specifically when I talk with high school students. But I don't limit it to that.

    I was going on with blinkers through my whole life. I graduated from college with a very high average. You'd think I was intelligent; I was a dummy. I was all set to go into the Marines, spend three yeas as an officer, get the leadership credentials and all that garbage; come back and go into a major corporation, in its management training program, right up the scale, and so on and so forth. Vietnam pointed something out to me, that I was derelict, I was negligent in my responsibility as a citizen. I don't mean delegating all my responsibilities as a citizen to whoever I voted for, or whoever was my congressman or senator. All right, they're the ones who are making the policy; who am I? I'm Norman Nobody. "Even if I know something, what good is it going to do?" I think it can do some good. I say that there is going to be a revolution in this country. And it won't be born out of violence or bloodshed.

    The revolution I'm talking about may be one reason why you're here tonight: an increased sensitivity on your part, a greater awareness of your function as a human being, and of your responsibility, as a citizen of this country, to be held accountable for, and to try to direct, what the United States of American is doing in your name. That's the revolution I'm talking about -- a social revolution, a change in thinking, one that says, "Throw out `kill ratios' as the logic for continuing the war." Our commanders are happy; they say, "We will continue. We're winning in Vietnam, because we are getting fifteen `gooks' for every American killed." It is that that I want to see a total rejection of. I want to see people recognize that a Laotian, a Cambodian, a North Vietnamese, a Viet Cong, has got as much right to live -- and live any way he chooses to -- as any American. The day that we really incorporate that into our thinking is the day that we're going to change.

    You ask me, "What can I do for peace?" I don't know. I've seen a lot of suffering, and I'm aware because I saw it. I hope you can become aware, because then you will take on your responsibility as a citizen to know what we've done in Vietnam, and to broaden our horizons. Look at what's going on in Pakistan, with this Administration still wanting to send military aid to Pakistan, where hundreds of thousands of Bengalis have been slaughtered. This is what I'm talking about, this sensitivity. Look at us supporting a military hunta in Greece, in Athens, or having Spiro T. [Agnew, the Vice President under Richard Nixon] going around to all these fascist countries, saying "Right on! Right on!" That's what I oppose. And that's why I say, "Open up your heads and be aware."

    Be aware of the racist policy that we have followed. I hardly even touched the racist nature of [the war in] Vietnam, but it's there. I can go on and on and on. But the whole thing winds down to this: I've seen a lot of hate in this world; and all I have left -- all I try to keep in my head and convey to others -- is love. And I mean that, because that is all I've got left. Thank you.

    Source: The Fight for the Right to Know the Truth: A Study of the War in S.E. Asia through the Pentagon Papers and Other Sources (monograph). New York: The Student Assembly of Columbia University, 1971.



  3. #3

    Vietnam Veterans Against the War

    Vietnam Veterans Against the War
    Bob Muller's, Vietnam Veterans Against the War with funds donated to that organization by Jane Fonda became ...

    "Vietnam Veterans of America."

    One of the worst organization wannabee's belong to.

    That organization, while lobbying Congress for some important veteran benefits, have seriously blackened the image of the Vietnam veteran.

    They have published the majority of the lies that the public continues to believe about the Vietnam veteran.

    This is one organization I will have nothing to do with. Most of their chapters today are run behind the scenes by women who care for their deranged and suffering little boy.

    ahhh, I better not get started...

    Gosh darn you Rog.... LOL

  4. #4
    The VVA was formed in the late 60's. BECAUSE the VFW woulden't recognize The Vietnam Veteran http://www.vva.org/ as a WAR VETERAN. WE (Viet Vets) could not be members of the VFW for that reason. SO The Vets took it upon thereselves to organize Viet Vets to help each other out. EVEN the GOVERNMENT and the people shunned US (Viet Vets). I Was a Member Of The Flint Chapter 175 in 1968. http://www.gmasw.com/vva_chps.htm
    I never saw any affiliations with ANY OTHER organizations.
    THE VVA is and was not affiliated with any Jane the scumsuckin traitor Fondas sh!t in any way.

    "Our Motto"
    "Never Again will one Generation of Veterans abandon another"

  5. #5

    All one has to do is read the VVA's own history

    For two years I fought with the VVA over the wannabees in their midst. When they kicked me out... LOL what a joke that was. As if they can kick out a Vietnam veteran from an organization chartered by Congress.

    So, I bought their web site. Vietnamveteransofamerica.com and vietnamveteransofamerica.org. Today those web sites are in limbo but still show me as the registered owner. They had failed to secure those sites. I used them to expose their activities. When their Lawyer, Mike Gaffney from Washington, D.C threaten to sue me, I referred them to my attorney there in Washington. I told him to speak to Miss Kitty my attorney and gave him the phone number to the Washington zoo.

    When he realized I was not some dumb sh it but knew what I was talking about, he and the VVA chapter president decided to get serious and last year. Mr. Gaffney wrote me out a check for the web sites. I bought the web sites for $35.00 and sold them to that organization for a good sum of money. I had gotten my point across and didn't need to fight an organization that is manipulated by a bunch of wannabees and associates. As more and more Vietnam veterans drop out of that organization VVA changes membership rules and status, now they are allowing associates to vote and many chapters are controlled by these associates that have no idea what the Vietnam war was all about.

    As far as its history….

    I will post what happened when I encountered that organization. I do want to say this. There are Vietnam Veterans like myself that joined them with good intentions. It was when I found out what they were and their association with Jane Fonda that I dropped out and never went back.

    As far as the orgins of VVA ~

    In June 1979, Muller changed his group of non-Vietnam Veterans from VVATW to Vietnam Veterans of America and began recruiting members, promoting the VVA as “the only national, exclusively Vietnam-era veterans’ organization in America.” But attracting Vietnam veterans was tough, especially because he continued to identify himself with the antiwar movement and the earlier VVAW. Muller continued to insist that the antiwar group represented the mainstream of Vietnam vets.

    “I think it’s remarkable that the VVAW still stands to this day, in my opinion as the only viable representation of the Vietnam veteran community,” Muller said in The Wounded Generation, a 1981 book by A.D. Horne. “There has not been another organization that has been able to say and speak with the authority that it represents a broad base of Vietnam veterans.”

    On the Phil Donahue Show. On TV, Muller effusively praised Jane Fonda: “Phil, I think Jane Fonda epitomizes what being an American citizen is all about. It’s involvement with what we’re doing as a country, not only domestically but around the world. There is a woman who has taken a position that is based on principal and belief. Whether it’s right or wrong is obviously for debate. She has gotten into the process, and she has made a commitment to be a player.

    Miller goals when he founded the VVA was "to raise funds and add some glamour to the VVA.”

    Jane Fonda acknowledged Muller’s request with a check for five hundred dollars. (Muller later provided technical assistance on her 1978 film Coming Home.)

    Here's what another Marine has to say about the VVA.

    Viet Nam Veterans of America

    The Marine comes from a long family of Marines Click on A Family of Marines Logo, then go to "Things For Marines"

  6. #6
    10-4 Cook, was just sayin The V V A was the only thing we (Viet Vets) had back then. and yer correct Bro they turned out to be sum p!ss poor muthers. and Yes the fonda traitor did try to buy her way in later. Just goes to show ya ..always watch yer back! and trust is a fleeting thing sumtimes!
    Semper Fi,

  7. #7

    The Orgins of the Vietnam Veterans against the War

    I had promised to post this, so here it is.


    One of the reason, why, Vietnam veterans do not join Service organizations.

    I have been a member of the American legion for over 23 years, yet I have never made one of their meetings. I was the founding commander of VFW Post in Riverside, yet I only lent my name so that it could be chartered. I have made only one meeting. Other service organizations have never interested me and I’ve found that in this I am not alone.

    Most Vietnam veterans do not belong to military service organizations because they feel like they don’t belong. The VFW after the Vietnam war ended was not receptive to the Asian war veteran. The Vietnam War Warrior. Those that served during WWII and the Korean War also did not look favorably upon the returning Vietnam soldier.

    Demonstrations and anti-war protestors made the war unpopular. Even before Saigon fell the loss of the war was blamed upon the American soldier. Those that served honorably were looked upon dis favorably because of the distorted news reports which showed American soldiers burning villages and supposedly committing atrocities. That the village was an enemy stronghold or that Communist North Vietnamese had burned down and massacred thousands of civilians were rarely reported back home.

    When I retired I had children that would soon be going into college. I was told about the Vietnam Veterans of America. A service organization, by and for the Vietnam servicemen. I had never given them much attention before then, but I was told that if I joined they would help me get my military records, the purple heart and other medals I never received.

    They would also give my graduating daughter’s scholarships if I joined their organization, because I was a Vietnam Veteran. When I joined, I did not bother to look at the VVA’s background. Their origins or founding history. I was told that they were all Vietnam veterans and while there was something that just didn’t seem right, I joined for three years, mostly for the scholarships they promised.

    That first year two of my daughters wrote an American essay and won a scholarship for their patriotic writings. I soon, found out that there were others awarded the same scholarships who were not the children of Vietnam veterans nor were they in any way connected to any service organization.

    That didn’t bother me, after all my daughters had received something for their efforts.

    At that first meeting of the VVA I attended where they received their rewards, I mentioned, “This is the first time since the war, I have received anything from anyone because I served in the Vietnam War. That it was the reason I had joined the VVA chapter 47, in Riverside, California.”

    Had I known, what I now know about the Vietnam Veterans of American, I would never have joined and would have offered to give back the amount of money my daughter’s had received if they had not earned it.

    The following is the truth, and when the VVA lawyer called me for posting some of the information I had found on the internet a few years back, wishing that I cease and decease from using VVA own information against that organization, I accepted that challenge. Last year I received a check from them in a settlement. In return I sold back to them the Vietnamveteransofamerica.com and Vietnamveteransofamerica.org which they had failed to secure. I sold them back their web site, but would not give up my right to expose them for who they are, which their lawyer had attempted to do.

    Years ago Robert O. Muller co-founder with three non-Vietnam veterans of the Vietnam Veterans of America appeared on the Phil Donahue Show. On TV, Muller effusively praised Jane Fonda:

    “Phil, I think Jane Fonda epitomizes what being an American citizen is all about. It’s involvement with what we’re doing as a country, not only domestically but around the world. There is a woman who has taken a position that is based on principal and belief. Whether it’s right or wrong is obviously for debate. She has gotten into the process, and she has made a commitment to be a player.


  8. #8

    Vietnam Veterans Against the War (PART 2)

    The Vietnam Veterans of America Antiwar Connection

    [information in bracketts are footnotes]

    Few of those who belong to the VVA realize that its roots lie in the antiwar movement, beginning with the tiny but vocal group called Vietnam Veterans Against the War, which formed in 1967 after a group of six veterans met while marching in an antiwar demonstration.

    Involved in most major antiwar activities, the VVAW pushed the agenda that American troops routinely perpetrated atrocities in Vietnam and conducted the “Winter Soldier Investigation” in Detroit in 1971. (this was another Jane Fonda production. She contributed both her fund-raising talents and her perspectives as a national figures who understood media, together with VVAW to bring together a bunch of misfits, many of who’s military service was never questioned to testify in a Detroit Howard Johnson motel, in "hearings" on the war under the title "Winter Soldier Investigation." Over a three day period, over 100 veterans and sixteen civilians described their war experiences, including rapes, torture, brutalities, and killing of non-combatants.)

    “The crimes against humanity, the war itself, might not have occurred if we, all of us, had not been brought up in a country permeated with racism, obsessed with communism, and convicted beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are good and most other countries are inherently evil,” said VVAW executive secretary Al Hubbard at the Detroit hearings. [Nancy Zaroulis, Gerald Sullivan, Who Spoke Up: American Protest Against the War in Vietnam, 1963-1975. (Holt Rinehart and Winston, N.Y., 1984) p.354]

    (Remember Hubbard? He claimed he was an Air Force officer in Vietnam who was wounded. Not only was Hubbard not an officer, he wasn’t wounded, and he was not a Vietnam veteran.)

    The organization’s main goal, according to cofounder Jan Barry: To make America realize “the moral agony of America’s Vietnam War generation,” which he said was a choice between “to kill on military orders and be a criminal, or to refuse to kill and be a criminal. One cannot participate in the Vietnam War without being at least complicity in committing war crimes. [Ibid. p.355 ]

    Barry served as a radio mechanic very early in the war (under the name Jan Crumb), before America committed a large number of combat troops. His biggest moral dilemma may have been whether to have his eggs scrambled or fried each morning. [Military Record of Jan Barry Crumb, National Personnel Records Center, FOIA request by B.G. Burkett, June 9, 1992.]

    But the VVAW’s “Dewey Canyon” demonstrations with camouflage-clad veterans hurling their hard-earned medals at the White House powerfully symbolized the group’s philosophy and certainly influenced many who thought that all the men they were seeing were indeed real Vietnam veterans. (At one such demonstration a rumor floated around that only 30 percent of the veterans were Vietnam veterans, probably a good guess. “Only 30 percent of us believe Richard Nixon is president,” replied one antiwar veteran.) [Scott, The Politics of Readjustment, p.22]

    This radical group embraced a paraplegic Vietnam veteran named Robert O. Muller, who had been a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Muller had served as company executive officer and weapons platoon commander of a company in the 3rd Marines, located in 1968 a few miles north of Cam Lo at Firebase Charlie-2. [Military Record of Robert Muller, National Personnel Records Center, FOIA request by B.G. Burkett. Muller’s record shows he received two Purple Hearts, a Combat Action Ribbon, a National Defense Service Medal, a Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze stars, a Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation, and a Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. ]

    In early 1969, battalion headquarters assigned Muller to temporary additional duty with the ARVN, over the protests of his commanding officer, Lt. Col. J.M. Hargrove, who regarded him as a very competent, aggressive, and professional officer and didn’t want to lose him. During Operation Maine Craig, Hargrove received word through Regimental Headquarters that Muller had been killed while serving as an advisor to the ARVN. Much later, Hargrove learned that Muller survived but was paralyzed from the neck down. While he led an assault against the Viet Cong, a bullet struck Muller in the chest and severed his spine. Twenty-three-old Muller woke up on the USS Repose, a hospital ship, where he learned his war wound sentenced him to a life in a wheelchair.

    Life magazine did a dramatic cover story in May 1970, exposing the terrible conditions in a rat-infested, poorly staffed Bronx VA hospital where Muller was a patient. Photographed with eight other disabled Vietnam vets, Muller has said that he was the only survivor of that group.

    Muller is quoted in a book called The Wounded Generation about the terrible trauma he endured ‘in that ****hole VA hospital where I was put in bed with ****ing drunks and derelicts and degenerates and old ****ing has-beens.” [Dan Cragg, “The Anatomy of Betrayal,” The National Vietnam Veterans Review, August 1982, p.8] That experience galvanized Muller’s rage into protest.

    “I am bitter because I put my faith, my allegiance in my government,” Muller said. “I’m bitter because I gave to my country myself, 100 percent, and they used me. They used me as a pawn in a game and for that reason I am bitter.” [John Kerry and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, The New Soldier (New York: McMillan, 1971), p.102]

    Although Muller has said his festering anger did not result from his being shot, it’s difficult to imagine him joining the antiwar movement had he not been paralyzed. His words are reminiscent of another paraplegic victim of the war, Ron Kovic, who was a gung-ho Marine until he paid a terrible price for his competence and enthusiasm for combat. Both Muller and Kovic volunteered to join the military, volunteered to go into the Marines, and volunteered for combat duty. There were at least seventy-five hundred other equally disabled Vietnam veterans. Few joined the antiwar movement.

    While his fellow Gis were still fighting in Vietnam, Muller appeared in the antiwar documentary Hearts and Minds, which portrayed the North Vietnamese as underdogs struggling for peace and justice. Muller began working with the VVAW, speaking at protests, staging demonstrations, becoming a spokesman and a very visible symbol for the antiwar movement.

    The Life magazine piece led to the first of his five appearances on the Phil Donahue Show. On TV, Muller effusively praised Jane Fonda: “Phil, I think Jane Fonda epitomizes what being an American citizen is all about. It’s involvement with what we’re doing as a country, not only domestically but around the world. There is a woman who has taken a position that is based on principal and belief. Whether it’s right or wrong is obviously for debate. She has gotten into the process, and she has made a commitment to be a player. That is patriotism. A lot of Vietnam vets will respect the fact that she took a difficult position and she advocated the truth.” [Transcript #01104, Phil Donahue Show, pp. 11-12.]

    Muller participated in antiwar demonstrations staged by the VVAW in Washington, D.C., in the spring of 1971. “Every single Vietnam veteran that I knew was a member of VVAW,” Muller said. “I did not know a Vietnam veteran who was not in great sympathy with what we were going through collectively, most notably in public here in ’71, with throwing the medals back.”
    But when he caught political flak, Muller backtracked, saying he had never officially joined the group. John A. Lindquist, a national officer of the VVAW, indicated that indeed Muller was a member of the VVAW. “He [Muller] used to belong to our organization,” Lindquist wrote in December 1980, “but he resigned when he found out we weren’t going to back candidates for government. He had himself in mind at the time, and we feel that he still has his own personal aspirations at heart.” [Cragg, “The Anatomy of Betrayal.”]

    But Muller said he became disillusioned with the antiwar group after the VVAW was taken over by the Revolutionary Communist Party. He fell into despondency and turned to drugs. Meeting his future wife helped him to overcome the debilitating depression and drug addiction. As legislative director of the Eastern Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Muller returned to college and earned a law degree.


  9. #9

    Vietnam Vetrans against the War (PART 3)

    By 1973, all American combat troops had been withdrawn from Vietnam; two years later, Saigon fell to the Communist North Vietnamese. Muller dedicated himself to fighting for recognition of the rights of Vietnam veterans. But fighting for people to honor and respect Vietnam veterans proved frustrating. In an interview for V.F.W. Magazine, Muller cited a Harris Poll as reporting “the majority of Americans believed those who served in Vietnam were suckers and heroin addicts who killed women and babies.” [“An Angry Yong Veteran,” V.F.W. Magazine, April 1979, pp. 34-35] (He didn’t point out that one of the groups primarily responsible for that image was the VVAW.) The VA’s expenditures had shifted in recent years to providing care for nonservice-connected ailments. He wanted to change that, to focus the VA’s attention away from its geriatric treatment of the aging warriors of World War II to better care for Vietnam veterans with service-connected disabilities and disorders.

    In February 1978, with forty-two thousand dollars in seed money from the PVA, Muller incorporated the Vietnam Veterans’ Coalition. A few months later he changed the name to Council of Vietnam Veterans. Established veterans’ groups resented the upstart CVV. By the end of the first year, while Muller generated a lot of press, he had little show for his efforts at lobbying Capitol Hill.

    Wilbur Scott, in the Politics of Readjustment, described what happened next. Phil Geyelin, an editor at the Washington Post, urged Muller to shift his efforts from lobbying a group to a membership organization. Politicians understand votes; Muller needed to show he could generate support that translated into political clout. Perhaps more importantly, Geyelin recommended that Muller concentrate not only on Vietnam veterans’ benefits, but also on the overall “Vietnam experience.” That would accomplish two things: It would create a “more sympathetic environment” for veterans of the war and raise the “level of discussion.”

    So in June 1979, Muller changed his group to Vietnam Veterans of America and began recruiting members, promoting the VVA as “the only national, exclusively Vietnam-era veterans’ organization in America.” But attracting Vietnam veterans was tough, especially because he continued to identify himself with the antiwar movement and the earlier VVAW. Muller continued to insist that the antiwar group represented the mainstream of Vietnam vets.

    “I think it’s remarkable that the VVAW still stands to this day, in my opinion as the only viable representation of the Vietnam veteran community,” Muller said in The Wounded Generation, a 1981 book by A.D. Horne. “There has not been another organization that has been able to say and speak with the authority that it represents a broad base of Vietnam veterans.” [A.D. Horne, The Wounded Generation (New York: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1981) p.119.]

    But as Dan Cragg, a Vietnam veteran and contributing editor to the National Vietnam Veterans’ Review, has pointed out, the idea that the VVAW ever enjoyed a ‘broad base” of support among Vietnam veterans is a myth. “Out of a total Vietnam-era veteran population of nine million potential members, the VVAW, even at the zenith of its activism, is estimated to have enjoyed a membership of only around seven thousand.” Cragg said. How many were actually Vietnam veterans is anyone’s guess. [Cragg, “The Anatomy of Betrayal”]

    A political consulting firm in New York drew up a VVA master plan in 1979, showing Muller how to build his organization. “Robert O. Muller must meet immediately with Bob Guccione and Hugh Hefner,” the plan advised. “These two magazines [Penthouse and Playboy] can be instrumental in raising funds, developing membership, and increasing public awareness in VVA’s efforts.” [Ibid.]

    The consultants also advocated that Muller meet “immediately” with antiwar activists such as Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, and Ed Asner. “Each of these personalities should be asked to indicate the method of assistance most appropriate, “ the firm said. “They should be asked to put the VVA in contact with no fewer of their colleagues.” A major entertainment industry fund-raising event should be scheduled for June 1980 in either New York or Los Angeles, the master plan said. “This could be a musical concert, benefit performance, or cocktail dinner party. The goal must be to raise funds and add some glamour to the VVA.” [VVA Master Plan, 1979.]

    Fonda acknowledged Muller’s request with a check for five hundred dollars. (Muller later provided technical assistance on her 1978 film Coming Home.) But “considering her unpopularity with most Vietnam veterans, was it proper that the VVA even ask her for the money in the first place?” asked Cragg. Muller’s response to those who raised the issue at a meeting of the Buffalo VVA Chapter: “It may seem unconscionable to you. I don’t deal with membership. The only function I have with the organization is to raise money.”

    Few Vietnam veterans knew that Muller lectured on campuses with the film Heroes, a “documentary” that depicted Muller and other Vietnam veterans protesting the war by throwing their medals over the White House fence, and film clips comparing combat in Vietnam to fighting in El Salvador.

    Sponsored by Penthouse magazine, the lecture/film series traveled the country, accompanied by Muller and “combat nurse” Lynda van Devanter, national women’s director of the VVA. The film’s left wing stance on foreign policy and military issues certainly did not represent the attitude of the majority of Vietnam vets. “The filmmakers kept asking me did I feel any guilt over what I did in Vietnam,” said David Christian, a decorated Army officer and founder of United Vietnam Veterans Organization, who appeared in the film. “I said, ‘What guilt? I’m proud of what my men did in Vietnam.’” [Dan Cragg, “Prominent Vietnam Vets Group is Returning to Hanoi,” The Wall Street Journal, May 24, 1982]

    By 1981, Muller had emerged as the self-proclaimed national spokesman for Vietnam veterans, despite the fact that his group had only eight thousand members. And of those, most were probably not in-country Vietnam veterans. Membership was open to all “Vietnam-era” vets, as well as their “associates,” meaning anyone who wanted to join. Muller was extremely successful in persuading members of the arts and entertainment industry that the VVA was actually helping Vietnam veterans. That year, musicians, Bruce Springsteen, Pat Benatar, and the Charlie Daniels Band performed concerts benefiting the VVA. (In fact, for the fiscal year ending April 1982, 77.5 percent of the VVA’s revenue came from such special events; membership dues brought in only 1.4 percent of revenue. ) [Vietnam Veterans of America, Consolidated Financial Statement of VVA Foundation and seventeen Vietnam Veterans of America Chapters for the Fiscal Year Ending April 30, 1982.]

    Muller brought the confrontational style of the antiwar movement to the VVA, taking stances on issues that inevitably were at odds not just with the VA and Congress but the traditional veterans’ organizations as well. The VVA’s liberal philosophy on social issues flew in the face of the old-timer’s mom-pop-and-apple-pie conservatism. Agent Orange played a key role in winning recruits for the VVA, which demanded the VA extend a “presumption of service connection” to those claiming chemical exposure as it had to veterans exposed to radiation. “Now, like a hidden bomb on a long-delayed time fuse, Agent Orange diseases are erupting in the bodies of veterans and their children. Liver cancer, chloracne, soft-tissue sarcomas and other hideous diseases,” read one VVA fund-raising letter in the 1980s. However, the VVA’s demands for funding of readjustment programs while opposing a pension bill for older veterans won the group no allies. [“Veterans Revolt,” The Village Voice, November 9, 1983]

    But the VVA succeeded in establishing a fundamental principal of veterans’ benefits: When there is a question about a claim, the veteran should be given the benefit of the doubt. That simple concept has given rise to the absurd situation that prevails today with literally hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits going to malingerers.

    If Muller had focused on veterans’ benefits, the VVA might have become the grassroots organization he envisioned. But he could not resist dabbling in foreign policy. In December 1981, Muller shocked and outraged Vietnam veterans nationwide when he and a delegation from the VVA made a pilgrimage to Hanoi to meet with the representatives of the Communist government of Vietnam. The invitation to visit Vietnam came after Muller met in London with the Vietnamese ambassador and told them he wanted to return to be the “first delegation of former American troops to return to Vietnam” to address veterans’ concerns about Agent Orange and MIAs.

    The VVA leader’s stated motive was to open a “dialogue” with the Vietnamese Communists about the POW-MIA issues and the effects of Agent Orange, to conduct talks on a “veteran-to-veteran” basis. Of course, the Vietnamese used the VVA leaders to promote their own agenda.

    Muller helped their propaganda efforts by agreeing to visit the tomb of Communist tryrant Ho Chi Minh, laying a wreath inscribed: “With respect, from the Vietnam Veterans of America.” A fifty-minute documentary film of the six-day trip called Going Back: Return to Vietnam, was shown on public television stations.
    “These are the people we are wasting,” Muller said in Hanoi. “A couple of years ago you’d have gotten medals for wasting ‘em. Now we’re sittin’ down and they’re feeding us dinner. I like ‘em. They’re nice people.”


  10. #10

    Vietnam Veterans Agaisnt The War (PART 4)

    Muller talked about how America’s schoolchildren are incredibly ignorant of the “facts’ about the Vietnam War, then appeared to learn for the first time that American aircraft engaged in dogfights with enemy pilots over North Vietnam. He and another VVA official marveled at the skill of the enemy pilots, their dedication to their cause.
    At the tomb of Ho Chi Minh, Muller gushed: “You do have an immediate sense of respect, I can tell you that, too. Cannot help but have respect for the man.” To New York Times correspondent Bernard Wienraub, Muller marveled: “You visit Ho Chi Minh’s two-room wooden-frame house and see two phones, one to the Army and one to the Air Force, and that’s how he carried on the war against us. It knocked me out. It was so incredibly basic.” [Cragg, “The Anatomy of Betrayal”]

    At a “rap session” in Saigon, Muller told his Vietnamese hosts: “You relate to maybe a square mile of territory, live in these little hooches, take care of your little fields of rice and then all of a sudden out of the skies come these bombs, come helicopters and the soldiers. The violence and insanity of it, that gets me so. It’s not even open to discussion. Like we try and argue with these people that there was some legitimacy to our being here. Forget it! You can’t look at them in the face and advance that proposition without feeling stupid about it. There’s no way you can justify it.”

    Except perhaps by pointing out that his hosts and their predecessors had massacred hundreds of thousands of fellow Vietnamese because they refused to give up their freedom and religion for the glories of communism. Muller announced at the end of the film that he would use the VVA’s clout to make a direct appeal to Vietnam veterans to pressure the U.S. government to give Hanoi foreign aid. “Believe me,” Muller said, “I consider myself very much a patriotic American.” [Transcript, interview of Bobby Muller, by Paul Howse, ABC-TV, July 13,1982]

    Certainly many Vietnam veterans felt differently. “I feel you are a total disgrace!” author Albert Santoli, saying he represented the attitudes of seven veterans’ groups, shouted at Muller during a post-trip news conference. Even representatives of the Agent Orange Victims International and the National League of Families of American Prisoners of War and Missing in Southeast Asia denounced the trip. Coast-to-coast, Vietnam veterans were furious that Muller and his cronies had laid a wreath on the tomb of Ho Chi Minh in their name, with no consultation of the VVA membership.

    Because the VVA has always been reluctant to permit an audit of its membership statistics, it’s unknown how many people resigned from the organization after Muller’s homage to Ho Chi Minh. All 250 members of the Contra Costa VVA Chapter of Santa Cruz, California, reportedly resigned. Nineteen chapters were dropped from the rolls of the VVA and its foundation between August 1981 and July 1982.

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