For months, Iraq War defeatists led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have provided our enemies with invaluable propaganda. Whether their diatribes against the administration are actually intended to undermine our troops’ morale, or are otherwise motivated and only incidentally have that effect, the Democrat Party leaders’ incessantly pounding the “we’ve lost, so let’s surrender” message is no different from the propaganda spewed by Axis Sally (and Tokyo Rose, Lord Haw Haw, and others) during World War II.
And although the anti-war defeatists are protected in their statements by the First Amendment, and even by the wildest stretch of the imagination have not committed treason, that doesn’t mean they aren’t harming our troops in the field and subverting what support our Iraq mission may still have in the United States.
In our book “Aid and Comfort”: Jane Fonda in North Vietnam (http://www.henrymarkholzer.citymax.com/books.html), Erika Holzer and I discussed the House Internal Security Subcommittee’s inquiry into Hanoi Jane’s pilgrimage to Hanoi.
One of the witnesses at that hearing was Edward Hunter. He had served as a propaganda specialist with the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. Later he went to CIA. He also served the United States government abroad as a propaganda specialist. It was Edward Hunter who put the word “brainwashing” into our language. His books on the subject are classics. Mr. Hunter served as a psychological warfare specialist in the Pentagon, and for various government agencies in the United States and abroad. Edward Hunter knows something about the value of propaganda to our enemies.
Although Mr. Hunter’s committee testimony was given in the context of Jane Fonda’s trip to Hanoi, his introductory remarks about propaganda in general could have been said about the defeatist anti-war Democrat Party functionaries of today (the italics are mine):
“I had the opportunity as part of my responsibility in World War II to review and analyze enemy propaganda for the U.S. Government. This came in many forms, from radio broadcasts directed at Allied forces and publics, to enemy films and photos, devised to weaken and subvert morale on our side.
“Troops ordinarily discount anything known to come from the enemy's side. They know that the enemy has a harmful intent in telling it. The enemy knows this, and so a number of devices are concocted to lend credibility to what emanates from its territory.
“The enemy seeks to add credibility to its propaganda, too, by putting an American citizen before the microphone, and by having him or her address the American troops. When the American citizen, especially one with the glamour and the prestige value of a Jane Fonda, can travel back and forth between the United States and the enemy capital without interference or arrest by the American authorities, the effect on military morale is bad to devastating.
What comes from a source on one's own side commands attention, under any circumstance. When the enemy can obtain the assistance of a national of the country it is fighting . . . it has achieved a form of war propaganda
The effect on Americans stationed in the Asian theatres, within hearing distance, or in reach of propaganda leaflets, pamphlets, or other materials in which her statements are quoted, are obviously expected to be injurious to stamina and morale.
Jane Fonda seriously assaulted the stamina of any fighting American listening to her highly dramatic and professional war propaganda. An incalculable number of Americans must have been more or less shaken. The impact of war propaganda is frequently a delayed reaction, that rises to the surface during a period of fatigue, frustration or personal danger.
The best-selling novelist Nelson DeMille was an army combat platoon leader in Vietnam. He, too, knows something about the efficacy of propaganda. In recommending “Aid and Comfort,” Mr. DeMille wrote:
As a combat infantry officer in Vietnam, I can attest to the fact that Jane Fonda and people like her succeeded very well in lowering troop morale, and as any combat vet will tell you, low morale leads to lowered effectiveness, and that leads to battlefield deaths.
When the majority leader of the United States Senate announces to the world in general, and to the troops in the field in particular, that America has lost the war and should withdraw, morale must necessarily be affected. After all, as Reid’s colleague John Kerry observed during the Vietnam War, who wants to be the last man to die for a lost cause?
Separated temporally by some sixty-plus years, in spirit Harry has indeed met Sally.
Henry Mark Holzer, Professor Emeritus at Brooklyn Law School, is author most recently of The Supreme Court Opinions of Clarence Thomas, 1991-2006.