Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Scarborough Country: The Boyington debate

Last night in my response to the PI's hatchet editorial of bloggers and talk radio concerning the UW memorial, I mentioned the latest bit of stupidity that was being under reported, that being when UW student Nicholas Baptiste appeared on MSNBC's Scarboough Country, and said:

How about we put up instead of yet another statue of a World War II hero, how about we put up a statue of a slab of flesh, no arms, no legs, no face, like the main character in Dalton Trumbo's "Johnny Got His Gun"?

In fairness to him, here is the shows transcript directly from the Website, so his comments and those of the Boyington memorial defenders UW Sen Brent Ludeman and local talk show host Kirby Wilbur can be read in context.

SCARBOROUGH: That was from Ba Ba Black Sheep, the TV show based on the life of World War II flying ace Pappy Boyington. The Marine plane shot down 28 enemy planes, survived 20 months in a POW camp, and won the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism in the victory over the country that started World War II by bombing Pearl Harbor. I speak, of course, of Japan.

But student leaders at his alma mater refused to honor him because he was, quote, "a Marine" and he had blood on his hands. To talk about the controversy, let's bring in University of Washington student senator Brent Ludeman, who supports the memorial, and University of Washington student Nicholas Baptiste who opposes it.

Nicholas, let me begin with you. Why do you oppose the memorial to this World War II hero?

NICHOLAS BAPTISTE, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON STUDENT: Well, I see this memorial as the right-wing, the pro-war crowd is on the defensive right now. The majority of American people have turned against the war in Iraq. I see this as a really cynical way of trying to fire up people and trying to build up nationalism again, like they did when they were building up to the Iraq war, and just trying to, like I said, go on the defensive and trying to sort of make these parallels that don't exist between World War II and the Iraq war.

SCARBOROUGH: But this guy was a World War II hero. He won the Congressional Medal of Honor. He's a University of Washington alumni. This guy's a national hero. What's wrong with putting a memorial on your campus? Forget about Iraq. I mean, that war's going to be over soon enough.

BAPTISTE: Let's talk about heroes. A lot of people obviously, a lot of young people nowadays don't see war as a heroic sport. It's not an adventure. It's a brutal, really inhumane thing. And...

SCARBOROUGH: Well, you think the Marines...


SCARBOROUGH: ... over in Iraq right now? You think that they think it's a sport when they're getting their legs blown off? Do you think they're over there to have a thrill?

BAPTISTE: No, I'm not saying that the soldiers are- I'm not saying that the soldiers think that. I'm saying people who whip up nationalism, and try to whip up support for the war, and try to convince people to sign up and go fight in wars like the Iraq war, they think- a lot of times these people think it is some sort of a sport, some sort of a rite of passage for people in our society, like I have to go fight a war because my father and my grandfather fought a war.

SCARBOROUGH: You do agree with me, though...

BAPTISTE: But my main point is this...

SCARBOROUGH: ... that World War II was an honorable venture, right, an honorable war?

BAPTISTE: It's not that black and white. There is a lot of atrocities committed on both sides. You can't say that one- that it was a completely justified war. You can't say that America was always in the right or that Britain was always in the right. I mean, America...


BAPTISTE: Go ahead.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, let me show you. I want to show you a clip from World War II. This is what killing what Boyington and other people killing enemies brought an end to when World War II, obviously, the Holocaust. Here's shots from Auschwitz. I mean, 6 million Jews killed. I mean, we had to kill 50,000 civilians in Dresden alone to put an end to this to stop 12, 13 million Jews from being murdered over there. Sometimes...


BAPTISTE: I think that's quite a lie, to say that we had to kill 50,000 civilians in Dresden to stop the war. There's no evidence to support that. There's no evidence to support the fact that we had to drop the bomb in Nagasaki...

SCARBOROUGH: There's no evidence that we had to actually...

BAPTISTE: ... and Hiroshima.



SCARBOROUGH: How about this, people die in war.


BAPTISTE: Could I say something?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, you were saying something.

BAPTISTE: May I say this?

SCARBOROUGH: Nicholas, people that- will you admit to me, Nicholas, that sometimes when we go to war, we have to drop bombs to end that war, and sometimes people like Pappy Boyington do kill people, do kill civilians, but it's done for a bigger reason, for a bigger cause?

BAPTISTE: What cause is that? What cause are we fighting for in Iraq? Oil and empire.


SCARBOROUGH: No. No. Wait a second. Why areÂ?no, hold on a second, Nicholas.

BAPTISTE: I just want to make one point before you go on.


SCARBOROUGH: You're mixing up- we're talking about World War II.

You're talking about Iraq. I'm talking about what he did in World War II.

BAPTISTE: Yes, you think wars just exist in a vacuum? Wars lead to more wars and to more wars. I mean, you can say he fought in World War II to stop killing...


SCARBOROUGH: So we should have just let...


BAPTISTE: There's still killing going on now, isn't there, in Iraq?

SCARBOROUGH: So, Nicholas, you are saying that we should have just let Hitler and Imperial Japan roam free? Is that your argument here tonight?

BAPTISTE: No, I'm saying, in the first place, U.S. industrialists and the industrialists of Europe shouldn't have supported Hitler in the first place which they did against communists in Germany, who were the majority of the government at the time.

SCARBOROUGH: OK. There we go.

BAPTISTE: They were afraid of their industries being collectively organized and taken over by the population of Germany.


BAPTISTE: And I don't care if you think that's ridiculous or not, but look at your history textbooks.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I do actually. You're now blaming...


SCARBOROUGH: ... the United States for launching Adolf Hitler's career.

BAPTISTE: Yes, because, oh, the United States...


BAPTISTE: And you can blame the United States in part for Saddam Hussein's career, as well.

SCARBOROUGH: All right. Let me bring in Brent right now.

BAPTISTE: No, I just want to say one thing.

SCARBOROUGH: I'm sorry. You've been wanting to say one thing for 30 minutes. Go ahead.

BAPTISTE: Let me say it right here. How about we put up instead of yet another statue of a World War II hero, how about we put up a statue of a slab of flesh, no arms, no legs, no face, like the main character in Dalton Trumbo's "Johnny Got His Gun"? That would be an honest war memorial. That would go a much longer way towards establishing a more peaceful and democratic society than yet again glorifying war, and warfare, and bloodshed.

SCARBOROUGH: All right. You've said what you wanted to say.


SCARBOROUGH: Brent, let me bring you in now. Tell me about the vote.

BRENT LUDEMAN, UW STUDENT SENATOR: Well, we- Joe, we've brought the resolution up. And two of the senators said that, one, we didn't want to honor another rich white male and that this wasn't the type of person that the University of Washington wanted to produce.

Mind you, this is one of the greatest aviators in our history. He's a war hero. He's somebody that won the Medal of Honor and deserves to be recognized by the university.

The vote was tied, and then the Senate chair voted it down, 46-45. And I think it just really shows how completely out of touch a lot of, you know, my generation seems to be, how we seem to not understand the historical significance of World War II and war in general. I mean, unfortunately...

SCARBOROUGH: Kirby, let's bring you in, Kirby Wilbur.


SCARBOROUGH: Now, Kirby, you actually got this information out to the rest of us. It is so disturbing to me. This isn't- we're not talking about a couple of students waving signs. We're talking about 46 student senators voting down a memorial because, like Mr. Baptiste, they think that Boyington was not to be looked up to because he participated in a war.

WILBUR: Well, Joe, I think this is...

SCARBOROUGH: What kind of reaction have you had?

WILBUR: Well, we've been over- I've been flooded with e-mails from alumni of the University of Washington, from Marines, other people who served in uniform, from widows and mothers of the people serving now, who are shocked at the historical ignorance and the leftist pabulum that passes for serious thinking on college campuses.

But I've got to tell you, Joe. I'm actually optimistic, because I think 20 years ago the vote could have been 80 percent no. At least it was 50 percent yes and the tie had to be broken. That actually gives me room for optimism.

But you look at the people who said, "You can't honor them because he's a rich, white male,Â" when in fact Pappy was a quarter Sioux Indian, and that we shouldn't emulate Marines. I'll tell you, sometimes Marines are the only thing between some of those students and wearing burqas. And they should understand that.

SCARBOROUGH: No doubt about it. And, Kirby, what do you think we do to help turn the tide in this?

WILBUR: Well, Joe, the University of Washington foundation has set up a scholarship fund in the name of Pappy Boyington to give scholarships to either Marines returning to school or sons and daughters of Marines. That's at And also, you can contact the Associated Students of the University of Washington at their Web site and urge them to approve the memorial.

Right now, the proposal will be a memorial to all five Huskies who have won the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II, and that's going to be the proposal, as I understand it. These men deserve to be emulated and remembered. They're heroes.

SCARBOROUGH: Kirby, I have this information. They saved our world.

They saved our world from totalitarianism.

WILBUR: Yes, they did.

SCARBOROUGH: I have this line here. I cannot believe. Do you have information regarding a monument on the University of Washington campus to communist soldiers?

WILBUR: To the Lincoln Brigade...

BAPTISTE: Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

WILBUR: ... Spanish Civil War, a group of University of Washington students who volunteered to go to Spain to fight with the communists and socialists against Franco, and the Nazis, and the Italians. And there is such a memorial on campus, yes, sir. And I'm an alumni of this school, by the way.

BAPTISTE: Why wasn't the United States supporting the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, you know, earlier in the war, when you could have stopped Hitler early enough so he wouldn't have perpetuated the Holocaust?

WILBUR: The Abraham Lincoln Brigade could not have stopped Hitler any more than you could have.

BAPTISTE: No, it could have, if it had the backing of the U.S. government.


SCARBOROUGH: All right. We'll let you all carry on in the hall.

BAPTISTE: But the government decided not to battle against Franco or Nazis...


SCARBOROUGH: I want to show you- let's show that monument one more time. Put this monument up. This is on the University of Washington campus.

So if you're scoring at home, the University of Washington campus allows a monument to communist soldiers but they're offended for Marines that fought in World War II and helped defeat the Axis powers.

I'll tell you what, I'm enraged because I'm an American citizen that pays taxes that in any way supports the University of Washington. But I'll tell you what. If I were a Washington alumni member or if I were a taxpayer in that state, I'd be absolutely outraged. And I'd be on my phone tomorrow morning to Washington legislators.

This is a disgrace. And for those students that said Marines were not the type of people to look up to, you are so ignorant. You have no idea why you have the freedoms that you have.

We appreciate our guests being with us. We'll be back with more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY in a minute.