Conspiracies and Patriotism

Mike Muller is on the Advisory Board for Thuy Smith International Outreach. He is a Vietnam veteran, has a Ph.D. in psychology, and has counseled veterans for many years.  He writes novels under the pen name of Michael FitzGordon.

Conspiracies and Patriotism

I have been and still am skeptical about most conspiracy theories.  It seems to me that some people want to believe that there are various conspiracies perpetrated by extremely intelligent and powerful people who are controlling and manipulating world events.  I think this is much more comforting to believe than the alternative, which is that the people running the world are not so very intelligent, that they actually have very little control, and world events are largely in uncontrolled chaos.  The world is flying on a wing and a prayer.

In 1971 in Vietnam I briefed the Secretary of the Army one on one, and then listened to him and a three-star general discuss what was going on in Vietnam.  They were both very good men.  And they both had many sources of information.  But they seemed clueless and uncertain.  This undermined any illusion that I had that someone “up there” was in charge and knew what was going on.  They sounded like two privates in the mess.  I suppose that even if they had known exactly what was going on, the President would not have allowed them to do anything about it.  No one wanted to start a larger war with China or Russia.

About ten years later at a conference I asked Walt Rostow, LBJ’s former Assistant for National Security Affairs, what plans they had for averting nuclear war.  He just shrugged and said that they were trying to hang on and hope that future generations would solve this problem.   Here again I was unable to maintain any illusion that someone knew exactly what was going on and was in control.  I was depressed for several days afterward.

I recently watched Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991), which implies that there was a conspiracy of hawks within the government who assassinated JFK because he was soft on communism and was not going to send troops to Vietnam.  I also watched the award-winning documentary, The Fog of War (2003), in which Robert MacNamara, the much reviled former Secretary of Defense, recounts at length his service in the administration before and after the assassination of JFK, as well as his work with Curtis LeMay during WWII.  It has been said that the crazy general in Dr. Strangelove (1964) was based on Curtis LeMay, or at least his ilk of hawks in the military and government.

After watching these films I am no longer so skeptical of Oliver Stone.  He may be exactly right.  People seem to forget that the American war in Vietnam was engineered by “The Greatest Generation.”  The administration and the highest echelons of the military were replete with WWII veterans.  These boys had to be extremely tricky, sneaky, and paranoid to stop Hitler and Tojo, and I’m glad they were.  But if there was a conspiracy of WWII hawks in the administration who assassinated JFK, they must have lived long enough to see what havoc, folly, and stupidity they wreaked in Vietnam.  So much for being in control.  So much for being intelligent.  But they probably went to their graves blaming doves for everything.

As far as I can tell this is still one of the best countries in the world, and has the most freedoms.  But it still leaves much to be desired.  I am patriotic about the Constitution of the United States of America, and the checks and balances to protect against oppression and corruption.  I am patriotic about the flag, and the republic for which it stands.  I am patriotic about men and women who, for the sake of the ideals of freedom, and for others, gave so much.  They gave their lives.  There is no greater love.  They gave their children.  They gave their limbs and their health.  They lived in pain from injuries and shrapnel in their bodies all the days of their lives.  They lived all the days of their lives with PTSD and horror for all the killing and destruction and cruelty they had witnessed and sometimes perpetrated.  But I am not patriotic about conspiracies, greed, stupidity, arrogance, hubris, violence as a national policy instead of a last resort, and wars based on false rationalizations.

Disclaimer: If you are needing more extensive assistance or counseling, we can supply you with a list of available agencies to assist you. No blogs are ever meant to substitute a person seeking help through professional counseling.

Mike Muller:  MACV CORDS operations advisor, Binh Chanh District, 1970.  Briefing officer for DEPCORDS Ambassador Funkhouser to CG & staff, III Corps Vietnam, 1971.  In addition to briefing the staff he briefed visiting officials such as the Secretary of the Army.  He was in Vietnam for one tour.

Michael’s Novel (For Kindle)

A Dream of Heaven product image

A Dream of Heaven

DSC00069Mike Muller is on the Advisory Board for Thuy Smith International Outreach. He is a Vietnam Veteran and has been a Psychologist counseling veterans for many years.  He writes novels under the pen name of Michael FitzGordon.   

When I was about eighteen I realized I had to choose a career.  I asked myself what I liked to do best.  That was reading novels.  Of course I didn’t think I could earn a living at that.  When I was younger and slaving away in my father’s boat factory, I would sneak into his office when he was away and write stories on a manual typewriter.  So I decided I would be a writer.  However, I did not want to be irresponsible like my father.  Depending on which description you might be comfortable with, my father and his father were gangsters, hustlers, gamblers, or sharp operators.  The boat factory was my father’s brief effort to get out of the bar business.  The bar business can be a front for all sorts of activities.  Our family income was highly variable.  I did not want to be like my father.  I did not want to be irresponsible, and I figured that being a writer was very unreliable and irresponsible when it came to taking care of a family.  So I decided to get a doctorate in English, which would enable me to have a job.  The Vietnam war intervened.  I could have avoided Vietnam by joining a seminary or going to medical school, but I had already decided to get a doctorate in English.  After my tour in Vietnam I began working on my doctorate.  I hated it.  Reading literary criticism all day, day after day, was boring for me.  I switched to working on a doctorate in counseling psychology, and used my graduate courses in English for a masters degree in creative writing.  My masters thesis was a series of short stories about Vietnam.

My first job after earning my doctorate was at a Vet Center in 1981.  I had not learned anything about PTSD in graduate school—the diagnosis had just been recognized!  But I quickly learned about it at the Vet Center.  So many of the veterans were incandescent with rage then, just as many of the veterans freshly returned from war are today.  I also soon realized that I myself had some of the symptoms of PTSD, although not enough of them to be diagnosed with PTSD.  I told myself that God had let me have just enough symptoms myself so that I would be able to understand and help the veterans who had PTSD.  In about 1984 I began writing a novel based on some of my experiences in Vietnam.  Writing the novel was very emotional for me.

In Vietnam I had been an advisor, living and working with the Vietnamese.  In my novel I wanted to help people to understand PTSD, and I also wanted to depict the war from all sides—South Vietnamese, Viet Cong, North Vietnamese, and Americans.  Over the years I revised the novel many times.  Toward the end of my career as a psychologist I began to realize I had been around violence all my life.  My father was violent and associated with violent people, and others in my family did the same.  My childhood response to that was to avoid conflict and retreat into the world of reading novels!  In high school I thought the “tough guys” were just children compared to my family.  In Vietnam I lived on a Vietnamese compound where one never knew for sure who was the enemy, because the compound was of course infiltrated by enemy agents and sympathizers.  Would my throat be cut at night?  And of course all of the military operations were with the Vietnamese, not Americans.  After graduate school I began to work for the VA.  I enjoyed and liked veterans, but at the same time I was also around many enraged and violent people on a regular basis, and the hypervigilance I had learned at an early age became well engrained into my character.  There were many times that I could have been killed if I had said or done the wrong thing.  My peers tended to refer dangerous patients to me because I was big and seemed calm under pressure.  Thanks a lot!  Eventually I had to admit that after a lifetime of being around violence I had PTSD myself.  I had my own episodes of incandescent rage.

Recently, after twenty-seven years since I wrote the first draft, I published my novel on Kindle.  It is A Dream of Heaven, written under my pen name, Michael FitzGordon.  I hope that people will read it and enjoy it.  Bob Kerrey read an earlier draft and wrote that it was “a compelling portrait of the destructive force of hatred, the ravaged psyches of those who have experienced war, and the enduring power of faith and love.”  I hope that people will gain a greater understanding of how one can develop PTSD.  The main characters are both American and Vietnamese, and I hope that readers will see war from both sides, see the folly of war, and work harder to avoid war.

Mike Muller

*MACV CORDS operations advisor, Binh Chanh District, 1970.  Briefing officer for DEPCORDS Ambassador Funkhouser to CG & staff, III Corps Vietnam, 1971.  In addition to briefing the staff I briefed visiting officials such as the Secretary of the Army.  I was in Vietnam for one tour.

Disclaimer: If you are needing more extensive assistance or counseling, we can supply you with a list of available agencies to assist you. No blogs are ever meant to substitute a person seeking help through professional counseling.