Liberal Historian Calls POW-MIA Flag Racist, Then Apologizes While Attacking America

A lefty historian recently attacked the POW-MIA flag as racist.

No, this was not The Onion. Someone actually claimed that the flag honoring prisoners of war and those missing in action during the Vietnam War is “hateful.”

Far from attacking any pernicious racism, the article’s anti-American slant echoes the Vietnam War protests, 40 years after the fighting stopped. Perhaps Rick Perlstein, author of a 2014 book on how Nixon and Reagan used “that racist flag” to obtain political power, concocted this argument in order to drum up publicity for his work, and he appears to be capitalizing on the outrage against the Confederate Flag.

Perlstein’s story has all the elegance of a Jackson Pollock painting. Rather than making a coherent argument, the author throws historical facts onto a canvas, hoping the splatter will convince an audience that he knows what he’s talking about. Perlstein uses little nuggets of history to defend his claims that the sentiment behind the flag is “pernicious myth,” engineered by right-wing politicians to “exploit hatred.” For such a strong claim, Perlstein presents no coherent argument or proof that the flag is racist, but he throws readers enough hints to find a connection.

He writes:

The moral confusion was abetted by the flag: the barbed-wire misery of that stark white figure, emblazoned in black.

The statement that the flag features a “stark white figure, emblazoned in black” is pure editorializing. In the official version of the flag, the figure is actually black, with a white background:

2000px-United_States_POW-MIA_flag.svg

A version of the flag with a white figure and a black background does exist -- but it has never been the official version. By choosing to attack this unofficial version, Perlstein is deliberately misleading to paint the flag with an alien political message. That message: The POW/MIA flag, in the process of commemorating the Americans who suffered in Vietnam, minimized the sufferings of the Vietnamese. American lives mattered, Vietnamese lives did not.

No one better illustrates how wrong he is than the Chairman of the Board at the National League of POW-MIA families Ann Mills-Griffiths. Responding to Perlstein’s article, Mills-Griffiths praised the Vietnamese and mentioned the historic meeting between the head of Vietnam’s Communist Party and America’s President Obama.

The POW/MIA flag does not minimize the Vietnamese who died -- it only represents a movement by Americans to honor those U.S. soldiers who suffered in one of the longest and most morally complex wars in our history. Honoring our heroes is not the same thing as dishonoring the enemy's suffering, no matter how badly you want people to buy your book.