pilots had earned a record total of decorations for flightnheroism. Of the 120 pilots addressed in this talk, 13 did notnreturn with the ship. Nine were killed in action and four,nincluding myself, were shot down and taken prisoner.nOn the Oriskany’s next cruise, during the summer ofn1966, five more from my air group joined us in the Hanoindungeons — their killed-in-action list higher yet than ours.nAnd in’the summer of 1967, still more prisoners, and stillnmore lives and airplanes squandered running up and downnthe same restricted tracks in North Vietnam in that gradualnescalation to nowhere. In four months of that 1967 cruise,nthe Oriskany had 40 percent of its deck load of airplanesnshot out of the sky.nSo much for “limited war”; so much for the pussyfootersnand needle-threaders who wanted to finesse a war withngame theory, without disturbing anybody important. I say tonthem what my North Vietnamese jailers frequently said tonme: “The blood, the blood, is on your hands.”nThose of us who entered prison early actually saw threendifferent wars. The first lasted 3 years and 2 months — thenwar of reactive gradualism decided upon by LBJ and hisnjolly gang on December 1, 1964; the war that ran its coursenas described above. Then there was a 3 year 2 monthn”hiatus” war—like the “limited” war, practically as long asnAmerica’s World War II—but no airplanes in the sky,nabsolutely no American actions that we could detect havingnany effect on us one way or another. It lasted from late ’68 tonlate ’71 —I was in solitary for the first half of it, and I wasnbrutalized more in 1969 than in any year in prison. Somendon’t like to hear this, but on the whole, life was easier for usnin prison when America was bombing and hammering atntheir gates. To have our bombing “paused” was somehownconsidered contemptible. And then the old JCS “short war”nloomed into view in late 1971 —the mining of the harbors,nthe. tactical bombing of military targets in Hanoi andnHaiphong, and the climax: seemingly endless streams ofnB-52’s bombing Hanoi and Haiphong military complexesnstarting on that wondrous night of December 18, 1972. Inn11 days. North Vietnam was shut down completely.nThat was commitment. A long time coming, and innhindsight, perhaps too late for an emotionally drainednAmerica. But for what it’s worth, I believe if the Octobern1964 JCS “short war” plan had been accepted and put innmotion during that spring of 1965—a move that wouldnhave been perfectly natural and totally possible — then wenwould have a free and secure South Vietnam today; wenwould have about 40,000 fewer headstones in ArlingtonnCemetery right now; and we would have all been homenbefore Christmas of 1966. What is known as the 60’s —nantiwar disruption and all — would never have happened.nHow did we get so screwed up? The American governmentntried to do something the Founding Fathers knewnwould never work: to send (“sneak” may be a better word)narmies to war without a solid consensus of public support.nHear out two of my most trusted friends:nRoss Perot, a savvy patriot in everybody’s book, says, “Ifnwe didn’t learn anything else from Vietnam, it is that youndon’t commit your men to the battlefield unless you commitnthe American people first. They fell just as dead in Vietnamnas they did on Omaha Beach in Normandy. First commitnnnAt the Van Gogh Museum/nby Tom DischnThe lesson here? It’s very clear: we cannBy making friends with you endure the wholenMad scramble of life, the shoving and the shoveling.nKnowing through this friendship that every yearnWill yield its blossoms and its beards, its spearsnOf jade green thrusting from gnarled brown bulbs.nIts saturations of humanity’s and flowers’nInsistence on being seen, an insistence we must learnnAfter a time to put by, dropping the blossoms.nCropping off an ear, because you, after all,nAre near—as a wind, a whisper, a glint in the eyenOf Baby Camille Roulin. UnhappinessnIs sure, but surer perhaps for the poornLiving far from the decorous interiors of Paris,nTheir pain unrecognized as such, blessednOnly by their nearer proximity to you, who arenThe last divinity left: Death. Dark blue DeathnStark behind the scumblings of the clouds.nImplicit in all greens, mocker of all machers,nConfounder of lust. All the golds of rich SeptembernTurn to khaki at your touch, and lamplightnIs a feeble contradiction, books a fiction.nFlesh a fable that can only be recallednIn a dead Christ after Delacroix, in Rembrandt’snLivid and unrisen Lazarus. The brushstrokesnLayer brushstrokes like an infinite regressionnOf quotation marks telling us what mennWere once reported to believe. Just so.nIn the Nieuwe Kerk our art historiansnDiscover crude Gothic angels beneath the reformingnWhitewash of the Protestants; just so, when VincentnWiped away each canvas’s white lie.nHe found the sooty windows of his youth, the samenWarped faces and lightless spaces that firstnAcquainted him with you — Prussian blue,nPhthalocyanine, cerulean Death!nAUGUST 1989/17n