Things We Used To Say: remembering the past or being condemned to repeat it

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Remember that saying? It’s something we repeat when we want to sound wise. And like most of those aphorisms, we should be ready to change our behavior. You know, to be wise, instead of just sounding.

Richard Nixon
“I am not a crook.” – actual quote from Richard Nixon

Did you know that Senator Richard Nixon, candidate for president, interfered in the international peace negotiations of the Vietnam war, undermining a sitting president, to get elected president himself? A lot of people don’t know that, but it’s a historical fact, confirmed by archives and FBI wiretaps.

As Nixon said, “mistakes were made”. Don’t talk to me about mistakes. Mistakes are as big as the results they cause. Besides, it was no mistake; it was a deliberate act. He set up teams to carry it out.

Think about the damage it did to our country. The war ground on for another 7 years. Twenty thousand more American troops died, while countless more were maimed or mentally destroyed for the rest of their natural lives. Nobody knows how many Vietnamese died. Nixon has an ocean of blood and a mountain of human suffering on his hands… and so does Kissinger. If that isn’t prison-worthy (and I’m talking life imprisonment here) then I don’t know what possibly could be.

Just this week, 47 US Senators tried to interfere with international negotiations with Iran, ten years in the making, to undermine a sitting US president, so they could recapture the White House. Never mind that their express intention is to foment war with Iran.

How much human blood, how much American treasure, would ever be too much for anyone who could possibly think that could be OK?

There’s no bottom to this ethical hole.

Jim Wright on the Second Coming of Richard Nixon
Jim Wright on the Second Coming of Richard Nixon

Go read what this retired US Navy officer has to say. He isn’t a chickenhawk, promoting war while staying as far away from it as possible. Read his thoughts on Nixon, and his open letter to the 47 Senators who wrote that Iran letter. It won’t fit in 140 characters; in fact most people will take about 15 minutes to read the whole thing.

Trust me, historical perspective is worth the 15 minutes.


  • Discuss this post on Facebook or G+
  • Nixon’s first vice-president, Spiro Agnew, had to resign in a plea deal to avoid prison. Nixon used the same dodge.
  • I remember Nixon ducking out of impeachment proceedings; I was working in an orchard and we watched the Watergate hearings during lunch breaks. He said he was worried about the trauma that impeachment would inflict on the nation. Only later did archives reveal he was trying to avoid anyone finding out about this.  As would surely have been happened in an impeachment.
  • Bonus question: how many countries has Iran invaded in the last, say, 100 years?
  • Things We Used To Say is a series I started on my old blog. At the top of the page is a link to the whole series on both blogs.
  • The first person who whinges about profanity in the linked post will be mocked, without mercy.