Just when you thought the murderous idiocy of our permanent wars couldn’t possibly get worse, it gets worse. Take a look at this lovely specimen of 1960s eugenics from The Modern War Institute. The review is by Arnold R. Isaacs. I came across it on Vietnam Old Hacks, an on-line forum for aging war correspondents who can’t seem to let the damned thing go. Judging from the comments, “McNamara’s Folly” comes as news to most of us.
On the day in 1967 when Hamilton Gregory reported to a Tennessee induction center to begin his service in the U.S. Army, a sergeant presented him to another young man who was also headed to Fort Benning, Georgia, to start basic training. The other new soldier’s name was Johnny Gupton, or so Gregory calls him. “I want you to take charge of Gupton,” the sergeant told Gregory. Before they boarded the bus to the airport, the sergeant handed Gregory Gupton’s paperwork along with his own, to carry on the trip.
In the next hours and days, Gregory discovered why the sergeant had put Gupton in his care. Gupton could not read or write. He didn’t know his home address or what state he was from, so he could not send the pre-stamped postcard the new recruits were given at Benning to tell their families they had arrived. He didn’t know his next of kin’s full name, didn’t know that there was a war in Vietnam, and couldn’t tie the laces on his combat boots.
How did a man so obviously unfit for service get drafted? A slipup? Far from it. Gupton was one of more than 350,000 other young men drafted during the Vietnam war under a deliberate policy requiring that nearly a third of all military recruits should be drawn from men with general aptitude test scores at the bottom or for a certain percentage below the minimum standard. This while draft boards around the country made it shockingly easy for middle class, better educated men to avoid serving — just ask Bill Clinton or Donald Trump or Rush Limbaugh. The policy was known as Project 100,000. Its principal promoter was Lyndon Johnson’s defense secretary, Robert McNamara.
Hamilton Gregory — who was not drafted but enlisted voluntarily — was troubled and outraged by his experience with Johnny Gupton and subsequent encounters with other low-IQ draftees. During his Army service he raised questions about the policy with various superiors, and after his discharge, while making a career as a journalist and author, he kept on tracking down official documents and seeking out personal accounts. The evidence he accumulated over more than 40 years makes the story he tells in McNamara’s Folly not just convincing but ironclad. Its conclusion is ironclad too: U.S. draft policy during the Vietnam war was a moral atrocity.