Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Beirut Jane

Excerpts from Jane Fonda's memoir "My Life So Far" appear in this week's Time, and, like clockwork, Fonda offers yet another round of apologies for her 1972 visit to North Vietnam, where the infamous photo of her sitting next to an anti-aircraft weapon was snapped. She's been apologizing since the 1980s, and from what I can see, those rightwingers who wish we were still hammering Vietnam will never be satisfied. Still, Fonda goes over it for the 897th time:

"Here is my best, honest recollection of what took place.

"Someone (I don't remember who) leads me toward the gun, and I sit down, still laughing [from her earlier attempt to sing in Vietnamese], still applauding. It all has nothing to do with where I am sitting. I hardly even think about where I am sitting. The cameras flash.

"I get up, and as I start to walk back to the car with the translator, the implication of what has just happened hits me. Oh, my God. It's going to look like I was trying to shoot down U.S. planes! I plead with him, 'You have to be sure those photographs are not published. Please, you can't let them be published.' I am assured that it will be taken care of. I don't know what else to do.

"It is possible that the Vietnamese had it all planned.

"I will never know. If they did, can I really blame them? The buck stops here. If I was used, I allowed it to happen. It was my mistake, and I have continued to pay a heavy price for it . . . That two-minute lapse of sanity will haunt me until I die."

Fonda's "lapse" had more to do with negative PR than with any lack of sanity. She was visiting those who were actively resisting a massive foreign attack on their country (which, let's remember, killed millions). That she wouldn't be around weapons, esp in the field, is ridiculous; and to believe that the Vietnamese wouldn't use a famous American film star to promote their cause is simply naive. In any event, those two-minutes cemented Fonda as Hanoi Jane, a perennial target for the We-Got-Stabbed-In-The-Back/Swift-Boat crowd.

I've always thought that Fonda made up for her "lapse of sanity" when she, along with then-hub Tom Hayden, visited Israel in 1982 to show their support for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and Menachem Begin's Likud party. Fonda and Hayden watched the shelling of Beirut from Israeli positions, applauding while cluster bombs ripped through apartments and hospitals, and Israeli helicopter gunships strafed those trying to escape. Here, Fonda was not shy about appearing with weapons -- hell, she reveled in it. And unlike the anti-aircraft gun in North Vietnam, which was not being used at the time of her visit, Israeli weapons were in full use, chopping up and killing over 17 thousand Lebanese and Palestinians.

In debates with rightwingers obsessed with Fonda's "treason," I've often mentioned her later embrace of mass murder in Lebanon. In every case, my opponents expressed ignorance of this fact (which I found amazing), and they usually winced when I re-branded Fonda as Beirut Jane.

I haven't read Fonda's book, so I don't know if she wrestles with her conscience regarding the Israeli invasion. To be fair, she did visit the Occupied Territories in 2002 and appeared with Israeli peace activists in Jerusalem. I'm anxious to get a hold of her memoir to see what she says, and will report back when I do.

But I do know one thing -- if she apologizes for her 1982 pro-invasion stance with the same gusto that she has for that Vietnam photo, you won't find a fat excerpt of it in Time magazine.