Thursday 10 March 2011

Another Haig

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
When I mentioned to Barry yesterday that I was preparing a post on Haig he said, ‘Which one?’ The name also struck a chord with Nonizamboni from ‘Peacock Blue’.

Alexander Haig was a distinguished and much decorated army officer, retiring as a four-star general in 1979, and eventually becoming the 59th United States Secretary of State from 1981 to 1982 under President Ronald Reagan. He died last February 2010, aged 85.

In the mid-60s Barry attended a meeting at which Alexander Haig, then a Lieutenant Colonel, was speaking. A questioner from the floor asked, ‘What makes you think you can defeat the Viet Cong?’ He replied that the war would be won because present-day American soldiers were superior to those in WWII, in that they were better-educated. WWII soldiers had prevailed against the Germans and so the modern army would succeed in Vietnam. He entirely missed the point that there is a major difference between fighting a just war and engaging in an unjust one.

Years later, Barry met some of the Vietnamese generals, but that’s a story for another day.


  1. Interesting comment, I wonder what a WWII Vet would say to that. My father's middle names came from a General Douglas Haig from WWI.

  2. Shh, don't tell anyone I said this, Janice, but I doubt if you'll ever get an American officer to admit his country is in an unjust war.
    Interesting post, however.
    -- K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  3. I think history has repeated itself with the war in Iraq. They will never admit it was unjust either.

  4. What a shame for Alexander Haig that he is probably best known in this country for what he said when President Reagan was shot.

    Got this from Wikipedia:
    In 1981, following the March 30 assassination attempt on Reagan, Haig asserted before reporters "I am in control here" as a result of Reagan's hospitalization.

    Constitutionally, gentlemen, you have the President, the Vice President and the Secretary of State in that order, and should the President decide he wants to transfer the helm to the Vice President, he will do so. He has not done that. As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the Vice President and in close touch with him. If something came up, I would check with him, of course.

    —Alexander Haig, Alexander Haig, autobiographical profile in TIME Magazine, April 2, 1984[17]
    Haig was incorrect in his interpretation of the U.S. Constitution concerning both the presidential line of succession and the 25th Amendment, which dictates what happens when a president is incapacitated. However, the holders of the two offices between the Vice President and the Secretary of State, the Speaker of the House (at the time, Tip O'Neill) and the President pro tempore of the Senate (at the time, Strom Thurmond), would be required under U.S. law (3 U.S.C. § 19) to resign their positions in order for either of them to become acting President - an unlikely event, considering that Vice President Bush was merely not immediately available - so Haig's statement reflected political reality, if not necessarily legal reality. Haig later said,

    I wasn't talking about transition. I was talking about the executive branch, who is running the government. That was the question asked. It was not, "Who is in line should the President die?"
    —Alexander Haig, Alexander Haig interview with 60 Minutes II April 23, 2001

  5. Very interesting - look forward to that!

  6. Wow, I had not thought of Alexander Haig in a long time. How did all of these people get so old and then die? Where did time go, that's what I want to know. Thank you so much for following my blog and commenting. It means so much to me.

  7. I can't imagine why better educated soldiers would be more likely to succeed while mucking around in rice patties and jungles. Getting involved in Vietnam was a huge mistake.


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