Joan Baez, Dan Rather [!] Personae Non Gratae at Walter Reed

You may have heard the news that protest singer Joan Baez is persona non grata at Walter Reed hospital. She seems somewhat baffled:

“I have always been an advocate for nonviolence and I have stood as firmly against the Iraq war as I did the Vietnam War 40 years ago,” she wrote. “I realize now that I might have contributed to a better welcome home for those soldiers fresh from Vietnam. Maybe that’s why I didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation to sing for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In the end, four days before the concert, I was not ‘approved’ by the Army to take part. Strange irony.”

Baez, 66, told the Post in a telephone interview Tuesday that she was not told why she was left off the program by the Army. “There might have been one, there might have been 50 (soldiers) that thought I was a traitor,” she told the paper.

John Cougar Mellencamp actually planned the event at Walter Reed, and then complained to Rolling Stone about it when it fell through:

Originally Mellencamp was scheduled to perform two songs with Joan Baez and be interviewed by Dan Rather, but Walter Reed officials refused to give Baez or Rather clearance. In an e-mailed statement, Walter Reed spokeperson Steve Sanderson said the requests for Baez and Rather were submitted just two days prior to the concert. “These additional requirements were not in the agreement/contract and would have required a modification,” he said. Mellencamp said that he was heartened to have met with and entertained the soldiers, but was extremely disappointed Baez and Rather weren’t allowed to join him. “Joan had her plane ticket and hotel booked,” he told us. “They didn’t give me a reason why she couldn’t come. We asked why and they said, ‘She can’t fit here, period.’ Joan Baez is a sixty-six year old woman and the sweetest gal in the world.”

Yeah, the sweetest gal in the world has also thrown in with the Cindy Sheehan Surrender Circus, protesting the Iraq war at Crawford. I can’t imagine recovering soldiers would have enjoyed hearing some old hippie scold them for their participation in an immoral war. Rolling Stone says some of them were already mad enough about the antiwar Mellencamp:

Some maintained it was hypocritical of the singer to visit, citing his staunch anti-war position. “I say if you’re not supporting what we’re doing you’re not supporting me,” said Mike Shaw, a combat engineer from Corona, California who broke his back in Iraq last month when he was hit by an IED.

But what about Dan Rather? Why disinvite him too?

I’ll tell you why. Because cake is even better with a little icing.

Seriously, though: I think the Walter Reed management’s decision was a sound one. Two days before an already controversial singer was to appear, they hear that “oh by the way, I’m bringing along someone who’s even more controversial and radical than I am, and also a questionable journalist to make a big national production out of it”. Sandbagged like that, I don’t blame them a bit for turning away Baez and Rather–especially since Walter Reed’s recent failings are already being used as a partisan punching bag.

The Left and the press agitate constantly to be allowed to shoot pictures of flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq, and the White House wisely denies their requests. Walter Reed’s management kept the hospital–and the wounded–from being used as antiwar props in exactly the same way.


Since we’re on the subject of Joan Baez: back in 1942, George Orwell had some strong opinions about wartime pacifists:

Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’. The idea that you can somehow remain aloof from and superior to the struggle, while living on food which British sailors have to risk their lives to bring you, is a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security.

I think that sentiment applies to being objectively pro-Communist and pro-Islamist as well. There’s a thin sliver of daylight between Baez’s and Jane Fonda’s positions during the Vietnam War–Baez opposed all war, whereas Fonda wanted Hanoi to win–but by Orwell’s logic, their practical effects were the same.