Saturday, July 30, 2005

We’ve all seen them: aging athletes, beyond their prime, trying to squeeze out one more fight, or one more season, but failing to bring back their glory days.

That seems an appropriate analogy for the return of Jane Fonda to the political stage. Having made her first movie in many years (“Monster-in-Law”) that was a box office success, Miss Fonda apparently thinks her new visibility gives her a certain credibility to comment on the Iraq war.

She has announced plans for an antiwar bus tour next March. Why wait so long? The war might be over by then.

The bus will run on vegetable oil. How 1960s. Will the riders grow their hair long, smoke pot, dress in tie-dyed T-shirts and sing “Blowin’ in the Wind”? Miss Fonda says she will be joined by her daughter and some families of Iraq war veterans. She says veterans came up to her during her book tour, encouraging her to protest the war.

In her memoir, “My Life So Far,” and on many interview shows, Miss Fonda repeatedly apologized for going to North Vietnam in 1972 where she sat on an anti-aircraft gun and said things critical of her country that encouraged the enemy to fight on.

The North Vietnamese used her comments as propaganda in an effort to demoralize American troops and diminish the resolve of prisoners of war. Just what does she think her forthcoming bus tour will do if not encourage terrorists and insurgents now fighting Americans and Iraqis in Iraq?

With high privilege goes increased responsibility. If youthful indiscretion is an excuse she used to explain her antiwar activities more than 30 years ago, what explanation will she have in her now mature years — temporary insanity?

“I have not taken a stand on any war since Vietnam,” Miss Fonda was reported as saying. “I carry a lot of baggage from that.” She certainly does, which makes it all the more perplexing why she is intent on adding even more baggage. It’s peculiar that Miss Fonda only protests what Americans do to resist evil, but led no protests against Saddam Hussein’s murderous regime that practiced evil. Why is that?

Jane Fonda might be described as one who is “always learning, but never able to acknowledge the truth,” as the Bible she once read and claimed to believe says about people of shifting convictions and allegiances (see 2 Timothy 3:7). Except she does not learn, much less arrive at any truth.

When Miss Fonda announced she had been born again by accepting Christ as her Savior, I investigated and concluded she was genuinely serious about her new faith. I wrote a column urging people not to judge or condemn her. Sadly, I must now write that by her own words, Jane Fonda has moved away from that initial faith into a universalism in which she says there are many ways to God and Jesus is not the only path. She has denied the essence of Christianity. One cannot truly be called a Christian unless one believes in the uniqueness of the life, atoning death and resurrection of Christ.

When Jane Fonda protested the Vietnam War, there were just three television networks and few media outlets for those who opposed her actions. We are now in a new media environment. While the major networks may practice their usual celebrity suck-up, cable television and talk radio won’t give her a free pass. Look for Vietnam veterans still angry at “Hanoi Jane” to turn out along the bus route to protest her protest, then and now. It could get ugly.

Jane Fonda has every right to free speech, but so do those who believe she did enough harm in the Vietnam War that they will not allow her to escape accountability or undermine America’s efforts in this one. America survived its pullout from Vietnam. It cannot survive a similar outcome in this war. That’s the big difference Jane Fonda doesn’t understand.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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