Today’s Wall Street Journal runs an important column by Army special forces/Vietnam war veteran Stephen Sherman addressing John Kerry’s antiwar activism upon his return to the United States from his distinguished service in the war: “Conduct unbecoming.”
Sherman notes Kerry’s work with Vietnam Veterans against the War. He writes: “Mr. Kerry became a leader in the VVAW and even testified before Congress on the findings of the [VVAW Winter Soldier] Investigation, which he accepted at face value. In his book ‘Stolen Valor,’ B.G. Burkett points out that Mr. Kerry liberally used phony veterans to testify to atrocities they could not possibly have committed. Mr. Kerry later threw what he represented as his awards at the Capitol in protest. But as the war diminished as a political issue, he left the VVAW, which was a bit too radical for his political future, and was ultimately elected to the Senate. After his awards were seen framed on his office wall, he claimed to have thrown away someone else’s medals–so now he can reclaim his gallantry in Vietnam.”
This column is good and timely, but it barely sticks its toe in the water with respect to the issues raised. To take one example, it does not examine Kerry’s 1971 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That testimony is readily available on the Web. In his testimony, Kerry retailed the atrocity charges against the United States military — “crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command….” — that were the staple of the hard left, pro-Hanoi “antiwar” movement. Consistent with that testimony, the dust jacket of Kerry’s 1971 pro-Hanoi book The New Soldier featured a photograph of his ragged band of radicals mocking the US Marine Corps Memorial on Iwo Jima, with an upside-down American flag.
As Rocket Man, Deacon and I can all testify, these folks weren’t against the war; they were against the United States in general, and against the United States winning the war in particular. And now we know that their account of the war itself was, if not willfully false, at least utterly mistaken. Kerry states, for example: “We found that not only was [the war] a civil war, an effort by a people who had for years been seeking their liberation from any colonial influence whatsoever…We found most people didn’t even know the difference between communism and democracy. They only wanted to work in rice paddies without helicopters strafing them and bombs with napalm burning their villages and tearing their country apart.”
Well, no. We found that the war was not in fact a civil war. We found that it was a war of conquest by the North against the South pretty much as the American government had alleged, and that the South could hold on to its independence after we left until the tanks came rolling across the border. We found after the South had been conquered that thousands of South Vietnamese loved freedom and hated oppression so much that they fled on the open seas in rafts rather than face life under Communist tyranny.
And what about Vietnam Veterans Against the War? Thirty years after the withdrawal of American troops and the end of the war, it marches on, another brick in the wall of the leftover Communist left opposing America’s effort to defend itself in the war aginst terrorism. Its Web site helpfully observes: “Today our government is still financing and arming undemocratic and repressive regimes around the world. Recently, American troops have been sent into combat in the Middle East and Central America, for many of the same misguided reasons that were used to send us to Southeast Asia.” Well, again, no, but you already knew that.
The Journal is to be congratulated for being the first significant media outlet to address the issues raised by Kerry’s past antiwar involvements. But isn’t it past time someone explored them with the seriousness they deserve?
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