Reader Todd Lowdon writes:
I enjoyed very much your “Kerry Me Back” piece in Powerline. My friend, Peter Robinson, touched on a related point in NRO’s “The Corner” late last week (see “Vietnam Redux”). A reader suggested to him that now, with the left having lost its monopoly on news and opinion media, a Kerry nomination would offer a nice opportunity to revisit both the Vietnam War and anti-War movement of which he was a part. Like you, I believe Kerry and crew have a lot to account for. They’ve gotten a pass (at best) and been glorified in many circles (at worst) for too long. I made the follow up point, which Peter posted in The Corner, that I think most vets resent the actions taken by VVAW. As I mentioned to him, my father was killed in action on his second tour in Vietnam. I know he believed strongly in the cause for which he fought and died, and I believe he’d be disgusted by the VVAW’s anti-Americanism.
In the linked Corner item, Robinson quotes a message from a reader who says that if Kerry becomes the Democratic nominee, there will be some (like us) who seek to refight issues concerning the Vietnam war: “Watching Kerry respond to the throwing of medals question [on “60 Minutes,” I assume] turned my stomach. I know there are ten times the number of Vietnam War vets who wholly disagree with him. I believe that if he is nominated the country will, and should, ‘re-fight’ the Vietnam War. This time, however, the left has not a monopoly on the media, and the outcome will be different…”
This is an excellent point that deserves continued reflection. Kerry returned to the United States from his distinguished service in Vietnam in 1969 and left the Navy in 1970. As I noted yesterday, Kerry’s leadership of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War initially brought him to national prominence.
When Kerry testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971 as VVAW’s representative, Kerry’s testimony was built in substantial part on false and defamatory statements regarding all echelons of the American forces serving in Vietnam who, according to Kerry, were guilty of heinous war crimes.
It was this testimony that landed Kerry in the New York Times and sent him on speaking tours to college campuses around the country. The Boston Globe devoted one part of its excellent series profiling Kerry to his antiwar activism. (We linked to all parts of the series as they were published last year; they can easily be found using the search engine on this site.)
I saw Kerry speak at Dartmouth College in a relatively small, informal venue (the student lounge on the second floor of Hopkins Center) during his entry into public life in 1971 or 1972. One of the students in the audience stood up to walk out on Kerry’s speech and shouted to Kerry as he approached the steps to go down to the first floor: “You phony. You’re just in this to promote your own career.” Kerry was only momentarily flustered, bending down to the microphone and asking the guy to stay and talk after he’d already gone down the steps.
At the time I couldn’t believe the obtuseness of the student; I bought Kerry’s act. In retrospect, however, that student strikes me as a person of uncommon discernment.
DEACON adds: Mackubin Owens, an infantry platoon leader in Vietnam, writes powerfully for National Review Online about the contradiction between “Kerry, the proud Vietnam veteran [and] Kerry, the antiwar activist who accused his fellow Vietnam veterans of the most heinous atrocities imaginable.”