“Stolen Honor” Restored
Vol: 36 Issue: 27 Monday, September 27, 2004
One of the few good things to come out of the partisan debacle that passes for Election 2004 is the partial rehabilitation the reputations of those veterans who served in the Vietnam War.
They’ve spent the last thirty-five years being convinced that, although most of them had never witnessed war crimes, they MUST have been happening just over the next hill, somewhere.
As a consequence, they’ve spent the last thirty-five years trying to convince their friends and families that, while war crimes MUST have been rampant, they didn’t have any part in them.
Since, as “everybody knows”, American troops during the Vietnam War behaved worse than the Nazis, Vietnam veterans protesting their individual innocence didn’t sound any more convincing than the Germans did after WWII when they said all the real Nazis were killed in the war.
It has been thirty-five years of secret shame. A ‘secret’ shame because the protests of innocence sound so hollow, given the widely accepted ‘truth’ that Vietnam veterans, “raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan,” as Lt. (jg) John F Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in 1971.
For thirty-five years, Vietnam veterans have quietly endured this slander, mostly because the louder they protested their innocence, the guiltier they sounded.
(I know that there are some of you who know EXACTLY what I mean. And I know veterans who deny ever having GONE to Vietnam, just so they don’t have to endure the silent questions.)
John Kerry has never been called to account for leading the effort to steal away the honor of those brave men who served their country in Vietnam.
Largely thanks to the efforts of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, which Kerry led during the early 1970’s, returning Vietnam veterans were ashamed to wear their uniforms or display their medals for fear of being spit on or called ‘baby killer’.
The VVAW had clout disproportionate to its size — never more than 7000 members out of a pool of 9 million veterans — and some of the movement’s most vocal leaders were later proved to be frauds who never even saw combat, let alone the atrocities they described as being ‘routine.
The VVAW’s wide influence came mainly thanks to the charisma of the young, politically ambitious John Forbes Kerry, and his high-profile fellow protestors, like Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden.
Kerry and his VVAW compatriots portrayed their fellow veterans as unwilling soldiers, morally debased and haunted by their service.
While this might have fit a small minority, the most accurate survey, done by the Harris Poll in 1980, showed that 91% of those who went to Vietnam were “glad they served their country,” 74% “enjoyed their time in the military” and 89% agreed with the statement that “our troops were asked to fight in a war which our political leaders in Washington would not let them win.”
Retired Lt. Ralph E. Gaither, U.S. Air Force veteran and author of “With God in a POW Camp”, spent more than seven years as a POW.
In the documentary, ‘Stolen Honor’, he said something that stunned me. I suppose I knew it intellectually, but hearing it from Lt. Gaither connected the dots in my mind:
“We didn t realize how powerful the [VVAW] movement was until toward the end of the war. I dedicated the book I wrote to John Frederick he died 6 months before we came home. John would probably have been alive had the antiwar movement not been doing what they were doing. The Vietnamese grew great relish in the movement in support for their cause.”
Then he said this: “I m convinced that they held on to the war until after Nixon was reelected. They felt Nixon would not be re-elected, that the antiwar movement would be strong enough to get him out of office.”
There was something haunting about Gaither’s observation. It sounds too much like he is talking about 2004.
In an opinion piece published by Dar al Hayat on September 14, Mahmoud Rimawi declares in the title; “John Kerry, the Arabs’ Candidate as Well”.
Rimawi writes, “In a survey, conducted in 35 countries all over the world, have shown that citizens of 30 countries prefer the Democratic candidate, Kerry, over the Republican candidate and the current president George W. Bush “
After explaining all that was wrong with George Bush and the Republicans from the Arab point of view, Rimawi opines;
“And since John Kerry is the only practical substitute, and a candidate open to discussion unlike Bush and his staff, its not an exaggeration or even unusual for us to express our favoring of Kerry for president . . .”
The same sentiment is shared by al-Qaeda. They see Bush as inflexible, whereas John Kerry seems far more open to intimidation.
According to intelligence reports, al-Qaeda plans to strike US targets in advance of the November election in the hope of recreating the ‘Madrid Effect’.
That March 11 terror attack toppled anti-terror Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar’s government in favor of the more malleable Spanish Socialists who immediately began caving in to al-Qaeda’s demands.
al-Qaeda hopes to do the same thing in America, with the same result — a defeat for George Bush. The resurgent violence in Iraq is aimed at the same goal.
The terrorists there believe John Kerry will pull US troops out of Iraq, in effect, handing the country over to them and creating a new Afghanistan — or, if you like, another Vietnam.
In a perverse sense, John Kerry and his crowd are correct in saying that Iraq is becoming another Vietnam — thanks to the same propaganda methods that Kerry and the VVAW used to create the myth of the ‘Vietnam quagmire’ in the early 1970’s.
A recent pro-Kerry political ad featured Iraq War veterans condemning the war and endorsing John Kerry, who they say will ‘get us out’ of Iraq. ‘Peace with honor’ is their catch-phrase. Sound familiar?
But, now that the story is getting a fair hearing, aging Vietnam veterans can tell the truth without sounding like post-WWII Nazis trying to cover up war crimes.
Because, in Vietnam, war crimes WEREN’T ‘rampant’. The worst ‘war crime’ America was guilty of in Vietnam was turning its collective back on its defenders for thirty-five years.
And now that the chief war criminal of the Vietnam War is running for president of the United States, the honor stolen from an entire generation of America’s defenders is being debated in public — honestly — for the first time.
And many of our children and grandchildren are discovering, for the first time, the quiet heroes that live among them. Its no substitute for the parade that never was, but, better late than never.
And in the most ironic twist of all, we owe it all to John Kerry.