Sunday, August 22, 2004

The Election: The Legacy of Vietnam

I recently read John Kerry’s 1971 testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. In his testimony, Kerry claims the conduct of US forces in Vietnam was wantonly criminal.

I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.

It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit, the emotions in the room, the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam, but they did. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.

They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape 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, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country. [C-SPAN]
This is an amazing statement, yet to my knowledge, not a single individual was indicted for war crimes as a result of Kerry’s testimony. Nevertheless, the testimony persists to this day in cementing the myth that American forces in Vietnam were bloodthirsty brigands. Amazingly enough, none of the senators present at the hearing thought to challenge Kerry’s claims. They were simply taken as self-evident truths. Add Kerry’s testimony to the myth of the drunk, drug-addled and homeless Vietnam veteran and it is clear that an entire generation of servicemen have been unjustly smeared. If Lt. William Calley's court-martial for the My Lai massacre was a case where the guilty received light punishment for horrific crimes, the case of the rest of the American Vietnam veterans is a one where the honorable received nothing but false accusations and undeserved contempt.

It’s no surprise then that John Kerry’s fellow Vietnam vets take issue with Kerry highlighting his military service. Kerry may run on his medals, but the most significant aspect of his military service is his testimony before the US Senate. Kerry deserves to have the question put to him: Is it true American solders were bloodthirsty murders in Vietnam? Is it true that there was wholesale killing and destruction outside of that needed for legitimate prosecution of the war? Does Kerry stand behind his statement that Americans conducted themselves in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan? If so, why, as an officer, did he fail to bring charges against anyone who conducted themselves shamefully?

Update: for confirmation of the drunk Vietnam vet stereotype, see this.

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