Kerry, Bush and Vietnam
It will probably be pretty clear that I am not a George W. Bush fan, mainly because of his use of “pre-emptive” war. War is such a serious thing that it should not be entered into lightly, as the Iraq war illustrated by its failure to win international support for invading to prevent Saddam’s use of weapons of mass destruction, and then failing to find any. See my thoughts on Iraq during the run-up to the war there a year ago. I was so disgusted by the result that I haven’t updated the site recently.
However, I am also not a John Kerry fan because I am a Vietnam veteran who believes that I did not commit any atrocities in Vietnam. I basically allowed myself to be drafted out of law school, when the draft board ended my student deferment, in part because I believed then, and still do, that in a democracy everybody should share the hardships as well as the benefits of government. I spent a year in the artillery (1969-70) on the DMZ of Vietnam, where fortunately the war was more conventional (more uniformed men and fewer women and children combatants), but in any case, as far as I know, I didn’t kill any civilians intentionally or by accident.
When I returned to the US from Vietnam, I was disappointed that all anybody wanted to hear about were atrocities. Other students could have cared less that I went to Vietnam so that one of them didn’t have to, or maybe even to prevent some poor South Vietnamese peasant from being killed by the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese Army, at least for one year.
Finally, I’m not so sure about Kerry’s getting three Purple Heart medals in four months without ever going to the hospital. I’m not saying he didn’t get wounded three times (three more times than I did), but medals require a recommendation by superiors, as well as an act of bravery. Because of his patrician background, Kerry’s superiors seemed to jump at the chance to recommend medals for him, more so than for some poor grunt in the boonies. To see how this played in World War II, see a cartoon from Bill Mauldin’s Up Front. I’m glad Kerry went (unlike George W.), but if he had been serious, he would have spent more than four months in combat (for the sake of the men under him who needed some continuity of leadership, if not for himself or his country). He no doubt found that Vietnam was a messy war, morally and physically, and he understandably wanted out, but when he came back, he should have had more consideration for the men who served there, not branding them indiscriminately as immoral war criminals.
However, as a retired Foreign Service officer, I have to give Kerry credit for being the son of a Foreign Service officer, something many people probably count as a liability, rather than an asset.