August 26, 2004

Hell, No.

Herman Jacobs wrote an excellent piece in today's Opinion Journal. He explores the uneasy political truce we've had in this country over the Vietnam war:

Years ago, wearied by their own arguments as much as by the arguments of their antagonists, sensible majorities of both the supporters and the opponents of the Vietnam War yielded to an unwritten domestic truce, composed of two principles:

* Those who participated in the war, with the exception of anyone at or above the rank of general officer, are entitled to public honor for their service.

* Those who actively opposed the war, with the exception of the most extreme Jane Fonda-types, are not to be branded as cowards or traitors to their country.

This uneasy truce, he argues, conceals a wound that could only be healed by a small number of people:

If a man like John McCain or Bob Kerrey were to ascend to the presidency, he might possess the moral authority to elucidate a shared communal understanding and to dispense--on behalf of all those who sacrificed--the forgiveness that would be necessary to put Vietnam behind us.

And what about John Kerry? Might he have become the man finally to bind up the wounds of Vietnam? Yes, I believe he could have performed that healing, perhaps more completely even than a John McCain or a Bob Kerrey, precisely because John Kerry was both "sinner" and "sinned against." No one could have better explained to the nation how the world looks different with the passage of time.

He could have explained that although he is remains deeply proud to have served his country in war, he is deeply sorry that in his proudly foolish youth he spoke such vile words about the other men who fought in that war, many of whom were still fighting when he dishonored them. He could have explained that there were good men and women who supported the Vietnam War and good men and women who opposed it. He could have explained that, even though he still believes he was right to oppose many things about the war, he now knows he was wrong--unequivocally wrong--to say and do the fraudulent things he said and did when he returned from Vietnam.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Yet we do not fault Mr. Kerry for failing to seek the reconciliation that history seemed to have placed uniquely within his power to achieve. In the absence of healing, the nation could have continued to observe the well-established domestic truce. We all would have been content to continue to "let it alone," just as we have done for the past 25 years.

But now we can't "let it alone." The reason we can't "let it alone" is that John Kerry won't let us "let it alone."

We can't let it alone because Mr. Kerry has pursued a strategy that sounds out old angers with a dissonant message that takes the two prongs of the domestic truce and makes them serve his own advantage. The domestic truce had required that those who served in Vietnam should receive honor. So Mr. Kerry now exalts that half of the truce--not humbly as befits a genuine war hero, but constantly and immodestly waving the bloody shirt of his Vietnam service in the faces of his critics whenever any connection, no matter how illogical, can be drawn between their criticism and Mr. Kerry's Vietnam service.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The predominant quality revealed in Mr. Kerry's spinning and unspinning his personal history in the Vietnam era is that, like everything else in his political life (from the SUVs he owns but doesn't own, to the medals he tossed but didn't toss, to the war in Iraq he supports but doesn't support), he's trying to have it both ways. But because of how the Vietnam era tore this country apart and still weighs on the nation's political soul, Mr. Kerry's trying to have it both ways about that war is so much more telling than his SUV moment or even his flip-flops on the current war.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Yes, it's true that under the strict terms of our long-standing domestic truce, John Kerry was not required to apologize for the things he said 30 years ago, even though he himself had more recently tested that truce with his attacks on George W. Bush's National Guard service. But then in January of this year, to burnish his credentials as a war president, Mr. Kerry's authorized biography reported a story implying that his Swift Boat comrades had fled the scene of an enemy attack while he alone returned to rescue the wounded. Honor being such an insignificant thing to John Kerry, he probably had no idea that--with his biography reviving war crimes accusations and, more specifically, implying cowardice on the part of his fellow Swifties--he had broken the domestic truce.

The truce is over. The Swift Vets and all the other vets John Kerry has freshly maligned are determined that this time around he is not going to have it both ways. Men like Michael Benge, Kenneth Cordier, Joseph Crecca and Jim Warner, who have already lost too many years of their lives to the Vietnam War, would have much preferred that Mr. Kerry had not restarted this fight. But now that he has, they are not going to let it alone.

It's a long piece. But I urge you to pour one more cup of coffee, get a bagel, and read the whole thing. This morning. Now. Especially if you vigorously disagree with me most of the time. Because it will help to explain to you why your sense that John Kerry is a "war hero" doesn't conform to the view of him most Vets—Vietnam vets in particular—have.

I know that some of you are afraid that because George W. Bush never "saw action," he may be casual about sending young men and women to die overseas. You are afraid that he may view their lives as cheap. But I'd like you to consider how cheap the lives of other vets appeared to a young John Kerry years ago, when he advocated that we simply withdraw, leaving the Vietnamese to their fate, and leaving our own POWs to die at the hands of their tormentors.

Please think about that.

This election is not just about Democrats versus Republicans, or whether the war in Iraq was a good idea, or how we are going to approach the issue of combatting terrorism, or how many Western European countries we need as allies.

This election is now—by Kerry's own choosing—about whether we show some respect to those who served their country 30 years ago, or continue to spit on them and call them names.

Posted by Attila at August 26, 2004 09:30 PM

"This election is not just about Democrats versus Republicans, or whether the war in Iraq was a good idea, or how we are going to approach the issue of combatting terrorism, or how many Western European countries we need as allies."

The election is about which candidate is best to lead the most powerful and influential country on this planet. Bush has proven himself incapable.

"This election is now?by Kerry's own choosing?about whether we show some respect to those who served their country 30 years ago, or continue to spit on them and call them names."

No, by your own choosing you keep harping on Kerry and Vietnam. You just posted below that you'd wish the topic would change. Well change it. Why don't you talk about how Bush and Kerry stand on real issues, like the Environment, the Economy - anything!

Posted by: littlemrmahatma at August 27, 2004 08:30 AM

I'd have to decide which of the Kerry positions on any of those issues I wanted to tackle.

Posted by: Attila Girl at August 27, 2004 12:40 PM

Whereas with Bush, he firmly sticks with his convictions (against all reason), except when pressured, then he - what's that word? - flip-flops.

Bush makes too many "mis-calculations".

Posted by: littlemrmahatma at August 27, 2004 03:13 PM

But ya gotta admit--he sure does get misunderestimated.

Posted by: Attila Girl at August 27, 2004 04:23 PM

Mahatma dude, the topic has been Kerry's own choosing for pretty much the last year straight. (Oh and in case you didn't know yet, Kerry served in Vietnam!)

It would be nice if Kerry would start talking about the issues--that is to say, if he could figure out where he stands on them. It's what, 35 days until Election Day? What's his plan on (pick a topic)? Quick! Can you tell me? (Didn't think so.)

"I'm not Bush, and I'll do everything better!" Great platform...

You nicely embody the sudden indigestion the Demos are having over the Vietnam issue. (Tasted good going down, but turned awfully sour in the stomach...)

Posted by: Desert Cat at August 27, 2004 05:45 PM

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic "Let the issues be the issue.

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