Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
August 13, 2004
POLITICS: The Vietnam Veteran in Nicaragua

While I'm away, I will leave you with this, a wonderful illustration of how Vietnam winds up being at the center of anything John Kerry does, no matter what the issue at hand, and an illustration in particular of the context behind his use of the "Christmas in Cambodia" fable in a 1986 debate on Nicaragua; from a wonderful May 17, 2004 cover story by Jay Nordlinger in National Review on Kerry's Latin America policies dating back to the 1980s, available in full online only to subscribers:

Only months after he was sworn in, Kerry joined [Iowa Senator Tom] Harkin on an infamous trip to Managua, to meet with Comandante Ortega. This was April 1985. The trip, according to an article in Policy Review magazine, was arranged by the Institute for Policy Studies, a hard-Left group. IPS was one of several such groups around Kerry back then. The trip, moreover, occurred a few days before a key vote in Congress on Contra aid the bill proposed to send $14 million in humanitarian assistance to those anti-Communist rebels.

Said Kerry, "Senator Harkin and I are going to Nicaragua as Vietnam-era veterans who are alarmed that the Reagan administration is repeating the mistakes we made in Vietnam. Our foreign policy should represent the democratic values that have made our country great, not subvert those values by funding terrorism to overthrow governments of other countries." Note that, certainly by implication, the senator characterized the Contra resistance as "terrorism." In addition, "President Reagan has probably come closer to trying to interpret Vietnam in a positive way than either Presidents Ford or Carter. But this also lends itself to a revisionism about Vietnam that makes it easier for us to repeat our mistakes unwittingly."

As his plane touched down in Nicaragua, Kerry said, "Look at it. It reminds me so much of Vietnam. The same lushness, the tree lines." (This reporting comes from the Washington Post.) Vietnam was uppermost in his mind: "If you look back at the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, if you look back at the troops that were in Cambodia, the history of the body count and the misinterpretation of Vietnam itself, and look at how we are interpreting the struggle in Central America and examine the CIA involvement, the mining of the harbors, the effort to fund the Contras, there is a direct and unavoidable parallel between these two periods of our history." Said Kerry, "I see an enormous haughtiness in the United States trying to tell them [the Nicaraguans] what to do."

Finally, "These are just poor people, no money, no food, just like Vietnam, and they are just trying to stay alive. They just want peace. They don't want their daughter getting blown away on the way to teach! Or their sons disappearing. It's just terrible. I see the same sense of great victimization. The little kids staring wide-eyed and scared. It really hits home the same way as Vietnam. . . . If we haven't learned something by now about talking rather than fighting . . ."

In the face of criticism of the trip,

Kerry stayed unabashed in his position. He remarked to the Christian Science Monitor, "We negotiated with North Vietnam. Why can we not negotiate with a country smaller than North Carolina and with half the population of Massachusetts? It's beyond me." Kerry apparently never recognized the Nicaragua struggle as geopolitical. Referring to his onetime group, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, he said, "We were criticized when we stood up on Vietnam. . . . But we've been borne out. We were correct. Sometimes you just have to stand and hold your ground." Plus, "my desire to see us negotiate is as patriotic as anyone else's to see us fight."

If you're a subscriber and you missed this, log in to NR Digital and read the whole thing; there's much more on the follies of Kerry's view on the region.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:01 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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