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:
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,
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.