Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 10, 2004
POLITICS: What To Apologize For
Rich Lowry notes this, from a Washington Post story:
Aides say Kerry may soon apologize for some of his most heated comments during the Vietnam War protests of the early 1970s, a move that would rekindle the debate for a few more days.
The time to do that would be today, before the rally planned for Sunday in Washington, where thousands of Vietnam vets are planning to denounce Kerry. A little more from memory lane with Kerry's 1971 testimony will explain why:
Did Kerry imply that returning Vietnam vets would be dangerous and unstable in a way that veterans of prior wars had not been?
"[W]here America finally turned" - these are not the words of a man who thinks a great country made a terrible mistake. These are the words of a man who thinks Vietnam was the logical end of a nation that had long been headed in the wrong direction.
Did Kerry foresee the catastrophic consequences of American withdrawal?
Kerry also told some stories - maye true, I don't know - about his experiences in trench warfare in the Navy:
Then there's this question from Senator Pell:
Wouldn't you agree with me though that what he did in herding old men, women and children into a trench and then shooting them was a little bit beyond the perimeter of even what has been going on in this war and that that action should be discouraged. There are other actions not that extreme that have gone on and have been permitted. If we had not taken action or cognizance of it, it would have been even worse. It would have indicated we encouraged this kind of action.
Would Kerry admit that what Calley did at My Lai was not the usual way American troops behaved in Vietnam?
I think it lies with the men who designed free fire zones. I think it lies with the men who encourage body counts. I think it lies in large part with this country, which allows a young child before he reaches the age of 14 to see 12,500 deaths on television, which glorifies the John Wayne syndrome, which puts out fighting man comic books on the stands, which allows us in training to do calisthenics to four counts, on the fourth count of which we stand up and shout "kill" in unison, which has posters in barracks in this country with a crucified Vietnamese, blood on him, and underneath it says "kill the gook," and I think that clearly the responsibility for all of this is what has produced this horrible aberration.
Now, I think if you are going to try Lieutenant Calley then you must at the same time, if this country is going to demand respect for the law, you must at the same time try all those other people who have responsibility, and any aversion that we may have to the verdict as veterans is not to say that Calley should be freed, not to say that he is innocent, but to say that you can't just take him alone, and that would be my response to that.
Did Kerry at least recognize the threat of world Communism, which would still claim many more victims before it was defeated 27 years later?
I say that because so long as we have the kind of strike force we have . . . I think we have a strike force of such capability and I think we have a strike force simply in our Polaris submarines, in the 62 or some Polaris submarines, which are constantly roaming around under the sea. . . .Why do we have to, therefore, consider and keep considering threats?
At any time that an actual threat is posed to this country or to the security and freedom I will be one of the first people to pick up a gun and defend it, but right now we are reacting with paranoia to this question of peace and the people taking over the world. . . .
Therefore, I think it is ridiculous to assume we have to play this power game based on total warfare. I think there will be guerilla wars and I think we must have a capability to fight those. And we may have to fight them somewhere based on legitimate threats and that is what I would say to this question of world peace. I think it is bogus, totally artificial. There is no threat. The Communists are not about to take over our McDonald hamburger stands.
Senator, I will say this. I think that politically, historically, the one thing that people try to do, that society is structured on as a whole, is an attempt to satisfy their felt needs, and you can satisfy those needs with almost any kind of political structure, giving it one name or the other. In this name it is democratic; in other it is communism; in others it is benevolent dictatorship. As long as those needs are satisfied, that structure will exist.
But when you start to neglect those needs, people will start to demand a new structure, and that, to me, is the only threat that this country faces now, because we are not responding to the needs and we are not responding to them because we work on these old cold-war precepts and because we have not woken up to realizing what is happening in the United States of America.
The lack of willingness to admit the difference between democracy and communism is particularly striking. Another question from Pell, who was still trying to defend democracy:
They have all become dictatorships when they have achieved the size and complexity of this country. Only smaller countries really have made a democratic system work at all.
So I only wish to throw it out hopefully that, in spite of the tragic experiences of you and so many other people and the deaths of so many people, this system is not beyond recall and with the assistance of people like yourself and the younger generation we can get back on the track, and can make this system operate effectively. . .
Have you yourself arrived at the point where you believe that basic structural changes must be brought about in our system or do you believe it can be made to work?
Kerry's response does finally give some qualified support to democracy, but makes clear what he was selling, anyway:
But I will say that I think we are going to keep trying. I also agree with you, Senator. I don't see another system other than democracy, but democracy has to remain reponsive. When it does not, you create the possibilities for all kinds of other systems to supplant it, and that very possibility, I think, is beginning to exist in this country.
But this question from Senator Symington really gets at another element of Kerry's testimony that enraged Veitnam vets:
Kerry's answer first tried to use a severely inflated bogus statistic, but then fell back on a characterization that nonetheless painted with the broadest of brushes:
The problem exists for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the emptiness. It is the only way to get through it. A lot of guys, 60, 80 percent stay stoned 24 hours a day just to get through the Vietnam-
Senator Symington: You say 60 to 80 percent.
Mr. Kerry: Sixty to 80 percent is the figure used that try something, let's say, at one point. Of that, I couldn't give you a figure of habitual smokers, let's say, of pot, and I certainly couldn't begin to say how many are hard drug addicts, but I do know that the problem for the returning veteran is acute because we have, let's say, a veteran picks up at $12 habit in Saigon. He comes back to this country and the moment he steps off an airplane that same habit costs him some $90 to support. With the state of the economy, he can't get a job. He doesn't earn money. He turns criminal or just finds his normal sources and in a sense drops out. . . .
It is very, very widespread. It is a very serious problem. . . .