Advertising
anchor link to jump to start of content

The Seattle Times Company NWclassifieds NWsource seattletimes.com
seattletimes.com Home delivery Contact us Search archives
Your account  Today's news index  Weather  Traffic  Movies  Restaurants  Today's events
  NWCLASSIFIEDS
  NWSOURCE
  SERVICES





Between the Lines

August 27, 2004

The meaning of Vietnam

Neil Sheehan, one of the premier Vietnam War correspondents, who subsequently uncovered the Pentagon Papers for The New York Times and won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, "A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam,'' has some acute reminders of what happened there and some pertinent thoughts about the meaning of Vietnam in the current political debate (free New York Times site registration may be required):

The nation has yet to come to grips with what really happened in Vietnam, and Mr. Kerry's accusers are among those who simply cannot and never will. They are driven by more than a political desire to further the fortunes of George Bush. Their remarks make clear that what they really hold against Mr. Kerry are his antiwar activities after his return and his testimony then that atrocities were being committed in Vietnam. They regard these as undermining the war effort and casting aspersions on their service. "We won the battle,'' one of Mr. Kerry's accusers, former Navy commander Adrian Lonsdale, said. "Kerry went home and lost the war for us.'' The group's second television commercial focuses on this issue, running bits of old news film of Mr. Kerry's testimony in a 1971 Senate hearing, excerpting his remarks to twist their meaning.

The truth is that atrocities were committed in Vietnam. The worst and most horrendous atrocity was officially sanctioned. The American command coldbloodedly set about to deprive the Communists of the recruits and other assistance the peasantry could provide by emptying the countryside. Peasant hamlets in Communist-dominated areas were deliberately and relentlessly bombed and shelled. Free Fire Zones - anything that moved, human or animal, could be killed - were redlined on military maps.

By 1968, civilian deaths, the great majority from air strikes and artillery, were estimated at about 40,000 a year and seriously wounded at 85,000. The wholesale killing cheapened the value of Vietnamese life in American eyes. It created an atmosphere that fostered the massacre at My Lai hamlet on March 16, 1968, when 347 Vietnamese old men, women, boys, girls and babies were butchered. That same morning another 90 unarmed Vietnamese were slaughtered at a nearby hamlet by a second army unit.

In Vietnam, America the exceptional joined the rest of the human race and demonstrated that it could do evil as easily as it could do good. Mr. Kerry undoubtedly said some intemperate things in 1971. That is the way of youth. But he also showed the moral courage to try to persuade his fellow citizens to halt actions that were disgracing their nation.

There is a way to honestly confront the reality of Vietnam and yet still honor the men who fought there. One must learn to distinguish between the war and the warrior. It always galls me when I hear the generation of World War II referred to as the "greatest generation.'' They were a great generation, but so were the men who served in Vietnam. The soldiers and Marines, sailors and airmen who fought there did so with just as much courage as anyone who fought in World War II. The generation of Vietnam had the ill luck to draw a bad war, an unnecessary and unwinnable war, a tragic, terrible mistake. But valor has a worth of its own, and theirs deserves to be honored and remembered.


Posted by tbrown at 12:14 PM




 July 2006
S M T W T F S
            1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31          

 ARCHIVES
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003

 RECENT ENTRIES
The meaning of Vietnam

 LINKS

Blogs to watch

Abu Ardvark
Altercation
Andrew Sullivan
Antiwar.com
Atrios Eschaton
Best of the Web
DailyKOS
Defensetech
Drudge Report
GlobalSecurity.org
Instapundit
Joe Conason (subscription required)
Josh Marshall
Kaus files
No More Mr. Nice Blog
Real Clear Politics
Tapped
The Corner
The Volokh Conspiracy
The Whiskey Bar

Mideast blogs

Salam Pax (Iraq)
G. in Baghdad
L.T. Smash (U.S. military in Iraq)
Lady Sun (Iran)

City blogs

Gawker
L.A. Examiner

Africa blogs

AfricaPundit
Cathy Buckle

Media blogs

Romenesko
Dan Gillmor's eJournal
Media Whores Online

Newspapers

Newspapers online (guide to papers on the web)
International Herald Tribune
The Guardian U.K.
New York Times (free registration required)

Economy blogs

EconoPundit
Brad DeLong

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2


seattletimes.com home
Home delivery | Contact us | Search archive | Site map | Low-graphic
NWclassifieds | NWsource | Advertising info | The Seattle Times Company

Copyright

Back to topBack to top