Can J.F. Kerry win the support of Vietnam Vets?
If Democrat presidential hopeful John F. Kerry wants to win the support of veterans and others in his quest to be U.S. Commander-in-Chief, he has at least two obstacles to overcome. First, he must set himself apart from fellow Vietnam Vet, Navy Lt. J. Robert Kerrey, who, under pressure from, Gerhard Klann, one of his former SEAL members, finally admitted that on the night of February 25, 1969, he and his team murdered 21 women, children and elderly men in the village of Thanh Phong. Gerhard Klann described the killings as a premeditated massacre ordered by Navy Lt. Kerrey. Later, in another action, Navy Lt. Kerrey led his SEAL team into an ambush and received the Medal of Honor which, since the Thanh Phong revelations, ought to be revoked.
Secondly, John F. Kerry must overcome the anger of those who remained in Vietnam to fight while Navy Lt. John F. Kerry came home to co-found, with Navy Lt. J. Robert Kerrey, Vietnam Veterans Against the War – an organization designed to undermine support for the war the rest of us were still fighting.
Today, as more and more historians come to grips with what actually happened in Vietnam (considerably different from what the major media reported), we see how, by 1973, we had actually achieved our objective of a free and non-communist South Vietnam. In his seminal work, A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and the Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam, military historian, Dr. Lewis Sorley, makes the case that we and the South Vietnamese had the war won in 1973 – the year during which U.S. combat units were withdrawn from South Vietnam.
What was supposed to cement this outcome were the Paris Peace Accords of January 17, 1973. But in order to get the agreement of the wary South Vietnamese, the United States made a solemn pledge keep the South Vietnamese armed forces supplied with munitions and, if the North Vietnamese invaded again, we pledged to return to South Vietnam in sufficient force to repel the invaders.
The North Vietnamese made no objection to our pledges to the South Vietnamese. Why? Because the North Vietnamese knew the anti-war movement within the United States was sufficiently strong to prevent the United States from making good on its pledges. No doubt John F. Kerry’s anti-war speech before the Senate Armed Services Committee in 1971 and the work of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War were carefully noted by the North Vietnamese.
The Paris Peace Accords called for a total ceasefire, the cessation of Viet Cong activity inside South Vietnam, a POW exchange and the restoration of the status quo ante bellum. But the key accord was a pledge by the North Vietnamese to never, ever invade South Vietnam again. So, by June 30, 1973, less than 250 U.S. military personnel remained in South Vietnam, and they were packing up to come home. The long war was over. The Viet Cong had been decimated during TET 1968. The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) had withdrawn into North Vietnam. As Dr. Sorely documents, we had won. Thus, between January 17, 1973 and January 7, 1975, peace descended upon South Vietnam.
But then, on January 7, 1975, the North Vietnamese, in total violation of the Paris Accords, launched an all-out invasion of South Vietnam. Pressured by the likes of John F. Kerry, J. Robert Kerrey, by Jane Fonda and the Hollywood Left, the Democrat-controlled Congress and the Nixon-pardon-hampered President Gerald Ford, totally failed to honor our solemn pledges to keep the South Vietnamese supplied and to come to their aid in the face of an all-out invasion by the North Vietnamese Army. By April 29th, our Marines were evacuating our diplomats and key South Vietnamese officials from our Embassy in Saigon.
So, can John F. Kerry justify his betrayal of those he left behind in Vietnam? Can he separate himself from his war-criminal buddy, J. Robert Kerrey? This should be interesting to watch.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, served two years with the 1st Air Cavalry Division in Vietnam and Cambodia where he received the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, four Bronze Stars and 20 Air Medals.
©2004. William Hamilton.