Friday, August 27, 2004

Swiftvets Interlude

Fox Island SunsetIt would be hard to add anything - pro or con - to the firestorm of comments regarding John Kerry's service or the Swift vets attack on his character and post-Vietnam testimony about ubiquitous war crimes in Vietnam. This is presidential campaign season, and tempers and hyperbole are on overdrive. Vietnam, even so many years later, is a festering wound which refuses to heal, and the scab's been picked off again.

One thing that has moved me considerably has been the quiet testimony of so many soldiers from Vietnam, now coming out to tell their stories. So long in hiding, having been scorned by their countrymen on their return after honorable and courageous service, a few now come forward to share ther experience and bravery - not seeking kudos or political gain, but simply that the truth as they have seen and know it be heard. Granted that in the fog of war truth can be an elusive thing to define. But I am glad that these honorable men have their brief moment of acknowledgement, and I salute their service which was performed by the vast majority out of good motives and by the high standards of military service.

I was in college and medical school during Vietnam, in D.C., so I had a lot of personal experience with the massive protests against the war. Myself, I was softly opposed - far more out of fear than principle, with a draft lottery number of 31. Mixed with that was the naive idealism of youth.

It was always clear to me that the radicalism that energized the antiwar movement was wildly out of touch with reality. The Jane Fondas, SDS, Chicago 7, Black Panthers, and their ilk, with their demonization of America and glorification of Ho Chi Min as a populist hero and liberator, always struck me as both foolish and frightening. I conceived of Vietnam as an initially well-intentioned conflict which bogged down in irresolution, handcuffed as we were by the Cold War nuclear threat from the Soviet Union and Red China.

Vietnam was a misguided and frustrating episode in an otherwise noble and morally justified conflict against the tyranny and imperialism of global Communism. The soldiers who fought there, with few exceptions, were men of honor and courage, who were horribly treated for their service by an angry, confused and frankly misguided country. Perhaps we can hope - after the dust of an election year has settles - that they receive the honor due them and the peace they were never allowed to experience.