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Friday, July 30, 2004

Once a "filthy, obscene memory;" Vietnam is now a Kerry bragging point

From the WSWS:
The protest, in which some 1,100 veterans participated, took place the week of April 20 in Washington. Kerry, as a representative of the group, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 22, 1971.

There he reported on the findings of a recent VVAW conference on war atrocities. In one of the most oft-quoted sections of his remarks, Kerry told the Senate committee: "They [Vietnam veterans] told the stories of times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam, in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country."

Kerry continued: "We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. We saw America lose her sense of morality as she accepted very coolly a My Lai and refused to give up the image of American soldiers who hand out chocolate bars and chewing gum. We learned the meaning of free fire zones, shooting anything that moves, and we watched while America placed a cheapness on the lives of Orientals."

In concluding his remarks, Kerry declared: "We wish that a merciful God could wipe away our own memories of that service as easily as this administration has wiped their memories of us. But all that they have done and all that they can do by this denial is to make more clear than ever our own determination to undertake one last mission, to search out and destroy the last vestige of this barbaric war, to pacify our own hearts, to conquer the hate and the fear that have driven this country these last 10 years and more, and so when, in 30 years from now, our brothers go down the street without a leg, without an arm, or a face, and small boys ask why, we will be able to say 'Vietnam' and not mean a desert, not a filthy obscene memory, but mean instead the place where America finally turned and where soldiers like us helped it in the turning."
How depressing. Soldiers like Kerry did help in the turning. And politicians like Kerry have helped in the turning back.

As I've said before, the World Socialist Web Site offers some of the best commentary available. This article was so good that I'm tempted to quote it in its entirety, but I'll just give you the link and a recommendation.

Additional comments:
  • I agree with Greg Palast that Bush is worse by a long shot, although I'm still not convinced on foreign policy, since they both suck so bad.
  • I admire Kerry's courage, if not his judgment, for having volunteered to go to Vietnam.
  • I admire Kerry's courage AND judgment for having spoken out against the war when he came back.
  • What the Cheney happened to him since then? I mean, if you replaced the words "Vietnam" with "Iraq," "My Lai" with "Fallujah" or "Abu Ghraib," and "Orientals" with "Arabs," wouldn't his statements from back then be fully relevant now?
  • If you want a courageous president, vote for Kerry. If you want a smart president, vote for Kerry. If you want a president who won't sell out deeply-held beliefs to serve corporate masters, write-in your grandmother or somebody.