Friday, August 27, 2004

Why are we in Vietnam?

The Vietnam war was the Civil War of the American century, and its fault lines are still painfully evident thirty years out. What else explains the way a draft-dodging president (who happens to belong to the party that never quit believing in that war) can do so much damage to a man who served with honor (but came back and threw in with the party of protest)?

From, my son ordered the Kerry Kit DVD. The speech that 27-year-old John Kerry made in 1971 to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was powerful beyond his years. Sen. Fulbright and others were "overawed." This is where Kerry hoped we would be by now:

And so when thirty years from now our brothers go down the steret withouit a leg, without an arm, or 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 a place where American finally turned, and where soldiers like us helped them in the turning.

But that is not what happened. There was no "turning" of this sort. Bob Herbert names our reigning draft-dodging hawks one by one: Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, Wolfowitz. Just as in the first Civil War, the sons of the elite sent surrogates so that their power could remain secure. The beat goes on.

UPDATE 8/29: Todd Purdum makes the same point, much better. See also these excerpts from Kerry's debate with John O'Neill on a 1971 "Dick Cavett Show."

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