Reader Mail

Forever Vietnam

Reactions to Lawrence Henry. Also: Slate's peculiar bigotries. Jimmy Carter's Korea withdrawal. No such thing as an exceptionally good liar. Plus more.

8.23.04

Send to Kindle

COMPASSIONATE LIBERALISM
Re: Hunter Baker's Dowd Syndrome:

After reading your post in The American Spectator online, I went to Slate.com and by the merest coincidence read the following article, "Unfriendly Fire: Liar vs. coward in the Vietnam ad war" by William Saletan and Jacob Weisberg (Posted Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2004, at 3:57 PM PT), found here. About half-way through the article, the following appears:

"From: Jacob Weisberg
To: William Saletan

"Let's get some things straight here. There is a right-wing slime machine. It has kicked into gear with this phony attack on Kerry's military record. Bush benefits from the ad and condones it. And if Kerry doesn't hit back harder, it could cost him the election.

"I think this could be a watershed in the campaign, so let me elaborate on each of these points.

"1. The Conintern propaganda machine is running full tilt. The extra-chromosome conservatives at Regnery bring out a scurrilous book accusing Kerry of being a war criminal and faking his injuries in Vietnam."

It so happens that William Saletan is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War.

Coincidence?

Thanks for the article and your support for life.
-- Michael Stach
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Mr. Baker's article on Maureen Dowd's crass comments regarding the "extra chromosome" people is dead on target. There's something inherently slimy about someone who takes delight in using such a term while attributing its origin to someone else, then hiding behind it's so-called multiple interpretations (overly aggressive, Down Syndrome, etc.). One would think that most people would hesitate to use this comment because it leaves open the chance of misinterpretation by anyone, not just those "overly sensitive" people whose lives are touched by people with Down Syndrome. But discretion doesn't seem to be in Miss Dowd's character.

I am a parent of a Downs child. I find there are all kinds of comments and reactions to her, most of them positive. But what's alarming are the routine invasive tests (amniocentesis) and subsequent abortions that are performed on humans diagnosed with Trisomy 21. It's part of the slippery slope concerning abortion that has evolved over the years: It used to be called "murder," then "infanticide," then "abortion," and now it's a "woman's right to choose," and "duty" (as far as birth defects are concerned).
-- Anthony Bouton

FOREVER VIETNAM
Re: Lawrence Henry's My Vietnam War:

Mr. Lawrence Henry's "My Vietnam War" is one of the most poignant and strangely moving pieces that I have ever read.
-- Gary Knight
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

Mr. Henry's story regarding his Vietnam war era decisions and experiences is certainly not atypical. Though not a tale of heroism and military exploit, it is truthful. Veterans don't berate him for not having served. Nor should they. But one thing those who have served will not tolerate is a person who creates experiences or exaggerates his heroism for self-glorification. That's the issue with Mr. Kerry.

Bush isn't being judged because he's staked no claim to glory. He didn't see combat but he did his bit in an honorable fashion. That's all anyone expects. One may have sat out Vietnam in some god-forsaken place that you can't get to from here. But you passed muster and did your job.

Kerry, on the other hand, has made his Vietnam experience a "centerpiece" of his campaign. The men who served with him will never tolerate and let pass unchallenged his claim to service above and beyond what they witnessed. If Kerry truly were what he insists he is, not only would the charges by the Swiftboat Vets not have been levied, but he would probably be saying, and would have said, far less about his military service than he has.

Most truly heroic individuals need to have their experiences pried out of them. The don't wear their courage on their sleeve. Nor do they repudiate themselves and their fellow servicemen during appearances at Senate hearings. Nor do they claim to have thrown their medals, oops, someone else's medals back over the White House fence.

At least Mr. Henry has left his drug-dazed days behind him. Mr. Kerry seems to have gotten high while celebrating Christmas in Cambodia and has yet to clear his head of its ego-induced swelling.

Thank you, Mr. Henry, for your apology. But, to be honest, I would really like to hear one from Ms. Fonda.
-- Dennis Sevakis
Bloomfield, Michigan
Former Air Force Captain and F-4 driver

Mr. Henry brings up a point that has been obscured by Mr. Kerry's defenders. Jeh Johnson on many shows has defended Kerry's war record. He continually emphasizes that Mr. Kerry had many choices upon graduating from college circa 1968 but rejected more glamorous choices to volunteer and fight for his country. Mr. Kerry may indeed have been motivated to fight for his country as he claims, but his Mr.. Johnson's depiction of many choices is not consistent with my recollection. I also volunteered because volunteering gave one the opportunity to serve as an officer in a branch of the service one preferred. The only other choice was the draft. In other words, my recollection is similar to Mr.. Henry's, not to Mr. Johnson's. These exaggerations or misstatements by Kerry defenders (and by Mr.. Kerry himself when speaking about Cambodia and other specific incidents) are fueling the growing skepticism about the candidate's war record.
-- Michael Minnis

Yes, when Lawrence Henry was young and stupid, he did young and stupid things. Don't be too hard on yourself, I'm sure your dad knows that you have more than made up for your youth. I, for one, enjoy your hard-hitting, insightful writing and hope you continue.

Another Vietnam era person, I remain,
-- Judith Beumler
former wife of a decorated soldier.

Lawrence, I am a Vietnam veteran: in-country 1967-1968. You are a good man. You acknowledge pieces of yourself that you didn't like, and you believed in redemption, and you succeeded in that redemption. You are a good man.
-- Hank Jordan

I think Mr. Henry was so out of it when he was about to be drafted that he can't remember the true situation he faced. If you were to be drafted into the Army, you would only have to serve TWO years active duty, not three. I know how this all worked, since I was drafted in August, 1966. Even though holder of a masters degree in Mathematics, I feared being put in the infantry, so my choice was to "volunteer" for three years in the Army, with the guarantee that I'd be trained as a clerk. He is correct that the Navy and the Air Force took four years of your life for active duty. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure they didn't change the law in 1967, or ever, to make a draftee serve three years in the Army.
-- James Crystal

In 1967, the draft obligated you to 2 years' service, enlistment was for a 3-year tour.
-- Gene Smith
Contoocook, New Hampshire

I agree with Mr. Henry, I did not want to go into the service either. I went on a road trip with another guy to party before my induction. I will never forget calling my dad from Ft. Knox and hearing him ask if I was in Canada.

I spent 15 months in Korea with the Army. Thank God the North Koreans took the Pueblo. Our whole AIT class had orders for Vietnam before the Pueblo and they were changed to Korea because they were concerned about a flare-up there.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the service and made some great friends.

I think it tells a great deal about Kerry's character where he brags about his time in the service, but when the first George Bush and Bob Dole ran for President they never mentioned their time in the armed forces. Both were true heroes, Bush had his plane shot down in the Pacific and Dole was severely injured in Italy.

The media made their service to our country not important to the job they were seeking. Mainly because their opponent Clinton was a draft dodger. Now, however, the media can't highlight enough the fact that Kerry was in Vietnam. The hypocrisy amazes me.
-- Richard Gasser

It's so refreshing when someone of my generation can stand up and be honest. A very moving piece. Thanks.
-- L. Stanley

God bless you, Mr. Henry.
-- Gene Hauber
Meshoppen, Pennsylvania

Lawrence Henry replies: Thank you all. By the way, I appear to have been wrong about the required length of a draftee's hitch. Told you I was blitzed. Thanks for the corrections.

YAPPER TOM
Re: David Hogberg's Harkin Is on the Way:

Mr. Harkin had to fess up some time ago to not having flown combat missions or patrols over Vietnam, as he alleged. In typical I-lied-but-I-won't-admit-it fashion, he said, "Maybe I didn't say it right." Looks like he learned nothing about keeping his yapper closed.

So what? With the partisan media launching its anti-anti-Kerry-veterans campaign, Harkin will be forgotten. Kerry will be sanitized, revised and glorified. He'll be recast as the hapless victim of the Republicans' "smear campaign" and those 254 conniving Vietnam veterans, all who surely must be lying. And more precious national resources and time will be eaten by this reliving-Vietnam monster Kerry created and feeds.

For a bit longer, too, he will successfully dodge the political bullets of actually having to make some definitive statements about national defense, terrorism, economy and his Senate record.

Makes you wish-sort of (I jest)-that Kerry picked Mrs. Clinton as his veep. Given her hubby Bill's conduct during that war, the Dems couldn't have raised Kerry's service in Vietnam. Maybe that's why he didn't pick her, so he could highlight the only apparent thing on which he has to run?
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

CARTER KOREATRICS
Re: Colby Cosh's Fortress Kerry:

Colby Cosh notes John Kerry's concern over President Bush's plan to withdraw troops from South Korea. Kerry might do well to recall that during his presidential election campaign in 1976, Jimmy Carter pledged, if elected, to withdraw all combat troops from South Korea. And within two months of his inauguration, Carter announced that U.S. ground combat forces would be pulled out of South Korea over a four-year period.

The South Korea of the 1970s was not the South Korea of today, just as the world situation then is not that of today. Maj. Gen. John Singlaub, Chief of Staff, US Forces Korea, expert on intelligence and an old Asia hand, objected to Carter's troop reduction plan as dangerous and destabilizing. He was immediately recalled and formally relieved of his Seoul post -- essentially fired à la Douglas MacArthur (Carter's press secretary, Jody Powell, made the comparison) -- in May. In December troop withdrawals began, with a total of some 3,600 troops leaving before Carter reversed himself after a personal plea from South Korean president Chung Hee Park. Not long after the two met, President Park was assassinated and the U.S. declared DEFCON 3. A major crisis involving the dispatch of a powerful U.S. naval task force and other U.S. forces developed as South Korea teetered on the brink of revolution, with martial law declared and massacres taking place in Kwangju.

In short, the Carter administration's handling of South Korea was a colossal disaster. It was during the Reagan Administration that South Korea was able to stabilize itself, even begin developing an auto industry, and become the powerful nation, perfectly able to manage its own affairs, including defend itself, that it is today. President Bush seems to be taking the changes of the last quarter-century into account with his troop re-assignments, while John Kerry seems to believe time has stood still. Perhaps Gen. Wesley Clark imagines himself to be another John Singlaub -- but former OSS agent Singlaub's shoes are much too big for Clark.
-- Chris Mark

MARRIAGE FAULT
Re: James Bowman's Double Nonsense:

James Bowman writes, "what a hollow mockery marriage has become." If marriage has become a mockery, it is not for want of trying on the part of individuals, but due to a determined effort by the socialist left to dismantle every legal support for marriage and throw the welfare of the children on the taxpayer. The chief culprit for the past quarter-century has been "no-fault" divorce, a legal fiction that holds neither party legally culpable if a marriage comes apart, so that each spouse should have an equal shot at custody. This cruel farce not only has tipped custody fights in favor of the spouse most able to pay a lawyer -- that is, the one who spent more time working and less time caring for children; it has reduced adultery and other plain betrayals to less than nothing. Bottom line, there is no betrayal of a marriage that an average person can afford to prosecute in court. Lawyers may then trade off custody to extract support concessions from the wronged party, usually the wife who has made the primary career sacrifices to raise the children. Promises at the altar have no affordable legal protection for any but the independently wealthy. When our legal system, aided by a radical judiciary, recognizes no economic benefit to keeping marriage fair for the average child-rearer, it is the radical judiciary that has created the mockery, and the irresponsible adulterer who takes advantage of it, at the expense of his or her children.

Signed,
-- Albion Wilde
Owings Mills, Maryland

PANTS ON FIRE
Re: Thomas Lipscomb's Swimming From Cambodia:

While I enjoyed Thomas Lipscomb's article very much, I cringed to see him repeat the hoary canard that our beloved former president was a "good liar". He never fooled me. I could always tell that he was lying. The problem was not that he was too good to be detected (the real definition of a good liar) but that enough people were willing to defend his lies because he was "their" boy. Yes, he was sly enough to get away with it for years, but his great gift was inspiring loyalty in people who threw themselves on the grenade to protect him. I've subscribed since the mid 70's and am delighted to also be able to read you online.
Ann Blumenthal

WAR CRIMINALITY
Re: Patrick Hynes' Book-of-the-Month:

I enjoyed Mr. Hynes' review of John O'Neill's recent book very much.

Not long ago I read a quote from former presidential candidate and Senator Bob Dole on the Kerry Purple Heart issue. Dole quipped, "There are Purple Hearts and then there are Purple Hearts," meaning of course that some have sacrificed more than others though all receive the same recognition. While I am not particularly interested in the Kerry Medal issue I see Mr. Dole's point: Many things are matters of degrees.

And so too I think it can be said of war crimes that there are war crimes and then there are War Crimes. The residual resentment felt by Vietnam veterans like John O'Neill and his Swift Boat Veterans for Truth vis a vis John Kerry and his War Crimes accusations exists because of Kerry's inaccurate use of language when discussing this sensitive subject.

Speaking of convicted Vietnam-era war criminal William Calley, it is said, "But if Calley is to pay the price, so too should his superior officers and, more to the point, the politicians who promoted the war and its ugly and immoral mode of conduct." I disagree with this assessment.

Everyone would now agree that Calley and whoever else directly participated in the My Lai travesty committed War Crimes. Kerry suggests that soldiers, like himself, that operated in so-called "free fire zones" engaged in War Crimes because the Geneva Convention tells us that such behavior constitutes a War Crime. No matter that the zones were established to defend against a specific and deadly threat, itself perpetrated outside the Geneva Convention. Many have claimed for thirty years now that the war itself was a Crime and so anyone involved with it -- be he the president, the secretary of defense, a senator who voted for the war or the man that answered the call up and followed orders -- is a War Criminal.

The difference here is one of degrees. These are three very different scenarios that sadly and to this day divide and demoralize leftists the world over. (I refer you to Greg Palast's first column post the Democratic convention for evidence of this.) They have never been differentiated in the manner in which I've just differentiated them, certainly not by John Kerry, neither now nor in 1970. I do not think it appropriate to equally stigmatize as War Criminal the My Lai butchers, the sailor fighting in a free fire zone, his commander and the so-called evil architects of war at the Pentagon. And yet this is what was done, by the left, at the time of the war, by John Kerry on the 1971 Dick Cavett program where he debated John O'Neill and it is still done.

Some breached the laws of nature. Some fought a war. Some made decisions based on what they thought was best for their country. These things could not be more obviously different though the left, including John Kerry, has equally branded all three groups as War Criminals based on an anti-war thesis that is Utopian and rarely brought to bear with universal equality. There is no justice here.

I only wish John Kerry would stop grandstanding on the issue and speak to these damned distinctions. At the heart of it I'm sure that's all Mr. O'Neill and so many others who remain resentful wish he'd done 35 years ago.

As far as Vietnam hero John Vann's assessment of the "bright shining lie" of so-called American exceptionalism, it is often said by the American left, "I hold my country to a higher standard." I believe that our standard is quite high enough and in fact it is other nations and people that need to be held to a higher standard when assessing actions both past and present.
-- Gregory Bullock
New York, New York

SPEECH OFFERING
I am sure you will be pleased, as I was, to find John Kerry's 1971 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee filed on the PBS website under "Great American Speeches." No taxpayer supported media bias there.
-- M. Miller

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article