Kerry's Stepped on a Vietnam Time Bomb

Brad Knickerbocker, staff writer of the Christian Science Monitor (Aug. 26, 2004):

... Many of Kerry's critics today still burn with resentment over his testimony, which they took to have been an indictment of all Americans who fought in Vietnam.

"Kerry's remarks to Fulbright's committee were devastating to everybody who served in Vietnam," says former POW Paul Galanti, who was forced to listen to "Hanoi Hannah" broadcast North Vietnamese propaganda about antiwar vets back home. "They were as demoralizing to me as solitary [confinement]. I consider Kerry's remarks to be deliberate lies and a prime reason the war dragged on."

To others, Kerry's testimony - at the time and in retrospect - revealed the painful truth.

Fred Branfman, who directed Project Air War in the early 1970s, interviewed more than 2,000 Laotians whose villages had been bombed. Noting that the US dropped 6.7 million tons of bombs on Southeast Asia during the war (three times as much as was dropped on all of Europe and the Pacific Theater during World War II), Mr. Branfman today criticizes the "ongoing failure to take responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of Indochinese peasants whom we killed in violation of the laws of war."

Meanwhile, new revelations about US action in Vietnam continue nearly 30 years after the last helicopter lifted off the roof of the American embassy in what was to become Ho Chi Minh City.

Earlier this year, the Toledo Blade newspaper won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting that uncovered atrocities - including the killing of unarmed civilians and children - by the US Army's "Tiger Force" reconnaissance unit over a seven-month period in 1967.

Would such information have influenced personal decisions whether or not to serve during the war? It seems unlikely.

Like Vice-president Dick Cheney, who got five draft deferments during the Vietnam War (Attorney General John Ashcroft got seven), most Americans "had other priorities in the '60s than military service," as Mr. Cheney once put it. They did not enlist, nor did they take to the streets in protest. Still, they could not avoid the mounting US combat death toll or the growing opposition to the war that led to police and protester violence on campuses and at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. By the time a young John Kerry in fatigues testified before the US Senate in 1971, most Americans wanted out of Vietnam.

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