Senator Aiken: Do you believe the North Vietnamese would seriously undertake to impede our complete withdrawal?
Mr. Kerry: No, I do not believe that the North Vietnamese would and it has been clearly indicated at the Paris peace talks they would not.
Senator Aiken: Do you think they might help carry the bags for us? (Laughter)
Mr. Kerry: I would say they would be more prone to do that than the Army of the South Vietnamese. (Laughter) (Applause)
That exchange — joking about pleasing our enemy and betraying our ally — is one of the most galling from testimony in 1971 of the Navy lieutenant named John Kerry, who went up on Capitol Hill and testified before the Foreign Relations Committee against his fellow GIs in respect of Vietnam. We re-read the testimony last night after the news went up on the Drudge Report that Senator Kerry, now chairman of the committee before which he once testified, is under consideration for the post of Defense Secretary in the second Obama administration. It’s hard to imagine that a more calculated insult to American veterans has ever been made on Veterans Day.
Senator Kerry’s perfidy has been well-sifted elsewhere, particularly during his presidential campaign in 2004. That is when the grizzled veterans of the war in the Mekong Delta, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, rose up and exposed his false claims to glory and his libels against American GIs who had served in Vietnam. The campaign of the Swift Boat Veterans, led by John O’Neill and scores of Mr. O’Neill’s former comrades, ended Mr. Kerry’s presidential aspirations. The Swift Boat veterans then went back to their day jobs, or retirements, having accomplished one of the most astonishing and admirable political missions in American history.
The Swift Vets dealt such a political and moral defeat to Senator Kerry that one is almost tempted to let the floating of his name for defense secretary pass without comment, so that the senator can save some face. It happens that in subsequent years Mr. Kerry backed off of some of his most aggressive libels of the leaders and GIs of the Vietnam era. But it also happens that this season also marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of our entry into what became the Vietnam War, and these columns are of the view that one needs to keep marking certain fundamentals about the war that is said to be the first America lost, a loss that supposedly defined a generation.
We bear the doves of the Vietnam era no ill will; there were many patriotic people on both sides of the debate. History will show, though, that America won the war in Indochina on the field of battle. South Vietnam could have become a free and democratic country like South Korea. In respect of Vietnam, though, the communists gained their victory in the political sphere, in the Congress of the United States. This was after Mr. Kerry — and others — turned summer soldiers in exactly the way Thos. Paine warned against and began agitating for America to quit. Nor did America’s retreat have to do with saving Americans from dying for what Mr. Kerry called “a mistake.” When, in 1975, Congress took its fateful vote to cut off aid to Free Vietnam, the number of American combat troops there was zero.
It turned out that what Mr. Kerry had sought was not to protect Americans. He sought a communist Vietnam. He viewed the communists as morally superior to the Vietnamese whom they conquered. That’s why he was joking about it with Senator Aiken. Let it never be forgotten what happened, though, when Congress capitulated. Cambodia fell that same spring to the Khmer Rouge. Free Vietnam fell two weeks later. Millions of freedom-loving Vietnamese were swept into re-education camps or fled for their lives in rickety boats on the high seas. In Cambodia, the communists slaughtered the Cambodians in killings fields. Mr. Kerry did nothing, save to savor his victory and begin his long climb in politics.
Is this the signal President Obama really wants to send just now? He has won, in his campaign for a second term, a famous victory. Yet his director of central intelligence has just resigned in a sex scandal, and now it’s being reported that his top commander in Afghanistan may be entangled. His strategy of drone warfare is under attack. The Russians and Communist Chinese are on the march. Democrats in Congress are itching to cut back his defense budget. The Iranians are building an atomic bomb. The leaders, both those handed up in the Arab Spring and traditional dictators, have recently met with the Iranians — not, one can presume, to make peace with Israel, which is increasingly under direct attack from Iranian proxies. Is this really a time when we want someone of Senator Kerry’s ilk at the helm of the Pentagon? Wouldn’t it be better to turn to a leader who can bring imaginative and bold strategies for winning our wars?