William F. Buckley
The voters in Massachusetts honor, and should, the heroism of John Kerry in Vietnam. The voters four years ago honored, correctly, the heroism of John McCain in Vietnam, though they went on to nominate another candidate. What some voters will want to dwell upon is not Kerry the acknowledged hero of Vietnam, but Kerry the analyst of the Vietnam chapter in U.S. history.

When he returned from Vietnam and formed his committee to oppose the war, he went further than to renounce a military and geostrategic operation. In his famous testimony to a congressional committee, he used the kind of language about the architects of that war that he uses now about President Bush. He told Congress, in 1971, that he felt the call to one more mission, which was to "destroy the last vestige of this barbaric war, to pacify our hearts, to conquer the hate and fear that have driven this country these last 10 years and more, so that when, 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!' -- the place where America finally turned and where soldiers like us helped it in the turning."

The voters are entitled to ask, "In what way did America 'turn'?" And to ask further, "If the U.S. role in Vietnam was barbaric, our motivations hate and fear, why, 31 years later, did John Kerry vote for war in Iraq?" There are American soldiers there who have lost a leg, an arm, a face. Howard Dean is absolutely plainspoken on the question of U.S. guilt. He declares that we had no justifiable reason to go to war in Iraq, and yet Kerry voted to authorize President Bush to go to war. What will he say to veterans of the Iraq war? What he said to veterans of the Vietnam war was, "We cannot consider ourselves America's 'best men' when we are ashamed of and hated for what we were called on to do in Southeast Asia."

President Bush, in his State of the Union address, did not say that our concern for freedom was the single reason we went to Iraq, but he did say that the deposition of Saddam Hussein was a huge humanitarian blessing. Speaking of Vietnam, Lieutenant Kerry testified, "To attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom is ... the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart."


William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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