"mistakes"?

Les Schaffer schaffer at SPAMoptonline.net
Fri Apr 27 10:04:35 MDT 2001


[ bounced html format from Henry Liu ]

McCain's argument is facetious.  The Vietnam conflict was not a
declared war.  Furthermore, atrocities against civilians were not only
widespread, rather than occasional personal "mistakes", such
atrocities were the result of policy.  McCian did not have only
military targets in mind with his bombs.  There were not enough
military targets to justify more than a few sorties a month. It was
civilians he was ordered to bomb, with napalm and agent orange .  The
target definition was that in a people's struggle against imperialism,
the people are logically the targets of the military agents of
imperialism.  There is impeccable logic in this, just as the
impeccable logic of Summer's World Bank memo of allocating pollution
to the poorest economies.  It is the logic of the US embargo against
China, Cuba and Iraq. It is the Clauswitzean concept of total war.
Like the hero in the film The Battle of Algier, ordinary civilians
were turned into anti-imperialist sympathizers, which then qualified
them as legitimate targets.  In Vietnam, concepts such as kill ratio
were designed to destroy with terror the will of the population to
resist imperialism, not to defeat an opposing professional army in
honorable combat.  It is a policy of genocide.  It is not even war
crimes, it is crimes against humanity committed by an imperialistic
government.

Henry C.K. Liu

A VETERAN'S VIEW

Bob Kerrey, War Hero
If you've never seen combat, don't be quick to judge.

BY JOHN MCCAIN
Friday, April 27, 2001 12:01 a.m. EDT

For a long time many Americans thought the Vietnam War was a bad war.
The citizen soldiers who defeated the fascists in Europe and the
Pacific were ennobled by their service in a good war. Vietnam veterans
fighting communists were not.

In a good war mistakes are seldom made. No one lies. Breakdowns in
discipline that lead to atrocities never occur. The righteousness of
the cause sanctifies the experience of all who fought in it. In a bad
war everyone lies. Innocents are slaughtered. Villages are destroyed
to save them. Combatants are corrupted. Casualties in a good war are
martyrs. In a bad war they are the wages of sin.

But this notion, as a veteran of any war can attest, is simplistic and
completely wrong.

All wars occasion much heroism and nobility, but they all have their
corruptions, which is what makes war a thing worth avoiding if
possible.  I hated my enemies even before they held me captive because
hate sustained me in my devotion to their complete destruction and
helped me overcome the virtuous human impulse to recoil in disgust
from what had to be done by my hand. I dropped many bombs in Vietnam,
and I wish I could say that they only destroyed military targets. But
surely noncombatants were among the casualties.

The combatant, who may be a righteous, God-fearing, lovely human
being, must become inhumane day after day if he is to do what his
country has asked him to do. The injunction to love all as we would be
loved is the first casualty of war, any war. Wars are that awful, and
anyone who tells you otherwise is a fool or a fraud.

That does not mean that we should forget our humanity. Our experience
does not absolve us of our moral obligations, but they can be very
hard to keep, given the extraordinarily difficult and conflicting
expectations imposed on us: to kill and to be good.

Good men, heroes, make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes have the
most terrible consequences imaginable. We should not be spared
criticism for them, but it is unlikely that the judgments made by
others will be as severe as our own regret.

My friend Bob Kerrey made a mistake in Vietnam. He was sent into a
free-fire zone to kill for his country, and he helped kill the wrong
people. Those who now judge him must follow the dictates of their
conscience. But unless you too have been to war, please be careful not
to form your judgement of him on your understanding of what
constitutes a war hero. They are not the Hollywood copy you might
expect.

Bob received a Bronze Star for his action that night. He would be the
first to agree that his conduct, no matter how unintentional, did not
merit commendation. But his conduct on another night, one month later,
won him the decoration our country bestows on only her greatest
heroes.  And were you to read the citation that accompanied his Medal
of Honor, you would know beyond a doubt he earned it.

When he came home from Vietnam, like many others, Bob Kerrey tried to
bury his dead. He did not want to remember, much less talk about, a
lot of his experiences, especially his mistakes.

But there are ghosts you cannot bury, like our shame over those
occasions when circumstances conspired with our own weakness to make
an awful experience worse. If the fact that he recovered his humanity,
that he felt remorse, that he sacrificed even more for his country,
does not strike some as adequate compensation for his mistake, it is
enough for his salvation, and a harder task than most can
imagine. That's a war hero, folks, a sinner redeemed by his sacrifice
for a cause greater than his self-interest. That's Bob Kerrey, my
friend and hero.

Mr. McCain is a U.S. senator from Arizona.






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