From the Washington Post:
CA MAU, Vietnam — It could have been 1969 again as Secretary of State John F. Kerry stood on the bow of the small boat chugging up the Bay Hap River on Saturday, the wind billowing his sleeves and his eyes darting left and right toward banks shrouded in dark foliage.
As a young Navy lieutenant, Kerry commanded a Swift boat along this stretch of churning brown waters in the middle of a free-fire zone. Here, he earned a Silver Star for his heroics when he leapt ashore after an ambush to pursue a fleeing Viet Cong with a grenade launcher and shot him dead.
Now, some 48 years later and with the rapid approach of sunset on a political career spanning almost four decades, Kerry was about to be yanked back to that time, and come face-to-face with a Viet Cong soldier who had taken part in the ambush.
Aides escorted Vo Ban Tam to greet Kerry on the dock, beside a row of blue tourist boats. Tam at 70 is three years younger than Kerry. He was Viet Cong in the communist stronghold of Ca Mau, one of the enemy lying in the tall grasses waiting to entrap unprotected, thin-skinned river patrol boats like Kerry’s.
Tam apparently had been tracked down by U.S. consulate officials and invited to meet the U.S. secretary of state he once tried to kill.
Speaking through a translator, Tam said that he had known the man whom Kerry had chased and killed in the firefight of Feb. 28, 1969.
His name was Ba Thanh, and he was 24 years old.
“He was a good soldier,” Tam told Kerry, explaining the training and skill required to handle an R-40 grenade launcher…
Kerry’s encounter with Tam was the emotional peak of his two-day stop in Vietnam on Kerry’s final trip as secretary of state. His office in Foggy Bottom is packed and ready to be shipped to Boston.
It is doubtful the longtime senator from Massachusetts will ever run for public office again, but he will continue to work on climate change and environmental issues, and he is particularly concerned about the effect of rising sea levels and hydroelectric dams on the rivers in the lower Mekong Delta. When he wasn’t looking at the riverbank for some familiar marker from long ago, he was engrossed in conversation with a local scientist who said the effect of rising salinity and dams upstream brought once-in-100-year drought last year and threatened livelihoods…
Huh, I just realized that Trump’s draft dodging basically never got brought up by anyone. Times have changed.
Gish gallop and gaslighting, they served and continue to serve our new despot well. Much like the GOP has scheduled all the confirmation hearings at once in an effort to slip them through while we are all distracted, many of the real issues and questions about the shitgibbon were overlooked while they chased shiny objects. SQUIRRELL !! is a very good campaign strategy, who knew?
@Thoroughly Pizzled: A generational shift. When we still had WWII veterans running, like Dole and GHW Bush against Clinton, it was an issue. Gore and Kerry against GW Bush, where all three men “served” but in some measures protected from the worst of the war. Obama was of the age after the draft, so there was no traction for that issue. And this year was draft dodger vs. wife of draft dodger.
@Wapiti: But it was a draft dodger that insulted and denigrated actual veterans and Gold Star families. That should have meant something. That is didn’t speaks volumes.
Yeah, I think sometime during the summer a teevee person doing an interview with him asked a question about the three (?) medical deferments for bone spurs in his heel, and T couldn’t remember which foot it was. The “reporter” did not follow up.
Thanks for the post about John Kerry, a real patriot and an honorable man who has spent his life serving his country. Reading all the thank you and goodbye tweets from the Obama cabinet yesterday made me cry, but they can all leave knowing that they worked with a great man, and we at least appreciate their service.
@SiubhanDuinne: NY Times, from August:
Of course it was a very strong letter – only the bestest, strongestest letters for Donnie.
He’s brain damaged, you know….
@dr. luba: Don’t forget we’re talking about people who “respect the troops” by wearing purple heart bandaids to mock Kerry’s service. They’re hypocritical shit, always have been.
Let’s just get one thing straight—“Vietnam” wasn’t just wrong, it was a horrendous crime in which America murdered millions of Indochinese.
I have anything against individuals who served there, even if they weren’t conscripted, since if you read media from those days, most people knew jack shit about what was going on, and it was very difficult to find out, thus they can’t really be held accountable. (My old man was an exception—he knew what was up when a grad student in his department bragged that her family owned half the Mekong Delta.)
But the war itself was a monstrous crime.
@Wapiti: That’s not really a fair comparison. GW’s avoidance was a world apart from Kerry’s. Not sure about Gore.
And that’s apart from the fact that the more hawkish you are, the higher a standard you should be held to.
The Moar You Know
Gore went. As an enlisted, no less.
Thanks. That must be what I was remembering. Thought I had heard him say it on the T & V machine, but maybe not (or maybe in addition to the NYT interview, also too.)
“A very strong letter on the heels.” Does one laugh and point, or weep and rend one’s garments?
Gin & Tonic
@liberal: Maybe it’s the equanimity that comes from history, or from winning, but the Vietnamese I met in Vietnam (what once would have been North Vietnam) love America and Americans and seem to have moved on from that old misunderstanding.
Adam L Silverman
@Thoroughly Pizzled: It was brought up. It was also ignored because none of the other Republicans running had served other than Lindsey Graham and he was relegated to the kid’s table.
Given the ages involved, unless one of the youngest Vietnam Vets chooses to run in 2018, the issues surrounding the Vietnam War are going to be finally relegated to a non issue in US politics. What we will see is a substitution of Afghanistan and Iraq/Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans and issues replacing them. I’m not sure if this is any better politically, but it will at least be a change.
Kerry spent six years in the Navy on a “slow boat” and could have called it quits. He finished his term in the military, was not going to get drafted and could have gotten on with his life. He had no need to go to Vietnam. He volunteered.
Gore went and was assigned to the media department.
Bush, Jr. protected Texas from the threat of Vietnamese air raids.
Also, Bill Clinton did not dodge the draft. He did not seek a deferment. His number was never called.
@Gin & Tonic: Winning is definitely part of it. There is real pride to be found in beating the most powerful nation on earth and sending them packing. Also, Vietnam’s historical enemy is China, and the U.S. is the obvious counter to China’s interests in the region. Hence the TPP (RIP), which made a point of excluding China.
Adam L Silverman
@liberal: President Bush 43 served in the Air National Guard and there are unresolved questions pertaining to his final year or so of service obligation. Vice President Gore served in country in Army Public Affairs, which if I’m recalling correctly was also GEN Powell’s assignment at that time. Secretary Kerry served as a the commander of a Swift boat that routinely/regularly saw combat up and down the Mekong River.
As an American living in Hanoi, it’s very weird. I’ve had students with family killed during the war, but to anyone under age fifty, they love America.
Important to bear in mind that for them, China is a more existential threat,and a nation worth which they have been to war more recently than us. There is MUCH more animosity here toward China than toward the US,not least because of the Spratly islands.
@Adam L Silverman:
I’ll say “no, not better politically” I serve. I went to Iraq. But I don’t care, politically, if someone went/served or not. I do care if such service affected the candidate in some way that can be explained more than just “I served in the military. Elect me.”
Adam L Silverman
@guachi: I don’t disagree. But this is how things work in US politics. So whether we like it or not, we’re going to get it.
@Gin & Tonic: Russians are “American’s without money”.
@Adam L Silverman: Not a PT boat, a PBR or “Swift Boat”. PT Boats are blue water craft carrying torpedoes. PBR’s had 50’s or M-60’s. The craft in Apocalypse Now is a PBR.
@Tynan: I have a buddy who lives in Hoi An, a genuine RWNJ and how he justifies living in a communist country is beyond me. You don’t know Chuck Searcy do you? He’s lived their for years working on various peace related projects.
Adam L Silverman
@raven: Sorry, you’re correct. I knew that and screwed it up anyway. I’ll go back and revise.
@Adam L Silverman: No biggie but since my history goes back to that place and time and with Kerry I figured I’d holler.
@liberal: Thanks for the history lesson, no one else knew that.
Adam L Silverman
@raven: No worries here. Good catch.