Bob Kerreys Vietnam Deserves Better
In war, bad things happen. When genuine atrocities occur such as at My Lai, our legal system has the moral obligation to investigate and punish those responsible. My Lai was a terrible incident in the Vietnam War. It was not the norm and was recognized overwhelmingly by every soldier as unacceptable behavior. No evidence has surfaced to substantiate the charge that My Lai was typical. Nuremberg prosecutor Telford Taylor, who was a strong opponent of the Vietnam War, stated that he was unaware of any evidence of other incidents of comparable magnitude.
Bob Kerrey deserves our respect for serving this nation and putting his life at risk to ensure the freedom of an oppressed people. He should not be judged on such flimsy and tainted accusations. Many facts of combat were not addressed in the CBS story and deserve a view from an angle many have never witnessed or could possibly understand without experiencing it firsthand.
When you received hostile fire, you didnt need permission to return fire and defend your life. It was automatic. A split second delay could cost you and your comrades their lives. The reported condition that night at Thanh Phong was pitch black in the middle of the night when the village was supposed to be asleep. Remember, the night belonged to the enemy as they moved and did their business of war and terrorism at that time. Village farmers would be asleep.
If civilians were killed, it was not Kerreys men who were responsible for the accidental deaths. It was the Viet Cong who opened fire while surrounded by civilians and ultimately caused the deaths of the women and children. Kerreys men could only see tracers coming at them in the dark. Their survival at that instant required eliminating the source of danger immediately. For all we know, the Viet Cong killed the civilians. The facts are undeniable that they would kill their own people for their cause or for propaganda.
The sole surviving eyewitness must have been very good to describe in detail what occurred in pitch darkness. Then to witness the events from the location of the first killing to the second location, which was some distance away down the road. It defies logic how she got to the second location undetected when she claims the US soldiers were killing everyone in sight. She also admitted to being a Viet Cong. We generally dont give much credibility to the testimony of the criminal and the associates of the other thugs at a trial. Remember, they are on the same team.
This is not the first time Dan Rather has sensationalized a story. CBS with Dan Rather produced the1988 documentary, "The Wall Within" which portrayed Vietnam veterans as seriously ill misfits, war criminals and losers. Author and military historian B.G. Burkett of Dallas researched the military service records of the ex-soldiers who starred in this film. He discovered they were untruthful and most had not even served in combat, When confronted with the evidence, CBS refused to retract the story.
The motive of Kerreys team member who made the claim is unknown as he got his fifteen minutes of fame on national television. But I can say with certainty, that Burkett is already busy checking out Klanns military records for the truth. On the other hand I have a good idea what Dan Rathers hidden agenda is.
During the Korean War, when men could be drafted while in college, Dan Rather joined the Army reserve while attending Sam Houston University in Texas. This removed the possibility of his being drafted and sent into combat. Soon after the war ended Rather quit the reserves to enlist in the Marine Corps but never finished Marine recruit training. He had enlisted on January 22, 1954 and was cut loose four months later on May 11th for being unfit. That classification was used loosely by the military to include not being of sound mind, physically incapable or at that time in history a homosexual. I am beginning to see the motivation in the relentless attacks on the military by Dan Rather and his vengeful attempts to vilify the soldier he couldnt be.
While certain factions have desperately struggled over the past three decades to uncover very few instances of atrocities with US involvement, very little attention was paid to the wide spread atrocities committed by the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong.
In 1975 North Vietnam violated the 1973 Paris Peace agreement and overpowered the south two years after the last US combat troops departed. Horrendous atrocities took place after the fall of Saigon under the communist regime. Ex-military and citizens who associated with the allies were sent to re-education camps where more than 50,000 perished while imprisoned, and others remained imprisoned for almost two decades. Two million Vietnamese fled their country on foot and boat preferring to risk death at sea rather than subject their families to the unmerciful treatment of North Vietnamese occupational forces and the atrocities they were committing against their own countrymen.
Another holocaust took place in Cambodia just as grizzly as that of World War II. Over two million slaughtered in the famous "killing fields" during the mid to late 70s.
During the war and the famous 1968 Tet Offensive, casualties among the people whom the NVA/VC claimed to be liberating exceeded 7,000, with an additional 5,000 tortured and murdered by the NVA/VC in the city of Hue and other parts of the country. After the city was cleared of enemy troops, allied forces discovered mass graves containing the mutilated bodies (hands still tied) of local Vietnamese teachers, doctors, community leaders and probably (journalists and commentators they did not agree with.)
Let us not forget the murder of American civilians (including missionaries, doctors, aid workers and journalists) captured and murdered by the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. U.S. POWs that did not perish at the hands of the communists, wished they had during the systematic torture sessions which are classified as war crimes under the Geneva Convention. Many of those guilty of such crimes are in leadership positions in todays Vietnam.
I dont think Bob Kerrey has as many dead faces to look into. The real parade of thousands and thousands of victims of communist atrocities are on parade nightly for those who openly or by their indifference supported the ruthless murderers of the North.
As one who served, I feel comfortable with the side I was on and sleep well at night knowing I tried to make a difference. I like to think of Vietnam as just one of the many worldwide struggles in our battle in the Cold War in which we finally broke the back and the bank account of the communist superpowers. It was a necessary struggle, which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union, the worlds greatest threat to freedom.
Those who pile isolated aberrations of embellished and inaccurate accusations onto the shoulders of all American soldiers that served in Vietnam are both despicable and disrespectful. Americans who faithfully served our nation deserve better treatment from the media.
11th Armored Cavalry Regiment