Nation Topics - War and Peace
Arms and Spending Proliferation Biological and Chemical Weapons Blackwater Civilian Casualties Covert Ops Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing Nuclear Arms and Proliferation Terrorism Targeting the US US Intelligence US Military US Wars and Military Action US Weapons Sales Abroad War on Terrorism War Profiteering
News and Features
Generals and admirals often tell us that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, but they sure don't appreciate being on its business end.
Michael Kimmel served as the Justice Department's expert witness on gender issues in the VMI and Citadel litigation.
So now comes Bob Kerrey to remind us that even fair-haired boys may
commit the most unspeakable of war crimes. Or, as he puts it by way of
explaining the killing of at least thirteen unarmed Vietnamese women, older men
and children by a squad under his command: "Human savagery is a very
Indeed it is, and by the accounting of one veteran of his Navy SEAL
unit, disputed by others, the savagery may have extended to the rounding
up and cold-blooded execution of noncombatants. That's the memory also of
Vietnamese witnesses. Yet even the more benign version of former Sen.
Kerrey--that the carnage was the result of honest confusion--while it may
lessen his personal responsibility, doesn't erase the specter of our
nation's leaders officially condoning wanton murder. It's they who came
to define the countryside of Vietnam as a killing field in which Kerrey's
team did what it thought it was ordered to do.
Kerrey, then 25, and other young warriors were deliberately lied to by
leaders who knew better. The terror of that night is the work of the four
Presidents who insisted the United States had an obligation in Vietnam to fill the blood-stained shoes of a defeated French colonialism.
None of the four who ordered this mayhem unleashed upon a distant land
ever established that the war served a serious national security purpose.
Dwight D. Eisenhower created a puppet government in South Vietnam in
1954, flying in Ngo Dinh Diem--an autocratic Vietnamese exile safely
cloistered in a New Jersey Catholic seminary--to rule an overwhelmingly
Buddhist country. Diem followed US orders in preventing the election
called for in the Geneva Accords that would have unified Vietnam, an
election Eisenhower predicted our designated enemy, Ho Chi Minh, would
have won overwhelmingly. But while Eisenhower left the CIA to create an
artificial nation out of South Vietnam, this former World War II general
drew the line at committing US troops.
John F. Kennedy ignored that caution, sending to Vietnam a small
contingent disguised as flood control advisors. But when his ambassador
approved the assassination of Diem in 1963 and installed an even more
compliant puppet, Kennedy indelibly committed this country to the path of
That was the path pursued vociferously by Lyndon B. Johnson, who in
taped conversations with advisers stated he could find no legitimate
purpose for being in Vietnam, other than to ward off right-wing hawkish
attacks in the upcoming 1964 election. As Johnson told his national
security advisor, McGeorge Bundy, "I don't think it's worth fighting
for." Yet he was convinced he would lose to Barry Goldwater if he
appeared soft on communism.
Goldwater was right when he later charged that LBJ lied to Congress
about an attack on US ships in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964, to
secure what Johnson interpreted as a declaration of war. In turn, he
dispatched half a million US troops, including young Kerrey, and
unleashed history's most intense air war, with more explosives dropped on
the thin strip of Vietnam than had been used in all of World War II,
leaving 3 million Vietnamese and 58,000 American dead.
Richard Nixon, who got elected pledging to quickly end this war he
knew to be without legitimate purpose, instead escalated it to even more
nightmarish proportions, including the destruction of once-peaceful and
neutral Cambodia, with another million dead.
Those Presidents bear responsibility for deceiving good men like Bob
Kerrey into thinking they were serving their nation, when what the war
was always about was the poison of political ambition.
That is the admission of Nuremberg-level criminality lurking in the
1997 mea culpa of Robert McNamara, Johnson's Defense secretary, who
defined much of the South Vietnamese countryside as the legitimate target
of indiscriminate bombing.
The village Kerrey entered that fateful night fell into McNamara's
territory of the doomed; does it matter whether those illiterate peasants
ended up the hapless victims of McNamara's napalm or a Navy SEAL's
razor-sharp knife? The difference is that Kerrey was forced to witness
the pain while McNamara, the Ford Co. auto
executive-turned-deskside-warrior, was not. Yet McNamara already knew, as
he would later write, that "we were wrong, terribly wrong" and cited five
honorable opportunities that the US passed up to end the war by 1967,
two years before Kerrey visited upon that village such horror.
The true war criminal, yet to be brought to account by a nation that
presumes it can judge others throughout the world, was that steely
corporate bean-counter who took over the Pentagon and defined victory in
Vietnam by the number of Vietnamese dead, even if they were the children
and mothers slaughtered by Kerrey and his boys.
Holly Burkhalter has more than twenty years' experience in the human rights field.
With the twenty-fifth anniversary of the American withdrawal from Vietnam hard upon us, readers and viewers may well be treated to a multitude of reprises of the arguments surrounding the war and
Since you presumably know the basics about the Holocaust--if you don't, I would suggest that a movie review is no place to learn them--I will jump to the main question about The Specialist
The headline in the Sunday Times of London was spectacular: Lennon Funded Terrorists and Trotskyists. It was also erroneous.
Research assistance provided by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute.
Research assistance was provided by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute.