Thursday, August 19, 2004

A Few Comments About Viet Nam,
And A Cautionary Note

There has been a lot written about Kerry's Vietnam experience, the credibility his service record, and the credibility of his critics. In particular, one group of Swiftboat veterans has been rather outspoken. The details probably are familiar to anyone interested enough to read this far (the third sentence) in this post.

I have only a few things to add. First, not everyone is a great observer when under fire. Therefore, I would expect there to be substantial differences in eyewitness acounts of any military action. Second, not all of what the US military did in southeast asia was in Viet Nam. Much of what happened in other countries was not strictly legal. Regarding the controversy about whether Kerry was actually in Cambodia: I don't think we could look at Kerry's passport to see if he had a visa to enter Cambodia legally. Third, when illegal activities were involved, there is a high probablity of some kind of coverup.

Although I cannot prove it, I have been told by reliable sources that the military sometimes would "debrief" soldiers using methods that would obscure and confuse their memories of what actually happened. I suspect that it happened, more than once, that official records were either altered, or deliberately sanitized, if not overtly falsified.

Therefore, I do not think it would help much if Kerry were to authorize release of his records. Probably, it would only generate more controversy. It also would have the potential to reopen old wounds, psychologically speaking, for many vets who were traumatized in the war.

There has been a lot of talk about how damaging it was for our vets to return home from the war, and receive so much criticism and invalidation from some members of the general public. What is less publicized, but perhaps more important, is the fact that many vets were traumatized by our own governement's refusal to own up to what they had done.

Probably Mr. Kerry's records will come out, sooner or later, one way or another. When that happens, it is quite likely that it will open up vitriolic debate about what actually happened over there. There will be official denials. Vets who were involved in operations that are/were disavowed will hear about it. If that comes to pass, I can pretty much guarantee that some vets will suffer reactivation, or exacerbation, of their posttraumatic stress disorder.