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Clinton lets down Vietnamese once again

News/Current Events Editorial News
Source: Boston Globe
Published: 11/30/00 Author: Jeff Jacoby
Posted on 12/01/2000 21:31:49 PST by bkwells

By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Staff, 11/30/2000

ILL CLINTON had a chance to advance the cause of freedom and democracy in Vietnam 31 years ago. He dodged it. He had another chance last week. He dodged that one, too.

What did Clinton expect to accomplish in Vietnam? His trip served no important national interest. It resolved no thorny issues. It achieved no diplomatic breakthrough. So why did he go?

Perhaps he imagined that the pomp of a presidential visit would wash away the stain of his dishonorable behavior in 1969, when he ducked the draft by falsely promising to join the ROTC. Perhaps it was a way of getting in the last word on the subject, of mocking his detractors: You always sneered because I didn't serve in Vietnam. Well, look who's in Vietnam now.

Over the years, other Vietnam-era draft-evaders had second thoughts and said so, showing an integrity as adults that they had lacked in their youth. P.J. O'Rourke opened his 1992 book, ''Give War a Chance,'' by acknowledging, in a dedication both funny and contrite, that others paid a price when the draft-dodgers stayed home:

''Like many men of my generation, I had an opportunity to give war a chance, and I promptly chickened out. I went to my draft physical in 1970 with a doctor's letter about my history of drug abuse. The letter was 41/2 pages long.... I was shunted into the office of an Army psychiatrist who, at the end of a 45-minute interview with me, was pounding his desk and shouting, `You're [bleeped] up! You don't belong in the Army!' ... Anyway, I didn't have to go. But that, of course, meant someone else had to go in my place. I would like to dedicate this book to him.

''I hope you got back in one piece, fellow.... I hope you're rich and happy now. And in 1971, when somebody punched me in the face for being a long-haired peace creep, I hope that was you.''

Bill Clinton would never express such a sentiment. I'm not even sure he could think it. He stood last week in Tien Chau, a village 17 miles northwest of Hanoi, and watched workers search for signs of Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence Evert, a US pilot shot down in 1967 and never seen again. Did it cross Clinton's mind that Evert, or someone like him, might have been the guy sent in his place? Has it ever crossed his mind that a man may have died in Vietnam - or been wounded or imprisoned there - because he stayed home?

Clinton could have seized the moment in Tien Chau to speak a few words of self-reproach for acting so selfishly in 1969 - and for denying it for so long. That would have been an act of grace and stature. It would have earned him genuine respect from Americans in uniform. It would have stunned his critics.

He didn't do it, of course. Because he still doesn't believe he was wrong. Even after eight years as commander-in-chief, he doesn't think there was anything admirable about the US attempt to block a totalitarian conquest of South Vietnam. Or at least he doesn't think it any more admirable than the communists' attempt to carry out that conquest. Listen to the answer he gave when he was asked whether his views had changed since 1969:

''When we look back on it, the most important thing is that a lot of brave people fought and died in the North Vietnamese Army, the Viet Cong and the South Vietnamese Army and the United States Army.... And the best thing we can do to honor the sacrifice and service of those who believed on both sides that what they were doing was right, is to find a way to build a different future.'' (My italics)

It is frankly staggering that an American president would draw a moral equivalence between the troops who fought to plunge Vietnam into a Leninist nightmare of tyranny, torture, and ''re-education'' camps, and the troops who fought to stop them. It is outrageous that he would pronounce them equally deserving of our honor. No doubt Hanoi's army and the Viet Cong did believe ''that what they were doing was right.'' But what they were doing was strangling freedom and extinguishing all hope of democracy in Vietnam. And killing 58,220 Americans in the process.

Clinton had a chance to redeem himself on Nov. 17, when he spoke at Hanoi National University. There, before the children of Vietnam's communist elite, he could have delivered a ringing defense of political and economic liberty. He didn't. He told them that freedom and competition were good - then promptly backtracked.

''We do not seek to impose these ideals,'' he said. ''Only you can decide how to weave individual liberties and human rights into the ... fabric of Vietnamese national identity.''

There was no need for Clinton to go to Vietnam. But having decided to make the trip, it was his duty to speak up for liberty and democracy. His timidity was a betrayal of Vietnam's people. It wasn't the first time he let them down.

Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is jacoby@globe.com.

This story ran on page A23 of the Boston Globe on 11/30/2000.
Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.


Good stuff!

1 Posted on 12/01/2000 21:31:49 PST by bkwells
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To: bkwells

Wasn't Jacoby the guy that the Globe banned for a while? If so, this beautiful editorial may get him banned for life!

I was surprised and delighted to see that this Boston newspaper actually printed this. Maybe there is some small hope for the People's Republic of Massachusetts yet!

2 Posted on 12/01/2000 21:44:47 PST by basil
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To: bkwells

My thanks and regards to Jeff Jacoby. I am proud to have fought against the Communist totalitarians in Vietnam. If I had it to do over, I'd do it again. To hear Clinton speak of the Communist murders as the moral equivalents of my dead buddies is what I would expect of the scum bag. It makes me feel the same a Jewish person must feel when the Nazis are praised. I'm proud my father helped put an end to Hitler and his murderous gang, but I would like Clinton to acknowledge the fact that his Communist buddies killed scores of millions more people than did the Nazis.

I once personally listened to one of Clinton's top officials describe a Vietnamese Communist butcher who was known to bury children alive as "a distinguished gentlemen." I bluntly told him that I didn't consider people who buried little children alive to be "distinguished gentlemen." Clinton's buddy replied that he was a Christian and had to forgive people. I asked him if he forgave the Nazis. He didn't reply. This man was a retired, ranking Army officer. He apparently just didn't care how many people were killed by the Communists, or if they buried little children alive as they did at Hue in '68. If you are such a man, you can become a top official in the United States of America. And, our missing can rot in hell. Such is America in the 21 Century

3 Posted on 12/01/2000 21:53:56 PST by Judge Parker
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To: bkwells

I am grateful for this article and its posting. It is squarely on the truth which no one to my knowledge has previously said. Thanks to author and poser from a Vietnam veteran (US Army 1966-69, Vietnam service 6/68 -- 6/69).

4 Posted on 12/01/2000 21:56:50 PST by Already in Exile
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To: bkwells

"Has it ever crossed his mind that a man may have died in Vietnam - or been wounded or imprisoned there - because he stayed home?"

He probably laughs about it every day. I can just imagine him thinking to himself, "Stupid sucker...If only you had been as smart as me."

5 Posted on 12/01/2000 22:03:51 PST by Joe 6-pack
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To: bkwells

Here's another sad story: my wife occasionally treats herself by having her nails done at a local shop run by a group of Vietnamese - first generation born in this country, citizens with the right to vote. Today she was talking with one of them about the election, and he told her that none of the group had bothered to vote for president - "we didn't like either one of the candidates", he said. Kinda ironic that 58000 Americans died to help bring their parents freedom to choose their own leaders, among other things, and now some at least of the children in this country don't seem to appreciate what that freedom really means and how valuable it is. Just another sideshow of the war, as they said in "Breaker Mourant".

6 Posted on 12/01/2000 22:23:59 PST by Intolerant in NJ
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To: Intolerant in NJ

Yes, there are many Vietnamese now living here who do not remember history. Also, there are many who do. I remember going to a park for the 4th of July a few years ago. There were picnic tables, etc. and there were many people there. There was one large family group of Vietnamese. They were the ONLY family to have an American flag posted by their table. I noticed this right away.

This July 4th my husband ( a Vietnam vet) and I marched in the DC parade behind the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association banner. The audience response was overwhelming. More overwhelming was seeing some Vietnamese run toward these marching veterans to shake their hands, hug them, and thank them for their service.

This year during the 2nd Anniv. White House Freep, we witnessed a group of Vietnamese marching quietly up and down the sidewalk with South Vietnamese flags. They were protesting the treatment of Buddhist monks in Vietnam today.. These were older Vietnamese and were the ones who escaped. I spoke with one and he told me that most had escaped and they value their freedom here. As an aside, this very gentle man told me that they do not like Clinton and that Hillary has no business running for the New York congress. You can bet that these people voted for Bush.

Tell your wife that the next time she gets her nails done, she should give them a history lesson they'll never forget. They owe their freedom to the sacrifice of almost 60,000 Americans who gave their lives for them. Millions of other Americans bravely served to try to save their country. Bill Clinton and his ilk only served to doom their country to the hell it has had to endure since.

7 Posted on 12/01/2000 23:18:00 PST by Swede Girl
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To: bkwells

Great post thank you. My disgust for Clinton grows deeper by the day.

8 Posted on 12/01/2000 23:19:56 PST by Swede Girl
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To: Intolerant in NJ

Well I'm Vietnamese, and yeah I fell it's a shame that ANY immigrant doesn't vote, but well it's is their freedom on whether or not to vote. Although I would think that all immigrants would be more inclined to vote to show their respect and pride for the nation that has given them a place to call home. Oh and for the record I voted for Bush=) Take Care, Alex N.

9 Posted on 12/01/2000 23:25:52 PST by Tempest
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To: Already in Exile

"Thanks to author and poser from a Vietnam veteran (US Army 1966-69, Vietnam service 6/68 -- 6/69)."

And thank you for your service. As an ROTC cadet in the late 80's I was taught by the best of your generation. There are many parents of Somalia vets whose kids came home alive as a result...

10 Posted on 12/01/2000 23:27:24 PST by Joe 6-pack
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To: Tempest

Nice post. Glad to know you and your family made it to freedom; I had a lot of Vietnamese friends (I was an adviser to the ARVN) who didn't. Welcome to America and thanks again for the post.

11 Posted on 12/02/2000 10:44:16 PST by Already in Exile
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To: Tempest

"...well it's is their freedom on whether or not to vote.."

But that freedom was won by the blood of others.

To not vote is to show disrespect for those who fought and died so they could have the freedom to vote.

To not vote because they do not like either candidate is help allow the worst candidate to be elected.

12 Posted on 12/02/2000 10:59:37 PST by gatex
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To: Intolerant in NJ

The first-generation Vietnamese are not the only young people who don't appreciate the country they live in, and they are not the only young people who do not vote. I hope this election shows all people my age that they should get off their butts and vote. (Unless they are planning to vote Democrat :^)

13 Posted on 12/02/2000 11:02:01 PST by lsucat
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To: gatex

But that freedom was won by the blood of others.

The freedom that all of us enjoy was won by the blood of others. We need to convince everyone that they should take the time to vote, and I hope this election does just that.

14 Posted on 12/02/2000 11:04:17 PST by lsucat
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To: Tempest

You are certainly correct. Freedom does include the right to not vote if one chooses and one can exercise that freedom however he/she wants. Perhaps I'm just too impatient with anyone who didn't vote this time, given how obvious the choice of practically anybody else, especially Bush, over Gore seemed to me. Thanks for your comment - glad you're here.

15 Posted on 12/02/2000 13:18:49 PST by Intolerant in NJ
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