Michael Totten

Vietnam at Half Volume

Mark Steyn paints John Kerry as the poster boy for Vietnam Syndrome.

Thanks to Kerry in his Hanoi Jane period, Vietnam was a disaster for America that gave the establishment a wholly irrational fear of almost every ramshackle Third World basket case on the planet. Look at what everyone from Arthur Schlesinger to Chris Matthews wrote about the ”unconquerable” Afghans only two years ago. That defeatism was the Kerry legacy from the ’70s: a terrified, Kerrified America.

True enough. John Kerry isn’t exactly Mr. Tough or Mr. Backbone.
But Steyn doesn’t seem to notice the good news farther up in his own column.

Look at Kerry’s stump speech: ”We band of brothers,” he says, indicating his fellow veterans. ”We’re a little older, we’re a little grayer, but we still know how to fight for this country.” Thirty years ago, he came back from Vietnam and denounced his ”band of brothers” as a gang of drug-fueled torturers, rapists and murderers.

He then proceeds to zing Kerry for his inconsistency. But let’s give Kerry some credit. Give the Democrats some credit. At least our soldiers aren’t still being libeled as baby killers, at least not by the establishment of the Democratic Party. (The goons in International ANSWER are another matter. They haven’t even caught up with the 60s. They’re still stuck in 1917.)
I believed (mistakenly, as it turns out) that the Vietnam Syndrome was buried in Bosnia. My own lukewarm pacifism did die in Sarajevo, but I was never scarred by Vietnam in the first place. I was a small child when Nixon pulled out, and I have no personal memory of it.
I’m glad to see that with Howard Dean’s primary loss, the worst of the anti-war paranoia will take a back seat in the election campaign. Kerry’s incoherent waffling on foreign policy is a problem for the Democrats, and it will be a problem if he’s elected. But even at his most extreme he doesn’t wistfully (at least not in public) recall his days with Hanoi Jane. He boasts about his service.
It was not so long ago that the Democrats had to play down the front-runner’s combat experience. It was unthinkable for them to tout their guy as a war hero. Even if it’s all image and no substance, it’s progress of a sort.
UPDATE: Turns out Kerry’s 1971 testimony before Congress has been spun out of context. Kerry didn’t quite say what Mark Steyn says he said. The New Republic has the details. (Thanks to Grant McEntire in the comments.)