Tag Archives: Vietnam War

Many thanks for the remembrance

A national day of remembrance came and went and it got by me until it was all gone.

Still, I find it necessary to offer a word of thanks for it.

Yep, it was a long time coming, but I’m glad it’s here.

I’m talking about the National Vietnam War Veterans Day, which is celebrated on March 29 annually. It’s not a longstanding tradition. It was enacted initially in 2017 after a group of Vietnam War vets presented Donald Trump, the president-elect, with a request to set aside the day to remember those of us who answered the call to duty during a terribly conflicted time in our national history.

Our combat exposure during the Vietnam War ended in January 1973. We turned the fight over to the South Vietnamese. However, on April 30, 1975, North Vietnamese tanks rolled into Saigon, crashed through the gates of the presidential palace and accepted the surrender of the South Vietnamese government. They renamed the city after Ho Chi Minh.

However, the American involvement was hardly a source of pride for those back in the United States of America. Oh, no. Those of us who went to war weren’t treated the way we treat today’s veterans. We got blamed (and I use the term “we” in a sort of inclusive way, as I did not suffer this particular indignity) for following lawful orders. Americans blamed the warriors for the policies they were ordered to follow by their military high command, who received them from presidential administrations dating back to the early 1960s.

I landed in Bien Hoa, South Vietnam 50 years ago this past month. I spent a bit of time in-country, assigned initially as a mechanic with an OV-1 Mohawk surveillance aircraft company at Marble Mountain, Da Nang; I then was sent on “temporary duty” to the I Corps Tactical Ops Center in the city to scramble aircraft missions and to manage a helipad.

I didn’t fire my weapon in anger at the enemy, although I — like all of us — had to scurry into bunkers when the mortar shells went “boom” outside.

I was well aware of the hostility being heaped on my brethren when they got home. That went on for some time.

The Persian Gulf War in 1990-91 changed all of that. We actually won that brief battle in Kuwait. The nation was relieved and it showered the returning warriors with the affection and respect they deserved. Vietnam veterans generally didn’t receive it when they returned home.

But that was then. The United States of America has grown up since that time. We’ve learned, I hope, to deal better with adversity on the battlefield.

National Vietnam War Veterans Day appears to be an attempt to reconcile some past mistreatment of individuals who did what they were ordered to do and who did not deserve the scorn they received when they came home.

Hey, I harbor no hard feelings. I am just glad to receive a bit of recognition — along with many others who contributed far more to that effort than I ever did.

To the rest of my Vietnam War colleagues, I simply want to offer them a greeting a lot of us never got in the moment.

Welcome home.

Voting ‘no’ on reducing voting age

I am going to be called a stick-in-the-mud, a fuddy-duddy, a grouchy old man.

Too bad. I do not think we need to reduce the voting age in this country from 18 to 16. The idea is drawing support from political progressives. Even the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi — who’s older than I am — has climbed aboard the Let ‘Em Vote at 16 bandwagon.

I won’t argue the point about whether those in their mid-teens have brains that are developed fully enough for them to make rational, reasonable and well-considered decisions on who to elect to public office.

I do know, though, that young voters today — those in the 18- to 21-year-old range — vote in far fewer numbers than those of us who are a good bit older. Is there an argument to be made that giving those who are 16 years of age is going to boost that voter turnout rate? If so, it doesn’t make sense.

I get the argument that those who are affected by gun violence ought to have their voices heard at the ballot box. The argument goes that those younger students are the victims. Therefore, they have earned the right to cast votes for those who are responsible for making policies relating to gun ownership.

Look, I heard the argument back when I was coming of age that if we were old enough to go to war we were old enough to vote on the politicians who would send us to war. I went to war in 1969 before I was old enough to vote. I served some time in Vietnam, came home and then became politically active upon my separation from the U.S. Army.

Then we ratified the 26th Amendment to the Constitution to reduce the voting age to 18. The 1972 election saw the voter turnout plummet from what it was in the 1968 election.

It’s enough that we have granted 18-year-old the right to vote. There’s no need to go lower.

Because I’m a fair-minded guy, I want to share with you an essay published in the New York Times that makes the case in favor of reducing the voting age. You can read it here.

My mind is made up.

Support Mueller’s work, however . . . let’s see more of it

I feel the need to reiterate with emphasis: I accept special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings regarding the president of the United States, that he didn’t “collude” with Russians who hacked our electoral system in 2016.

I trust Mueller as a man of high integrity.

However, all the work and the public expense that went into Mueller’s findings compel the attorney general to release the bulk of that effort to the public.

AG William Barr’s four-page summary of what Mueller has concluded reportedly has created an ebullient mood in the White House. At one level, I, too, am glad to know that Donald Trump didn’t commit any crimes related to collusion with Russian government goons.

Mueller, though, has concluded that the president is not “exonerated” from questions about obstruction of justice. So, let’s see the whole thing, shall we?

I have no intention of impugning Mueller’s integrity. I have sought to defend this good man, former FBI director, a combat veteran of the Vietnam War against attacks by those on the right — starting with the president of the United States. I do not believe there is anything in the details of what he uncovered that will change my view of Mueller and the effort he put forth in making his determination.

Americans just have the right to see his findings in as much detail as possible for themselves.

GOP remains silent as Trump trashes a party statesman

Donald Trump has taken the Republican Party hostage, tossed its leaders into a dungeon and is disparaging one of its longstanding, long-serving and long-admired political figures.

The president keeps hammering away at the memory of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, the former Vietnam War prisoner and two-time candidate for president of the United States.

He said most recently that he never received a “thank you” from the senator’s family for granting him the funeral he deserved. Yeah, sure thing, Mr. POTUS. Except that you had nothing to do with the funeral McCain received. Yep, you lied about that one, too!

It just baffles me that the late senator’s friends in the Senate and elsewhere have remained largely silent about the classless, crass and juvenile attacks against him by the drafter dodger in chief.

Yes, some of them have offered some pulled-punch rejoinders. Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Sen. McCain’s best friends in the Senate, has been largely mute; Arizona GOP Sen. Martha McSally, who is sitting in the seat McCain once occupied, has offered tepid criticism.

GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia has spoken out, as has Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

But the vast bulk of the nation’s Republican establishment keeps enabling the president to keep up his idiotic bitching about a senator who died of brain cancer in August 2018.

McCain developed many friendships over the course of his three decades in Congress. His Democratic friends have been quite outspoken against the president’s rants; but that’s to be expected.

I would have expected more outrage from Republicans as well, given the stated and understood admiration for a man who endured five-plus years of torture as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam before being elected to Congress.

These chicken-hearted politicians act like they fear the president who took over their party by storm in 2016 without ever devoting a single minute of his prior life to public service.

Someone needs to launch a rescue mission to free those GOP hostages, release them from their dungeon and tell them it’s OK to speak ill of the guy who captured them in the first place.

Oh, wait! We have an election coming up. Maybe that’ll do the trick.

Show us the bone spur records, Mr. POTUS

Bob Kerrey has pitched a perfectly logical notion for the president of the United States, who has been plagued by doubters who question his assertion that “bone spurs” kept him out of military service during the Vietnam War.

Show us the medical record, Mr. President. That is the suggestion offered by Kerrey, a former Democratic U.S. senator from Nebraska. Oh, I also must point out that Kerrey is a former Navy SEAL, a Vietnam War combat veteran and a Medal of Honor recipient who lost one of his legs fighting the enemy during that horrible time.

Bone spurs don’t heal themselves, Kerrey said. You need surgery to repair them. The president has never mentioned surgery.

The bone spur issue keeps recurring because Trump keeps yapping about military matters in ways that bring these questions to the forefront.

Such as his ongoing and crass attacks against the late Sen. John McCain, the former Vietnam War prisoner who died of cancer this past August. Trump once denigrated McCain’s POW status, saying he was a “hero only because he was captured.”

Trump got several medical deferments during the Vietnam War. He has cited bone spurs. Well, just like the tax returns he keeps saying are under audit by the Internal Revenue Service, he has not provided a shred of evidence that he even had bone spurs; he also hasn’t produced a letter by the IRS declaring that it was auditing his tax returns, which he said has precluded him from releasing those returns for public review.

The president also reportedly told his former lawyer/confidant Michael Cohen that he had no intention of going to Vietnam. “Do you think I’m stupid?” Cohen said Trump asked him. Kerrey has taken offense at that notion, saying that Trump “sees all of us who went to Vietnam as fools. We were the suckers. We were the stupid ones. We were the ones that didn’t have the resources to be able to get out of the draft.”

Kerrey said this, as reported by the Huffington Post: “While John McCain was flying combat operations in Vietnam, you were, I think, falsifying that you had bone spurs in order not to go to Vietnam,” said Kerrey, a 1992 presidential candidate who retired from the Senate in 2000. “Now I know lots of people who avoided the draft, but this isn’t what he’s saying. He said ‘I physically couldn’t go,’ Well, Mr. President, get your feet X-rayed and let’s see those bone spurs. I don’t think he has them.”

Frankly, neither do I.

Unity becoming a signature issue among Democrats

I have heard a lot of talk of the “u-word” among those who are running for president of the United States.

They want to bring unity to the country. They want to bridge the divide that is growing between and among various ethnic, religious, racial and political groups.

They say we are living in (arguably) the most divisive period in our nation’s history. I agree with their goal. I favor a more unified country, too. The divisions that have torn us apart have created nations within the nation.

I am going to disagree with the implication I have heard from some of the Democrats running for president that this division is the worst in our history.

We had that Civil War from 1861 to 1865. The nation fought against itself, killing 600,000 Americans on battlefields throughout the eastern third of what is now the United States of America.

The Great Depression brought about huge division, too. Americans tossed out a president and brought in another one who promised a New Deal. It took some time for the economy to recover. Indeed, it’s been argued that World War II was the catalyst that sparked the nation’s economic revival.

Then came two more wars: in Korea and Vietnam. Those conflicts produced division as well. Vietnam, particularly, brought death in our city streets as well as in far-off battlefields.

The divisions today are severe. Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency pledging to unify the nation. He has failed. Indeed, his rhetoric only has deepened the divide.

The white nationalist debate that has flared with the New Zealand massacre allegedly by someone associated with white supremacists has underscored the division.

So now we have a huge and growing field of Democrats seeking to succeed Donald Trump as president. One of the themes that links them all is their common call for unity. One of them, Beto O’Rourke, says he wants to “restore our democracy.” OK, but . . . how?

Seeking unity is a noble and worthwhile goal. I applaud any candidate who says he or she wants to make that a top priority.

However, I am no longer in the mood for platitudes. I need some specifics on how to achieve it. I know that Donald Trump is a lost cause. He cannot unify his own White House staff, let alone a nation he was elected to govern.

The rest of the field needs to lay out their plans to achieve what Trump has failed to do.

In . . . detail!

‘I was never a fan’ of John McCain

Oh, Mr. President. Can’t you just end this bashing John McCain idiocy?

A reporter asks you to comment on your repeated attacks on the late Arizona senator and you have to say you’ve “never been a fan” of your fellow Republican and that you “never will” be a fan.

And of course it only escalates the feud you’re having with the senator’s family, notably his daughter, Meghan, who continues to pile-drive you with comments about how you cannot measure up as a man to her beloved father.

Mr. President, you can stop this right now. When reporters ask you to comment, just ignore ’em. Or, you can say something like this:

“I am no longer going to comment on Sen. John McCain. I have said all I intend to say. You know how I feel. I am done commenting. I now intend to move on. I am going to make America great again.”

OK, the last part is a joke. But you get my drift, Mr. President.

You started this feud in 2015 with that ghastly denigration of Sen. McCain’s heroic service during the Vietnam War when he was taken captive and tortured for more than five years. That you — who avoided military service during that time — would stoop to such hideous criticism is repulsive in the extreme.

Enough is enough, Mr. President.

We all get that you’re mad that Sen. McCain voted “no” on repealing the Affordable Care Act. We get that his insistence that you stay away from his funeral chaps your hide. We also get that you’re doubly incensed that he asked Presidents Obama and Bush to eulogize him.

I, for one, have heard enough from you regarding Sen. McCain.

His daughter is right. You cannot measure up to the man he was. He stood at the gates of hell and survived to serve the country he loved while you served yourself and your quest for more personal enrichment.

Just end this idiocy.

Trump keeps blurring the line of decency

I cannot let Donald Trump’s incessant, relentless and utterly classless attacks on a genuine American hero pass without comment.

The president launched the Mother of Twitter Tirades over the weekend. One of Trump’s targets, not surprisingly, was the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, the war hero who got under the president’s skin because of his fearless resistance to the president’s policies and pronouncements.

McCain died in August 2018 of brain cancer. He voted dramatically against a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He also has challenged Trump’s style of confrontational governance and sought to restore a semblance of what he called “regular order” to the U.S. Senate.

Trump continues to attack the late senator. Why he persists is absolutely beyond me.

His latest attack against McCain challenged the senator’s release of information related to the “dossier” related to allegations that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians who attacked our electoral system. Trump lied about the timing of when McCain leaked the dossier information to the FBI, saying he did so to harm Trump’s presidential campaign; the leak came after the November 2016 election.

Trump infamously declared in 2015 that McCain is “not a war hero. He’s a hero only because he was captured. I like people who aren’t captured. OK?” McCain served the nation heroically by any measure possible during the Vietnam War. He was shot down over Hanoi, taken captive and held for more than five yeas as a prisoner of war.

For the president of the United States — the commander in chief — to denigrate a war hero after avoiding military service during that war because of the questionable existence of bone spurs wreaks of indecency of the lowest order.

The McCain-Trump relationship went downhill from that moment.

And now that the senator has succumbed, the president continues to attack him. He continues his assault on the memory of a fellow Republican who contributed more in service to this country than the president ever will contribute. Ever!

Quite obviously none of us is privy to the president’s personal thoughts. We instead get to read his public pronouncements that, I’ll presume, put many of his private thoughts on the public record.

Donald Trump has shown us time and again what many of us already believe . . . that he disgraces this country.

Tough talk betrays history of, um, non-toughness

I just cannot get past Donald Trump’s history as I listen to his tough-talk in the moment.

The president told Breitbart News that the military is on his side, as are the police, and — of course! — the “Bikers for Trump.” He said they don’t usually play tough, but they might if things don’t go their way — and favorably for the president.

Then it would get “very bad, very bad,” he said.

Do you remember the president’s reaction to the massacre at Parkland, Fla., when a gunman opened fire, killing several high school students and teachers? He criticized the deputy sheriff on duty at the campus who reportedly waited outside while all hell was breaking loose. Then the president said he would have gone in with guns-a-blazin’.

Imagine that, will ya?

This is the same fellow who when he was much younger had the chance to take up arms against our nation’s enemies in Vietnam, but then developed a case of bone spurs. A doctor issued him permission to obtain several medical deferments that kept him far away from the Vietnam War.

Oh, and then we heard just recently from his former lawyer/fixer/confidant Michael Cohen, who said Trump once told him, “Do you think I’m stupid? I wasn’t going to Vietnam.” Those of us who did go to ‘Nam when the guns were shooting and the bombs were falling well could have taken offense at the “stupid” remark.

Donald Trump’s toughness, I will venture to say, is a figment of his own narcissism.

Democrats take page from Republicans

It wasn’t that long ago when congressional Republicans were clawing at each other. You had the TEA Party wing vs. the Establishment wing.

The TEA Party cadre was far more ideological, far more zealous in pursuit of its agenda. The TEA Party wing ended up driving John Boehner out of the speaker’s chair and out of public office. They tore a page out of the Democrats’ playbook that called the shots during the 1960s, when the Hawks battled the Doves over whether to fight the Vietnam War.

A decade later, Republicans have (more or less) settled in behind the president of the United States, Donald Trump.

Which brings me to the Democrats’ current state of play. The progressive wing is battling the Democratic version of the establishment wing.

The progressives want to impeach the president now. The more seasoned of them say “no.” They’re fighting openly with each other.

One big difference? I do not expect Speaker Nancy Pelosi to give up the fight. She doesn’t want to impeach the president, at least not  yet. The progressives in her caucus aren’t hearing the last part of it; they seem to hear “no impeachment” and go ballistic.

My own advice to the Democrats’ far-left wing is to wait for the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to finish his job. Attorney General William Barr is going to let his collusion probe finish under its own power.

If Mueller produces the goods, then they can talk openly about impeachment. Not beforehand.