“I fought against Richard Nixon’s war,” John Kerry roared the night of his breakthrough in the Iowa caucuses.
“Nixon’s War” has become a signature slur of Kerry’s campaign to win the office Nixon held when Kerry was rubbishing Vietnam and the behavior in battle of the American soldiers who fought there.
In April of 1971, I was in the White House when Vietnam Veterans Against the War camped out on the mall, cursed the Nixon Administration, and threw their medals over the fence. John Kerry spent that week with friends in Georgetown and testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
What he told Sen. William Fulbright’s (D.-Ark.) committee and NBC’s “Meet the Press” was that America was engaged in genocide, that he and his warrior comrades had perpetrated atrocities, that their officers knew and approved of it, that our leaders were “war criminals.”
Kerry told the Senate that 150 honorably discharged veterans, many of them highly decorated, had “testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia . . . on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.” As Kerry”s lurid depiction ran:
“[T]hey had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wire from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam. . . .”
Kerry has lately backed away from the more sensational of these charges. Yet still he calls it “Nixon’s War.”
This is slander. This is scape-goating. This is a bright shining lie by a man who showed bravery in battle but lacks the moral courage to tell the truth. This was not Nixon’s War. It was Liberalism’s War, the war into which The Best and Brightest of the New Frontier plunged this country. It was the war the liberals began, but could not win. Ousted from power, they turned in rage and resentment against Nixon when it appeared in 1973 he had ended the war in success and brought our troops and POWs home in honor.
That is why the Left had to bring him down. They could not abide the notion that Nixon succeeded in a war they had declared that America should never have fought and could not win.
What is the true history of that war?
When Nixon left the vice presidency on Jan. 20, 1961, there were 600 U.S. advisers in Vietnam and no U.S. war.
On Nov. 22, 1963, the day Kennedy died, there were 16,000 U.S. advisers in Vietnam, 25 times as many as were there when Ike and Nixon had left.
Only weeks earlier, Kennedy had approved of the coup that had led to the murder of President Diem, and massive U.S. involvement.
In 1964 Barry Goldwater demanded, “Why Not Victory?” To which LBJ replied, “Americans boys ought not to be doing the fighting that Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”
But LBJ had already planned an escalation. In August of 1964 came the Tonkin Gulf incident between U.S. destroyers and North Vietnamese gunboats. A Democratic House voted 416 to 0 and a Democratic Senate 88 to 2 to authorize LBJ to take us into war.
That November, Johnson carried 61% of the vote. Democrats added to their strength in both houses of Congress. Liberals dominated this capital, its media, its culture, as they had not since FDR.
For all eight years of the Kennedy-Johnson tenure, more and more U.S. troops poured into Vietnam. When Nixon took office in 1969, some 525,000 U.S. troops were in Vietnam or on the way, and 35,000 had died. Kerry was first wounded in the Mekong while LBJ was still President.
How, then, can Kerry call it “Nixon’s War”?
By the end of his first year, Nixon had reduced U.S. forces in Vietnam by scores of thousands. Yet as he was bringing the men and boys home and trying to save South Vietnam from a bloodbath, the liberal establishment that had marched us into Vietnam began to blame Nixon for Vietnam.
In October and November of 1969, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators surrounded the White House. Airborne troops were in the basement of the EOB.
Wrote the Washington Post‘s David Broder: “The men and the movement that broke Lyndon Johnson’s authority in 1968 are out to break Richard M. Nixon in 1969. The likelihood is great that they will succeed again.”
But Nixon did not break. He called on the Great Silent Majority to stand with him for “peace with honor.” And the people did stand by him.
In April 1970 Nixon ordered the enemy sanctuaries in Cambodia, from which U.S. troops were being attacked, cleaned out. Two months after the incursion, U.S. casualties fell by 50%. In the spring of 1972, when Hanoi refused to negotiate in good faith, Nixon mined Haiphong and bombed Hanoi. When Hanoi began to renege on its commitments made in Paris, Nixon ordered the Christmas bombing.
From his first day in office, Nixon was determined to end the division of his country and bring the troops home, but not in defeat or disgrace. He put his presidency on the line to give South Vietnam a fighting chance for freedom from the evil regime Ho Chi Minh had created in the North. If Kerry thinks what Nixon did was a war crime, let him ask John McCain what he felt when he heard the bombs falling on the Hanoi rail yards.
In his testimony to the Fulbright Committee, Kerry declared that, “to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom . . . is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy.”
Tell that to the families of the South Vietnamese executed in the thousands and sent in the tens of thousands to the “reeducation camps” when Saigon fell. Tell that to the families of the million Cambodians who perished in the Killing Fields.
Why has Kerry never acknowledged he was wrong? Why has he never apologized for having been a fool and for having slandered the memory of the 58,000 Americans who died to prevent these horrors?
Vietnam was not only the “noble cause” Ronald Reagan declared it to be. It was a winnable war. And Richard Nixon did not lose it. He sacrificed his presidency to end it with honor for the Americans who had fought and with freedom for the South Vietnamese for whom they had fought. Nixon tried, and, yes, he failed.
But it was the American Left and the movement an ambitious John Kerry joined, after he came home, that poured down a sewer everything for which 58,000 Americans gave their lives.
For the truth about Vietnam is this. That war was not lost in Asia. U.S. soldiers did not lose a single battle. That war was lost in the United States. Who lost Vietnam? That question still sticks in the craw of this country and it shall until this generation passes away.
In their hearts the American people know the answer. This war was lost by a national establishment that plunged us into it, could not win or end it, broke and ran, and sabotaged Nixon’s effort to end it with honor. These were the guilty men.
The greatest of the war crimes was not committed in Vietnam. It was committed here, in this city, when Congress, prodded and pushed by Nixon-haters, tied his hands, restricted U.S. bombing, slashed military aid to the South, leaving our ally at the mercy of invading armies from the North supplied by Moscow and Beijing. These are the people who bear moral responsibility for the loss of Vietnam, the horrors that followed, and the holocaust in Cambodia.
What John Kerry did in Vietnam was honorable. What he did after that war–sliming the troops as mad dogs and war criminals–was disgraceful and dishonorable, and contributed to the loss of Vietnam and the humiliation of our country.
Truth be told, many leftists welcomed America’s defeat. Some ran to New York to welcome the Hanoi delegation to the UN. Others marched under Viet Cong flags in demonstrations and were welcomed as they chanted their mocking slogan, “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, the NLF is going to win!” It was not only Jane Fonda who was guilty of treason in that time.
As for Richard Nixon, whatever his sins, he was a patriot who loved his country and her soldiers, and did his damnedest to bring her fighting men home with the honor they deserved. Ask the POWs.