Kerry and the Vietnam war
I was of age during the Vietnam war, and opposed it (big surprise, huh?). I remember the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). I remember Ron Kovic, one of the co-founders of VVAW, the many demonstrations they played important roles in, and how they most definitely helped sway public opinion against the war.
However, I do not remember John Kerry. He may have been a player in VVAW (lots of people were), but as far as I can recall, he wasn’t a major player. In fact, I have no recollection of him at all from those years. So, the “antiwar leader John Kerry” rhetoric we’re hearing now seems overblown to me.
Kerry quit VVAW because of their stand that US soldiers had committed war crimes in ‘Nam. Kerry said oh golly that couldn’t possibly be true, because no US soldier would do that, so he quit VVAW. Well, as we all know now, war crimes did occur, just google “My Lai”.
Updates: After reading the comments here and researching more, I’ve learned Kerry was, for a time, a major figure in VVAW (Hey, “If you can remember what happened in the 60’s, you weren’t there”). And in the Winter Soldier testimony, he did mention war crimes. I’m looking for the cite, which I read a while back and recall being from a reliable source, that Kerry did resign over the war crimes issue. He was, by all accounts a politically ambitious moderate, and some thought he was using VVAW to advance his career. Here’s some other cites.
After Kerry became the national spokesman of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) in 1971, he came under continued surveillance by the FBI.
By all accounts, Kerry was a moderate voice in the group, who took a grim view of even civil disobedience. Many fellow antiwar vets felt he was too traditional.
The anti-war group that John Kerry was the principal spokesman for debated and voted on a plot to assassinate politicians who supported the Vietnam War.
Mr. Kerry denies being present at the November 12-15, 1971, meeting in Kansas City of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and says he quit the group before the meeting. But according to the current head of Missouri Veterans for Kerry, Randy Barnes, Mr. Kerry,who was then 27,was at the meeting, voted against the plot, and then orally resigned from the organization.
Here’s two quotes, both quite illustrative I think, from a Boston.com article.
President Richard M. Nixon takes a call from his counsel, Charles Colson.
“This fellow Kerry that they had on last week,” Colson tells the president, referring to a television appearance by John F. Kerry, a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
“Yeah,” Nixon responds.
“He turns out to be really quite a phony,” Colson says.
“Well, he is sort of a phony, isn’t he?” Nixon says.
Yes, Colson says in a gossiping vein, telling the president that Kerry stayed at the home of a Georgetown socialite while other protesters slept on the mall.
“He was in Vietnam a total of four months,” Colson scoffs, without mentioning that Kerry earned three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, and a Bronze Star, and had also been on an earlier tour. “He’s politically ambitious and just looking for an issue.”
“He came back a hawk and became a dove when he saw the political opportunities,” Colson says.
“Sure,” Nixon responds. “Well, anyway, keep the faith.”
Some Vietnam Veterans Against the War leaders also viewed Kerry as a power-grabbing elitist, a source of internal friction within the antiwar movement. “There was no question but that the rift existed,” said Butler, who was with Kerry at the time and remains a close friend.
Kerry left the organization after about a year of participation and about five months after assuming a leadership role. Kerry says he quit partly to focus on a new organization that emphasized veterans’ benefits; others say Kerry was forced out.