I am not a big fan of Senator John Kerry. His behavior in the US after his return from duty in VN eliminated any possibility that I would ever support him for anything.
Nevertheless, the process of relentless, remorseless, cruel denigration of his character, military record and general "style" which was carried on by the friends of the president was despicable. They attacked his wife for her "foreignness." They attacked him for being able to speak French and being comfortable with his French relatives. They seem not to have known of Mr. Jefferson’s opinion that "every civilized man speaks two languages, his own, and French." The assault on Kerry was reminiscent of the kind of fascist manipulation of the opinion of the masses that George Orwell warned us of in "1984." Now it comes again.
Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is a Republican from a state filled with conservative, (not fascist) responsible citizens. Senator Hagel was once Sergeant (E-5) Hagel of the First Battalion, Forty Seventh Infantry Regiment, Ninth Infantry Division. He was a "grunt," i.e., a Rifleman and a leader of Riflemen in a war in which Riflemen spent an average of 240 days in actual combat out of a year’s tour of duty. By contrast to this, Riflemen in the Pacific Theater of WW2, spent, on average, 40 days in combat during the whole war. In most wars, over 90% of all casualties (killed, wounded and missing) are absorbed by the Infantry. This was true in VN. The artillery does most of the killing in war, but it is the Infantry with their rifles and exposure to fire who are the great majority of the killed and maimed. Senator Hagel served with his brother in the same Rifle Platoon (44 men when I led one). I do not think that should have been permitted but there they were, together. The chance of their being killed together was considerable. Senator Hagel was wounded and decorated for his service and came home to continue to devote his life to the service of his countrymen.
Not surprisingly, Senator Hagel is still, and in some sense will always be, in Vietnam. An experience like that does not "go away." It becomes an enduring part of the fabric of life. Senator Hagel still lives, every day, with his comrades of long ago. I saw a C-Span progran recently in which a couple of people from the Library of Congress were interviewing him for his "oral history" of the experience of war. It was evident from watching his carefully controlled responses just how much it still means to him.
Senator Hagel has made it clear that he questions the wisdom of the strategic conception of the Iraq intervention, the decision to intervene and the execution of the war. It would seem to me that he has earned the right to have an opinion in this or any other matter.
What has been the reaction from the Republican Party and its "flacks?" The Kerry character assasination machine has evidently been re-activated. Yesterday I watched as a pretty boy 35ish yuppy political hack from the crowd of sycophants with whom the president has surrounded himself described Hagel (with a sneer) as "someone who has lost his way." He (the yup) went on to say that Hagel has no ideas worth listening to in the matter of the possible resemblance of the Vietnam War to the mess in Iraq. Actually, he said, Hagel no longer knows what the war in Vietnam was about.
Now, consider that. This kid was still crapping in his pants and crying for the pacifier when Hagel and his brother and Hagel’s "boys" were fighting to defeat the VC/NVA in the outskirts of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) but he, from the depths of his marvelous intellect knows better what VN was "about." You can see where this is going. Are these swine going to spread the rumor that Senator Hagel was an agent and informer for the communist enemy in VN? That’s what they did to McCain in South Carolina.
The Yups should be careful. Senator "Grunt" has friends.