published Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

A lesson from Vietnam

Some who heard President Barack Obama speak on Memorial Day about the men and women who served in Vietnam will say the performance was political, a rhetorical tour de force crafted to score political points. Those cynics are wrong. Rather, it was a heart-felt effort designed to right past wrongs. In that sense, it was an endeavor that should help heal divisions that have long roiled U.S. society.

Speaking with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as a backdrop, the president reminded veterans of that war and the nation as a whole that those who fought in Southeast Asia often were treated as pariahs. "You were blamed for a war you didn't start when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor," he said. "You were sometimes blamed for the misdeeds of a few, when the honorable service of the many should have been praised."

"It was a national shame," he added, "a disgrace that should have never happened. And that's why here today we resolve that it will not happen again."

Then he offered words that many of the Vietnam veterans -- some of whom were jeered publicly on their return from combat -- had yearned to hear. "Welcome home," he said. "Welcome home. Welcome home. Welcome home. Thank you. We appreciate you. Welcome home."

The president, who earlier had placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, traveled to the Vietnam memorial to officially mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, and to start a 13-year project marking U.S. involvement there. The multiphase commemoration is more than a showpiece.

It involves variety of commemorations and celebrations as well as forums, seminars and the gathering of oral histories. Diehard Obama opponents might claim otherwise, but the project is hardly a partisan initiative designed to drum up political support among veterans -- who as a group have favored Republican candidates and policies in recent years -- for the president's 2012 campaign. The project was approved by Congress without the usual partisan bickering, and it will be carried out by the Department of Defense.

The president's overriding theme Monday was that the nation should not lightly send men and women to war. And that once troops are engaged in combat, the nation should support them regardless of political belief.

"Let's resolve," the president said, "that in our democracy we can debate and disagree, even in time of war. But never let us use patriotism as a political sword. Patriots can support a war. Patriots can oppose a war. And whatever our view, let us always stand united in support of our troops that we placed in harm's way. That is our solemn obligation."

It is an obligation all Americans should honor. Vietnam taught this country many lessons. Perhaps the most important is the one the president cited on Memorial Day: The politics of war should never erode support for the troops summoned by the nation's leaders to wage it.

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EaTn said...

Vietnam soldiers for most part were drafted into a war that never should have been started. Had Bush/Cheney been in that war they probably would have had enough personal knowledge and foresight to not start another Vietnam war called Iraq.

May 30, 2012 at 7:20 a.m.
John_Proctor said...

Bush did serve, well sort of. He was in an Air Force reserve unit protecting Texas from invasion by Arkansas. That is, when he wasn't AWOL. It was his first "Mission Accomplished." Cheney, on the other hand, had "other priorities," to use his term, and was deferred due to being a college student and then by having a family.

May 30, 2012 at 8:39 a.m.
librul said...

Sadly, we won't likely have an opportunity to spit upon Obama's drones when they come home from his "push-button" war.

May 30, 2012 at 9:20 a.m.
Salsa said...

Now,now Librul. Obama has a Nobel Peace prize bestowed upon him by your fellow libruls just for showing up so he must be perfect in every respect. If you continue to tell the truth about him they will throw you out of the party.

May 30, 2012 at 2:19 p.m.
librul said...

They won't be able to find me Salsa. When I registered forty years ago as a Democrat, their candidates deserved the "D". As Obama well illustrates, in today's political climate, apart from about 6 folks not including Barry, there aren't any true Democrats left who deserve the title. I vote Democratic Socialist and tell their canvassers so when they call.

May 30, 2012 at 3:52 p.m.
EaTn said...

JonRoss....if you will read the labels in clothing and other items you will find that many were made with our trading partner Vietnam. The war there proved to be one where we stuck our nose and it didn't belong, much like the one in Iraq. Once we left Vietnam the country resolved it's issues fine without us. The right-wing chant of Marxist-lovers was worn out years ago.

May 30, 2012 at 7:56 p.m.
Easy123 said...

JonRoss,

Provide some proof for your extravagant claims. It sounds like a load of misinformation and lies to me. But I think that is your M.O.

May 30, 2012 at 9:24 p.m.
librul said...

Extravagant claims and their elder siblings, lies, are standard fare for the current crop of rethugs. If their voter purges, corporate cash tsunamis and propagandizing overcome truth and fairness in this election, America will see things not seen here for 150 years.

May 30, 2012 at 9:34 p.m.
dave said...

A Lot of political talk by people who didn;t serve and NEVER have been there. If you don;t know just shut up.

May 30, 2012 at 11:12 p.m.
shen said...

I'm old enough to remember the Vietnam War. Had many family members who served. One killed by friendly fire. Claims of Americans turning on and spitting on military service members have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, there were some areas of America that were hostile to returning military service members, and for their safety they were advised not to exit the plane in those areas while still in uniform once they landed on American soil. I remember a relative sending me a necklace from Hawaii while he was on a break from his first year tour in Vietnam with his wife. A co-worker was admiring the necklace one day at work and asked me where I'd gotten such an unusually beautiful piece of jewelry. I mistakenly told her my brother serving in Vietnam had sent it to me. She assumed he'd sent it from Vietnam and likely thought he'd taken it off a dead Vietnamese or something. She angrily told me I should take the necklace off and never wear it again. Before that we often lunched together. After that she avoided me and never sat at lunch with me again for the duration we were employed together. There were isolated incidents of hostility even for families like the one I experienced, but overall most Americans treated military service members quite well when they returned. It is true, however, there were no welcoming parades like there were at the end of World War II, but that's because Vietnam didn't have an official ending like World War II, and NOT because Americans as a whole were all hating on military service persons.

May 30, 2012 at 11:14 p.m.
shen said...

JonRoss said... The butchery in Vietnam AFTER the U.S. left was beyond anything visited upon a country since earlier Marxist takeovers in other countries. North Korea, Russia, China, Cambodia etc. The blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent South East Asians is on the hands of the left in the U.S., including many within the Obama administration

That's true for the ending of war. If you read up on the brutalities that took place against innocent slaves living in refugee camps at the end of the Civil War you'll know what I mean. Nathan Beford Forrest, the southern folk hero, was one of the most brutal of them all. Innocent old men, women, children. No one was spared.

May 30, 2012 at 11:22 p.m.
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