A little girl running from a napalm raid, monks setting themselves ablaze and numerous massacres are Vietnam War images that have scarred America, her people and wars forever.
Now in 2001, newspapers revealed one more ugly tally mark against the Vietnam War. What I fail to understand is what is shocking about former Nebraska senator and governor Bob Kerrey’s recent confession that he ordered the murder of innocent people in Vietnam?
War, in any form, is not pretty. However, Vietnam, from the very beginning, was a different war. It was a war that found its foundation based on a fear factor. The “domino effect” of communism plucked our young men from their homes and sent them into a different world, a world that many were not prepared to enter.
Kerrey was one of those young men 32 years ago. It all began when the 25-year-old Navy lieutenant and his seven-man Navy SEAL team began shooting after they were shot at, at who they assumed were Viet Cong soldiers.
As soldiers approached the aftermath of the raid, they realized that all who were dead were women, children and old men. Kerrey received the Bronze Star for the engagement. Until recently, the truth remained hidden in Kerrey and his fellow men’s consciences of the true victims. However, what can only be described as a Vietnam raid gone wrong in the MeKong Delta, is only significant to America now because of Kerrey’s political standing.
After all, what do people think happens in war? This incident involving Kerrey is not an isolated one.
Less than two years ago, a group of ex-GIs admitted to killing 300 innocent civilians during the Korean War. For about two weeks, this was big news. The Army investigated, but in the end nothing was done, and people quickly forgot and moved to another leading story.
During the Vietnam War, when a brutal attack made by U.S. Marines on the hamlet of Cam Ne occurred, CBS brought Morley Safer’s reports into American homes to reveal the truth.
In 1968, another search-and-destroy mission resulted in a massacre killing of 300 innocent villagers by American soldiers. Lt. William Calley, who led the My Lai attack, spent five years in prison for the 300 murders.
Hundreds of thousands of American men fought in Vietnam, and because of the effects the war had on them, many do not discuss it. Some veterans committed suicide while others removed themselves from society after returning home. Any of the men may have been ordered to maul innocent Vietnamese, others may have witnessed incidents, yet they are not being interviewed everyday.
Revealing the truth behind such an incident only makes members of today’s generation shake their heads at what truly went on in Vietnam. It only makes Americans wonder how many other incidents are hidden in the souls of Vietnam Vets, the men who, unlike World War II fighters who were welcomed home, were called baby killers.
I do not believe that Kerrey should give his medal back for his night in Thanh Phong, because Vietnam has never offered any real heroes. It only has brought victims of war into the light. Taking the medal will not change what happened. Besides, Kerrey is not the only Vietnam Vet with regrets. If all were revealed, imagine how many other medals would be taken away from veterans.
Incidents, like Kerrey’s, cannot be justified, yet they happen. Americans should not forget that it was this nation’s government that sent their sons, brothers and husbands to fight-drafted in babies at the age of 18-who for many, probably did not fully understand why it was they were fighting in the first place. It was the same nation’s military that trained its soldiers to survive at whatever the cost.
Soldiers are not trained to think, then shoot. They are trained to survive. If we are not prepared to hear the gruesome stories of how wars can turn good men into monsters, then this country is not one strong enough to accept the consequences of war and has no business involving itself in one again.
Alisha Rosas, a junior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.