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I am writing this as I ride a train from Philadelphia to Boston, on my way to witness what, to me, is a momentous anniversary in our national history, even if it will be barely noticed in our national media, let alone by the circus-captivated American public.

35 years ago this Saturday, April 22nd, a young former Naval officer appeared before the Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate, to tell the truth as he had seen it in the American War - known to Americans, of course, as the Vietnam War.

On this 35th anniversary that young man, now a Senator himself, will reach out once more to cast forth the truth, as he sees it, for another generation, of another war that America wages for dubious goals as it wreaks havoc and bloodshed in the lives of brown-skinned people in a distant land, at a terrible cost of American lives and credibility.

35 years - why are we back at the same point again?

35 years and what did we learn?

I'll tell you what I have learned in just the last two years. Too many Americans cannot handle the truth. In 1971 our culture was reeling with the consequences of a war that stole away our youth and our promise, for reasons that were dissatisfying and / or disbelieved by a large segment of the population. During the young veteran's testimony he was commended by the committee for his act of coming forward to speak the truth as he saw it, for his maturity and leadership in leading thousands of others in a hugely emotionally charged demonstration without serious incidents.

Yet down through the years instead of heralding him for his effort and courage, many - some of whom complain of being spat on themselves by a close-minded public - target their angst and anger at this one who at the young age of 27 did his best to simply tell the truth as he saw it.

In 2004, Americans had the choice for their president, of a man with a record of failure, who spoke of his own youth as "irresponsible", vs. a man with a record of courageous leadership that began in his youth. Americans chose failure.

Instead of learning from our history, many Americans have obstinately rejected the truths of that history, lest they be forced to relinquish or alter some sacrosanct notion of their own honor, or the justification for their own behavior or the behavior of a loved one. They wrap themselves in a flag of false patriotism as if it will protect them, while they fail to exercise what true patriotism demands: honest and open reflection on the facts of history - all facts presented by all sides, not just the cherry-picked evidence that supports their own views or reflects their own experiences; a real desire and effort to understand the consequences of the actions of our government and our people on others; and finally the vigorous participation of truly patriotic citizens in guiding their governmental representatives to choose the courses that will truly make us proud to be Americans.

Or in short: honestly seek out the truth and then have the courage to tell that truth, as you see it; as John Kerry did in 1971.

35 years.

I just listened to an audio file of Kerry's full opening statement from 1971. It breaks my heart to hear how much of it rings true today, if only the names "Vietnam" and "Vietnamese" are replaced by "Iraq" and "Iraqis."  Sure there are many differences...and the one most glaring to me - yet one point on which I hope that I will be mercifully proven completely wrong - is that while John Kerry could say in 1971 that there was no rational argument to support any notion of real threat from the North Vietnamese if we withdrew our troops from Vietnam, I cannot see such a statement about Iraq today. It seems to me that by removing Iraq as a counterbalance to Iran, Bush has created a huge strategic problem for the non-Islamofascist world; simply withdrawing our troops risks leaving the entire region to "religious" extremists, who among other things will treat women as property, and respect no notion of religious toleration or freedom of expression.  Yet if we don't withdraw now, we will only be faced with the same choice later - only after more death and destruction and fertilization of hatred.  In other words, it will only be worse if we do it later, and we most surely will do it later if we don't do it now.

I believe we truly have no good options in Iraq. In fact we don't even have lousy options. We only have horrible choices and really, really, horrible choices.

My only hope comes from the assurance that John Kerry knows far more than I do - perhaps he can detect a decent option among the ruins of Bush's Iraq Debacle. Or at least a merely lousy one.

35 years.

I cannot imagine what must cross John Kerry's mind as he reflects back on that passage of time, and the parallels between that era and today's.  Perhaps tomorrow he will grant us some glimpse.  In any case I am sure of one thing ... he will not express it in the tone of despair and anger that I feel as I write this. I think that he will speak of the past as a guide for the future; where we've been and how it informs our choices for going forward from here.  As desperate as the situation is, I look forward to tomorrow knowing that I will hear a message of hope and guidance.

35 years  - where are the leaders of our country?  Where is the leadership?

Tomorrow, I go to hear one of the true leaders of our country speak. How I wish that sane, decent, hopeful, and guiding leader were our President.

~~~~~~~~

cross-posted at Freedom's Fire, Brightly Burning and The Democratic Daily.

Originally posted to MH in PA on Fri Apr 21, 2006 at 07:48 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Me too, MH, Me too... (5+ / 0-)

    How I wish that sane, decent, hopeful, and guiding leader were our President.

    "America, why are you libraries full of tears?" - Allen Ginsberg. My poetry: The American Nightmare

    by Darrell J Gahm on Fri Apr 21, 2006 at 07:53:52 PM PDT

  •  Wow. (7+ / 0-)

    In 1971 I was a teenager whose boyfriend was - literally - running from the draft.

    When I heard John Kerry speak those words, they went straight into my heart, and I have never forgotten them.  It moved me that he had the courage to stand up and say what needed to be said, that he was polite but unintimidated by the august audience in front of him.  He voiced what a whole lot of us were thinking back then:  where are the grownups?

    That question is, if possible, even more relevant today than it was 35 years ago.

    I'm going to be in the audience tomorrow, and I can't wait to hear him.

    "Has Senator McCain's Straight Talk Express been rerouted through Bullshit Town?" - Jon Stewart

    by whometense on Fri Apr 21, 2006 at 07:58:44 PM PDT

  •  This was a heart-felt post. (7+ / 0-)

    Thank you for writing this. We want to hear all the strong voices in this country. We need to hear them now. America is in distress and we need help now to right this ship.

    Now.

  •  Excellent diary, MH (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beachmom, MH in PA, Luftmensch, vcmvo2

    John Kerry has been fighting for this country longer than many of us have been alive, myself included.  He is a true American hero and patriot.

  •  You know... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FireCrow

      ... that there really isn't such a thing, a group, or a doctrine, as "Islamo-fascism"?  It's something that propagandists like Tom Friedman invented to try to snare liberals into engaging in the neo-conservative crusade.

      There are religious right-wingers in the Muslim world, sure.  Some (but not all) of them are very violent and as anti-liberal as possible.  They are not, however, fascists in any distinctive sense of the word.  
      The most violent of them don't control states.  Those that do control states are not interested, as some claim, in converting the Western world to Islam, but are worried about maintaining control in their own country.  But the greatest number of countries in the Muslim world are controlled by semi-secular dictators who use religion about as cynically as George W. Bush.

      It's ignorance of how this part of the world is put together that got us in this mess.  Figuring out the puzzle may yet help us get out.

      And one more point: now as ever, what drives geopolitics isn't ideology.  It's the narrow-minded pursuit of material resources cloaked in the name of "national interest", particularly those resources necessary to maintain war machines (which are necessary to maintain access to the resources which feed the war machine which maintains access to the resources...).  Anybody who tries to make claims about geopolitics based on ideology, whether it's Capitalism vs. Communism, or Christendom vs.  Islam, is either naive or trying to fool you.

    •  I couldn't come up with a better word for who (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vcmvo2

      I am describing. I'll admit to not being an expert in the religion of Islam and it's variations, so perhaps "islamo-fascism" is not technically the correct term. However I think my meaning was clear in context.

      What do you consider the the correct term for the extremists in that part of the world, who claim to follow the religion of Islam, and who would treat women as property, execute a person for "blasphemy", and so forth?

      •  Fundamentalists n/t (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        vcmvo2
        •  There is nothing 'fundamental' (0+ / 0-)

          about the approach of these people.

          I have heard Islamists say that this does NOT represent Islam...so how can it be "fundamental"?

          I personally know people who consider themselves fundamentalists...and they are not like the group that I talk about in my post.

          No, I specifically chose not to use the word "fundamentalist" for those reasons.

          Any other suggestions?

          •  I have heard... (0+ / 0-)

              ...Christians say that "Fundamentalist Christians" do NOT represent Christianity.  And I totally agree with them.  
              So how can it be "fundamental"?  Well, easy: "Fundamentalist Christian" doesn't mean anything like "fundamentally Christian".  Nor does "Fundamentalist Muslim" (not 'Islamist', please) mean "fundamentally Muslim".  
              Not all fundamentalists blow up cafes and abortion clinics.  Some smile and may seem quite nice, when they don't start ranting about the evils of the Modern World and how Satan is making people think that women should be equal to men.  But they're still engaged in the aggressive distortion of religion in the cause of politics. Fundamentalism isn't "religion at its basics", nor is it even exaggerated religion; it's what happens when religion gets infected by pernicious political ideologies, transforming it from something good and useful to a blighted, poisonous thing.  Fundamentalism is a disease of religion.

    •  Thank you for focusing on 'islamofascism' (0+ / 0-)

      The entire Cold-War establishment, which still dominates foreign policy thinking for both parties in DC, just cannot imagine a world in which the US isn't engaged in an ongoing struggle for its very existence against a Dark and Evil Enemy.  They take it for granted that we face an "existential threat" and automatically go casting about for who can best serve as our current Great Enemy.

      Remember back to the first days of the Bush Administration, when they were busy ignoring terrorism?  Remember who the Big Enemy was, the one who served as the justification for $450 billion military budgets and decades of struggle?  I'll give you a hint:  our President recently apologized to the leader of this country for having to endure protesters against that country's policies on American soil.  That's right, it was China, the country that shot down our spy plane without provocation.  Bush & Co were all ready to justify the big military budget increases and god knows what else for the sake of going toe-to-toe with China, but then 9-11 happened and they had a better target.

      To me, the "islamofascism" term emerges from this world-view.  It attempts to hearken back to WWII, the era of the "Greatest Generation", when America defeated its "existential enemy."  The term was invented to justify putting our nation on a "war footing" on a permanent basis, which has led to most of the Bush Admin's depredations.  I suggest we on the Left (those of us at dKos who are on the Left, that is) abandon the term with prejudice.  "The violent version of Islamic fundamentalism" is better for our purposes.

      "Run, comrade, the old world is behind you!" -- Situationist graffito, 1968

      by Pesto on Fri Apr 21, 2006 at 08:22:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think it also has to do (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Luftmensch, vcmvo2

        with the fact that our "leaders" don't even know who their enemy is.  There are so many words to describe the enemy -- insurgent, militant, jihadist, islamic fundamentalist, violent extremist, islamist, Mujahadeen, terrorist.  You know that battle that just happened in a Baghdad neighborhood between the Shiite militia and "insurgents"?  Well, I happened to read an Iraqi blogger who got stuck there during the whole battle.  The "insurgent" was simply a member of a very scared neighborhood watch group that felt that they were being attacked by Interior Ministry Death Squads.  It is unclear if there were any real "insurgents" there.  Things are getting so confused over there, I become more and more suspicious of the words used to describe different Iraqis.  There's another word to describe perpetrators of violent acts there, but it lacks the sexiness of "terrorist", and that's plain old criminals who can freely roam the streets of Baghdad due to the lack of law and order.

        Thank you MH for a wonderful diary.  I think tomorrow's speech will be very enlightening but with a touch of sadness, too.  I agree with you that our choices in Iraq seem to be very bad, extremely bad, and just god awful.  The coming years in America are going to be very painful.

  •  Lt. Richard Vandegeer - the last man to die (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beachmom, MH in PA, Luftmensch, vcmvo2

    Never forget Lt. Richard Vandegeer, the last man to die in the Viet Nam War. He died May 15, 1975, and can be found at Panel 1W, Row 152 of the Wall.  KIA Dao Koh Tang, Cambodia (Koh Tang Island). He is the answer to John Kerry's question.

    My Vietnamese is a little rusty, but it goes like this: "Tu Qu'oc Gh'i O'n, Ahn Hai!" (The country will never forget you, respected brother).

    Who will be the last die in Iraq for Bush's mistake?

    Iraq is Arabic for Viet Nam.

    by sen bob on Fri Apr 21, 2006 at 08:08:00 PM PDT

    •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vcmvo2

      I've often thought it could be valuable to have this name as a means of bringing the question from challenge to cold hard reality.

      I had been concerned that it might be an additional burden on his family.
      Yet it is public knowledge and the intent is to stop this carnage.

      And then we will have the answer to your question. Maybe we should have a memorial for the two of them. Anything that will keep us looking at our "lessons". Anything that will stop us from adding a third name.

  •  I am so glad you're going to this. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beachmom, MH in PA, Luftmensch, vcmvo2

    I hope you'll cheer extra loud for the Kerry fans who can't be there. :)

    Did you see the JK interview he gave in Nov. of '71 that was posted here?  It was chilling to hear him talk about Vitenam in the same way he and others now talk about Iraq.

    Thanks for the great diary.

  •  Great great post MH (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beachmom, MH in PA, Luftmensch

    I really hope tomorrow is a turning point, we can't take 3 more years of this, we just can't.  Looking forward to hearing back from everybody who's going.  

  •  the problem with vietnam (5+ / 0-)

    was two-fold.

    first, a big chunk of people in this country did not experience it first hand.  that list includes bush, cheney, & others, a lot of others.

    second, a big chunk of people in this country blamed our defeat in vietnam on the liberals & peace marchers & not on the fundamental nature of the conflict.

    this is why we, as a nation, are refighting it.  what's sad is that if the warhawks are able to blame internal politics for the failure in iraq, we might have to fight this same war again in another 35 years.

    i hope that we don't.  s.

    the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity --w.b.yeats the second coming

    by synth on Fri Apr 21, 2006 at 08:14:06 PM PDT

  •  What a wonderful post, MH. (5+ / 0-)

    Thank you for this reminder.  Thirty five years since that historic testimony, and we're looking again to the Senator for words of hope and truth.
    My thoughts tomorrow are with him and with you and with everyone who is looking for comfort and fighting for peace.  

  •  Excellent diary! (5+ / 0-)

    Very moving and timely commentary. You know the cliche about hitting bottom before realizing that change is needed? Well, every crisis/disaster our country has endured over the past five years has me wondering 'are we there yet?'

    A good dose of hope is certainly needed. I look forward to Senator Kerry's speech because I know he'll deliver it.

  •  The greatest tragedy of the 2004 campaign (6+ / 0-)

    is that John Kerry evidently felt he could not run by reminding us of his special place in history as an anti-war hero, but instead had to pose as a conventional war-hero--a story that clearly wasn't the whole story, and thus wasn't entirely credible. That's what left him wide open to the swiftboat attacks.

    Or perhaps the greatest tragedy was that he was ironically being called upon to answer his rhetorical question of 1971--"How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"--and he didn't have an answer. Nobody does. As you say, the choices in Iraq are between horrible and really, really horrible.

    "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

    by Alice in Florida on Fri Apr 21, 2006 at 08:28:25 PM PDT

  •  Good diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beachmom

    Thank you for writing it.
    In 2004, Americans had the choice for their president, of a man with a record of failure, who spoke of his own youth as "irresponsible", vs. a man with a record of courageous leadership that began in his youth. Americans chose failure.
    I would like to ammend that last sentence to: 49% of Americans and the supreme court chose failure.

    Impeach and Imprison! -6.63/-6.10

    by FireCrow on Fri Apr 21, 2006 at 08:58:34 PM PDT

  •  Statesman (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beachmom, vcmvo2

    We are faced with a world held ransom by a few, "a tyranny based on the threat of war, and the fear of men": So starts American statesman James Madison's address on April 20, 1795. It continues:

    "Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and envelopes the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies, from these proceed debts and taxes, and armies and debts and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the executive is extended. Its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied. And all the means of seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud growing out of a state of war, and of the degeneracy of manners and morals engendered by both. No nation shall preserve freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

    •  One I try to quote often (3+ / 0-)

      But I have trouble pronoucing "emoluments".

      Here's one for you,
      ""It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government."
      --Thomas Paine

      "War is the enemy".

      by BOHICA on Fri Apr 21, 2006 at 09:39:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Statesman II (0+ / 0-)

        If you go back in history to about 1000 A.D., you had the development of a movement in Europe, which was a positive movement which was associated with Charlemagne of France. Now, as many people in Islam know, this was made possible by the great Baghdad Caliphate's role at that time, and particularly with the personal relationship of Haroun al-Rashid to Charlemagne. There was an organization in Europe which was a struggle to free people from the vestiges of various kinds of Roman imperialism—Byzantine and other.

        In response against that, a force centered on Venice at that time—there were Venetian bankers who ... organized the Norman Crusaders. And they did around what they called the Crusades, which was religious warfare. And we recall, that from the period of essentially that time, until the Renaissance in Europe in the 15th Century, and then again, from 1492 with the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain by Crusader traditions, until the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, that Europe was dominated by religious warfare.

        ...[W]e're now back at it, in using religious war as a means of world empire. The target, of course, has been Islam, and that's the key to understand the whole situation.

        The problem is clear, when you look at the alternative: We have made, in spite of all the things that have happened, we have made great progress in some respects in European and world civilization. It was Roosevelt's intention—unfortunately it was set back when Roosevelt died, and Truman came in with policies of Winston Churchill and so forth. So, we went back to a new Crusade. This time, the Crusade was first the Soviet Union, declared by Churchill. Nonetheless, we progressed. We progressed economically; many parts of the world did recover to some degree. The tendency toward recolonization which had been launched by Truman and Churchill, that abated by the time of the late 1950s. We were on the way to progress, until a series of events, including the assassination of President Kennedy and the launching of the war in Indo-China, then, we began to shift into a new policy.

        With Nixon, from the Nixon Administration on, we have been shifting toward a kind of imperialist policy, which is opposed to everything in economic policy that the United States in principle stood for, that Franklin Roosevelt stood for. We're now going to a policy of globalization, which is another name for imperialism. It's a form of imperialism, which is traced especially to the period of the Crusades, from about 1000 A.D. until the fall of the power of this banking power in the 14th Century crisis.

        So, now we're back to it. And the same kind of evil, which brought the world into crisis in former times, and various empires, has struck again. And the question is, do we have the stamina, do we have the will, do we have the knowledge to prevent this from going forward now?

        - Lyndon LaRouche, interviewed on Radio in Cape Town, South Africa, hosted by Fahri Hassan's program "Prime Talk" on April 18, 2006. Hassan, the news director, last interviewed LaRouche on Dec. 28, 2004. The Muslim community station was founded in 1995.

  •  Can't be there but (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    whometense, beachmom, vcmvo2

    Several members of my VFP chapter were there. We are commemorating it tomorrow. Instead of throwing medals, we will be burning the patriot act.


    Portland Peace Park

    "War is the enemy".

    by BOHICA on Fri Apr 21, 2006 at 09:36:08 PM PDT

  •  '35 years, and what have we learned?' (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beachmom, vcmvo2

        I've learned that the quote: "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the USA public" is much truer today than when it was first coined.

        Is it flouride in the water? Hormones in the milk?

        Whatever the cause, P. T. Barnum would be forced today to say: "There's a sucker born every nanosecond".

       

  •  Inspiring the Audacity to Hope and Act (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vcmvo2

    MH

    I am glad you will be in Faneuil Hall tomorrow as so many of us would live for.  

    I also look forward to the hope and guidance in his speech.
    The antidotes to the anxiety and despair that we are all living with in excess.

    I am uplifted by the idea that in this time in history, when
    'we face a crises almost without equal', there is a person of this intelligence, commitment and integrity willing to step up and lead.

    It feels like the wind has changed, the anchors are up, and the sails are ready to raise.

    May tomorrow be the beginning of a new voyage, rediscovering the promise that is America.

  •  We've learned nothing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    whometense, MH in PA

    because a lot of people don't want to know the truth.

    From the point of view of the United States, engraving the names of citizens who died in the Vietnam War on an immense marble wall in Washington DC was a just act. From the point of view of the Vietnamese killed in the U.S. invasion, there are sixty walls missing.
    -- Eduardo Galeano

    Given a choice between a real Republican and a Democrat who acts like a Republican, Americans will choose the real Republican every time - Harry Truman

    by tiggers thotful spot on Fri Apr 21, 2006 at 10:08:24 PM PDT

  •  I agree...does Kerry? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    We hold these truths

    "I believe we truly have no good options in Iraq. In fact we don't even have lousy options. We only have horrible choices and really, really, horrible choices."

    I agree. If Kerry agrees, then in 2004, I did not hear him simply tell the truth as he saw it. Probably because, in 2004, he didn't think most Americans want to hear the truth. But I don't believe he thought most Americans wanted to hear the truth in 1971, either. Yet in 1971 he spoke out anyway.

    To me, that is what has changed in 35 years.

    •  Your post is specious to insinuate (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      whometense, vcmvo2

      that agreeing with my statement today means that he agreed with it in 2004...hell, I wouldn't have agreed with it in 2004, and I don't agree now that that was the situation in 2004, either.

      I believe Kerry did tell the truth all along...I think he did parse his words at times in ways that were arguably too careful...but I do believe his position on Iraq all along has been what he honestly believed at the time. You don't like Kerry so you just impose your own framework on his actions and assume the negative.

      "That is what has changed" - as if that is the only thing of importance to you, is that the Dem presidential nominee didn't agree with your opinions on a foreign policy matter. Sheesh. I would hope you can derive something more than that from reflecting on the juxtaposition of these two points in time in the American psyche.

      •  Fundamentally Correct (0+ / 0-)

        "the only thing of importance to you, is that the Dem presidential nominee didn't agree with your opinions on a foreign policy matter"

        True. I guess it seems strange to you, but I do indeed decide which candidates to support based in large part on whether or not they support the positions of importance to me.  And only the Patriot Act is of more importance to me than the war.

        However, I don't give much weight to what politicians say they support. I look at their behavior instead.  Thus, I am not sure what Kerry's opinion was in 2004.  Which is why I said if...a small but important word.

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