The Vietnam War 2017

Starkville Daily News - - FORUM -

Three ag­ing

U.S. veter­ans of the war in Vietnam, each of whom still bears the scars of bat­tle, took their seats on the stage of Washington's

Kennedy Cen­ter on a cool Septem­ber evening. They were there to dis­cuss

Ken Burns' his­toric

18-hour PBS project, "The Vietnam War," which will de­servedly earn the na­tion's at­ten­tion. The three — John Kerry, a for­mer pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, U.S. sen­a­tor and sec­re­tary of state; Chuck Hagel, a for­mer sec­re­tary of de­fense and U.S. sen­a­tor; and John McCain, a for­mer pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee and cur­rent U.S. sen­a­tor — re­ceived a sus­tained stand­ing ova­tion from an unim­pres­sion­able Washington crowd.

Kerry cred­ited the Burns film for teach­ing that "we should never con­fuse the war­riors with the war" and that it can "take a long time for a fam­ily to get to a place where they can say, 'My brother, my son did not die in vain. They served our coun­try. They are pa­tri­ots.'" But it was McCain who made this com­fort­able room more than a lit­tle un­com­fort­able by re­mind­ing his fel­low cit­i­zens of an aban­doned Amer­i­can value — the need for shared sac­ri­fice.

Im­me­di­ately, I was re­minded of the wis­dom of Army Col. Steve Siegfried's words to mil­i­tary jour­nal­ist Ge­orge Wil­son: "Armies don't fight wars. Coun­tries fight wars. I hope to hell we learned that in Vietnam. (Trag­i­cally, we did not.) ... A coun­try fights a war. If it doesn't, then we shouldn't send an army."

McCain, the son and the grand­son of Navy ad­mi­rals and him­self a grad­u­ate of the U.S. Naval Academy, con­fronted the class is­sue of the Vietnam War: "There was a divi­sion in Amer­ica be­cause we had a draft and those who were drafted were lower-in­come Amer­i­cans who didn't have a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion and couldn't get a de­fer­ment . ... That's not right. If we are go­ing to fight a war, we should be able to ask ev­ery­body to fight it."

The au­di­ence at the Kennedy Cen­ter warmly ap­plauded McCain's call that war de­mands equal­ity of sac­ri­fice. But 42 years af­ter the fall of Saigon and 14 years since we went to war against a coun­try that did not threaten the United States — that had never at­tacked the United States and did not have then and had never had weapons of mass de­struc­tion

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MARK SHIELDS

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