Saturday, April 23, 2005

The American Enterprise: John O'Neill The American Enterprise: John O'Neill

The American Enterprise: Interview with John O'Neill made a very good point about Vietnam and the effect that the Swift Boat Vets attack on John Kerry during the last election had on our national healing from that conflict:

"O'NEILL: Have you ever heard the poem 'Ulysses' by Alfred Lord Tennyson? Ulysses is at the end of his life and gets his old crew together and they sail around for one last great adventure--not too different from Admiral Hoffmann getting all of us together for one last shot that we thought was very much in the national interest of the United States.

The election aside, the attention focused on Vietnam has allowed the people who served there to confront this myth and lie about the Vietnam War and I think it's made a permanent change in the American psyche in terms of the treatment of people who served there. I think that the people on the left are now afraid to repeat the old myths that we were all war criminals. They've lost that battle.

TAE: You believe what you've done has changed the way the public views the Vietnam War?

O'NEILL: I do. I think that the change was coming to some degree without us, but I think that the public now realizes that the Vietnam War was a lost battle in a war that was won, the Cold War. Vietnam lives in darkness because we lost, but it's one lonely outpost of what used to be a vast threat to human freedom. And I think they recognize that our service there, while in a losing battle, was noble service.

TAE: Does this explain some of the anger directed toward your group by the Left? In attacking Kerry's war stance, you undermined part of their mythology?

O'NEILL: I think that is true. They attempted to claim that all Kerry had done was oppose the Vietnam War. That ignores the actual facts of his conduct itself, that is, meeting with the North Vietnamese, and criminalizing the people who disagreed with him. Those are myths so fanciful that no one can defend them. Another problem those on the left have is that history has not been kind to them. Kerry said that you can't stop the march of communism. We did. It is evident to anyone that the North Vietnamese imposed, as a result of our leaving, a cruel and barbaric tyranny that has left Vietnam a dark and depressed place compared to all of its neighbors. On the other hand, it's also clear that communism is now an ideology of the past that is fading from the Earth.

TAE: Is there an irony that John Kerry, the man who did more than any other to tarnish the image of the U.S. soldier in Vietnam, may inadvertently have helped a truer picture of that war spread across the nation in 2004 ?

O'NEILL: It haunts all of us that the first Vietnam veteran nominated for President would be John Kerry--the very last person most veterans would pick for high office. But it is ironic that his run for the White House may have finally initiated some less fictionalized thinking about the war.

TAE: Have you noticed a change among your fellow veterans since this started? Has it changed the way they feel about themselves?

O'NEILL: I think they're prouder of their service than they were. I've had many survivors of veterans, wives or children, tell me they felt liberated by what we did. They have endured the loss of a husband, the loss of a father, and had this blemish placed on those they lost by the radical elements of the Left in the late '60s and early '70s. They feel like it's been removed. They feel very liberated.

TAE: Would you describe the theme of this whole debate as moving from stolen honor to honor restored?

O'NEILL: Exactly so. Military people don't serve for pay. The kids who served with us had almost no money. What they had was their lives, their good names, their honor. The ones who died in Vietnam, who ranged in age from about 18 to 23, gave up their lives. They really gave them up, in the words of the Bible, for their neighbor. They had nothing directly to gain. They did it because the country asked. They did it to try and save Vietnam."

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