Left Justified: Why did John Kerry protest the war?

No, I’m not talking about the Iraq War—it’s the Vietnam War that John Kerry protested. Yes, way back in 19-ought-70. Then, Vietnam veteran John Kerry, fresh from the war, joined with other veterans planning a protest in Washington, D.C.

Soldiers were returning and joining Vietnam Veterans Against the War. For the first time in American history, combatants themselves were leading demonstrations while the war was going on! Those who fought were saying, “It’s not a just war.” Of course, there were pro-warriors, those who thought we had a crusade in Southeast Asia to bring democracy to the jungles. Those men were saying, and are still saying, that America was justified to use any means necessary to stop the Communist take-over of South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Any means necessary, including torture, bombing civilians, destroying homes.

As in all guerrilla wars, innocent bystanders were getting shot. But also, not-so-innocent women and children were in the line of fire. It was a general uprising against the outsiders (us). And we Americans stood out!

I should know, for I was one of them. I enlisted in the U.S. Army, and volunteered for Vietnam. And that was in 1969-71, when I should have known better.

Many soldiers turned against the war because of this brutality on a quasi-civilian population. John Kerry was one of those. But he, like many of the soldiers, followed orders until discharged and then began their second careers as so-called “winter soldiers” who fought against the war and the government bureaucracy and military-industrial complex.

John Kerry joined other soldiers who told of seeing the atrocities and asked our government to stop. It took four more years and untold thousands of lives, but finally our country did leave Vietnam. And there are still people who want to go back and refight that war.

You’ll meet them before Election Day. You should ask them if we should have stayed in Vietnam. Ask them if they wish to re-invade Vietnam now. Ask them how long they think we’ll be staying in Iraq. There’s the connection, and you, the voter, can decide. John Kerry says he’ll get the job done. I believe he’s got a better idea of fighting a messy war, unlike our president, who’s only seen movies like John Wayne’s The Green Berets.

God help our soldiers and us if Bush gets re-elected because there’ll be Iraq veterans against the war returning and throwing their medals back at Congress.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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