Washington, D.C. — In my line of work — documenting the fortitude and perseverance of American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen and Marines for FOX News — we often interrupt a story to inject a relevant earlier chronological event through the use of device called a "flashback." Such historical references often provide a context for later events, and the 2006 political "campaign season" has been a long "flashback" to the 1970s.
During the so-called "Vietnam Era," it was commonplace for critics of the long war in Southeast Asia to denigrate those serving in the armed forces. Campus protesters, politicians, and the media routinely depicted the young Americans fighting in the rice paddies, hamlets, and triple-canopied jungles of Vietnam as "baby killers," "murderers," and "war criminals." Our South Vietnamese allies were "venal cowards," or worse.
The current campaign — and the long war we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan — have produced similar rhetoric from the potentates of the press and leftwing politicos. Sen. Richard "Dick" Durbin (D-IL) likened our troops to the armies of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Cambodia's Pol Pot. Without a shred of evidence to back up his claim, Congressman Jack Murtha (D-PA) accused U.S. Marines of "kill[ing] innocent civilians in cold blood." Newsweek magazine invented a story about U.S. military guards flushing a Quran down a toilet at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and Chris Hedges, of the New York Times, described U.S. troops as "poor kids from Mississippi or Alabama or Texas who could not get a decent job or health insurance." But it doesn't stop there.
This week, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) told college students in California, "you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq." In other words, those serving in harm's way are stupid.
When presidential spokesman Tony Snow pointed out that our present military is the brightest and best educated in history, Mr. Kerry belatedly apologized, only after attacking Mr. Snow as a "stuffed suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium" and then claiming his insult to our troops was a "botched joke" aimed at President Bush.
This week's affront to the U.S. Military is but the most recent in Mr. Kerry's long history of attacking American troops instead of our nation's enemies. In 1971, he testified under oath before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that U.S. troops had "raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan." And last December, in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation," he said that there was no reason "that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children." Unfortunately, Mr. Kerry is not alone in his party when it comes to slandering U.S. troops.
Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democrat Party, has proclaimed that, "the idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong." Democrat Ned Lamont, running to unseat Sen. Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, has made "Get Out Now" his campaign slogan. A public relations organization associated with MoveOn.org is recruiting active duty soldiers to organize in petitioning Congress to withdraw "all American military forces and bases from Iraq."
All of this might not matter — except for that "flashback" to Vietnam. The anti-American, anti-military slogans and epithets of today are remarkably similar to the kinds of things being written and said routinely by Democrats back in the 1970s, and they ended up having their way. The outcome was a Congress that voted to "de-fund the war" and eliminate all aid to the Republic of Vietnam. The result was a disaster.
In the November/December 2005 issue Foreign Affairs magazine, Melvin Laird, who was Secretary of Defense from 1969-1973, wrote, "When I served as Secretary of Defense, we withdrew most U.S. forces from Vietnam, while building up the South's ability to defend itself. The result was a success, until Congress snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by cutting off funding for our ally."
The "cut off" Mr. Laird describes was contained in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974, passed by a Democrat controlled Congress over the objections of a Republican commander in chief. At the time, President Gerald Ford complained, "In South Vietnam, we have consistently sought to assure the right of the Vietnamese people to determine their own futures free from enemy interference. It would be tragic indeed if we endangered, or even lost, the progress we have achieved by failing to provide the relatively modest but crucial aid which is so badly needed there."
The Democrat majority in Congress didn't care. The "pull out" was complete by January 1975. Four months later, helicopters were lifting the last Americans off the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, as enemy tanks crashed into the compound. Let us pray that the Congress we elect next Tuesday doesn't make Vietnam a "flashback" for what happens in Iraq.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist and the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance, a foundation that provides college scholarships to the dependents of U.S. military personnel killed in action. His special, “The Furious Fight for Dong Ha,” airs Sunday, November 12 at 8pm / 11pm ET.
Lt. Col. Oliver L. North (ret.) serves as host of the Fox News Channel documentary series "War Stories with Oliver North." From 1983 to 1986, he served as the U.S. government's counterterrorism coordinator on the National Security Council staff. "Counterfeit Lies," is his novel about how Iran is acquiring nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. Click here for more information on Oliver North.