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Jewish World Review August 4, 2000/ 3 Menachem-Av, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

A sharp look back at
the Vietnam War --
Ah, the patriotism that ignoreth all recollection.

To follow newspapers, talking heads and chat rooms, you'd think America's streets in the 1960s and 1970s were teeming with renegade Mel Gibsons edging to be on the front lines, instead of rioters poking flowers in helmeted cops' guns and dweeby peaceniks clamoring for grad school admissions and draft deferments.

Dick Cheney went to law school so he's a coward, they say. George W. Bush did rich-kid's guard duty so he's not worthy, they say. "No veteran worth his salt would vote the Bush-Cheney ticket," someone wrote me.

Oh ye of little memory, let's get something straight: Everybody was trying to avoid the draft in those days. We of a certain age remember gathering around television sets with stoned boys waiting for their lottery numbers to scroll up the screen.

That's how it happened. You watched the tube -- Big Brother's Magic 8-ball -- and prayed your number didn't bubble to the top. Most of those who ended up dodging random bullets hip-deep in rice paddies were either too young, ignorant, idealistic, jail-bound or aimless to do otherwise.

But don't take my word for it. Meet a Marine Corps Vietnam vet who is both worth his salt and unoffended by those who escaped the nightmare. Meet my brother, Jack, whose gentle dialogue is to diplomacy approximately what Pol Pot was to democracy. You've been warned.

"Most of the guys in Vietnam were the poor bastards who were either going to prison -- the judges gave them a choice: go to jail or enlist in the military -- or people who had no other place to go."

I reminded Jack that he dropped out of high school to enlist. Why?

"All of us wanted to be John Wayne. Vietnam was all over the news. Seeing tanks, planes, bombs, guns. We were little boys. It looked like fun. Not until we got over there did we realize we could get killed by this [expletive]. Any veteran who reads his letters home realizes what a little boy he was. I never heard a guy get hit who didn't yell, `Mama!'

"When I stepped off a C-141 in Da Nang, I took a look around and said to myself, `John Wayne is nowhere to be found.' It was nasty, ugly, dirty."

What about Bush and Cheney and the others who "avoided the draft?" Do you resent them?

"If you cut out all the draft dodgers from the upper echelon of government, we wouldn't have anybody to vote for. In some way, I think the guys who had enough sense to know how bad it was were smarter than the rest of us. I kind of feel foolish. I didn't know any better.

"Hell, all of us in Vietnam wanted out too, but we couldn't get back." He laughed. "Even there we did our best to avoid military service. Half of Vietnam was stoned, and the rest would have been but they were on guard duty."

What about Gore? He went to 'Nam. "He went as a journalist" he said without a hint of irony. "He was sitting in a Quonset hut with his buddies while the rest of us were dodging bullets. He's still doing that. The last time he took a stand was to pull up his shorts."

So, you don't hold it against Cheney or Bush that they didn't serve active duty?

"If the decisions we make when we're in our late teens and early 20s were the foundation for the balance of our lives, we'd all be hiding in the backwoods of North Carolina by the time we were 30.

"The ironic part is anybody [like Cheney] who can survive three heart attacks and still wants to be in public service is no coward."

Like I said, direct.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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07/18/00: 'Progress' for women often a step back
07/11/00: School essay watchdogs cannibalize our children
07/06/00: Youths fear marriage --- blame boomers
06/28/00: Eminem might just have a point
06/21/00: Bridging the day-care divide
06/15/00: N.Y. baby case ends up with multiracial scrambled eggs
05/31/00: The war only time wins
05/25/00: The opposite of sex
05/18/00: World War II gave us our true heroes
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05/05/00: A born Ms. Leader -- Barbie for prez
04/25/00: From here to paternity
04/14/00: Boys should be boys, not viewed as criminals in training
04/11/00: Oh, for a standard of what is socially, morally acceptable
04/06/00: Womyn's Contempt for Commitment --- and the bastards it creates
04/04/00: Sue-happy American society is out of control
03/30/00: Duct-taped baby serves as warning
03/28/00: Stay-home parents know that their kids need them
03/24/00: No 'Great Expectations' when schools shun the classics
03/21/00: It's common sense to restrict Internet usage in libraries
03/17/00: You want to be just a mom? For shame!
03/14/00: Colonoscopy: Important, but bad TV
03/10/00: I made a mistake about trigger-locks
03/08/00: After this school shooting, no easy target for our contempt
03/03/00: Car crash helps bridge our divide
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02/14/00: College testing via Lego-building -- yeah, right
02/02/00: Bubba should spare us phony love theatrics
01/26/00: What sets off Those Who Speak for Women
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12/09/99: Don't be stupid about at-risk kids
12/07/99: Pokemon is no substitute for a father
12/02/99: Blaming the victim --- men
11/30/99: Baby-killer's story has less-than-Precious ending
11/23/99: Pendulum swings back toward discipline, responsibility
11/18/99: Put the babies first in this mighty mess
11/11/99: Skip the applause for this baby news
11/09/99: Gore could benefit from a secret in Wolf's clothing
11/03/99: Who needs 'birds and bees' when we have MTV?
11/01/99: Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say
10/26/99: Children's needs must take priority in divorce system
10/19/99: The deadbeat dad is less a scoundrel than an object of pity
10/15/99: Bullying boys ... and girls
10/12/99: Divorced dads ready to wage a revolution
10/04/99: A father's best gift? His presence
09/30/99: Sorry, guys, Faludi is no friend of yours
09/28/99: Science's new findings: Scary future for families
09/23/99: The great blurring of need and want
09/21/99:Focus on more than baby's first 3 years
09/16/99: Commentary from kids sheds no light on day-care debate
09/14/99: Fathers' group seeks to right inequities
09/09/99: Son now has a license to grow up
09/07/99: A slap in the face of domestic violence
09/01/99: No, ma'am: Legislation on manners misses the mark
08/26/99: For better boys, try a little tenderness
08/24/99:The ABC's of campaign questions
08/19/99: Male 'sluts'
08/11/99: Language doesn't excuse bad behavior
08/09/99: When justice delayed is still justice
08/03/99: Unemployment? Not in this profession
07/30/99: It's not about race -- it's about crack babies
07/22/99: Tragedy tells us what's important
07/19/99: Study denouncing fathers sends danger signals
07/15/99:'Happy marriage' belongs in the Dictionary of Oxymorons next to 'deliciously low-fat.'
07/11/99: 'Brother Man': An American demagogue in Paris
07/08/99: Only parents can fix broken families
07/06/99: America is home, sweet home
07/01/99: Tales out of Yuppiedom
06/28/99: Men aren't the only abusers
06/23/99: Is the entire country guzzling LSD punch?
06/20/99: The voice remains -- as always -- there beside me 06/16/99:Stating the obvious, a new growth industry
06/14/99: Calling for a cease-fire in the gender war
06/10/99: We owe children an apology

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