OPEN LETTER TO ALL VETERANS FROM GEORGE DUGGINS, PRESIDENT OF
VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA
To VVA members and fellow
The recent admission of former U.S. Senator
Bob Kerrey that his SEAL team killed unarmed old men, women, and
children in a commando raid during the Vietnam War has captured
headlines, here and abroad.
Because Kerrey--now a college president in
New York--is a public figure and decorated hero, this was news and
I have no qualms about reporting it. However, some in the media
have taken an overly dramatic approach to the story.
Expressing shock or amazement that unarmed civilians were
killed in a firefight is disingenuous at best and morally
unjustifiable at worst. Unfortunately,
civilians are killed in every war.
That is the nature of warfare.
In Vietnam, the enemy often wore no uniforms, and many
women and children were Viet Cong.
Nearly 60 percent of the world’s population
was not born at the time of this 1969 incident.
Many younger Americans may now think--as many Americans
thought during that war--that our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and
Marines were indiscriminate killers.
That image, often promoted by the newspapers, television,
and the movies, left an indelible mark on many who served.
It caused great physical and emotional pain to a whole
generation of Americans who served honorably in that war.
Dredging up that imagery after all these years serves no
useful moral or historical purpose.
As a veterans service organization serving
the 8.5 million Vietnam-era veterans and their families, VVA will
not pass judgment on Kerrey’s actions other than to say that as
the commander of the squad his first duty was to protect his men
while attempting to carry out his assignment.
Many of our ground combat veterans, while not experiencing
exactly what Kerrey and his team experienced, know the horrors of
Kerrey has said sometimes it is easier to die for your
country than to kill for your country.
He and his squad will continue to suffer from the combat
experience in Vietnam for the rest of their lives.
George C. Duggins