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Wetterling on Vietnam and Clinton

June 01, 1997

In his column on Memorial Day, J.D. Wetterling told a great war story that brought back memories of my own flights down the Ho Chi Minh Trail in a Marine Corps photo-reconnaissance jet. But it left me a bit confused. Wetterling does a great job of communicating the sheer exhilaration we felt in yanking and banking that aircraft through the black air, along with the tragedy of losing a wingman. But what does all that have to do with Bill Clinton, and why does he seem to bear him a grudge?

He blames Clinton for going to graduate school while he and I were flying in Vietnam. Last I heard, a hell of a lot fewer of us were qualified for Rhodes scholarships than for flying jet aircraft.

He claims Clinton demonstrated on foreign soil against his government. It is my understanding that Clinton was demonstrating not against his government but against its decision to waste American lives in a war it shouldn't have been fighting. Wetterling's wingman Vince wasn't killed by Clinton and others who opposed the war but by the national leaders who sent us to Vietnam. Since the national consensus now seems to be that the war was a mistake, I don't understand why Wetterling and others can't get over their hatred of those who were wise enough to oppose it in the first place.


San Clemente

* My late father was a fighter-bomber pilot in Europe during World War II. Unlike Wetterling, he never talked about his wartime experiences with romantic, inappropriate imagery ("like a popcorn popper," bullets like "bucketfuls of multicolored Christmas tree lights"). Like Wetterling, my father was gung-ho about Vietnam; but unlike Wetterling, by 1969 my father realized Vietnam was both a military and political disaster.

Instead of facing this fact, Wetterling continues to deny his culpability in the "midnight massacre" of hundreds and thousands of Vietnamese. Wetterling wept for his lost comrade, but sheds no tears for those he helped slaughter. It is specious, Mr. Wetterling, to denigrate Clinton's antiwar stance in the '60s by snidely accusing him now of "still pushing the edge of the ethical envelope." What Clinton did in the '60s was right. Your high-tech slaughter of Vietnamese, no matter how you remember it, was wrong.



* Robert Scheer writes, "Well, we lost the (Vietnam) war" (Column Left, May 27). He should realize that "we" did not lose the Vietnam War, rather the war was lost by the very congressmen who he blames for believing President Johnson's lies and lack of knowledge about Vietnam or anything else.

A Democratic Congress helped send the troops to Southeast Asia and did nothing to stop a dumb war. Only when Richard Nixon started the pullout and stopped the draft did the Democratic congressmen flex their muscles by tardily stopping funds for LBJ's war.


San Diego

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