I believe that Roger Cohen intended his New York Times column on Bob Kerrey to be somewhat complementary of Kerrey as a man trying to make amends for his involvement in a wartime atrocity. However, the impression it made on me was of his hatred for military veterans in general, and Vietnam veterans in particular. In Cohen’s column Kerrey comes across as one of the most evil, depraved men on the face of the earth. Nowhere does he mention that Kerrey was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The implication is that America awarded the medal to a vile monster, making America a vile, monstrous country. Cohen’s hatred of America drips like venom from his column.
I presume that while visiting Vietnam recently, Cohen and Kerrey had a deep, dark heart-to-heart discussion about the incident in which Kerrey’s Seal unit killed a number of women and children. Cohen does not mention that one reason this happened was because the Vietcong hid among women and children to protect themselves. The VC have no remorse for pushing women and children into the line of fire by hiding in their villages and homes. Cohen sees the Vietcong freedom fighters as wonderful exemplars of the nobility of mankind.
What particularly incensed me was Cohen’s last paragraph comparing Mohammad Ali’s resistance to the Vietnam War to Kerrey’s participation in it. Cohen’s view is that Ali was the better of the two. Ali beat people up for a living, often hurting his opponents, but he did it for lots of money. Kerrey fought for his country; he made much less money as a Seal than Ali did as a boxer, but Cohen sees hurting people for money as a good thing, while killing people for your country is monstrously evil. For Cohen, Ali made the world a better place, but it would have been better of Kerrey had never been born.
As a Vietnam veteran I am so outraged, I can hardly write this. But Cohen is where the the rest of the world is. People who fought in Vietnam because they were drafted (as Ali almost was) or because they thought they were patriotic, were fools. Their country will forever hate and revile them, with Cohen in the forefront of the haters.