- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 3, 2007

And so it begins, antiwar demonstrators again race for the moral high ground, this time to denounce the U.S. combat engagement in Iraq. Let there be no question that the great strength of our democracy is the openness of our society for all to express diverse opinions and engage in raucous and messy public debates about our future. However in the court of public opinion no one should be allowed to gloss over or ignore inconvenient historical facts.

The last big surge of antiwar protesters on the Mall was literally hundreds of thousands of protesters during the Vietnam War. They came to the Mall and Pentagon screaming slogans such as “Hey, Hey, LBJ. How many kids did you kill today?” and “Ho Ho Ho Chi Min, NVA is going to win.” My personal worst was those who tragically and smugly threw the epitaph “baby killer” at those in uniform. My fellow Vietnam Vets are all original sources on this really happening.

It is not my intention to refight the Vietnam War, but it is the conveniently forgotten aftermath of our pulling out of Southeast Asia that should not be ignored in today’s debate. The historical record shows that after the U.S. disengaged from Southeast Asia the Cambodian Killing Fields occurred, Vietnamese boat people trying to escape on the high seas were terrorized. Many were raped and murdered, and horrible re-education concentration camps were created for our South Vietnam allies.

My point is very simple the current antiwar movement does not deserve to claim the moral high ground, because the same actors such as Jane Fonda have never acknowledged the postwar Cambodian Holocaust and the tragedy of the Vietnamese boat people. Their arguments against further combat in Iraq may or may not be intellectually supportable, but this time shame on the media if they allow the debate to become polarized like it was in the 1960s, with the warriors becoming blamed for the war and the consequences of withdrawing not being addressed.

Those in uniform and their commander in chief deserve more than the trite slogans and bumper-sticker thought seen on the Mall last weekend. Debate the war but do it on a moral playing field that recognizes the value and courage of those men and woman in uniform.

Editors and reporters, please ask the hard questions about the war but please do not let it get up close and personal against the troops. It is subtle, but very devastating to allow; “We support the troops, but the war is illegal, immoral. Blah, blah, blah.” This is an attack and insult directed toward those putting their life on the line.

Another point in play is the antiwar crowd again trying to honor deserters fleeing to Canada. There is no draft, so stop trying to make deserters honorable people acting for a higher purpose. Everyone in uniform is an adult who made a conscious decision to serve our nation. The courageous position if a person wakes up one morning and wants out because of conscience is to say so and accept the consequences. Deserting and running to Canada is the coward’s way out, pure and simple.

Those currently putting their life on the line deserve an honest debate and thoughtful reporting without letting those opposed to our role in Iraq and Afghanistan off the hook for the potential consequences of their words. The debate should be a level playing field with all sides presented fairly.

Please do not let the antiwar zealots get away with going over the line and blaming the warrior for the war, as they did during the Vietnam era. Millions of men and women in uniform from 1965 to 1975, honorably doing their duty, were trashed. The Vietnam Veterans are now going into the history books as a generation who kept the faith with their fellow citizens while being vilified.

And now for generations yet to come the valor and commitment of those brave few who ventured into the combat cauldron of Iraq and Afghanistan will live forever. They are the next true immortals. This time do not let a group of antiwar fanatical zealots get away with trying to steal their honor.

ED TIMPERLAKE

Co-author with Jed Babbin of “Showdown” and a 1969 Graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who took his commission in the Marines.

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