Media Twits Flay Kerrey, but Dine With Kissinger

During a press conference the other day, one of the twerps

in attendance asked Bob Kerrey if he thought that he ought to return the Bronze

Star awarded him after the action at Thanh Phong, Vietnam, at which a dozen or

so civilians were killed. I was sorry that Mr. Kerrey, now the president of the

New School here, didn’t answer that he would return it when he was given back

the leg he lost in action a few weeks later, the action for which he was

awarded the Medal of Honor.

Why are the mites, gnats, midges, black flies and twits of

journalism going after the former governor of Nebraska and two-time United

States Senator for something he did as a young man and a junior officer so long

ago? For many, journalism is an amoral occupation, and the twits know that the

money and the name amplification come with finding a well-known figure and then

traducing and ruining him. Since in some shops you’ll get extra brownie points

if the person being pulled down is looked up to, admired and trusted, the midge

who broke this jolly little story should be enjoying a career high.

A minute after the story broke, a swarm of sanctimonious

twittery was buzzing and biting around Mr. Kerrey’s head. Oh, he killed

innocent and unarmed civilians, sneaky war criminal that he is, pretending to

be as good as his guiltless fellow citizens. If you think back on the Vietnam

conflict and American high-altitude carpet bombing in which thousands of

civilians, innocent civilians and guilty civilians, perished, then reflect on

the years of chemical warfare, Agent Orange and napalm used to prosecute the

war, it is an assault against reason to go find an obscure Navy lieutenant and

hang him out to dry. Who sent this young man to wage war? A lot of them who did

are still alive. Henry Kissinger and Robert McNamara are. But the midges and

earwigs of journalism invite them on their TV shows and listen to their lies

without so much as a black-fly bite.

Mr. Kerrey killed civilians. He can plead that he didn’t

kill many civilians. He can argue that he killed fewer noncombatants than Bill

Clinton did in the course of his erratic bombing raids here and there across

the globe. Killing civilians! Since when is that a real crime? Losers get

punished for killing civilians and committing war crimes.

The Nazis whom the Allies hung at Nuremberg were the Nazis

for whom the winners had no use. The Nazis deemed useful did well and died

rich. Is that cynical? Then please read the first paragraphs of an Associated

Press dispatch published in The New York

Times on April 28: “There were the Nazis the United States wanted to try as

criminals, and there were other Nazis it wanted to try out as employees; some

10,000 pages of declassified C.I.A. documents made public [on April 27] reveal

a wartime agency tracking Nazis as deadly enemies, and a postwar organization

hiring newfound ‘friends’ to spy on the Soviet Union and its satellites.

“Some of the Nazis on the C.I.A. payroll were wanted as war

criminals, and some lived well, apparently profiting from stolen Jewish

property.” The article doesn’t go into the Nazis brought to the United States

to build “weapons of mass destruction,” which, it goes without saying, have

been known to nick an innocent, unarmed civilian now and then.

In the Far East, the United States executed Japanese

political and military men for whom it had no use, but the biggest war

criminal, Emperor Hirohito, was not indicted and was not tried. He remained on

his throne because it suited American political aims. Instead of swinging from

a gibbet, an elaborate fable of innocence was concocted to explain away

Hirohito’s part in that war. For more than half a century, the truth was left

unspoken-until last year, when Herbert P. Bix published his astonishing

biography of the late emperor, for which Mr. Bix was recently recognized with a


If the Kerrey story has significance, it has nothing to do

with a small squad of American military personnel killing civilians. If the

story is to have any weight, it must hinge on whether this incident was part of

a war policy to kill civilians. Let the reporter midges and writer gnats chase

that around and see what they find. As for Mr. Kerrey, he wasn’t sufficiently

quick-witted at his press conference to use the phrase “collateral damage.”

When the killing is called “collateral damage,” it’s O.K., especially if the

adjectives “unavoidable” and “regrettable” are used.

Collateral damage, or ripping the knife across the throats

of the other side’s civilians, is as old as warfare in the West. In Thucydides,

war against the civilian population is a given; in Caesar’s Gallic Wars, it is

routine. Our own General William T. Sherman, he of the March to the Sea, made

war against the civilian population a matter of policy because he understood,

like the Athenian and Spartan strategoi ,

that an army is only as good as the civilian economy which supports it. I can

think of only one century-the 18th-in the last 2,500 years of warfare conducted

by Europeans in which innocent, unarmed civilians were spared. The two

centuries preceding it were soaked in the blood of innocents, and as for the

20th century, it was much, much safer to be a uniformed combatant than a


The 20th century opened with the Boer War and the British

invention of the concentration camp. Aside from the Holocaust massacres of World

War II, the Germans also have the destruction of Rotterdam, Coventry and much

of London to hold out as examples of war deliberately waged on the innocent;

and the other side-our side-can take credit for the fire bombings of Dresden

and Tokyo, in which possibly half a million were burnt alive. And Hiroshima.

And Nagasaki.

In the 32 years since Mr. Kerrey was involved in whatever

may have happened in that village, the nation whose uniform he wore has killed

a helluva lot more than a dozen civilians. There were Mr. Reagan’s numerous

military actions, the first George Bush’s foray into Panama and the deaths of

hundreds issuing therefrom, the starvation of the population of Iraq, the

giving of weapons and moneys to nations which bomb civilian targets, torture prisoners,

use poison gas, employ assassination and kidnapping, sanction the collective

punishment of civilians, etc., etc.

The kidney punch administered to Mr. Kerrey serves those of

many political stripes who want a no-hand-to-hand-combat military stationed in

the continental United States, fighting at elaborate electronic consoles

thousands of miles out of harm’s way. It is scarcely the fighting force needed

in a 21st century where great swaths across the planet are falling into the

permanent, lawless barbarism of diversity conflict. Everywhere religions,

language groups and culture clusters daily do unspeakable things to each other

on a scale that dwarfs anything Bob Kerrey is accused of.

The Kerrey incident will be used as one more proof that

American troops should stay bivouacked in America, safe from mission creep and

the temptation to commit a crime against humanity while no one, save possibly

the twits, are looking. In the theology of globalism, heaven on earth will be

ours if we stack our arms and rely on high tech and low tariffs. We shall see

about that in the by and by. Media Twits Flay Kerrey, but Dine With Kissinger