May 10, 2001
issue of Workers World newspaper
Kerrey and McVeigh
Two mass murderers who learned their killing techniques from the Pentagon
have been in the news: ex-Senator, ex-Navy Seal and confessed killer of
Vietnamese civilians Robert Kerrey and convicted and confessed Oklahoma City
mass murderer Timothy McVeigh.
The two probably don't think of themselves as having much in common. Kerrey
considers himself a law-abiding citizen who served his country. McVeigh likes
to posture as a lone fighter against an oppressive tyranny in Washington. Yet
they both became tools of a racist system of oppression and exploitation.
Kerrey was a Navy Seal. That is, he was a trained killer, a shark with
brains. Given the description of his group's duties, he was part of Operation
Phoenix, a plan to assassinate civilian political leaders of the National
Liberation Front of Vietnam. It meant killing the equivalent of town and
village mayors who were suspected of sympathizing with what the U.S.
occupying forces and their puppets called the "Vietcong."
It also meant killing any civilians--politically active or not, grandparents
and children--who had the misfortune of being in a position to compromise the
military operation the Seals were carrying out. Or those who might testify
against the murderers afterward. Kerrey said it was hard to carry out these
killings. It's like that moment of decision when you are drowning kittens, he
once explained to a college class after his role in the war was over.
In February 1969, when he led his unit in a massacre, Kerrey was a
25-year-old officer. Older than most U.S. youths drafted to fight in Vietnam.
Not as old as the cynical politicians, generals, CIA officials and other
executives of the Johnson and Nixon administrations who dreamt up Operation
Phoenix, carpet bombing, napalm and Agent Orange for a war against an entire
population. Those who orchestrated this war of imperialist aggression knew
exactly what they were doing: keeping the world safe for the profits of the
multinational corporations. All of these master criminals, like Robert
McNamara and Henry Kissinger, have gone unpunished for their war crimes. It
looks like Kerrey will also go unpunished for being their tool.
McVeigh, on the other hand, never quite made the grade. He hoped for an Army
career, won a Bronze Star in the brutal U.S.-led war against Iraq, boasted of
killing some Iraqis and being on security for General Norman Schwarzkopf. He
was a low-level tool for another master war criminal. When he tried to raise
his level by becoming a Green Beret--an Army version of the Navy Seals--he
failed to make the grade.
Dumped from the Army, McVeigh had no officially sanctioned imperialist outlet
for his backward and murderous sentiments. He joined the Ku Klux Klan. He
hung around ultra-right militias. And he turned against the government
that--under slightly different circumstances--might have gone on paying him
to kill in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Colombia, or wherever. But he kept the same
racist sentiments that made him useful in Iraq. He just bombed the "wrong"
McVeigh showed how close he was to the official military when he explained
his limited remorse for killing 25 children. "That's a large amount of
collateral damage," he told his biographer. He used the euphemism for war
crimes that will forever be attached to Jamie Shea, a British official who
spoke for NATO during the bombing of Yugoslavia but was coached by Clinton,
Albright and Co.
McVeigh may pretend to be a rebel, but he's just a racist tool who was
discarded by his masters. Now they hope that by executing him they can
completely cut loose from the responsibility they have for creating him in
the first place.
In Kerrey's day, the term "collateral damage" was not yet in use. Plus the
murders were close up--not by guided missile from a ship in the Mediterranean
or the Persian Gulf. Kerrey claims to feel remorse for what he did in Vietnam.
Before people get caught up in the media spin on this story and start feeling
sorry for Kerrey, they should consider that there were other choices. There
were U.S. youths ordered into the military who refused the draft. There were
troops ordered to Vietnam who refused to go. There were troops whose
experience in Vietnam taught them they must refuse to fight, or that they
should fight instead against the officers who ordered them into battle. A few
went over to the side of the Vietnamese liberation fighters.
Some went to jail, others went into exile, many paid dearly for their courage
in refusing to fight against a people's war. But none of them has any reason
to feel remorse. Kerrey was honored as a hero, but these youths were the real
U.S. heroes of the Vietnam War and far too little praise is given to their
acts of courage.
Kerrey and McVeigh, on the other hand, are just imperialist tools.
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