Dodging error

his is a response to Mark Corman’s Oct. 2 letter criticizing Bill Clinton’s Vietnam draft dodging. Corman’s long letter was filled with errors.

Corman claims that what George Bush’s sons or even Pat Buchanan did to avoid the draft is not “of interest to today’s voters.” Speak for yourself, Mark. I am very interested. Also, the notion that there was no “sneaking or manipulation” involved in Dan Quayle’s draft dodging is ridiculous! Quayle’s father was one of the most powerful men in Indiana and pulled strings like a puppeteer to get Danny Boy into a much-coveted reserve slot. His draft dodging was no more “legitimate” than Clinton’s and probably less so: Clinton was forced to use his own wits; he did not have Quayle’s silver spoon connections.

Secondly, consider these three Corman sentences: “This is not a question of whether or not the United States should have been involved either. That was not a decision any American could make. The point is, Vietnam was happening and our country called on its young men to defend freedom.”

Last point first: Vietnam was not about defending freedom. South Vietnam was a military dictatorship. North Vietnam was also a dictatorship (a communist one) but the North Vietnamese government had a more legitimate claim to power than that of the South. Ho Chi Mihn had, as an American ally, defended his country against the invading Japanese in World War II. He also fought and defeated the French when they tried, with our permission, to recolonize the country after the war.

After the French defeat, the United Nations offered to hold democratic elections in Vietnam; the Eisenhower administration turned them down because it knew the communists would win. So, the country got divided in two. The later American involvement may have been perceived as “freedom v. communism” by Americans, but the Vietnamese perceived it as nationalism v. colonialism.

Corman implies that once America went to war in Vietnam, all good young Americans should have shut up and gone willingly. The American people had every right to question the decision of war in Vietnam. Congress never declared war in Vietnam; the issue was never fully debated and approved by the people’s elected representatives. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson used a falsified Gulf of Tonkin incident to deceive Congress into giving him power to make war as he saw fit.

I am tired of historically ignorant conservatives questioning Clinton’s patriotism over Vietnam. Patriotism is a two-way street: In return for the soldier’s duty of loyalty and willingness to kill and die in battle, the government has the reciprocal duty not to send men to defend an unjust cause and a duty to give them the political and military tools needed to win with a minimum of American casualties.

In Vietnam, the government violated both aspects of the trust and anyone with sense knew it by 1968, two years before Clinton dodged the draft. The young men of that era had a difficult choice: serve your country when it called, even for an illegitimate purpose or resist the war and exercise the right of free speech against a government wrong. Neither choice was “wrong” or “unpatriotic.” Indeed, many young men and women who served protested when they returned.

Instead of focusing on what Clinton did in a difficult situation 23 years ago, why don’t we look at what George Bush has done in the last twelve years? Corman claims in his letter that America needs a president with “honesty, integrity, and patriotism.” That ain’t George Bush!

I’ll take Clinton/Gore over Bush/Quayle, thank you very much, and I damn sure I won’t feel unpatriotic doing it.

Scott Larson

Law Student

Second Year