By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org
In 1971, John Kerry was at the center of one of the great anti-war demonstrations in American history. His testimony before Congress was a crucial element in turning public opinion against the war in Vietnam.
On Friday afternoon, Kerry was again giving a much-watched public speech in Washington, D.C. But the one-time “winter soldier” who was willing to straight-talk Congress about the bloody quagmire in Southeast Asia has changed his tune about America’s role in international conflicts.
Here’s three side-by-side comparisons of Kerry in 1971 vs. Kerry in 2013:
In 1971, Kerry said America’s involvement in Vietnam was never about national security:
“In our opinion, and from our experience, there is nothing in South Vietnam, nothing which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America. And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart.”
In 2013, Kerry said America’s involvement in Syria was about national security:
“It matters deeply to the credibility and the future interests of the United States of America and our allies…. And make no mistake, in an increasingly complicated world of sectarian and religious extremist violence, what we choose to do or not do matters in real ways to our own security.”
In 1971, Kerry said America lost its sense of morality by bombing villages in Vietnam:
“We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. We saw America lose her sense of morality as she accepted very coolly a My Lai and refused to give up the image of American soldiers who hand out chocolate bars and chewing gum.”
In 2013, Kerry said America must bomb villages in Syria, because of our sense of morality:
“It is also profoundly about who we are. We are the United States of America. We are the country that has tried, not always successfully, but always tried to honor a set of universal values around which we have organized our lives and our aspirations.
“This crime against conscience, this crime against humanity, this crime against the most fundamental principles of international community, against the norm of the international community, this matters to us.
“And it matters to who we are. And it matters to leadership and to our credibility in the world.”
In 1971, Kerry said America should stay out of internal civil wars in other nations – no matter how bad they might be – because history shows that is the right thing to do.
“The war will continue. So what I am saying is that yes, there will be some recrimination but far, far less than the 200,000 a year who are murdered by the United States of America, and we can’t go around — President Kennedy said this, many times. He said that the United States simply can’t right every wrong, that we can’t solve the problems of the other 94 percent of mankind. We didn’t go into East Pakistan; we didn’t go into Czechoslovakia. Why then should we feel that we now have the power to solve the internal political struggles of this country?
We have to let them solve their problems while we solve ours and help other people in an altruistic fashion commensurate with our capability. But we have extended that capacity; we have exhausted that capacity, Senator. So I think the question is really moot.”
In 2013, Kerry said America must intervene in what he admits is an internal civil war in another nation, because history shows that is the right thing to do:
“But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about. And history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency, these things we do know.
“We also know that we have a president that does what he says that he will do. And he has said, very clearly, that whatever decision he makes in Syria it will bear no resemblance to Afghanistan, Iraq or even Libya. It will not involve any boots on the ground. It will not be open ended. And it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well underway.”
Eric Boehm is a reporter for Watchdog.org and can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @EricBoehm87