Commentary and links relating to media coverage of war; both before, during, and after.

William A. Dorman is Professor of Government at California State University, Sacramento, and has taught a course in War, Peace and the Mass Media since 1970.

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War, Peace, and the Mass Media
Monday, August 30, 2004  
John Kerry and the truth about Vietnam

By William Dowell
Global Beat Syndicate
August 23, 2004

(Blog editor's note: William Dowell provides one of the most thoughtful reflections I've read on the bitter "battle of the swiftboats" that is currently raging during the presidential campaign. Dowell edits the Global Beat web site, which I've mentioned many times. He served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from June 1967 through February 1969. He worked as a journalist in Vietnam from 1969 to 1973.)

New York--When asked how the Vietnamese are likely to see   Senator John   Kerry's war experiences in Vietnam, the Vietnamese-American novelist Lin Dinh remarked recently that for most Vietnamese, many of whom were born after the fall of Saigon, the war is now distant history. What is more likely to matter to the Vietnamese, Linh concluded, is that Kerry has actually experienced war first hand, and he is consequently likely to have a deeper understanding of what engaging in combat really means. Men who have seen combat up close, Linh suggested,   are more cautious about repeating the experience.

The campaign has triggered more than a few flashbacks to a war that most people would just as soon forget. Like John Kerry, I can remember agonizing over the draft, and like Kerry, I finally decided against finding an easy way out. I reasoned at the time, perhaps naively, that you could not ask someone else to put themself into harms way, if you were not prepared to face that yourself.  I do not hold it against George W. Bush, Dick Cheney or Paul Wolfowitz that they chose a different route. The majority of white, upper-middle class, American males who had the money to stay in college or to find a safe haven in the National Guard, did pretty much the same. If you had the money and influence, it was not difficult to avoid putting yourself into a risky, no-win situation, and at the time staying as far away as possible from Vietnam seemed like a no-brainer. But ones who stayed at home missed the understanding that comes from actually being in combat.

To read the rest of Dowell's perceptive essay, see Global Beat Syndicte

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