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William F. Buckley Jr.'s June 8, 1971, West Point Commencement Address [Regarding Kerry]
Let Us Talk of Many Things : The Collected Speeches ^ | June 8, 1971 | William F. Buckley, Jr.

Posted on 02/05/2004 4:38:10 AM PST by William McKinley

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the text of William F. Buckley Jr.'s June 8, 1971, commencement address to the United States Military Academy at West Point. The speech appears here as it is in Let Us Talk of Many Things : The Collected Speeches.

The morale in the armed services was low, reflecting the impasse and progressive demoralization in Vietnam, and especially the trial of Lieutenant William Calley for the massacre at Mylai. A drastic charge, flamboyantly made by decorated veteran John Kerry (now a United States senator from Massachusetts), had been rapturously received. Kerry ascribed to our soldiers in Vietnam uncivilized, barbarous practices. I devoted my talk to asking about Mr. Kerry's charges and reflecting on their implications.

A great deal has been written lately on the spirit of progressivism at West Point. I note that a generation ago, cadets were not permitted to read a newspaper, whereas today, each cadet room receives a daily copy of the New York Times. I know now what it means to be nostalgic for the good old days.

I read ten days ago the full text of the quite remarkable address delivered by John Kerry before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. It was an address, I am told, that paralyzed the committee by its eloquence and made Mr. Kerry — a veteran of the war in Vietnam, a pedigreed Bostonian, a graduate of Yale University — an instant hero.

After reading it I put it aside, deeply troubled as I was by the haunting resonance of its peroration, which so moved the audience. The words he spoke were these:

"[We are determined] to undertake one last mission, to search out and destroy the last vestige of this barbaric war, to pacify our hearts, to conquer the hate and fear that have driven this country these last ten years and more, so that when, thirty years from now, our brothers go down the street without a leg, without an arm, or a face, and small boys ask why, we will be able to say 'Vietnam!' and not mean a desert, not a filthy obscene memory, but the place where America finally turned and where soldiers like us helped it in the turning."

"Where America finally turned." We need to wonder: where America finally turned from what?

Mr. Kerry, in introducing himself to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made it plain that he was there to speak not only for himself, but for what he called "a very much larger group of veterans in this country." He then proceeded to describe the America he knows, the America from which he enjoined us all to turn.

In Southeast Asia, he said, he saw "not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."

A grave charge, but the sensitive listener will instantly assume that Mr. Kerry is using the word "crime" loosely, as in, "He was criminally thoughtless in not writing home more often to his mother." But Mr. Kerry quickly interdicted that line of retreat. He went on to enumerate precisely such crimes as are being committed "on a day-to-day basis, with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command." He gave tales of torture, of rape, of Americans who "randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravages of war."

Mr. Kerry informed Congress that what threatens the United States is "not Reds, and not redcoats," but "the crimes" we are committing. He tells us that we have "created a monster, a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence, and who have returned with a sense of anger."

Most specifically he singled out for criticism a sentence uttered by Mr. Agnew here at West Point a year ago: "Some glamorize the criminal misfits of society while our best men die in Asian rice paddies to preserve the freedom which most of those misfits abuse." Mr. Kerry insists that the so-called misfits are the true heroes, inasmuch as it was they who "were standing up for us in a way that nobody else in this country dared to." As for the men in Vietnam, he added, "we cannot consider ourselves America's 'best men' when we are ashamed of and hated for what we were called on to do in Southeast Asia."

And indeed, if American soldiers have been called upon to rape and to torture and to exterminate non-combatants, it is obvious that they should be ashamed, less obvious why they have not expressed that shame more widely on returning to the United States, particularly inasmuch as we have been assured by Mr. Kerry that they have been taught to deal and to trade in violence.

Are there extenuating circumstances? Is there a reason for our being in Vietnam?

"To attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom . . . is . . . the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart." It is then, we reason retrospectively, not alone an act of hypocrisy that caused the joint chiefs of staff and the heads of the civilian departments engaged in strategic calculations to make the recommendations they made over the past ten years, to three Presidents of the United States: it was not merely hypocrisy, but criminal hypocrisy. The nature of that hypocrisy? "All," Mr. Kerry sums up, "that we were told about the mystical war against Communism."

The indictment is complete.

It is the indictment of an ignorant young man who is willing to condemn in words that would have been appropriately used in Nuremberg the governing class of America: the legislators, the generals, the statesmen. And, reaching beyond them, the people, who named the governors to their positions of responsibility and ratified their decisions in several elections.

The point I want to raise is this: If America is everything that John Kerry says it is, what is it appropriate for us to do? The wells of regeneration are infinitely deep, but the stain described by John Kerry goes too deep to be bleached out by conventional remorse or resolution: better the destruction of America, if, to see ourselves truly, we need to look into the mirror John Kerry holds up for us. If we are a nation of sadists, of kid-killers and torturers, of hypocrites and criminals, let us be done with it, and pray that a great flood or fire will destroy us, leaving John Kerry and maybe Mrs. Benjamin Spock to take the place of Lot, in reseeding a new order.

Gentleman, how many times, in the days ahead, you will need to ask yourselves the most searching question of all, the counterpart of the priest's most agonizing doubt: Is there a God? Yours will be: Is America worth it?

John Kerry's assault on this country did not rise fullblown in his mind, like Venus from the Cypriot Sea. It is the crystallization of an assault upon America which has been fostered over the years by an intellectual class given over to self-doubt and self-hatred, driven by a cultural disgust with the uses to which so many people put their freedom. The assault on the military, the many and subtle vibrations of which you feel as keenly as James Baldwin knows the inflections of racism, is an assault on the proposition that what we have, in America, is truly worth defending. The military is to be loved or despised according as it defends that which is beloved or perpetuates that which is despised. The root question has not risen to such a level of respectability as to work itself into the platform of a national political party, but it lurks in the rhetoric of the John Kerrys, such that a blind man, running his fingers over the features of the public rhetoric, can discern the meaning of it:

Is America worth it?

That is what they are saying to you. And that is what so many Americans reacted to in the case of Lieutenant Calley. Mistakenly, they interpreted the conviction of Calley as yet another effort to discredit the military. And though they will not say it in as many words, they know that if there is no military, it will quickly follow that there will be no America, of the kind that they know, that we know. The America that listens so patiently to its John Kerrys, the America that shouldered the great burden of preserving oases of freedom after the great curtain came down with that Bolshevik subtlety that finally expressed itself in a Wall, to block citizens of the socialist utopia from leaving, en route even to John Kerry's America; the America that all but sank under the general obloquy, in order to stand by, in Southeast Asia, a commitment it had soberly made, to the cause of Containment — I shall listen patiently, decades hence, to those who argue that our commitment in Vietnam and our attempt to redeem it were tragically misconceived. I shall not listen to those who say that it was less than the highest tribute to national motivation, to collective idealism, and to international rectitude. I say this with confidence because I have never met an American who takes pleasure from the Vietnam War or who desires to exploit the Vietnamese.

So during those moments when doubt will assail you, moments that will come as surely as the temptations of the flesh, I hope you will pause. I know, I know, at the most hectic moments of one's life it isn't easy — indeed, the argument can be made that neither is it seemly — to withdraw from the front line in order to consider the general situation philosophically. But what I hope you will consider, during these moments of doubt, is the essential professional point: Without organized force, and the threat of the use of it under certain circumstances, there is no freedom, anywhere. Without freedom, there is no true humanity. If America is the monster of John Kerry, burn your commissions tomorrow morning and take others, which will not bind you in the depraved conspiracy you have heard described. If it is otherwise, remember: the freedom John Kerry enjoys, and the freedom I enjoy, are, quite simply, the result of your dedication. Do you wonder that I accepted the opportunity to salute you?


TOPICS: Extended News
KEYWORDS: 1971; 2004; commencement; johnkerry; kerry; kerryhypocracy; usma; vietnam; williamfbuckley
Thanks to Eva for finding and posting this yesterday.

Related threads here, here, here and here.

1 posted on 02/05/2004 4:38:11 AM PST by William McKinley
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To: Eva; Neets
Eva- I think this deserved its own thread. Great find!
2 posted on 02/05/2004 4:40:23 AM PST by William McKinley
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To: William McKinley
Buckley when he was at the top of his game. On The Right nostalgia ping.
3 posted on 02/05/2004 4:49:32 AM PST by speedy
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To: MeekOneGOP
Did you see this find by Eva?
4 posted on 02/05/2004 4:49:55 AM PST by William McKinley
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To: speedy
When he was in his prime, the guy was devastating.

Sure wish he would reclaim his old form.

5 posted on 02/05/2004 4:50:44 AM PST by William McKinley
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To: BartMan1; Nailbiter
ping
6 posted on 02/05/2004 4:56:02 AM PST by IncPen ( Liberalism: Working for you until all of your money is spent.)
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To: A Citizen Reporter; ABG(anybody but Gore); Angelwood; arazitjh; b4its2late; backhoe; bamafour; ...
Ping.
7 posted on 02/05/2004 4:57:23 AM PST by Neets (Complainers change their complaints, but they never reduce the amount of time spent in complaining.~)
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To: William McKinley; Eva
Thanks for bringing this to our attention.
8 posted on 02/05/2004 4:59:39 AM PST by Neets (Complainers change their complaints, but they never reduce the amount of time spent in complaining.~)
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To: William McKinley; hchutch; dighton; Jim Robinson; Alamo-Girl; doug from upland
In Southeast Asia, he [Kerry] said, he saw "not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."

A grave charge, but the sensitive listener will instantly assume that Mr. Kerry is using the word "crime" loosely, as in, "He was criminally thoughtless in not writing home more often to his mother." But Mr. Kerry quickly interdicted that line of retreat. He went on to enumerate precisely such crimes as are being committed "on a day-to-day basis, with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command." He gave tales of torture, of rape, of Americans who "randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravages of war."

My post on The Many Faces of John Kerry is germane to this discussion.

Under military law, what was the duty of an officer -- Kerry, for example -- if he possessed such information?

It is the affirmative duty, under both the UCMJ and under the basic strictures of human decency, of any service member--commissioned, warrant, or noncommissioned officer AND non-rated enlisted person alike--to report any such action to higher authority if he witnesses any such action, or has reasonable cause to believe that such an action was committed.

If Kerry had real reason to believe this, then he is guilty of several serious felonies under the UCMJ, and can conceivably be recalled to active duty to stand court-martial.

"Following his investigation of the My Lai massacre for the Army, Lieutenant General William R. Peers and his investigative team made highly unusual and largely unprecedented recommendations. The Peers Commission proposed that charges also be preferred against a number of American staff officers, including the division chief of staff, the brigade operations officer, the task force operations and intelligence officers, and the division chaplain...

"One of the conclusions Peers drew following his My Lai investigation was that there was widespread failure to report suspected war crimes and civilian casualties, despite numerous directives and standing operating procedures (SOPs) requiring such reports. Even more damning was the conclusion that individuals within the task force headquarters took affirmative steps to conceal the massacre, including falsifying logs by changing the locations where civilians were reportedly killed. A staff officer involved in concealing a war crime may be prosecuted as an accessory after the fact in violation of Article 78, for misprison of a serious offense in violation of Article 134, or for dereliction of duty in violation of Article 92."

From "Staff Officer Responsibility for War Crimes,", LTC Michael J. Davidson, USA, published in the Mar/April 2001 issue of Military Review, the professional journal of the US Army Command & General Staff College. The full article is available at this link to the Military Review Website.

Do we really want to elect a President who could be readily indicted and convicted of war crimes by the very same International Criminal Court he would order the State and Defense Departments to operate under?

9 posted on 02/05/2004 5:04:40 AM PST by Poohbah ("Would you mind not shooting at the thermonuclear weapons?" -- Maj. Vic Deakins, USAF)
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To: William McKinley
John Kerry's assault on this country did not rise fullblown in his mind, like Venus from the Cypriot Sea. It is the crystallization of an assault upon America which has been fostered over the years by an intellectual class given over to self-doubt and self-hatred, driven by a cultural disgust with the uses to which so many people put their freedom.

He had it right 33 years ago and no one paid attention. Now look where we are.

10 posted on 02/05/2004 5:12:45 AM PST by raybbr (My 1.4 cents - It used to be 2 cents, but after taxes - you get the idea.)
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To: William McKinley
Powerful! The sixties brought forth the worst in so many people. Thank goodness, we also had William F Buckley to explain reality.

Kerry's words:


"To attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom . . . is . . . the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart." It is then, we reason retrospectively, not alone an act of hypocrisy that caused the joint chiefs of staff and the heads of the civilian departments engaged in strategic calculations to make the recommendations they made over the past ten years, to three Presidents of the United States: it was not merely hypocrisy, but criminal hypocrisy. The nature of that hypocrisy? "All," Mr. Kerry sums up, "that we were told about the mystical war against Communism."

****

To the people of the left, America's antipathy to communism was always the greatest sin.

I wonder haow many of this Class of '71 went to Viet Nam and how many came home?

I also wonder how many of today's 'voters' know that half of Kerry's service over there was as an officer on a large ship?
11 posted on 02/05/2004 5:16:01 AM PST by maica (Mainstream America Is Conservative America)
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To: maica
I wonder haow many of this Class of '71 went to Viet Nam and how many came home?

Very few went relative to previous classes, and most of those who went came home. US ground forces were almost completely out of Vietnam by 1971; the very last contingents left in 1973.

12 posted on 02/05/2004 5:18:46 AM PST by Poohbah ("Would you mind not shooting at the thermonuclear weapons?" -- Maj. Vic Deakins, USAF)
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To: Poohbah
Thanks for the info. So by the time Kerry decided that his political future lay with the anti-war vets, our soldiers were already being withdrawn from that war.

When he got his early discharge to run for congress, he thought he could run as a decorated warrior a la the other JFK. When he lost in his primary, he decided that he was anti-war and high visibility. When he mentions hypocrisy, he knows what he is talking about!
13 posted on 02/05/2004 5:27:09 AM PST by maica (Mainstream America Is Conservative America)
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To: maica
Kerry admitted committing atrocities in Vietnam, 2 of his purple hearts were for minor wounds {walking wounded}, and Kerry upon his third purple heart immediately requested to be separated from Vietnam, under an obscure navel rule. Kerry then became an anti war protester and testified before congress that the atrocities he witnessed in Vietnam were widespread "everyone did it" { a lie}. Today Kerry wants to puff out his chest over his service in Vietnam, but why would he be so proud of what he said was so vile? Are the remaining Nazi death camp guards proud of their "service" too? Kerry is a political whore of the first order!

14 posted on 02/05/2004 5:39:28 AM PST by BOOTSTICK
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To: BOOTSTICK
BUMP
15 posted on 02/05/2004 5:55:00 AM PST by Publius6961 (40% of Californians are as dumb as a sack of rocks.)
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To: BOOTSTICK
You are so right! And what absolute contempt he must have for the American voter, that he could imagine getting a majority of their votes for him to be Commander-in-Chief.
16 posted on 02/05/2004 6:09:05 AM PST by maica (Mainstream America Is Conservative America)
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To: Neets
I didn't post it in it's own thread because someone else already did that. I simply borrowed it to send to my husband and some of the media who were writing pro-Kerry articles. I'm sorry that I don't remember who originally posted the article from National Review Online.

Please pass this speech to as many people as possible, especially the media. Buckley explains the reason that Kerry should never be trusted to be the Commander in Chief perfectly.
17 posted on 02/05/2004 8:15:08 AM PST by Eva
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To: BOOTSTICK
Kerry admitted committing atrocities in Vietnam.

That's Senator Kerrey of Nebraska, not Senator Kerry of Massachusetts.

The latter merely admitted to covering up atrocities, which is still punishable under the UCMJ.

18 posted on 02/05/2004 9:06:39 AM PST by Poohbah ("Would you mind not shooting at the thermonuclear weapons?" -- Maj. Vic Deakins, USAF)
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To: Neets
I just sent a copy of the speech to the Vietnam Veterans against Kerry.
19 posted on 02/05/2004 9:48:32 AM PST by Eva
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To: Poohbah
Thanks for the information!
20 posted on 02/05/2004 10:26:35 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Eva
Is it really possible that Kerry's speech escaped the tape recorder??

Kerry's nomination for the presidency could be a godsend if its functions as an occasion for younger generations who didn't live through Vietnam--and I was stunned when I realized, many years ago, that youngsters thought of Vietnam like I thought of WWI, as ancient history--to learn what the Democratic Party actually did back then.

The huge commitment of men, the heavy casualties, all with no plan for victory. And the turning against their own creation, and blaming the Republicans for being unwilling to dishonor the memory of the fallen by cutting and running.

21 posted on 02/05/2004 11:47:38 AM PST by conservatism_IS_compassion (Belief in your own objectivity is the essence of subjectivity.)
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To: conservatism_IS_compassion
I am sure that parts of it were televised. It was such a big deal, the Democrats used it to demonize Nixon, the returning military for the next ten years.
22 posted on 02/05/2004 11:58:55 AM PST by Eva
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To: William McKinley; Eva
Thanks for finding and posting this !

bttt to finish reading later:

"To attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia ...

23 posted on 02/05/2004 1:31:27 PM PST by MeekOneGOP (Check out this HILARIOUS story !! haha!: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1060580/posts)
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To: William McKinley
William F. Buckley, Jr., we, who are about to kick John Kerry's ass, salute you.
24 posted on 02/05/2004 2:19:47 PM PST by okie01 (www.ArmorforCongress.com...because Congress isn't for the morally halt and the mentally lame.)
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To: William McKinley
Excellent
25 posted on 02/05/2004 3:28:53 PM PST by The Raven
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To: Poohbah
Very few went relative to previous classes, and most of those who went came home. US ground forces were almost completely out of Vietnam by 1971;

Isn't this about the time that Reserve Officer Bush completed his flight training? If "Major Combat Actions" were concluded before he was fully trained why would it be some sort of dishonor (in the dimocrat mind) for GWB not to serve 'in country?'

26 posted on 02/05/2004 3:43:20 PM PST by Aeronaut (In my humble opinion, the new expression for backing down from a fight should be called 'frenching')
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Kerry regarding Iraq, circa 1998
27 posted on 02/06/2004 1:17:00 PM PST by William McKinley
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More Kerry re: Iraq circa 1998
28 posted on 02/06/2004 1:18:24 PM PST by William McKinley
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To: William McKinley; Eva
This is powerful stuff. Thank you.

Lando

29 posted on 02/06/2004 1:40:02 PM PST by Lando Lincoln (GWB in 2004)
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To: raybbr
John Kerry's assault on this country did not rise fullblown in his mind, like Venus from the Cypriot Sea. It is the crystallization of an assault upon America which has been fostered over the years by an intellectual class given over to self-doubt and self-hatred, driven by a cultural disgust with the uses to which so many people put their freedom.

"He had it right 33 years ago and no one paid attention. Now look where we are."

People were too distracted by the Watergate proceedings against Nixon, and wanted the whole chapter closed. The left had won an important victory and Kerry is about to ask them to show their gratitude, by electing him president. This is probably what Jane Fonda promised him back in 1970.

30 posted on 02/06/2004 2:19:36 PM PST by Eva
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Kerry's 1970 interview with the Crimson

With Antiwar Role, More Visibility (Kerry: A Candidate in the Making)

31 posted on 02/11/2004 7:43:18 AM PST by William McKinley
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Kerry me back
32 posted on 02/13/2004 11:54:39 AM PST by William McKinley
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To: Poohbah
We still had an average of 135,000 in VN in 1971. It was down by two thirds from the peak but still quite a few. '72-'73 saw these pull out.
33 posted on 02/13/2004 12:06:12 PM PST by wtc911 (Who are you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?)
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What families of MIA/POWs say about Kerry
34 posted on 02/14/2004 11:37:36 AM PST by William McKinley
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Protesting America
35 posted on 02/23/2004 11:44:15 AM PST by William McKinley
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