Jewish World Review Sept. 22, 2004 / 7 Tishrei, 5765

Edward Morrissey

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Kerry still sacrificing the freedom of the South Vietnamese


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | John Kerry has taken to pleading for a return to debate on current issues and more relevant qualifications for the presidency in a bid to bury the debate on his Viet Nam record, which at one time was all Kerry would discuss on the stump. Speaking in New York last month, Kerry told a crowd that all the Bush campaign had was fear, while he wanted to talk about how he could outperform Bush in areas such as foreign policy.


So let's talk foreign policy, as practiced right here at home, by Senator Kerry.


I had the pleasure of speaking with Bradley Clanton of the law firm Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, in Jackson, MS and Washington, DC. Brad represents several Vietnamese-Americans who came to the US as refugees of the Communists in their native land. Some of his clients have names that students of the era would recognize, such as Bui Diem, former ambassador to the US from the Saigon government. This group of Vietnamese refugees filed a lawsuit against the University of Massachusetts (Boston) and the William Joiner Center, one of its research centers, due to irregularities in its awarding of fellowships for researching the Vietnamese Diaspora.


Their case — and I stress it has not been concluded — is that the Joiner Center failed to follow the protocols outlined in its research grant when selecting candidates for the Rockefeller Foundation fellowships offered for the grant. Among other actions, the Joiner Center allegedly failed to publish notices of the grant's availability until just before the deadline for applications expired, failed to advertise in any of the required scholarly journals which targeted the American Vietnamese community, and in general made it almost impossible for the scholars of that community to know about the paying jobs in time. The effect of this failure is to keep Vietnamese who emigrated to the US as adults in the Diaspora from taking part in the program, as younger members of academia already had some access to the grant information up front.


Why? Because the Joiner Center and UMass already had scholars in mind to study the forced migration of the South Vietnamese people. And half of those scholars came from the People's Republic of Viet Nam — the same Communists who tortured and massacred the refugees into fleeing Viet Nam in the first place, after the fall of Saigon. (The other two fellows are an American-born, 25-year-old person of Vietnamese ancestry and a Caucasian listed in the complaint as "under 40".)


This is akin to hiring Khmer Rouge officials to study the Cambodian killing fields. It's intellectually indefensible, on several grounds. First off, the "scholars" that one gets from a totalitarian government are hardly free thinkers; the Vietnamese would not approve researchers who weren't prepared to toe the Party line. Furthermore, if any of them suddenly got a bad case of truth telling, their families would certainly suffer the consequences, and in Viet Nam, that means the re-education camps that killed hundreds of thousands of people over the past 30 years. The biggest problem is that the current government in Hanoi has a great deal of interest in ensuring that any such research points away from their atrocities in the final product. They would only approve those researchers who understand that need, which renders the entire exercise unreliable.

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So Vietnamese-Americans over 40 got passed over by UMass-Boston and the Joiner Center on behalf of two Vietnamese Communists with an axe to grind. They started protesting the university's management of the research grant in June 2000 and throughout the summer and fall, finally filing suit on several grounds on October 27, 2000. When the protest hit the local press, it provoked a negative reaction in Boston. The controversy made Joiner Center management uncomfortable, and they decide they need political cover from as high up as they can get it.


This is where Senator John Kerry makes his appearance in this case.


Kerry wrote a letter to Kevin Bowen, director of the Joiner Center, dated September 27, 2000, in order to praise both his research and his selection of scholars for fellowships. This is the final paragraph in Kerry's letter to Bowen supporting the hiring of Communist nationals from Viet Nam over hiring Americans who escaped and survived the persecution of the government which these two 'scholars' represent:


"I commend and extend my welcome and congratulations to the initial group of fellows selected. Choosing two established and accomplished scholars from Vietnam and two emerging scholars from the United States assures a diversity of views and combines fresh perspectives with time-tested observation. It is essential and critical that a project of this magnitude regarding a phenomenon as sweeping as the Vietnamese Diaspora consider candidates from all countries, political backgrounds and cultural orientations to achieve free and unencumbered inquiry. Only through such a free and thorough inquiry and a generous sharing of findings will the cause of the Vietnamese people be advanced."


It may be impossible to find more fatuous thinking in such a short paragraph anywhere else. Before dissecting Kerry's intellectual failings, let's be clear about his intent. He made it clear that he understood that half of the fellowships went to Communist nationals in a study that purported to research a refugee catastrophe their government initiated. Implicit in this letter is Kerry's contention that any dissent erupting from this choice would be invalid. This letter is no mere boiler-plate salutation for a constituent; Kerry knew the situation and gave his blessing to Bowen's handling of it.


Now, looking at the actual reasoning behind this letter, one can safely state that John Kerry has no concept of totalitarianism; the intervening years between 1971 and 2000 taught him nothing. He presumes that Communist 'scholars' have academic freedom. Kerry lauds the diversity of views they bring to the research but fails to recognize the lock-step mentality of a single-party system, and one that caused the deaths of as many as 750,000 of its men, women, and children in concentration camps or on the run from its oppression. He repeats the same tired moral relativism he did in his radical days of 1971 when he presumes that the diversity of "political backgrounds and cultural orientations" will ensure that truth results from the inquiry, even though by 2000 the world understood that totalitarian regimes and truth coexist on rare and usually coincidental occasions.


Kerry's reasoning reveals much more about his philosophy, and this isn't just the radical youth that Kerry uses to excuse his activities at the end of the war. This letter was written less than four years ago. Kerry defended Communist nationals in the Senate in 1971, and 29 years later continued to do so (not to mention defending Bowen's outsourcing of jobs to a country known for its sweatshops).


This uncomprehending naiveté does not befit the office of President even in times of peace and prosperity, and recalls the more ludicrous exploits of the Carter presidency. In a time of war against Islamofascist aggression, such unseriousness will get us killed.



JWR contributor Edward Morrissey, aka "Captain Ed," is a customer-service manager and radio talk show host. He blogs at Captain's Quarters. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2004, Edward Morrissey