”^.yfy^-WnnVIEWSnI^fe^ •:;•-©^^^,n’timii^^BI^^^^^^^^^ ! r r) ‘ <* ‘ » rlifn.’J^Hi^^HBHMI^^^^^^^nThe BuU’s-Eye of DisasternFor over a decade now, it’s been commonplace for ournleaders to urge us to put Vietnam behind us. My wife,nSybil, and I were face to face with our good friend GeorgenBush when he said it again at his Inauguration in January.nThe Congressional Medal of Honor Society has front rownseats at these affairs, and I swallowed hard when during whatnI would call his “plea for unity” acceptance speech he said,n”Surely, the statute of limitations on Vietnam has run out.”nI was not the only one in the Medal of Honor section whondecided to take that remark with a grain of salt. NewnNebraska Senator Bob Kerrey and I exchanged knowingnglances.nIn case you don’t know. Bob Kerrey was a Navy SEALnteam leader who lost a leg on a voluntary and highly riskynmidnight penetration of a VC island stronghold to abductntheir political cadres for interrogation. In the pitch blacknmelee, a hand grenade exploded right at Bob’s feet. Henrefused medical treatment until his gang and their quarrynwere back down the high cliff, into the rubber boats, andnaway. Good work, but in hindsight, all for naught.nI think Bob and I and many of our cohorts think there isnmuch more to be written and said before the nation puts thatnIndochina chapter of our history to bed. I know there isnmaterial yet to be released that belongs in the public record.nThe total Vietnam War story involves just too manynfundamental breaks in our national integrity to be buried innJames Bond Stockdale was awarded the CongressionalnMedal of Honor in 1976. With his wife, Sybil, he is thenauthor of In Love and War. This article is adapted fromna speech he gave under the auspices of The RockfordnInstitute in April.n14/CHRONICLESnby James Bond Stockdalennn•” “I’l .”••’ni’liWnthe vault. It is a package of lessons for the current age, andnfor the future.nI find that Worfd War II guys, and, of course. PresidentnBush qualifies as a hero among them, sometimes dust off thenVietnam experience as a one-of-a-kind mixup in which ourncivilian and military leaders misjudged the nature of thenproblem, and once in, sank into an unexpected quagmirenthat was beyond almost anybody’s practical control. Fromnmy study — and intuition — I find that impossible to believe.nI was there for ten years, and taking in data all thentime — one year just flying, two flying heavy combat, andnseven and a half in prison—not “languishing,” not “sittingnout the war,” as used to be said when American POW’s hadnGeneva Convention protection, but fighting a torturenbattle—four of those years from a solitary cell in anpenitentiary, surreptitiously commanding a secret and trickynunderground organization, while regularly picking the brainnof the prison-system commissar who sat on the NorthnVietnamese Army’s General Staff. Altogether, I’ve come tonrealize that this talk about “surprise” at the resistance wenmet — at least among our senior leaders on the Joint Chiefsnof Staff— is sheer bunk.nBooks lead me to believe that the war held scarcely anynsurprises for the informed military. Their relationship withnMcNamara’s whiz kids (who took over planning andnrunning the war) was sort of like that of my prison pal whonhad come out of a dog fight in a parachute as the back seatn(radar guy) of an F-4, with his front seat (pilot). The truth ofnthe matter was that their plane came apart not as a result ofnenemy gunfire but because of a midair collision with one ofntheir wingmen — a very rare event in that war, I assure you.nOne day years later I was sitting in a Hanoi prison cellblockn