Tuesday, December 23, 2008

John Kerry Christmas in Cambodia Commemoration

“It seems like yesterday
But it was long ago”
(from “Against the wind” [Bob Seger])

That’s right, forty years ago John Kerry and his Swift Boat spent Christmas Eve in Cambodia, listening to President Nixon telling the world there were no Americans in Cambodia. As the stealthy Swift Boat cruised up the Mekong, almost as ghostly silent as a diesel locomotive pulling the incline at Donner Pass, its crew apparently was regaled by the South Vietnamese drunkenly signing carols and exchanging Christmas presents, and occasionally firing a few shots in their direction.

On the floor of the Senate in 1986, Kerry made the following the centerpiece of a carefully prepared 20-minute oration against aid to the Nicaraguan contras:

"I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared -- seared -- in me."

Writing for the Boston Herald in October 1979, Mr. Kerry said this:

"I remember spending Christmas Eve of 1968 five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas. The absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real."

It warms my heart thinking of the ecumenism of the predominantly non-Christian South Vietnamese so whole heartedly celebrating Christmas.

Although I was never there, after reading Kerry’s reminiscences it feels like I was. Such clarity, such detail, such historical significance!

I can hear John Kerry now, caroling back to the South Vietnamese:

“Christmas in Cambodia
With all the Swift Boaters I roam”
(adapted from “Christmas in Killarney)

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