News / USA

Vietnam Vets Reflect on Obama Cabinet Picks

Vietnam Vets Reflect on Obama Cabinet Picksi
X
January 31, 2013 3:58 PM
For the first time in U.S. history, two Vietnam veterans might be running key government departments. Congress has just confirmed Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State, and on Thursday, confirmation hearings start for former Senator Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama's choice for Secretary of Defense. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes us to the Vietnam War Memorial to report on how the combat experience of the two men might influence their decisions. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes us to the Vietnam War Memorial to report on how the combat experience of the two men might influence their decisions.
Vietnam Vets Reflect on Obama Cabinet Picks
For the first time in U.S. history, two Vietnam veterans might be running key government departments. Congress has just confirmed Senator John Kerry as secretary of state, and on Thursday, confirmation hearings start for former Senator Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama's choice for secretary of defense.

Larry Varr stands at the Vietnam War Memorial and reflects on the comrades he left behind. “See, there’s two of my friends on that wall right there,” he said.  

Those names are just a few among the thousands of the fallen at the Vietnam War Memorial. Varr spent a year in Vietnam as an Air Force sergeant and then as a prisoner of war. That same year, Hagel was an infantry squad leader. Kerry was a Navy lieutenant who later became an outspoken opponent of the war.

Battle-tested

Some vets now view Vietnam as an unnecessary war. Varr said the Vietnam experience may affect Kerry and Hagel.

“It was the biggest life-learning lesson there was, as things can go... if you do things right or how things can go if you don’t do them right,” he said.

“I was in school in North Carolina when dad was over there,” said David Kroepsch, who along with his family are visiting the war memorial before burying his father at Arlington National Cemetery.  

His father served a year in Vietnam.  David, also a veteran, spoke about Kerry and Hagel.  

“Both of them are likely to be more careful about committing the nation to a path of warfare, based on their experiences," he said. "I think they’ll be more conservative, as opposed to hawkish, but in a good way.”

Varying perspectives

Kerry and Hagel’s military views are said to mirror the president's. Some analysts say that leaves little room for constructive debate.

"I do worry about group think," said James Carafano, a retired Army officer, who now works with the Heritage Foundation.

“I do worry about people who see the world too similarly marching off into the future just because they’ve got these kinds of blinders on as to things that don’t fit with their world view,” he said.

Anthony Cordesman - now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies - has worked for past secretaries of defense, and said Kerry and Hagel's views are shaped by more recent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans.

“It’s not going to be philosophy here, it’s going to be a very cold, hard, military analysis of relative risk. This is something the president is capable of and certainly both senators are capable of,” said Cordesman.

Kerry breezed through his confirmation for secretary of state. Hagel is expected to have a tougher path to confirmation.

Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters.   She has also won numerous Associated Press awards and a Clarion for her coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, and The 9/11 Bombing Anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Asiana plane crash and was named VOA’s chief reporter with Google Glass.

You can follow Carolyn on Twitter at CarolynVOA, on Google Plus and Facebook.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: AverageNCO from: New Mexico
January 30, 2013 7:27 PM
The reporter was able to do some research and find a photograph of Mr. Varr in his Air Force uniform. Unfortunately, she did not do enough research. She failed to verify his claim that he was an actual a prisoner of war. The list of verified Vietnam POW's is easy to find, and Mr. Varr is not on there. While he may or may not be a Vietnam veteran, he is one of the countless liars pretending to have been a prisoner of war.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs