America needs a Vietnam veteran like Jim Webb for president

Greg Nash

To understand the true meaning of "experience," take a moment to compare former Sen. Jim Webb's (D-Va.) resume to the decades Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTexas becomes tossup, RealClearPolitics declares Clinton, Michelle Obama to hold first joint rally Thursday WATCH LIVE: Clinton campaigns in battleground North Carolina MORE has amassed in public life or the manner a surname has benefited former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.). In a world where our commander in chief might be pressured to send Americans back to Iraq (40 percent of voters recently supported boots on the ground against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS) or wage perpetual counterinsurgency wars in places most Americans can't even find on a map, Webb learned firsthand the lessons of Vietnam. Webb is a two-time Purple Heart recipient, owner of the Navy Cross and Silver Star, and his heroics in battle contrast starkly to the Bush and Clinton's complete lack of military experience. While Bush and Clinton have greatly benefited from political dynasties — as if the presidency were a crown to be passed between two families — Webb's remarkable achievements epitomize America's belief in meritocracy and sacrifice.

According to the Military Times, Webb's heroism in Vietnam is shown by his Navy Cross citation:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to First Lieutenant James H. Webb, Jr., ... United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving as a Platoon Commander. ...

Continuing the assault, he approached a third bunker and was preparing to fire into it when the enemy threw another grenade. Observing the grenade land dangerously close to his companion, First Lieutenant Webb simultaneously fired his weapon at the enemy, pushed the Marine away from the grenade, and shielded him from the explosion with his own body. ...

By his courage, aggressive leadership, and selfless devotion to duty, First Lieutenant Webb upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.

No, an opportunist like Karl Rove could never undermine Webb the way Republicans besmirched an honorable man like former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.). Webb's selflessness in Vietnam is the reason Presidenti Reagan's secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, made him secretary of the Navy and stated, "In James Webb we have a tested leader and a true American hero."

In addition to being an assistant secretary of Defense, secretary of the Navy and U.S. senator from Virginia, Webb has also written 10 books on the topics of war and foreign policy. Unlike Clinton, who was appointed secretary of State as a political gift from President Obama (Christopher Hitchens made this point in 2008 and asked, "Do we want such a person as [s]ecretary of State?"), Webb used his knowledge of foreign policy and military conflict to warn against the Iraq War. While Clinton voted to invade Iraq, the former secretary of the Navy used his knowledge of war to warn Americans of Iraq's potential to become another Vietnam.

In a 2002 Washington Post op-ed headlined "Heading for Trouble: Do We Really Want to Occupy Iraq for the Next 30 Years?," Webb's prescient warnings foreshadowed a decade of dreadful counterinsurgency wars voted upon by people like Clinton:

The issue before us is not simply whether the United States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as a nation are prepared to physically occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years. Those who are pushing for a unilateral war in Iraq know full well that there is no exit strategy if we invade and stay. ...

In Japan, American occupation forces quickly became 50,000 friends. In Iraq, they would quickly become 50,000 terrorist targets.

It's important to note that Webb's foreshadowing America's involvement in Iraq was morbidly accurate. As a result of the Iraq War, 4,490 Americans have died, 32,223 Americans have been wounded in combat, and around 500,000 veterans of Iraq suffer at least some form (post-traumatic stress disorder, for example) of injury. As for Webb's warning of becoming "terrorist targets," USA Today states that, "Somewhere between more than half to two-thirds of Americans killed or wounded in combat in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been victims of IEDs [improvised explosive device] planted in the ground." In both Iraq and Afghanistan, IEDs have killed more than 3,000 and wounded over 33,000 Americans.

While Clinton supporters revel in her years of "experience," her tenure as our nation's top diplomat resulted the Associated Press taking the following legal action:

"After careful deliberation and exhausting our other options, The Associated Press is taking the necessary legal steps to gain access to these important documents, which will shed light on actions by the State Department and former Secretary Clinton, a presumptive 2016 presidential candidate, during some of the most significant issues of our time," said Karen Kaiser, AP's general counsel.

In addition to her failed bombing of Libya, Clinton mentioned in her recent memoir that she wanted to arm the Syrian rebels (thrusting the U.S. into the Syrian civil war) without any assurance these weapons wouldn't get into the hands of ISIS or other groups.

In terms of criminal justice reform, Webb's been talking about it for nine years while Clinton just recently mentioned the hot-button issue. After the 2008 financial collapse, Webb championed a proposed bill taxing Wall Street executive bonuses (to the horror of investment bankers), while three of Clinton's top five donors are Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. Clinton has been viewed by many as currying favor with neoconservatives and Wall Street, so it's safe to say Webb poses a genuine alternative to the Democratic front-runner and a real challenge to any GOP nominee.

Finally, America needs a Vietnam veteran for president. We need a person who embodies the lessons of a generation that learned firsthand the horrors of war. America needs Jim Webb.

Goodman is an author and a journalist.