I attended Elementary and Secondary school in Oregon when Senator Mark O. Hatfield was one of Oregon’s U.S. Senators. He died this week.
I did not grow up in a politically active family and do not remember too many occasions in school or in my elementary and secondary schooling when we spoke about Senator Hatfield. But I do remember reading about him. My recollection is that during his term of office, he was greatly respected. Neither loved, nor hated, but respected for the integrity.
I wonder what U.S. policy and action – and U.S. International relations - would be like today if more Senators advocated as he did.
Hatfield was a Republican who disagreed with then Republican President Ronald Reagan. He, “used his chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee to denounce what he considered the ‘madness’ of excessive defense spending.”
Though a Navy Veteran who participated in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, he is described as “one of the Senate’s most unwavering pacifists” who “never voted for a military authorization bill.” As a “critic of extremism across the political spectrum, [he] carved a centrist path on divisive issues such as the environment.”
“If you’ve been in a war, you cannot but have your views altered,” he told the Associated Press in 1986. “The devastation, the terrible devastation, is not something one ever forgets.”
First elected to the Oregon state legislature in 1950, he was instrumental in passing measures banning racial discrimination in housing and public accommodations in his first few years in office — a decade before the government considered similar civil rights laws.
As I write this entry, only yesterday I visited the horrific memorials to the genocide of the Communist Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia, a country that was redeemed in January of 1979 by the Vietnamese. Only hours ago I ate lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant in Phnom Penh (Cambodia), before going to the Documentation Center of Cambodia to be informed about how this center is documenting the problems of genocide in this land! Prior to the years of conflict with the War in Vietnam and the problems throughout Southeast Asia, in 1966, Mr. Hatfield nearly lost his seat in the U.S. Senate as he stuck to his position, “You can’t stop communism with bullets.”
Hatfield, helped pass a ban on underground nuclear tests. He campaigned for rules to prohibit the sale of arms to undemocratic countries and countries that do not respect human rights. When he left office, he expressed, “We’re [the U.S.] still the largest arms peddler in the world,” he said in 1997, “and we infect the rest of the world with our lust for weapons.”