“One simply cannot engage in barbarous action without becoming a barbarian… one cannot defend human values by calculated and unprovoked violence without doing mortal damage to the values one is trying to defend.” – J William Fulbright, The Arrogance of Power.

Imagine, for a moment, what would happen if a foreign university in the United States appointed an individual who had killed US civilians – or anyone, for that matter – to serve as chair of its board of trustees?

Or this post-World War II European example from David Marr, a US American historian of modern Viet Nam and Australian National University professor emeritus: “If the post-war West German government had selected a former German army officer who had killed (or ordered the killing of) unarmed French civilians to head the Goethe Institute in Paris, do you think the French government would have accepted this? Going back one step, would Bonn ever have selected such a person in the first place?"

Would the reaction be ‘forgive and forget’, or outrage that the university or government and its supporters could be so blind, so insensitive, so short-sighted as to select someone with such a dark past to assume such a key position?

What about a former Navy SEAL who admitted to being involved in the cold-blooded murder of a score of Vietnamese civilians in early 1969 in the Mekong Delta?

During President Barack Obama’s visit to Viet Nam in May, Secretary of State John Kerry announced Bob Kerrey’s appointment as chair of the Fulbright University Vietnam, or FUV, board of trustees, igniting an international media firestorm.

There were headlines such as “Ex-US senator’s role in Vietnam university opens wartime wounds” in the Financial Times on 31 May 2016; “Bob Kerrey’s war record fuels debate in Vietnam on his role at new university” in The New York Times on 2 June; “War record of Vietnam university’s US chairman angers some” by Associated Press on 14 June; and “Vietnam’s Kerrey dilemma: Fulbright U appointment is lightning rod for US ties” in Asia Times on 21 June.