Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Start with some premises.
- The American attack on Vietnam was among the most divisive wars in American history, one which divided families, households, and people in the military. Unsurprising that veterans aren't united about Kerry.
- War crimes were committed in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia by
individual members of the military. (Let’s set aside the larger
systemic and structural issues for now).
- Criticizing the military for war crimes is not only patriotic but
obligatory under Nuremburg precedents, Geneva Convention, and the UCMJ.
- While in VVAW, Kerry, perhaps a little late, pointed to some war
crimes he believed were committed by U.S. troops.
Kerry did an honorable thing in using his abilities, experience,
and connections, to help in a small way in the long effort to end the
war against Vietnam and in pointing out that some war crimes were
committed in the field by U.S. troops.
I can understand how members of the military would feel angered by
charges of war crimes by a fellow service member, particularly if
painted with a broad brush or based on loose facts. Those on the left
must recognize that O’Neill, etc. spoke for millions of Americans and
hundreds of thousands of troops who were incensed by certain voices in
the anti-war movement.
But these understandable feelings do not change the facts of war
crimes, do not make the war just, and do not make criticizing the war,
either as an activist or before Congress, an anti-military or unpatriotic
action. I can empathize with those who were upset, but cannot join in
a goose-stepping patriotism in which no flaws are to be conceded, the
military always and everywhere operates with only the noblest
intentions, and criticism of war crimes or opposition to war is
rejected out of hand as an attack on the ‘integrity of our heros’.
The historical precedents on this score are too unsettling to ignore.
So why this discussion?
Because I think this re-fighting of the Vietnam War by Swift Vets,
Corsi, etc., stems from the ideological fights of that era (assuming
it is not merely a political operation, similar to that used against
McCain in South Carolina in 2000).
My strong view is that if Kerry had not joined VVAW, many of these
critics would now be silent, not the political operatives, of course,
but the people they are using.
My feeling is that the crime making Kerry unfit is NOT that he
scrounged around for medals, etc., but that he dared to question the
war and to help organize, if only briefly, to bring it to an end while
charging war crimes.
They are still fighting the Vietnam cultural war. They see Kerry and
think Hanoi Jane and long hairs. They cannot see that opposing the
war, including the crimes carried out by soldiers, need not imply
dehumanization of the individual soldier or a denial of their genuine
This race is shaping up exactly the way right-wing guru Paul Weyrich
Weyrich wrote, in part:
Right now, voters are beginning to get a vague picture of Kerry.Here we are nearly in September and the ugly politics have started.
They like what they see. He seems to be always surrounded by veterans.
They probably have heard that he saved a man in Viet Nam who is now
campaigning for Kerry. They may have seen Kerry suited up and out on
the ice with Hockey players. Hockey is no game for the faint of
heart. They perhaps read that Kerry won lots of medals for bravery in
Viet Nam.[as of mid-August that’s a check; his favorables have
climbed from low 30s to low 50s, negatives have also increased, but
not that much]
The Bush people seem to think that they can just paint Kerry as a
liberal like Ted Kennedy, and suddenly millions of voters will flock
to Bush’s side. I have news for the Bush team. It won’t happen. Kerry
has already inoculated himself against the charge that he is a Walter
Mondale style tax increaser. Kerry has said he will keep the Bush tax
cuts that helped the middle class. But he will repeal the tax cuts for
the rich to help pay for expanded health care coverage. That pitch has
a lot of appeal to the swing voters.
If the Bush campaign allows the Kerry-the-hockey-playing-war-hero
image to be emblazoned in the minds of the swing voters for very long,
by the time politics gets serious in September, it won’t matter what
Bush and company say. That is unless Kerry is stupid enough to give
some Dukakis- like answers in the Presidential debates. My bet is that
Kerry is smarter than that.
And yes, Kerry did things that anger some veterans, such as
throwing other people’s medals away and testifying as to the supposed
atrocities of our servicemen. But if those charges are thrown around
in September, most swing voters will say, ‘That’s just ugly politics.’
The new book by GOP activist O’Brien, a Chuck Colson pupil, and Jerome
Corsi makes certain dramatic charges about Kerry’s Vietnam service to
support the conclusion he is “Unfit for Duty”. With Bush having next
to nothing going, including a questionable military 'record', they
must do everything in their power to destroy the picture Weyrich
The "Unfit" book and the Swift Vets TV ads make identical charges: Kerry did little or nothing to earn his medals in the war, was a coward, was posing for a political future,
etc. Serious stuff.
But see: “Republican-funded Group Attacks Kerry's War Record: Ad features vets
who claim Kerry "lied" to get Vietnam medals. But other witnesses
What we have here is two sets of witnesses.
We have one set of witnesses who did not serve on Kerry’s boat, were
not present for most of the acts for which he received commendations,
some are funded by a Republican activist from Texas, and two authors,
one of whom the acolyte of Nixon bag-man Colson.
Then we have a second set of witnesses, Sandusky, Rassmann, Zaladonis,
Wasser, etc., who were there, who can say themselves what happened,
and who knew Kerry personally. (Of the ten men on that boat,
Democrats and Republicans, only one is anti-Kerry and his is an
interesting story to say the least…’I had no trouble shooting gooks’).
I think generally juries and judges go with the eye-witness testimony over the hearsay. I think I’ll believe the Green Beret conservative Republican from Oregon, Rassmann, who says Kerry saved his life by pulling him out of the water. I presume he was closer to the action than Kerry’s critics, [name redacted] or me.
Some other choice Jerome Corsi lines - to give you some flavor of the type of person we are dealing with:
CORSI: “Maybe while he's there he can tell the UN what he's going to do about the sexual crimes committed by "priests" in his "Church"So, I propose we make ALL the years 1966-1973 an important part of the
during his tenure. Or, maybe that's the connection -- boy buggering in
both Islam and Catholicism is okay with the Pope as long as it isn't
reported by the liberal press (3/30/2003)
CORSI: Let's see exactly why it isn't the case that Islam is a
worthless, dangerous Satanic religion? Where's the proof to the
contrary? (4/24/2004) [Ummm, where to start?]
CORSI: Islam is like a virus -- it affects the mind -- maybe even
better as an analogy -- it is a cancer that destroys the body it
infects... No doctor would hesitate to eliminate cancer cells from the
political discourse. Absolutely, let’s do it.
Let’s make this campaign about Vietnam and the two men’s service as
much as humanly possible. There is just no way that dialogue will
break Bush’s way.
Sure, the right-wing wackos will get their shorts all twisted about
Kerry's embellishments, but the Reagan Democrats and swing voters will
listen to Rassmann and McCain. Then the comeback from the Dem's is
dental records, pay stubs, and the missing six months and this thing
is done. Kerry will not be Clelanded or Dukasised.
A TALE OF TWO ELITES: PURPLE HEART vs. PAY STUB
One volunteers to serve…the other volunteers for the beer run.
One saves his brothers’ lives…the other’s life is saved when Poppy
bumps him to the top of the list into the TX Air National Guard.
One returns stateside and works to end an unjust war…the other
disappears into the smoke, surfacing for dental exams and ‘odd jobs’
that no one can remember...
After hearing churlish Republican hacks struggle to paint the hero-
worshipping event that was the Ds convention as ‘relentlessly
negative’ with ‘unrelenting attacks on Bush’ I just had to laugh.
Then when I had a chance to see the ‘extreme makeover’ spin the Reps
were coughing up, I just couldn’t stop laughing.
So, are we going to see the two Pats (Robertson and Buchanan) and an uplifting message focused on policy issues in NYC?
We get the Hypocrisy in the Garden where, according to AP reporter
Bush and his political team contend that Kerry made two mistakes atThis race is shaping up to be far more competitive than I figured some
his convention, and they vow not to repeat them:
* Kerry and his surrogates didn’t criticize Bush enough.
* There was relatively little talk about Kerry’s policies, though the
Democrat has enough proposals to literally fill a book.
Bush and his allies won’t be shy about going negative against Kerry
during their Aug. 30 through Sept. 2 convention, White House advisers
months ago, though Bush's best shots are yet to come. Kerry’s raised
more money than I figured, clearly the genius moniker for Rove was
overplayed, the economy is terrible, Al Qaeda is reorganizing, and
Iraq looks like a catastrophe with others looming in Iran, North
Korea, or in space.
Is it just me or do the Republican strategists just seem less
intelligent than in past years? I mean, they are botching this up.
If I hear Matthew Dowd say one more word out of the side of his mouth
I will never stop laughing
People justly mocked Gore for losing under favorable electoral
conditions. I still think Bush will likely win, but just how stupid
and aggressively reactionary do these strategists need to be to have a
sitting President, during a time of wars, with threats of terrorism
all about, sitting on a razor’s edge for his re-election? Any other
President with another collection of advisors is coasting to victory.
Of course, any other President probably would have had some post-war
plan beyond throwing money at Halliburton and Bechtel.
It is remarkable that Bush is even in a position to possibly lose.
Look, the bottom line, is both these guys are huge problems for anyone
concerned about creating and sustaining a just future. If Kerry wins,
the struggle will still be daunting, in some ways more so. I have no
reason to trust Kerry or believe in him as some kind of positive force
But Bush is Bush. This guy is setting the world on fire while
And when the chips were down, when two sons of privilege were faced
with the choice of serving their country in what they believed then
was a just war, one ran to the enlistment office, volunteered for
combat, was wounded, saved his brothers and the other ran for cover.
It really is that simple.
Nothing could be sweeter than Rove and crew choking on their Chicken