Thursday, August 19, 2004

Swift Boat Distortions

The Repbulican disinformation machine is working overtime to discredit John Kerry's military service. A group calling itself Swift Boat Veterans for Truth supposedly challenges his honesty by presenting different versions of events for which Kerry was decorated, versions that supposedly rely on accounts of men who served with Kerry. However, these accounts are often second and third hand recollections. In contrast, the men who witnessed Kerry's actions and risked their lives with him, continue to attest to his courage and determination in combat. My experience as a combat infantryman tells me that’s all the evidence I need to judge John Kerry’s service in Vietnam.

What really appalls these veterans is that John Kerry spoke out against the war when he returned home. He reported its inevitable dark consequences. The swift boat veterans’ advertisement repeatedly accuses John Kerry of betraying his country, his uniform and his men by speaking against the war. They claim that he slander'sously accused American forces of war crimes when he testified before Congress in 1971.

These accusations are a gross distortion. John Kerry testified during Operation Dewey Canyon III organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He was one of many Vietnam veterans protesting a war that had lost any real meaning for this nation or its soldiers. The veterans’ protest followed VVAW’s Winter Soldier Investigation where veterans admitted to acts that would be considered war crimes by any civilized society. These veterans did not accuse or slander other veterans. Rather, they bore stark witness to war’s brutal dehumanization and asked "Why?" John Kerry presented this same message to Congress.

Dewey Canyon III occurred while I served as a rifleman with the First Cavalry Division in Vietnam. Reading about the veterans’ protest in the Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes, I was electrified by the statements and actions of my brothers, John Kerry included. Far from betraying or slandering me, Kerry and the other anti-war veterans eloquently spoke the truth about the war and its consequences.

I have admired John Kerry since that time. Whatever his shortcomings as a public official and candidate, I will never forget the courage he showed in in joining with other veterans to speak against the Vietnam War. Nor do I doubt his courage as a commander in that war. Unlike George Bush, John Kerry understands war and its consequences. As a veteran, I will put my trust in a man who knows war rather than one who knows only the rhetoric of war.