August 20th, 2004

Enterprise Bridge

John Kerry, Vets against Vietnam, and Swift Vets for "Truth"

Two weeks ago, a friend mass-forwarded a piece tied to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. I didn't like it when I read it... the group was heavily financed by die-hard Kerry-hating Republicans, making them immediately suspect. And they were accusing Kerry of lying about events which certainly had to be well-documented, since they handed out a bunch of medals to participants. Isn't it intuitively obvious that such claims should be provably right or wrong? Kerry had released his military records, so shouldn't this have come up ages ago?

I didn't respond at the time. SBVFT was already drawing criticism, I trust that people whose whole lives are devoted to supporting each candidate would do the neccessary digging.

Sure enough, the Washington Post got to the bottom of things. I now had enough to write a supported rebuttal, and sent it as a group reply. The friend who sent it comes from a military family, and they've never been Kerry fans because of his public opposition to the Vietnam war. She responded, and again took exception to Kerry opposition, and the negative effect it had on servicemen as a whole. This is what I wrote in reply:
Most of the scorn was certainly uncalled for. A lot of people then were too short-sighted to separate the actions and responsibilities of the men who were sent there from those of the men who sent them. I think that's also true today, but from the opposite perspective. But then, as now, there were a few who deserved it.

As time passed, we learned of My Lai, and we learned it wasn't an isolated incident. I haven't sat down and done the research on every statement Kerry made on his return, but I'm inclined to believe there was at least some truth to it. People acting in our name have done, distantly and recently, things that we cannot condone if we, as a nation, are what we claim to be. Those problems don't go away on their own. Someone has to speak about them, has to call public attention to them, so that we can fulfill our responsibility to do what is right, and correct and make amends for what we may have done wrong.

If what he said was true, Kerry betrayed no one. It was those men who did the things he spoke of who betrayed their duty, and in turn all of us. I feel the same way about the soldiers at Abu Ghraib on up through the brass who failed to stop or prevent that. But I don't let my ill will towards them spread to the rest of our forces. Did Kerry make that distinction about Viet Nam, but was it left out by editors or news directors? I can't say. But wouldn't his total silence constitute tacit approval? Isn't that worse?


(If you're missing it, this is what I mean by "today, from the opposite perspective": In Vietnam, a few soldiers committed atrocities, the government had lied about the war, but people extended blame for the actions of that small group on everyone in uniform. To be angry at the government was therefore to be angry at the soldiers.

Today, a lot of very vocal people insist that if you support the soldiers, you must therefore also support the government that sent them and the war they're fighting. Both are fallacies.)