Wednesday, August 11, 2004

That's all I have to say about that...

OK, I've read about all I can stomach of this sniping about Kerry's war record.
I think it is sad that Kerry tells his story, has it backed up by all the formal military documentation that was signed by his superior officers, and it is corraborated by all the veterans who served with him on his boat and were closest to the action, and yet his political detractors still claim that he is lying.
They question the severity of his wounds that led to two of his Purple Hearts (I take it that they begrudgingly grant that he earned his second Purple Heart). But Kerry could have lost both legs and an arm like Max Cleland did and that still would not have stopped them from denigrating his service to his country.

They say that his first wound was just a scratch, but I would think that having a piece of shrapnel lodged in your arm would sting just a bit more than that. They also have someone coming forward claiming that he was the one who treated the wound even though his name is not on the medical records. That individual, Dr. Letson, says it was his assistant who signed the paperwork. But that does not make sense to have one person treat the wound and another person sign the paperwork. I don't believe him.

They claim that Kerry does not deserve either his Silver Star or his Bronze Star. In the case of the Silver Star they claim that Kerry chased down a wounded Viet Cong and shot him in the back to earn the commendation. Yet the documents make no reference to Kerry shooting anyone and instead cite his heroism in charging his boat directly at a group of Viet Cong that had ambushed them. Kerry did jump off the boat and shoot a Viet Cong who was carrying a rocket launcher and thus could have killed every man on his boat.

In questioning the Bronze Star incident they claim that there was no enemy fire when Kerry retrieved Jim Rassman who had fallen over board after the boat was struck by a mine. But that charge is in stark contrast to what Rassman says. He says he was ducking under water to dodge bullets until Kerry came to fish him out. Kerry's critics would have us believe someone who was several hundred yards away who 30-plus years later now claims that there was no enemy firing at Rassman.

I've read a lot of nitpicking on right-wing web sites that quite frankly disgust me at this point. These people have no right to be questioning these awards 30 years later when all they have is the foggy recollections of people who were not anywhere near the action as it occurred and now have a political agenda that they are serving.

They whine that Kerry hasn't released all of his military records when there are reams of paperwork available on his website at It is an impressively complete collection. I wish I had that much documentation on my father's service in Vietnam but I quite frankly don't know where the paperwork is or if it still exists, if it ever did. We have seen how much trouble Bush has had pulling together all of his National Guard paperwork.

And then there is this nonsense about Kerry lying about going into Cambodia around Christmas of 1968. It is well documented today that we had troops and intelligence people going into Cambodia back then even though it was not admitted at the time. It would make no sense for Kerry to make up a story like that and the fact that there is no official record of such action is not proof that it did not happen.

When Kerry came back from Vietnam he joined a group of veterans who were lobbying against the war. This is the main reason that most of the Swift Boat Vets for Bush are participating in this smear campaign. I suppose they think that if you feel that a war that is slaughtering thousands of your fellow soldiers is wrong and bad policy the best thing to do is to keep your mouth shut. I admire Kerry for standing up for what he believed was right in the face of such lock-step opposition. Kerry was a moderating influence on the protest group and eventually quit when they became too radical. The worst that can be said about Kerry is that he gave voice to some allegations of wartime atrocities that painted with too broad a brush. Kerry has admitted that he would have voiced these things differently if he had it to do over. I can forgive him for that. Others obviously can't.

The final word is that Kerry volunteered to go to Vietnam while George Bush used family connections to secure a spot in the Texas National Guard. There is evidence that Bush failed to show up for at least five months of his service in 1972 and did not take his flight physical that year which resulted in his being grounded - thus wasting all of the military training that had gone into teaching him to fly. But Bush supporters are willing to forgive him for that, which is fine.
We should look at what these two individuals will do for our country during the next four years and not obsess so much with what they did in the distant past.

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