Swift Boat Vets: Trying to Divert Attention from Iraq?
So says Eleanor Clift in “Fighting a Phony War,” a
piece Newsweek didn’t think fit for print Web exclusive.
The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth stopped by NEWSWEEKÃ¢€™s Washington bureau this week to explain their version of what happened in Vietnam 35 years ago and why John Kerry doesnÃ¢€™t deserve three Purple Hearts. None were on the Swift Boat Kerry commanded,
Damn it: They were officers. Kerry was the only officer on the boat. It’s a SMALL BOAT. He was about as low ranking as a Navy officer could be and still be in charge of something.
but they had charts to illustrate their contention that KerryÃ¢€™s boat did not come under fire and that two of his wounds were self-inflicted, one when he hurled a grenade at a rice bin too close to his position.
A generation of reporters far removed from any war experience listened respectfully to their story. Between the fog of war and the passage of time, telling the truth has more to do with politics than memory.
Well, no. It’s hard to forget that one is being fired upon. Either they are lying or Kerry is lying; there is no middle ground on most of the charges.
These men fought; they didnÃ¢€™t come home to a heroÃ¢€™s welcome, and theyÃ¢€™ll never forgive Kerry for protesting the war and branding them as war criminals.
Nor should they.
One member of the group recalled how each of them had been issued a 90-pound sea bag, and Kerry sacrificed 10 pounds of socks and clean underwear to pack a typewriter. At the end of a long day of patrols, Kerry would sit hunched over his typewriter plugging away at who-knows-what, the fellow said, so secretive it seemed subversive.
It is pretty damned peculiar, you must admit.
They never understood this aloof figure, and the day that he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations CommitteeÃ¢€”April 22, 1971Ã¢€”is as powerful a date to these veterans as the Kennedy assassination. They can tell you exactly where they were when they heard Kerry say he had witnessed war crimes sanctioned by commanders in Vietnam.
I thought their memories were bad?
The fact that Kerry attributed the breakdown in military discipline to the policymakers in Washington is lost on these men, who take KerryÃ¢€™s words personally.
It wasn’t policymakers in Washington he was charging with rape and murder.
This is not about KerryÃ¢€™s performance in Vietnam; itÃ¢€™s what he said when he came home.
I agree that this is the main impetus behind their anger. But many of their charges have to do with his conduct in theater.
Kerry has never made extravagant claims about his heroism in Vietnam. He never said his wounds were serious, and he never said he didnÃ¢€™t want to get out of Vietnam.
He sure as hell didn’t try to discourage contrary notions, though. When most people think of Silver Stars and Purple Hearts, they’re thinking something pretty nasty was going on.
After three wounds, under military rules, he was entitled to ship out, which he did after a combat tour of four months and 12 days.
Fair enough. Although a lot of officers with the level of injuries Kerry suffered–and much higher–decided against leaving their men behind.
Nothing these so-called Veterans for Truth have come up with contradicts what Kerry has said, but thatÃ¢€™s not the point.
Have you paid any attention at all to what these guys are saying? They pretty much contradict everything Kerry has said. Kerry is going nuts and trying to sue to stop the ads.
The Swift Boat veterans have become the Campaign 2004 version of the Scott Peterson trial, trading charges and regularly appearing on the cable-news networks.
Well, Peterson is quite possibly a double murderer. Kerry is vying to be the next President of the United States. Of the two, which do you think is the more important?
The book that lays out the charges against Kerry, Ã¢€œUnfit for Command,Ã¢€ has been No. 1 on Amazon.com for over a week. Never mind that almost daily thereÃ¢€™s a retraction or a new story to discredit what these veterans are saying. On Thursday, The Washington Post revealed that the military records of Larry Thurlow, who commanded a boat alongside Kerry, contain several references to enemy fire directed at all five boats in the flotilla, sharply contradicting what Thurlow is saying as a leading member of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth group. The Post got the affidavit through the Freedom of Information Act.
Most of which the blogosphere shot down within a couple hours of the story hitting. It’s largely overtaken by events now.
The Kerry campaign was curiously passive as the veterans gathered force in the mediaÃ¢€”as though responding would dignify the scurrilous charges. Kerry finally broke his silence this week, perhaps mindful that a lie unanswered becomes a lie that is believed. Flanked by firefighters in Boston, Kerry stripped the mask of patriotic valor from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth by pointing out the source of their funding: a Texas Republican who wrote two checks for $100,000 to the group. Its sudden emergence is reminiscent of the Ã¢€œRepublicans for Clean Air,Ã¢€ which emerged during the 2000 campaign with a television spot attacking John McCainÃ¢€™s environmental record. Long after the ad did its damage to McCain in the New York primary, it was revealed that the Wylie brothers in Texas, who backed Bush, had paid for the advertising. The group itself was a sham, and the Wylie brothers no environmentalists.
As noted here and elsewhere, it’s not surprising that some Republicans support the group. It doesn’t make their claims untrue.
If the November election is a plebiscite on who better and more courageously served their country in a time of war, Kerry would win.
None of this is about that. It’s about whether Kerry is an honorable man.
Ã¢€œKerry gets a bye on this anywayÃ¢€”he was there and Bush wasnÃ¢€™t,Ã¢€ says John Zogby, an independent pollster who is not aligned with either campaign. He sees the battle over whoÃ¢€™s telling whose truth in Vietnam as another symptom of the great divide in the country. Ã¢€œWe are two warring nations and neither nation is listening to the other,Ã¢€ he says. Ã¢€œThis is essentially a net zero politically. ItÃ¢€™s great kindling wood for the Republicans. ItÃ¢€™s the kind of stuff they need to hear just as Dems need to hear from Michael Moore.Ã¢€
Questioning KerryÃ¢€™s heroism fires up the GOP base, but it leaves Ã¢€œsolid undecidedsÃ¢€ cold. TheyÃ¢€™re not paying attention. Zogby says among this very narrow 5 percent of the electorate, 16 percent say Bush deserves to be re-elected; 39 percent say itÃ¢€™s time for somebody new. Ã¢€œYou canÃ¢€™t help but look at those numbers and conclude theyÃ¢€™ve made up their mind about one side,Ã¢€ says Zogby. But Kerry hasnÃ¢€™t been able to close the deal. Zogby has him stuck at 47 percent, which isnÃ¢€™t good. But Bush is stuck at 43 percent, which is worse. Ã¢€œItÃ¢€™s still the phony war period,Ã¢€ says Zogby. For an incumbent president in as much trouble as Bush, fighting a war thatÃ¢€™s been over for nearly 30 years takes votersÃ¢€™ minds off Iraq.
Bush isn’t fighting the war. He’s almost totally ignoring all of this. As you yourself note, this is personal for the Swifties.