The Republican War Against Vietnam Veterans
First they assaulted a U.S. Navy pilot shot down over North Vietnam who was imprisoned and tortured for five long years. Shadowy Republican groups whispered he was mentally unfit to be President of the United States because he had been a POW in Vietnam. The rumor spread and spread. They said he had a Black baby and he was morally unfit to hold political office. The propaganda was sneaky and relentless, eventually undermining John McCain’s credibility and his bid to be the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. The winner was George W. Bush.
Then they went after a man who lost three limbs--two legs and one arm--on the bloody battlefield of South Vietnam. First in Georgia and then nationally--highlighted by Ann Coulter, a volcano of hate toward veterans--the machine proclaimed that Max Cleland made no sacrifices for America and should not be respected. The man lost three limbs in Vietnam! And Cleland lost his Senate seat to a tough Republican patriot who somehow missed the fighting in Vietnam. Those Republicans sure know how to fight a war.
Among veterans, the smearing and defeat of Max Cleland is referred to as the “Shame of George.” As for John McCain, the dirty tricks that brought him down still burn strong inside his soul. They burn on top of the torture scars from Vietnam.
In both campaigns, Republicans sought not to educate the public but to create doubt in voters, not to discuss the issues, but to undermine the character and reputation of two honorable men. Republicans twisted John McCain's and then Max Cleland's heroic service in Vietnam into a political liability here in America and rendered both men ineffective politically. Two combat veterans defeated by men who supported the Vietnam War--George Bush and Saxby Chambliss--yet hid behind deferments so they would not have to fight in the war. Two honorable American veterans defeated by a ruthless, effective Republican propaganda machine of political dirt.
Knowing that Americans would not tolerate this shameful attack on their combat veterans, the Republicans resorted to innuendoes and slander and sneaky lies--half lies--and distorted facts. “Everything except the truth,” could be their motto. They used a shadowy network that is accountable to no one and is therefore free to say anything. So this Republican attack machine attacks without restraint and without conscience and without morality. It attacks those who oppose their view of America, a view they hide as they disguise their attack.
As the “Vietnam generation” has taken over the reigns of power, this Republican stealth attack machine has begun to focus more and more on those who fought that war. That few Republican leaders fought in Vietnam does not seem to faze these self-described tough patriots. In their eyes, they were simply too important to serve in Vietnam. “I went to where the real war was,” Newt Gingrich told the Washington Post some years ago, “Washington.” Poor Tom Delay tried to join the military he tells us, but they were taking only minorities. Vice President **** Cheney had "other priorities." This is a vanguard of the arrogant and the nuts, too important to fight a war that lesser Americans should fight.
Their absence from a war that they had strongly supported does upset a particular group of Americans. Vietnam veterans call these Republicans “Chickenhawks”: chicken because during Vietnam they refused to fight in a war they supported and hawks because in middle age (beyond draft age) they are extremely willing to send others to wars. Since the Republican Party is a haven for Chickenhawks--“chicken house,” is what combat vets call the Party, the conservatives' clandestine attack machine needed a good cover. It needed something to cover the truth that those who did not go to Vietnam, but were strongly for the war being fought, are now thrashing those who did the fighting in that war.
The ugly, chicken truth was beginning to show, so something had to be done.
New Face to Old Sleaze
To extend their successful smear and discrediting campaign against Vietnam veterans, the Republican attack machine adopted a group of far-right Vietnam veterans as mouthpieces, as their front boys. As the Chickenhawks had others fight the Vietnam War, a war they supported with real gung-ho intensity, so today they have Vietnam veterans fight their political war here. Some men just love exploiting other men.
The “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” is a Republican group of right-wing veterans who are telling Americans that John Kerry did not do what he said, that John Kerry did not act honorably in Vietnam, that John Kerry is unfit to be President of the United States. They are saying John Kerry is a fraud and George Bush should be president.
It was only a few months ago that Republicans were saying that John Kerry acted dishonorably when he returned home from the war; now they want us to believe that he also acted dishonorably in Vietnam. It's amazing how dishonorable just one man can be, when smeared by Chickenhawks and their mouth pieces.
Those who actually served with John Kerry, however, disagree, as does the U.S. Navy.
Wounded three times and awarded two medals for bravery: is that acting dishonorably in Vietnam? The Chickenhawks say John Kerry lies. They say all the crewmembers who served on the boats with John Kerry lie. They say that the U.S. Navy that treated John Kerry’s three wounds and gave him two medals lies. But Kerry, the crewmembers, and the Navy are telling the truth. That means the Republicans and their veterans' mouthpieces are lying, if one actually considers the facts.
The Republican machine attack on veterans is now fully focused on John Kerry, using the same unethical tactics used earlier against John McCain and Max Cleland. The same sleazy methods to defame three honorable men who served and sacrificed for America--one a tortured prisoner, another with three limbs amputated, and another with three combat wounds.
And who are these people? Are they enemies of America? No way, since they are forever telling us that they are upstanding, good Americans.
Insulting Veterans, Disgracing America
When anger reaches a certain level, one has two options: rage or repression. I’m teetering on a violent explosion, or possibly catatonic silence. I’m not sure, but I know that some injustices are too unjust to deal with rationally.
You see, I’m a disabled Vietnam veteran. One leg was amputated and the other has nerve damage, my spleen and a ******** were removed, and I have lots of shrapnel scars. But I’m just another Marine who made it home, minus a few parts. The war is over for me, a long time ago. Yet some Americans want to bring this war back, and to bring it back to hurt us who fought that war. It is not the longhaired hippies of yesterday or the war protestors that marched in our streets against that divisive war or the "liberal" media that are attacking us, but supposedly patriotic Americans.
And these so-called patriotic Americans say they represent the heartland of America. But do they? I don’t think so.
By trashing these three combat veterans, two Democrats and one Republican, they have trashed all combat veterans of the Vietnam War. Is this what Americans want? These men and women have insulted the 58,000 Americans who died in that horrible war and also the parents, most of whom are now in their graves, who lost a son in Vietnam.
This ugly Republican attack machine does not speak for the heartland of America; it is attacking the heart of America. Their war against Vietnam veterans is a war against America. They see what they believe is a soft spot in America, veterans of the Vietnam war, and they are attacking.
Let's remember these are the very same people who do not like the American working class, those struggling to make ends meet today. And they do not care about their children who suffer from the wounds of war--just look how Republicans in Congress are attempting to cut the VA budget during this war as they give tax cuts to the wealthy. The war on Vietnam veterans is an extension of this Republican class war, a branch of the Republican war against working Americans. Not only do these Republicans not represent the heartland of America; they don’t represent anything about this country.
A Few Facts
Let's look at the facts, something that shoots horror into the heart of the Chickenhawks. John Kerry volunteered for the military and then volunteered for service in Vietnam, where he was wounded three times and was awarded a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for valor. We know this is true. George W. Bush supported the Vietnam War yet avoided fighting in that war by joining the Guard; he selected the option not to go to Vietnam, then refused to show up for his physical and lost his right to fly. We know this is true.
Bush also appears to have been AWOL for many months, if not a year or more.
There is military documentation that says I did not go AWOL, I wonder why the entire Republican establishment cannot find the same for George Bush?
So who was dishonorable in their military service during the Vietnam War? It’s a simple question with a simple answer when the facts are known.
Yet the Republican Attack machine is pervasive and powerful, refining its sneak attacks and hiding its real intensions. They have the money and they have the resources to do a truly excellent smear job on John Kerry, just ask John McCain and Max Cleland. The question is, in this election will enough Americans conclude that John Kerry’s conduct during the Vietnam War was dishonorable and will this push a crucial battleground state or two into George Bush’s column? The Republican attack machine has won in the past, will it now beat John Kerry?
If enough Americans are given only the steady diet of Fox News propaganda and hear only the megaphone of corporate media, then Kerry will be beaten.
If John Kerry’s credibility as a soldier in Vietnam is destroyed, then his political credibility in America will be destroyed. Destroy the honorable warrior, and then the sleazy non-warrior will win. Ask McCain and Cleland. So write a letter to your local newspaper, give them the facts, and demand the truth. Call your television stations and tell them you are sickened by the slandering of John Kerry’s military record. Tell them it is un-American! Call your radio stations and tell them to forbid innuendoes and slander that stab our Vietnam veterans in the back. Tell them we are proud Americans, not hiding cowards. Tell them!
This is your country, not the country of these Chickenhawk Republicans. But you must be willing to fight for your country, as did John McCain, Max Cleland, and John Kerry, or it will become their country. And then America will no longer be America.