Thursday, August 26, 2004

The War That Improves With Age 

Courtesy of our swashbuckling colleague Scaramouche: The Swift Boat Vets were only a warmup act; in the main event, John Kerry will be reviled as a heretic and a traitor for his opposition to the Vietnam war. Tom Waldman of the Gadflyer offers a preview of the talking points you'll be sick of a month from now:
1. There were no atrocities committed by American soldiers during the Vietnam War. No innocent civilians were killed, no rapes took place, no villages were burned. In his 1971 testimony before the Senate, Kerry related a series of claims made a few months before at the "Winter Soldier" investigation. It later came to light that some of these specific claims were unsupported. But the essence of Kerry's argument - that Americans had done some terrible things to civilians in Vietnam - hadn't been challenged by anyone in a long time. But now some of the veterans opposing Kerry seem to want to make that case, that by saying atrocities took place, Kerry is falsely accusing every Vietnam veteran of being a war criminal.

2. The Vietnam War was a great idea, and if you opposed it, you must just hate America. This would represent a reversal of the rather (dare I say it) nuanced view that Americans have come to over recent years: that the war was a tragic mistake, but the responsibility for that mistake does not lie with the men who did the fighting. But the key point about Kerry's anti-war activity is this: he was right. The war was a mistake, the people who planned it should have been held to account.

3. And perhaps my favorite: John Kerry was personally responsible for the United States losing the Vietnam War. This charge was made by Steve Gardner, the only one out of the twelve men who served on Kerry's boat who is not supporting him. "We had that war won until John Kerry and Hanoi Jane Fonda stuck their nose in it," Gardner said. "He's a traitor." Gardner's view was echoed by Adrian Lonsdale, one of the members of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth: "We won the battle. Kerry went home and lost the war for us."

I have no doubt that the resentment and bitterness these men feel is real. But the idea that John Kerry lost the Vietnam War is simply insane. For another opinion, here's what George W. Bush wrote about Vietnam in his autobiography:

"We could not explain the mission, had no exit strategy, and did not seem to be fighting to win."

So naturally, why could he have been bothered to go?

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