Let’s Pray for “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth”

Try as I might, I cannot totally ignore today's politics even though this blog is supposed to be devoted to "exploring a philosophy of life, particularly as related to poetry and literature in general."

I've studiously ignored today's National Day of Prayer. After all where's the fun in satirizing an organization that would choose that paragon of Christian values Oliver North as "Honorary Chairman?" Mormons should feel honored that they have been banned from delivering speeches by the national committee in charge of the day

What I can't ignore, though, is an organization called "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," (do you really think that title wasn't created by the same political hack who came up with "Clear Skies" and "The Healthy Forests Initiative"), an organization I discovered while innocently reading Joe Duemer's Reading and Writing.

As previously pointed out, I was a 1st Lieutenant in Vietnam. Like the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" I once wrote a letter to the the local newspaper arguing that it was unfair to paint all Vietnam veterans with the same brush and that the majority of the soldiers did not give in to their natural hatred of an enemy that was trying to kill them and commit atrocities.

Unlike most civilians, though, as a young lieutenant who saw friends killed regularly during my tour of duty, I could understand why such incidents took place. Anyone who thinks that you can kill people without first de-personalizing them, without first making them something less than "human," doesn't really understand the psychology of warfare. Atrocities may well be an inevitable part of war because the "rules of war" often don't make sense in a world reduced to daily chaos.

Thankfully, I did not personally observe any of the atrocities others have noted in Vietnam. However, I heard far too many officers bragging at Officer's clubs not to believe such atrocities did occur. It was also widely known that when Americans turned prisoners over to ARVN that they were being tortured.

To deny that such atrocities took place or to argue that superior officers were never aware of such atrocities is, in my mind, plainly absurd. If you weren't aware that such incidents took place, you sure as hell were too dumb to be given control of a large military unit, which, of course, isn't the same as saying that superior officers could have stopped all such incidents from taking place in the heat of combat.

But to deny their very existence, or to deny that an unpopular war that drafted unwilling citizens didn't contribute to such atrocities is absurd. Perhaps in his political zeal to end the war Kerry did overstate the extent of such atrocities, but since when has it been unusual for politicians to overstate their case?

What's truly incredible to me, though, is that the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" can extrapolate from their argument that because Kerry overstated the extent of war atrocities in an attempt to end the war that he is somehow less fit to run the country in a time of war than George W. Bush, who never seemed too concerned about Vietnam atrocities while safely (not) serving his military duty in Alabama.

Are these "superior" officers concerned that Kerry wouldn't allow the Americans to achieve ultimate victory in Iraq by torturing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners?

9 thoughts on “Let’s Pray for “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth”

  1. With some trepidation, I come to your comments tyrant to say that I’m glad I read your post today. Every once in a while, I like to hear an intelligent voice.

  2. I read your comments about the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” with interest, and then disappointment. You limit your attention the group’s objections to Kerry to “overstatements” about atrocities, downplaying it poorly and at the same time avoiding their other objections. They question his conduct in Vietnam, his (and other’s) portrayals of that conduct, and his conduct after he left Vietnam, and his conduct now. In campaign ads he’s using a picture of 20 soldiers, 11 of whom oppose him (and the use of the photo) and 6 who will not comment one way or the other. What kind of an endorsement is that?
    Furthermore, Kerry has admitted to committing attrocities himself, yet is unwilling to admit to details; could it be he fears being brought up on war-crimes charges (and why shouldn’t he be, if in fact they occurred). Then he had the gaul to meet with our enemies while we were still at war.
    Remember, he’s the one pushing his Vietnam record to say he is some sort of hero, even though he was at the time so ashamed of his participation that he threw his medals away. He cannot have it both ways.
    Remember, too, that the group has not endorsed George Bush or any other candidate. They speak only to the issue of Kerry and Vietnam.
    And then you want to compare what went on in Vietnam to what has gone on in Iraq? Both wrong? Sure. Both punishable? You bet. But isn’t it interesting that we are seeing the soldiers in Iraq being prosecuted, but not John Kerry, the self-admitted committer of atrocities in Vietnam. Are we saying it was okay then because the soldiers were drafted? Where is the ethical courage in that? Are we saying that it was okay then because they were just kids? How is that different than now? Are we saying the two wars are somehow different? How can that be? And if so, why are Kerry and others making so many comparisons to the two? Again, he cannot have it both ways.

  3. Well, according to http://hnn.us/articles/3552.html here are the kind of “atrocities” that Kerry admitted to:

    SEN. KERRY: There are all kinds of atrocities, and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free fire zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire. I used 50 calibre machine guns, which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I took part in search and destroy missions, in the burning of villages. All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare, all of this is contrary to the Geneva Conventions and all of this is ordered as a matter of written established policy by the government of the United States from the top down. And I believe that the men who designed these, the men who designed the free fire zone, the men who ordered us, the men who signed off the air raid strike areas, I think these men, by the letter of the law, the same letter of the law that tried Lieutenant Calley, are war criminals.

    If those are the kind of “atrocities” that you are referring to, then I suppose all of us in Vietnam , including myself, committed them because that’s the kind of fighting we engaged in.

    Though I personally never took part in burning villages, because I wasn’t part of the infantry, I certainly fired 50 caliber machine guns into villages to return fire, certainly something that we wouldn’t accept as a defensive measure in our own country. It bothered me even then to fire into a village we were supposed to “be defending” but those were the tactics we were supposed to use, and somehow staying alive seemed more important than justice at the time.

    I knew when I was there that the war was a “mistake,” that there was no “democracy” to defend, and that our government had lied to us, and my only goal was to make sure that none of my men died while I was there.

    Personally, I never attended a protest because I still had friends there, but I made it clear to anyone who asked that I did not support the war. And I sure as hell voted against anyone who did support it.

    Feeling as I did, I probably should have been more active in opposing the war, but I just wanted to regain control over my own life and forget what had happened there. Though I often felt that soldiers who were drafted were treated unfairly when they came home, I never resented the anti-war demonstrators or those who fled to Canado to avoid fighting a war they did not believe in. If I had been drafted later, perhaps I would even have had the courage to resist the draft. I guess I’ll never know.

    That said, I still respect those who left the country or, even more, those who went to jail more than those who used their influence to get into the National Guard or even the Army Reserves rather than take the chance of being drafted.

    As for your other argument, I haven’t heard of anyone charging soldiers in Iraq who killed innocent civilians while defending themselves or while attacking an enemy with criminal charges. If you know of someone who is being charged for that, I’d certainly like to see your references. I’d be more than ready to defend any soldiers in that position.

    Of course, it’s difficult to cite self defense when you’re torturing unarmed prisoners, besides being just plain dumb if your main goal is to win the people over to your side.

  4. I’ve seen the interviews of the swift boat vets and they seem damn credible to me. Kerry, by his own admission, said he lost only a day and a half total of duty time convalescing from all his “wounds” and then convienently played the “3 PHs get out of VN” card thereby leaving his crew high and dry. As a VN vet, I was well aware of the “medal glut” over there. Officers were quick to put themselves in for combat awards in order to give themselves a leg up over their stateside competion. I remember a CE officer at Bien Hoa awarded a Bronze Star for refurbishing the officer’s Club there. How ludicrious is that ??? The point I’m making is…. I’m not in a position to say whether Kerry “earned” those combat awards..maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. I’m just pointing out that his medals ( which he alledgedly threw on the Capitol steps !)are not definitive proof to me of his combat heroism.
    Politics is such a sleezy endeavor. I just love the way the Libs are questioning the motives of these honorable swift boat vets by “hinting” at a partisan agenda. “Why now?” their critics ask… well, the dude wants to be the CinC.. if not NOW then when ??? If they believe the vets are lying, the Dems should flat out say so… not allude to it. It seems the Democrats don’t have the balls to come out and say it face to face to these Navy guys. They would rather try to discredit them around the edges. The TRUTH is the truth.. whether partisan or not.
    All this controversy aside, I’m more interested in Kerry’s actions AFTER he returned home from VN. I have been totally sickened by the films of that demonstration protest where he dishonored the military, his fellow vets and gave aid and comfort to the enemy while US forces (and his friends)were still engaged in combat operations. His Senate testimony and comments made on the talk show were “overstatements’ at the very best and most probably outright lies. I dispise him for those reasons alone and believe he is not fit to be President or CinC.
    The problem with John Kerry is that he has few definitive Senate accomplishments of note to run on despite 15 years in that institution. If he chooses to run on a questionable VN record, release the hounds and let the pieces fall where they may !
    PS.. I know the Dem/Lib response.. GW didn’t go to VN.. Quite true, but he did fly high performance ANG fighters well past their prime. Going up in those old crates with questionable maintainence was probably more dangerous than combat flying in VN. He could have very easily been killed in a training accident… Training accident or combat.. you’re still dead serving your country.. That shouldn’t be dismissed. I welcome responses.

  5. ***See the *** article below that was orginally published prior to this comment.***

    Loren.. spoken like a true unabashed liberal ! lol There’s no point arguing because we’ll just reject each others position.
    Let me just point out that I respect Kerry for serving in VN.. I consider all that served in that hell-hole to be brothers-in-arms. I also believe that a veteran has the right to speak his mind … but I also have the right to completely dismiss his/her point of view. Obviously, JK doesn’t believe in the old addage that politics stops at the water’s edge when our troops are engaged. Post-war, the Communist leaders of NVN stated that ‘the war in the streets of America’ gave them increased incentives to carry on to eventual victory. How’s that for a post-script on the boomer generation ! My point is…giving aid and comfort to the enemy is not patriotic in any sense of the word. Our country is governed by a political process..If the majority is unhappy with the way it is being run then it will be changed thru a democratic election. I find nothing patriotic in taking it to the streets with radicals carrying the flag of the enemy or lying about your fellow vets. I re-state my position…Kerry is unfit, IMO, to hold the highest office in the land.

  6. The Swift Boat Veterans, share the
    funding and at least two of the same
    members as the group that smeared
    McCain.

    Look at what has been done to Bob
    Kerrey, to McCain, to Chuck Hagel,
    to Max Cleland and now to John
    Kerry? There is a pattern here
    and it is not pretty. Our veterans
    BOTH Republican and Democrat are being
    smeared when they get in the way of
    this administration.

    With political passions the way they
    are, it isn’t hard to round up a
    couple of hundred nuts. O’Neill and
    others have changed their stories
    again and again. Corsi is a bigot
    and a conspiracy theorist. Several
    have been caught in outright lies, big
    and small.

    This is not a Democratic issue or a
    Republican issue, it’s a veterans
    issue. Remember what they did to
    John McCain–calling him unstable,
    saying he had a child by a prostitute,
    attacking his wife…

    It doesn’t do the GOP any good to
    support this trash… sometimes the
    enemy of my enemy is my enemy.
    Be real. You know it. I know it.

  7. *******This comment was originally posted August 6th between Ken’s two replies and was inadvertently deleted in my ongoing and constant attempts to delete spam. It’s necessary to understand his second reply, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to put it back in the proper position. ******

    “I’ve seen the interviews of the swift boat vets and they seem damn credible to me. Kerry, by his own admission, said he lost only a day and a half total of duty time convalescing from all his “wounds” and then convienently played the “3 PHs get out of VN” card thereby leaving his crew high and dry. As a VN vet, I was well aware of the “medal glut” over there. Officers were quick to put themselves in for combat awards in order to give themselves a leg up over their stateside competion. I remember a CE officer at Bien Hoa awarded a Bronze Star for refurbishing the officer’s Club there. How ludicrious is that ??? The point I’m making is…. I’m not in a position to say whether Kerry “earned” those combat awards..maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. I’m just pointing out that his medals ( which he alledgedly threw on the Capitol steps !)are not definitive proof to me of his combat heroism.

    Far too many medals were given away, no doubt about that.

    “Politics is such a sleezy endeavor. I just love the way the Libs are questioning the motives of these honorable swift boat vets by “hinting” at a partisan agenda. “Why now?” their critics ask… well, the dude wants to be the CinC.. if not NOW then when ??? If they believe the vets are lying, the Dems should flat out say so… not allude to it. It seems the Democrats don’t have the balls to come out and say it face to face to these Navy guys. They would rather try to discredit them around the edges. The TRUTH is the truth.. whether partisan or not.”

    It’s hard to tell what’s sleazier this kind of name-calling and innuendo or politics. Unfortunately, the two seem inseparable.

    “All this controversy aside, I’m more interested in Kerry’s actions AFTER he returned home from VN. I have been totally sickened by the films of that demonstration protest where he dishonored the military, his fellow vets and gave aid and comfort to the enemy while US forces (and his friends)were still engaged in combat operations. His Senate testimony and comments made on the talk show were “overstatements’ at the very best and most probably outright lies. I dispise him for those reasons alone and believe he is not fit to be President or CinC.”

    Whether or not you served in Vietnam is hardly reason enough to vote for anyone, and I’d agree a candidates record is more important than whether or not he served in the military. Unlike you, though, I believe it was patriotic to demonstrate and testify if you believed your country was wrong. At the very least, someone who has gone to war to defend his country has earned the right to protest that war. The kind of patriotism you suggest here reminds me of the kind of patriotism that the Chinese Communists demand. Follow the party line or else. I’m sure it’s the same kind of patriotism lemmings extol as they launch their offensive. It’s chauvinism, not patriotism. )

    “The problem with John Kerry is that he has few definitive Senate accomplishments of note to run on despite 15 years in that institution. If he chooses to run on a questionable VN record, release the hounds and let the pieces fall where they may ! “

    And you’re going to argue that Bush had credentials when he ran??!?

    “PS.. I know the Dem/Lib response.. GW didn’t go to VN.. Quite true, but he did fly high performance ANG fighters well past their prime. Going up in those old crates with questionable maintainence was probably more dangerous than combat flying in VN. He could have very easily been killed in a training accident… Training accident or combat.. you’re still dead serving your country.. That shouldn’t be dismissed. I welcome responses.”

    This statement is so absurd it probably doesn’t deserve a reply. To suggest that serving in Vietnam and flying airplanes on the weekend (and the records seem to show Bush didn’t even do much of that) are equivalent is just plaIn **@#! absurd, and an insult to those of us who did serve in Vietnam.

  8. Well Ken, you say “Our country is governed by a political process…If the majority is unhappy with the way it is being run then it will be changed thru a democratic election.” But wasn’t Kerry’s activism part of the political process? And how can you have democratic elections if people can’t critique government policies without someone questioning their patriotism and accuse them of aiding the enemy?

What do you think?