Another veteran unimpressed with Kerry

Neal Thompson:

John Kerry will run for president this fall on the Democratic ticket, and nothing is more crucial to his carefully crafted image than his status as a "Vietnam veteran." Kerry himself tells us time and again that his Vietnam experience, from fighting sailor to anti-war activist, factors greatly in who he is and how he will act as president. And on this I believe him, which is why, as a veteran, I will not support him.

Kerry arrived in Vietnam in November 1968 and remained only four months. He saw a little action, was decorated for conduct during a firefight or two and left at the first opportunity, more than six moths before his tour of duty was to end, because three shrapnel nicks qualified him for transfer to stateside duty as an admiral's aide.

Roy Hoffmann, Kerry's squadron commander, described Kerry's departure contemptuously: "He just simply bugged out, and any military man knows what I'm talking about." At no time, Kerry says now, did he, anyone in his unit or anyone to his knowledge, rape, torture or murder anyone. He was never involved in nor did he witness a war crime.

Lifelong civilians seem impressed with tales of Kerry's derring-do. But as a combat veteran, I see nothing remarkable in Kerry's "Vietnam experience." I flew gunships for a year and saw more action in a week than Kerry saw during his entire, abbreviated tour of duty.

From any perspective, it was fairly typical and, given its duration, particularly unimpressive, at least until Kerry arrived home and began his scorched-earth campaign for publicity and political office.

Before the ink on his discharge was dry, Kerry assumed the role of anti-war radical and traveled the country denouncing the rest of us as war criminals, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 22, 1971, that we "personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal range of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country."

These were "not isolated incidents," he emphasized, "but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."


And he stood by his claims for more than 30 years, advancing easily through the political system while his newly discovered "band of brothers," who, according to Kerry's current version of events, served "with equal courage, equal commitment and an equal sense of contribution as anybody else in any other war and in any other time in American history," paid the price.

I remember when it was open season on those who served in Vietnam. To those who deny or forget, I recommend Bob Greene's "Homecoming," in which veterans recount being spat on, cursed, denounced as fascists and baby killers, and assaulted for nothing more than wearing a uniform in public.

These are not urban legends; each veteran is identified and tells his story in his own words. This treatment did not end when the shooting stopped.

It continued in one form or another for decades, as veterans were portrayed as losers, morons, alcoholics, addicts and criminals in everything from books, movies and TV to what passes for serious historical and social commentary, such as Myra MacPherson's wretched and yet highly acclaimed book, "Long Time Passing."

Now most veterans harbor a righteous anger over all this, as well they should, but they focus too often on people like Jane Fonda, which I find silly. It was not, after all, Fonda and her divisive, childish antics but serious, supposedly knowledgeable, impressive people like Kerry who made the atrocity-story industry respectable and credible, knowing all along, as Kerry himself has finally admitted, that the claims were false.


But this is not just about payback. It is about Kerry's fitness for office. For his "Vietnam experience" demonstrates clearly that he is unencumbered by anything resembling honesty, loyalty or common decency and will do whatever it takes to get elected. And we have seen such men, to our eternal regret, before.

These are some of the reasons why this Marine combat veteran will never vote for John Kerry. He is totally unfit to be commander in chief. He is a metaphor for what is wrong with the Democrats today. And, I was a Democrat until Ronald Reagan took office.


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