By Brett Berry
Illustration by Arnie Bermudez
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Blind patriotism apparent in ads attacking Kerry
With the current sociopolitical atmosphere in America, it's not hard to recognize that American citizens are discouraged from disagreeing with the actions of their government.
There is an underlying sense of the necessity of blind patriotism in times of war that controls voices of dissent.
We as Americans are expected to "support our troops," which to most people means this: Don't question why they're fighting or the way in which they're fighting.
This is not a new concept. Americans who have questioned America's military actions have been told to be quiet and to "support our troops" ever since the Vietnam conflict.
Some people harbor such bitterness toward those who raise questions of our military's actions that it lasts for decades.
John Kerry has been facing this bitterness for his antiwar actions of the 1970s.
In the last few weeks, we have all been subject to a round of attacks on John Kerry's war record via the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth."
These controversial ads have spawned ridiculous debate amongst political pundits as to just how heroic John Kerry's service in Vietnam was.
Contrary to the supportive statements made by the men who served on Kerry's swift boat and the military awards he has received, these "Swifties" think that Kerry has lied about just about everything in reference to his service, from the events surrounding his rescue of Jim Rassmann to the injury that led to his third Purple Heart.
They seem to imply that Kerry's four-month Vietnam tour was just part of some grand scheme he had to piece together a military-hero biography to run for president sometime down the road.
The list of reasons as to why these veterans' ads have little credibility is quite long.
Perhaps the most ludicrous element of their attack on Kerry's war record is the fact that none of them actually served on his boat.
When they say, "I served with John Kerry," what they really mean is that they were in Vietnam at the same time.
As for the men actually on Kerry's boat, they strongly support his character, record and campaign.
The ads' credibility is further damaged by the fact that some of the Swifties expressed misgivings about their statements.
For example, retired Navy Capt. George Elliot has expressed regret for signing his affidavit and appearing in the ad, saying it was "a terrible mistake ... I knew it was wrong."
So why would these veterans attack Kerry's heroic service with such ridiculous claims?
The answer is simply that these veterans are clinging to the angry bitterness towards Kerry that originated from his anti-war activities following his return to the United States.
They never forgave Kerry for his protest of the war, so they are using a big GOP donor's money to share their sour grapes with the world.
This is made clear in their most recent ad, which takes tapes of his Congressional testimony on the war out of context to paint Kerry as someone trying to label all Vietnam soldiers as war criminals.
This isn't true; Kerry was actually retelling tales of atrocities committed in Vietnam shared by Vietnam vets at the "Winter Soldier" conference of Kerry's Vietnam Veterans Against the War group.
These "Swifties," though, think that Kerry indirectly accused them of committing atrocities, and now they are releasing their bitterness for that misinterpretation in the form of the attack ads.
Of course, despite the absurdity of most of their claims, no one should try to silence or censor the "Swifties" (though there is a point at which free speech becomes slander).
The holes in their stories and incriminating ties to conservatives hurt their credibility to the point where no one should take what this group says as honest and truthful.
Still, some conservatives say that examining (i.e. attacking) Kerry's war record is justified because he has made these biographical points a center point of his campaign. This is true.
However, questioning John Kerry's actions during his tour in Vietnam should be done with respect for the facts and not done out of bitterness for his later protests.
Ultimately, to question Kerry's legitimacy and authority to voice opposition to the Vietnam War is unfounded.
He was there. He's not just some pacifist protester who dodged the draft and has never been near a battlefield.
Kerry volunteered for service, served honorably and saw the consequences of battle firsthand.
If he cannot speak out against war, then who can?
Brett Berry is a regional development junior who urges all voters to sift through the campaigns lies at http://www.factcheck.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.