He's a Veteran

I’m no Kerry shill, but I’m annoyed and disheartened by the Right’s vapid caviling about the Senator’s war record. Kerry may have invited it by “reporting for duty”, but a conservatism that has conceived and led the noble and necessary war against Islamofascism, the 20th Century’s last gasp of totalitarianism, and which has rightly demanded unwavering respect for our troops, has no business gutting a decorated veteran for cheap political gain.

But not so fast -- Ralph Peters, ex-Army officer and military historian, makes clear the complaints spring from a substrate of real grievance:

[Kerry] had the right to protest against the war more than most, since he had served himself. But he had not earned the right to lie about the honorable service of millions of others.

Kerry's lies and they were nothing but lies about "routine" atrocities committed by average American soldiers and sanctioned by the chain of command were sheer political opportunism. Kerry knew that none of the charges were true.

He'd been there. He may have done some stupid things himself, but atrocities were statistically very rare. Contrary to the myths cherished by film-makers, American troops behaved remarkably well under dreadful conditions.

John Kerry lied. Without remorse. To advance his budding political career. He tarnished the reputation of his comrades when the military was out of vogue.

That is so, and with this insight, the always thoughtful Roger L. Simon broadens and sharpens the contours of Kerry's offenses of thirty years ago:

Back in Vietnam days, most of us on the then-Left realized the war was being fought by a largely working-class army with a great percentage of people of color. Few of us wanted to attack them because we were running around fancy universities protesting while the less economically fortunate were getting blown up.

When John Kerry came back from that war, having gone over for whatever reasons, he personally accused, with little or no evidence, those same working-class soldiers of excessive numbers of atrocities. What kind of a Lefty does that? What kind of a man does that? There were dozens of other ways to oppose the Vietnam War, many of them far more substantive. But he chose the low road. Well, the Law of Karma was the operative law in those days and it has come back to haunt him.

Yet while all this is awful, it was, as I said, thirty years ago, and what is most important is prosecuting our current conflict, which actually is a war of survival. There are more substantive ways to voice the mistrust many of us feel growing in the void of an articulate Democratic Middle East policy, ones that don't involve tarring the service of someone who answered the call to defend our country.

Victor Davis Hanson, another oft-cited military historian, gives us a reasonable and elegant sum from which we can move forward:

It is time to drop the mess and leave it at this: A veteran John Kerry, who easily could have been blown up on numerous occasions, came home mixed up and said and did things he probably now regrets, which over the last three decades have provided both rich political capital for him and ammunition for his enemies depending on the ever-changing perception of Vietnam in the popular memory of a given decade.

So I conclude with empathy for John Kerry, whom I appreciate as a veteran who served his country even if I would not now vote for him. He should have been aware of the god Nemesis. Still, in a spirit of magnanimity and appreciation for his months on a boat in a very inhospitable landscape, Americans perhaps should remember the words of Pericles, as recorded by Thucydides shortly after the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War: "For there is justice in the claim that steadfastness in his country's battles should be as a cloak to cover a man's other imperfections; since the good action has blotted out the bad, and his merit as a citizen more than outweighed his demerits as an individual."

Posted by John-Paul Pagano at August 30, 2004 12:34 AM