IT WAS John Kerry, not the Swift Boat Veterans
for Truth, who picked this fight.
He was the one who made his long-ago stint in
Vietnam the centerpiece of his campaign for president.
He's the one whose running mate urges voters to
take Kerry's measure by spending "three minutes
with the men who served with him 30 years ago."
He's the one whose campaign ads dwell on his combat
heroics. He's the one who has repeatedly played the
Vietnam card against critics and opponents. And he's
the one who challenged anyone "who wants to have a
debate about our service in Vietnam to bring it on."
But that won't silence the Swifties. Because their
real beef with him is not about what he did in Vietnam.
It's about what he did when he came home.
On April 22, 1971, Kerry went before the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee to indict the American
war effort in Vietnam for horrendous war crimes.
These were "not isolated incidents," he testified,
"but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with
the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."
He offered no evidence. Instead he trumpeted the
charges of the "Winter Soldier Investigation," an
antiwar gathering a few months earlier at which men
claiming to be Vietnam veterans -- many were later
exposed as frauds -- described the atrocities they
had allegedly committed.
And therein lies the fundamental hypocrisy of the
He came to prominence as a radical opponent of the
war in Vietnam, yet now he runs for president on the
strength of his service in that war. He portrayed
the men who fought there as unspeakable savages, yet
now he surrounds himself with Vietnam vets at every
turn. He lent respectability to those who demanded
that America cut and run, that it abandon a beleaguered
ally, that it drop "the mystical war against communism."
Yet now he insists that he would be a tough and vigilant
commander-in-chief, one who would never disrespect allies,
one in whose hands the security of the United States
would be safe.
Even after 33 years, Kerry's 1971 testimony, and his
refusal to either repudiate or corroborate it, remains
unsettling -- and relevant. For the Swift Boat vets,
this fight may be personal. But all of us have a stake
in its outcome.
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