John Kerry undoubtedly calculated he could have it both ways: For those who wanted to see a war hero, he could tout his decorations; for those who were anti-war, he could point to his role as spokesperson for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. What John Kerry never calculated fully was that a great number of the men and women who served in Vietnam simply wouldn’t buy the story.
To the Swift Boat Veterans For the Truth, John Kerry was a betrayer, plain and simple. First, he betrayed his fellow sailors by leaving Vietnam early, after serving only four short months, while others served full tours, or extended their tours, despite the dangers of combat.
Second, he betrayed the over 2 million men and women who served honorably in Vietnam when he testified to Sen. Fulbright’s committee in April 1971 that they were the army of Genghis Khan, committing war crimes on a daily basis, with their atrocities completely approved up and down the chain of command.
John Kerry wanted to be a war hero of a war he said was immoral. The self-contradiction implied in that statement never seemed to bother him. Put simply, he wanted to be an honored member of a select club, even though he insulted the club’s members and claimed to the world that the club itself had no legitimate moral authority.
Unfortunately for John Kerry, the most memorable speech of his life may prove to be one of his first, his 1971 testimony before Sen. Fulbright’s committee. There he sat in street-theater military fatigues, claiming that the Vietnam War was a mistake, that the United States was a colonial power interfering in a civil war, that we were in Vietnam not to win a victory against godless communism, but to protect a corrupt regime and a puppet dictator in South Vietnam.
John Kerry in that April 1971 testimony asked his most memorable public question: “How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?” Perhaps the ultimate mistake was his. To run for president with his Vietnam “war hero” story as the central pillar of his campaign invited the criticism that his true legacy was that of a Judas – a betrayer, who abandoned his brothers-in-arms on the field of battle and denigrated their honor once he secured the safety of home.
Now we are engaged in another war in a distant part of the world. The president of the United States has claimed we are in Iraq to fight international terrorism and to defend freedom. Where is candidate John Kerry on the question? In the past week, he has given two speeches, one at New York University and another at Temple University, which are remarkable replays of his 1971 anti-war testimony to the Senate.
Kerry tells us the war in Iraq is just another mistake:
The president has said that he “miscalculated” in Iraq and that it was a “catastrophic” success. In fact, the president has made a series of catastrophic decisions … from the beginning … in Iraq. At every fork in the road, he has taken the wrong turn and led us in the wrong direction. The first and most fundamental mistake was the president’s failure to tell the truth to the American people.
– Sen. Kerry at New York University, Sept. 20, 2004
Iraq, like Vietnam, according to Senator Kerry, is just another civil war:
We are fighting a growing insurgency in an ever-widening war-zone.
– Sen. Kerry at NYU, Sept. 20, 2004
The war in Iraq, for Sen. Kerry, is no more a war against terrorism than Vietnam was a war against communism:
The invasion of Iraq was a profound diversion from the battle against our greatest enemy – al-Qaida – which killed more than 3,000 people on 9-11 and which still plots our destruction today.
– Sen. Kerry at Temple University, September 24, 2004
Now John Kerry pledges he will fight a “tougher, smarter, more effective war on terror?” But how? By taking the side of the enemy and arguing, as he did in Vietnam, that our enemies are reasonable people who are right to oppose us in this war?
If the past is to be taken as a prologue to the future, the parallels between John Kerry’s anti-administration rhetoric on Iraq today – and his war-protest rhetoric of 1971 – must be taken seriously. John Kerry began his campaign at the Democratic National Committee a “war hero,” but as was the case with Vietnam, he has now shifted to his second phase, presenting himself as a vocal “anti-war” critic, this time of President Bush’s efforts in Iraq.
John Kerry clearly has no commitment to consistency, but he does have an unwavering ambition to win the presidential election in 2004, no matter what he has to say. The parallels to 1971 are all too apparent.
How can we be sure that John Kerry will not end up this time where he ended up last time – betraying our troops by withdrawing from the field of battle at any cost should he ever get the chance to give the order?