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Sunday, August 29, 2004

An Old Warrior on Other Veterans and Their Records

Colonel David Hackworth is one of the highest-decorated military men in all of the US history. And here is what he has to say about the bitter argument going on over John Kerry's military record,- and how it compares with that of President Bush. He also analyzes the tactics used in recent political campaigns to discredit the military exploits of other veterans later turned politicians.
Sure, Bush dodged the draft, along with a reported 14 million other Americans with the savvy to work out that was a no-win, sorry war. But although he had the luck and the connections to land a spot in the Air Guard, he did put his butt on the line flying a machine for which he was entitled to hazardous-duty pay – and that's because zooming around in a jet fighter was and still is highly dangerous.

And sure, Kerry’s campaign push on how he Ramboed his way through the war – for four months – rubs a lot of vets the wrong way. And it does take its toll on those of us who prefer our heroes to be modest, unassuming types like Alvin York – who stayed the course until it was “Over, over there.”

But politics and style aside, Kerry did serve with distinction in Vietnam when he easily could have avoided that killing field. His service to his country shouldn’t be diminished by the same despicable, politically motivated tactics visited upon Sens. John McCain in South Carolina and Max Cleland in Georgia, also Viet vets. This kind of gutter-bashing doesn’t belong in American politics, and vets shouldn’t allow themselves to be used as ammo for cheap shots at one of their own.
I think when it comes to Kerry's record he brings up the only argument that should matter, if one were to analyze it at all.
The stalwart Brown Water Navy warriors who fought at Kerry’s side say he was A-OK, which is good enough for me. The muckrakers such as John O’Neill and his Swiftboat snipers – who didn’t sail on his boat but served anywhere from 100 meters to 300 miles away – are now coming off like eyewitnesses when in fact not one of their testimonies would hold up in a court of law. A judge would call these men liars and disallow their biased statements.

I’ve been in a fair number of battles in my lifetime, first fighting for my country in several hot wars, then covering a dozen conflicts as a correspondent. And I’ve learned that if you can’t see the fight right up close, smell it, hear it and touch it, you can’t possibly bear witness.
I have written on the subject before. Personally, I don't think there is much left to it,- in other words, one can have all sorts of respectable political preferences, but I think military service and attendant readiness to sacrifice one's life on a battlefield must always be respected. As I have said before, one's service record is not, and should not be, the only criteria, or even the main criteria in determining one's readiness to assume a certain political office,- however, smearing war veterans is a kind of ignoble practice that should have no place in respectable political discourse.

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