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Friday, August 06, 2004

Smearing the War Heroes

Political negativism is a common tool involved in the process of campaigning. One side tries to dig up all the dirt it can on their opponents who in most cases respond in kind. Provided the information used is not deliberately libelous that is normal process,- even though it does at times get ugly.

However, the latest string of attacks on the prominent Democrats' war records is beyond pale,- and, in many cases, is in fact libelous. For instance one of the key contributors to the book titled "Unfit For Command" whose objective appears to be proving Kerry unsuitable to be President has recently admitted to lying. Kerry's former commanding officer has admitted that signing and faxing back the statement to the effect that Kerry did not deserve to be awarded his Silver Star was a "terrible mistake".

It is also worth mentioning the smear campaign unfurled against former Senator Max Cleland. In her column Ann Coulter seems to be doing her best to establish equivalence between George W Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard and Cleland's Vietnam experience. Coulter also writes,
Moreover, if we're going to start delving into exactly who did what back then, maybe Max Cleland should stop allowing Democrats to portray him as a war hero who lost his limbs taking enemy fire on the battlefields of Vietnam.

Cleland lost three limbs in an accident during a routine noncombat mission where he was about to drink beer with friends. He saw a grenade on the ground and picked it up. He could have done that at Fort Dix. In fact, Cleland could have dropped a grenade on his foot as a National Guardsman – or what Cleland sneeringly calls "weekend warriors." Luckily for Cleland's political career and current pomposity about Bush, he happened to do it while in Vietnam.

Well, by both the official criteria and those dictated by common sense she is wrong. And I doubt she is not aware of that.

Cleland was wounded in an area that on that day had been shelled by the enemy. That area was officially designated battlefield on that day. Furthermore, Cleland had spent many days immediately preceding that day at Khe Sahn, the site where besieged Americans and the NVA fought one of the fiercest battles of the whole war. It is true that Cleland's injuries were caused by an accident which only involved the friendly munition (in that case, a grenade accidentally dropped by another soldier which Cleland had a bad luck to pick up). However, as this occurred during combat, this sort of injury is officially viewed as a combat wound. From a common sense perspective,- wouldn't you think that a man who had been in combat for days may have been affected by the stress to the extent that his judgement got a little clouded and that could have contributed to that accident?

Be that as it may, even if you discount the accident in which Max Cleland lost three limbs, he had still distinguished himself sufficiently to be called a hero. His Silver Star and Bronze Star attest to that. That makes what Coulter is saying all the more reprehensible. The same goes for those who used an ad in which Max Cleland's image was put next to those of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, the objective being to call Senator Cleland's patriotism into question. That ad ran during Saxby Chambliss's Senate election bid against Cleland.

I believe that no matter what one's politics, one should respect war heroes for the courage they had demonstrated and recognized smear campaigns like the ones described above for what they are,- vicious assaults of unscrupulous political figures who, in essence, have little else to say.

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