the Democratic Party establishment is blatantly
hypocritical, or, profoundly schizophrenic, towards
the concept of the war veteran as president.
only did draft dodger Bill Clinton avoid service
in Vietnam, he also evaded service in the National
Guard. To compound matters, as a Rhodes Scholar
in Oxford, he besmirched the Washington War effort
and denigrated U.S. troops. However, in 1992, we
were persuaded by the Democratic Party establishment,
including Senator John Kerry, that whether one served
or didnt serve, or, whether one protested
or didnt protest, was irrelevant. America
had moved on.
was challenged in his reelection bid by Senate
Majority leader Bob Dole, a decorated World War
2 veteran. Dole experienced a lengthy, painful recuperation
from combat wounds suffered during the Italian campaign
of 1944. He never fully recovered. Again, the electorate
was persuaded that combat service on behalf of the
nation was no longer a relevant qualification for
the Democrats have made an audacious volte-face.
Senator John Kerry is reporting for duty.
The substance of his presidential campaign is his
four months as commander of a Swift Boat - a small
inshore combat vessel - in Vietnam. The usual tour
of combat was one year. Kerry seems to have packed
more action and drama into his four months, than
GI Joe did in a lifetime. Indeed, from his telling,
his brief sojourn seems to have generated enough
material for several epic war movies and then some.
senator was awarded three purple hearts for insignificant
wounds received under circumstances, which are challenged
by the vast majority of his erstwhile comrades,
subordinates and superiors. He also received the
Bronze Star and the Silver Star, again under questionable
circumstances. By his account, he even succeeded
in been awarded a Combat V on his Silver Star; a
decoration which the U.S. Navy has never issued.
also, managed to celebrate Christmas 1968, on a
covert mission, in Cambodia, apparently on the orders
of President Nixon. Nixon, of course, did not become
president until late January 1969. In 1986, Senator
Kerry told Congress that this experience of invading
a neutral country on Nixons orders was seared,
seared into his psyche. The increasing number
of inconsistencies raised by veterans, historians
and journalists, and the glaring lack of corroboration
from his immediate crewmembers, has caused Kerry
to retreat from that legend.
in the United States, the senator became a leader
of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), a group,
which seriously considered assassinating members
of Congress. In 1971, he testified before the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, that U.S. troops had
perpetrated war crimes as official U.S. Government
policy. They "had personally raped, cut
off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable
phones to human genitals
. cut off limbs, blown
up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages
in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan
" The testimony was subsequently
discredited as fabrication.
words were used by the North Vietnamese to mentally
torture and demoralize U.S. POWS like Lieutenant
General John Flynn and Capt. Tom Collins. As the
New York Post columnist, Deroy Murdock opined
recently: "Imagine the prospect of hearing
from the Oval Office the same voice your jailers
used 33 years ago to break your mind in two."
totality of Kerry's campaign resume is his four
months of combat duty. Blatant hypocrisy for a man
who smeared America's war effort, and slandered
a whole generation of GIs. As a Vietnam veteran
recently wrote to a newspaper: Kerry and
denigrated the military and America
Now Kerry wants to use the war as a prop and report
but not unsurprisingly, Kerry has done little promotion
of his two decades in public office. An unremarkable,
reactionary legislative career, devoid of achievement.
Nor has Kerry spelled out how he would respond to
contemporary challenges, be it the War on Terrorism,
or, the economy. By the most recent count, he has
propounded eight mutually contradictory positions
on the terrorist war. All we know is that he is
fundamentally defeatist, the anti-Dubya. Everything
Bush is for, Kerry is against. Although, after all
his flip-flopping, even that is difficult to ascertain.
touting of his combat record was bound to awaken
contrary ghosts. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,
a group consisting of the vast majority of Kerry's
Swift Boat comrades is airing devastating TV advertisements
questioning the integrity of his combat service,
and highlighting his slanderous anti war campaigning.
The senator is trying to dismiss its efforts as
part of a Republican smear campaign. However, former
lieutenant John O'Neill, a three-year Vietnam veteran,
and others among the leadership, have a long, independent
record of challenging Kerry.
trying to deflect attention away from his senatorial
non-record, Kerry's incessant promotion of his combat
service endeavors to implicitly belittle Bush's
record with the Texas Air National Guard. This tactic
is antagonizing the entire constituency of highly
motivated, part time, citizen soldiers of the state
national guards. America's weekend warriors have
fought in every major U.S. conflict since the revolutionary
war, including Vietnam, Kuwait, Afghanistan and
induction into the Texas Air guard was no guarantee
of immunity from combat service in Vietnam. In the
early 70's, Air Guard pilots, like Bush, flew 24,124
sorties over Southeast Asia. Eighty five percent
of the Vietnam based 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron
were guard pilots. Indeed, some of the most distinguished
military units in U.S. military history, like the
"Fighting 69th "and the Irish Brigade,
have been national guard/state militia units. Current
guard members are not enamored of Kerry's implication
that their service is of a lesser commitment than
that of the regular services.
brouhaha has prompted much correspondence to the
newspapers. A major theme has been the premise that
real heroes dont brag, thus, suggesting
a lack of credibility in the senators accounts.
One missive in the New York Post was particularly
of course is not the only contemporary U.S. politician
to have served in combat. In addition to army veteran
Senator Bob Dole, President George Bush (senior)
is a decorated World War 2 naval fighter pilot.
Former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey left part of
his leg in Vietnam and was decorated with the Congressional
Medal of Honor. Senator John McCain, a naval fighter
pilot, spent five years as a POW in Hanoi, resisting
physical and mental torture. In refusing to be repatriated
in an obvious NVA propaganda effort, he vowed to
only leave "with the last man". As national
figures, their war service is part of their public
profiles. However, most "never talk about it",
and if they do, unlike John Kerry, it is usually
in humble self - deprecation.
there is our old friend in the County Cork Association
of New York. In the late 1940's, our friend, still
in his teens, left his County Cork village to carve
out a life in New York. Within a year or two, he
was, like thousands of other young Irish immigrants,
in U.S. Army uniform. On the Korean peninsula, he
found himself serving Uncle Sam as a forward artillery
observer. One of the most dangerous assignments,
a County Kerry veteran of that conflict once told
first became aware of our friend's war hero bona
fides during a barroom conversation. "'So and
so' has a pile of medals from Korea but he never
talks about it," I was informed. Some months
later, I was poring through old banquet journals
in the dusty bowels of the Cork building, when I
came across one with a picture of our tuxedo clad
friend smiling roguishly out at me. He had been
honored by the association some years before. Not
been one for pomp and ceremony, I had visions of
his wife forcing him into the finery.
another page was a copy of a Bronze Star citation.
His wife obviously retrieved it from the attic and
covertly slipped it to the journal committee. It
read as follows:
friend has never worn his battlefield heroism on
his sleeve. He has never tried to parlay it into
anything advantageous. He was never an active member
of any veterans groups and he has avoided
commemoration ceremonies. On his return from Korea,
he joined the NYPD and, after a distinguished career,
retired as a highly decorated detective.
an organization like the County Cork Association,
whenever two or more are gathered, chops
and "liathroidi" will inevitably be broken,
and balls will be hopped, all in good
fun. Our friend is frequently teased on the approach
of commemorative occasions like Memorial Day and
Veteran's Day. "You'll be on parade with all
your medals," we bait. "They're milking
it. They're milking it," he cries, in response
to what he considers as excessive ceremony.
friend, a grandfather, with his fingers still in
many pies, is too busy living life to the full,
to dwell on the heroism and horrors of a war he
fought over 50 years ago. Like the vast majority
of veterans, he regards his military service as
but one line on the resume of life. Regarding John
Kerry, as our friend would say, he's "milking
it, milking it!"
they say, "Real heroes don't talk about it."
Patrick Hurley is president of the Regular Republican
Club, 30th Ad (Woodside-Maspeth) Queens, New York
City, and a member of the Queens County Executive
of the Republican Party. He is also an officer of
the County Cork Association of New York.