Boat Vets' evoke Nixon's ghost
My View: reader commentary
The first weekend of the month marked both the 40th
anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the 30th
anniversary of the disgraceful resignation of a very
slippery GOP president named Nixon. And now Nixon's ghost
appears in the current smear job by the so-called Swift Boat
Veterans for Truth against my good friend, longtime comrade
and fellow Vietnam War veteran, John Kerry.
This group is deflecting
criticism of George Bush's bellicose presidency by lies,
lies and more damnable lies. Unleashed by Karl Rove and
company, this attack ship of fools is having its third
cruise around the truth in a futile attempt to besmirch
Kerry's military service record. These GOP attack dogs now
need to be muzzled by the truth.
Some of these attackers are
veterans of the black propaganda used against such prior
targets as Sen. John McCain, whom they called "The
Manchurian Candidate" in 2000.
Then in 2002 they turned
their sights on Sen. Max Cleland, a triple-amputee veteran
of the Vietnam War whose patriotism they attacked - and got
away with it.
Sen. McCain called these
attacks on Kerry "dishonest and dishonorable" and
called on George Bush to condemn their ad. Regrettably,
George Bush has refused to do so.
So who are these men who
insist they are "not affiliated with any party"?
A report filed July 15 with
the IRS shows initial funding for the group came from
Houston home builder Bob R. Perry. Perry is a staunch GOP
fund-raiser and donor of millions of dollars in Texas to the
GOP, especially to the president's campaign as well as that
of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Last year Perry gave
$600,000 to 23 GOP candidates for the Texas Legislature,
helping lift the GOP to its first takeover of the Texas
House since Reconstruction. Perry gave $200,000 to the Swift
The group has launched ads in
key states, stating falsely that its members served with
Kerry and "know him," and calling his combat valor
into question. Lt. j.g. John Kerry served on three vessels,
including two swift boats - PCF-94 and PCF-44. Each boat had
a six-man crew - so the total universe of Kerry's real
wartime comrades consisted of a band of a dozen brothers.
Tom Belodeau of
Massachusetts, a close friend of John's, is now dead. All
remaining members of the crews in No. 94 and No. 44 are
onboard the Kerry-Edwards campaign. Not one of these Swift
Boat Veterans for Truth actually served with Kerry at all!
Here is the Nixonian
flashback, to 1971: John O'Neill, a Vietnam veteran and
author of the soon-to-be-released book attacking Kerry's
Vietnam service, did not serve on a swift boat at the same
time as Kerry. Kerry was back home in the United States by
the time O'Neill took command of his first unit.
But back in 1971, Richard
Nixon needed to counter anti-war groups such as Vietnam
Veterans Against the War, of which Kerry and I were members.
He tasked Chuck Colson (of Watergate infamy) to form an
attack group against Kerry, led by the young John O'Neill.
Yes, this is an old, bitter fight.
The main round of Kerry v.
O'Neill occurred in June 1971 on the "Dick Cavett
Show." O'Neill spent most of his airtime attacking
Kerry's patriotism for criticizing the Vietnam War, rather
than discussing the issues of war and peace.
A newly released tape of
Nixon's conversation with Kissinger, his national security
adviser, reminded us that we had another corrupt GOP war
president who sacrificed American lives by extending a war
for the sake of his own campaign. Nixon said three months
before the 1972 election: "South Vietnam probably can
never even survive anyway. ... We also have to realize that
winning an election is terribly important. It's terribly
important this year."
So the war that John O'Neill
defended on Cavett's show and that George W. Bush supported
but chose not to serve on active duty comes down to not
telling the truth to the American people. Nixon drew out the
Vietnam War for political expediency. Thousands more died or
were wounded by lies.
O'Neill was rewarded for his
efforts by receiving a clerkship to Nixon's favorite Supreme
Court justice, William Rehnquist, and became a law partner
with Lezar Harold, a former speechwriter for Nixon.
So now we have President
George W. Bush, who lied about how a perceived threat in
Iraq would harm us. And now we have the media trumpeting the
war, with thousands of young Americans wounded and almost a
thousand dead - for political expediency. Just as in
Vietnam, the war is being eclipsed by other stories and the
news of its dead and wounded fall farther back in the
We who have personally known
John Kerry and all of his crew members stand up for our
country and urge Democrats, independents and Republicans to
dump Bush in November. Our best bet is to hire the vet.
On the Great Seal of the United States, a bald eagle faces
us. In one talon are clutched arrows and in the other,
olive branches. This president just clutches arrows.
But a President Kerry, who fought heroically in a war and
then, like the great silent majority, spoke out for peace,
will bring back the balance to our country. Semper
Fidelis, John Kerry.
Joe Bangert of Brewster is a
Veteran for Kerry.
(Published: August 25, 2004)