John Kerry: "They had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads. . ."One thing becomes obvious right from the get-go in this ad: They are not questioning the claims themselves, but the fact that Kerry made them. By this notable omission, they are accepting the fact that atrocities did occur in Vietnam. So given this, and the fact that the subject has been thoroughly researched and written about in the 30 year interim, let's just take the atrocities as indisputable for the sake of this discussion.
Joe Ponder: "The accusations that John Kerry made against the veterans who served in Vietnam was just devastating."
John Kerry: ". . . randomly shot at civilians. . ."
Joe Ponder: "It hurt me more than any physical wounds I had."
John Kerry: ". . . cut off limbs, blown up bodies. . ."
Ken Cordier: "That was part of the torture, was, uh, to sign a statement that you had committed war crimes."
John Kerry: ". . . razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan. . ."
Paul Gallanti: "John Kerry gave the enemy for free what I, and many of my, uh, comrades in North Vietnam, in the prison camps, uh, took torture to avoid saying. It demoralized us."
John Kerry: ". . . crimes committed on a day to day basis. . . "
Ken Cordier: "He betrayed us in the past, how could we be loyal to him now?"
John Kerry: ". . . ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam."
Paul Gallanti: "He dishonored his country, and, uh, more, more importantly the people he served with. He just sold them out."
Unity is vital to the armed forces, especially in times of war, but it has its limits. People in law enforcement and the military believe in standing by their own and defending each other, even when one or more of their number are criminals and guilty as sin. These people wish to project an image of invulnerability and strength. The reality of such institutions, which are composed of human beings and therefore fallible, is anything but.
When a crime is committed by a member of such an organization, the powers-that-be usually handle it from within or, tragically, look the other way. What should happen is it should be made public. The punishment should be swift and visible to all. Show people that such behavior will not be tolerated. A display such as this will convey the image of an institution which is willing to recognize mistakes and correct them. This is a true show of strength.
Now let's look at these statements one by one, shall we?
"The accusations that John Kerry made against the veterans who served in Vietnam was just devastating. It hurt me more than any physical wounds I had."Kerry was not fingering all soldiers for these crimes. When Joe Ponder complains of being hurt, either he is confusing the whole group with the bad apples, or he has some things he did in Vietnam he's not proud of. If the later is true, then his guilty conscience has nothing to do with Kerry.
"That was part of the torture, was, uh, to sign a statement that you had committed war crimes."Those who signed statements did so not because of John Kerry, but because of being tortured by their captors. If their spirit was so broken by simply signing a piece of paper under coercion (and it's not like the International Court was high on their worry list at the time), then what else could the captors have done to them? Does that mean they would stop believing in God if they were forced to sign a paper stating such? Would they forever feel like traitors to their country if forced to urinate on the American flag?
The prisoners of Abu Ghraib were forced to place shoes in their mouths and pantomime homosexual acts. They were forced to do these particular things because they are anathema to the Muslim faith. For those who survived the prison, do you think for a moment that they have they stopped believing? No. Faith is stronger than that. Apparently, Ken Cordier's more upset at signing a meaningless piece of paper than knowing of hundreds being slaughtered like cattle.
"John Kerry gave the enemy for free what I, and many of my, uh, comrades in North Vietnam, in the prison camps, uh, took torture to avoid saying. It demoralized us."John Kerry was telling the truth. It's not like Kerry was giving out battle strategies or any information that was valuable to the enemy. He was stating to the American people what they probably didn't know and what the people fighting on both sides in Vietnam probably already knew. Their captors wanted confirmation of this. If the prisoners were innocent, they could say so and that would be that. I'm not naive enough to claim that this would end their torture. However, they could go on with a clear conscience. This may not sound like much, but I imagine that there was little else for the soldiers kept captive to hold onto.
"He betrayed us in the past, how could we be loyal to him now?"Again, he is confusing the whole military with the criminals, unless he is of the later as well as the former.
"He dishonored his country, and, uh, more, more importantly the people he served with. He just sold them out."No, Mr. Gallanti, he was serving his country in yet another capacity: As it's conscience. He witnessed soldiers mad with blood thirst, and he stood up and said that this must stop because this is not what this country stands for. It made some people uncomfortable to hear all this from Kerry and they condemned him for it. And regarding those people, I'm sure Mr. Kerry didn't very much give a damn. Neither do I.
Eventually, we must ask ourselves what would have happened if Kerry had not spoken out, as these veterans would have preferred? The old adage of Evil occurring when good men stay silent applies here. He could have looked the other way in respect to the actions of his fellow soldiers, but that would not have made the army any stronger or made the war more successful. These men might, might have been spared an iota of their torture at the possible expense of more civilian casualties in Vietnam. I guess we all have our priorities.
The true dishonor lies with the soldiers that committed the crimes, and the Swift Boat Vets should be angry with them and not at Kerry. Instead, they appear on talk shows and denounce a brave soldier simply because they don't believe in his current politics. It is a tragedy to see that misguided gleam in their eye as they yearn to shoot the messenger.