LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Fear, loathing and lies about John Kerry’s service

Last month Franklin Ward, a right-wing repeat offender, disgorged a stream of toxic lies, gossamer incoherence, and utter nonsense onto the DSN op-ed pages. [“The rest of the story on Libby, Kerry and Treason,” Sept. 14] His goal this time was an attempt to defame John Kerry and, among other things, to exonerate top Dick Cheney thug “Scooter” Libby, a convicted felon who compromised U.S. intelligence, CIA personnel, and the lives of untold U.S. contacts around the world for political motives.

By your own definition, Franklin, Libby committed treason by giving “aid and comfort” to our enemies. Scooter should, as we speak, be basking in the essence of the Fort Leavenworth experience.

Your vacant sermonizing about imaginary “treason” because an American veteran publicly expressed controversial opinions in 1971 is beyond arrogant and reminds me that REAL treason is demonstrated by acts such as Nixon’s sabotage of the LBJ Paris peace talks by promising a better deal to Nguyen Van Thieu after he got into the White House or Ronald Reagan’s deal with Iran to delay release of the hostages until after his inauguration or Reagan’s illegal deal to supply Iran with missiles to finance the Contra mercenaries in Nicaragua.

But back to John Kerry. In mimicking the Bush 2004 campaign, you trot out the thoroughly discredited “Swiftboat” tactic to smear Kerry here, in 2015. This crap fooled some people then, Franklin, but now, the stench of your desperation has settled onto the same malevolent deceit. You may have noticed that the term “swiftboating” has become synonymous with the immoral smearing of someone for personal or political gain. There are reasons for that.

Here are a few facts to go with your smear mania, Franklin:

Originally called “Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace,” Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT) was designed from its beginning to help bring John Kerry down. Starting in 1971, Richard Nixon had White House goon Charles Colson recruit compulsive liar and career Kerry-hater John O’Neill and other reactionary veterans to challenge the telegenic John Kerry, whom the paranoid Nixon saw as a threat. His prominence in Vietnam Veterans Against the War and reporting other veterans’ admission of war crimes to Congress was enough to push some, especially O’Neill, over the edge.

Since you have apparently never served our country in combat, Franklin, some truth-telling is in order:

1. Not one of the SBVTs were physically present at the scene of any of the operations of which they claimed to have knowledge. 2. All of Kerry’s crew, as well as others who were also present, rallied around him and still do. Most campaigned with him in 2004. They know the truth. They were there. 3. Not one anti-Kerry SBVT accusation has proven to be true, except possibly the exact date when Kerry was in Cambodia on an operation. (Conversely, O’Neill lies about many things, including his own presence there — reversing himself several times). 4. Purple Hearts are absolutely awarded for shrapnel wounds. In my time, in-country, shrapnel wounds were the most common injury.

5. All of Kerry’s wounds were the result of hostile action. 6. The award of three Purple Hearts results in a trip out of the field, no matter how long you had been in combat. Period. 7. The doctor you cite did not treat Kerry’s wounds. His actual doctor said no such thing. 8. Kerry was assigned to temporary duty in Cam Ranh Bay after the award of his Purple Hearts. 9. It was hardly “despicable” to leave Vietnam early. Happened all the time for various reasons. 10. Kerry’s congressional testimony featured a recitation from about 150 Vietnam veterans’ accounts of American war crimes at the Winter Soldier meeting in Detroit earlier in 1971 – not his own stories.

11. War is savage. No group participating in one is immune from committing some barbarity and collateral damage. America is no exception. 12. The Logan Act is totally irrelevant. Kerry was not “negotiating” with anyone in Paris or involved in the peace talks. The UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] is not applicable, either, as Kerry went to Europe as a private citizen.

Since the 2004 ads aired, flip-flopping has been common among SBVTs. Many have often changed their stories or regret their statements or recanted them all together. Some admit they lied, complaining that Bush operatives put words in their mouths or lied to them. SBVT orchestrated, then edited, their statements, returning the affidavits to be signed by the veterans as “evidence.” One common motivation among swiftboaties is anger at Kerry’s anti-war stance in Congress.

It has long been known that SBVT was heavily funded by billionaire Bush donors (Sam Fox, Bob Perry, T. Boone Pickens, etc.), family and friends.

They were counseled in understanding and dealing with media by high-powered Bush public relations firms, including Spaeth Communications, given legal advice by White House and personal Bush lawyers, organized by Bush loyalists, and created by top Bush attack-ad maker Stevens Reed Curcio and Potholm. The swiftboat fraud is straight out of the Lee Atwater/Karl Rove dirty politics playbook.
John Kerry and his crew trusted their lives to each other in the harsh crucible of combat. Real combat veterans know what that kind of bond is about.

Few of them would hold with Kerry if the Bush slander held any truth to it. It doesn’t. And they all have his back, then and now, because they know the man and what he did.

An example of the many eyewitness accounts affirming Kerry’s honorable service is from Chicago Tribune editor William Rood, a former swift boat commander. Rood has personal knowledge of Kerry’s performance under fire, including the mission that resulted in his Silver Star. He said that Kerry and he came under RPG rocket and AK [automatic Kalashnikov rifle] fire from Viet Cong forces (refuting false SBVT claims) and that Kerry devised an aggressive attack strategy to defeat the communist ambush that was praised by the brass (one or two of whom hedged on their glowing official statements after being co-opted by Bush operatives to SBVT).

Referring to the SBVT allegations, Rood said, “It’s gotten harder and harder for those of us who were there to listen to accounts we know to be untrue, especially when they come from people who were not there.”

The lies aimed at Kerry follow the pattern of earlier Bush-Rove political assassinations of WIA [wounded in action] veterans John McCain, John Murtha, and Max Cleland, among others. The truth of this ugly behavior is that all of it is deliberate deception without extenuation — cowardice and indelible treachery beyond redemption.

For the record, Kerry is a highly decorated combat veteran with a handful of Purple Hearts for wounds suffered in combat. Day after day in Vietnam, John Kerry laid his life on the line under the most difficult conditions. Later, he took tough, controversial stands against what he believed was wrong with U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

He has taken a lot of heat for standing on conscience. And while I might not agree with Kerry’s tone in 1971, he had a right to express his feelings the way he did – he earned it.

I served with two airmobile, light-weapons infantry units (1966-67) in some of Kerry’s AO [area of operation] in III Corps, including Cambodia. I and several surviving friends of mine from that time have unceasing respect for his service to this country in Vietnam and after it. You, Franklin, and the George Bush crowd do not.

Will Gillespie
Schwenksville, Pa.

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