23. August 2004 · Comments Off on Anger Management · Categories: General, Media Matters Not

Well, the Swiftboat Veterans story has finally broken out in the main stream media outlets; and I swear, NPR’s Juan Williams actually sounded rather aggrieved this morning, being made to eat the broccoli, along with everyone else. So far, they are saucing it with the assumption that of course this is all part of the Dark Lord Rove’s evil plan… for what other reason could their be, but politics as (dirty) as usual?
I think it is a great deal more complicated than that, and believe me, if I am one of the Dark Lord’s puppet pawns, than the contract and paycheck are conspicuously absent, and you don’t have to look any farther for a motivation than to the experience of Vietnam veterans; those of them that are not John Kerry.

Those veterans served their full tour, and did their jobs honorably and to the best of their abilities, even if it was on a rear-echelon base, or out at sea, or in a hospital. Some may have been wounded, some were decorated, some volunteered for the riskiest assignments, some looked for a safer billet, some were traumatized, others were unscathed, but not unchanged by the experience of being plunked down into an alien place and circumstances for a year. Just about all of them, contrary to what the popular media would show you, came back and got on with their lives. Some of them stayed on in the military, the rest became CPAs, doctors, teachers, technicians, police officers, actors and a hundred other professions, with more or less ordinary lives. And what did they get for their service, when they stepped off the Freedom Bird, and for a good long time after? Spit on occasionally, sometimes physically harassed, called baby-killers and mercenaries, despised and, painted in the popular media as unstable, violent drug-abusing degenerates… the list of injury and indignity went on and on, even when the war was long over.

I remember veterans being advised to not include military service on resumes and job applications, and the way that the older NCOs who had been there never, ever talked about it, unless among friends and very, very drunk, Gunny Kev confessing that he had volunteered for three more tours, since he could stick being shot at by the VC, but not being called a baby-killer by Americans. The subject was unmentionable, outside the military family, and even inside, people were pretty tight-lipped. On a Christmas night in Greenland, I was sitting between the public affairs officer, and the senior air traffic controller, talking of nothing much in particular. Then the PAO, rather lubricated, let it slip that in a previous service incarnation, he had been an Army infantryman, and how in the field they never washed, because the smell of soap would give you away, and the air traffic controller started, as if he had just been jolted by an electrical short— he also, had been an infantryman in Vietnam. Here, they had been at the same base for months, casual acquaintances for months, and yet never knew until then how much they had in common.

So, here we have people who have been proud of their service, and conduct, slammed by accusations of having committed atrocities— while war crimes committed by the VC and North Vietnamese got a free pass, falsely pictured in the media as being traumatized losers by movie producers and lazy reporters, even as they build quiet and successful lives. And as the final straw, the long bloody fight, all that sacrifice was for nothing at all. South Vietnam falls, in 1975, having been rendered politically untouchable.
So, in this year of 2004, three years after 9/11, when Vietnam is as far away in time as World War 1 was from the Korean War, irrelevant to a fight against the forces of Islamic fundamentalism, long after most of those involved have made their peace with it; here we are, going back into the jungles of 1968. John Kerry, who made his political bones as a leader of an anti-war group, rejecting his decorations, and testifying to a long series of improbable and unproven atrocities, was somehow advised that campaigning as a heroic war veteran would be just the winning ticket; that men whom he had maligned, and born false witness against had somehow magically forgotten their own experiences, their own pain, and guilt, to serve his ambitions.

The man who had no small part in creating the image of the unstable veteran, and in putting South Vietnam beyond the pale…. Oh, the response to that is anger, deep and abiding anger. I don’t know how it could have been otherwise, and I don’t know why the Democrats and Kerry advisers didn’t see it. Just anger…. Not political machinations, but anger, as unstoppable as a flood, and just as impossible to reason with.

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