Opinion column: Credibility

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By Zachary Schuster

When listening to both sides of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT) controversy, there is one important word to consider: credibility. There are two sides with two different stories about Sen. John Kerry’s Vietnam service, and one side is lying.

During his service in Vietnam, Kerry received three Purple Hearts as well as a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for rescuing sailor Jim Rassmann from a river during enemy fire. Rassmann and 12 other men who served with Kerry on his boat have voluntarily supported Kerry’s bravery and ability to lead.

SBVT has accused Kerry of lying about this incident, citing it as evidence Kerry is “unfit for command.” However, two of the members of SBVT praised Kerry’s service as recently as 2003.

One of the leaders of the group, Larry Thurlow, has claimed Kerry had a “master plan” to “engineer three Purple Heart incidences” and “engineer a record for himself.” When pressed to substantiate his claims on “Hardball” last week, Thurlow admitted Kerry’s “master plan” merely was an unprovable theory.

Thurlow claims there was no enemy fire during the incident where Kerry rescued Rassmann. However, most damning about Thurlow’s credibility is the citation for his own Bronze Star, issued by his superior officer, stating that his actions “took place under constant enemy small-arms fire.”

If SBVT was a political loose cannon, then their baseless claims could be easily dismissed, but President Bush’s denial of any links to the group, despite evidence suggesting otherwise, raises questions concerning the Bush campaign’s involvement with the attacks on Kerry.

More than $200,000 of funding for the SBVT-advertising campaign has come from Bob Perry. Perry is the

biggest Texan donor to the Republican Party, a donor to past Bush family campaigns and an associate of Karl Rove.

Last week, Bush-Cheney adviser Kenneth Cordier was forced to resign from the Bush campaign, because he appeared in a SBVT advertisement. Cordier was the second campaign worker to resign because of connections with the group.

The facts show who is credible and who is not. It is sad that the SBVT are attempting to create a culture where we must question the awards our war heroes receive, and it is equally sad that President Bush and his chicken hawk associates have chosen to smear another brave Vietnam veteran just as they did to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2000 and former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) in 2002.

Zachary Schuster is a senior in engineering. His forum runs Mondays. He can be reached at [email protected]