Opinion column: Deconstructing Kerry

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By James Sobotka

No one in Sen. John Kerry’s campaign thought much of reopening the most divisive issue of the 20th century for partisan-political gain. By the Democratic National Convention, it had become laughable.

As a result, watching Kerry’s war-hero status erode during August has been deeply gratifying. Ever since he answered a question about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with Vietnam, I’ve been waiting for the backlash.

“But who would attack a veteran?” Kerry’s supporters might say.

John Kerry would. He testified before Congress regarding alleged Vietnam atrocities: “They had personally raped; cut off ears; cut off heads; taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power; cut off limbs; blown up bodies; randomly shot at civilians; razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan …”

Vietnam veterans, upon returning, were treated as war criminals, and they have not forgotten why.

Now, more than 250 veterans who served with Kerry have challenged his story, alleging:

n Self-inflicted Purple Heart injuries

n A mythical Christmas in Cambodia (which apparently was seared into Kerry’s memory)

n War crimes committed by Kerry

n That Kerry was asked, in not so many words, to leave Vietnam.

The case is backed by sworn affidavits, military records and even Kerry’s personal journals. The members had direct, firsthand knowledge of what occurred there, and they outnumber Kerry’s veterans almost 20 to 1. Their accusations absolutely disqualify him from holding the position of commander in chief.

Kerry’s response is simple: Shut them up by any means possible. The day after their first advertisement premiered, his campaign threatened lawsuits against any station that aired it. Two weeks later, he implored bookstores to ban the critical book “Unfit for Command.” Lately he’s been branding the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as Republican hacks.

He’s even rolled out designated victim, former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), to garner sympathy.

Notably absent has been any satisfactory rebuttals to the daily expanding list of charges. He claims his records support him, but he has refused to release all of them.

Do these sound like the actions of someone with nothing to hide?

The horizon is bleak for Kerry. The albatross of his radical, anti-war stance remains. If Kerry wants to avoid further embarrassment, he must sincerely apologize, admit fault and ask forgiveness for his actions during the 60s and 70s.

Vietnam was supposed to cover Kerry’s pacifist tendencies. Now he can add it to his long list of self-inflicted wounds.

James Sobotka is a graduate student. His forum runs Mondays. He can be reached at [email protected]