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Why John Kerry Still Matters!
By Robert Freedland


November 07, 2006
Tuesday AM

Elizabeth Whittington writes (November 04, 2006): "I agree with Michael Reagan's column re: Sen. John Kerry. I am actually glad he finally made a complete fool of himself, both in his comment and 'apology'. He's one less Democrat to be concerned about."

Ms. Whittington may be right. Senator Kerry may have had his career destroyed by the Republican smears. But let's take a closer look at Michael Reagan's column, and we will see how Mr. Reagan spins his web of lies and distortions in his participation in the attack on a courageous American Veteran and Statesman.

First, Mr. Reagan starts out his name-calling by comparing Senator Kerry to a "vampire" recoiling from a cross. I suppose that Mr. Reagan believes that once again Senator Kerry and the Democrats are somehow heathens and that religion is on the side of the President. We know too well about the hypocritical, holier than thou Christians who have jumped in bed with the Republicans. Leaders like Ted Haggard, who while railing against gay marriage, was busy buying Methamphetamine and consorting with a homosexual prostitute.

Mr. Reagan claims Senator Kerry is like a "Kamikaze", alluding to the Japanese suicide pilots who attacked Americans. But it was Senator Kerry who served his nation in the military, and is a decorated Vietnam war veteran. We know that President Bush used his family influence to avoid the draft and get into the Texas Air National Guard, where his attendance is still questioned. And Vice-President Cheney used multiple deferments to avoid service! So why is this decorated military veteran being attacked by Mr. Reagan, who no doubt has an extensive record of service, as being a "Kamikaze", somebody who has undermined out military. Nothing could be farther than the truth. But that is the point.

Mr. Reagan goes on to refer to the "L'affaire Kerry". This is another often-repeated slur about the Senator. That he speaks French. It is well-known that our President has difficulties with the English language. But that is considered amusing. The attack on a politician because he is fluent in a foreign language is the most anti-intellectual, xenophobic thinking that I can imagine. I guess the President is better because he speaks Texan. I suppose speaking French infers some sort of feminine attribute to Senator Kerry. Sort of like he must be limp-wristed if he speaks French? In any case, this is part of the standard pack of lies, and defamation of the Senator that is continued by Mr. Reagan.

Reagan goes on and states: "When John Kerry stands up and implies that the members of our armed forces now engaged in a bloody and dangerous war on behalf of the American people are a bunch of poorly educated high school dropouts, he is expressing what his colleagues in the Democrat leadership believe." This is a plain lie. Kerry never said this. Reagan knows this.

Let's look at his actual mis-statement (the text of his original speech is available). He stated: "Education -- if you make the most of it and you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well," said Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat. "If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq." His entire set-up for this was his attack on Bush and not the Troops.

But what is the truth on this? Because of the endless war in Iraq, military recruiting is getting more difficult. And the Army has been allowing high-school dropouts to join. It isn't a bad thing; it is just the truth. As reported in the Army Times (

"The program allows recruiters to enlist a high school dropout, according to S. Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command. But the enlistee must have the GED before shipping off to basic training. The Army will pay for individuals to attend a course to prepare for the GED test and will cover the cost of taking the GED exam."

Also as reported in Slate (

"Faced with repeated failures to meet its recruitment targets, the Army has had to lower its standards dramatically. First it relaxed restrictions against high-school drop-outs. Then it started letting in more applicants who score in the lowest third on the armed forces aptitude testâ a group, known as Category IV recruits, who have been kept to exceedingly small numbers, as a matter of firm policy, for the past 20 years. (There is also a Category Vâ those who score in the lowest 10th percentile. They have always been ineligible for service in the armed forces and, presumably, always will be.)"

These are unpleasant truths. But that doesn't make Mr. Kerry guilty of slurring the troops even if he did state the truth unintentionally.

And getting "stuck in Iraq"? Are our soldiers also stuck there? (Mr. Kerry was referring to this Administration being stuck, but for the sake of argume, let's see if our soldiers are getting stuck!)

As reported in the Los Angeles Times (click here):

"WASHINGTON - In the latest sign of pressure on troop strength from growing violence in Iraq, the Pentagon said Monday that it had extended the combat tour of 4,000 soldiers, the second time in as many months that an Army brigade has seen its yearlong deployment lengthened.

The 1st Brigade of the 1st Armored Division, which is assigned to Ramadi, the capital of volatile Al Anbar province, will remain in Iraq an additional 46 days, defense officials said. Originally scheduled to leave Iraq in January, the brigade is now due to return to its base in Germany in late February."

This is not an isolated incident.

As reported in the Boston Globe (click here) :

"The Army and Marine Corps have carried much of the load. Of about 500,000 members in the active Army, more than half -- 279,393 -- have been sent overseas in the past three years. And of those, 34.6 percent have served multiple tours, some for a year or more and others several months at a time.

For the smaller Marine Corps, the percentage of the total force dispatched to Afghanistan or the Persian Gulf is greater -- 98,979 of about 120,000. Of those, 27.6 percent have done multiple tours, according to the Pentagon's count. The corps will be adding about 3,000 more troops to reduce the burden.

For part-time soldiers who leave jobs as well as families behind, the percentage serving multiple tours is even higher. Of the 90,649 Army National Guard soldiers deployed, 35.9 percent have been called up more than once.

For the Army Reserve, 34.6 percent of the 64,978 that have served since the Sept. 11 attacks have returned home, only to be redeployed within months.

Meanwhile, nearly half of the 41,093 members of the Air National Guard called to active duty have served two or more tours in the same period."

Americans are getting stuck in Iraq. Senator Kerry has been fighting to bring them home. That is how you support our troops.

So Senator Kerry wasn't really far off was he when he suggested inadvertently that failure in education could lead to one turning to the military for employment and that those same soldiers could get stuck in Iraq! Of course he was referring to the President, but nonetheless.

Michael Reagan continues with a quick reference to Senator Kerry's Winter Soldier testimony to Congress, by stating: "Remember, this is the man who came back from his brief four-month tour of duty in Vietnam to charge his fellow American servicemen with rape and murder."

Americans would rather feed on the Pablum of the Republican spinmeisters and believe that every American soldier was a good guy. That we never did atrocities in Vietnam or elsewhere. And that instead of pointing to the bad soldiers who do atrocities as the unAmerican ones, it is easier, according to Mr. Reagan and his ilk to point out to the brave and patriotic Americans like Senator John Kerry who bring our failures to our nation's attention. Maybe we all would prefer to pretend that things like this didn't happen. Who wants to eat the lunch given to us by Senator Kerry, wouldn't we all like to be dumb and stupid and feed on "happy meals"?

But atrocities, like rape and murder DID happen in Vietnam. It wasn't Kerry's mistake, it was the failur of our forces and their command. It isn't unpatriotic to be a whistle-blower. But we all would rather 'shoot the messenger' who in this case was Senator John Kerry, then a returning Vietnam war veteran.

Read what the Toledo Blade had to say about Vietnam atrocities among just one single unit. They wrote in 2003 (click here):

"Promising victory to an anxious American public, military leaders in 1967 sent a task force - including Tiger Force - to fight the enemy in one of the most highly contested areas of South Vietnam: the Central Highlands.

But the platoon's mission did not go as planned, with some soldiers breaking the rules of war.

Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers. Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed - their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.

Two soldiers tried to stop the killings, but their pleas were ignored by commanders. The Army launched an investigation in 1971 that lasted 41/2 years - the longest-known war-crime investigation of the Vietnam conflict.

The case reached the highest levels of the Pentagon and the Nixon White House.

Investigators concluded that 18 soldiers committed war crimes ranging from murder and assault to dereliction of duty. But no one was charged.

Since the war ended, the American public has been fed a dose of movies fictionalizing the excesses of U.S. units in Vietnam, such as Apocalypse Now and Platoon. But in reality, most war-crime cases focused on a single event, like the My Lai massacre.

The Tiger Force case is different. The atrocities took place over seven months, leaving an untold number dead - possibly several hundred civilians, former soldiers and villagers now say."

So was Senator Kerry really wrong in testifying what he did to Congress? I doubt it. But it was embarassing to American soldiers. So why didn't he just shut up? Why did he have to go and let everyone know about the ugly side of war and that Americans were involved? Didn't he hate the soldiers for doing this? I don't think so. Senator John Kerry was a patriotic young man when he went to Congress to testify. He wanted to help our nation fix some of the wrongs it had involved itself in. And for that he has been perpetually castigated by the right-wing fanatics who would rather Americans didn't hear the truth. That when they heard about Vietnam, they thought about some John Wayne movie where Americans were always the good guys and the Cong were the evil-doers. It wasn't always that way in reality. And John Kerry is about reality and not fantasy.

Reagan goes on to attack Kerry reporting that he spoke to CBS's Bob Schieffer, "And therre is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breakins sort of the customs of the--of--the historical customs, religious customs."

Was Senator Kerry defaming and lying about American Troops again, as Mr. Reagan infers? Was this another undermining of support for the soldiers? Did Kerry hate America?

Or was this a re-statement of actual events?

As the International Committee of the Red Cross reported (

"6. Arrests as described in these allegations tended to follow a pattern. Arresting authorities entered houses usually after dark, breaking down doors, waking up residents roughly, yelling orders, forcing family members into tins room under military guard while searching the rest of the house and further breaking doors, cabinets and other property. They arrested suspects, tying their hands in the back with flexi-cuffs, hooding them, and taking them away. Sometimes they arrested all adult males present in a house, including elderly, handicapped or sick people. Treatment often included pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles. Individuals were often led away in whatever they happened to be wearing at the time of arrest - sometimes in pyjamas or underwear - and were denied the opportunity to gather a few essential belongings, such as clothing, hygiene items, medicine or eyeglasses. Those who surrendered with a suitcase often had their belongings confiscated. In many cases personal belongings were seized during the arrest, with no receipt being issued (see section 6, below).

7. Certain CF military intelligence officers told the ICRC that in their estimate between 70% and 90% of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake. They also attributed the brutality of some arrests to the lack of proper supervision of battle group units."

Senator Kerry was guilty of repeating unpleasant facts. Americans need to know the truth to make their own decisions. But to accuse Kerry, as some critics have done, as somehow making up stuff to discredit our soldiers is another big fat lie.

Reagan attacks the distinguished veteran Jack Murtha as accusing Marines in Haditha of cold-blooded murder. But what do we know about this a year later?

As reported by ABC News (

"Oct. 30, 2006 - Almost a year ago, 12-year-old Sofa Younis lost her entire family.

Her home in Haditha, Iraq, was raided by American Marines on Nov. 19, 2005.

"They broke into the bathroom. They detonated a hand grenade into the bathroom. We were all sitting in a room. Then comes the American soldier, and [he] shot us all," Sofa said. "I pretended to be dead, and he did not know about me."

Sofa survived, but 24 Iraqi civilians died that day, including six children and four women. All 24 were killed by U.S. Marines from the Kilo Company.

American military authorities have investigated the events of that day and have compiled a 3,500-page report that has yet to be released."

It doesn't sound very good for the Marines does it? But lets attack Murtha instead of investingating, or criticizing the execution of this war.

Or let's attack Senator Dick Durbin, who, according to Reagan, "...compared our interrogators at Guantanamo to the monsters who worked for Pol Pot, one of the greatest mass murderers in history, and those who worked in the inhuman Soviet gulags and in the Nazi death camps." Another irresponsible Democrat I suppose, or was Senator Durbin also guilty of revealing and highlighting unacceptable American behavior at Guantanamo?

And what was behind Senator Durbin's statement? Was he totally out of line?

This was based on an FBI report. Not some left-wing nutcase, as Mr. Reagan would prefer, it was an agent of our own Federal Bureau of Investigation who made observations at Guantanamo! As reported by CNN (

"The memo was written in July 2004 by Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Thomas Harrington, and was directed to Maj. Gen. Donald Ryder of the Army's Criminal Investigation Command.

In the first incident outlined by Harrington, an FBI agent was present in an observation room while an interrogation of a detainee was under way. A "Sgt. Lacey" (the memo says her first name is unknown) entered the room and ordered a Marine to duct tape a curtain over the observation window, thereby blocking the view of the interrogation.

On a monitor showing the view of a surveillance camera, the FBI agent saw the sergeant "apparently whispering in the detainee's ear, and caressing and applying lotion to his arms.... On more than one occasion the detainee appeared to be grimacing in pain, and Sgt. Lacey's hands appeared to be making some contact with the detainee," the memo states.

Later it says the Marine who had been in the room came out, and the FBI agent asked what had happened.

"The Marine said Sgt. Lacey had grabbed the detainee's thumbs and bent them backwards and indicated that she also grabbed his genitals. The Marine also implied that her treatment of that detainee was less harsh than her treatment of others by indicating that he had seen her treatment of other detainees result in detainees curling into a fetal position on the floor and crying in pain," the memo states.

The memo included another incident from October 2002 that involved a detainee being "gagged with duct tape that covered much of his head," according to an FBI agent's account. A contractor observing the detainee's interrogation told the FBI agent the detainee "had been chanting the Koran and would not stop."

The final case involves FBI agents allegedly observing a dog being used in an "aggressive manner to intimidate a detainee," who was subject to what the FBI official called "intense isolation" in a "cell that was always flooded with light."

Senator Durbin was not the embarassment. It has been our own policy of torture in Abu Ghraib, Guantanmo, and elsewhere that is the shame that was revealed. And yet it was this President, and his henchmen in Congress, who piled on Durbin to shut him up. And they did. And they got him to apologize. And they did it to Kerry this week. And they got him to apologize as well. But Durbin was right. And so was Kerry.

I support Senator Kerry and Senator Durbin and all Americans who fight for the truth. We can disagree with each other on foreign policy, but when we seek to attack Americans who reveal unpleasant realities, we are shirking our responsibilities as citizens to engage in the political process with all of the information available.

John Kerry is a brave American who has fought in war and has defended Veterans from attacks from chickenhawks like Michael Reagan who are living in a war dominated by Grade-B John Wayne movies where everything America does is good and everything everyone else does is bad.

America can be a better country. Let us join in fighting for those ideals. Let us not embrace torture, let us not embrace the tactics of our foes, and let us support politicians who have the courage to speak to us about the truth and not live in fantasies that are more comfortable but equally unreal.

Robert Freedland
La Crosse, WI

Received November 04, 2006 - Published November 07, 2006

About: "I am a physician practicing in Wisconsin who cares deeply about our nation and our freedom."



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