Clearing the Fog
in the
War of Words


  logomachy--1. A dispute about words. 2. A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.
logomachon--1. One who argues about words. 2. A word warrior.



Swift Boat Vets get Kerry's supporters' goat

Swift Boat Vets get Kerry's supporters' goat

The challenge by John Kerry's former Navy messmates to his use of his four months in Vietnam as a qualification to be President is stinging enough to draw some nasty Democratic counter-attacks.

Two appeared in the Wall Street Journal in the last week. Columnist Al Hunt's effort is his usual special pleading, bad logic, and slanted presentation. But facts are secondary; Hunt's point is that Calling John Kerry's military service into question is beyond the pale. Note that to support Kerry's false charges of wide-spread war-crimes by US soldiers, Hunt quotes Col. David Hackworth to the effect that there were "hundreds of My Lais". What Hunt doesn't tell you is that Hackworth (one of my personal demi-heroes) made the comment when he was being questioned about the string of mass murders committed by Tiger Force, a unit Hackworth founded, although Hunt does mention Tiger Force. Hunt also doesn't explain that Hackworth was idiosyncratically counting off-target bombs as war crimes, and that his source, an article on Hackworth and Tiger Force in the Toledo Blade commented that "hundreds of My Lais"
was a controversial statement. Academics have long disputed just how many unknown atrocities occurred in Vietnam, but most scholars agree that the majority of soldiers in Vietnam did not commit war crimes.

Jim Rassmann is the Kerry supporter whom Kerry fished out of the water in Vietnam. His WSJ op-ed, "Shame on the Swift Boat Veterans for Bush," is short on argument, but full of false assumptions, personal invective, and emotional appeals that are not only irrelevant but preposterous. The peroration is particularly nasty:
Now, 35 years after the fact, some Republican-financed Swift Boat Veterans for Bush are suddenly lying about John Kerry's service in Vietnam; they are calling him a traitor because he spoke out against the Nixon administration's failed policies in Vietnam. Some of these Republican-sponsored veterans are the same ones who spoke out against John at the behest of the Nixon administration in 1971. But this time their attacks are more vicious, their lies cut deep and are directed not just at John Kerry, but at me and each of his crewmates as well. This hate-filled ad asserts that I was not under fire; it questions my words and Navy records. This smear campaign has been launched by people without decency, people who don't understand the bond of those who serve in combat.
To start with, Nixon's Vietnam policy didn't fail; Nixon won the war, but the Democrats threw Vietnam and Cambodia to the wolves. John O'Neil of the Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace did not challenge John Kerry's charges of wide-spread atrocities by US troops at the "behest" of Richard Nixon; Nixon never knew about John O’Neil until he began to get attention. O'Neil objected to Kerry's slanders, not--as Rassmann says--to his anti-war stance. And the Swift Boat veterans' TV ad does not lie about Mr. Rassmann or Navy records; it says nothing about them.

Further, can Mr. Rassmann seriously maintain that the Swift Boat veterans "don't understand the bond of those who serve in combat", but that John Kerry does—John Kerry, who falsely accused his comrades of being war criminals and treated with his nation’s foreign and domestic enemies? Not that understanding the feelings of combat veterans has anything to do with whether John Kerry's conduct was despicable.

If Mr. Rassmann, who presents himself as a retired police officer and orchid enthusiast, can write this kind of facile poison, he missed his calling.

But perhaps he didn't write it. There are two other egregious examples of dissembling rhetoric in Rassmann's piece that suggest a professional, partisan hand. First is his reference to "some Republican-financed Swift Boat Veterans for Bush". Of course, we know that the group is "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth". Making up mocking parodies of opposing groups' names is good political fun, but it takes well developed Leftist chutzpah to blandly present the parody as the truth. The press and left-wing flacks did something similar back in the early '70s. They quickly took to referring to the Vietnam Veterans Against the War as the "Vietnam vets", as though all who had served in the SE Asia Theatre were of one mind.

Second, using the same demagogic sleight of hand, Rassmann tries to conflate anti-McCain ads in 2000 and anti-Kerry ads in 2004 into a "strategy of attacking combat Vietnam veterans". Clever Bush strategy, having Vietnam vets attack Vietnam vets. What kind of strategy, then, is veteran Rassmann's attack on the Swift Boat veterans? We'll find out on 12 September, when the Vietnam Veterans for the Truth hold a rally at the Capitol to proclaim John Kerry's unfitness to be president, and the Democrats have to spin them away.



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