This just in: “According to the Associated Press, Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry served on a Navy gunboat in Vietnam and was recognized with numerous military decorations for courage under fire and wounds sustained in combat.”
Big news, right? I doubt it. One can hardly watch a Kerry campaign rally or stump speech without the senator droning on and on about his Vietnam War record. I do not mean to belittle Mr. Kerry’s service. As the son of a career Navy captain, I was taught to show respect for all military men and women, including guardsmen and reservists. I was also taught that courage and leadership are measured in such intangibles as humility, dignity and civility. Unfortunately, Mr. Kerry has yet to learn such a lesson, as he shamelessly flaunts his war record while conveniently disparaging the service of others in the National Guard – namely, President George W. Bush – for political gain. What is even more appalling is that, according to Sen. “Flip-Flop” Kerry’s convoluted logic, the Republicans’ criticism of his “latest” opposition to the Iraq war is somehow illegitimate and not open for discussion. After all, President Bush never saw combat in Vietnam; therefore, Mr. Kerry believes he is exempt from having to answer the basic questions of many Republicans – and the American people – regarding his weak, reckless and fickle foreign policy record. Consider Kerry’s latest “Republicans are cowards” campaign rhetoric:
“I’d like to know what it is Republicans who didn’t serve in Vietnam have against those of us who did.”
Well, Mr. Kerry, I certainly hope you are not referring to the numerous Republican senators, congressmen and senior Bush White House officials who also – believe it or not – served in Vietnam. Are you referring to Republican Sen. John McCain? A man who endured unimaginable torture as a prisoner of the Viet Cong, while you paraded across the East Coast fulfilling speaking engagements with “Hanoi” Jane Fonda and smearing your fellow soldiers as war criminals before Congress. What about military careerist and Bush’s Secretary of State, Colin Powell? Do his Purple Hearts and Silver Stars qualify him to disagree with you? What about Sec. Powell’s Undersecretary, Richard Armitage, who also saw combat in Vietnam? Senator Chuck Hagel and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge sustained wounds in Vietnam. May they dare criticize you?
In fact, like Sen. Kerry, all of these men served bravely and honorably in Vietnam. Like Sen. Kerry, all of these men supported – at least initially – the war in Iraq.
But unlike Sen. Kerry, these Republican war heroes still steadfastly support the Iraqi war, although it is no longer as popular politically. They have not lost their moral clarity, nor have they been so blinded by the horrors of Vietnam, as to develop a reflexive distrust of American military power and prestige. Such men are too principled and too dignified to hide behind their war record when engaging in political debate. Can you imagine Colin Powell defending the post-war reconstruction of Iraq by saying something as absurd as “I know something about ground occupations for real … Bring it on”?
Colin Powell, along with every other Republican, would much rather defend the war on principle, instead of cowardly brandishing Vietnam heroics, although it would be easy and convenient to do so. This is the mark of true and courageous leadership – the type of leadership that has distinguished the entire Bush administration from the desperate and hopelessly cynical Democratic Party throughout this successful War on Terror.
Sen. Kerry, wartime service, regardless of how honorable, does not give you a free pass to change your mind as the “political wind blows,” especially on issues that will have a profound and lasting effect on America’s future. It is also does not excuse your Senate votes over the last 15 years, which led to a gradual dismantling of American defense and intelligence capabilities – votes that made America an easy target for the horrific attacks of September 11. Yet you still did not learn your lesson after 9/11, for you voted to deny our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq $87 billion in military assistance. Had you not been outvoted, this foolish position could have resulted in the loss of even more American blood. Sen. Kerry, for all your political flip-flops, you have consistently been on the wrong side of history. No Vietnam War record can ever change this harsh, indisputable fact.
-The writer, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.