The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth yesterday announced their largest ad buy to date, a television spot that chronicles the wives of two U.S. servicemen captured in Vietnam who say John Kerry gave “aid and comfort” to the enemy while their husbands were prisoners of war for years.
“The picture I have that sticks in my mind is of [Mr. Kerry] sitting at that table in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee room with that long hair testifying about the atrocities committed” by U.S. soldiers, Phyllis Galanti said in an interview yesterday. “It was just such a slap to all of the military and their families.”
Mr. Kerry testified in 1971, five years into the seven-year captivity of Mrs. Galanti’s husband, Navy pilot Paul Galanti.
“This is going to complicate the war so much and draw it out so much longer,” she remembers thinking at the time. “What he said was really used against the prisoners by their captors.”
The independent group plans to spend $1.4 million airing the ad on cable television stations and in key swing states such as Nevada, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.
Kerry campaign spokesman Chad Clanton did not dispute the accusations made by the women, but attacked the group responsible for it.
“It’s just the latest smear from a group that’s doing the Bush campaign’s dirty work,” he said. “This group has been completely discredited and has no interest in the truth.”
Other Kerry supporters have said that Mr. Kerry’s anti-war activities — including a trip he made to Paris to meet with both sides of the conflict — was an effort to help prisoners of war like Mr. Galanti.
“For John Kerry to now claim that his activities were part of an effort to help solve the POW problem is absolutely ludicrous,” said former POW Ken Cordier, who was held captive for more than six years. “Kerry encouraged the North Vietnamese to keep us in captivity longer, which meant more torture, more lost years and, sadly, more death.”
While military service has been a cornerstone of Mr. Kerry’s campaign and many of his strongest supporters are veterans, his candidacy has sparked intense opposition from many other veterans.
A second anti-Kerry veterans group — Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry — plans a protest outside Mr. Kerry’s Georgetown home tomorrow.
Mrs. Galanti, who still lives in Richmond with her husband, said Mr. Kerry has only himself to blame for the efforts by her and others to keep him out of the White House.
“No other candidate could bring POWs and their families out of the woodwork like this,” she said.
Mrs. Galanti also sees similarities between Mr. Kerry’s anti-war rhetoric about Vietnam after he’d served and his political rhetoric today about the war in Iraq after he voted to authorize it. Most recently, he suggested Iraqi prime minister and U.S. ally Iyad Allawi is lying about conditions in Iraq and his campaign called him a “puppet” of the Bush administration.
“There must be something in his DNA,” Mrs. Galanti said. “He gave aid and comfort to the enemy back then, and he’s doing the same thing today. Of course it emboldens the enemy and prolongs the fighting.”