- The Washington Times - Monday, August 30, 2004

In their new best-seller, “Can America Survive?” Ben Stein and Phil DeMuth begin with a pointed contrast between the America of today and that of 1942.

One starts the section with trepidation, since such comparisons are overdone and usually strained. But the authors handle it deftly. The result is a quite devastating insight into the liberal mind.

Imagine, Mr. Stein and Mr. DeMuth write (I paraphrase), it is 1942. The United States has been brutally attacked at Pearl Harbor. Nazi Germany has declared war on us. The enemy is making progress on several fronts around the globe. At home, President Roosevelt “is attempting to rally the nation and fight back against the aggressors.”

Now imagine, they continue, “that on college campuses, the main focal point of student rallies is whether or not the United States is acting in a racist manner by fighting back against the Japanese in the Pacific. … Consciousness-raising sessions are held to explore the sensitivities of the Japanese and the Germans — to examine what in the American way of life might have been hurt those people, forcing them to turn to Nazism and imperialism and to fire upon the Americans who have ‘shamed’ them.

“Every day newspapers bring a flood of articles about the Americans killed that day in the fighting, and a mass of hand-wringing about whether or not the men and women who died did so to promote a hidden agenda of Roosevelt’s.”

If modern liberals had been around in 1942, that is precisely the way things would have been, and it’s sobering to reflect that if the nation had been so disposed during that dangerous time, the outcome of World War II might have been different.

This book is especially apt at this moment, because the man aspiring to unseat George W. Bush had such a large hand in making American liberalism what it is today.

Some have dismissed the Swift Boat Veterans controversy as a distraction. We’ve heard Vietnam is as remote from the consciousness of Generation X and other young voters as the Alamo or Omaha Beach. Perhaps. But (a) young people need to learn history; and (b) Mr. Kerry’s role as a war protester was quite simply dishonorable. He should not be permitted to pass himself off as a loyal soldier once again “reporting for duty.”

Let’s be clear. There was nothing dishonorable about opposing the war in Vietnam or any other war. But Mr. Kerry became the front man for Vietnam Veterans Against the War. With his New England wealth and Yale degree, he lent considerable prestige to that otherwise less-than-savory organization. And he used that influence not just to urge an early end to the war but to defame the other 2.7 million men who served in Vietnam.

His April 1971 congressional testimony revealed a true modern liberal, impatient with the old benevolent view of America. “We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them,” Mr. Kerry declared, repeating the cliche (of doubtful authenticity) originated by reporter Peter Arnett.

“We saw American lose her sense of morality as she accepted very coolly a My Lai and refused to give up the image of American soldiers who hand out chocolate bars and chewing gum. We learned the meaning of free-fire zones, shooting anything that moves, and we watched while America placed a cheapness on the lives of Orientals.”

Kerry has never repudiated that testimony (the more lurid parts accused Americans of cutting off limbs, randomly shooting at civilians, razing villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan and more). That is John Kerry’s America. It is a land of racists; a nation that can “coolly” accept war crimes; a nation that has long since ceased to hand out candy bars.

Mr. Kerry’s allies in the Democratic Party and in the press today present an identical image of American soldiers to the world. They have reveled in images from Abu Ghraib and highlighted accusations of harsh treatment at Guantanamo. They have wildly exaggerated threats to civil liberties at home, while indulging in open speculation about the Bush administration’s vulgar motives for taking the nation to war. You won’t hear from the Democrats about the good American force is doing for the world and for us.

John Kerry played a leading role in curdling this country’s self-image. And in a long Senate career he has rarely voted to defend the country. His salute is insulting.

Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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