Sunday, August 22, 2004

In his Aug. 18 speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars, John Kerry said a couple of interesting things that cannot withstand critical scrutiny or, in other words, do not pass the smell test.

He said that he would always keep faith with his fellow veterans.

And three times he said he volunteered for duty in Vietnam.

Would the VFW consider it “faith keeping” to learn that Mr. Kerry, in his epilogue to the “New Soldier,” wrote that “we will not quickly join those who march on Veteran’s Day waving small flags, calling to memory those thousands of lives who died for the ‘greater glory of the United States.’We will not accept the rhetoric.We will not readily jointhe American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars ? we will demand relevancy such as other organizations have recently been able to provide ? we will not uphold the traditions which decorously memorialize that which is base and grim.” (“Unfit For Command,” p. 148)

Would the VFW consider it keeping faith with veterans to know that Mr. Kerry’s antiwar speeches and activities, while he was a top member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, were used against American POWs?

As related on p. 117 of “Unfit For Command,” Marine 1st Lt. Jim Warner was a POW in 1969.He was interrogated and tortured for four months by the North Vietnamese in a place known as “Skid Row.”

“The [North Vietnamese] interrogator showed Warner a large piece of cardboard with photographs of John Kerry and news clippings relating to his Senate testimony and demonstrations and said that ‘everyone knows you are a war criminal’.”

The highest-ranking POW at the time, Lt. Gen. John Flynn, later told an “Unfit For Command” co-author that “he and his fellow POWs would never forget the lies of Kerry and the VVAW that the North Vietnamese had presented to them to break their spirits.”

As for volunteering for Vietnam, what Mr. Kerry actually volunteered for was patrol duty and only patrol duty, a safe assignment.As he wrote in his contribution to “A War Remembered”: “They [swiftboats] were engaged in coastal patrolling and that’s what I thought I was going to be doing. Although I wanted to see for myself what was going on, I didn’t really want to get involved in the war.”

That makes sense, considering he already was opposed to the Vietnam War. And once he found himself assigned to potentially dangerous duty, he complained and moaned so much, demanding transfers back to safer duty, that he was assigned and re-assigned to three different coastal divisions his first month in-country. As Silver Star recipient William Franke says in the book: “Kerry protested being transferred to An Thoi, arguing that he had volunteered only for coastal patrol ? not the more hazardous duty of missions within the inland waterways ? his objections were so strong that he was transferred out within a week.”

Mr. Kerry’s notion that he could pick and choose his duty assignments — that he could somehow just be there as an observer without encountering mortal peril — fit nicely with the self-centered, cinematic view of himself and the war. He clearly saw himself as the producer, director and star of his own war movie: “John Kerry, War Hero.” He even had footage taken of the hero, using his crew as extras, swiftboats as props, the jungle as background.

The Greeks had a word for it: alazon. Also the title of a play by Aristophanes, it denoted a character who tells us more than the truth, much more. He is a man who deceives and is self-deceiving. In his play, Gen. Lamachus embodies this flaw. Besides being boastful, he is vain and conceited. He desires women, wealth and reputation. He prides himself in his possessions as symbols of his expertise.

This trait, this character evolved into the Roman Miles Glorious, as portrayed by Plautus. The “braggart soldier” was self-absorbed and humorless, blinded by his own ego, with a necessary sycophant nearby to reinforce his alpine opinion of himself.

At the end of “Miles Gloriosus,” the title character, his true nature revealed, says:”Fool, fool that I am! Now see what an ass they’ve made of me.”

John Kerry, a naval miles gloriosus, has had his true nature revealed by Swiftvets For Truth. Yet he continues to play out his movie role for groups such as the VFW.

John B. Dwyer is an author, military historian and Vietnam veteran.

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