View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Monday, August 09, 2004

Arab News - Heirs to Hanoi Jane, Tokyo Rose, and Lord Haw Haw 

Take a look at this editorial from today's Arab News, on the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth ad. The Arab News is published in both English and Arabic, and its primary audience is Arab.

Dangerous Strategy

Arab News 9 August 2004

THE questions about the reality of Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry’s Vietnam War record are a timely reminder that most presidential contests are bare knuckle fights but November’s promises to be bloodier than most.

Other vets who served with Kerry have questioned the bravery for which he was awarded his five medals, in particular his Silver Star when he undertook the rescue of a fellow soldier while under enemy fire. The group calling themselves Swift Boat Veterans for Truth appears dedicated to undermining Kerry’s war record. It is a dangerous strategy.

Already one of the veterans has apparently recanted an affidavit he swore, claiming Kerry was very far from being the hero he was portrayed as at the Democrat convention last month.

The main reason that this move is likely to prove so objectionable is that it calls into question the whole US military medals system. There are many Americans, Republicans as well as Democrats, who are proud to have been honored by their country for their bravery and who will be incensed that the system which granted them their medals has been as calumnized as it has.

The Bush campaign must in someway have been party to this attack upon the integrity of their Democrat opponent. Opinion polls show that by emphasizing his Vietnam record Kerry has struck a chord with voters who are becoming increasingly alarmed at the Bush administration’s military misjudgments. Bush with zero military record already looks the lesser man. Unfortunately for the president, this nasty little maneuver is likely to demean him further. The proper thing for the White House to have done immediately the Veterans for Truth allegations broke was to have defended not only Kerry but also the whole US military honors system. To have done so would have been to the credit of the White House. Not to have done so suggests that Republican campaign strategists decided to let the story run to see if it could indeed damage Kerry. It is probably too late now for Bush to escape from this tawdry episode with any dignity.

The Veterans for Truth in casting doubt on Kerry’s medals are also casting doubt on the validity of medals being won by currently serving troops in Iraq. Already shamed by the prisoner abuse scandal, they are not going to be pleased by suggestions that medals are being doled out by a Mickey Mouse honors system. The upshot is that the Democrats will almost certainly enjoy a bonus in this closely fought campaign.

Americans instinctively support the office of the president. In time of war that instinct becomes even stronger. To outsiders it seemed remarkable that after the extremely dubious outcome of the Florida presidential vote, Americans put from their minds any doubts about the legitimacy of the electoral result and rallied around their president. This was because George W. Bush was the president, not because he was George W. Bush. Whoever wins however narrowly in November the Americans will once again rally round their president.

The only paragraph that shows even the faintest understanding of America is the last one, which is certainly true. But the notion that questioning Kerry's Vietnam service somehow reflects on our soldiers today is bizarre. It can only be intended to bolster Kerry, undermine troop morale, and reinforce the morale of those who wish us ill.

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