August 27, 2004
"Of course, the president keeps telling people he would never
question my service to our country. Instead, he watches as a
Republican-funded attack group does just that. Well, if he wants to
have a debate about our service in
is my answer: 'Bring it on.'"
-- Sen. John
As usual, you have it wrong. You don't have a beef with President
George Bush about your war record. He's been exceedingly generous
about your military service. Your complaint is with the 2.5 million
of us who served honorably in a war that ended 29 years ago and
which you, not the president, made the centerpiece of this campaign.
I talk to a lot
of vets, John, and this really isn't about your medals or how you
got them. Like you, I have a Silver Star and a Bronze Star. I only
have two Purple Hearts, though. I turned down the others so that I
could stay with the Marines in my rifle platoon. But I think you
might agree with me, though I've never heard you say it, that the
officers always got more medals than they earned and the youngsters
we led never got as many medals as they deserved.
isn't about how early you came home from that war, either, John.
There have always been guys in every war who want to go home. There
are also lots of guys, like those in my rifle platoon in
Vietnam, who did a full 13 months in the field. And there are,
thankfully, lots of young Americans today in Iraq and Afghanistan
who volunteered to return to war because, as one of them told me in
Ramadi a few weeks ago, "the job isn't finished."
Nor is this
about whether you were in
Cambodia on Christmas Eve, 1968.
Heck John, people get lost going on vacation. If you got lost, just
say so. Your campaign has admitted that you now know that you really
weren't in Cambodia that night and that Richard Nixon wasn't really
president when you thought he was. Now would be a good time to
explain to us how you could have all that bogus stuff "seared" into
your memory -- especially since you want to have your finger on our
nation's nuclear trigger.
But that's not
really the problem, either. The trouble you're having, John, isn't
about your medals or coming home early or getting lost -- or even
Richard Nixon. The issue is what you did to us when you came home,
When you got
home, you co-founded Vietnam Veterans Against the War and wrote "The
New Soldier," which denounced those of us who served -- and were
still serving -- on the battlefields of a thankless war. Worst of
all, John, you then accused me -- and all of us who served in
Vietnam -- of committing terrible crimes and atrocities.
On April 22,
1971, under oath, you told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
that you had knowledge that American troops "had personally raped,
cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to
human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up
bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion
reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned
food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South
Vietnam." And you admitted on television that "yes, yes, I committed
the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have
And for good
measure you stated, "(America
is) more guilty than any other body, of violations of (the) Geneva
Conventions ... the torture of prisoners, the killing of prisoners."
statements and activities were painful for those of us carrying the
Vietnam and trying to move on
with our lives. And for those who were still there, it was even more
hurtful. But those who suffered the most from what you said and did
were the hundreds of American prisoners of war being held by Hanoi.
Here's what some of them endured because of you, John:
Warner had already spent four years in Vietnamese custody when he
was handed a copy of your testimony by his captors. Warner says that
for his captors, your statements "were proof I deserved to be
punished." He wasn't released until
Cordier, an Air Force pilot who was in Vietnamese custody for 2,284
days, says his captors "repeated incessantly" your one-liner about
being "the last man to die" for a lost cause. Cordier was released
March 4, 1973.
Navy Lt. Paul
Galanti says your accusations "were as demoralizing as solitary
(confinement) ... and a prime reason the war dragged on." He
remained in North Vietnamese hands until
John, did you
think they would forget? When Tim Russert asked about your claim
that you and others in
Vietnam committed "atrocities,"
instead of standing by your sworn testimony, you confessed that your
words "were a bit over the top." Does that mean you lied under oath?
Or does it mean you are a war criminal? You can't have this one both
ways, John. Either way, you're not fit to be a prison guard at Abu
Ghraib, much less commander in chief.
One last thing,
John. In 1988, Jane Fonda said: "I would like to say something ...
to men who were in
Vietnam, who I hurt, or whose
pain I caused to deepen because of things that I said or did. I was
trying to help end the killing and the war, but there were times
when I was thoughtless and careless about it and I'm ... very sorry
that I hurt them. And I want to apologize to them and their
Even Jane Fonda
apologized. Will you, John?