Democratic Underground

Kerry Served, Bush Swerved

August 26, 2004
By Mark Drolette

I'm pretty much agog over this Kafkaesque Swift Boat Veterans for Truth thing and the questioning of John Kerry's military service while Bush was - well, we don't quite know where. But we know we haven't seen any records that show Bush was where he wants us to think he was: fulfilling his service in the Texas Air National Guard. And the GOP is calling Kerry a fraud?

Did I miss something here? Did I miss that Bush wasn't invisible for a year, that the gap in his service record as big as the one in Alfred E. Neuman's teeth has recently been somehow magically filled?

Since Vietnam service is now the issue on the front burner, let's get down to brass tacks: where the hell was George W. Bush? Where was Dick Cheney? While we're at it, where was Donald Rumsfeld, or Paul Wolfowitz? Where were any of these chicken hawks?

Kerry, who volunteered to go to Vietnam, was dodging shots that could take his ass off - while Bush was dodging and taking shots to get off his ass. I'm sorry for the crudity, but I'm a little ticked off here. What's even to discuss?

Earth to Americans: Kerry served honorably. Kerry served bravely. Bush served a fake turkey in Baghdad. Does anyone else see how ridiculous this whole thing is? Yet Karl Rove throws out this giant red herring and the toadies-as-villagers on the right obediently shout: "It's alive! It's alive!"

Re. Frankenherring: It never lived to begin with and now is just lying there, undead, rotting, and stinking to high heaven.

One big deal seems to be this "seared in my mind" or ("seared in me" or "me in seersucker") Kerry quote. I've got an answer for that: who the hell cares? It doesn't matter to me one whit whether or not Kerry was in Cambodia, or whether he was and got the date wrong. Has anyone here ever misspoken?

And you know what? Let's say Kerry is lying (which he isn't, but let's pretend - like those Swift Boaters for Bush do). Ooh, he lied - that's so horrible. Thank goodness Bush never has. Except about - well, everything.

The emphasis on the Cambodia thing is very telling in another way, too: the way it keeps appearing has a sameness about it, like one of those form letters the GOP urges people to send to newspapers all cross the country and then sign their names to as if they've personally written them (too much trouble to compose one's original thoughts, I suppose) when they've got their panties in a bunch about something.

Since I don't listen to Rush Limbaugh or hang out on right-leaning web sites, I haven't personally heard or seen the exhortations to "Remember Cambodia!" But it's obviously emanating from some conservative source, and, not to get too technical here but - it's really, really dumb. Bush takes a powder, Kerry saves a man's life, kills an enemy soldier in the process (Oh! He shot a man! He shot a man! Well, pilgrims, that's what happens in war - if you're there, that is), and yet everyone's supposed to be atwitter because eighteen years ago Kerry made some remark about Cambodia.

That is beyond grasping for straws; that is gasping for air. And it is just plain inconsequential, but also a crystal clear indication of how thoroughly desperate the Bushies and their supporters are.

Isn't it exceedingly weird how all of a sudden, there are all these veterans testifying what a schlump Kerry is, yet not a single one served with him? Not one. On the other hand, not a solitary guy can be dredged up who personally remembers serving with Bush in Alabama, perhaps because Bush wasn't there. If he was, let's see the proof. Right here, right now. Put up or shut up. Let's see the records, and don't tell us they're gone or got jelly on them or the dog ate them or someone wiped their - well, just don't tell us that. We don't want to hear it.

Enough of the dodging, the obfuscations, the diversions: let's see the proof. Also, let's line up 250, no, make that 150, no, how about, 50, no, how about just ONE guy, just one, line up just one guy who recalls Bush reporting for duty.

One condition: It can't be Mr. John "After I Was Recruited By Nixon, Kerry Dusted Me on The Dick Cavett Show Thirty Years Ago and I've Been Ready for Kerry Bear Ever Since" O'Neill.

OK, here's a quick recap: all military records show Kerry is telling the truth. All the men who served with and under Kerry back his accounts. His story has remained consistent. The SBVFT guys' tales, however, are riddled with inconsistencies. None of them served with him. The group's major benefactor is a longtime associate of Karl Rove.

Thus, the plainly obvious conclusion for anyone who is halfway intelligent and can think logically (maybe that's part of the problem): Kerry is telling the truth and the SBVFT guys are lying. End of non-story.

The real reason these guys have decided to throw away whatever dignity they may have once possessed so they can throw Kerry overboard is because they seethe with resentment over his testimony before the Senate in 1971 and about his anti-war activities. Thirty years later and they're still out to get him.

Well, if you're among this group, I've got a politically incorrect message for you: get over it. However you do it, find some peace. Please, get some help. But even if you can't, even if you have tried every conceivable way to exorcise the demons, it still isn't justification for lying or making others' lives miserable.

Thank you very, very much for serving, we're sorry you were sent to Vietnam for no good reason, and that it messed so horribly with your lives and those of your friends and loved ones. This is exactly why a lot of us are grateful for the actions of John Kerry and others who helped stop that stupid war so others wouldn't end up like you: bitter, troubled, resentful souls who may never get well.

But it still doesn't mean you have carte blanche to lie about people so you can "get your back."

Vietnam was a bad war, even as far as wars go, which, by their very nature, of course, are indescribably hellish. America's deep involvement there began under false pretenses following the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The U.S. had no clear exit strategy. Thousands of people were killed for no reason; many more were wounded, never to be whole again. A country was decimated. We never should have been there in the first place.

Hmm, sounds a bit like a current American military misadventure, don't you think?

Tell me, dear readers of the anti-Kerry persuasion, especially those of you who have honorably served: do you realize with whom you are siding in this whole charade? That's right, Mr. Fortunate Son himself, the very president responsible for the mess in Iraq right this moment, with all of its nasty, unwanted similarities to Vietnam. The man whose decisions have directly resulted in the deaths of thousands, including nearly one thousand U.S. soldiers, and untold numbers more wounded and mentally affected, never to be the same again.

These are your buddies - and our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and loved ones, fellow Americans whose lives have been irrevocably altered by the very guy who was busy being a no-show for his Guard duty and whose attack dogs are now busy trashing the guy who did serve, and by all accounts bravely and well.

How does that make you feel to side with one so deceitful, so dishonorable, so disrespectful, so devious? Permission to take a shower granted, soldier.

And please: no protestations along the lines of "But, but - Bush isn't behind these ads." We're all grown-ups here. Of course Bush's right-hand sham man, Karl Rove, is behind them. This is so obvious, it is what would be called in court a "stipulation." So let's just save the space and cut to the chase.

Why, a sane person must wonder, has this bizarre gambit worked at all? Look no farther than your TV, radio, or newspaper. Just as when, from the first shrill warnings issued by Bush about how mean and scary Saddam Hussein was, right through the invasion, until well into Iraq's occupation, the corporate media broke out its red, white and blue pompons to cheer Americans jingoistically into war, these same "journalists" now trip all over themselves to provide coverage of these veterans' imbecilic assertions, apparently incapable of stepping back long enough to see how inane the whole scene looks, and how false these testimonies are.

So much for all those soul-searching mea culpas about how this paper or that one didn't do its job during the lead-up to the war, led by the 'fraid lady herself, the New York Times. Sure seems like these media types didn't learn a hell of a lot from their public navel-gazings, because they sure aren't asking the germane questions one more damn time.

A seventh grade journalism student would even know that all queries should be directed to Bush, not Kerry, the first one being: "Since aspersions are being cast about Kerry's service and you have not condemned these claims thereby condoning them, where were you during the disputed year of your Guard service and may we see proof to back your claims?"

The truth will out, however, and no matter how many hateful, bedeviling voices Rove coaxes from the darkness to spit out twisted tales of non-happenings, the truth cannot be altered, nor spun around to somehow reconfigure Kerry as a liar and Bush as a standard bearer for honesty. The facts speak more loudly than could a thousand of these veterans' sick concoctions swirling together, and here is what the facts clearly, indisputably, undeniably show: John Kerry served while George Bush swerved.

Mark Drolette is a political satirist/commentator living in Sacramento, California.

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