Bring it on, John
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 Vietnam, here is my answer: 'Bring it
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
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
This really 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
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, John.
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
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 committed."
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."
Your "antiwar" statements and activities
were painful for those of us carrying the scars
of 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,
Capt. James 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 March 14, 1973.
Maj. Kenneth 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,
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
February 12, 1973.
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 families."
Even Jane Fonda apologized. Will you, John?