T Nation

Wes Clark on Kerry's Medals


#1

(Note: It seems obvious to me that talking about Kerry's medals is a way to distract people away from the mess in Iraq, the activities of the 9-11 commission, the case against Cheney being heard by the Supreme Court, and other more serious and current topics. Bush can't run on his accomplishments, so he has to go negative on Kerry.)

Medals of Honor
By WESLEY K. CLARK

Published: April 28, 2004

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.

When John Kerry released his military records to the public last week, Americans learned a lot about Mr. Kerry's exceptional service in Vietnam. They also learned a lot about the Republican attack machine.

The evaluations were uniformly glowing. One commander wrote that Mr. Kerry ranked among "the top few" in three categories: initiative, cooperation and personal behavior. Another commander wrote, "In a combat environment often requiring independent, decisive action, Lt. j.g. Kerry was unsurpassed." The citation for Mr. Kerry's Bronze Star praises his "calmness, professionalism and great personal courage under fire."

In the United States military, there's no ideology - there are no labels, Republican or Democrat - when superiors evaluate a man or woman's service to country. Mr. Kerry's commander for a brief time, Grant Hibbard, now a Republican, gave Mr. Kerry top marks 36 years ago.

Now the standards are those of politics, not the military. Despite his positive evaluations, Mr. Hibbard recently questioned whether Mr. Kerry deserved one of his three Purple Hearts.

In the heat of a political campaign, attacks come from all directions. That's why John Kerry's military records are so compelling; they measure the man before his critics or his supporters saw him through a political lens. These military records show that John Kerry served his country with valor, and that those who served with him and above him held him in high regard. That's honor enough for any veteran.

Yet the Republican attack machine follows a pattern we've seen before, whether the target is Senator John McCain in South Carolina in 2000 or Senator Max Cleland in Georgia in 2002. The latest manifestation of these tactics is the controversy over Mr. Kerry's medals.

John Kerry was awarded three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star for his service in Vietnam. In April 1971, as part of a protest against the war, he threw some ribbons over the fence of the United States Capitol.

Republicans have tried to use this event to question his patriotism and his truthfulness, claiming he has been inconsistent in saying whether he threw away his medals or ribbons. This is no more than a political smear. After risking his life in Vietnam to save others, John Kerry earned the right to speak out against a war he believed was wrong. Make no mistake: it is that bravery these Republicans are now attacking.

Although President Bush has not engaged personally in such accusations, he has done nothing to stop others from making them. I believe those who didn't serve, or didn't show up for service, should have the decency to respect those who did serve - often under the most dangerous conditions, with bravery and, yes, with undeniable patriotism.

Wesley K. Clark, a former Democratic presidential candidate, was commander of NATO forces from 1997 to 2000.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/28/opinion/28CLAR.html


#2

AHHHRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHH!


#3

And Kerry did nothing to stop others from claiming Bush never appeared for National Guard duty!

This is the type of thing that turns many off to politics. Frankly, I am tired of it already and it's not even May yet.

I really would like to hear to the exclusion of all else, what each has planned for the next four years.


#4

I agree that all of the commotion over the candidates military service and the quality thereof is a distraction from the very real issues facing this country. The press has allowed this to take too much time in the national spotlight. I think we can all agree on that no matter who we are supporting.

When US troops are dying every day, more American tech jobs are moving overseas all the time, major questions about the correct balance of civil liberties and war time executive power are undecided, and host of other looming long term issues need to be dealt with there should be an actual and meaningful dialog about solutions.

I also think both sides are culpable.


#5

I agree that this is a rediculous issue being perpetuated by the media (as usual), I could give a shit what he did w/his medals, He still served honorably.

I choose to ignore this kind of crap until the real issues are discussed and a real plan presented.

has anyone heard the rumor that Dubya is going run with Guliani(sp)?


#6

K-TRAIN,

Giuliani will run for Governor of New York after The current Gov. George pataki takes a position with the new Bush White House. Remember where you read it. (wink)


#7

What's helarious is the person who's essentially attacking spent off time in the National Guard. That's great. Someone in the Indian Guides trying to make someone in the Eagle Scouts look bad. What a joke.


#8

Rolling Stone had a good article on the nasty tactics used by Bush's campaign managers to run down opponents or political adversaries. According to the author, they go to a new low in American politics. Strong words, I know.

Examples include: rumors of McCain having mental problems surfaced in 2000, rumors surfaced of Ann Richards being lesbian, the attacks on Kerry's war record, etc.


#9

Yeah, I read about what they did to Mcain in 2000, a fellow Republican no less!

I can't believe how, so many people think they are, so honorable!

I know all administrations have had their dishonesty, but I do not believe it has ever been to this level!


#10

Actually, Lumpy,

What's amusing is Kerry's attempt to fall back on his military service record, impressive as it was, as an answer to any other question he doesn't wish to answer. Whether it's first claiming he would not question Bush's Guard record, and then questioning Bush's guard record as some sort of answer to whether he even knows his own position on a matter of fact (his medals), which is a clear non-sequiter) or talking about what he would do in the future in Iraq, Kerry's answer always seems to be "I served in Viet Nam."

As I said above, his service in Viet Nam was commendable. However, it does not answer, in the slightest, question on his positions, his flip-flopping voting record, or his inability to articulate clear positions without immediately contradicting himself -- his campaign even had to edit it's own "debunker" to make way for his flip flops.


#11

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/goldberg200404280843.asp

Senator Contradiction
Kerry?s medal story is a mess.

By Jonah Goldberg

"Medalgate" ? the inevitable name for the flap over Kerry's flip-floppery about what he did and what he said about his medals ? is an amusing spectacle to behold and a story worth investigating.

It's amusing because Kerry has forced himself to offer explanations that make pretzels look straight. It's worth investigating because Kerry has made his service in Vietnam a central qualification for his presidency.

The superficial details of "Medalgate" are fairly easy to explain for anybody not determined to make Kerry sound consistent. From 1971 until about a decade later, Kerry wanted people to think he threw his medals away in protest of Vietnam.

In a 1971 interview, Kerry insisted that he "gave back, I can't remember, six, seven, eight, nine" of his medals. Around 1984, when Kerry ran for the Senate, the times changed and he wanted people to believe he kept the medals and "only" threw away the ribbons. Why? Because his union supporters in particular and voters in general were no longer enamored with the excesses of the antiwar movement.

"It's such a personal thing," he told the Washington Post in 1985. "They're my medals. I'll do what I want with them. And there shouldn't be any expectations about them. It shouldn't be a measurement of anything. People say, 'You didn't throw your medals away.' Who said I had to? And why should I? It's my business. I did not want to throw my medals away."

A decade later, he told the Boston Globe that the only reason he didn't chuck the medals was that he didn't have time to go home and get them.

And this month Kerry told the Los Angeles Times, "I never ever implied that I" threw away the medals.

Because Kerry "flooded the zone" with every possible version of events, it's impossible for him not to contradict himself. His only defense is a screaming offense.

So, he claims that anyone who questions any aspect of his Vietnam service or his anti-Vietnam service either is questioning his patriotism or is part of the "Republican attack machine," including the dyed-in-the-wool liberal producers and hosts of Good Morning America. Indeed, the first time Kerry felt the heat, he dropped his promise not to criticize Bush's National Guard service like a bag of dirt.

But the problem goes much deeper for Kerry because this mini-scandal illustrates the more fundamental contradiction at the core of Kerry's candidacy.

The "argument" (quotation marks are necessary since often it's really a sputter) from Kerry's supporters and the Democratic National Committee is that his service in Vietnam proves that he's strong on defense and qualified to be commander-in-chief. (They also suggest his service proves he is patriotic, manly, cool, sexy, and impregnable from criticism.)

The response from his critics (which in fairness often takes the form of a growl) is that whatever Kerry did in Vietnam is vitiated by his antiwar behavior and his long and detailed record of peacenickery in the Senate.

But if signing up for Vietnam proves Kerry's got the right judgment to be commander-in-chief, how come Kerry believes Vietnam was a huge mistake for America?

Think about it. Kerry and DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe have mocked Dick Cheney and other members of the Bush administration for not serving in Vietnam. But Kerry made his political career by saying that Vietnam was a moral and national-security disaster. He claims that going to fight for "a mistake" (Kerry's words) was his defining moment. Well, if Vietnam was a mistake, how does it demonstrate Kerry's good judgment?

You might fairly respond that Kerry's decision to fight was an indication not so much of his judgment as of his patriotism. O.K., though that's not always Kerry's position. Then again nothing is always Kerry's position.

Plenty of politicians in both parties want to have it both ways on Vietnam. The problem for Kerry is that he's taken such diametrically opposed and ultimately irreconcilable positions on the war.

He wants credit for fighting in what he insists was a criminal war. He even confessed that he and his comrades committed "atrocities," though he hasn't run any commercials bragging about calling his comrades war criminals.

Kerry's position is a mess. He wants credit for throwing away the symbols of his service (the ribbons) and for the service he rendered to earn those medals (which he kept, but claimed until recently he didn't). If that sounds like a contradiction, it should. Because that's what Kerry is: a walking contradiction.