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John Kerry and the Swift Boat Men
Last uploaded : Monday 6th Sep 2004 at 21:56
Contributed by : Sivi Khalique


This is an Awards for All new writers article commission.


Three years after the terror attack on the US mainland united the nation as had no other event since Pearl Harbour, the American Presidential election has epitomised puerile divisiveness at its worst.

Instead of homing in on the issues that most exercise Americans -- medical insurance, the cost of prescription drugs and the massive national deficit -- the opponents of Senator John Kerry have chosen to attack his war record. Kerry was an icon to my generation: those of us who remember our parents? despair over the senseless carnage in Vietnam can also recall the joy we felt when young veteran Kerry emerged as an eloquent spokesman for the peace movement. Oddly enough, at the time his military record did not become an issue (he was challenged on ?The Dick Cavett Show? some thirty years ago by a veteran who to this day continues to question his heroism) and he rose to fame as the leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, even garnering a worried admiration from President Nixon.

In a vicious campaign of relentless claims that Kerry?s war service was less than admirable and that his medals were unwarranted, a campaign that should have risen to the level of serious debate has become a shameful game of mud-slinging unworthy of a world power.

Sadly, Kerry has had to waste considerable time, resources and energy countering the ?chicken? attacks from an Administration that -- let?s face it -- does not exactly boast a long list of combat heroes. Only Colin Powell has seen active service and Donald Rumsfeld was a Navy fighter/test pilot and instructor in peacetime. The President served in the National Guard and did not see combat, whilst Vice President Cheney did not serve at all.

For those of us who live outside the USA, the image of the nation is poor and the hatred -- mostly irrational and frightening -- is growing every day. There has been little, if any, discussion of this in the campaign. The anti-Americanism one encounters every day in Europe is visceral and walks alongside a fierce loathing of Israel. Whilst the ?Swift Boat Veterans? accuse John Kerry of having trumped up his wounds, those who wish America total ruin could not care less about his war record. According to 'The Sunday Telegraph' published in London on September 5th, the former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman has no recollection of a citation awarded to Kerry: ' "I never saw it, I never signed it and I never approved it."

Now it is being reported that the Pentagon is launching a probe into Kerry?s war record. A parallel probe has been conducted into the President?s military record.

The world is in a perilous state and yet the two men running for the highest office in the world are at war over an issue that is uncomfortable and should be put to bed once and for all, especially as more and more young Americans perish in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It appears the attacks have been working: President Bush has jumped ahead of Senator Kerry in the polls following the Republican Convention, in which Senator Zell Miller suggested Kerry would use ?spitballs? to wage war. (At the same convention Miller, a Democrat who has endorsed Republican Bush, challenged irate NBC anchorman Chris Matthews to a duel.)

The world needs to see international issues of substance being debated in this campaign, and one hopes the level of rhetoric will rise above mudslinging between now and November 2nd.

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