The “Swiftboating” of Senator “Grunt”

I am not a big fan of Senator John Kerry.  His behavior in the US after his return from duty in VN eliminated any possibility that I would ever support him for anything.

Nevertheless, the process of relentless, remorseless, cruel denigration of his character, military record and general "style" which was carried on by the friends of the president was despicable.  They attacked his wife for her "foreignness."  They attacked him for being able to speak French and being comfortable with his French relatives.  They seem not to have known of Mr. Jefferson’s opinion that "every civilized man speaks two languages, his own, and French."  The assault on Kerry was reminiscent of the kind of fascist manipulation of the opinion of the masses that George Orwell warned us of in "1984."  Now it comes again.

Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is a Republican from a state filled with conservative, (not fascist) responsible citizens.  Senator Hagel was once Sergeant (E-5) Hagel of the First Battalion, Forty Seventh Infantry Regiment, Ninth Infantry Division.  He was a "grunt,"  i.e., a Rifleman and a leader of Riflemen in a war in which Riflemen spent an average of 240 days in actual combat out of a year’s tour of duty.  By contrast to this, Riflemen in the Pacific Theater of WW2, spent, on average, 40 days in combat during the whole war.  In most wars, over 90% of all casualties (killed, wounded and missing) are absorbed by the Infantry.  This was true in VN.  The artillery does most of the killing in war, but it is the Infantry with their rifles and exposure to fire who are the great majority of the killed and maimed.  Senator Hagel served with his brother in the same Rifle Platoon (44 men when I led one).  I do not think that should have been permitted but there they were, together.  The chance of their being killed together was considerable.  Senator Hagel was wounded and decorated for his service and came home to continue to devote his life to the service of his countrymen.

Not surprisingly, Senator Hagel is still, and in some sense will always be, in Vietnam.  An experience like that does not "go away."  It becomes an enduring part of the fabric of life.  Senator Hagel still lives, every day, with his comrades of long ago.  I saw a C-Span progran recently in which a couple of people from the Library of Congress were interviewing him for his "oral history" of the experience of war.  It was evident from watching his carefully controlled responses just how much it still means to him.

Senator Hagel has made it clear that he questions the wisdom of the strategic conception of the Iraq intervention, the decision to intervene and the execution of the war.  It would seem to me that he has earned the right to have an opinion in this or any other matter.

What has been the reaction from the Republican Party and its "flacks?"  The Kerry character assasination machine has evidently been re-activated.  Yesterday I watched as a pretty boy 35ish yuppy political hack from the crowd of sycophants with whom the president has surrounded himself described Hagel (with a sneer) as "someone who has lost his way."  He (the yup) went on to say that Hagel has no ideas worth listening to in the matter of the possible resemblance of the Vietnam War to the mess in Iraq.  Actually, he said, Hagel no longer knows what the war in Vietnam was about.

Now, consider that.  This kid was still crapping in his pants and crying for the pacifier when Hagel and his brother and Hagel’s "boys" were fighting to defeat the VC/NVA in the outskirts of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) but he, from the depths of his marvelous intellect knows better what VN was "about."  You can see where this is going.  Are these swine going to spread the rumor that Senator Hagel was an agent and informer for the communist enemy in VN?  That’s what they did to McCain in South Carolina.

The Yups should be careful.  Senator "Grunt" has friends.

Pat Lang

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10 Responses to The “Swiftboating” of Senator “Grunt”

  1. richard says:

    I don’t know why, but *many* on the right seem to dislike veterans. It seems paradoxical, but their fiercest venom is reserved for these people. And if you do get a Republican veteran with a distinguished record the reaction is often lukewarm. Dole and the first president Bush come to mind. The latter they even branded as a “wimp” though landing a plane on a carrier strikes me as rather risky.
    Their big hero was John Wayne, who wiggled ot of more active service in WWII and then there is Sylvestor Stallone who “won” Vietnam for them, but spent the actual war teaching girls in Switzerland. And of course much of their leadership such as Cheney and Limbaugh dodged that war as well.
    The recent bill for veterans care was an example. It was clear we were over a billion short and needed it, but they resisted spending the money until they had no choice. This was essential stuff. The behavior is also pretty typical of many on the right.
    It’s kind of scary to see how they’ve created a public perception different than the reality. When the VA issue came p a lot of their followers it must be Ted Kennedy who blocked it. The fact that Republicans control government hasn’t quite registered.

  2. J says:

    that’s not all, during Bush’s first term, he tried to ‘cut’ VA to the tune of $14.5 billion, a big stink was raised and it vaporized away. they sure are eager to send people into the heat of battle, and they balk at providing them after combat care.

  3. richard says:

    I see the behaviors, but I don’t fully get it. The rancor for example. When aimed at individuals it is as bad as you get from the most military hating leftist. And somehow a lot of real veterans among them don’t see or go along with it. Kerry rode around some pretty dangerous rivers and he did run all alone at someone firing at him. Yet he got spat on. The kind of thing they complain about.
    There is something odd psychologically going on, and they have succeeded in convincing lots of people that their behavior and attitude is completely opposite to what it is.
    I think it taps into some masculine inadequecy in a lot of them, to be better than a vet, more of a man than a vet makes them big. But there are vets among them and they seem to go along, maybe with them it’s “you’re a bigger vet, a real vet” sort of thing.
    But whenever they find honorable military service in a person it seems to be the thing they tear at most viciously. It is pathological. It’s what they hate most.
    And we’re not just talking about cold calculations of budget issues here like with bush 1 and veterans affairs, but a real dislike, a desire to hurt and humiliate. How this current administration somehow “forgot” the costs of Afghanistan and Iraq is almost inconcievable along with all their allies in congress even with the Democrats harping. It’s like they purposefully want to insult these people.

  4. Some Guy says:

    The recent series of dishonors were all directed at vets, distinguished vets (whether one admires Kerry’s anti-war activities or not), who were opposed to the Republican party message or were simply a member of the opposition. Bush the Younger as the annointed candidate in 2000 and McCain has a history of diverging from the party line.
    The impression I get is that the pols in the Republican party want compliant, unquestioning service members and fear the credibility and experience of soldiers who are skeptical of war, especially as a solution to complex political problems.
    With Bush, his desire to play dress up, to wrap himself in military iconography, often very cheesy iconography too, does raise some serious questions about his psyche. Couple that with his cliche tough talk and made for TV swagger.

  5. ismoot says:

    A couple of things:
    -Most people who wore uniform never fought. This would include most of the men who actually served in a combat theater. A lot of the really tough talking guys are total frauds. Combat veterans are very suspicious of those who claim to be numbered among them. There are a lot of phonies out there. See “Stolen Valor” for examples.
    -In general, real combat soldiers are loath to condemn their own kind for much of anything and do so with great reluctance.
    -Those who did fight are not quick to adopt a belligerent stance in thinking about ways to settle conflict. David Hackworth, who I admired immensely, was a good example.
    -High rank is not indicative of actual combat experience. There are several senior officers working as military “analysts” on the tube who have never heard a round fired in combat.
    -I do not believe that animosity to Kerry had anything to do with his service in VN. You probably do not understand the sense of betrayal with which his “anti-war” activity was perceived by combat veterans. In his case, many of his comrades in VN disliked him and what they saw as his “airs.” I have known a number of men of means in the Army who went to great length to conceal the fact. There was a reason to do that. pl

  6. Richard says:

    There are lots of reasons to dislike Kerry and he was pompous about his time in Vietnam. But while this may have deserved a bit of good natured mockery what seems to have been a reasonable service was turned into something so itifl that any colege Republican could strut in comparitive valor.
    And it isn’t simply Kerry, you mentioned McCain. Then there is Max Cleland who won a silver star for volunteeering for Khe Sanh and rescuing wounded under fire. A short time later he or somewhat in his platoon dropped a grenade and he lost limbs. The right or parts of the right completely ignored the silver star and claimed he was no “war hero” and that Bush was more of a war hero than he was because he didn’t waste the tax payers money with such injuries.
    While I have mixed feelings about the events around Crawford the fact that a rightwinger felt it was right to drag down the crosses in a memorial to veterans says something.
    I feel that the only other group which can show such venom towards vets is a fraction of leftists. And I don’t understand why a portion of the right engages in this and why a larger portion goes along.

  7. J says:

    you again hit the nail on the head. denegrating the individual does not win an argument. denegrating the individual only sinks one to the level that those who denegrate them ‘think’ they are making. to argue a point of policy based on its merits or lack of is one one thing, but to cheapen one’s argument by denegration shows a callous disregard.
    you again hit the nail on the head, thank you for that.

  8. avedis says:

    We should not overlook how they did a hatchet job on VN Vet triple amputee Max Cleland as well.

  9. ismoot says:


  10. wtofd says:

    The neo-Goebbels also forget that the French provided Gen. Washington with a navy. I understand the French had their own interests at hand. Still, without their ships it’s unlikely we would have won our independence.
    The administration is good at distraction. Not much else.

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