Where’s the Old Kerry?


The atrocities make it all the more urgent that John Kerry, a celebrated war hero, step forward. Once a symbol of great courage to many of us, his views at this moment would be most welcome—and maybe set the Democratic Party, finally, on the right course.

George Lakoff, a linguistics professor at Berkeley, suggests in an Alternet interview a way for Kerry to more forcefully take up the Iraq issue: “He should say: ‘It would take hundreds of thousands of troops for an indefinite period to secure Iraq—it would be like Vietnam. I was in Vietnam. We got out. It was a mistake. We got out for a good reason, and it was important for us to get out. We don’t want to repeat that mistake again. We don’t want to put 500,000 of our troops there. We don’t want to have constant escalation.’ ”

As for the continuing right-wing dump on Kerry’s war record, he now has Bob Dole and John McCain in his corner, and just as powerful are the words of Lewis B. Puller Jr., son of Korean war hero “Chesty” Puller. In his autobiography, the younger Puller, a platoon leader, writes how he came home after three months in Vietnam legless and missing most of his fingers. He became an alcoholic and killed himself. In this book, Fortunate Son, he spoke of painful rehabilitation and coming to realize that “I had given myself to a cause that, in addition to having robbed me of my youth and left me crippled and deformed, allowed me no pride for having been a participant.”

Impressed by the protesting vets back home in 1971, he wrote, “One articulate young combat veteran named John Kerry delivered a moving address before a special session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that, for me, summed up the sense of betrayal and the disillusionment I felt toward the administration and the leadership that had directed the course of the war from the safety of its Washington power base.”