It was back in the day, when he was talking his walk
John Kerry sounds boring. This is one thing we know about him, thanks to the best news show on TV. Yes, George W. Bush‘s smirk and syntax radiate much more entertainment value — the guy was born with a silver foot in his mouth.
But now, even when it comes to content (not style), the Democrats seem to be scrambling to help their guy hit the right note. As my compadre Jim Ridgeway points out, Kerry’s running mate, slick-speaking John Edwards, hasn’t been getting much mileage out of preaching a domestic agenda on the Midwestern hustings. It seems that people want to hear the Democrats rail against Bush’s war.
Oh, so they want to hear about war, eh? Well, that’s one thing Kerry can give them. Whether he will or not is another matter.
Everybody’s still scrambling to figure out what Bush was doing in the early ’70s. His National Guard “service” records from ’72 were recently found but revealed little. Maybe that’s because Bush was nothing more than a Chatsworth Osborne Jr.
Kerry certainly wasn’t fucking around three decades ago. On April 23, 1971, trying to stop a still-raging war that was to kill five million Vietnamese (four million of them noncombatants) and nearly 60,000 Americans, he and other members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War charged up Capitol Hill. Among the many un-boring things he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that day was this:
“We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. We saw America lose her sense of morality as she accepted very coolly a My Lai and refused to give up the image of American soldiers who hand out chocolate bars and chewing gum.”
Oh, so now in 2004, the folk out there in America want to hear about war? You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth.
Kerry reminded the senators that returning vets had just testified in Detroit about what he openly called “war crimes.” This was the way Kerry summed it up:
“They told stories that at times they 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 countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.”
These were “rogue” soldiers, right? Wrong. “War crimes [were] committed in Southeast Asia,” the young Kerry said, but “these were not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.”
Things never really change. Kerry blasted Robert McNamara (see J. Hoberman on Errol Morris on McNamara) and the rest of the Nixon administration for flouting the Geneva Conventions. Kerry told the senators, “We are here to ask, and we are here to ask vehemently, where are the leaders of our country? Where is the leadership?… These men have left all the casualties and retreated behind a pious shield of public rectitude.”
And here’s how Kerry closed:
“We wish that a merciful God could wipe away our own memories of that service as easily as this administration has wiped away their memories of us. But all that they have done and all that they can do by this denial is to make more clear than ever our own determination to undertake one last mission: to search out and destroy the last vestige of this barbaric war, to pacify our own hearts, to conquer the hate and fear that have driven this country these last ten years and more. And more. And so when thirty years from now our brothers go down the street without a leg, without an arm, or a face, and small boys ask why, we will be able to say ‘Vietnam’ and not mean a desert, not a filthy obscene memory, but mean instead where America finally turned and where soldiers like us helped it in the turning.”
Pretty boring, huh? If you want more, click on this, maggot.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 26, 2004