Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Defending America In Vietnam

In the previous post I suggested that John Kerry is prevaricating when he repeats the claim that he fought to defend this country as a young man.

After posting that I stumbled upon this from his 1971 congressional testimony:

"In our opinion, and from our experience, there is nothing in South Vietnam, nothing which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America.... I want to relate to you the feeling that many of the men who have returned to this country express because we are probably angriest about all that we were told about Vietnam and about the mystical war against communism."

"We found that not only was it a civil war, an effort by a people who had for years been seeking their liberation from any colonial influence whatsoever, but also we found that the Vietnamese whom we had enthusiastically molded after our own image were hard put to take up the fight against the threat we were supposedly saving them from."

It's hard to believe he thought then that he was fighting to defend America. If he believes it now the American people are entitled to know what changed his mind and when he changed it.

The Questions Never End

There's a good editorial on the hole Sen. kerry has dug for himself in today's Wall Street Journal. Some excerpts:

A good rule in politics is that anyone who picks a fight ought to be prepared to finish it. But having first questioned Mr. Bush's war service, and then made Vietnam the core of his own campaign for President, Mr. Kerry now cries No mas! because other Vietnam vets are assailing his behavior before and after that war. And, by the way, Mr. Bush is supposedly honor bound to repudiate them.

What did Mr. Kerry expect, anyway? That claiming to be a hero himself while accusing other veterans of "war crimes" - as he did back in 1971 and has refused to take back ever since - would somehow go unanswered? That when he raised the subject of one of America's most contentious modern events, no one would meet him at the barricades? Mr. Kerry brought the whole thing up; why is it Mr. Bush's obligation now to shut it down?

The irony here is that a main reason Mr. Kerry has focused so much on Vietnam is to avoid debating Iraq and the rest of his long record in the Senate. He wants Americans to believe that a four-month wartime biography is credential enough to be commander-in-chief. But a candidate who runs on biography can't merely pick the months of his life that he likes - any more than a candidate who makes Vietnam the heart of his campaign can confine the resulting debate to his personal home video.

It's worth reading the entire piece.

While we're on the subject, has anyone else noticed the irony that Democrats only a year ago were outraged that Arnold Schwarzenegger, a man tainted by genetic association to a Nazi, his father, was running for governor of California? Now it's a year later and a man who has admitted to actually having committed war crimes is running for president and the Democrats are trying to move heaven and earth to get him elected. Doesn't anything embarrass these people?

Another thing. If we hear John Kerry say one more time that he fought to defend this country as a young man we'll have to go on blood pressure medication. Whatever John Kerry did in Vietnam he wasn't fighting to defend this country, at least not in the eyes of the anti-war left of which he became a prominent member. The chief anti-war argument was that the war was immoral precisely because there was no national interest at stake in Vietnam, much less defense of the homeland. The argument that our young men were fighting and dying to defend America was greeted with scorn and derision by anti-war folks. Someone needs to ask Sen. Kerry exactly when and why he changed his mind on the nature of that conflict.

How Low Will They Go

If this story at PowerLine is true it is a specimen of a most disgusting species of political campaigning:

One important story that has flown under the major-media radar is the peddling by Democrats of the claim that the Bush administration has a secret plan to re-institute the military draft. That rumor is being spread to try to scare young voters into supporting John Kerry.

The Democrats' draft-rumor effort has now gone mainstream; the South Carolina Democratic Party has sent out a mailing that claims young voters are faced with induction if they don't vote for John Kerry:

The first page of the mailing shows a draft notice with orders to report to a military induction center. The next shows a helicopter with troops in the foreground beneath a headline that says "Officials in Washington are calling for more troops in Iraq." Below, the mailing asks "Which form would you rather fill out?"

It is hard to think of a more despicable campaign tactic. It hardly needs to be said that neither the Bush administration nor any other foreseeable administration has the slightest desire to re-institute the draft. The thought sends shudders down the spines of professional military men; America's all-volunteer army is without a doubt the best military force ever assembled. No one I know of supports the draft, except for Fritz Hollings, the Democratic Senator from--ironically enough--South Carolina. He introduced a bill to that effect. Not only did the Hollings proposal go nowhere; he couldn't even find a co-sponsor.

Democrats sometimes get upset when we say that they prey on ignorance. But this contemptible tactic is a perfect example of what we mean.

This is an unbelievably dirty tactic, and this is not a "disaffiliated" 527 group putting this out. This isn't Michael Moore doing this. This is the South Carolina Democrat Party. Where's the outrage among the Democrats who are so vexed about the Swift Boat vets' ads which, it's turning out, are being confirmed by Kerry himself?

Not only has his campaign had to backtrack from his Christmas in Cambodia story, but also his own journal now shows that his first purple heart was accidentally self-inflicted. Nine days after incurring the "injury" he logged in his journal that he and his crew had yet to be fired upon, i.e. they had yet to see combat.

According to Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters Kerry's credibility has been dealt a devastating blow by Joshua Muravchik in today's Washington Post. The article is a must-read for anyone following the controversy. Captain's Quarters quotes from it:

Now a new official statement from the campaign undercuts Brinkley. It offers a minimal (thus harder to impeach) claim: that Kerry "on one occasion crossed into Cambodia," on an unspecified date. But at least two of the shipmates who are supporting Kerry's campaign (and one who is not) deny their boat ever crossed the border, and their testimony on this score is corroborated by Kerry's own journal, kept while on duty. One passage reproduced in Brinkley's book says: "The banks of the [Rach Giang Thanh River] whistled by as we churned out mile after mile at full speed. On my left were occasional open fields that allowed us a clear view into Cambodia. At some points, the border was only fifty yards away and it then would meander out to several hundred or even as much as a thousand yards away, always making one wonder what lay on the other side." His curiosity was never satisfied, because this entry was from Kerry's final mission [emph mine - CE].

Captain Ed goes on to say:

If [Kerry] had spent time in Cambodia, he would have known exactly what lay on the other side of the banks, if indeed he ever even got that close to Cambodia in the first place. And the revelation that his later journals were actually written after his return to the States for an abortive book proposal makes this even more odd, since he had already begun his anti-war activities -- and an illegal Cambodian excursion would not only add to his radical street cred, but it would have made a book deal more likely.

This Washington Post opinion piece marks a signal from the mainstream media that they have turned the corner on this issue, thanks in no small part, I'm sure, to Kerry's decision to go nuclear against the Swiftvets. Expect coverage in the news sections to follow and the Kerry collapse to continue in the days ahead.

We'll see. Viewpoint suspects the campaign will grow much uglier if it appears that Kerry is about to start sinking. It may be that Fahrenheit 9/11, the Gore and Dean speeches, and all the sleaze from MoveOn.org and the South Carolinians will look like good-natured jocularity compared to what the Dems will do if the bow of the campaign boat tilts too far upward.

The Battle For Najaf

It's difficult to find news coming out of Najaf and Fallujah. The major media seem uninterested in ferreting out anything which requires their reporters to leave their hotels in Baghdad's Green Zone and get out into the field. Consequently, unless one does a little digging all he'll hear about are car bombings and it seems like that's all that's happening in Iraq. We do hear vague, general reports about battles raging in Najaf and Fallujah, but nothing about what is actually happening there and what the Iraqi people think of it all.

Thus, when a report like this one from former Marine veteran W.Thomas Smith comes along it gives us a rare glimpse into the circumstances surrounding the current military operations in Najaf. Here are some excerpts from Smith's report which can be found in its entirety on National Review Online:

The past 24 hours have seen U.S. warplanes and helicopter gunships pounding Mahdi positions. Fighting continues on the ground in various sectors of the city, and the consensus among U.S. military personnel is that the insurgency is weakening. The latter is due in large measure to an increase in solid intelligence, a more formidable Iraqi national military force, and positive developing relationships between U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians. Not good for al Sadr.

"Two nights ago on a patrol from midnight to 3 A.M., we actually saw Iraqis sitting out on rugs watching and listening to the Coalition aircraft doing their work in the cemetery," 1st Lt. Jeremy T. Sellars - a platoon commander with Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment - told National Review Online on Saturday. "Despite the obvious level of destruction they were inflicting, I watched Iraqis cheer every time the aircraft fired."

In the rural communities just beyond Najaf, the farming families are comforted by the presence of Americans. "The farmers are some of the most supportive of our patrols," said Sellars. "In these areas you can see women who respond to waves, babies and small children being held up to see the Americans. So in the sense of the local populace, I would say they look forward to the end of this conflict, but they understand why it is happening so close to their homes."

First Lt. John B. Johnston of the U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Division has experienced similar interaction with Iraqi civilians. In a Saturday conversation with NRO, he recalled a recent patrol in which his platoon was followed by droves of children. "There were about a hundred of them," he said. "They were chanting 'USA' and shouting great things about President Bush. These kids are the future of Iraq, and they clearly want us there."

He added, the "friendliness" witnessed by Americans in Iraq is rarely understood back home. "There is a lot editorial license being taken in terms of the media choosing what to report. I feel like a lot of the positive things we've been doing have been glossed over for more dramatic actions elsewhere. Car bombs are a lot more fun to report than our painting schools or whatever. But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. If you want compare the bad days to the good days, I'd have to say 90 percent to the good."

Though some would argue otherwise, time - and the fact that positive news stories will eventually see ink - is in many ways on the side of the Americans in Iraq and the new Iraqi interim government. Not so for al Sadr.

"It appears to me that in April and May we killed the best and brightest [of the Mahdi army]," 1st Lt. Brian Suits of the Army's 1st Cavalry Division in Najaf, said during a radio interview with talk-radio host Kirby Wilbur on Seattle's KVI radio, last Thursday. "What al Sadr is doing now is sending in the guys who are left behind to make a statement. He's running out of guys. The guys he has are frankly running out of motivation. They are ill-prepared and ill-trained. They are beginning to question their authority. I think they're saying 'wait a minute, you told us that God was going to guide our bullets, but we haven't killed one American soldier in our area and we are dying left and right here.'"

Asked if Iraqi national military forces and police are measuring up to their U.S. and British allies on the battlefield, Suits said, "I've been in combat with these guys over the last couple of days, and I was as wary as anyone else. I saw their performance in the first Gulf War, but they have since coalesced into an effective force. I'm not lying. I'm not propagandizing. I'm not delivering a message someone else said. I have confidence in them being on my left or my right. They will go forward. They will close with the enemy. They will fix him. And they will kill him. They do not retreat. They do not cower. They support each other. They drag their wounded out of the line of fire. And I have confidence that these guys will be able to defend their country because they are doing it now."

As the Iraqi forces continue to improve and as the Iraqi people continue to taste the benefits of freedom the situation there will continue to improve. Iran and Syria will continue to try their best to destabilize it because they know that as long as we're tied up in Iraq we won't turn our attention toward them. This is a two-edged strategy, however, since the more apparent it becomes that Iran and Syria are thwarting the aspirations of the Iraqi people the more the Iraqis will resent both the insurgents and their neighbors and the more likely they will be to welcome American military action against them from our bases within Iraq.