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8/26/2004

Slurring Veterans

Mr. Burgess-Jackson,

Your recent column is shoddy work and betrays a superficial knowledge of John Kerry as a person.

You say:

“John Kerry is the personification of the great rift. He is simultaneously a war hero and a war protester. One moment he was with the establishment; the next he was anti-establishment. To the Right, he went over to the enemy. To the Left, he came around. Nobody should be surprised that he remains deeply conflicted about his experiences or that he is a lightning rod for criticism by his fellow soldiers and sailors. He is a living symbol of something we cannot, and perhaps should not, forget.

One wonders whether a man who is so conflicted has the capacity to lead a great nation in dangerous and uncertain times. He seems sometimes to be living in the past, to be refighting old battles, to be trying to find himself. Some will say that it's others who insist on refighting old battles, but this would not be accurate. John Kerry can't let go of his past. He, not his critics, is the one who brings it up. Again and again. Even his supporters acknowledge this.”

Fighting in that war does not indicate support for it. He didn’t “come around” – he had serious doubts about the war before entering it, and his doubts grew into concrete objections while he was in it. That is the true heroism of Kerry, that he would join the military out of a sense of patriotic duty even though he had serious concerns about the justness of the war at hand.

There is no conflict here. He can be proud of his service, proud of those he served with, while still believing it was a misguided war directed by an unhinged civilian and military leadership. Soldiers don’t leave their minds behind - in fact, they fight to keep them.

Your belief that Kerry has called down calumny and libel for emphasizing his service is morally wrong and an implicit threat to those serving today. If returning soldiers denounce Iraq, their opinions have added weight – they aren’t evidence of diminished capacity.

 

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