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Swift Boat Veterans Reject Lessons of Vietnam

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Message Michael Dean
Thirty-two years after the Vietnam War ended and nearly two years after John Kerry's failed presidential bid, most Americans probably never have understood why it ever mattered that the Vietnam War era Swift Boat Veterans for Truth accused Kerry of wrongly describing the Vietnam war as mismanaged, not winnable, and marked by the sporadic killing of innocent civilian men, women and children. Unfortunately, in the heat of the 2004 Presidential campaign Mr. Kerry did not answer the Swift Boat Veterans' false charges with the simple truth that those who deny the lessons of history are destined to witness history repeated.

Even if it is two years too late, Mr. Kerry remains obligated to adequately respond to the Swift Boat Veteran's and hard right neo-conservative's attempt to turn Vietnam into an honorable and correctly executed war where innocent people were never killed. I think if Mr. Kerry had only spoken from his heart with conviction, as he has many times in years past, on the lessons we must take from our Vietnam experience, he would be president today and we would not be reading headlines like, "Marine Massacre in Haditha, Iraq" and "Insurgent Attacks Grow More Intense in Iraq."

Swift Boat Veterans and their hard right neo-conservative backers have always maintained the Vietnam war was a good war that was lost only because "liberal" war protestors and traitorous veterans like John Kerry, Max Cleland and Al Gore spoke against it. Mr. John O'Neill, a former Swift boat commander who was recruited by the Nixon administration to debate Mr. Kerry on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1971, heads the Swift Boat group. Mr. O'Neil launched the Swift Boat group in early 2004, with massive backing from hard right neo-conservative Republican donors, to campaign against Mr. Kerry and turn him into a villain of the "good war."

Rightwing neo-conservatives reject the most accepted explanation among historians that the collapse of South Vietnam was a result of American policy makers' cold-war-driven misunderstanding of North Vietnam's leaders as dangerous Communists. In truth, the Vietnamese people were fighting a nationalist movement with great popular support. In the nationalist view, South Vietnam was a creation of French Colonial then U.S. foreigners and led by a corrupt elite with no popular roots. The U.S. could not win the war because our armed land forces could not follow the enemy into North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia from which they fed and supported their insurgent war, first against French Colonial occupation and then the U.S., for nearly 30 years following WWII.

Al Gore yesterday made his sharpest attack yet on the George Bush presidency, describing the current US administration as "a renegade band of rightwing extremists." Bush's presidency is lead by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld who were officials of the same Nixon administration that originally recruited Mr. John O'Neill to wrap the Vietnam War in red white and blue patriotism and deny the war was anything but good, justified and honorable.

For most of us who lived through the Vietnam War era it's getting to be de'j vu all over again. The same band of renegade rightwing extremists, now led by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, that has denied the lessons of Vietnam for over 30 years, counseled and convinced George Bush to march the U.S. into another war of wrong assumptions and misunderstandings. Then, Cheney and Rumsfeld took the U.S. to war under a anemic war plan rejected by many military leaders and planners to who did learn the lessons of Vietnam. Cheney and Rumsfeld discarded an Iraqi war plan carefully prepare by those who used the lessons of Vietnam to prepare a war plan that more-than-likely would have been successful.

In February 2005, Mr. Kerry's supporters formed their own group, the Patriot Project, to defend veterans who take unpopular positions, particularly against the Iraq war. One of their first tasks was to visit newspaper editorial boards in defense of Representative John P. Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and veteran whose military record has been attacked by Republicans and conservative blogs since he called for redeploying the troops over the horizon. Hard right conservatives attack the growing numbers recently retired generals, returning veterans and just about anyone else who speak against the war or Rumsfeld's management of it.

Just the Swift Boat Veterans and the neo-conservatives attempt to turn Vietnam into an honorable and correctly executed war where innocent people were never killed they continue to portray the Iraqi war as an honorable and correctly executed war where innocent people are killed only by the terrorists.

Senator Kerry: It makes no difference whether you originally voted for or against the Iraqi war. Your vote was based on cherry-picked and misleading intelligence data - the nation now accepts that fact. You, more than anyone else, have the moral authority to remind the nation that what is past is prologue unless we take history's lessons to heart. Mr. Kerry, you should be standing side by side with, or maybe even a step ahead of, Representative Murtha.
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Bachelors of Science Degree in Computer Science and Business Administration with 25 years of experience working in the Independent Software Vendor Industry.
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