Early on in his presidential campaign, John Kerry capitalized on his four months of action in Vietnam and proclaimed to the American public that he is a man of courage and valor. The ads were supposed to suggest that having been on the front lines, Kerry is uniquely qualified to offer leadership in the war on terror.
A better gage, however, would be the opinions of those who served with Kerry and the track record of weakness and error he accumulated over the past 20 years as a legislator.
With regard to the former, a new ad produced by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and POWs for Truth seems illuminating. The ad features dozens of Vietnam veterans. The announcer says, "They're the men who served with John Kerry in Vietnam. They're his entire chain of command, most of the officers in Kerry's unit. ... And they're the men who spent years in North Vietnamese prison camps. Tortured for refusing to confess to what John Kerry accused them of being - war criminals."
The ad refers to accusations by Kerry that his unit engaged in attacks against civilians, in violation of the Geneva Convention. Upon his return from Vietnam, Kerry called his commanders "war criminals." At home, the remarks proved a real crowd-pleaser, effectively kick-starting Kerry's political career. Back in the jungle, prisoners of war were brutally tortured unless they signed documents admitting to the accusations Kerry was making stateside.
The Vietnam vets lucky enough to make it back haven't forgotten Kerry's remarks, or the torture they endured while recordings of his accusations were played on an endless loop at the POW camps. Kerry betrayed these brave men. They suffered for his political opportunism.
"Why is this relevant?" asked the ad. "Because character and honesty matter. Especially in a time of war," the voiceover said.
This is an important point to make. Will Kerry make the tough decision with regard to the war on terror or will he be neutered by public opinion, just as he was so many years ago?
To answer that question, let's consider his track record: While in Congress, Kerry supported a nuclear freeze. (Thankfully, Reagan showed the strength we needed to win the Cold War.) Kerry voted against the B-1, B-2, F15 and F-14, carriers, planes and tanks - every major weapons system our troops are now using to fend off terror. He has been a tepid supporter of the intelligence community, even remarking once that the CIA is "unnecessary." He's been a foe of missile defense - the only strategy that really confronts the emerging threat of rogue states with ballistic missiles. He voted against Operation Desert Storm and against the $87 billion to fund the troops.
It's the same kind of head-in-the-sand foreign policy thinking that liberals espoused for much of the '90s. When al-Qaida blew up the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, or detonated a bomb alongside the USS Cole in Yemen, or organized the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, President Clinton responded with small, measured gestures, like hurling a few missiles at an abandoned al-Qaida training facility, or trying to indict specific terrorists as criminals, rather than confronting the rogue states that sponsored them. When evidence emerged that Syria and Iran funneled money and personnel into the terrorist organization that declared war on us, the Clinton administration stuck its head in the sand. Our response told the world that we were soft. It proclaimed that the United States was built on false stilts, that we could be yanked down. It encouraged our attackers. This is why Saddam Hussein believed that in 1991 if he tied U.S. soldiers to the front of his tanks, he could sweep undeterred into Kuwait. It is why al-Qaida thought our society would crumble if they crashed some planes into our buildings.
Post 9/11, we can no longer spare ourselves the rigors of dealing with messy realities, like the fact that there are people out there that spend their days trying to figure out ways to kill as many Americans as possible. Our leaders cannot ignore this very real threat.
Kerry has tried to convince us that as a brave and decorated Vietnam vet, he is the man for the job. But a closer inspection of his track record tells us that we dare not believe it.