Much of the commentary on John Kerry's noxious comments about our Military men and women in Iraq has focused on one of two aspects of his remarks. Those who accept that his comments were a joke gone bad give him the benefit of the doubt and accept his partial apologies and clarifications at face value. Others, who remember his "winter soldier" Senate testimony comparing American troops to Genghis Khan are less forgiving.
However, both points of view neglect to notice that Kerry's remarks not only repeat his past slanders but also fit into a template that was perfected during the Vietnam War and was profoundly important in undermining support for that War. Current events raise the question as to whether or not history is already being repeated.
Rich Lowry suggests that though many Conservative Democrats are running away from the Kerry sentiments, he is more representative of today's Democratic party than those who support the troops:
Democrats running as conservatives this year - like senatorial candidate Harold Ford of Tennessee and Jon Tester of Montana - have denounced Kerry's remarks and demanded an apology that he finally coughed up late Wednesday. But Kerry better represents the mainstream of the Democratic Party than they do, and it is old-school liberals like him - with all their sense of superiority and all their intellectual baggage from Vietnam - who will gain most from a Democratic majority won on the strength of relatively moderate candidates.
As if to provide evidence that there is an orchestrated campaign underway to destroy our efforts in Iraq, there is this report in the McGill Daily, of a speech that Seymour Hersh gave in Montreal last Wednesday in which he stated:
If Americans knew the full extent of U.S. criminal conduct, they would receive returning Iraqi veterans as they did Vietnam veterans, Hersh said.
“In Vietnam, our soldiers came back and they were reviled as baby killers, in shame and humiliation,” he said. “It isn’t happening now, but I will tell you – there has never been an [American] army as violent and murderous as our army has been in Iraq.”
For those of us who lived through the Vietnam era in politics, this is all too familiar. In order to undermine support for the war, the Left, which included overt Communist front organizations and other overtly anti-American organizations, skillfully co-opted the natural disinclination of young cosseted Americans to join the military along with the growing disenchantment of a large swath of American opinion, to delegitimize the War in Vietnam. Among other techniques, the most crucial ultimately was the Seymour Hersh/John Kerry duet.
Hersh found glory when he broke the story of My Lai, a terrible massacre of Vietnamese civilians that crystallized the opposition to the war. The Hersh/Kerry narrative was that innocent young American boys were taken by the (capitalist, imperialist, colonialist) War Machine and turned into ruthless baby killers. This narrative became the organizing meme thathelped destroy the legitimacy of the War effort.
There are obvious differences in Iraq, though you might not know it if you only read the New York Times. The Iraqis have a duly elected government, the outcome of three fair and open elections; the Islamic terrorists overtly threaten us and have killed many Americans and many other Westerners, something the Vietnamese never did; our casualties are thus far only ~2.5% of our losses in Vietnam. Furthermore, the American "War Machine" has been either spectacularly efficient and exquisitely targeted or, if Hersh is to be believed, spectacularly evil but ineffective. After all, if "there has never been an [American] army as violent and murderous as our army has been in Iraq" then even if you accept the worst case scenarios, of 600,000 deaths (2/3 caused by Iraq on Iraq violence) since the American invasion, one can only conclude that (similar to the Israelis in Lebanon), the reports of our overwhelming and indiscriminate use of force seem to be somewhat overstated, to say the least.
Interestingly, Hersh claims in his speech that he has seen the proof:
During his hour-and-a-half lecture – part of the launch of an interdisciplinary media and communications studies program called Media@McGill – Hersh described video footage depicting U.S. atrocities in Iraq, which he had viewed, but not yet published a story about.
He described one video in which American soldiers massacre a group of people playing soccer.
“Three U.S. armed vehicles, eight soldiers in each, are driving through a village, passing candy out to kids,” he began. “Suddenly the first vehicle explodes, and there are soldiers screaming. Sixteen soldiers come out of the other vehicles, and they do what they’re told to do, which is look for running people.”
“Never mind that the bomb was detonated by remote control,” Hersh continued. “[The soldiers] open up fire; [the] cameras show it was a soccer game.”
“About ten minutes later, [the soldiers] begin dragging bodies together, and they drop weapons there. It was reported as 20 or 30 insurgents killed that day,” he said.
This is truly remarkable. We have all become familiar with the MSM, of which Seymour Hersh is an exemplar, holding onto stories until they can do maximum damage to those they oppose, but this is worth pondering. Seymour Hersh has evidence of American atrocities that would make abu Graib, 50 plus front page stories in the New York Times and counting, look like a walk in the park, and he has withheld publication? This is hard to believe, unless there is an ulterior motive at play.
Publishing the stories now risks giving a boost to Republican chances in next week's elections. The American people are not prepared to see our Military, truly the best and brightest among us, smeared again as murderers, torturers, and baby killers, and reports like Hersh's splashed across the pages of the legacy media would likely inflame most Americans and especially the Republican base. This would not do. Instead, once the Democrats have taken the House, and hopefully (from their point of view) the Senate, the publication of Hersh's charges would lead to investigations, daily news reports of atrocities committed by Americans in Iraq, more investigations, more news reports, in an endless loop. Repeated often enough, it would be extraordinarily difficult to keep any sense of proportion.
I may be wrong in all this. There may well be no connection between John Kerry's Freudian slip and Seymour Hersh's perfidy, but when something has worked once, there is every tendency to try it again. The stakes are much higher now; even most reasonable Democrats know that abandoning Iraq prematurely would be a victory for the forces of Islamic fascism, yet under the kind of media orchestrated barrage that would ensue from Hersh's "expose", I doubt many would be able to stand.