A call for President Bush to denounce "Swift Boat Veterans For Truth"

Published August 11, 2004 6:00PM (EDT)

What follows is an op-ed submitted to Salon by four veterans and authors:

"As was shamefully done previously against decorated veterans like John McCain and Max Cleland, extreme right-wing groups such as the so-called 'Swift-Boat Veterans for Truth' are again spreading lies meant to discredit a decorated veteran. A veteran who volunteered for combat, who was brave enough not only to withstand the rigors of battle but then the equally difficult struggle to speak the truth about war's inevitable dark side: savagery, stupidity, recklessness, maiming, and death. These are the truths of every war -- those necessary and those avoidable; those just and those unjust.

"The slander about John Kerry's Purple Hearts and courage in command is fallacious at best and spuriously shameful. More, the attacks against Kerry's post-discharge protest of Vietnam represent a concerted attempt to prevent others from speaking the necessary truth of their experience by those too cowardly to admit their own share in our flawed humanity -- and war is nothing if not a showcase for our flaws. The old veterans' saying goes: If you haven't been there, you just don't know. But more, if you've been there and perpetuate the myths, you know even less.

"We are children of the Vietnam-Era: Its veterans, its troubles. In time, we became the veterans of our nation's 'Cable News Wars' in the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Iraq -- we know all-too-well the difficulties in communicating the ambiguous truths of our wars. But, as writers, we tried. We have each, in our own way, attempted to create a space where honest talk about war can occur without sanction: in the privacy of a book's pages. More than ever, our country needs an open dialogue about what war is, what happens there, and what it can do to the souls of those who serve, whether or not the original call to war was based on a noble purpose."

"'Swift-Boat Veterans for Truth' (a group without a single member who actually served in combat with Kerry) is attacking Kerry for, among other things, telling the truth about his war. If they succeed, hundreds of thousands of young soldiers and Marines will find it that much more difficult to tell their difficult stories -- whether heroic, tragic, barbaric, or all three -- when they return from Iraq and Afghanistan. So that another generation of veterans will not be rent by the difficult choice between living with a lie and feeling shamed for telling the truth, we ask you: do not listen to those who would distort a brave man's struggle. They pursue their own sad grudges and the paltry gains of partisan fervor, and if they become the loudest voice of "truth," all veterans will sustain the wound."


Christian Bauman, US Army (Somalia, Haiti), author of The Ice Beneath You.
Andrew Exum, US Army (Afghanistan, Iraq), author of This Man's Army.
Joel Turnipseed, US Marine Corps (Persian Gulf War), author of Baghdad Express.
Buzz Williams, US Marine Corps (Persian Gulf War), author of Spare Parts.

By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------