Swift Boat ad nauseam

By Mark Follman
Published August 27, 2004 4:47PM (EDT)

Is the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against John Kerry finally sinking? While President Bush still declines to condemn the group's widely discredited, corrosive claims about Kerry's war record, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert is trying to make some sense of a melee so tilted that it appears to be utterly disconnected from the real military history of the respective Bush and Kerry camps.

"In what is surely the most important election of the last half-century, we seem trapped in the politics of the madhouse. What is incredible is that these attacks on men who served not just honorably, but heroically, are coming from a hawkish party that is controlled by an astonishing number of men who sprinted as far from the front lines as they could when they were of fighting age and their country was at war."

Herbert takes roll call for team Bush's band of Vietnam draft dodgers: President Bush (a "cushy," foreshortened National Guard stint that mysteriously flew right off history's radar), Vice President Cheney (five deferments), Attorney General Ashcroft (seven deferments) and Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz (multiple deferments). In Herbert's view, their inaction during Vietnam, compounded by their inaction against Kerry's slanderous Republican-backed attackers today, is a disgrace to the U.S. military of the lowest order.

"I would like to see at least some of these men, in keeping with their positions as leaders of a great nation, stand up and say it is wrong -- just wrong -- to try and reap a cheap political gain by defacing the sacrifices of individuals like John Kerry, John McCain and Max Cleland, who put themselves in mortal danger in the service of their country.

"It's one thing to decline to serve. It's quite another to throw mud at those who did serve -- or to remain silent as allies hurl the mud.

"I've interviewed several soldiers and marines who have suffered grave wounds in Iraq, including the loss of limbs. A permanent place of honor should be reserved for them in the pantheon of American heroes. The idea that someone some years from now may trash their service for political gain is beyond disgusting."

Meanwhile, if Swift Boat exhaustion (or just plain sickness) is setting in, Reason magazine has what may be the definitive analysis regarding this issue -- the one team Bush seems to keep taking a deferment on, and that just won't seem to go away.

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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