(would prefer both, but will settle for one or the other)
You should care, especially since Kerry's campaigning on what he did then.Interesting article:Give veterans a say on Kerry The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 08/15/2004 When presidential candidate John Kerry virtually ignores 20 years in the U.S. Senate to make four months in Vietnam the centerpiece of his campaign, the men who served with him have a right to a fair hearing.The Kerry campaign and much of the mainstream media have been dismissive of the swift-boat veterans who oppose his candidacy. Even before exploring the substance of their charges, the group is dismissed as right-wing financed Bush puppets. The truth is, however, that while swift-boat veterans opposing Kerry undoubtedly have a political agenda -- they think him "Unfit for Command" of the armed forces, the title of a book published last week -- their opposition would have coalesced regardless. In most respects, the 250 men who are part of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (www.swiftvets.com), and the dozen former crew members of Kerry's boat who support him, are the only Americans positioned to comment authoritatively on his actions during those four months.Houston lawyer John O'Neill, one of the authors of the book, followed Kerry as commander of the swift boat PCF 94. Others were in Kerry's chain of command, in administrative positions or on other swift boats. The boats usually operated in groups of two to six. As such, other commanders would have been in a position to judge Kerry's performance. Only one of 21 living commanders in his swift-boat division supports his candidacy. The period is fair game, not only because he and his running mate invited it but also because there are legitimate reasons to examine it. "I ask you to judge me by my record," said Kerry in his acceptance speech. "If you have any questions about what John Kerry is made of, just spend three minutes with the men who served with him," urged John Edwards. Kerry claimed in a March 27, 1986, speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate that he vividly remembered Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. "I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared -- seared -- in me."It was a story he had told earlier, as well, blaming President Nixon for lying to the country. Kerry's swift-boat superiors deny that he was ever in Cambodia -- the border region was not in his division's area of operation -- and, according to another book about Kerry, "Tour of Duty," he spent Christmas 1968 in Sa Dec, more than 50 miles from the border. And, of course, on Christmas of 1968, Lyndon Johnson was still president. Does it matter? It does to those he accused of committing atrocities. The nation may be done with Vietnam, content to treat the era as a campaign backdrop, with no further interest in whether the atrocities Kerry alleges were commonplace.But the two groups -- the swift-boat veterans and other Vietnam veterans who feel wronged by his characterizations -- have earned the right not to be dismissed as cranks and partisans, at least until they are fully heard. Much of my adult life has been spent in the media and in the military, first in Vietnam and then for more than two decades in the National Guard. I have deep affection for the media and the military. Both are enormously powerful instruments for good. And yet I have never been completely comfortable with either. With both, the capacity to inflict harm can damage lives beyond repair. With guns, pens and cameras, abuse of power is an ever-present danger. They are, therefore, instruments to be used with great care and with adequate training, discipline and a rigid adherence to standards of moral and ethical conduct.Disagree with the veterans if you like. Think them partisans. Accuse them of bitterness. But in the proper arena for public debate, hear them out.· Jim Wooten is associate editorial page editor. His column appears Fridays, Sundays and Tuesdays.
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