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Witnesses

No one can say that what I am about to say is partisan, or at least not partisan for Democrats. I have a bumper sticker that says “Nader-Camejo 2004,” and I wouldn’t vote for John Kerry right now if you offered to pay my mortgage off and send my kids through college. I’m not writing to defend John Kerry. I think John Edwards is a standard-issue Southern political snake-oil salesman, and I’m withholding my vote from my own tip-toeing Democrat Congressman, David Price, in order to follow through on a threat I made before he last voted to authorize more spending for the war in Iraq. I’m not registered as a Democrat, and never have been. With a few exceptions, I consider most Democrat politicians to be plain garden variety opportunists and cowards. Finally, I think John Kerry brought the Swift Boat slanders on himself to a large extent when he pulled that stupid stunt at the Democratic Convention: “Reporting for duty,” indeed. Ya shouldna gone there, John.

For the record, I think even less of Republican politicians, who I know from personal experience, including with many members of my own biological family, to be mostly vicious racist homophobes. The people at the top of both these party hierarchies, of course, are skilled imperialists who share a nearly identical agenda–similar to that of a vampire or an intestinal helminth.

Having said all that and given every devil his or her due, I have to say that I am dismayed that the most effective anti-Kerry ad was the one that highlighted the one time in his life he told the unvarnished truth.

In 1971, in his testimony before Congress, Kerry told them, speaking of what other soldiers had told him of their experiences in Vietnam: “They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.”

In telling others that this was the truth, I have had a few correspondents tell me that this was not so, and that I was only justified in reporting my own experience there, and not in generalizing beyond it. It’s funny how these legalisms jump up when people get caught with their pants down. I disagree. Not only did I witness a number of these kinds of activities in Vietnam, I talked to hundreds of you who told me you’d done the same.

We were receiving treatment at Qui Nyon Hospital together, comparing notes, sometimes behind the wards with a Bongson bomber (you know what I’m talking about). We drank Mad Dog 20-20 together at the convalescent barracks at Ft. Leonard Wood. Some of us went to the 82nd together and we shared these experiences over a pitcher of watery beer at Rick’s Lounge. We were just as open as we could be with one another about what we’d seen and done, while we were anesthetizing ourselves and the memories were still fresh. Back then, we needed to talk with each other. No one else could, or would, really listen and appreciate.

Now there are all these Vietnam vets who say it never happened, that Kerry has impugned their reputations, and all I can figure is that you all who are saying this must have been they guys who stayed in those nice hooches there at Qui Nyon and other places with the water pipes and the blacklight posters and the soft-porn pinups, and they never humped a rucksack in the boonies. So, okay. You guys never burned down anyone’s house or shot their livestock or made their children scream or killed someone just because there were no witnesses. You were toking your water pipe or drinking a beer somewhere inside a giant perimeter of bunkers with 50-cals and sleeping on a bunk at night. But every eleven bravo I know and everyone I talked to back then, once our tongues were loosened and our consciences numbed with the right chemicals we shared what we saw, which was exactly what John Kerry told Congress.

My mom, who is from Arkansas, used to drive us nuts with her repetitious little backwoods bromides. One of them was, “You can go to hell for lyin’ quick as you can for stealin’.” Why in the world would we want to start lying about what happened there now, three and a half decades after the fact? Maybe because that war was just as criminal and un-winnable as the one we are in today in Iraq? Saying that something wasn’t so doesn’t change the fact that it was. It just diminishes those of us who perjure ourselves. Wake up and smell the jungle rot, guys.

[Editor’s Note: Our friend STAN GOFF writes that he “wouldn’t vote for John Kerry right now if you offered to pay my mortgage off and send my kids through college.” We must lodge a protest. This is actually the first attractive reason we’ve yet heard to auction our vote to Kerry. But can the nation afford it? AC/JSC]

STAN GOFF is the author of “Hideous Dream: A Soldier’s Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti” (Soft Skull Press, 2000) and “Full Spectrum Disorder” (Soft Skull Press, 2003). He is a member of the BRING THEM HOME NOW! coordinating committee. His periodic essays on the military can be found at http://www.freedomroad.org/home.html. Email for BRING THEM HOME NOW! is bthn@mfso.org.

Goff can be reached at: sherrynstan@igc.org

 

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