So I just saw Chris Matthews talking to Laura Ingraham and Mark Green on "Hardball." Ingraham of course toed the Republican party line that everyone, even Clinton, believed that Iraq had WMD before the war. And that one has to believe that either they disappeared as if by magic the second the U.S. troops showed up or they were shipped to another evil, rogue state. OK--all of that is nonsense, everyone knows it (here's a link for starters), including the Republicans, but the Bushies can't admit it because it makes their guy look bad and this is an election year.
Matthews really gave no ground to Ingraham and it was clear that he is not buying the Republican argument, which is refreshing after his months of Bush-worship. For instance, he brought up the irony of the fact that a woman under contract with the Pentagon was fired for taking pictures of U.S. soldiers in caskets coming home from Iraq while none of those responsible for the fabrications that led us into war have lost their jobs. Ingraham spun it, saying that she must have been acting outside of her job description and was therefore insubordinate and deserved to be fired. OK,whatever...
What I really wanted to get to in this post is the erroneous way in which Kerry's "Meet The Press" interview from 1971 is being spun. The Republican line is that he admitted to committing atrocities and accused thousands of other soldiers of doing the same thing and then he called them war criminals. As a result, Vietnam veterans supposedly hate Kerry (but this one even admits to respecting him for trying to bring the war to an end). But they apparently only heard half of what he said or are willfully ignoring the rest of his statement.
Kerry did not indict grunt soldiers as war criminals. In his statement, he basically said that the military and governmental leaders set up the rules of engagement such that all the soldiers were made to act in violation of the rules of war if they did what their commanders told them to. Republicans are so quick to use his own words against him without realizing that his own words actually implicate Johnson and Nixon and McNamara, not the average soldier like himself. To wit (quotes taken from the April 18, 2004 transcript of "Meet The Press"):
"MR. KERRY (Vietnam Veterans Against the War): There are all kinds of atrocities and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free-fire zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire. I used 50-caliber machine guns which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I took part in search-and-destroy missions, in the burning of villages."
That's where Kerry's critics stop listening. How convenient. Here's the rest of the story...
"All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare. All of this is contrary to the Geneva Conventions and all of this ordered as a matter of written established policy by the government of the United States from the top down."
OK, now comes the "war criminal" part. But what reasonable person with the reading comprehension of at least a 3rd grader thinks that he is saying that the grunts in the field were/are war criminals?
"And I believe that the men who designed these, the men who designed the free-fire zone, the men who ordered us, the men who signed off the air raid strike areas, I think these men, by the letter of the law, the same letter of the law that tried Lieutenant Calley, are war criminals."
You got that? He's saying the men who designed these awful methods of fighting are war criminals, the men who sat at breakfast tables at fine Washington hotels and were far removed from the action--not the actual common foot soldiers. This is the same kind of smear that was used against Al Gore--that he supposedly said he singlehandedly invented the Internet and that Erich Segal based the characters in "Love Story" after him and Tipper. Except that this smear is much more potent because he admits on camera that he committed "atrocities." But I think it's clear that what he was trying to get across is that committing atrocites was the only method of prosecuting the war that the U.S. government at the time would allow.
That's the Republican attack machine at work, man...it's the "removed ellipses" approach to record distortion. All you have to do is take a statement, put ellipses in it to give it whatever effect you want it to have, even if it's completely contrary to the effect it was intended to have by the original speaker, and then publicize it with the ellipses removed--i.e. John Kerry said "I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed...I think these men...are war criminals." Well yes, he did speak those words, but there were a lot of other words in between those carefully selected words that completely change the meaning of the elliptical quote above.
Now, why Kerry himself didn't point out that he was actually implicating the leaders and not the soldiers in his "Meet The Press" interview, I don't know. Why Mark Green did not remind Laura Ingraham and Chris Matthews of the larger context of his remarks, I don't know. Probably because in political debate, especially in 2004, objective reality doesn't exist, and so it wouldn't matter if it were pointed out or not. Like it doesn't matter now that I'm pointing it out. Because Bushies will be Bushies and spout their happy cult talk on Washington Journal ("I'm behind the president 100 percent"--they all always say that) and on Rush Limbaugh and in the editorial pages of every sorry small-town newspaper--Eye-Rack is better off, Saddam was a madman, Bush is a good man and he is a strong president and that's what we need since Sept. 11, and blah blah blah.
My only problem with Kerry is that he keeps backing away from his statements. He needs to stick to what he said and BRING IT ON...this election is his to lose. Kerry needs to say all kinds of supposedly outrageous, yet obviously true things--Bush lied us into war, he lied about the tax cuts, etc. The Republicans won't sue because they know all of that is true and can easily be proven in a court of law. He needs to sling some damn mud and get his hands dirty but get the Republicans even dirtier. They're already covered in blood and bullshit, they just appear to be clean. Kerry needs to splash some Luminol on them so every American can see the bloodstains.