Today's New York Times has a lengthy piece on the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. It reveals the Republican-Bush-Rove links to the group. The newest, negative ad trashing John Kerry by Bush proxies -- Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- debuts today.
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth chief spokesman Houston trial attorney John O'Neill didn't serve with Kerry though you have to pay attention to details to know that. (I've been told by a Houston lawyer that O'Neill is difficult to deal with in legal cases.) He was an extension of the Nixon White House when Richard Nixon wanted to get Kerry for his anti-war activity. He still seems quite proud of his Nixon connections that used him to try to trash the anti-war movement.
I was in the Army during Vietnam in the George W. Bush fashion, so I didn't get sent there. Moreover, I was anti-war like most of my generation and still believe that Vietnam was a tragedy for America. To this day, I resent the politicians who let it happen on the basis of the now-discredited domino theory and sent 50,000 young Americans to their deaths.
The stories I heard were that there were indeed atrocities committed by American troops as Kerry claimed in those days -- hopefully though in small numbers. After all, we all know about Lt. William Calley and the My Lai massacre on March 16, 1968. That was the horror that shocked my very conservative parents into asking me if I agreed with everything that was going on over there hoping that I didn't.
Back then I met a guy who bragged to me that he wore a Vietcong ear on a necklace. "Fragging" (killing) low-grade American officers disliked by their own troops was legend when I was in basic training, even if not true. The seminal book on the war is Michael Herr's "Dispatches." Herr was a journalist in Vietnam, and it's a very good read which does describe -- in an uncritical, observer's way -- some misbehavior by Americans.
Of course, The North Vietnamese were guilty of outrageous atrocities. Ask John McCain. My point is that, tragically, horrors happen in war. John O'Neill wants to convince us that's not so. He knows better. However, we have to speak out against wartime atrocities to remain civilized.