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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

August 23, 2004

Could a 'war criminal' be president?

The Swift Boat controversy is currently bringing out both Bush and Kerry's censorious sides. As far as I'm concerned, the fight is strictly between Kerry and his vets and the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth . and their supporters. All the talk from John Kerry's campaign about his Vietnam service, and all the attacks on his service and subsequent protests, are starting to sort of dovetail in my mind with the past year's many op-ed comparisons of the Iraq War with Vietnam.

But one thing still stands out at the moment: Kerry's admissions to Congress in 1971 and to Tim Russert in 2004, of his participation in 'atrocities', now recast as 'policies in place that were not acceptable according to the laws of warfare, and everybody knows that'. Maybe the whole cast of characters should just renact the Winter Soldier investigation.

Here's an excerpt from Kerry's 'Meet The Press' interview:

"MR. RUSSERT: Before we take a break, I want to talk about Vietnam. You are a decorated war hero of Vietnam, prominently used in your advertising. You first appeared on MEET THE PRESS back in 1971, your first appearance. I want to roll what you told the country then and come back and talk about it:

(Videotape, MEET THE PRESS, April 18, 1971):

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. 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. 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.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: You committed atrocities.

SEN. KERRY: Where did all that dark hair go, Tim? That's a big question for me. You know, I
thought a lot, for a long time, about that period of time, the things we said, and I think the word is a bad word. I think it's an inappropriate word. I mean, if you wanted to ask me have you ever made mistakes in your life, sure. I think some of the language that I used was a language that reflected an anger. It was honest, but it was in anger, it was a little bit excessive.

MR. RUSSERT: You used the word "war criminals."

SEN. KERRY: Well, let me just finish. Let me must finish. It was, I think, a reflection of the kind of times we found ourselves in and I don't like it when I hear it today. I don't like it, but I want you to notice that at the end, I wasn't talking about the soldiers and the soldiers' blame, and my great regret is, I hope no soldier--I mean, I think some soldiers were angry at me for that, and I understand that and I regret that, because I love them. But the words were honest but on the other hand, they were a little bit over the top. And I think that there were breaches of the Geneva Conventions. There were policies in place that were not acceptable according to the laws of warfare, and everybody knows that. I mean, books have chronicled that, so I'm not going to walk away from that. But I wish I had found a way to say it in a less abrasive way."

So it's possible that a 'war criminal' / performer of unacceptable policies, who testified but never did time, can become a world-class leader! There an exclusive club for you - he could do schnapps with Kurt Waldheim.

There's a positive payoff of the Abu Ghraib exposure and trials. We'll probably have a presidential or vice-presidential candidate who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, or both, someday. He or she is going to be painted with a broad brush by association with these wars. You can bet that dabs of Abu Ghraib will appear on the tainting brush. Given how effectively the military establishment has reacted to the soldiers who performed the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses - relative to abuses of the Vietnam era, that is - a candidate who's an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran might find it easier to establish his credentials as a non-atrocitizer. For that reason alone (and there are others), the exposure of the chain of command that permitted these abuses is a good thing!

Even with the deal-making.

August 21, 2004

On Hussein's WMDs' and their insufficient discovered quantities.

This is just a thought that I've had since the discoveries of Hussein's mass graves: what if traces of his biological and chemical weaponry are found in the corpses that fill up those graves?

This scenario is actually pretty plausible, if the Iraqi official who talked a UN inspection group around 1995 is to be believed: he allegedly explained to the inspectors that VX and sarin toxins were eliminated, 'poured out on the ground'. Hans Blix addressed this possibility himself in his February 2003 report (find word 'poured') and again in a Time magazine interview . It's possible that if they were poured on the ground, from there they would've seeped into the water supplies near some villages. And maybe they caused massive, if gradual, poisonings.
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