The strategy the veterans devised would ultimately paint John Kerry the war hero as John Kerry the "baby killer" and the fabricator of the events that resulted in his war medals. But on close examination, the accounts of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth' prove to be riddled with inconsistencies. In many cases, material offered as proof by these veterans is undercut by official Navy records and the men's own statements.The twists and turns of this story - the connections, the statements, corrections, and restatements - combine to form one mess of muddled memories. Perhaps the worst aspect of this operation is how it has taken a broad band of brothers and turned them against each other. It's ugly business - from start to finish.
The "Truth" guys' real problem, of course, is what Kerry did when he got home. I can understand their anger - in some respects. America treated its Vietnam veterans shamefully. Part of the blind allegience to the Iraq war comes from the fear of doing to these new veterans what we did to Vietnam vets. The trauma of war is what's most striking for me here. The mental wounds causing some veterans to lash out at Kerry for old violations of battlefield loyalties illustrate the permanent effects of service. It's about loyalty. It's always about loyalty. Kerry broke the code. He's paying for that now.
No one wins this kind of war.
The group said it would introduce a new advertisement against Mr. Kerry on Friday. What drives the veterans, they acknowledge, is less what Mr. Kerry did during his time in Vietnam than what he said after. Their affidavits and their television commercial focus mostly on those antiwar statements. Most members of the group object to his using the word "atrocities" to describe what happened in Vietnam when he returned and became an antiwar activist. And they are offended,
they say, by the gall of his running for president as a hero of that war.
"I went to university and was called a baby killer and a murderer because of guys like Kerry and what he was saying," said Van Odell, who appears in the first advertisement, accusing Mr. Kerry of lying to get his Bronze Star. "Not once did I participate in the atrocities he said were happening."
As Mr. Lonsdale explained it: "We won the battle. Kerry went home and lost the war for us.
"He called us rapers and killers and that's not true," he continued. "If he expects our loyalty, we should expect loyalty from him."