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"Clarity or Zealotry"

The Republican National Committee is trying to make it into a bad thing that John Kerry came home from service in Vietnam and became a leader in Veterans against the War. It is in no way a bad thing. It is a very good thing. It proves he can learn from experience, that he can think clearly and make inferences correctly. It is his single best qualification for the kind of leadership we need just now.

I have believed for a long time that military solutions are no solutions at all, and now a chorus of experts is chanting that "terrorism" cannot be successfully dealt with militarily. "War on Terrorism" is a kind of contradiction in terms. The more we wage war, the more terrorists there are, the madder they are, the angrier they are, the more zealous they become. Kerry understands that. He also understands that B-1 bombers and Patriot missiles are of no use in trying to reduce and eliminate terrorism, so it's no bad mark on his record that he once voted to unfund those wasteful over-kill weapons.

The Vietnam war was a mistake, Kerry told the Senate, when he came back. To many of us, then, it looked more like a crime, but no one was ever tried or punished for it. Most notably, Kissinger's part in all of it makes him a war criminal, who is getting away with mass murder. Kerry's clarity on that war is something he and the Democratic Party should be trumpeting proudly. It distinguishes Kerry from Bush, who is floundering further and further into a worse mistake.

The Vietnamese never brought that war here -- their long-standing tradition was one of Buddhist pacifism. Their resistance to us was limited to forcing us to quit and go home. In contrast, this current mistake that Bush has gotten us into forces us to confront an enemy in which the long-standing cultural tradition is vengeance. These enemies have long memories. They know the meaning of the word "crusade," while our president may not. They will exact revenge. Our kill-ratio of ten or more to one can only mean serious trouble sometime in the future, and not always on the other side of the planet. The only recourse left is to get out now and leave the oil there and stay out and get busy with reparations.

Clinton, like Bush, avoided service in Vietnam. When he became commander-in-chief, it was held against him and he allowed that opposition to influence his military decisions. It would have been better if he had talked plainly about Vietnam, saying that it was wrong, unconstitutional, based on lies, stupid and a mistake -- just declare that openly, and then deal with "terrorism" without that cloud hanging over him. Hopefully Kerry will get a chance to do exactly that. Bush will simply talk theology while leading us further and further into a bloody mess.

The soldiers whom Bush has put in harm's way, without telling us or them the real reasons for doing so, are trained to believe that they must obey the so-called commander-in-chief, and that doing so is a good and glorious thing. They are hardly allowed to think about what they are doing. Jonathan Swift defined their role, in GULLIVER'S TRAVELS, ages ago: "A soldier is a Yahoo hired to kill in cold blood as many of his own species, who have never offended him, as possibly he can."

I knew a veteran of the Korean War who couldn't discuss, couldn't even think about, the advisability of military action, as for instance in Vietnam or Cambodia. He had lost a leg in the earlier war -- stepped on a land mine -- and the sacrifice was too great. Even thinking about it felt to him that he would be betraying his own lost leg.

The terrorists are dangerous because they are zealots. Their courage is incontrovertible, but it is also insane. The fact that Bush and those advising him are zealots makes them also dangerous. Cheney's zeal has to do exclusively with oil profits. Rumsfeld is a psychopathic lover of mayhem and explosions with no regard for human lives. Wolfowitz' zeal has to do with Israel's Mid-East policy -- he should be removed as an agent of a foreign power. Karl Rove is a sharp, conniving, scheming ideologue, weak in the moral/ethical area. His advice is intended to be equivalent to God's. John Ashcroft is another extreme fundamentalist, who believes he has divinely-appointed authority to do what he pleases, regardless of what the old U.S. Constitution may say.

And Bush himself is a non-thoughtful, shallow fundamentalist, ready to use "God" as a catch-all explanation and excuse for everything. He doesn't understand his own Bible, which is full of irony and subtleties that are quite beyond him. He uses God and the Bible to make everything he does and says O.K. He cannot think of ever having made a mistake. Such a mentally retarded person should not be in charge of the most dangerous military force ever assembled, larger by far than the next ten armadas that exist in the world.

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Copyright © 2004 Harry Willson

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