one can say that what I am about to say is partisan, or at least not
partisan for Democrats. I have a bumper sticker that says "Nader-Camejo
2004," and I wouldn't vote for John Kerry right now if you offered
to pay my mortgage off and send my kids through college. I'm not writing
to defend John Kerry. I think John Edwards is a standard-issue Southern
political snake-oil salesman, and I'm withholding my vote from my own
tip-toeing Democrat Congressman, David Price, in order to follow through
on a threat I made before he last voted to authorize more spending for
the war in Iraq. I'm not registered as a Democrat, and never have been.
With a few exceptions, I consider most Democrat politicians to be plain
garden variety opportunists and cowards. Finally, I think John Kerry
brought the Swift Boat slanders on himself to a large extent when he
pulled that stupid stunt at the Democratic Convention: "Reporting
for duty," indeed. Ya shouldna gone there, John.
For the record, I think even less of Republican politicians, who I know
from personal experience, including with many members of my own biological
family, to be mostly vicious racist homophobes. The people at the top
of both these party hierarchies, of course, are skilled imperialists
who share a nearly identical agenda--similar to that of a vampire or
an intestinal helminth.
Having said all that and given every devil his or her due, I have to
say that I am dismayed that the most effective anti-Kerry ad was the
one that highlighted the one time in his life he told the unvarnished
In 1971, in his testimony before Congress, Kerry told them, speaking
of what other soldiers had told him of their experiences in Vietnam:
"They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut
off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human
genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly
shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis
Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally
ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage
of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by
the applied bombing power of this country."
In telling others that this was the truth, I have had a few correspondents
tell me that this was not so, and that I was only justified in reporting
my own experience there, and not in generalizing beyond it. It's funny
how these legalisms jump up when people get caught with their pants
down. I disagree. Not only did I witness a number of these kinds of
activities in Vietnam, I talked to hundreds of you who told me you'd
done the same.
We were receiving treatment at Qui Nyon Hospital together, comparing
notes, sometimes behind the wards with a Bongson bomber (you know what
I'm talking about). We drank Mad Dog 20-20 together at the convalescent
barracks at Ft. Leonard Wood. Some of us went to the 82nd together and
we shared these experiences over a pitcher of watery beer at Rick's
Lounge. We were just as open as we could be with one another about what
we'd seen and done, while we were anesthetizing ourselves and the memories
were still fresh. Back then, we needed to talk with each other. No one
else could, or would, really listen and appreciate.
Now there are all these Vietnam vets who say it never happened, that
Kerry has impugned their reputations, and all I can figure is that you
all who are saying this must have been they guys who stayed in those
nice hooches there at Qui Nyon and other places with the water pipes
and the blacklight posters and the soft-porn pinups, and they never
humped a rucksack in the boonies. So, okay. You guys never burned down
anyone's house or shot their livestock or made their children scream
or killed someone just because there were no witnesses. You were toking
your water pipe or drinking a beer somewhere inside a giant perimeter
of bunkers with 50-cals and sleeping on a bunk at night. But every eleven
bravo I know and everyone I talked to back then, once our tongues were
loosened and our consciences numbed with the right chemicals we shared
what we saw, which was exactly what John Kerry told Congress.
My mom, who is from Arkansas, used to drive us nuts with her repetitious
little backwoods bromides. One of them was, "You can go to hell
for lyin' quick as you can for stealin'." Why in the world would
we want to start lying about what happened there now, three and a half
decades after the fact? Maybe because that war was just as criminal
and un-winnable as the one we are in today in Iraq? Saying that something
wasn't so doesn't change the fact that it was. It just diminishes those
of us who perjure ourselves. Wake up and smell the jungle rot, guys.
Stan Goff is the author of "Hideous Dream: A Soldier's Memoir
of the US Invasion of Haiti" (Soft Skull Press, 2000) and "Full
Spectrum Disorder" (Soft Skull Press, 2003).