Exercise your rights. Speak up. And vote.

Tuesday 26 October 2004 at 02:16

The advantage of living in a representative democracy is that you get to choose political leaders without bloodshed. See, in non-democratic governments you can only change things by revolution.

In this particular democracy, we also get to demonstrate and to speak out against the government. (Many nations forbid one or both.)

Speak up. Vote.

These are the only powers given to you by the Constitution. If you don't vote and you don't voice your opinion you are abandoning the only legal powers you have over the government and you are surrendering to the tyranny of the special interests and political extremists.

You don't have to be smart to vote. You don't have to have read every news story to vote. You don't have to have a degree to vote. You don't have to own land to vote. You just have to be a citizen of this country. So vote according to the best that you can put together of your guts and your heart and your mind. Sure it would be great if everyone would educate themselves about all of the issues and make the most informed decisions possible, but not everyone will. It would be unforgivably elitist to suggest that only the most informed voters should vote, like suggesting that only white men who own land should vote -- we have come farther than that, thank you very much.

Vote.

Just in case you happen to still be undecided...

Why I'm voting against the current administration:

  • Iraq: immanent threats, and WMDs.
  • Simple economics: it's unforgivably irresponsible, even devious, to cut taxes with one hand while increasing spending with the other.

Why I'm voting for Kerry:

  • Combat experience: each presidential candidate is rich white man who claims to be the tougher warrior. I'd prefer Kerry who has actually seen combat up close and personal.

Iraq:

The rationale leading up to the war emphasized 1) immanent threats, 2) weapons of mass destruction, and 3) associations between Iraq and the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. What immanent threat? What WMDs? And what link between 9/11 and Iraq? On all three of those points, the administration has been proved wrong. Iraqi military presented no appreciable resistance to the US invasion. So much for an immanent threat. No weapons of mass destruction have been found. Even Rumsfeld himself has been quoted saying no hard evidence links Saddam and Bin Laden

Our Commander in Chief invaded another country without provocation. Never before in my lifetime has the United States initiated military action without provocation. The rationale justifying that action has come up completely empty. What's worse, explosives documented by the International Atomic Energy Agency have disappeared into the fog of war. The stated purpose of the invasion was to secure Iraq's weapons. They failed.

They got the rationale completely wrong and now we learn that they also failed to secure key components of the Iraqi weapons programs that actually existed. Completely inexcusable.

Simple economics:

The present administration would have you believe you can have your cake and eat it too. Instead of tax and spend it's tax-cut and spend. It's burning the candle at both ends. They're talking out of both sides of their mouth. Dealing from both sides of the deck. How many cliches can I come up with to say that you can't have it both ways?

Moreover, it is completely immoral that the mostly poor citizens who volunteered for the military are sent to kill and die in the Middle East while big business and the super rich enjoy the biggest tax breaks in recent memory. While poor families pray for the lives of their sons and daughters, the administration "supports our troops" by cutting taxes for the wealthy and powerful.

Combat experience:

I dislike this campaign's theme: my warrior is tougher than your warrior. The rhetoric of the "war on terror" is all wrong. Sadly, we are in fact picking a warrior to lead us in the misguided "war on terror." The incumbent is the son of a rich white man who took a cushy ride through the Vietnam War. Kerry is another rich white man who volunteered for combat in the Vietnam War. Leopards don't change their spots. Bush thinks he's got the courage. Kerry actually does.

Terrorism is a form of guerrilla warfare, something which Kerry has seen in person. I would prefer Kerry to be in the Oval Office making the choices that involve sending young Americans to kill or be killed in asymmetric combat. He knows what that kind of combat looks like up close and personal.

james commented

26 October 2004 at 06:21

How does it make you feel that the possible president of the US once authored a book depicting the marines in IWO JIMA proping up un upside down American flag.
And through the entire book mocked the very troops that were dying for you and me. That's nothing conpared to the fact that the communist felt he was os imperitave to their cause he is ( to this day ) on the communist wall of fame. Now you can say what you want about the man but his conduct when he got back from the war was utterly treasonous and reprehensible. I'm being very adult about the whole situation. No "yeah Kerry...Bush is great..blah blah. But the afore mentioned things I mentioned are only tiny little morsels of the things he did and said when he got back. For a president to have undulged it that type of behaviour just seems to be beyond the pale.

JMO

James Angelton the 3rd.

Do a google on James Angelton and you'll see how I might be privy to some info the rest of the public might not be.

Thanks, good blog.

eric commented

27 October 2004 at 02:21

James, thanks for your comments and for the applause for my blog. 'Treasonous' and 'reprehensible' are strong words. You ask how it makes me feel. Let me say that it's clear that you feel very strongly about it. I take your sentiment very seriously, though I think you and I disagree. I was born in 1968. What I know about Vietnam is all second-hand. But the few things I have learned have effected me deeply. I also feel strongly, if a little confused.

Before I published this post, I took a moment to read Kerry's 1971 speech before the House Foreign Relations Committee just so I knew what I was implicitly endorsing. I found it pretty moving.

http://www.pbs.org/greatspeeches/timeline/j_kerry_s.html

"The country doesn't know it yet, but it has created a monster, a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence, and who are given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history; men who have returned with a sense of anger and a sense of betrayal which no one has yet grasped."

In November of last year I crossed paths with one of those millions of men who learned to deal and trade in violence in the jungles of Vietnam. He was very drunk, apparently homeless, and clearly still angry. I wrote about that experience here in "Lucia and The Veteran".

http://dobbse.net/reflection/2003/11/000134.html

That guy is a casualty of the Vietnam war. War is hell. It is an expression of the very worst that we humans can do to each other. We forgive inexcusable things in the name of war. The one good thing that came of the Vietnam war was giving the folks back home a picture of the gruesome reality of war. Unfortunately in the process we as a country gravely mistreated the soldiers and veterans who were as much victims of the war as they were participants. It was as tragic and reprehensible as the war itself.

I sincerely understand what you are saying. The suffering and torture of our soldiers increased as the Vietnamese recognized the division in this country. The outspoken protesters stoked those flames. Just tonight I had dinner with a couple vets, one of whom spent several months as a POW in Hanoi. This is the same pair of vets I wrote about two years ago on Veteran's Day:

http://dobbse.net/reflection/2002/11/000067.html

I really can understand why you see Kerry's protests as treasonous. But I can also understand the urgent need to speak out against the war. In fact, that part I feel right now. Our freedom to speak out against the government is one of the few powers we have. The government was wrong to deploy our soldiers in Vietnam. And our invasion of Iraq was wrong too.

Kerry ended his testimony before the House with this:

"We wish that a merciful God could wipe away our own memories of that service as easily as this administration has wiped away their memories of us. But all that they have done, and all that they can do by this denial, is to make more clear than ever our own determination to undertake one last mission: To search out and destroy the last vestige of this barbaric war; to pacify our own hearts; to conquer the hate and fear that have driven this country these last ten years and more. And more. And so, when, thirty years from now, our brothers go down the street without a leg, without an arm, or a face, and small boys ask why, we will be able to say "Vietnam" and not mean a desert, not a filthy obscene memory, but mean instead where America finally turned, and where soldiers like us helped it in the turning."

I admire Kerry for taking up that one last mission to try to put an end to the war. I don't really know how to reconcile that with the price other soldiers paid for Kerry's words. It is precisely this tension that makes me careful to criticize the leaders of our country and their policies and not the soldiers. But I may be committing the same crimes against our soldiers in my opposition to the war in Iraq.

A little more digging around on the 'Net reveals that many Kerry opponents accuse him of lying in that speech about the atrocities he claimed were committed by our military. They cynically suggest he was trying to get publicity for his book and to set himself up for a career in politics. First, let me say that there is probably some truth in these claims. Kerry has made quite a career out of politics and politicians are all very good at spinning the facts in ways that support their own arguments. But it seems hopelessly naive to claim that our soldiers are perfectly discriminating in how they kill. It's only the enemy who engages in torture and atrocity. It also seems like there are an awful lot of Vietnam vets out there on the street, psychically broken by their experiences -- I take that to be anecdotal evidence that something really bad was happening in Southeast Asia.

In the Fog of War ( http://imdb.com/title/tt0317910/ ), Robert McNamara described what he thought were "probably war crimes" committed by the US in Japan in WWII. He was talking not about the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki but about the campaign of enormous fire bombing we waged knowing that the Japanese cities were made of wood. Millions of Japanese civilians were ruthlessly burned alive. Atrocity and war might as well be synonyms. Kerry may well have been spinning the facts, but I believe there were important truths behind his spin and I believe he sincerely thought he was doing the right thing.

To your specific mention of the book, I think Google has directed me to the right place: _The_New_Soldier_ by John Kerry and Vietnam Veterans Against the War. I don't know the book at all but Independents for Kerry offer a different view than you did:

http://www.independentsforkerry.org/uploads/media/the-new-soldier.html

They say the caption to a related photo on the inside cover reads:

"It was Thursday night, after the candlelight march, when the guys came back and were on stage with the flag. There was this spontaneous feeling of pride. I sort of drew a parallel with Iwo Jima. I guess you had to, because it was with the same type of pride that they put up the flag in Iowa Jima. And when it was done - instead of burning the flag, they took it and they folded it up because as Phil Lavoie, one of the vets with the flag said, 'We love America, we're not here to destroy it.'"

You may well say that hanging the flag upside down is a lousy way to show your love of country. Same goes for making a parody of the marines in Iwo Jima in an intentional media stunt. But I see the same tension here. Horrible things were happening and being done in Vietnam as in any war.

Hopefully that says a bit about how I feel. I see mostly shades of grey. But I also believe Kerry was sincere in his opposition to the war even if he was setting the stage for a career in politics. We seem to always be choosing between lesser evils. I still prefer to vote for the man who has seen asymmetric warfare in person, even more so knowing that he came back from that experience to loudly oppose the war. Sounds like he was paying attention. I would be much more alarmed if someone had seen warfare up close and come back somehow unmoved.