There's Something Fishy about the Swift Boat Political Ads...
And It's a Red Herring

Michael H. Glantz

24 August 2004

There’s something fishy about the Swift boat political ads…and it’s a red herring


In the early 1960s I was in the Rhode Island National Guard and in the late 1960s worked as a civilian on transpacific cargo shipments to Southeast Asia for the Military Airlift Command headquarters in Belleville, Illinois. I was not called up to go to Vietnam because in 1963 there was no major involvement of US troops in Vietnam. However, my stint in the Guard did provide me with some experience (albeit limited) of serving in the military and going through basic training. I joined the Guard so that I could later work overseas in a US Agency for International Development training program. I did the weekend warrior thing, at least for a while.

Listening to the controversy surrounding the anti-Kerry Swift boat TV ads, and hearing that they were turning vets against Kerry, I realized that I too am an honorably discharged veteran sans combat experience (though I did spend time observing two of Portugal’s colonial wars --- in Angola and in Portuguese Guine). All this is just some insight into the paragraphs that follow.

At the outset I want to say that the Swift boat anti-Kerry controversy in a manufactured one. That is, it is a story concocted by people who for whatever reason want Bush to win a second term in office. These attack ads present a political “red herring” issue which is designed to trash the record of a guy, like thousands of other Americans, who volunteered (for whatever reason) to participate in a war effort. The negative attack ads also are meant to put Kerry on the defensive (he has to take time out away from presenting his views on key issues of concern to many people --- the urban guerilla war in Iraq, tax breaks for the rich, the sullying of the American environment, etc.) (photo by Ed Mundy).

Now that the second surviving Swift boat commander (aside from Kerry) Rood has supported Kerry actions in Vietnam, the Swift boat stories can be proven wrong as nothing more that disinformation, i.e., propaganda, verging on slander.

I am writing now because the media has reported that the Kerry-Edwards team is losing support drastically among veterans, because of these ads. Now, I do not care how people vote. That is their choice and that is the reason we have so many veterans of foreign wars who fought to protect that personal right. But what such attack ads suggest is that veterans from all services, of all ages and who fought in various wars, police actions and other conflicts are gullible, easily hoodwinked and incapable of separating fact from fiction, even at the expense of their own personal financial well-being. This cannot be the case.

I have much more faith that veterans will see the truth on this particular issue. And that truth is that there are two candidates, one having served in an unpopular war, been wounded, and received medals including three honored Purple Hearts. The other served in the Alabama National Guard, whose Guard record is unclear {few remember him}, who stayed at home enjoying the freedoms afforded by living in America.

Veterans are not stupid nor are they fools. Obviously, they have political views that span the political spectrum. That political right was why their forefathers participated in various wars on behalf of the American people of all political persuasions, colors, creeds and national origins. But they must not let incorrect misleading attack ads be THE main reason that they vote for one candidate or against another.

I think that the brain trust behind the launching of the Swift boat TV ads attacking Kerry’s war record has blundered in a strategic way {Remember that the Bush presidential campaign in 2000 did the same to the war record of Senator McCain, his fellow Republican}. Their attack ads were aired too far in advance of the election in November. Such a long intervening time period before the election allows veterans to get to the facts (such as the support of the other surviving Swift boat captain, Rood), which have apparently been intentionally distorted. Had these ads been released closer to the election there would not have been time to sort out who was telling the truth about Kerry’s military service.

What worries me though is the following quotation penned by Shakespeare in Julius Caesar: "Cassius suggests that the people get the government they deserve…". This can be a good thing, if (and it’s a big “if”) the people do their homework and vote based on facts, not on rumor or innuendo. However, it is a bad thing, if people vote only based on emotional responses, especially emotion whipped up by media ads that spread misinformation and untruths.

Keep in mind the following scary thought: I had more military experience that the VP Vice President Cheney who apparently had “other priorities” [his words] during the Vietnam War era and, as a result, he had no basic experience in the military.

P.S. I think it is interesting to note that if Cheney had said during the Vietnam War era what he is saying today, the veterans that he is “kissing up to” today would have attacked him as being unpatriotic.

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