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John Simkin

John Kerry v George Bush

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I first came across the name of John Kerry in 1987 when I was researching a book on the Vietnam War. I found his story very interesting. Unlike most wealthy Americans, Kerry decided not to use his family power and influence to avoid doing military service in Vietnam. He served with distinction winning several medals for bravery. However, after his period of combat duty he returned to America and became an active member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. This was a very unpopular move and the American public did not like to hear some of the things he had to say about the war. This included details of atrocities committed by American troops. As he said in one speech: “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 trade in violence.”

It is interesting to compare the different ways that Kerry and Bush reacted to the Vietnam War. Both men were initially in favour of the war. Whereas Kerry went to fight for the cause he believed in, Bush used the influence of his father to enrol in the National Guard. This was one of the many strategies open to the wealthy to make sure their sons did not have to risk their lives in Vietnam. I suppose you cannot blame fathers from doing what they can to protect the lives of their sons. However, I find it rather repulsive that these people were at the same time advocating a policy of sending greater numbers of other parent’s children to Vietnam.

In the Middle Ages kings and princes were expected to lead their men into battle. No doubt this influenced their decision making. Up to the second half of the 20th century the sons of prime ministers and presidents were expected to fight in wars. For example, Herbert Henry Asquith, the prime minister of Britain on the outbreak of the First World War, lost his son Raymond in the conflict. Winston Churchill actually left the cabinet in the war to serve on the Western Front.

This is an alien idea to modern politicians. They are aware that their sons are protected from the need to fight in wars. Wars are normally declared by old rich men and fought by the young poor (plus a few senior officers from the upper classes to keep them in order). War leaders usually benefit from an increase in popularity during a conflict. It is especially true if you lead the most powerful military force in the world. Initially you are bound to have a series of military victories. This gives you the opportunity to dress up in military uniform and have your photograph taken with the troops. However, as Bush and Blair are discovering, occupying a country is far more difficult than invading it.

It is true that Kerry lacks warmth and charisma but he comes across to me as a honest politician. True he supported the Iraq War. But he also supported the Vietnam War. He admitted his mistake then, hopefully he will do the same about Iraq.

Some people have complained that he is rich. As far as American politics is concerned, I think this is a good thing. Politicians in America with good liberal records do tend to be very wealthy. This is how they have maintained their independence. Most politicians in America depend on the financial support of special interest groups. This has a terrible corrupting influence on political decision-making. Bush’s period as president has been a classic example of this problem. As Kerry has rightly said, it is desperately important that America take a close look at the way special interest groups exert their power over the political process.

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It is interesting to compare the different ways that Kerry and Bush reacted to the Vietnam War.

In the Middle Ages kings and princes were expected to lead their men into battle. No doubt this influenced their decision making. Up to the second half of the 20th century the sons of prime ministers and presidents were expected to fight in wars.

I am going to address this as a comparison between the Vietnam experience of Kerry versus Bush and the impact it has on their fitness to lead the United States.

I spend a good deal of time on a debate site called America's Debate and one of our threads revolves around the question, did Bush go AWOL as a member of the guard.

While it is reasonably easy to legally show that he must not have been AWOL because he received an honorable discharge, this does not mean that Bush's war record was honorable. Another point brought up on the thread is that it is a disservice to guardsmen to refer to enrolling in the guard as dodging the draft. This resonates more truthfully today than for Bush's day because of the tremendous burden that the present conflict has put on the guard and the reserves.

IMO Bush used the guard carelessly and took a vacation from his responsibilities to engage in political activities in Alabama. He received special treatment.

Kerry was eligible for the same special treatment and went in and served. Bush played at war exercises, which has its own types of dangers, and Kerry went to the fighting. That gives him a perspective about war that must only be shared by those who have faced it. The combat veterans I have spoken to are always darkly touched by the experience. While many have pride in their actions, they seem to have learned the basic truth that war is bad.

As far as the historical point that in the old days sons of the wealthy assumed the responsibility of their station admirably, I take issue with that. i think their have always been Bush's and Kerry's in that regard and some chose to seek out the glory and honor that came with stepping on the battlefiled and others worked behind the scenes to control power. I am not sure how much time Cardinal's Richilieu and Mazarin spent on the battlefield. The wealthy have long had the ability to shiled themselves from battle (the practice of hiring a second in the Civil War is an example) but those with grand political or true patriotism ambitions also knew the value of sharing the danger if war visited their age.

(Gulp, no spell check?)

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It is surprising that something as shameful as Vietnam War is becoming a great asset in the presidential campaign against Bush!

It is surprising that peacefully minded democrats who probably oppose wars (and who opposed Vietnam War) will vote for Kerry partly because of his greater war experience gained in Vietnam than Bush can show! Isn't it a strange interchange of priorities and preferences ??..

Anyway, will Kerry last?? The latest news about him sounds disturbing.

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Kerry was eligible for the same special treatment and went in and served.  Bush played at war exercises, which has its own types of dangers, and Kerry went to the fighting.  That gives him a perspective about war that must only be shared by those who have faced it.  The combat veterans I have spoken to are always darkly touched by the experience.  While many have pride in their actions, they seem to have learned the basic truth that war is bad.

I think this a very important point. I have always had a strong interest in people’s war experiences (ever since as a child I discovered that my grandfather had been killed on the Western Front during the First World War). It is clear that the experience has a profound impact on the individual consciousness. Although some have had good wars (in the sense it has given them increased status etc.) it is rare to find someone who does not think that war produces no winners, only losers.

It could be argued that George Bush and Tony Blair would not be so keen on the idea that wars can solve problems if they had actually experienced war in their youth. I suspect both have been heavily influenced by the way that the cinema has represented war. I wonder how many books they have read of people’s actual experiences of war.

It is for this reason that I think that the world would be a safer place with John Kerry as president. He at least has had first-hand experience of war. Far better him than someone who has been brought up on the films of John Wayne.

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Far better him than someone who has been brought up on the films of John Wayne.

Are you suggesting or do you know this for sure? Have Bush been brought up in this way?

Your contributions are usually balanced and well composed but your last sentence seems very strange coming from you.

Or have you been carried little bit too far by emotions?

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Are you suggesting or do you know this for sure? Have Bush been brought up in this way?

Your contributions are usually balanced and well composed but your last sentence seems very strange coming from you.

Or have you been carried little bit too far by emotions?

I think you must be confusing me with someone else. I don’t think I am every guilty of making “balanced” postings. I am a person of strong opinions and rarely sit on the fence. However, I always try to apply logic to my arguments. Where possible I provide evidence for my views.

It is true that I do not have detailed knowledge of the film viewing record of George Bush or Tony Blair. What I do know is that everyone is vulnerable to being influenced by films. This is a particular problem with films that manipulate audience emotions to make them feel good about their race or country. As teachers we have a responsibility to make sure our students discover what war is really like for those who take part in these conflicts.

Watching the actions of Bush and Blair has convinced me that they have become convinced by this idea that it is easy to use war to obtain some greater good (hence their constant reference back to the Second World War). I suspect they have been partly converted to this view by seeing too many John Wayne type films. They would have been better off reading books like A War in Words, Forgotten Voices, The Sharp End of War or This Bloody Game. However, it would seem they do not like these kinds of books. They seem more at home reading the Old Testament (they definitely don’t seem to have spent much time reading the New Testament).

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Some members will be aware of the website http://www.politicalcompass.org/, through a questionnaire it locates your ideological position.

Having analysed the speeches etc. of the major presidential candidates, they came up with the following conclusion.

USPrimaries031002.gif

Comparing Bush and Kerry to this international chart is also interesting:

internationalchart.jpg

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Some members will be aware of the website http://www.politicalcompass.org/, through a questionnaire it locates your ideological position.

Having analysed the speeches etc. of the major presidential candidates, they came up with the following conclusion.

Interesting. However, what did Saddam Hussein say or do to be put on the left? I am sure left-wingers in Iraq (well those still alive) will be surprised by this chart. Maybe being anti-American makes you left-wing.

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Watching the actions of Bush and Blair has convinced me that they have become convinced by this idea that it is easy to use war to obtain some greater good ....... . I suspect they have been partly converted to this view by seeing too many John Wayne type films.

Well if it helps you to analyse the surrounding world in which Bush and Blair are playing their parts in this way so be it.

There are moments when I can’t think otherwise then your digging into the facts behind Bush’s and Blair’s decision in respect of Iraq war and discovering the “John Wayne factor” must be a kind of “understatement” you British are so famous for.

Nevertheless, I do at the same time wonder if you are not in some subtle way trying to offer us, not yet understanding spectators of world scene a key by which we can better interpret behaviour of Adolf Hitler and other warmongers.

Alas, it must be because of watching the movies, stupid!

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda

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Hussein gets placed on the authoritarian left, I would assume because of the government ownership of most of the economy under his rule. Like Joseph Stalin, he ruled in a my way or the highway style.

But leaders like Hussein are dictator first and that leades to socialist control of private industry. I wonder where Hitler would fall on that chart?

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It is always interesting to think how long a week can be in politics. Bush is now parading his military service records infront of a nation who would have totally ignored such an issue if Clinton had been the Democratic front runner.

Kerry is looking stronger by the primary but he will need to win 70%+ of the votes outside of 'the South' if he is to remove Bush from The White House. With just 50% of those able to vote likely to attend a polling station in November the magnitude of the task is considerable.

In the States talk has begun as to who will be Kerry's running mate. Some favour Bill Richardson, others think Gephardt may yet make it as the number 2. I just wonder if Edwards might be the choice or Clarke - the latter will be a useful member of the ticket if Iraq drags on. He is also a southerner and was put forward by Clinton. Whatever their personal relations Hilary will come out and speak for the ticket if her man's choice is onboard.It also seems likely that Cheney will 'retire' and that the Republicans will be looking for a new VP and one who, if they win, can be the Presidential candidate in 2008.

It is also interesting to note that the leaders of France, Germany and Britain are meeting. Is this the start of a more pro-active EU stance on world affairs?

Whatever ones opinion on Blair he remains very popular in a number of mainland continental countries. Blair is a 'touch' politician, so his overtures 'across the pond' will be interesting to watch.

If 2000 was close then this one will be bitter and already one story of Kerry and a young woman has circulated.

One can only hope that the American people make a wise choice!

john

john_birchall@bsc.biblio.net

Edited by John Simkin

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Leonard Magruder produces a weekly right-wing email newsletter. For some reason he sends me a copy (probably thinks I need saving). This week it is a diatribe against John Kerry. As part of his campaign he has set up a website that contains the full text of the speech Kerry made to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 22, 1971. To me it is a fine speech but Magruder assumes it will hurt Kerry in his attempt to get elected. Will it?

http://members.aol.com/bear317p/kerry.htm

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Bush is now parading his military service records infront of a nation who would have totally ignored such an issue if Clinton had been the Democratic front runner.

Thanks, you are helping me in respect to my contribution in regard of who of these two guys, Bush or Kerry, are braver.

If the bravery of course could be measured by a participation in a dirty war of Vietnam.

Your remark on Clintons military service record does reveal the fact that reality is often more confused than our wishes to argue intelligently for and against …….

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda

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I really enjoyed the debate that I have read. Viewing these opinions are great, if President Clinton were in office this point would be moot. The supporters of Clinton would bury the fact that he did not serve ('''can you say draft dodger'''). We may never know the truth about the military service of George Bush. He served and was honorabily discharged. He now has proven to be a honorable President. The war on Iraq is unpopular but it was necessary and we pray that it will end soon. We Americans support our troops. John Kerry like President Bush is also a honorable man. American Presidental elections are nasty and ugly. Once the president is elected( Mr. Bush or Mr. Kerry) and sworn in the American people will support him. If the USA survived Mr. Clinton, who stained the office of the presidency with his immorality;we will survive with a strong and moral President as George Bush. I firmly believe that anyone who runs for public office will have skeltons in their closet. The media are like dogs that sniff out the worst in people. We all are human and are prone to making mistakes. I like John Kerry but my support is for Mr. George Bush. I was a democrat but no longer. This American polical party has lost it way and has leaned so far to the left. Enough of politics.

" Right on " Mr. Bush

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Thanks, you are helping me in respect to my contribution in regard of who of these two guys, Bush or Kerry, are braver.

If the bravery of course could be measured by a participation in a dirty war of Vietnam.

The issue is not about bravery but hypocrisy. My point was that Bush did not mind the idea of war as long as he did not have to fight in it.

It is interesting that the Republicans are resorting to the usual tactic of trying to stick a sex scandal on the Democratic candidate. In Europe few newspapers would run such a story about their political leaders. However, it seems to be acceptable tactics in American elections.

I see the woman named, Alexandra Polier, has denied the story. Interesting, her parents, described Kerry last week as a “sleazeball”. After hearing their daughter’s statement last night, they have changed their mind and will now be backing Kerry in the election.

If Bush is not careful he will be forced to debate political issues over the next few months.

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