by Bruce Rodgers
When the Republican
Convention started looming on the horizon, when it appeared that God
was not going to strike W dead for sending young men to
that meat grinder (using a Lee Judge image from one of
his recent Star cartoons) in Iraq, I decided it was time to
put on my Veteran for Kerry bumper sticker on the back
of my truck.
I had been hesitating, not wanting to peel off my Dean
bumper sticker. Howard is still my man, if for no other reason that
he went farther than Kerry in condemning Bushs war in Iraq.
But neither, at this point, has the guts to take a firm stand against
it. Only that sad egoist Ralph Nader and weird Dennis Kucinich are
point blank in saying we need to get out of Iraq. But neither is electable
as president, in large part because the corporate press refuses to
report on their positions in a serious way and belittles their efforts
to educate citizens to view issues beyond soundbites.
So that leaves Kerry, a fellow vet, a status that goes a long way
in leveling the playing field between us despite the fact he was an
officer, me a draftee, him blue-blood, me more blue-collar, him rich,
me decidedly middle class, him tall with a rich wife, me short with
a working class ex-wife...I could go on, but I think you get my drift.
In America, we elect presidents (with the exception of Harry Truman)
who are not like the vast majority of us; we just keep electing
them hoping they will become like us.
But the sticker went on because he is a vet, a combat vet, a guy who
could have skipped out using his familys influence and money
but didnt. The sticker went on because I was tired of hearing
the lies from those Swift Boat vets, tired of the Bush tactics of
smear and tired of the corporate media beating this so-called news
item to death, refusing to let it go BECAUSE THE FACTS BACK UP KERRY!
Its taken the corporate media awhile, but theyre finally
beginning to get it. The Swift Boat lies, the questions about Kerrys
medals and his motives in taking an anti-war stand really dont
have anything to do about what he did or did not do during combat.
Its because he took at public stand against the war and became
a leader against a war he fought in. And he told the truth about government
lies and the pain and horror of that war.
Some vets cant get it. They cant admit that the Vietnam
War was a waste...of lives and money. And the complaints usually come
from those vets who never fought in Vietnam. The vast majority of
veterans who went to Vietnam did not fight in combat. The ones that
did fight dont talk about it much. And many of them could give
two shits about politics.
I was in from 1971 to 1973. Drafted after not going back to college.
I didnt go to Vietnam. I pushed a pencil stateside and ran early
punch-card computer, sort of a war games clerk. But my company was
filled with guys who had spent time in Vietnam. Most had joined the
Army because they believed their government, they believed it was
a war for freedom. But they ended up in my data processing company
because they had re-upped for another four or five or six years in
the military to get out of Vietnam or to change their military job
ranking so they wouldnt get shot at or killed as the war wound
down. It was to save your ass. I heard the story over
Some had heavy-duty monkeys on their back. Heroin was cheap in Vietnam.
In Fort Hood, Texas, the jones was intense. Some shot up between their
toes and ankles to cover tracks, many stole from other GIs or the
Army to maintain the habit. A lot of them were country boys, just
like the guys going to Iraq. They didnt care about politics,
they just knew the government was bullshit. Talk centered on your
ETS (or end-this-shit) date how long before you
left active duty.
Kerry didnt dishonor his fellow soldiers by speaking out against
the Vietnam War. Our military was dishonored by the politicians who
ran the government and lied about the war. Thats usually the
way it is, in any country. Kerry is proud of his service to his country,
as are the vast majority of veterans, including me.
The great paradox is that American military men and women will sacrifice
their lives for the great ideal of democracy and freedom though they,
themselves, are in an institution lacking much of the freedom they
fight for. The sad and painful truth is that within such willingness
to give the ultimate sacrifice lies the hypocrisy of those in civilian
command who are unwilling themselves to sacrifice in the same way
for their country.
Buried in the back pages of the Star are the lists of dead
coming out of Iraq. Read the ages of those young men and women...19,
20, 23 most under 30 the future of this country wasted
on Bush Jr.s want to one-up his dad, Cheneys lust for
corporate dominance of world affairs and a host of pointy head neo-conservatives
playing out their theories of American manifest destiny as the bodies
So to those vets proud of their Electra Glides, touring to the lake
with the Mrs., or pointing their Ford F150s down I-70 at 85, convinced
its a righteous demonstration of American might, I dont
mind if you check me out.
And if you dont like my Veteran for Kerry bumper sticker, tough
shit. And if you give me some knee-jerk rationale about Bush being
a great leader, Ill bitch-slap you silly.
Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at