discomfort (2006-46)

Truth Be Told

John Kerry owes no one any apology

by Steve Dupree

I spent 10 years in the U.S. Navy. I joined while the unpleasantness in Vietnam was winding down (but still going on), and stayed till it wasn’t fun for a bit. My twin spent six or seven years in the Air Force. My older brother was also Air Force. One of my older sisters just retired from 30 years or so in the Navy (active and reserve). My dad was Army (during either WWII or Korea or both, I can’t remember) as was my Mom’s dad. Three of mom’s brothers were military, two all the way to retirement.

I tell you all of that to forestall those of you who would accuse me of being a military-hating liberal or not knowing what I’m talking about. I still think of becoming a civilian as being the hardest job I have ever had to do.

I was enlisted, as opposed to commissioned, and spent most of my work and play time with other enlisted folk. Frequently, in slack time situations, we would do as you might reasonably expect and talk about our respective pasts. And that, ladies and gents, is why I think what I think.

John Kerry did by complete accident that which could never be forgiven by the Republican Party specifically and politicians in general. John Kerry told the truth.

I have not done any formal or informal analysis of the American military casualties of the Iraq war, but given my own experiences and interactions with other enlisted persons while I was in, I am comfortable betting whoever is silly enough to take the bet that 95 percent of the KIA in Iraq (and Afghanistan for that matter) do not have college degrees or, for most of them, any college at all. I do not say that to slam or insult anyone; it just makes sense. I went to college using my G.I. bill payments. I waited until after I got out of the military because they will not give you the payments while you are in. I have this sneaking suspicion that I was not the only one who had that experience. So let’s recap: Uneducated prior to and during my military experience and, after my discharge, college.

I knew plenty of smart enlisted people. I knew plenty of college-educated enlisted people. I knew plenty of enlisted folk with advanced degrees. But those with college educations at any level were clearly and definitely in the under-whelming minority.

Kerry’s botched joke, even in botched form, said nothing about the intelligence or educational potential of the military members. It just (accidentally) told the truth about who bears the lion’s share of the burden of blood when it comes to fighting for the nation.

As far as I am concerned, Kerry did not owe anyone an apology except perhaps anyone who has ever worked as a comedian. The ones who owe the military an apology are the chickenhawks of this administration, like Cheney, with his five deferments, and Bush, who clearly did not complete his Texas Air National Guard requirements. They have sent young Americans into war even though when they had the chance to serve, they opted out.

The media clearly owes the military an apology for not focusing on substantive issues and for not holding Republicans to the same standard as they did Democrats. And finally, we, the people, the citizens of this nation whose primary job is to monitor the government, not Survivor or Dancing With The Stars , and to vote to make such changes as are necessary to ensure that the military is not abused or placed in a position of committing crimes. We failed them, and we owe the apology.

By the time you read this, it will have been determined whether things are going to change. I personally hope that I’m done feeling like I owe the military an apology. No matter which party wins, we need especially vigilant citizens for the foreseeable future.