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Jewish World Review August 5, 2004 / 18 Menachem-Av, 5764

James Lileks

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Is Kerry's Problem nuance? Or is it obfuscation? | The more this campaign continues, the more one cannot suppress the nagging suspicion that John Kerry had something to do with the Vietnam War. The latest piece of evidence came in his epic acceptance speech, in which he said, "I defended this country as a young man, and I will defend it as president."

It's a clever line because it has two possible meanings.

He could mean that his service in Vietnam defended America. Not a common view on the left, which often regarded the war as a chance to test exotic weapons on equally exotic people.

Perhaps he means that his castigation of the war — and the men who fought it — was the true defense of America. This nation had lost its way, and only by abandoning Vietnam to a regime bent on butchery and subjugation would we restore our self-esteem.

By some estimations, 200,000 Vietnamese died trying to escape after we left, but who cared over here? The draft was over, grass was cheap, and hey, here comes disco! Good times.

So which is it? He defended America in Vietnam, or defended it opposing the war? Wrong question.

To a mind schooled in life's infinite shades of gray, the real question is, "Why can't it be both?" The war was moral for the four months Kerry fought it, and became extra-super unjust the moment he auditioned for his freestyle medals toss over that fence at the U.S. Capitol. Clear?

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The public, however, may detect some first-class waffling here, since Kerry's poll numbers did not bound into the stratosphere after the Democratic National Convention. His message may not be resonating with the undecideds — particularly if the message comes across as "Tough on Terror, Gentle on France."

Consider the news of the week. Responding to the new alerts in New York, Newark, N.J., and Washington, Kerry attacked President Bush for not creating a super terrorism czar earlier, as if this ultra-powerful bureaucrat could morph into a 10-story transformer and stamp out al-Qaida cells with his big metal feet. He also noted the pesky problem of the madrassas, which churn out radicals at an alarming clip — but what would he have us do? Send in Delta Force to whack every loud-mouthed imam? JDAM everything with a spire in the Muslim world?

Of course not. Since Kerry blames Bush's policies for creating more terrorists, he can only advocate sending secret French agents to stroll past the storefront mosques and kick stinky pieces of cheese through the door. (And run.)

Then again, he does have a secret plan to win the war. How it works we don't know. He won't say because it's secret, silly. Perhaps it relies on a mind-control powder he slips into a foreign leader's tea. Perhaps he will bring other leaders on board by offering one of his vacation homes for a month. Full run of the bar, too! What can Bush offer? A ranch? Here are the keys to the chateau, Hosni; just leave them under the mat.

When the secret plan works its magic, foreign troops will take our place in Iraq. This suggests that the United Nations, which can't handle tiny Kosovo, could fix sprawling Iraq, if only it wanted to. But this also suggests that Americans want allies who would let us twist and bleed because they didn't like Bush's tone of voice. With friends like those, who needs the French?

The goal of the secret plan? Bugging out ASAP.

"I understand how to get us out of Iraq," Kerry said the other day — a remark that casually revealed his true intentions. To him it's not a matter of whether we should leave, but how. Victory is not defined by what we leave behind, but the fact that we're out.


"To all who serve in the armed forces," he said in his acceptance speech, "help is on the way!"

Given his record, we can assume this means a helicopter landing on the embassy roof in Baghdad to evacuate the refugees. First come, first served. And no shoving! If we learned anything from Vietnam, it's the importance of an orderly retreat.

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JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


07/30/04: Intimate liability
07/26/04: Sandy Berger's classified wardrobe
07/15/04: Pretty faces, ugly words
07/08/04: Genocide can't happen if we banish the word
07/01/04: Dropping political discourse level
06/24/04: Kerry's Science Buddies and the Silly Sanctity of Life
06/17/04: Behold the Summer of Bill Clinton!
06/10/04: Whatever happened to respect for the presidency?
06/03/04: Tales at the intersection of war and popular culture
05/20/04: Athletes on Notice: Strive Unflaggingly
05/13/04: America likes Rumsfeld, and the Dems can't take it
05/07/04: Kerry Supporters Have a New Take on Vietnam War
05/05/04: New cell phone does everything, but there's a problem...
04/29/04: John Kerry, prisoner of symbolic politics
04/22/04: Shall we grovel? Kerry Plan to Restore America's Place in the World
04/08/04: Sept. 11 Might Have Been Different If ...
04/02/04: Slinging slime or citing facts?
03/26/04: One War, One Enemy
03/22/04: Bloodied Spain Rejoins Old Europe
03/12/04: Why All Those Foreign Leaders Want Kerry to Whup Bush
03/08/04: Introducing the Kerry Doctrine
02/27/04: Introducing the AWOLs: Angry White Outraged Libs
02/20/04: Sifting the headlines of election year 1992
02/18/04: Guess Which Candidate Our Enemies Want to Lose in 2004?
01/29/04: Every Laptop a Truth Squad
01/27/04: When the battle over artistic freedom goes over the edge
12/31/03: For the Left and Right, Some New Year's Resolutions
12/22/03: Dean's black helicopters
12/15/03: Dems Are Mainstreaming the Extreme
12/08/03: Does Dean Really Want to Be President? One Wonders, When He Opens His Mouth
11/24/03: The real story: Most Brits see U.S. as force for good
11/19/03: The Trouble With Al Gore's Screed on Civil Liberties
11/11/03: Can a fellow win with the Confederate Metrosexual vote?
10/22/03: Let's make Greenpeace pay
09/29/03: Ah-nold & Clark may be on different sides of the aisles, but their supporters are cut from the same cloth
09/19/03: All Hail the Ninth Circuit Court of Surreal
08/26/03: This time, the record industry doesn't stand a chance!
08/18/03: Assessing the Schwarzenegger Factor in Republicanism
08/08/03: No wonder Howard ‘Two Covers’ Dean gets all the buzz
08/04/03: Expect bad news for the foreseeable future
07/28/03: Despot's Deserts
07/21/03: No winners in this game of gotcha
07/14/03: Doing the right thing in Liberia may not be the right thing to do
06/27/03: On feet in Democratic mouths
06/16/03: The real story behind Hillary's book
06/09/03:America's new mission was and remains: Extirpating the flaming nutballs and the societies that nurture them
06/03/03: The Constitution as gag order
05/23/03: Sometimes the theme of world events is chaos itself
05/16/03: Newspapers are only human, after all
05/13/03: What McCarthy messed up
05/06/03: Still think the International Criminal Court was a good idea?
04/03/03: The world is ending, the world is ending! Doesn't anybody care!? Why won't anybody listen!?
03/14/03: Kerry and the Dems are banking on American electorate's tendancy to forget history
02/28/03: Roadmap to peace?
02/13/03: We live in an age where the poet has been cast out from the halls of power --- sob, sob
02/10/03: Found: League for International Justice and Peace talking points
01/30/03: The US can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the UN can do is pass more worthless paper
01/23/03: People who'd volunteer for the Iraqi army if they saw Saddam wearing a "Free Mumia" button
01/16/03: One of those head vs. heart things
12/27/02: Whistleblowers?
01/06/02: The second year of this jangled millennium
11/16/01: Attack of the 'Patriotism police' and other Hollywood fare
11/12/01: From the bleats of dismay
10/30/01: Osama and the Genie
10/08/01: "We can stop the Bush Death Juggernaut"
11/04/01: America, loathe or it leave it
09/25/01: Do the Europeans actually think that the war on murderous zealotry will be furthered by undercutting America?
08/27/01: If the economy is in a funk, why aren't we dancing?
08/14/01: Dubyah's embarrassing presidential vacation
08/10/01: Hail to our co-chiefs?
08/03/01: Constitution: George the Uniter picked a doozy to unify detractors
07/25/01: The real reason why we need missile defense (What those uppity policy wonks won't tell you!)
06/18/01: Paining the egalitarian soul
06/01/01: One of the stranger indexes you'll ever hear about
05/21/01: One man's toke is another man's snort
05/08/01: Republicans want poisoned water
04/23/01: We bleat as we're sheared
04/10/01: Boys will be boys. And that's the problem
04/06/01: Pity the anti-American Left, they're gonna have a hard time on this one
03/26/01: You've been warned
03/16/01: The GOP's inexplicable desire to fold
02/23/01: Will the Jeb Bush administration attack Saddam in 2011?
02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2003, James Lileks