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Jewish World Review Sept. 8, 2004 / 22 Elul 5764

Jill "J.R." Labbe

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Vets, loved ones seeing red | One's political view is often colored by the prism used to see the world during a particular moment in time.

These days, mine is red.

Not red as in "red state, blue state," but red as in the blood of three U.S. contractors who were killed last week when their headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, were bombed.

Red as in anger over the senselessness of the suicidal cowards who murdered good men who were trying to bring stability and democratic principles to a nation throwing off the stranglehold of militant religious fundamentalism.

Red as in the alarm raised among the U.S. advisers at my husband's compound in Kandahar, where they had been enjoying a week's holiday away from training Afghan recruits in the basics of democratic policing before news of their slain colleagues reached them.

Red as in eyes stinging with tears at the thought of dead Afghan children whose only crime was wanting to be close to Americans who handed out smiles and sweets.

This is the prism through which I view the 2004 presidential election.

It is the prism that will not allow me to see John Kerry as commander in chief of this country's armed forces during war.

Forget about what did or did not occur in 1968 on that Swift boat in the Mekong Delta, or how much Kerry bled to get three Purple Hearts and a truncated four-month tour of duty. Even his anti-war activism can, to a point, be pardoned. Great democracies allow for dissent, especially in times of war.

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But what cannot be forgotten - or, for millions of veterans, forgiven - was his decision to align with communist sympathizers and make accusations that sounded as if every man in a uniform was cutting the ears off Vietnamese civilians when troops were still in-country.

One of those troops was my husband, who in 1971 was patrolling the Vietnamese jungle around Cam Ranh Bay with nothing but a dog and an M-16 between him and the enemy.

Many veterans will forever see red when they look at the junior senator from Massachusetts.

Unfortunately, America has heard more about Kerry's Vietnam-era escapades than it has about his 19 years on Capitol Hill. And his campaign wants it that way. If you want to see world-class shuckin' and jivin', ask a Kerry supporter: "So what did your candidate do during almost 20 years in the U.S. Senate?"

That was exactly the question posed Tuesday, to Bob Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, when he appeared on National Public Radio's The Diane Rehm Show.

Borosage, whose Web site touts "information you need to challenge the latest outrages from the Bush administration," answered the caller with a monologue about Kerry's plans once in the White House. He offered not a word about Kerry's Senate record, which is conspicuous for its absence of any major legislation bearing the Kerry name.

Politicos are known by the votes they cast, so Kerry can be evaluated by the special-interest group ratings that Project Vote Smart collected on him. Kerry scored 100 percent approval ratings from NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the AFL-CIO, the National Education Association, the Alliance for Retired Americans and the American Public Health Association.

He's chalked up a record that puts him squarely in league with the nation's liberal ideologues.

There is a caveat to Kerry's "voting" record: Of the 17 key Senate bills that the Project Vote Smart used to rate lawmakers, Kerry actually voted on only six. He expressed approval or disapproval of five others, but with his penchant for switching positions on issues, one should keep that white correction fluid handy.

One vote he did commit to paper was a "no" for the $86.5 billion in emergency funds for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Once again, veterans and their loved ones are seeing red.

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JWR contributor Jill "J.R." Labbe is senior editorial writer and columnist for the Star-Telegram . Comment by clicking here.

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© 2004, Jill "J.R." Labbe