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January 22, 2006

I guess I should say something about Murtha...

...judging from the email I've been getting, largely sparked by James Webb's NYT OpEd piece, Purple Heartbreakers.

I haven't scoured the archives, but I don't think I've attacked Murtha's Vietnam record. There have been harsh words expressed in this space by others (mostly former Marines or deeply involved with them) about Mr. Murtha's "Marineness" in his current incarnation - which is not quite the same thing as questioning his service in Vietnam. As I said, I'm not going to scour the archives, y'all can do that.

I have attacked Mr. Murtha's policy and pronouncements, and I find his comments regarding "any appearance of a victory" unsettling, though, in context I believe he meant that he since he feels we lost already, he wants us to treat it as a loss, and leave as losers, tails between our legs, dejected and demoralized, so that one, we learn our lesson, and two, the Democrats get the political leverage. He doesn't want us declaring victory and going home - he wants us to wallow in defeat. And if you don't believe my part two is in there - you're fooling yourself.

I don't believe we have lost (we certainly can, however), therefore I think his position leads to bad policy (and losing).

Ah, you say - but you *did* attack Kerry's service. Yes, I did.

While not a Vietnam vet my father is. By his understanding of at least two of Kerry's wounds, Dad would have come back from Vietnam with 8 Purple Hearts (as it was, he came back with 5, all requiring stitches or better, to include a through-and-through of the lower leg.) For then-Lieutenant Kerry to use a policy intended for draftee enlisted (3 Purple Hearts, go home) to clear himself from a combat zone he *volunteered* to go to, while leaving his enlisted crew to finish out their tours facing dangers he no longer wished to face, is simply unacceptable conduct for an officer. Mr. Kerry volunteered multiple times (his enlistment, acceptance of officer training, acceptance of the commission, asking for the combat tour) and for him to leave early is, to this officer, unacceptable conduct.

By my lights, Kerry was a dilettante poseur. He wanted his "Kennedy" credential, and found that the price for it was higher than he was willing to pay - so he ran from it, and when he discovered that he could get laid being a protester, he went for it. No, I don't have much respect for either Senator from Massachusetts.

For those who accosted me with "But, John, was it not *more* honorable for him to leave to go home to protest a war he knew from personal experience to be immoral and unwinnable, than to stay and fight it?" my response is thus:

No.

That is *exactly* why I call him dilettante poseur. He says he went because he was troubled by the war, and wanted to go to see for himself. If this was his all along intent, then staying the whole tour, or resigning, taking his lumps, and fighting his fight would have been the honorable thing to do. He chose to leave early when he found the way to do so, then go chill on an Admirals staff for a while. I dislike David Hackworth, but he at least did something along those lines when he threw it all away and went to Australia - and in his later life, he made it clear he was *still* all about soldiers. Mr. Kerry is all about soldiers when it suits him to be. Which is true of much of the political class, on both sides of the aisle.

Back to the point - the difference between Mssrs Kerry and Murtha is that Kerry waved his credentials at everybody, used them to hammer on President Bush, and made his credentials the issue. Representative Murtha has not. And his detractors should not, in truth. The letter from Marine Corps Headquarters affirming his awards wasn't needed - I know how chintzy the Marines are that way. I saw how difficult it was for a Marine battalion commander to get a 'V' device for a Bronze Star when he was leading a counter-attack against tanks attacking a towed artillery battery.

Former Navy Secretary Webb makes some valid points and slips in some duds - but his central thrust is, in my view, correct. Accept service for what it appears to be. Unless the individual in question makes it the issue, as Mr. Kerry did.

On the flip side - a politician's supporters shouldn't throw it around as a shield against criticism of policy stances, either. It isn't.