So...Frank is convinced that Kerry lied. I am not. If I listened only to, say, Johnnie Cocheran, I'd think O.J. innocent. Listen only to Chris Darden, and O.J. is guilty as hell. Listen to both sides, make a personal guess. Listen to what the judge and the jury say. Do I trust the verdict? Why or why not? Are there political axes grinding away? If I don't care much, I just listen to the verdict and accept it, unless I have a specific reason to believe the system corrupt. If I care massively, I do original research. In-between, I try to listen to what experts are saying on either side, and see what makes more sense to me.
The political threads are so tangled (that is, there are obvious and powerful reasons why Kerry would be attacked: to nullify the competitive advantage being a bona-fide war hero would have over Bush) that I have to take anything said against him with a grain of salt unless it is presented by
1) Someone I know personally.
2) Someone I have reason to have a high level of respect for.
3) (presumably) Neutral governmental sources testifying under oath.
4) Kerry himself, confessing.
Otherwise? A lot of "He-said, She-said." I might look at the people who BELIEVE in one side of the evidence or the other. Is there a great difference in intelligence, education, ethics? Not that I can see. The basic difference seems to be political orientation. And it seems to me that if he is lying as badly as some on the Right say, the government would have motivation to get involved. Otherwise, I'm left with two interesting things:
1) I find it possible that he may have been wrong about the position on the River. In Cambodia? Out? Some of his crew says yes, others say no? Could he have been wrong by being wrong, not by lying? There is certainly room for a raised eyebrow. But again, listening to only one side of a case always produces a slanted response. Insufficient data.
2) Was he probably exaggerating about atrocities "on a daily basis" "known up and down the chain of command"? Probably. But was that exaggeration out of step with what human beings say when they are highly agitated? No. "You always..." "you never..." "They all..." are common exaggerations, and I see equal amounts of this crap on all sides. In other words, if he witnessed three atrocities, and heard of two more, it is quite reasonable that he would overload and say "every day." People do that. "Up and down the chain of command"? Highly unlikely. Could it have SEEMED like that? Sure.
3) When the government says "this doesn't happen" in relation to atrocities, they are lying or deluded. Too many documented cases throughout history, and too many stories I got from people who were there. Approved of? In general HELL NO. Do officials look the other way? Doesn't every organization seek to protect itself?
I look at this the same way I look at the question of child abuse in the Catholic Church. The damning thing is not that it happens and we hear about it. The damning thing is that we NEVER hear about it unless a victim comes forward and insists the church take responsibility.
What? The Church has NEVER known of a pederast before the local newspaper does? It seems to me that they NEVER out a pederast priest and turn him in to the police unless the community is already in an uproar. Because I can't believe they could be so oblivious as to NEVER know, I come to the conclusion that they cover it up, unless there is no choice.
And the number of times the military has prosecuted soldiers for unseemly behavior without ANYTHING about the event leaking before hand seems suspiciously low to me.
And I'm not saying that there is something wrong with "our" soldiers. Or soldiers at all. Or "us." Far from it. I could take the position that
1) America is the best country ever
2) Our citizens are the best ever
3) Human beings are, on average, wonderful.
4) Our soldiers are the very best among us
And there would STILL be atrocities. It isn't the warriors. It is the nature of war itself. You can't open those doors of human perception, loose the bonds which universally constrict the capacity for violence, and then bond these guys (and gals) together and drop them into a war zone without clearly demarcated enemies. Let them get tired, hungry, frightened, angry. Watch their buddies blown apart. Put them in a kill-or-be-killed frame of mind in which the denigration of the foe is a normal part of daily conversation and action. And not expect that some percentage of them are going to go off the rails. They will. They always have.
And again, I've had maybe five friends who were seriously involved in combat. And in private conversations, three of them had seen things that haunted them, that they would not talk about publicly. In some cases, done things.
"Every day" "all of them" "up and down the chain"? No. "Doesn't happen" "Isn't policy" (THAT'S a huge, grim laugh) etc. No. The truth is obviously some where in-between. And this assumes the very best of intentions of sterling men and women with the world's best training.
Under stress, flaws are revealed. All are flawed. War is hell. Assuming these human drives can be perfectly contained is naivete at the least, willful ignorance in the middle, flat-out lying on the end.
So what Kerry said, absent an admission of lying FROM HIM, or sworn testimony evaluated by a (supposedly) neutral judge, strikes me as being, within the limits of the human tendency to re-construct reality around powerful emotional cores, plausible. And the Swift Boaters to have been a political hit squad.
I finished SHADOW VALLEY and sent it off yesterday. I'm still in a bit of shock...
Do you ever work on something so long, and so hard, that you begin to forget why you were interested in the first place? What was it, and when it was all over...was it worth it?
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:02 AM