Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Two people have now commented about Max Cleland. I thought about including him, but decided not to do it for two reasons:

(1) He is not a former President or current political leader, as the others are;

(2) I can't talk about the hatchet job done to Max Cleland without getting worked up.

It's bad enough that the Republicans tried to defame a decorated Vietnam veteran as soft on terrorism, just because he wouldn't roll over and play dead for the Administration's moronic legislative initiatives.

But what really makes me see red is the Repundits who have claimed that he does not deserve to be considered a hero because his injury doesn't "count." The problem is twofold: (1) he was a war hero before his injury, and (2) his injury was suffered while "in country," and resulted from his exposure to battlefield ordnance carried by soldiers who could be fired upon at any moment.

Ann Coulter said that he was on his way to get a beer when he blew himself up. (First she admits that he "reached" for the grenade, then her rhetoric was all about "dropping a grenade on his foot.") Her argument is that Cleland was in no more danger than Dubya was in the National Guard:

"Indeed, if Cleland had dropped a grenade on himself at Fort Dix rather than in Vietnam, he would never have been a U.S. senator in the first place. Maybe he'd be the best pharmacist in Atlanta, but not a U.S. senator. He got into office on the basis of serving in Vietnam and was thrown out for his performance as a senator.

Cleland wore the uniform, he was in Vietnam, and he has shown courage by going on to lead a productive life. But he didn't "give his limbs for his country," or leave them "on the battlefield." There was no bravery involved in dropping a grenade on himself with no enemy troops in sight. That could have happened in the Texas National Guard – which Cleland denigrates while demanding his own sanctification."

She went on to say that Cleland was not at Khe Sanh at all, and that Lexis-Nexis is the biggest problem facing the liars of the Left.

Okay. Let's do what all honorable Americans should do. Stop taking people's word for it and do the legwork your own d*mn self.

Capt. Cleland was riding with the First Air Cav (of "Apocalypse Now" fame) to serve as a communications officer at Khe Sanh, and his valor in that action earned him a Silver Star. Here's the text of his commendation, which an outraged Sen. Zell Miller read into the Congressional Record:

"Awarded: Silver Star; Date Action: 4 April 1968; Theater: Republic of Vietnam

"Action: For gallantry in action while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam. Captain Cleland distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous action on 4 April 1968, while serving as communications officer of the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry during an enemy attack near Khe Sanh, Republic of Vietnam.

"When the battalion command post came under a heavy enemy rocket and mortar attack, Capt. Cleland, disregarding his own safety, exposed himself to the rocket barrage as he left his covered position to administer first aid to his wounded comrades. He then assisted in moving the injured personnel to covered positions. Continuing to expose himself, Capt. Cleland organized his men into a work party to repair the battalion communications equipment which had been damaged by enemy fire. His gallant action is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

"Authority: By direction of the President, under the provisions of the Act of Congress, approved 9 July 1968."

According to the Boston Globe,

"Finally, the battle at Khe Sanh was over. Cleland, 25 years old, and two members of his team were now ordered to set up a radio relay station at the division assembly area, 15 miles away. The three gathered antennas, radios and a generator and made the 15-minute helicopter trip east. After unloading the equipment, Cleland climbed back into the helicopter for the ride back. But at the last minute, he decided to stay and have a beer with some friends. As the helicopter was lifting off, he shouted to the pilot that he was staying behind and jumped several feet to the ground.

Cleland hunched over to avoid the whirring blades and ran. Turning to face the helicopter, he caught sight of a grenade on the ground where the chopper had perched. It must be mine, he thought, moving toward it. He reached for it with his right arm just as it exploded, slamming him back and irreparably altering his plans for a bright, shining future."

Later, a fellow soldier admitted to Cleland that he had dropped the grenade. He was a new guy who didn't have his gear figured out yet.

So, here's the story:

1) Cleland was not at Khe Sanh. He was near Khe Sanh, under attack because he was supporting the infantry and cavalry fighting at Khe Sanh, and he performed acts of valor while under fire near Khe Sanh that won him a Silver Star. He then he left there to go work at a communications post near Khe Sanh. So Coulter was literally right, in the most twisted way possible. Those damn Liberals! They just keep lying!

2) Cleland decided to stay behind at the communications post, which was "in country" in the middle of the GVN and near the site of a seige. His reason for doing so was to "have a beer" with the men that had helped him repair it. This hardly counts as "going for a beer" at the "club." And it hardly counts as being as safe as Bush's "champagne unit" in Texas. Texas liberals get mad, but we don't hide in the jungle and shoot people with AK-47s. We prefer to use our withering wit instead. But we're less effective, which is probably why Bush worked so d*mn hard to stay in Texas instead of Vietnam.

3) There's not a lot of live ordnance lying around at the Air National Guard posts, in contrast to a battlefield, which is a damn dangerous place even when aforementioned enemy soldiers are not shooting at you at that very moment. Bush was in greater danger of tripping over his own d*ck than a live grenade.

4) He is a war hero. If you disagree, take it up with the President who gave him the medal.

5) Please contrast all of the above to Dubya, who leapfrogged into the Air National Guard, and then refused to perform his service once he was there. If you are concerned about Ms. Coulter's representations of the documentary proof of that service, please read the records for your own d*mn self and come to your own d*mn conclusions.

Vietnam is a deadly serious issue, even today, twenty-nine years after the fall of Saigon. There were noble and good reasons for men to go to Vietnam. There were noble and good reasons for men to refuse. And there were a whole range of options that were less than noble and less than good, but which were all eminently human.

The men that acted nobly deserve America's thanks and admiration, no matter where they demonstrated that nobility.

And the ignoble traded something for their safety. It's a modest sacrifice, but they must -- absolutely must -- shut the f*ck up.

 9:29 AM

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