September 02, 2004

Blood sport

Am I getting this right? Bush and his Republicans are actually tearing at John Kerry because he didn't suffer enough in Vietnam? Master Bob Dole actually pooh-poohed Kerry's decorations because he didn't bleed enough? Master George Bush actually said that it wasn't a bullet that wounded Kerry, only shrapnel, and thus it couldn't have been a serious wound?

I'm rubbing my eyes in disbelief, reading all this. I mean, I'm used to sleazy political tactics from the Republicans -- these are the people, after all, who made Willie Horton a household name while destroying not just Mike Dukakis's Presidential campaign, but also his political career. That effort was so dirty that the man who thought it up, Lee Atwater, actually issued a public apology to Dukakis before he (Atwater) died.

But that was in the time of Father Bush. Today, Bush and Karl Rove think nothing of having a man who evaded going to Vietnam altogether -- Bush -- scorn a man who did go, did fight, did shoot and get shot at, did get wounded and did get awarded multiple decorations. That's three Purple Hearts for wounds suffered, a Bronze Star and the Silver Star for gallantry in action. Bush's acolytes are actually implying that some of those wounds were self-inflicted. And anyway, they were all only "slight" wounds (see, for one example of this frantic rush to belittle Kerry's wounds, this page).

So cynical is this gang, they are even running around the RNC in NYC handing out little fake Purple Hearts for all to wear.

I wonder as do many others horrified by this, what does that say about soldiers in Bush's own war venture -- Iraq -- who have been awarded Purple Hearts? Nearly 4000 so far (see, for example, William Rivers Pitt writing here).

How did those 4000 soldiers get them? By being actually wounded? Or by being only slightly wounded? Or by being wounded by shrapnel and not bullets? Or from a minor Republican functionary roaming the floor of Madison Square Garden? Or by evading the war altogether?

In one of the finest war memoirs I've ever read, "With The Old Breed", Eugene Sledge describes some truly horrifying stories of brutality from the Pacific in WW2. After a wrenching account of depravity from one of his fellow US Marines, he writes: "Replete with violence, shock, blood, gore and suffering, this was the type of incident that should be witnessed by anyone who has any delusions about the glory of war."

Watching the antics of Republicans desperate to re-elect Master Bush, I feel tempted to add: the sleaze they are making of war service should destroy any remaining delusions about this talk of glory.


Anonymous said...

everytime i watch American politics, i go down on my knees and pray that India has such great & mature politicians:) truly - their level to throw out sleaze is beyond measure.
But you must admit that it's a great communication tactic. the people - who are not particularly bright - have forgotten the sorry state of the economy, the sordid state of the war, and the slovenly state of international relations, and are focused on one thing - a war that was fought 30 years ago.


Anonymous said...

Harini, India has mature politicians ? Where do you live ?

Dilip D'Souza said...


While I see the point you are making (about the focus on a 30-year-old war), I think the "who are not particularly bright" remark is misplaced. Americans are about as bright or not particularly bright as anyone else in the world. After all, if we'd like to think they are not bright for having their attention directed at that war 30 yrs ago, we managed to get our attention directed at, and our politics taken over for 15 years now by, and kill each other over, a mosque that goes back nearly 500 years.

Of course, I should say "went back".

ak said...

Not surprising. After IRAQ, nothing surprises me anymore. These...forget it.

Anonymous said...

Questioning the military service of an individual while supporting the war efforts of your own are inherently paradoxical. Bush (or rather his vitrolic team) has almost made a mockery of the Purple Hearts, implying that they can be obtained by the dozen. What message does that send to his ah-so beloved troops? Does he really have their interests at heart? Maybe we will never know although we do know it.


Anonymous said...

well I stumbled on your site when googling marti's poem "dos patrias," and I couldn't help but read this entry. I'm an american, and as an american I want to let you know that over half of us agree with you. Unfortunately, just barely over half. And as a New Yorker, you should also know that the Republicans were very unwelcome guests last week, and "good riddance" is heard often on the streets nowadays. Hopefully the same can be said of the Republicans after November.
You're very right about the hypocrisies of the Republicans. I'm impressed with your easy familiarity with American politics.
So I guess the reason I commented is in the desi spirit - My family emigrated from Bangalore in '88. It's nice to hear such intelligent words from a familiar place.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Thank you Priya. The "easy familiarity", if that's really what it is, probably dates to the years I spent in the States, 1981-92. And I'm sure all Bangalore misses you! Why were you searching for Marti's words?

Anonymous said...

It's nice to hear that you've spent time in the US, and even nicer to hear that you retuned to India - I think one of India's gratest setbacks is that it continuously loses its greatest minds and talents to emigration. I plan to go back...
I'm taking a class on spanish literature, and I was interested in hearing some opinions on Marti's beautiful poem. Do you speak spanish?
keep posting...

Dilip D'Souza said...


I took conversational Spanish, and have travelled in Spanish speaking countries, so I speak enough to sort of get by.

But let's do this off-blog, as it were? email me at ddd at rediff dot co dot in.

Anonymous said...

The unbelievable thing is right after RNC Bush opened a 11 point lead against Kerry. Sometimes you wonder exactly what it is that Americans want. Do they want their troops back and also want Bush to continue as President? This is so confusing...

Incidentally I read another interesting post regarding this issue here:


Dilip D'Souza said...

But Dilip, the post-convention "bounce" is a well-known feature of election years. I remember in 1984 Mondale opened up a double-digit lead over Reagan after the DNC, and we all know how that contest turned out.

So I wouldn't pay much attention to Bush's 11-point lead. The election is still two months away, and that's a long time.

As for what Americans want, well: 300 million people, with a huge diversity of political opinion and conviction -- it shouldn't be any surprise that opinion polls turn up apparently contradictory positions!

Anonymous said...

You are of course right on that - on the Indian fetish to use things from the real or imagined past to create massacre each other. The ability of morons to be able to whip up mobs to destroy places of worship, study and learning.
however, the one thing that consistently redeems our elections is the fact that not all of us get taken in by spin. the city dwellers may, but the level of political awareness at the grass roots is something else .
However, there are still exceptions to this. The desire of Tamil Nad to cosistently elect Jaya aunty for ever baffles me, as does Lallu's popularity in Bihar. But, somehow at the national level, there is this amazing ability to cut through the crap and vote for the right set of parties (or atleast the least wrong set of parties)
With the American electorate the spin is a lot more important than substance. I was outside india following Bush senior's election campaign against Mike Dukkakis - and it was the same kind of dirty tricks that won Bush senior the elections. In INdia, modi pulled a similar stunt with Sonia ( i don't know if you received some of those e-mails that were tranlations of articles in gujarati) and it backfired in the general elections.

Dilip D'Souza said...

> ... it backfired in the general elections.

I hope you are right. I want to think the xenophobic attacks on SOnia -- who has plenty to disqualify her anyway, but her birth is irrelevant -- have reached their sell-by date, but I'm also pretty damned sure that they will be raked up in subsequent elections too.

I also have some translations (as well as copies of the originals) of VHP leaflets circulated in Gujarat in 2002. Vile stuff.