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THE TROUBLE WITH ELECTING CAESAR

John Chuckman

America’s campaign for Emperor is becoming nasty.

What shameful accusations are being tossed around: an ambitious, privileged young John Kerry, who spent a brief stint in Vietnam beefing up the hero section of his resume, never actually did some of the things he claims or at least didn’t do them under the circumstances he claims. Since his heroic deeds included chasing after a wounded man and shooting him in the back and skippering a machine gun-mounted speed boat that ran up and down rivers shooting peasants desperate enough to appear in their own fields, there is reason for concern.

Polls apparently show the large group of undecided voters already having second thoughts about Kerry. You can’t elect a man Emperor who distorts the truth about things like that. Much better if he actually did them.

I only wish undecided voters had the same doubts about the other pathetic candidate, but that is expecting too much. Bush has demonstrated he could overcome a background of avoiding Vietnam for no reason other than to carry on his happy games as frat boy, stock fraud, and drug addict, eventually to rise to the Imperial Purple and lie his way into killing tens of thousands of people. If I’m not mistaken, those are precisely the qualities expected of a contemporary American Emperor.

If all the men sent to Vietnam behaved the way Kerry is said to have behaved, how would the mission have succeeded? How would you have managed the awesome task of killing about three million people? How would you have managed to leave their country looking, in the words of a contemporary witness, like craters on the moon? How would you have managed to saturate their soil and aquifers with toxic chemicals?

How would you ever have played that magnificent exit scene, as the last helicopters left the roof of the fortress embassy, with Vietnamese servants and supporters literally having their hands ripped from the landing skids, abandoned to those they had been told for ten years were their deadly enemies? Or the scene with a load of kidnapped Vietnamese babies killed in the crash of an American cargo plane, an event one editorial cartoonist depicted as a huge plane dropping babies instead of bombs?

Perhaps Americans should dismiss as frivolous charges that Kerry’s three Purple Hearts were earned by such mundane events as bumping his head on the boat’s dashboard and focus on the big issues like whether he deserved a Silver Star for shooting someone in the back. He does seem the kind of man who bumps his head a lot on dashboards, whether going out to shoot people in the Mekong Delta or to wake-board off Cape Cod. Still, I know from old veterans of World War II, including one awarded a Purple Heart, that the medals sometimes were dished out with the K-rations. I guess that’s why some states actually have special license plates with “Purple Heart Winner” emblazoned on them. There’s that many of them around laying claim to their fifteen minutes of fame.

When Kerry isn’t photographed earnestly saluting or jabbing his finger in a bad parody of John Kennedy during the Cold War, he’s photographed being thoughtful next to some symbol of war. Clearly, Americans just can’t get enough of this kind of thing. A picture appeared in some newspapers recently of Kerry contemplating some state or local Vietnam memorial, one with a Vietnam-era helicopter atop a pillar. This particular memorial had no bronze casts of Vietnamese hands being yanked off the helicopter’s skids, nor did it have a statue of desperate Vietnamese prisoners being hurled from its door. There’s just a desolate-looking helicopter over some plaques commemorating some of the people who might have died helping do those things.

There should be at least one memorial somewhere in the country with a statue of that cargo plane dropping babies. It might provide Americans a bit more to think about. Considering the Iraqi babies mangled by cluster bombs, Americans clearly haven’t thought enough about Vietnam, at least not about the lessons that matter. That certainly includes Kerry, who voted to support the low-key suburban psychopath who now prances around in Imperial Purple.

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