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'Swift Lies' Besmirch Democracy

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Once again, in the dirty tricks department, right-wing extremists rule. What passed for "paranoia" in Nixon's time has become the banal routine for how to treat your political opponents. Clearly, the torture excesses of Abu Ghraib and the squalid mad-dog attitude and gutter morals of today's political strategists have a common source in the murky days of political burglaries and government underhanded intrusion into the civil discourse of the country.

The right-wing orchestrated campaign to besmirch the honorable combat service record of a decorated soldier such as Senator John F. Kerry is, we feel, despicable, and seriously anti-American. Kerry, who as a volunteer soldier and officer won a roster of combat medals and came home to wage a vigorous campaign for early peace in Vietnam, is now slandered by a political hound pack created in the Nixon White House and resurrected by the Bush campaign team. The tactic is obvious, but the way the mainstream media and the many rightwing propagandists on network television have played it, has in fact dominated the much-needed national discussion on issues for which the current White House has not produced coherent and workable answers.

A presidential campaign should not be a slander fest. Once again, this climate of seething hatred is right-wing driven, a gift to the president from his most visceral sector. Now confirmed to be directly connected to the Bush team, we believe the president clearly must bear responsibility for the lies and the smear campaign. We lean to the view, as many now contend, that this is the Bush way to dumb down enough regular folks so that they can pillage the economy and wantonly eviscerate the workable international consensus of 50 years.

The "Swift Boat" slander campaign is part and parcel of the type of thinking that has permeated the Bush presidency. This is an attitude that predates the crimes of Sept. 11, 2001. An attitude of disregard for truthful discussion permeates this White House. Naked power-grabbing under dubious and now discredited pretenses has proved the death of nearly a thousand Americans, the maiming of thousands more, and perhaps 20,000 - 30,000 Iraqis killed and injured. We honor those who are serving; we hope they are always respected for their selfless sacrifice regardless what attitude or perspective they bring back from their time in the theater of military operations.

From all indications, the Swift Boat accusers are twisting facts and telling lies. The good news is that a major portion of the serious media is beginning to increasingly denounce the tactic. The Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and many others have studied the evidence and found it to be invalid, the result of "fabrications" and "false assertions." Neither are many people buying the cover story that Bush does not approve of the misleading ads. The connection to the president's inner circle is undeniable. The Washington Post last week revealed that Benjamin L. Ginsberg, chief outside counsel to the Bush campaign, has closely advised the brazenly misnamed slanderous group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The authors of "Unfit for Command", the signal book to lead the attack, are longtime GOP operatives John O'Neill and Jerome Corsi. O'Neill is the hateful main spokesman, originally launched against Kerry by the Nixon Dirty Tricks White House. O'Neills former wife was appointed to the Texas State Court of Appeals by then-Gov. George W. Bush. The connections go on and on. Co-author Corsi, by the way, is an avowed racist and hate-mongerer whose bigoted opinions on Semitic peoples are already a source of embarrassment. His rantings should shock and alarm every good and decent American.

We hope the world can see this tactic for what it is - a dirty campaign of obfuscation and deceit that demeans the office of the commander in chief of the United States Armed Forces. When such a campaign is wantonly directed against a record of honorable military service by a sitting president - something very wrong is afoot in an administration representing the United States in the world arena.

The willingness to amplify the use of big lies and vicious slander in public life is evidence of a willingness to manipulate the American public. This is inherent in the method, when employed as primary strategy.

The mainstream media has serious problems in tackling the issue of slander in public life because it feeds on juicy controversies no matter how ludicrous. The excuse is that if a "source" merely mentions an issue or makes an unfounded accusation, then media is duty bound to "question" it. Problem is, most media, including established figures such as Judy Woodruff, don't question it, they besmirch along with it, trotting out the most confused and hate-obsessed individuals to be found, to be carelessly launched as credible spokespeople. Yell about something enough times and you will get an audience. What an indecent with which to manage a nation's forum! Yet, it works, most all of the time, as media too often become willing allies to those seeking to create a false version of events, without any seeming concern for reasonably documented truth.

We disagree with the shameless approach of the Bush team. And we wonder about a president who would allow the use of outright lies in dealing with the American public, as has now clearly become the pattern. The tradition of dirty tricks is prominent currently among his evangelical core. Building on misinformation and lies to achieve objectives, as in the case for the Iraq War and the ongoing military occupation of Iraq, is a dangerous method. Until moderate (read wiser) conservatives come forward, the GOP and its current political neo-con thinkers are bent on collision with the reality of the world. This is as true in Indian country as it is America's relationship with most of the world. If the target of big lies can be a distinguished veteran today, it can well be Indian country tomorrow.

More than anyone in this country, combat veterans - who know about the fog of combat and the controlled chaos of war - have earned the right to voice their most honest and incisive opinions on the execution and rationales for the war in which they fought honorably.

This tradition of respect and honor of veterans is particularly visible in Indian country, where, on a per-capita basis, more of its finest have served in the American armed forces than any other group. As a result we lean here toward the judgment that the Bush team's false claims against an honorable veteran who actually served and who also spoke clearly and honestly about the faulty rationales for the Vietnam War should disqualify him (Bush) for the presidency.

Mean is not the same as tough. Any nation must be tough in defense of its interests. If a nation genuinely identifies its self-interest in the pursuit of global peace and stability, then it will be honest and diligent in the pursuit of justice. Since all justice begins in fairness, and all fairness is based in the accurate assessment of the credible information available, we would hope this would be so.

The current slander campaign by the president's men stinks to high heaven. The sacred trust customarily accorded combat veterans should not be betrayed, particularly by those operatives serving a president and vice president who themselves never fought and sacrificed in war. How disgraceful. The country cannot afford to easily break such covenants. It becomes inconceivable to support such a style of government. America deserves better.