Almost two decades before the Big Lie, the GOP faced a different masculinity crisis.
Swiftboat: to discredit a political opponent by making exaggerated or outrightly false claims about his/her character and past actions. (Urban Dictionary)
History will shame the United States of America and the conservative movement for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
No way around that fact.
Only the Dead See the End of War is a chilling documentary about the beginnings of our occupation in 2003. Well worth checking out, but—CW—some of its war footage is hard to watch.
To me, the saddest part of the film has to do with watching early-stage US incompetence pave the way for a terrible civil war that killed so many innocent Iraqis and continues to do so today, almost twenty years later.
A year after giving the order to invade Iraq, the Bush administration needed to focus on getting re-elected.
Only…in the summer of 2004, the GOP election team had a PR problem.
The political party that called itself “the party of the military” appeared to be using the Defense budget to line their own pockets while they simultaneously short-changed and endangered the troops and their families.
Remember: before Iraq, 9/11 happened on Bush’s watch. His team blew off briefings about al-Qaeda’s desire to attack the US.
To make matters worse for the chickenhawks, John Kerry looked to be the Democrats’ nominee for President of the United States.
Unlike the majority of the war-loving Republicans in Dubya’s administration, John Kerry was a military veteran. He served in Vietnam. Even though both young George Bush and young Dick Cheney supported the USA’s Vietnam campaign, they both found ways to avoid going over there and putting their own butts on the line.
True, Bush joined the Air National Guard. But he also failed to show up for duty more than once. The term “AWOL” got thrown around the airwaves when his name was mentioned.
John Kerry, on the other hand, became a Naval Officer and shipped out to Vietnam to command what was known as a Patrol Craft Fast (PCF), or Swift Boat. Swift Boats were shallow-water craft that got used up and down the rivers that carved through Vietnam. (The crew in Apocalypse Now were assigned to a different type of small craft, but their missions were similar to the ones that John Kerry’s group took part in.)
John Kerry got wounded in action. He received commendations for his decisions under fire.
Fast forward to 2004: the Republican Party had a manliness issue to deal with.
So what did they do?
I know: it’s hard to imagine educated, financially-powerful white men using their systemic privilege to distort truth, but that’s what they did. Contain your surprise.
With the help of rich, Republican power brokers, some Right-wing Vietnam veterans formed a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and attacked John Kerry’s service record. Their narrative painted him as the most incompetent wartime officer to ever lead men and women in uniform. Without any proof, they questioned the validity of his medals, including his Purple Heart.
The group couldn’t substantiate their extreme accusations. No specifics were given. But it didn’t matter. They were loud and many conservative media pundits were only too happy to echo their statements, even embellishing the stories.
The ugliness of the words stuck in people’s heads. Which was the idea.
The Right also made a big stinky-stink over the fact that Kerry threw away his Vietnam medals, tried to make it sound like Lt. Kerry didn’t love ‘Merica.
This whole angle was actually kinda precious, if you ask me. Think: men who dodged Vietnam cried crocodile tears after a Vietnam veteran made the choice to discard medals that he earned—talk about proto-Trumpian, performative outrage.
One can almost envision Don Junior railing up on coke before recording a video about this subject.
Years before the Tea Party, Blue Lives Matter, Operation White Privilege, Donald’s “Big Lie” about the 2020 Election, Tucker Carlson whining about the NSA, the shameless Hunter Biden muckraking, and the pointless harassment of Hillary over Benghazi, a group of men who chickened out of military service made a concerted effort to lie about a veteran’s military service. While they had help from veterans, the non-veterans spearheaded the campaign.
In time, the name became synonymous with insidious, deceitful smear tactics. Today, “swiftboating” (it also got shortened to one word) is part of the country’s vernacular.
And the effort worked. It generated so much viciousness that voters felt the need to bring Bush back for another term. Even if some voters didn’t believe the rhetoric, they still began to doubt Kerry.
A few years after the 2004 Election, the GOP’s manufactured hysteria generated its own backlash. The term “swiftboating” itself had grown to become so negative and toxic that veterans of the Swift Boat community started speaking out. Rightfully, they raised objections to the fact that the name for their mission craft in Vietnam had been transformed into a slur by men who got rich after avoiding Vietnam.
Something very poetically proto-United-States-of-America-in-2021 about that.
Vile and pathetic. Yet poetic.
Don’t forget: this nazified nonsense happened years before they freaked out over the election of Barack Hussein Obama, Jr.
Yes, indeed. They’ve been losing their chili for a while now.
After four years of Donald Trump, swiftboating and manipulating truth are as American as married pro-lifers paying to abort their mistresses’ pregnancies and anti-Semites behaving like greedy, penny-pinching cheapskates.
In closing, may the souls of so many hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens rest in peace.
On another note, Donald Rumsfeld just died.
• John Wayne: hi from Earth.
• The 1% pay enough in taxes to start wars, but not enough to finish them.
• Chickenhawks who think they’re drill sergeants.
• Fox News America isn’t getting the civil war it wants. Just the civil war it deserves.
I also write fiction. I have two dark comedies available, Fearkiller (Volume 1) and Notes from Trillionaire Island: Fearkiller (Volume 2), as well as Revolutionizer Alpha, the first book in a sci-fi series. I also wrote a story about God. It was weird, but then I decided to make the story and its sequel free. And all of the sudden, it didn’t seem as weird. Writing about God is much less weird when you write about God without charging money for it.
7 thoughts on “Swiftboating, seventeen years later.”
Feckin brilliant , thanks
I’m happy you checked it out. Thank you.