The following is the first of three speeches given by Swift Boat Vets at Restoration Weekend, on November 17, 2004. Click Here to read the second speech. Click Here to proceed to the conclusion. Click Here to purchase a copy of the book Unfit for Command for only $19.95 from the FrontPage Magazine Bookstore. See a preview of our forthcoming DVD.
David Horowitz: I think awards are important because they are a way of recognizing people who have made contributions, and for conservatives, it goes to people of courage under fire. I got the idea for this award when I took my wife to Niagara Falls, where they had all these barrels that people went over Niagara Falls in. One of them had steel barrels that were as big as submarines. Then there was the barrel that Annie Taylor, the first woman to go over Niagara Falls and survive, rode in. At that time I thought, Going over Niagara Falls in a barrel and surviving – that’s the perfect award for conservatives!
Just a little personal note of how I met Wally Nunn. Wally was a helicopter gunner in Vietnam, and Peter Collier and I, when we first became conservatives, were invited by the Foreign Policy Research Institute to speak in Philadelphia. We gave our speech and afterwards Wally came up and we said, “Oh, we're so sorry because we stabbed you in the back, basically.” He said, “You don't have to apologize to me because what I was fighting for in Vietnam was your right to dissent,” and we have been friends ever since.
Wally Nunn: David's right, I was fighting for the freedom for him to dissent. I wasn't fighting for an upper-class twit's right to be a traitor.
Mr. Sharansky last night said, “Courage is necessary for freedom,” and you're going to meet three people tonight who have demonstrated courage in their lives a long time ago and very recently. Now, I've been given the honor of introducing the very first person.
His name's Carlton Sherwood, and he’s an American hero who served as a Marine grunt in Vietnam. He actually served an outfit that was nicknamed “The Magnificent Bastards.” The Kerry people left off “magnificent,” but that outfit arguably took more casualties than any other outfit in Vietnam. By the way, it is also the outfit – 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Magnificent Bastards – which has taken the most casualties in Iraq. [Carlton Sherwood] was wounded three times by the enemy, and actually needed medical care. In fact, Carlton was in the hospital longer than John Kerry was in Vietnam and insisted on going back to his unit after he got out.
When he returned, he began a distinguished career as a journalist. He was distinguished even though he was a journalist, both in print and broadcasting, and he received many awards including a Pulitzer and a Peabody. When it was clear that Kerry was going to be the Democrat nominee, Carlton was watching TV, and he saw that one of our other honorees, John O'Neill, was getting a vicious response to what they were trying to say from the Kerry campaign. He knew he had to do something, and he did.
Carlton Sherwood: Words can’t describe the awe and the humility that I experienced in being associated with the POWs over the last several months.
These are men who, in another time or in another era, would have been considered great figures and noble warriors of a class that Western civilization has depended upon for thousands of years. They’re not only men of action and courage, but they’re learned men, scholars, and men of credibility. A favorite word of the press in Washington is gravitas. In every sense, these men are patriots for which I was honored and humbled. They are in many respects the greatest to come out of my generation of Vietnam veterans, and this is not untypical of Vietnam veterans in general. We all admire these men and we all try to emulate them, unlike the image that was portrayed 33 years ago and was endured all these years.
I’ve been asked many times what my motivations were by the press, and others. I was a newspaper reporter for the first 15 years of my career. I began in 1968, shortly after returning from Vietnam, and my first encounter with John Kerry was in 1971. I was assigned from Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, to Washington, D.C., for that week of demonstrations. I was no more than 15 feet away from John Kerry when he threw his medals, or somebody else’s medals, or whatever medals they turned out to be, over the fence. I was close enough to see that he was different than the rest of the rabble that was there pretending to be Vietnam veterans in that his hands were manicured. The hands that gripped those medals were manicured and he had a $25 haircut, which were big bucks for that period.
That was my first introduction to John Kerry, and being one of the very few Vietnam veterans in the media at the time, I understood something that others didn’t, which was that everything John Kerry was saying was a lie. It was a lie heaped upon a lie. His accusations of labeling all of us as baby killers or a barbaric cord of psychopathic killers and criminals simply wasn’t true. I remember being a rookie reporter and how stunned I was that my senior colleagues, the vaunted Washington Press Corps, never challenged a word of what he said, nor did they challenge his declarations that were enumerated in the Senate hearings that he testified before.
Nothing that John Kerry did then was challenged, and later he got rid of the fatigues and was no longer a pre-eminent internationally known war protester. He traded in his fatigues for his pinstriped suits and now he was a U.S. senator. Miraculously, the same medals that I saw him, as did hundreds of other reporters and camera crews there who saw him, throw over the fence were on his credenza in his new Senate office. No one challenged that, no one challenged transformation from war protester to war hero.
So in February of this year I was stunned, as were many Vietnam veterans. We were aghast that this man had resurrected himself again and chose to run for president of the United States. This man was, to all of us who have been in Vietnam, a turncoat and a traitor, someone who betrayed us all.
I heard Bernie Goldberg say yesterday that when he wrote Bias, one of the things that he had hoped it would do was begin a conversation among the press and their bias. I really felt pretty bad up until that point because I thought the press would begin to examine Kerry and then there might be a discussion about how they were complicit in a three-decade-long hoax that damaged virtually an entire generation of men who served honorably and well, and many of whom, over 58,000, died. He accused the men in the front-line positions of raping, pillaging and being a murderous horde. The men who did the dying and the bleeding were the targets of his accusations, and we never forgot that.
More than that, the men who were being held captive when he did this, the men who were actually pawns being tortured, beaten and killed were put in further jeopardy when John Kerry gave his testimony in 1971. If he had had his way with his carrying the peace plan back from the North Vietnamese communists, who he had met with at least twice that we know of, had come to pass, there’s a man sitting at a table here who probably would not be here, because he would be dead. He would have been taken out back and shot.
The treachery that this man directed at his fellow soldiers was disgraceful, unconscionable, and the fact that he was now running for the highest office in the land was something that none of us could bear. I expected the press and my colleagues to say, “Wait a minute we have to reconsider this.” In fact, I remember one interview with an AP reporter where I said to her, “Can’t you just consider for a moment that there is a possibility that for 30 years you have perpetrated a myth, that for 30 years you have damaged the lives of so many of hundreds of thousands of men, maybe unwittingly, by never asking this man the questions that he needed to be asked and never looking behind the curtain to see what the consequences were of his actions, or the damage that he did to the men in combat, or the men who would come home?” They never did. Rather, they attacked us.
As a journalist, I can only remember one or two other times where I’ve been ashamed to be a journalist, and it was in the last three months. What happened to the Swift Boaters, John O’Neill, and to these POWs was nothing short of a journalistic felony. These men were mugged – again. They only asked to tell their stories and to be heard. Again, the press shut them down, and John Kerry’s machinery cranked up. These lawyers and union members came out in droves.
When Sinclair [Broadcasting] tried to broadcast Stolen Honor, the wrath of God came down on them, or more likely, the wrath of Satan in the form of pinstriped brown shirts with jackboots. They attacked Sinclair from every corner, and then us. They filed lawsuits against us to prevent it from being broadcast. Not satisfied with that, Kerry’s campaign launched an all-out effort to stop this from being shown in theaters and public places. It got to the point where the only place you could watch this was in the privacy of your own home, and you better draw the shades and lock the doors. Then something wonderful happened: the reaction of the American public against the censorship and the shredding of the [First] Amendment. By the way, 18 U.S. senators stood up and demanded that this be censored. I woke up one morning and I couldn’t believe it. Men and women who called themselves journalists were embracing censorship; they didn’t want this to be seen. Those are men who have been kept silent for over 30 years, men who bled and many who died for the First Amendment and for freedom. Zell Miller once said that no reporter or lawyer ever shed a drop of blood in the defense of the First Amendment. I was stunned, I couldn’t believe men and women who call themselves journalists could actually write editorials calling for these men to be silenced in censorship.
But as I said, something unique happened. I was not only emboldened by it but I was heartened by it, that in little pockets around the country, hundreds of places at first, then thousands of places, Stolen Honor was being shown. The publicity that my colleagues created trying to denounce this had actually created a backlash that caused this to be shown in theaters, quietly and secretly, even in my hometown. My wife, Susan, and I found out about a showing of Stolen Honor at an IMAX theater, through no publicity or advance notices, just word of mouth. It was incredible. One woman came up to me and said you know this has become like the adult version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show; it’s a cult film.
Then something else happened. People like Chris Ruddy came forward and said, “Dammit, Carlton, this can’t just be shown as a grassroots thing. There has to be a concerted effort.” He then lent all of his support and got it to be broadcasted in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and elsewhere. Individuals throughout the country starting passing the hat so they could buy time to have it put on the air. In the final weeks of this [campaign], the attacks on Sinclair had actually borne fruit from the grassroots where democracy, where this country’s founding was from, and people were drawn to it. In the end, over 5 million people saw it. Needless to say, I was delighted, but I also knew from the legal actions that this fight wouldn’t be over. We came within 4 million votes of electing a man who is a traitor in every sense – every legal sense, and every moral sense. That shouldn’t happen again, and it’s not going to happen again.
The POWs that I’ve talked to encouraged me and are energized. We’re not going to stop the fight now; we’re going to continue on. The very thought of this man running again for the Senate, the presidency, or even worse, showing up in some other administration as secretary of defense, is appalling and an insult to us. He’s thrown down the gauntlet, and we’re going to respond. We’re going to continue the fight because of people like yourselves. For the first time in a place that I’ve been in for the last several months I didn’t have to explain anything. I didn’t have to defend us. We were welcomed by all of you, and for that we are incredibly grateful.
There are two or three other things, just real quick things, that I would like to say. It’s also because of the people of action in this room that we were able to do this. Wally Nunn was one of the 12 Pennsylvania veterans who put this together and gave us the resources. Every week our tanks ran low, and every week Wally would get back on the phone and try to fill our tanks up so that we could go one or two or three more days. Wally’s an aviator, a door gunner, and is from the Army.
Finally, it’s also other people in this room that I am also indebted to. I know some of you supported us, and some of you supported us indirectly. Rebecca and Gretchen, at the last moment when we needed their support the most, they did it for us. They put us where we needed to be, and they are directly responsible for the efforts that actually counted for votes. These individuals were responsible for votes that were changed from votes that were going to go for John Kerry or votes that weren’t going to be cast at all. They made the difference and proved it was worthwhile. I hope that you would do it in the future, because it really is up to you. This struggle, as you all know, is not going to end in this election. It’s not going to end in the next four years. People like you are the salvation of this democracy, and I want to thank you and tell you how much I admire your activism. Thank you so much.
Click Here to read the second speech. Click Here to proceed to the conclusion. Click Here to purchase a copy of the book Unfit for Command for only $19.95 from the FrontPage Magazine Bookstore. See a preview of our forthcoming DVD.