Thursday, September 30, 2004

Introducing John Kerry

In roughly two hours the first Kerry - Bush so-called debate will take place.

Those of us who strongly support Sen. Kerry realize he is an intelligent, experienced, thoughtful individual. But, after the vicious campaign that has been launched againt him, it's no wonder that millions of Americans don't have a clue who the real Kerry is.

The following article should help those interested in getting to know his real persona:

t r u t h o u t Perspective - Thursday 30 September 2004

Introducing John Kerry By William Rivers Pitt

Everyone knows John Kerry by now, right?

He's the tall guy who went to Vietnam and then wounded himself three
times to get his medals, while simultaneously conning the bureaucracy of the
Navy into giving him citations for valor. Or he's the guy who volunteered
for Vietnam, and then volunteered for Swift Boat duty, and then was wounded
three times while serving with distinction. He's the guy who opposed the war
upon his return and thus became a traitor, or he's the guy who opposed the
war upon his return and thus became a hero.

The John Kerry people know is a fellow of wealth and privilege, a rich
man who married richer, a silver-spoon type of guy who lives in the most
expensive neighborhood in Boston when not gallivanting from one townhouse to
another. The John Kerry people know is a Forbes, and a Winthrop. The John
Kerry people know isn't all that trustworthy because of his wealth, because
despite notions to the contrary, we are still a society based upon class
struggle. It is an article of faith among the 90% of Americans who aren't
rich that those with money aren't to be trusted. That this same measure of
distrust isn't extended to George W. Bush is a triumph of 'regular fella' marketing.

That is the Kerry people know, or think they know, thanks to this
brainless campaign season. This is the Kerry created by commercials, by
inane debate on the national cable news channels, by reporters who believe
the shortest way to the truth is a straight line in the other direction.

There is another John Kerry to whom America deserves to be introduced.

The story of any person begins with their parents. John Kerry was born
to Richard Kerry and Rosemary Forbes, who met in Paris just before the war.
Richard Kerry, marked early in life by the suicide of his father and the
death from polio of his sister Mildred, became a student of the law who
eventually distinguished himself in the Foreign Service during the
Eisenhower years. Rosemary, despite her Forbes and Winthrop heritage, was
not spared her own deep trials. When the Nazis invaded Paris, Rosemary had
to flee the city on a bicycle. She spent weeks foraging for food, hiding in
barns and cellars, avoiding German soldiers and falling bombs, until she
finally reached Lisbon and boarded a ship bound for Boston.

How do the ordeals of parents affect the fate of the child? Because of
his father's government service, John Kerry saw the world, and came to know
the art of diplomacy. He learned very young that there is much beyond the
borders of America to value. His time abroad with his father shattered the
quiet xenophobic tendencies many Americans get with mother's milk.

Because of his mother's narrow escape from the Nazi armies, John Kerry
learned that there is indeed evil in the world which no amount of money or
privilege can deflect. Living in post-war Berlin during one of his father's
diplomatic postings, Kerry saw the bombed-out buildings, the refugees who
were everywhere, and the tens of thousands of people who left everything
behind to flee the Soviet sector. Kerry learned that such evil must be
confronted. In the experiences of his parents, John Kerry developed the
nuanced, intricate and informed view of the wider world that has since
defined his life.

Of course, he came from privilege. Educated at the exclusive Fessenden
School, and then at the super-exclusive St. Paul's School, and then at Yale
University, Kerry was surrounded by the scions of wealthy families and was
afforded an education available to only the richest few. In order to fit in
with his fellow students, Kerry should have adopted the attitude of
world-weary condescension, of laid-back expectancy, which marked children of
the wealthy Eastern Establishment in that time and place.

He didn't. Inspired by teachers like Reverend John Walker, who taught
those privileged children at St. Paul's about the realities of race in
America, and later by President John Kennedy, whose call to service
motivated millions, and always by his father Richard, who taught by word and
example that service to country is the highest calling, John Kerry became a
man of action and of ambition. Here was no callow youth marking time until
his family's money became his money. Kerry became active in politics, and
augured his life towards government work.

John Kerry served in the Navy from 1966 to 1970, volunteered for combat
duty in Vietnam, and earned the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, three Purple
Hearts, two Presidential Unit Citations and a National Defense Medal. Upon
his return from the war, he became centrally involved with Vietnam Veterans
Against the War, helped to create Vietnam Veterans of America, and brought
the realities of Vietnam into living rooms all across America. He served as
a prosecutor in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, beginning in 1976. From
1977 to 1982 he served as First Assistant District Attorney, during which
time he successfully battled organized crime, prosecuted and jailed the
number two crime boss in New England, fought for victims' rights, and
organized rape counseling programs.

From 1983 to 1985, John Kerry served as Massachusetts Lieutenant
Governor, and transformed what had been a symbolic position to one with
muscle. He organized Governors all across the country to combat a new and
disturbing reality - acid rain caused by industrial pollution that was
destroying lakes, rivers and the country's water supply. This activity began
what has since become a lifetime of activism to protect our environment, a
lifetime of activism that has made John Kerry perhaps the most effective
fighter for environmental protection in American government.

In 1985, John Kerry was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he has served
for the last 19 years. Coming into the Massachusetts delegation under the
long shadow of Edward Kennedy, who had already cornered the
hail-fellow-well-met market of Massachusetts retail politics, Kerry worked
to the strengths he had inherited from his parents and became a master of
national and foreign policy issues. It would take a great deal of ink to
detail the committees he served on, the legislation he shepherded into
passage, the arguments he championed and the policies he pushed.

The best illustration of the man Senator John Kerry became, the man we
now see standing for President, came when he decided to wage war against one
of the most far-reaching and dangerous criminal enterprises ever seen in the
world. In 1988, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, or BCCI, was
a highly respected international financial institution which catered to the
most powerful of the powerful. BCCI had allies all through Washington D.C.
and across the world.

The public reality of BCCI changed completely when John Kerry, fresh
from his lead role investigating the Iran/Contra scandal, was tasked to run
down Iran/Contra drug connections as chairman of the Subcommittee on
Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations. Very soon, Kerry
discovered damning BCCI connections not only to Noriega and the laundering
of drug money, but to a massive international network of dirty cash moving
to and from the most dangerous people in the world.

Immediately, Kerry met with opposition from power-players in Washington.
Everyone - literally everyone, from both parties, including President George
H.W. Bush, whose son George W. had enjoyed BCCI financing for one of his
doomed oil businesses - pressured Kerry to back off. Instead, Kerry took the
information he had gathered and gave it to New York District Attorney Robert
Morgenthau. Morgenthau agreed to begin a criminal investigation into BCCI.
By 1991, the investigation had blown up what Morgenthau described at the
time as "one of the biggest criminal enterprises in world history."

Journalists David Sirota and Jonathan Baskin, writing for Washington
Monthly, published an article titled 'Follow the Money', which chronicled
Kerry's work against BCCI. In their article, Sirota and Baskin state, "As
Kerry's subcommittee discovered, BCCI catered to many of the most notorious
tyrants and thugs of the late 20th century, including Iraqi dictator Saddam
Hussein, the heads of the Medellin cocaine cartel, and Abu Nidal, the
notorious Palestinian terrorist. According to the CIA, it also did business
with those who went on to lead al Qaeda. And BCCI went beyond merely
offering financial assistance to dictators and terrorists: According to
Time, the operation itself was an elaborate fraud, replete with a 'global
intelligence operation and a Mafia-like enforcement squad.'"

"By July 1991," continued Sirota and Baskin in their article, "Kerry's
work paid off. That month, British and U.S. regulators finally responded to
the evidence provided by Kerry, Morgenthau, and a concurrent investigation
by the Federal Reserve. BCCI was shut down in seven countries, restricted in
dozens more, and served indictments for grand larceny, bribery, and money
laundering. A decade after Kerry helped shut the bank down, the CIA
discovered Osama bin Laden was among those with accounts at the bank. A
French intelligence report obtained by The Washington Post in 2002
identified dozens of companies and individuals who were involved with BCCI
and were found to be dealing with bin Laden after the bank collapsed, and
that the financial network operated by bin Laden today 'is similar to the
network put in place in the 1980s by BCCI.' As one senior U.S. investigator
said in 2002, 'BCCI was the mother and father of terrorist financing

Here is a man who came from a level of privilege most Americans have
never known. He could have become what so many children from the upper
echelons of money and power become - callow, shallow, lazy, biding his time
until he got everything he thought his position granted him, leaning on
powerful family friends to make up for the shortcomings that arise from an
idle life and the sense that the world owes him whatever he desires,
believing that making money and enjoying position are the alpha and omega of

John Kerry went in the opposite direction. He was raised to believe that
privilege has its duties, that public service is the alpha and omega of
life, and has worked every day to fulfill the obligations his parents and
his education and his own deeply-held beliefs instilled in him. In his fight
against BCCI, he revealed himself to be a man of great purpose, of mission,
who refused to bow before the altars of status quo and go-along-to-get-along
that are all too worshipped in Washington.

A life of service and study crafted a man of depth, of intelligence, who
can see all the sides of any issue and incorporates all available data
before making a decision. The opponents he has faced and defeated throughout
his career have enjoyed painting him as vacillating, as indecisive, as a man
who holds several positions at once in order to cover his political
backside. In truth, these incomplete views on John Kerry are born from a
modern political landscape that cannot fathom a man who is judicious,
contemplative and thorough, because such attributes have been all too absent
from our political discourse.

Judicious, contemplative and thorough. In a dangerous world, made vastly
more dangerous by politicians who think in violent black and white because
simplicity polls better and fits into soundbites, a man like John Kerry may
seem out of place. He is, in fact, in exactly the right place at exactly the
right time.


Author's Note This article is dedicated to my father, who was born in
a small Southern river town, who heard Kennedy's call, who volunteered for
Vietnam, who returned to spend his entire professional life as a public
servant in a variety of government positions. He was not born into the same
privilege as John Kerry, but the fact that their lives have followed
incredibly similar tracks speak volumes on the character of each man.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and international bestseller of
two books - 'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know' and 'The
Greatest Sedition is Silence.'


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