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Speaking the Truth

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The angry rhetoric on Fox News Monday night seemed all too familiar. John O'Neill, when questioned about the situation in Iraq, used the politics of personal destruction to attack a decorated veteran -- my brother John Kerry. O'Neill's arguments are a repeat of Republican politics during the last five years. We saw the same tactics used against John McCain in 2000, John Kerry last year with the Swift Boat ads, and most recently against John Murtha, one of the most respected Congressional voices on military affairs. I am disappointed, less about the dire situation in Iraq, but more about the other side's reluctance to see anything but silver linings. They cannot bear to hear the truth about what is happening in Iraq.

O'Neill's complaints were brought on by Senator Kerry's appearance on Face the Nation last weekend. Senator Kerry said on the show that he does not want to see American soldiers put in needless danger on missions that are counterproductive and ignite the insurgency. He believes Iraqis should police their own streets and search their fellow citizens' homes. Eventually, he wants them to defend their country without American assistance. He is not calling for an all-out immediate withdrawal, but says that our government needs to tell the Iraqis that we will not be there forever.

O'Neill decided that instead of debating the merits of the war, he would instead point blame on Senator Kerry.

"There are a lot of kids out there, with Christmas approaching, that are in a more dangerous situation tonight because John Kerry chose to characterize them as terrorizing women and children. That's a comment that will obviously be played all over the Arab world."

Yet, many high military leaders agree with the John Kerry's position. Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, while serving as chief commander of allied forces in Iraq, said using American troops in raids could be counterproductive. "I started to get multiple indicators that maybe our iron-fisted approach to the conduct of ops was beginning to alienate Iraqis," Sanchez said, referring to military operations.

I think Sanchez is right. I think we owe it to John Kerry, for all his service and sacrifice for this country, to judge him on his own words. Accountability keeps our soldiers safe. Questioning the actions of our government defines patriotism. As my friend and fellow veteran, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel said so eloquently, "To question your government is not unpatriotic -- to not question your government is unpatriotic." John O'Neill just doesn't believe in that kind of dissent.

I've known John Kerry for a long time. He speaks out of love for our troops and out of an understanding of what it's like to be an American soldier fighting in a distant land. He speaks with the same candor today that he spoke with 34 years ago when he came home from the Vietnam War.

Like many other Vietnam veterans, John Kerry does not want to see the same movie replayed over again. It is time to focus on a redeployment plan which guarantees the safety and stability of Iraq and brings our troops home.