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Turn on the Radio, John Kerry

It's taken John Kerry far too long to be clear that George Bush's invasion of Iraq was wrong, and he can't waste any more time getting to the point that the continued occupation of Iraq will also be a disaster – no matter who the president is. Unless Kerry gets a jolt from somewhere, he's going to blow the opportunity he's been in training for all of his political life. So maybe someone ought to turn on the radio for him so he can hear John Fogerty's new song, Deja vu (all over again)

Kerry might even recognize Fogerty's voice from Creedence Clearwater Revival, the group whose hits were all over the radio during the Vietnam War. More importantly, he might also recognize Fogerty's "voices rising ... (as) we count the dead and dying ... all over again," and maybe even find his own antiwar voice – all over again. 

Just as they say that generals always fight the last war, there have been stretches of this presidential campaign when you might have thought it was Vietnam that was the issue and not Iraq. But the privates always know what war they're fighting – and hopefully the voters will too. And, actually, much as Kerry's political prominence stems from being a veteran opposed to the Vietnam War, given the way it's been contorted in this campaign – with Kerry's supporters insisting that their man really was a hero in a battlefield where he, and most of them, argued Americans shouldn't have been in the first place, while George Bush and Dick Cheney are the ones attacked for not going to the war they said they supported – it may be just as well for Kerry that Vietnam will not decide this election. 

The American soldiers Bush has placed in harm's way in order to destroy Iraq's nonexistent "weapons of mass destruction" are quite another matter, however, as are the hugely lucrative contracts this doomed foreign excursion has brought to Cheney's last civilian employer, Haliburton. They could, and should decide the 2004 race – but only if someone makes an issue of then. And "someone" is John Kerry, whether he likes it or not. 


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What could Kerry say to cut to the chase? Well, how about "I not only promise never to lead the American people into war under false pretenses, but every American George Bush sent to this war will come home within the first thirty days of my administration." That may be a bit too blunt for his style, but whatever words he uses, they need to get him better headlines than "Kerry says he'll have American troops home in four years." 

We know that the Kerry campaign is cautious and calculates that the antiwar vote has no place else to go, while fearing the unknown consequences of a serious antiwar stance, but "American troops home in four years"? They start checking you for a pulse with political reflexes like that. Can they really think that offering four more years of Americans under attack in a military occupation is an electable stance? This is going to make voters rush to the ballot box to turn the current rascals out? And does Kerry think blaming the prior administration will satisfy the young antiwar veteran who asks him "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a lie?"

John Fogerty has written a great antiwar song, but most of us would just as soon not listen to great antiwar songs for the next four years and whether or not we will have to has a lot to do with Kerry's answer to the song's question, "Did that voice inside you say I've heard it all before?" With Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar characterizing the Administration's prewar notions "that we will simply be greeted with open arms" as "nonsense," and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan calling the war "illegal," it shouldn't be all that hard for Kerry to hear that voice. 

Someone play him the song – it's worth a shot.

Tom Gallagher

Tom Gallagher

Tom Gallagher is a former Massachusetts State Representative and the author of 'The Primary Route: How the 99% Take On the Military Industrial Complex.' He lives in San Francisco. He can be reached at

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