Summer Soldiers by Any Other Name
By Kyle-Anne Shiver
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
Thomas Paine, writing in 1776
The so-called Winter Soldier testimonies of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans start today in Washington, D.C. No one knows how many former soldiers will show up, what they will actually say, or even more than a few names of those slated to appear. These men and women are attempting to re-create the Winter Soldier allegations made in 1971 by a group of dissident Vietnam Vets, of whom John Kerry was a prominent member.
While we don't yet know a whole lot about the current crop of dissidents or their possible connections with our enemies, we now know a great deal about the original Winter Soldiers, who were the first Americans to try this aid-and-abet-the-enemy scheme on such a large scale, with a collective organization in a public forum.
We know from resulting investigations of the Winter Soldiers' allegations, FBI reports and independent research that a large number of those who publicly spoke in 1971, were phonies and liars, while some were merely repeating rumors, hearsay or stories spun for them by behind-the-scenes prompters. Many of the original Winter Soldiers never even served in Vietnam. Some of those claiming to have been wounded in the war were found later to have had sports injuries from civilian life, not war wounds.
Telling tall tales of atrocity after atrocity, war crime after war crime, these dissident vets framed the entire American army and their commanders as the outright enemies of every standard of decency. They freely slandered 2 ½ million United States soldiers as rampaging barbarians without a shred of conscience, even admitting to some war crimes themselves, on the grounds that they were mentally impaired by the horrors of war.
These little turn-on-your-friends-for-personal-gain gambits are just about as old as human nature itself, and seem to crop up in every place and era, especially in wartime.