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thedrifter
04-03-06, 07:36 AM
I've been in combat too long"
Salon.com

Former Sen. Max Cleland blasts the "total folly" of Iraq -- and says he still hasn't gotten over the GOP smears that ended his political career.

Editor's note: In this second excerpt from "Patriots Act: Voices of Dissent and the Risk of Speaking Out," Max Cleland, a triple-amputee Vietnam War veteran and former U.S. senator, talks about hitting bottom in 1969, the "total folly" of Iraq, his bitterness at the scurrilous Republican campaign that cost him his Senate seat in 2002 and the agony of knowing what today's terribly wounded veterans will have to live through.

Max Cleland grew up in Lithonia, Georgia. After graduating from college he entered the Army as a signal officer and was given a desk job, but requested a transfer to Vietnam. During the siege of Khe Sanh, after surviving five days of point-blank rocket attacks on his hillside position, Cleland boarded a Chinook helicopter to set up a new communications post. Upon leaving the aircraft, he saw a grenade at his feet. Thinking that it was his, he reached down to pick up the grenade. It exploded. It was April 8, 1968.

"When that grenade went off, I was totally conscious. Totally," Cleland recalled. "Saw the bone sticking out from my right arm. Body was on fire, filled with hot shrapnel. The flash burns seared my flesh and was the only reason I didn't burn to death right there. I was bleeding to death. Three men ran to me after the smoke cleared. I was burning. I was literally smoking, dying, and bleeding to death. They staunched the bleeding. Called in a chopper. Put me on the chopper and medevac'd me 50 miles to a hospital. A Quonset hut. I was just about to pass out by then. I said, 'Do what you can to save my leg.'"

By Bill Katovsky

Ellie