Would Any Historian Take the Swift Boat Vets' "Truth" Seriously?





Mr. Rees is Associate Professor of History at Colorado State University - Pueblo. He is the author of MANAGING THE MILLS: LABOR POLICY IN THE AMERICAN STEEL INDUSTRY DURING THE NONUNION ERA (University Press of America, 2004) and co-editor of THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE: PRIMARY SOURCES ON THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN LABOR, INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS AND WORKING-CLASS CULTURE (Harlan Davidson, 2004).

Near the beginning of his autobiography, the historian Howard Zinn explains the philosophy he had regarding objectivity in his classes before he retired from Boston University:

I would always begin a course by making it clear to my students that they would be getting my point of view, but that I would try to be fair to other points of view. I encouraged my students to disagree with me.

I didn't pretend to an objectivity that was neither possible nor desirable. "You can't be neutral on a moving train," I would tell them. Some were baffled by this metaphor . . . Others immediately saw what I meant: that events are already moving in certain deadly directions, and to be neutral means to accept that.

While it is certainly possible to disagree with Zinn's political views, it is difficult to fault him for his honesty. Zinn made it clear to his students where he stood on the political spectrum and rather than hide that, he wanted them to be persuaded by the power of his evidence and his arguments.

Howard Zinn's strong feelings against the Vietnam War greatly affected his teaching during the turbulent 1960s. It should come as no surprise that the opposite side of the political spectrum has recently displayed similar passions attacking Vietnam War opponent John Kerry. Because so much of this year's presidential campaign has focused on events from the Vietnam era, it is worth considering the difference between how historians and political actors approach historical disputes.
Of course, the most famous of John Kerry's adversaries in the debate over his war record are the ironically-named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. While Howard Zinn wanted to make it clear that his teachings were simply his perspective, the very name of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is designed to cloak the mantle of objectivity around them in order to forestall any argument. Texans for Truth, the group behind the new Bush-was-AWOL-from-the-National Guard ads, in mocking tribute to the Swift Boat Vets, do the same thing.

In a recent post, the blogger Kevin Drum, a close student of these Vietnam controversies, compared the historical evidence that supports these two sets of charges:

Both are tales from long ago and both are related to Vietnam, but the documentary evidence in the two cases is like night and day. In the Swift Boat case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence indicates that Kerry's accusers are lying. Conversely, in the National Guard case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence provides additional confirmation that the charges against Bush are true.

The conservative response to such an assessment is easy to predict: "Drum is a liberal. Of course he is going to think that!" While this tactic may be acceptable in modern political discourse, it shouldn't pass muster with historians.

Just because someone has a particular bias, that doesn't mean they're wrong. Indeed, it is absolutely impossible for anyone to escape their own skin -- to somehow get beyond their own social, economic, cultural and political background and see any historical event with perfect objectivity. To put it another way, everybody is a partisan of something, so making this argument gets you nowhere.

That's why the press's manner of handling this scandal has been so infuriating. Too many media outlets have been treating this story as a battle between equally valid arguments without passing judgement on either side. Or to borrow a phrase from a certain cable news channel, their response has been: "We report. You decide." Because of this approach, a moving train of unfounded allegation has run John Kerry down, leaving his reputation as a Vietnam War hero bleeding by the side of the tracks.

Unlike the press, historians have to make judgments about the history they study, deciding which historical arguments are better than others on the basis of the evidence that supports a particular position and that argument's explanatory power. When this process is done on a discipline-wide basis, a consensus develops. If new evidence or a new argument emerges later on, the consensus shifts.

Since most historical arguments are not as politically charged as whether John Kerry really earned his Vietnam medals, this process usually occurs in a civil manner with little public attention. But ever since the National History Standards controversy of the early-1990s, conservatives have increasingly done their best to politicize countless aspects of historical study.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. The Bellesiles scandal, for example, has been a huge boon for the study of guns in American history as well as a cautionary tale for all historians. On the other hand, too many critics of academia have adopted the equation of liberal = biased = wrong. For example, "In recent years," the New York Times explained when covering controversies over schoolbooks in Texas back in 2002, "conservative groups have become adept at blocking books by arguing that political bias and the omission of certain facts constitute 'factual inaccuracy.'" Like naming your 527 organization after the truth, this style of argument is an attempt to shut down debate and the free exchange of ideas.

Howard Zinn, while equally partisan in favor of his own side, approached history education in a different way, "I never believed that I was imposing my views on blank slates, on innocent minds. My students had had a long period of political indoctrination before they arrived in my class -- in the family, in high school, in the mass media. Into a marketplace so long dominated by orthodoxy I wanted only to wheel my little pushcart, offering my wares along with the others, leaving students to make their own choices." If only today's conservatives were so humble, historical and political discourse in America today would be much more productive.

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Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005



An attempt to clarify a couple of points about the confusion that has arisen in this discussion....

One way to avoid some of the confusion is to clearly define some terms relating to the subject under discussion. To wit: referring to the armed forces of the U.S. in that manner, the armed forces.

Our armed forces are composed of two broad categories: Naval and Military. The Naval Service is represented by the Navy, which itself is composed of two branches: the Navy and the Marine Corps. Another arm of the Naval Service is the Coast Guard, which is part of the Dept. of the Treasury in Peacetime, but in wartime or at the pleasure of the Commander-in-Chief, the President, the Coast Guard becomes part of our Naval armed forces.

The other broad category of our armed forces is the military, composed of two services: the Army & the Air Force. From its inception until 1947, when the formal reorganization of our armed forces began, but wasn't completed even on paper until 1948, the Air Force was but a branch of the Army.

Put another way, there is a Secretary of the Army, of the Air Force, and of the Navy, but there's no Secretary of the Marine Corps, which falls under the authority of the Secretary of the Navy. Of corse, the Coast Guard operates under the authority of the Secretary, Dept., of the Treasury.

To add to the confusion, there is yet another uniformed service: NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

No wonder outsiders find the armed forces a bit confusing. For instance, in the Army all soldiers, male & female are referred to as soldiers, in the Navy all sailors, male & female, are referred to as seamen, in the Air Force all serving members are referred to as Airmen. BUT one responds to female officers of each of the services with the phrase "Yes, Ma'am" or No, Ma'am" rather than saying "Sir."

Also, what once known as the Retired Officers Association is now known as the Military Officers Association.


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Adam,

Evidently you read a piece other than the one to which I was referring. The one to which I referred, or at least to which I intended to was the oped essay by Ernest Lefever, titled "The Ghosts of Vietnam," which certainly does not refer to Kerry at all. After all, the essay was composed in 1997, long before our present contention about Kerry and long after Kerry's anti-war antics of the 70s.

On a personal note, I never became upset with Fonda's anti-war antics, nor with Kerry's, because I was unaware of them at the time. Moreover, had I been aware, I would have been, I suspect, indifferent, except perhaps with Fonda's activily aiding the enemy. For one thing, in the midst of a shooting war I was far too busy with my duties to pay much attention to politics in the States. For anoother, support for the war was broad and deep in the U.S., especially in my native western Mid-West until war weariness set in about 1968. And in most circles outside the dedicated Left, including much of the Academy, support for the war remained stong in the U.S.

On second thought, it wasn't such a bad idea of Ben Servance to drop out of this discussion, because plainly no-one here is going to change another's mind about Kerry, Bush or the upcoming election. You admire and support Kerry, I despise him and his politics, regardless I'm no fan of Geo. W., nor even a Republican. There is no question that the vast majoirity of G.I.s & veterans despise Kerry and there's one whale of a lot more veterans than there are academics in our society.

Because WWII veterans are dying off at the rate of more thasn 1,500 a day, the passage of time until the election is to Kerry's advantage.

Still, this discussion is, I reckon, healthy for our society.


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Ben,

You came back. :-)))

One reason I so despise your boy, Kerry, whatever his real name is, is because he made such a mockery of his decorations. Those of us who've been in the deep kimshi value honor & integrity & coursage under fire, all of which were (are?) absent from Kerry's character. Were this the good old days, doubtlessly Kerry would be facing challenge after challenge to duel in order to defend his non-existent honor.


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Ben,

based upon the "If it looks like a duck" principle I came to the conclusion that Gorbachev is a sub rosa Christian. Some of the reasons I reached this conclusion are 1) it was while he was Chairman, CPSU, that the Christian Mass was celebrated inside the Kremlin for the first time since the Red Revolution, 2) the Mass was televised across the Soviet Union showing Gorbachev in attendance, 3) it was while he was Chairman that much stolen poroperty, churches, monasteries, seminaries, was returned to not only the Russian Orthodoc Church, but also to the Catholic Church, 4) he permitted the Bible, a first run of some 75,000 copies, to be published in the U.S.S.R. for the first time. An irony of the publication was it was published by the state publishing house, essentially party owned, 5) upon her death, while he was Chairman, his mother's funeral was a celebrated Russian Orthox Requim Mass, 6) her remains were not buried in the Kremlin walls, alongside good Communists, but rather in a church, sacred ground, cewmetery, 7) during the Solidarity crisis in Poland Gorbachev made four (04) announced state vists to Rome, the Vatican, to consult with John Paul II. Moreover, those perhaps very private consultations, made possible because the Pope speaks fluent Russian.

IMO add all of those events to Gobachev's family history a) his parents & his grandparents, on both sides of the family, were practicing Christians; his father went to ASunday Mass throughout his lifetime, his mother to daily Mass, even after he was elected Chairman, CPSU, b) as he acknowleged when growing up there was a family secret to which he been made privy, a powerful influence upon a child, in his grandparents' home, or at least on his father's side of the family, there were the obilgatory pictures of Marx & Lenin, the Communist saints on their walls, BUT behind each picture there was a Russian Orhodoc Christian icon.


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Ben,

What you & many others fail to see is that the campaign in Iraq is just that, but a campaign in the larger war against militant Islamism. The conquering of Iraq was not a stand-alone war, but rather done, successfully, to impress upon the Islamic world 1) that the U.S. wasn't (isn't) the paper tiger it was said to be by bin Laden & his ilk, 2) to demonstrate to the other states in the region that if they fail to rein in anti-Western Islamists activities, such as raising recruits & funds, we'll ensure those activities are stopped, even shoiuld we need to invade & replace their governments. The Lybians clearly got the message, they halted their nuclear weapons development program at our government's suggestion, without our needing to take military action--because of the lesson driven home in Iraq. 3) conquering Iraq served notice to militant Islamists around the world not to mess with us--or pay the price. 4) taking Iraq put paid to the Iraqi efforts to further develop WMD. After all, there was no question that the Iraqis wouldn't hesitate to use nuclear or biological weapons, if they developed them. The Iraqis DID repeatedly USE poison gas against Iran during that eight-yesr long war & Iraq DID USE poison gas against the Kurds in northern Iraq.

Iraq's poison gas weapons were not much of a threat to us directly, but their repeated use against Saddam's enemies demonstrated clearly he wouldn't hesitate to use whatever weapons he could obtain. Ergo, biological weapons, which were under development, were a clear and present danger to us. If & when Saddam had developed nuclear weapons they probably wouldn't have been a direct threat to usem, but they would have been against our ally,Israel & would have led to a general WMD instability in the world, another arms race, this one among third world countries. If you don't think the expansion of nuclear weapons to scores of two-bit countries around the world wouldn't be a threat to us, you live in a different world than I.



Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Adam & Ben,

If you think my comments concerning Kerry are uncivil, you oughta share some of the in-family disscssion held about him among some of my fellow Viet-Nam War veterans. In comparison to what some guys think & say about Kerry, I've treated him with kid gloves. No kidding.

Oh Lord, is he not hated by many a Viet vet? He is.
The folks in Iowa goofed in choosing Kerry, even Howard Dean would have a more likely chance of being elected. Lookie, Kerry has P.O.ed most veterans, gun owners (his outspoken hostility to the Second Amendment), many Christians (with his pro-abortion & pro-euthanasia positions), many defense workers (with his repeated votes as a Senator against national security issues & programs.). But of course, he still has acadenmics, government employees, the abortion industry,dogmatic Democrats of the ilk who mindlessly supported Clinton through thick & thin, twittering coastal urban Liberals and welfare recepients in his corner.



Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

It is evident that most posting on "HNN" would take Dan Rather's unsupported word on an issue than accept the combined testimony of scores of Swift Boat veterans, combat veterans to a man & a micture of officers & enlisted men,, that Kerry is a phony, dishonorable and totally lacking integrity, who manipulated and falsified his record in Viet-Nam in order to acquire decorations for which he was (& is)undeserved--and yto bug out as quickly as he could, which in the end meant he served less than a quarter of a normal tour in 'Nam in combat.

Of course, any questioning of Kerry's record is seen by his knee-jerk spporters as tantamount to expressing disloyaty to the Democratic Party's radical leadership's agenda.

But that is part of the problem, the Democratic Party's leadership of today is so radically counter-cultural so to be unrecognizable as Democrats of the J.F.K. & Scoop Jackson generation. And unrecognizable as Democrats by my father, a life-long Democrat in a largely Republican state, Kansas. As weirdly strange as the Democratic Party's leadership has become, no wonder there no longer is room for a Zell Miller in the party.

Apparently, er're going to be privilged to see for ourselves if the Democrats can win the Presidency and Congress without winning a single Southern state. As a study in representative democracy this upcoming election is going to be very interesting--regardless my party, the Prohibition, is on the ballot in a very few states.

BTW, if anyone is interested in joining or supporting the Prohibition movement, one might go to www.Prohibitionist.org. Or if one is to be in Minneapolis, one could drop by for a visit to the national headquarters of the W.C.T.U.


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Adam,

It amuses & flusters me that it seems I'm a voice crying in the wilderness in my insistence that phrases such as "the armed forces" should be used as the generic allusion to our armed forces rather than the term military." For instance I this evening ran across this by a writer (about Pearl Harbor) whose work I like, "...incompetence of the senior military--especially Naval--officers in Hawaii..."

Doggone it, it seems the usage of precise language is passing away. I yet insist the words Military & Naval refer to distinctly different types of activities, one to land warfare & the other to warfare on the sea.

It seems I'm increasingly alone in observing the rule that a sentence shouldn't end with a preposition. I've noticed that ending sentences with the words with & to is becoming increasingly common. Darn it, why are novelists & academics alike abandoning this rule?


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Ben,

No, toppling the Taliban wasn't impressive enough. Afghanistan has never been in the forefront of world affairs or a major power, regardless it bloodied the noses of the British in the 19th Century (but drove Kipling to compose some great writing) & the noses of the Russians in the 20th. We needed to do more than that to getr the point across that there's no-where in the world beyond our reach. As our taking Baghdad proved, 9/11 was a costly venture for the Islamic world. Praise be Geo. W rather than Al was in the White House when the attacks of 9/11 came, regardless Geop. W. is far from perfect.


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Adam,

Perhaps because you're typically atuned to modern American life you're unaware of the sub-culture of the armed forces, a sub-culture that holds to a set of values by & large different from those honored by the civilian society. For instance, the virtues of honor, honesty, a man's word is his bond, and integrity are held in high esteem within the armed forces, but not in the rest of society, else there wouldn't have been the recent scandals among historians ("2002, the year of scandals"), in the mutial fund industry & more than once on Wall Street, including Marths Stewart & Enron. And of course there were the political scandals of Clinton, an eight-year-long soap opera of "I didn't have sex with that woman..."

The point is, Kerry exhibited very little in the way of the values those in the armed forces honor. In contrast, because the leading Swifties are retired or former officers, their word is good, until proven otherwise.

IMO that is why Harvard educated Al Gore never attempted to gain a vommission, but rather remained an enlisted man, because his compulsive lying, "I invented the internet," "My sister was the first Peace Corps Volunteer," etc. was behavior that was (& is)unacceptable within the offcer corps & he knew it. In short, Admiral Hoffman's word, veracity, is good, unquestionable,in my book.

As Ralph Peters, who btw is the author of a dozen or more books (copies of five of which I have), pointed out in his essay about Kerry, "trust is more important than any technology." That being the case, if an officer is caught having lied about any matter of consequence, he is promptly booted out of the armed forces. Quite simply, in combat liars cannot, are not, abided.

For example, if Adam is the C.O. of a company of infantry in a defensive position & his security is dependent upon Sam's company tying in with his left flank. Adam must, MUST, be able to take Sam at his word when he calls Sam to ask, "Sam, are your boys in contact with my third platoon & are your boys keeping an eye on that gully there between us?" There is absolutely no room for deceit in such a situation. After all, normal human error causes enogh problems. A deceiver or liar cannot be tolerated in situations where the mission & people's lives are at risk. Or when the nation's security is at risk. An officer's word must be acceptable as truthful. Mistakes happen, but they cannopt be allowed to be compounded by deliberate untruths. But some guys never learn the lesson. Therefore, most probably, I don't it for a fact, a number of officers are booted out of the services every once in a while. A few years ago an active duty Army intelligence officer confirmed that this is yet true. Ergo, I trust Admirasl Hoffan's word, until proven untrustworthy. But I don't trust Kerry's word, albeit allowing for the possibility of faulty memories in some of the Swift Boat controversies. Nonetheless, as Peters pointed out, "The red flag to military folks is that so many Swift Boat veterans, scores upon scores, have come out against Kerry. That just doesn't happen, unless something is really wrong." :-))) there's the word military used to refer to sailors. Yucky! Used by a professional wordsmith & retired Lieutenant Colonel. Who should know better! It looks I'm fighting a losing battle over the proper use of the terms military & naval.

How come I don't in my gut feel that virtue is its own reward in my attempt to defend the King's English?

As said before, we disagree about Kerry & our differences don't seem resolvable in discussion. Ah well. :) If everyone agreed about everything, this would be a very dull world.


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Adam, Adam,

The Navy is not a branch of the military; the two, Naval & military, are distinct activities. Naval refers to seaborne armed forces activities, military to land warfare. If you cannot see the difference between the two, IMO you've a problem with plain English & with common sense.

Your apologies on behalf of Kerry's deceitful and manipulative acquisition of his decorations, his Purple Owies, two of which the first & the third were based upon self-inflicted wounds. His Silver Star was gained through lies. It, his Bronze Star & his Purple Owies are all under investigation by the Navy as falsely & unlawfully obtained. If they are determined to have been improperly acquired, they will be recinded. This I fully expect to happen once the election has passed.

It seems unfortunate you've invested so much emotional capital in this phoney, whose elevtion chances are dimming daily. According to the "Washington Post," no Right-wing mouthpiece, Kerry's unfavorable ratings with the American voter exceed the lowest ratings held by Michael Dukakis. His favorably rating with registered voters has plunged 18 points over the past six months.

Ignorance again raises its head when it is claimed that Bush's duties for several years as the pilot of high performance fighters was less dangerous than Weenie Kerry's meager 3 1/2 months in frequently but not constantly hostile waters. It shows one doesn't know the first thing about high performance military aircraft. In fact, Bush the pilot certainly drew $50. a month flight (harardous duty) pay. That was the same dollar amount Kerry drew as combat(hazardous duty) pay, regardless whether he was in a rear echelon training assignment, as he was for the first quarter of his vastly shortened tour in 'Nam.

As said before, you who never were close to Indochina may be impressed with Kerry's self-adulation & self-promotion, but those such as I are not the least impressed by his phony Purple Heart Owies, nor by his discredited tales of his own heroism. You're damned right I'll take the word of a retired Admiral, Hoffman, over Kerry's, a many times proven deceiver and liar, who finally caved in & admitted his first Purple Heart was undeserved, who has been proven in error about Christmas in Cambodia & who has an unexplained & unauthorized "V" device attached to his Silver Star, about what happened during a given combat engagement.

If the "V" is indeed a typo, as some of his apoligists suggest, in honor & by law Kerry was obligated to have his DD214 corrected to have the unauthorized "V" removed, his DD214 corrected, as soon as he discovered the error.

Adam, you a chair-bound non-warrior don't know a damned thinbg about medal inflation during the Viet-Nam War. Bwcause it abounds in Iraq doesn't necessarily mean that it did in 'Nam. You weren't there & consequently you don't know beans about the war.

Besides, much of the medakl inflation we've seen in Iraq was committed by the Air Force. In Iraq, the Air Fporce's role is largely one of providing aerial transporation, it is infrequently engaged in combat, rarely drawing ground fire & has not faced a single air-0to-air engagement with hostile aircraft. But Viet-Nam was a very differtent story. There we lost hundreds of aircraft & pilots in combat. Ergo, justification for ddecorations was much more logical.


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Adam,

To a degree this definition of the branches, don't care if some over-paid government bureaucrat composed it or not, is in error--to a degree. For instance, the Marine Corps isn't a separate branch, it is an arm within the Department of the Navy. What this means in real life is the Marines do not have either their own medical corps or their own chaplains, both are provided by the Navy, as is its Dental, financial, paying the troops, commissaries and other support elements--all are provided by the Navy, the senior partner within the Dept. of the Navy. On the other hand, the Army, the Air Force & the Navy all have their own medical corps., a branch with a branch, a service. But as said, the Marines have none of those support services of their own.

Until midway through WWII the Police Dept. of New York City was larger, had more personnel, than the Marine Corps.

From its inception until 1947 military aviation was an arm of the Army, but the Navy, early on, as now, had its own aviation arm. Marine aviators are, as are Navy pilots, formally known as Naval aviators. All Naval aviators, Marine & Navy, are trained by the Navy. But the Army & the Air Force have separate aviation programs. While the he Army has a number of fixed wing aircraft, mostly light aircraft, in its inventory, the larger part of Army aviation is rotary-wing (helicopters). There are more helicopters in the Army inventory than in the Air Force, Navy & Marine Corps inventories put together. This was true in Viet-Nam, during our little war over there. In fact, at the height of the war there were more than 8,000 Army helicopters deployed to Viet-Nam. Of course, the reason the Army has so many more helicopters than the other services is & was because of its formation early on during the Viet-Nam War of Air Assault & Air Cavalry divisions, for instance the 1st Cavalry Division, which once horse cavalry, then utilized armored vehicles in lieu of horses ended up with helicopters in lieu of armored vehicles. Likewise, the 101st Airborne Division converted from moving its troopers to the field of battle via parachute(in WWII by parachute & by glider)to helicopter insertions in Viet-Nam & today.

Essentially, massive, more than a battalion, parachute jumps into combat are history, a concept that decades ago out-lived its usefulness, assuming it ever was worth its cost.

We've yet the cavalry concept, but with helicopters in lieu of horses, as said above.


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Appears to me that John Lederer's assessment is a fair understanding of the situation. To an extent I can sympathize with Kerry's position in 'Nam. Anyone with the brains of a goat was frightened when taking fire. As discussed elsewhere, a possible, but not definitely, contributing factor to the confusion exibited in the differences in some of the Swifties stories & Kerry's is adrenaline rush.

What adrenaline rush amounts to is that whenever one is in the thros of doing something that generates fear of physical harm or causes great stress, one's body produces more adrenaline. One occasional, perhaps frequent, consequence of adrenaline rush is that at a particularly tense moment when adrenaline floods the brain it sometimes causes a loss of memory of the period of the rush.

And as some who've been in a number of firefights know, over the passage of years sometimes elements of different fights tend to blur together in one's memory, especially if the various firefights had some particular characteristics that were alike. For instance, occurring at night or during a heavy rain, in a certain geographical area, etc.

Ben Severance, no it isn't only now that Kerry's deceit is coming to light. Why do you think that scores, not merely a few, of Swifties have expressed profound disdain for Kerry? It is because they have long remembered and despised his manipulations, but there was no pressing motivation for them to band together to bring their disdain and distrust of him to the public eye.

Ben, if you were in 'Nam, the chances are you observed some gold-brickers, druggies, or even a coward or two, but you don't today dwell on the failures of those weak sisters, do you? Likewise, while I have a strong distaste for homosexuals it tickles me in a black humor sort of way that the platoon sergeant of the platoon of infantry which secured the area, had to fight off & kill a number of PAVNs in order that a Medivac might safely hover over the jungle to haul my hide out was a homosexual. A few months after I was hit he was called on the carpet for making a pass at one of our Viet scouts. Of course, that sergeant was promptly booted out of our Cavalry squadron, out of the division, out of 'Nam & out of the Army. Even so, it amuses me a mite that to a certain extent I owe my life to that guy, regardless whom I never knew very well (after all, he was a recent replacement as platoon Sgt. We having lost a bunch of people, including our infantry plt. sgt. a few weeks before I was hit). Point of fact, evidently the sergeant personally killed three or four PAVNs as the platoon fought its way to my body lying out there in the Au Shau Valley, a bare couple of clicks from Laos & fewer than forty from North Viet-Nam. In other words, it was very bad Injun couintry. Whoee! Still a scary place in my mind. Fortunately, none of the platoon was even WIA, let alone not KIA in rescuing my hide. "Domine, non sum dignus" for true, had any of them been hit getting me out, no? :-)


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Many of today's Bush haters appear to be hypocrites because they take umbarge with his National Guard service, but they ignore Harry S. Truman's Guard service.

In my book, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If Bush is to be criticized for his service in the Nat'l Guard, why let Harry S. Truman, who retired as Colonel, Missouri National Guard, when Senator, before becoming President, off the hook--for no better reason than he was a Democrat? So it seems. Truman instead of running for political office could have gone on active duty as a soldier, but he preferred to sit comfortably in the U.S. throughout WWII. But because he was a Democrat many say it was O.K. for him to serve in the Guard, but it wasn't O.K. for Bush.


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

An attempt to respond to Ben Severance's plaint, "Does anyone really think that Kerry fabricated his heroics FIVE times in FOUR months...?"

Ben, many of us Viet-Nam veterans believe G..damned exactly that! He was (is?)a master manipulator of people and of the Navy's bureaucracy & the regulations for which it was responsible.

For instance, it has become clear that to acquire his first Purple Owie, subsequent to being turned down for the decoration he awaited a change of command & he himself submitted the paper work for his first Purple Heart through his new C.O., who was unaware that his request for the Purple Heart had been refused by Kerry's previous C.O. That was dishonest, deceitful & dishonorable. And certainly not the conduct expected of an officer in the U.S. armed forces.

In case you missed it, you might check out Ralph Peters' essay at www.nypost.com/postopinion/opedcolumnists/29339.htm for some of the more elevated reasons he is so bitterly despised.

BTW, it certainly isn't only us Viet-Nam War veterans who despise Kerry, so do many of the WWII guys, including a friend of mine who in '44 was a Thunderbolt pilot flying close air support for the 101st, when it was beseiged during the German's last gasp counter-offensive. Whatever decorations this friend, Bill, holds, the one he most treasures is the Zippo cigarette lighter given him by the C.G. of the 101st in gratitude for having proved that close air support, although Bill's aircraft was shot down whilst he was providing that close air support.

My friend, Bill, had the opportunity to be presented to and receive the gift of the lighter from General McNulty because Bill was shot down by German infantrymen using their bolt-action Mauser rifles. Bill says he doesn't know what they hit, perhaps a fuel line, but regardless he had to parachute from a dying aircraft. Fortunately, he landed within the 101st's lines.

One reason Bill is contemptuous of Kerry is because of his Purple Owies, his unearned Purple Hearts and Kerry's manipulation of the system to acquire them. Many of us in WWII & Viet-Nam paid too high prices in personal sacrifices to have the least respect for Kerry's fake wounds. Another friend, a fellow Viet vet, once a UH-1 door gunner but today a retired attorney, depises Kerry in part because Kerry bugged out from 'Nam so quickly, leaving his boat crew to break in at unnecessary additional risk to them a new boat commander. Of course this second friend looks at the situation from the perspective of an EM. One thing he sees in Kerry is someone who is so self-centered that in his hurry to leave 'Nam, taking with him his few months' of experience as a Swift Boat commander he placed his boat crew at unnecessary additional risk.


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Adam shows us why the opinions of non-veteran Leftists about Indochina are frequently dismissed by those of us who fought there as silly, irrelevant and not germane to the subject. For one thing, Adam refers to John McCain as a "soldier." For pete's sake, why should anyone value the comments of one about the armed forces, if that person doesn't know the difference between a soldier and a sailor?

For another, Adam, you're darned right Kerry was a sissie in Viet-Nam. He not only gave himself two self-inflicted wounds, two little owies so thathe could cut & run from Viet-Nam, from danger, upon serving only a third of a normal tour of duty. Moreover, the first quarter of his third of a normal tour of duty in-country was served in a nice, comfortable,rear echelon training enviuronment. In other words, he spent only a quarter of a normal tour in a combat environment.

The claim that decorations for valor were awarded solely to boost morale is in error, whether a deliberate lie or not. Decorations are awarded primarily to recognize extraordinary valor. To say such awards are less than they are is malicous back-stabbing by armchair warriors who've never heard "a shot fired in anger," and who don't know a damned thing about the battlefield.

If you hadn't noticed, it isn't Kerry's fellow pacifists criticizing his dishonestly acquired decorations, his valor, his incompetence in Viet-Nam, it is rather combat veterans who individually & collectively served far longer in Viet-Nam than this gutless wonder, Kerry.

Too, thousands of Viet-Nam veterans showed up in D.C. to protest against Kerry, a mere half dozen offered him support.



Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005



Ben has run away from the debate with a cheap shot, the usual Leftist, including Kerry, the anti-war activist's, bleat that the Viet-Nam War was a mistake, about U.S. Cold War policy, but IO stand by the contention, increasingly accepted in non-Leftist circles, that the war not an mistake. Frequently those who advocate the war was a mistake are Leftists attempting to justify their cowardice in failing to serve in uniform during the war.

As the Texas historian, Michael Lind, has pointed out in his book of that title "Vietnam: the Necessary War" the Viet-Nam War indeed needed to be fought. As professor Dresner also pointed out in another thread on this site, assuming I understood him correctly, had we not fought when we did in Viet-Nam given the then circumstances of the Cold War conflict, we eventually would have had to fight in Thailand or Indonesia or perhaps elsewhere in the East.

If folks don't approve of this interpretation of the necessity of the war, there was the opinion of the Prime Minister of Singapore in an essay, the 21 May 1997 edition, in the "Wall Street Journal," in which it is said he, the P.M. of Singapore appreciated our having fought as hard & long in Viet-Nam as we did. Because it permitted various SE Asian nations to get their feet under them socially & economically without being disrupted by more serious Communist subversion & the development of more guerilla movements to overthrown representative governments in the region.

Nonetheless, it has of course become a matter of religious dogma on the Left that we were wrong to fight in 'Nam. One wonders if those same folks regret that we won the Cold War, if perhaps they don't wish the Soviet empire hadn't expanded to include the U.S. of A.? Certainly some Hollywood figures give the strong impression they regret we won the Cold War.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/25/2004

I have never read a biography that contained every fact in the subject's life, if the charge is in fact correct. However, there is reason to suspect any charge at this point trying to connect Kerry to France.


Jerry West - 9/24/2004

**
As you wish—SOME Vietnam vets don’t like being labeled as “war criminals”. Others, like you, don’t mind. I’m not sure what to make of that, frankly.
**

What you can make of it is that it is that it is of little importance given the circumstances.

**
I see. So if Kerry makes some generalization about Vietnam vets, no matter how despicable, those vets who take it personally must have a guilty conscience.
**

The word "must" is inaccurate, I posited several interpretations. You are welcome to your own.

**
You know, Jerry, there is a big gap between “ruining someone’s life”, which is a charge you just made up,....
**

I think if you go back through all of the babbling on this issue there were claims made either on the list or in the media that these veterans lives were affected by Kerry's testimony and they went on to become whatever insinuating that had Kerry not done what he had done they would have had better opportunities. At least that is the way I read it.

**
Jerry, I never labeled Kerry’s meetings with the North Vietnamese as a “moral issue”. I called it an example of stunningly bad judgment.
**

OK, a highly subjective opinion. Kerry's actions are open to more than one interpretation.

**
Your assertion that there is no evidence that the anti-war movement lengthened the war is not accurate. North Vietnamese officials are on record as having stated that they took great comfort from the anti-war movement and that it improved their morale.
**

You are assuming that they would have quit had there been no anti-war movement. On the other hand one can also assume that they had no intention of quitting and the anti-war movement shortened the war by contributing to the US pull out.

If I recall correctly, the North Vietnamese were ready to sign a peace accord in 1968 and our side refused. Of course a peace accord in 1968 would have probably only moved the war into another phase, just like the 1972 one. The big difference in outcome being about 30,000 US lives.

**
No we don’t. What we do know is that you are making that assertion.
**

Perhaps you don't know it, but there are some things I can assert from first hand experience and my access at the time to classified materials.

**
I don’t have to read your mind, Jerry. I can read your posts....
**

Except that you use them to claim what the real issues are in my mind, something that you really don't know.

**
Jerry, you’re the one that compared our troops who support the war in Iraq to Nazi’s. Don’t crawfish on your statement now.
**

Again: Interesting, but understandable that you should pick that comparison over the USA/CSA one, and that you should term it "standard."

Anyhow, the point is that there is support for both sides among the troops, and from information I am receiving a fair amount of dissatisfaction with the war.

The support our troops flag wavers who think that the troops and the war are inseparable and that the troops are all gung ho are living in a fairytale.

**
I didn’t bother refuting your statements for two reasons- I found them somewhat despicable on the one hand and completely unsupported on the other.
**

Really? Ok, they are certainly not points that where the discussion will wind up with a warm and fuzzy conclusion for the supporters of this war. A number officers disagree with the war and its conduct, troops are not happy, enlistments seem to be down, troops were threatened with Iraq, according to at least one newspaper, in order to get them to re-enlist, and whether this is a political and economic war rather than a defensive one is certainly a question of merit.

If you have missed all of this you are getting a limited flow of information.


stephen Brody - 9/24/2004

--“Any time that you use the term "Vietnam Vets" in this context it would be more accurate if you qualified it with "some."

As you wish—SOME Vietnam vets don’t like being labeled as “war criminals”. Others, like you, don’t mind. I’m not sure what to make of that, frankly.

“Those who take Kerry's accusations personally might just be feeling guilty.”

I see. So if Kerry makes some generalization about Vietnam vets, no matter how despicable, those vets who take it personally must have a guilty conscience. Ever read Franz Kafka, Jerry?

--“No one can credibly assert that either some officers were not guilty of what Kerry charged or that higher commands did not engage in cover up.”

That’s not what Kerry asserted. He claimed that the US Army “generally ravaged the countryside in a manner reminiscent of ‘Jenghis Khan’ “. As I've said, war crimes happen in every war. Kerry slandered Vietnam vets generally with his allegations and many vets don’t like it.

--“If anybody claims that Kerry's testimony ruined their life they are just making an excuse for their own failures.”

You know, Jerry, there is a big gap between “ruining someone’s life”, which is a charge you just made up, and slandering someone by making generalized charges against Vietnam vets.

--“Different assertion this time. Now we are comparing phony anti-war vets to promoters of phony WMDs. :)”

Oh, a different unsubstantiated assertion. I may need to start keeping score.

--“ It is strictly a political issue, not a moral one, and even trying to make it a moral one is a political issue. Again, so what? And, provide a copy of the Declaration of War against NVN.”

Jerry, I never labeled Kerry’s meetings with the North Vietnamese as a “moral issue”. I called it an example of stunningly bad judgment. I labeled his lying about it for 30 years an indication of a character defect. As for a Declaration of War, I point out that hostilities were ongoing and North Vietnam was holding hundreds of US POW’s. The absence of a Declaration of War is irrelevant.

Your assertion that there is no evidence that the anti-war movement lengthened the war is not accurate. North Vietnamese officials are on record as having stated that they took great comfort from the anti-war movement and that it improved their morale. That’s why Kerry’s photograph occupies a place of honor in the War Remnants Museum in Saigon. A museum, which contains an entire section, devoted to “American Protestors”.

--“We do know that the anti-war movement was wide spread in the military by 1970, that troops were engaging in sabotage and also avoiding combat,”

No we don’t. What we do know is that you are making that assertion.


--“First, one would assume that had there been any serious wrongdoing here there would have been arrests and convictions.”

Ahh, the “no indictment-no foul” standard. Maybe if Kerry had reported the plot at the time, there would have been arrests and convictions.

For Kerry to have met with people who seriously debated assassinating pro-war Congressmen says a lot about his judgment. That he would not have reported the information says a lot about his sense of responsibility. That he would lie about it for 30 years says a lot about his character. None of it good.

--“Second, again this has to be understood in context with the times. 30 years later it is easily twisted into something else.”

Well, as I’ve said, Kerry must have realized how bad it looks for him to have attended these meetings-that’s why he lied about it for 30 years. Let him tell the truth and make the case you’re trying to make—that meeting with people who are seriously considering assassinating governmental officials is reeeaalllly not so bad and must be understood in the “context of the times”. I suspect that Kerry probably considered that and figured he was better off lying about it.

--“You are not a good mind reader. Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, and most of the rest of that crew's service records or lack of are just as valid an area for examination as Kerry's is.”

I don’t have to read your mind, Jerry. I can read your posts. Your posts that contain dozens of references to Bush’s ANG service and Cheney’s student deferments. So, if you agree that Kerry’s 35-year-old record is subject to the same scrutiny as Bush and Cheney’s, why all the wailing about the attention that people are paying to Kerry’s post-Vietnam activities? Scrutiny that Kerry invited by making his service the centerpiece of his campaign.

--“Kind of like FOX NEWS?”

If you want to have a contest with Fox News to see who can be more puerile, be my guest. Personally, I think you’re way ahead.

“Of course you conveniently avoid all of the points made around that one sentence that you pounce on. Perhaps because they are unrefutable?”

Actually, I think you meant irrefutable.

Jerry, you’re the one that compared our troops who support the war in Iraq to Nazi’s. Don’t crawfish on your statement now. I didn’t bother refuting your statements for two reasons- I found them somewhat despicable on the one hand and completely unsupported on the other.



stephen Brody - 9/24/2004

--“Any time that you use the term "Vietnam Vets" in this context it would be more accurate if you qualified it with "some."

As you wish—SOME Vietnam vets don’t like being labeled as “war criminals”. Others, like you, don’t mind. I’m not sure what to make of that, frankly.

“Those who take Kerry's accusations personally might just be feeling guilty.”

I see. So if Kerry makes some generalization about Vietnam vets, no matter how despicable, those vets who take it personally must have a guilty conscience. Ever read Franz Kafka, Jerry?

--“No one can credibly assert that either some officers were not guilty of what Kerry charged or that higher commands did not engage in cover up.”

That’s not what Kerry asserted. He claimed that the US Army “generally ravaged the countryside in a manner reminiscent of ‘Jenghis Khan’ “. As I've said, war crimes happen in every war. Kerry slandered Vietnam vets generally with his allegations and many vets don’t like it.

--“If anybody claims that Kerry's testimony ruined their life they are just making an excuse for their own failures.”

You know, Jerry, there is a big gap between “ruining someone’s life”, which is a charge you just made up, and slandering someone by making generalized charges against Vietnam vets.

--“Different assertion this time. Now we are comparing phony anti-war vets to promoters of phony WMDs. :)”

Oh, a different unsubstantiated assertion. I may need to start keeping score.

--“ It is strictly a political issue, not a moral one, and even trying to make it a moral one is a political issue. Again, so what? And, provide a copy of the Declaration of War against NVN.”

Jerry, I never labeled Kerry’s meetings with the North Vietnamese as a “moral issue”. I called it an example of stunningly bad judgment. I labeled his lying about it for 30 years an indication of a character defect. As for a Declaration of War, I point out that hostilities were ongoing and North Vietnam was holding hundreds of US POW’s. The absence of a Declaration of War is irrelevant.

Your assertion that there is no evidence that the anti-war movement lengthened the war is not accurate. North Vietnamese officials are on record as having stated that they took great comfort from the anti-war movement and that it improved their morale. That’s why Kerry’s photograph occupies a place of honor in the War Remnants Museum in Saigon. A museum, which contains an entire section, devoted to “American Protestors”.

--“We do know that the anti-war movement was wide spread in the military by 1970, that troops were engaging in sabotage and also avoiding combat,”

No we don’t. What we do know is that you are making that assertion.


--“First, one would assume that had there been any serious wrongdoing here there would have been arrests and convictions.”

Ahh, the “no indictment-no foul” standard. Maybe if Kerry had reported the plot at the time, there would have been arrests and convictions.

For Kerry to have met with people who seriously debated assassinating pro-war Congressmen says a lot about his judgment. That he would not have reported the information says a lot about his sense of responsibility. That he would lie about it for 30 years says a lot about his character. None of it good.

--“Second, again this has to be understood in context with the times. 30 years later it is easily twisted into something else.”

Well, as I’ve said, Kerry must have realized how bad it looks for him to have attended these meetings-that’s why he lied about it for 30 years. Let him tell the truth and make the case you’re trying to make—that meeting with people who are seriously considering assassinating governmental officials is reeeaalllly not so bad and must be understood in the “context of the times”. I suspect that Kerry probably considered that and figured he was better off lying about it.

--“You are not a good mind reader. Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, and most of the rest of that crew's service records or lack of are just as valid an area for examination as Kerry's is.”

I don’t have to read your mind, Jerry. I can read your posts. Your posts that contain dozens of references to Bush’s ANG service and Cheney’s student deferments. So, if you agree that Kerry’s 35-year-old record is subject to the same scrutiny as Bush and Cheney’s, why all the wailing about the attention that people are paying to Kerry’s post-Vietnam activities? Scrutiny that Kerry invited by making his service the centerpiece of his campaign.

--“Kind of like FOX NEWS?”

If you want to have a contest with Fox News to see who can be more puerile, be my guest. Personally, I think you’re way ahead.

“Of course you conveniently avoid all of the points made around that one sentence that you pounce on. Perhaps because they are unrefutable?”

Actually, I think you meant irrefutable.

Jerry, you’re the one that compared our troops who support the war in Iraq to Nazi’s. Don’t crawfish on your statement now. I didn’t bother refuting your statements for two reasons- I found them somewhat despicable on the one hand and completely unsupported on the other.



Jerry West - 9/23/2004

**
That’s not the issue. Kerry testified that war crimes were commonplace and encouraged by officers. Therein lies one of his main problems with Vietnam vets. They don’t like being accused of war crimes. You’ve already stated that you didn’t mind being accused of war crimes. I guess many vets feel differently.
**

Any time that you use the term "Vietnam Vets" in this context it would be more accurate if you qualified it with "some."

Those who take Kerry's accusations personally might just be feeling guilty. Rose colored glasses and denial are two altenative reasons other than political opportunism for getting all hyped up about Kerry's testimony.

The thing most debatable about his testimony is the term "common place." No one can credibly assert that either some officers were not guilty of what Kerry charged or that higher commands did not engage in cover up.

**
I guess you can’t blame the victims of Kerry’s “hyperbole”
**

Victim is a pretty extreme depiction in this case. If anybody claims that Kerry's testimony ruined their life they are just making an excuse for their own failures. If they say that they were deeply hurt the term "crocodile tears" comes to mind, or "get a therapist."

**
The last time you made this assertion I asked you to provide evidence that Bush or Cheney supported the Vietnam War at the time.
**

Different assertion this time. Now we are comparing phony anti-war vets to promoters of phony WMDs. :)

**
Your answers to questions about Kerry having met with the North Vietnamese....
**

This all has to be taken in context with the times. It is strictly a political issue, not a moral one, and even trying to make it a moral one is a political issue. Again, so what? And, provide a copy of the Declaration of War against NVN.

**
I have never seen any persuasive evidence that the anti-war movement shortened the war by one day.
**

Nor is there any that it lengthened it, except in the minds of those who subscribe to the fairytalie that we could have "won," whatever winning means in this context.

We do know that the anti-war movement was wide spread in the military by 1970, that troops were engaging in sabotage and also avoiding combat, not to mention asassinating officers, and that the reliability of the military was becoming questionable. Did this have any bearing on Nixon's decision to throw in the towel? Good topic for a number of dissertations.

Get ahold of all the Secret and Top Secret sitreps coming out of Asia during the late 60s and early 70s and have a good read.

**
So the fact that Kerry attended meetings where assassinating pro–war Congressmen was debated is of no concern to you.... If Kerry felt guiltless in this affair, why did he lie about attending the meetings for 30 years?
**

First, one would assume that had there been any serious wrongdoing here there would have been arrests and convictions. Were there? If not then even the government did not take this seriously.

Second, again this has to be understood in context with the times. 30 years later it is easily twisted into something else. He is condemned either way he moves on it, and no matter what his knowledge or involvement was the spin from the Bush camp will be to put it in as bad a light as possible. Politics, again, is the main issue here.

**
....the real issues. Which, in your mind, are Bush’s 35-year-old National Guard service and Cheney’s 40-year-old student deferments.
**

You are not a good mind reader. Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, and most of the rest of that crew's service records or lack of are just as valid an area for examination as Kerry's is. This thread happens to be about military service, but, there are more important issues.

**
The point is that it is PUERILE.
**

Kind of like FOX NEWS? Perhaps it is just caricature, not that that has ever been used in political discourse.

**
Jesus, I knew I wouldn’t have to wait long for the standard reference to the Nazi’s.
**

Interesting, but understandable that you should pick that comparison over the USA/CSA one, and that you should term it "standard." Of course you conveniently avoid all of the points made around that one sentence that you pounce on. Perhaps because they are unrefutable?


Richard Henry Morgan - 9/23/2004

Just discovered an article in the London Telegraph about Kerry requesting a deferment so he could stay in Paris and study French. The ultimate source was, apparently, a Harvard Crimson article, written by a guy who is now on the faculty of Harvard Medical School. The Kerry campaign, given ample opportunity to deny it, has refused to do so. Yet the whole story makes no appearance in Brinkley's "official" biography.


stephen Brody - 9/23/2004

--“The answer lies in the records, war crimes were committed, some officers participated or encouraged, others covered it up

No one has ever said that war crimes didn’t happen in Vietnam. War crimes happened in WWI, WWII and every other war. That’s not the issue. Kerry testified that war crimes were commonplace and encouraged by officers. Therein lies one of his main problems with Vietnam vets. They don’t like being accused of war crimes. You’ve already stated that you didn’t mind being accused of war crimes. I guess many vets feel differently.

--“The only thing left to debate here is the meaning of commonplace and the role of hyperbole in political speech”

I guess you can’t blame the victims of Kerry’s “hyperbole” (others might call it lying) for being unhappy about.

--“ I know many real vets who were as opposed to the war as the folks who participated in the WS exercise.”

Really, did any of them provide testimony at the Winter Soldier investigation? Were any of them war criminals?

--“Phony vets who may have been involved are no different than non-vets who supported the war. In fact they are not much different than those who recently ran around waving the bogeyman of WMDs in Iraq.”

The last time you made this assertion I asked you to provide evidence that Bush or Cheney supported the Vietnam War at the time. You replied that you didn’t have time to determine whether they had supported the war and that you would just assume that they had. I renew my caution to you about assuming facts not in evidence. Put up or shut up.

Your answers to questions about Kerry having met with the North Vietnamese while hostilities were ongoing are revealing: “So what? So did a lot of other people” Are any of the many others running for the highest office in the land? As for “so what”, it shows that Kerry has incredibly bad judgment and the fact that he lied about it until recently indicates that he’s got problems in the character department.

So you don’t care about what effect Kerry’s testimony had on the POW’s. Fair enough. I guess you can’t blame the POW’s, though, for being less than sanguine about it. Let them tell their story and then let the voters decide if it reflects poorly on Kerry.

--“One could argue that the anti-war movement may have shortened the POWs time in captivity, and may have saved many US lives. You can't fault somebodies motives if they believed that.”

I have never seen any persuasive evidence that the anti-war movement shortened the war by one day. As for Kerry’s motives, who knows what they were? Frankly, if he acted irresponsibly, who cares what his motives were?

--“Was anyone tried and convicted for this?”

So the fact that Kerry attended meetings where assassinating pro–war Congressmen was debated is of no concern to you. I guess you’re promulgating a new standard by which presidential candidates should be judged-the Jerry West “no indictment-no foul” standard. But tell me this, Jerry. If Kerry felt guiltless in this affair, why did he lie about attending the meetings for 30 years?

--“War stories, the society is full of them.”

Ahh, so Kerry’s life-altering event, the Christmas in Cambodia story, is nothing but an apocryphal war story. Strange, considering the various and sundry versions Kerry has told. I wonder what Dr. Frank would make of that?

--“He went, he served, he took the risks.”

Yes and so did the Swifties and for a lot longer than Kerry. Look, Jerry, I know that you think that all this concern about Kerry’s 35-year-old post Vietnam activities is a diversion from the real issues. Which, in your mind, are Bush’s 35-year-old National Guard service and Cheney’s 40-year-old student deferments.


--“Maybe it is not the most civil thing to say, I agree, but some would agree that if you stuck a tail and a fez on George he would fit the bill”

And some might think you would look like Howdy Doody if you put on a cowboy hat and sat on Buffalo Bob’s lap, but so what. The point is not that your statement isn’t CIVIL. Hell, Jerry, you’re frequently uncivil. I can deal with uncivil. The point is that it is PUERILE.

--“As for the swifties, what can you say about guys who disgrace veterans with their politically opportunistic actions against a fellow vet?”

Oh, you mean like Kerry did to his squadron mates when he came home from Vietnam and accused them of being “war criminals”, for crass political motives?

--“And I can assure you that a Democratic partisan I am not.”

If you’re not, you deserve an Academy Award for the best impersonation of one I’ve ever seen.

--“or that some Germans supported the Third Reich while others tried to put an end to it.”

Jesus, I knew I wouldn’t have to wait long for the standard reference to the Nazi’s.


Jerry West - 9/22/2004

Swift Boat Swill
by Nicholas Turse
September 21st, 2004 11:40 AM

John Kerry is being pilloried for his shocking Senate testimony 34 years ago that many U.S. soldiers—not just a few "rogues"—were committing atrocities against the Vietnamese. U.S. military records that were classified for decades but are now available in the National Archives back Kerry up and put the lie to his critics. Contrary to what those critics, including the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, have implied, Kerry was speaking on behalf of many soldiers when he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 22, 1971, and said this:

http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0438/turse.php


Bill Heuisler - 9/21/2004

Mr. Todd,
Zinni, North or any qualified Marine. We need a change, in attitude, follow-through and ferocity.

Zell would be acceptable if he were younger. As to changing sides, that's a big reason why Kerry will lose so badly.
Bill Heuisler


Jerry West - 9/20/2004

**
That’s not a question that can be answered.
**

And that is why this whole affair keeps going around in circles.

**
The questions are did Kerry libel Vietnam Vets when he claimed that war crimes were commonplace and encouraged by officers.
**

I think you meant question is in this case. The answer lies in the records, war crimes were committed, some officers participated or encouraged, others covered it up.

The only thing left to debate here is the meaning of commonplace and the role of hyperbole in political speech. That is a rhetorical argument, the answer to which will depend on one's view point, so in reality may never have a universally accepted answer free of politics.

**
Was the “Winter Soldier” investigation that Kerry testified about really just a sham of Vietnam vet imposters and concocted testimony?
**

I know many real vets who were as opposed to the war as the folks who participated in the WS exercise. Phony vets who may have been involved are no different than non-vets who supported the war. In fact they are not much different than those who recently ran around waving the bogeyman of WMDs in Iraq. The WS thing, again, speaks more to one's politics than to anything else. It is only an issue because more substantitive ones are not as attractive to Kerry's opponents.

**
What effect did Kerry’s testimony have on POW’s still in North Vietnamese prisons?
**

What does it matter? One should support what one feels is an immoral war because of POWs? One should condone crimes because of prisoners? When the argument descends to this issue the critics are truly grasping for straws.

One could argue that the anti-war movement may have shortened the POWs time in captivity, and may have saved many US lives. You can't fault somebodies motives if they believed that.

Too bad Nixon and Kissinger are not on trial here, think of how many thousands of lives would have been saved and prisoners not taken had the peace agreement been signed in 1968 instead of put off.

**
Why did Kerry meet twice with representatives of the North Vietnam at a time when hostilities were ongoing?
**

So what? So did a lot of other people. Again, a political issue, not one that speaks to character or ability to lead. Perhaps you can show us the declaration of war against NVN?

**
What involvement did Kerry have with the proposal by some VVAW members to assassinate pro-war Congressmen?
**

Was anyone tried and convicted for this? If not, why not? Does anyone not politically inclined to cook up whatever issue they can for partisan purposes take any of this seriously, particularly if they active in those times?

**
Now that Kerry has tacitly admitted the falsity of being in Cambodia,....
**

War stories, the society is full of them. If one is called on them and admits that they may be embellished, unclear or not true, end of issue.

**
But the fact is, Jerry, Kerry has failed to refute what the Swifties have said.
**

There is Kerry's account and there is his political detractors' account. Perhaps war stories both. They denigrate their own service by their attacks on his. He went, he served, he took the risks. The Navy backs him, most of his crew back him, the rest of it is Nixonian sleeze ball politics.

**
The Swifties have now focused their attention on Kerry’s activities after he returned from Vietnam and that is as it should be.
**

Exactly, as I have also implied more than once. And those activities and the criticism of them are more about the war than about Kerry.

**
Interesting that you should make that assertion, since Kerry is the only confessed war –criminal in the race.:-)
**

His also the only combat veteran in the race, the other one used his family's influence to pull strings and get him safely away from the war.

**
I suppose you think that is pithy. Like your denigration of the Swifties as “rent-a-vets. Maybe you think it makes you sound erudite. For me, that’s where the wheels come off your arguments and you become just another grape cool-aid drinking Democratic partisan.
**

Maybe it is not the most civil thing to say, I agree, but some would agree that if you stuck a tail and a fez on George he would fit the bill. Caricature, after all, is common place in our political history. As for the swifties, what can you say about guys who disgrace veterans with their politically opportunistic actions against a fellow vet?

And I can assure you that a Democratic partisan I am not. Just think that Bush is far worse than Kerry and that Kerry is being smeared, a tactic not unknown to the bunch currently in power. No doubt should Kerry win I will be among his critics, not supporters.

**
But If what you say is true, that the soldier’s sacrifices in Iraq have been for nothing, then isn’t odd that Bush seems to be much more popular with the military than Kerry?
**

That is why a whole raft of respected senior officers are opposed to this war? That is why troops are telling reporters that they are waiting for the folks at home to get mad enough to stop this thing and bring them home? That is why recruiting is down and the Army is telling troops who don't re-enlist that they will be transferred to an Iraq bound unit with the implication that they will be extended there?

Anyhow, I don't find it odd that some troops support Bush and some support Kerry. I wouldn't find it odd if more supported Bush than Kerry. I didn't find it odd that some troops supported the Confederacy and some the Union, or that some Germans supported the Third Reich while others tried to put an end to it.

From personal experience I know that some troops don't care who is in charge as long as they have a war to fight and will follow anyone who will give that to them, no larger moral issues involved.

That is all beside the fact that thousands have died or been maimed for political or economic reasons, not in defense of the territory of the US, despite what wild scenarios some administration supporters might weave.


stephen Brody - 9/20/2004

1. “It boils down to the argument of whether the VN war was right or wrong and which group holds closer to the ideals of the nation, those who supported this war or those who spoke out against it.”

That really is not the question, Jerry. That’s not a question that can be answered. The questions are did Kerry libel Vietnam Vets when he claimed that war crimes were commonplace and encouraged by officers.

Was the “Winter Soldier” investigation that Kerry testified about really just a sham of Vietnam vet imposters and concocted testimony? What effect did Kerry’s testimony have on POW’s still in North Vietnamese prisons?

Why did Kerry meet twice with representatives of the North Vietnam at a time when hostilities were ongoing? Why, until recently, did Kerry lie about it?

What involvement did Kerry have with the proposal by some VVAW members to assassinate pro-war Congressmen? Why did he lie about being at the meeting where the plan was debated? Why didn’t he report the plot to authorities?

Now that Kerry has tacitly admitted the falsity of being in Cambodia, why did he tell elaborate stories about “events seared-seared into his memory” that never occurred? Is it time for HNN to sic Dr Frank on Kerry for a “Kerry on the Couch” article to explain why a man would concoct stories about supposedly life-altering events?

Jerry, those are the questions that need to be answered.


2. “The hyperbole, exaggeration, spin and selective use of facts is common to both sides”

But the fact is, Jerry, Kerry has failed to refute what the Swifties have said. In fact, Kerry has had to abandon the “Christmas in Cambodia” story as well as admit that the “under Fire”video on his web site is false. The video implied that during the March 13 incident where Jim Rassman fell overboard, the other Swift boats retreated and only Kerry stayed to rescue Rassman. Kerry now admits that his boat was the only one that fled and the other Swift boats stayed.

3. “Attacking his combat record to get at him for standing up against the war shows the weakness of their case”

I’ve already posted my thoughts on the attack on Kerry’s combat record. The Swifties have now focused their attention on Kerry’s activities after he returned from Vietnam and that is as it should be.

4.”If George Bush had Calley's record these same people would probably be defending it. :)”

Interesting that you should make that assertion, since Kerry is the only confessed war –criminal in the race.:-)


5.“The thousands of people who have died because of the policies of the Organ Grinder's Monkey, including those US military personnel whose lives have been wasted by this man, are certainly either dead or maimed.”

There you go again, Jerry. I was with you up to “Organ Grinder’s Monkey”. I suppose you think that is pithy. Like your denigration of the Swifties as “rent-a-vets. Maybe you think it makes you sound erudite. For me, that’s where the wheels come off your arguments and you become just another grape cool-aid drinking Democratic partisan.

But If what you say is true, that the soldier’s sacrifices in Iraq have been for nothing, then isn’t odd that Bush seems to be much more popular with the military than Kerry?

6.” The few who have and are getting rich off of his policies are smiling though. -:)’

Yeah, it’s the corrupt French, Russian, Chinese and UN officials that are crying now. Of course, they have a reason to cry. They were making so much more than Halliburton through the corrupt oil-for-food program.


stephen Brody - 9/20/2004

1. “It boils down to the argument of whether the VN war was right or wrong and which group holds closer to the ideals of the nation, those who supported this war or those who spoke out against it.”

That really is not the question, Jerry. That’s not a question that can be answered. The questions are did Kerry libel Vietnam Vets when he claimed that war crimes were commonplace and encouraged by officers.

Was the “Winter Soldier” investigation that Kerry testified about really just a sham of Vietnam vet imposters and concocted testimony? What effect did Kerry’s testimony have on POW’s still in North Vietnamese prisons?

Why did Kerry meet twice with representatives of the North Vietnam at a time when hostilities were ongoing? Why, until recently, did Kerry lie about it?

What involvement did Kerry have with the proposal by some VVAW members to assassinate pro-war Congressmen? Why did he lie about being at the meeting where the plan was debated? Why didn’t he report the plot to authorities?

Now that Kerry has tacitly admitted the falsity of being in Cambodia, why did he tell elaborate stories about “events seared-seared into his memory” that never occurred? Is it time for HNN to sic Dr Frank on Kerry for a “Kerry on the Couch” article to explain why a man would concoct stories about supposedly life-altering events?

Jerry, those are the questions that need to be answered.


2. “The hyperbole, exaggeration, spin and selective use of facts is common to both sides”

But the fact is, Jerry, Kerry has failed to refute what the Swifties have said. In fact, Kerry has had to abandon the “Christmas in Cambodia” story as well as admit that the “under Fire”video on his web site is false. The video implied that during the March 13 incident where Jim Rassman fell overboard, the other Swift boats retreated and only Kerry stayed to rescue Rassman. Kerry now admits that his boat was the only one that fled and the other Swift boats stayed.

3. “Attacking his combat record to get at him for standing up against the war shows the weakness of their case”

I’ve already posted my thoughts on the attack on Kerry’s combat record. The Swifties have now focused their attention on Kerry’s activities after he returned from Vietnam and that is as it should be.

4.”If George Bush had Calley's record these same people would probably be defending it. :)”

Interesting that you should make that assertion, since Kerry is the only confessed war –criminal in the race.:-)


5.“The thousands of people who have died because of the policies of the Organ Grinder's Monkey, including those US military personnel whose lives have been wasted by this man, are certainly either dead or maimed.”

There you go again, Jerry. I was with you up to “Organ Grinder’s Monkey”. I suppose you think that is pithy. Like your denigration of the Swifties as “rent-a-vets. Maybe you think it makes you sound erudite. For me, that’s where the wheels come off your arguments and you become just another grape cool-aid drinking Democratic partisan.

But If what you say is true, that the soldier’s sacrifices in Iraq have been for nothing, then isn’t odd that Bush seems to be much more popular with the military than Kerry?

6.” The few who have and are getting rich off of his policies are smiling though. -:)’

Yeah, it’s the corrupt French, Russian, Chinese and UN officials that are crying now. Of course, they have a reason to cry. They were making so much more than Halliburton through the corrupt oil-for-food program.


Jerry West - 9/19/2004

**
Actually, Kerry has a bigger VN problem with his activities with respect to VVAW.
**

This is the only issue of merit in his whole RVN experience. It boils down to the argument of whether the VN war was right or wrong and which group holds closer to the ideals of the nation, those who supported this war or those who spoke out against it.

The hyperbole, exaggeration, spin and selective use of facts is common to both sides and really isn't an issue. When the argument hinges on those aspects it has moved from substance to form.

**
Many vets and survivors of vets were unfamiliar with or had forgotten about Kerry’s anti-war statements and activities. Now that they have been acquainted or re-acquainted with these activities, many of them are steamed.
**

And many are not steamed. Neither side can claim the support of an overwhelming number of vets on the VN war issue. From my own experience I know that there was considerable anti-war sentiment among serving members of the military during the war, enough that the services were rife with visible and active dissenters. I know personally that anti-war sympathies extended well up the chain of command.

Those who are steamed about Kerry's anti-war activities should be honest about it and focus their argument on whether the war was right or wrong. Attacking his combat record to get at him for standing up against the war shows the weakness of their case. It is politically convenient, however, which in the end is what all of this at this time is really about.

If George Bush had Calley's record these same people would probably be defending it. :)

**
As for your Bush v Kerry analysis, what can I say? Except, of course, that you’re dead wrong. :-)
**

The thousands of people who have died because of the policies of the Organ Grinder's Monkey, including those US military personnel whose lives have been wasted by this man, are certainly either dead or maimed. The few who have and are getting rich off of his policies are smiling though. -:)


stephen Brody - 9/19/2004

Flexible…flexible…flexible. Uh, no, I don’t think that’s the right word. Indecisive seems more like it. Opportunistic. Irresolute, maybe. No, no vacillating, that’s it.

As for criticism of Kerry around the RVN issue degenerating to minutiae, I tend to agree with you regarding the medals issue. As I have said before, I am very uncomfortable questioning Whether Kerry deserved his Bronzer and Silver Stars. I have some experience with the capricious and arbitrary way that the Government hands out awards and citations and suspect that a lot of awards might not stand up to strict re-examination. Why single Kerry out for special scrutiny.

I’m a little less uncomfortable with questioning his Purple Hearts, because there seems to have been questions raised at the time by his commanders about whether he deserved some of them.

I’m completely comfortable with questions raised about his many and varied stories of trips to Cambodia. Kerry has used these stories to generate political currency for himself and frankly it’s becoming ever more doubtful that these trips ever occurred. This is not a 35-year-old issue, because Kerry has told these stories as recently as 2002.

Actually, Kerry has a bigger VN problem with his activities with respect to VVAW. Many vets and survivors of vets were unfamiliar with or had forgotten about Kerry’s anti-war statements and activities. Now that they have been acquainted or re-acquainted with these activities, many of them are steamed.

As for your Bush v Kerry analysis, what can I say? Except, of course, that you’re dead wrong. :-)


Jerry West - 9/19/2004

Sounds like your criticism is that Kerry is flexible rather than rigid.

I don't know if that is necessarily a bad thing.

Like I have stated before, most of the anti-Kerry criticism, at least around the RVN issue, has degenerated to repetitive and meaningless minutia. A sign that perhaps there is nothing else to go after him for.

There is plenty to criticize Kerry for, the only problem that I have is that on the same issues Bush is even worse.


stephen Brody - 9/18/2004

“Also, one can be bullish about one's service in Vietnam which attests to courage and leadership, and still be opposed to the war. There is no incongruity in this particularly if the opposition arises after the experience.”

The incongruity arises in Kerry’s constant need to straddle the issue. He threw his medals, threw his ribbons or threw someone else’s medals over the White House fence. Take your pick; he’s claimed all three at one time or another.

His service in Vietnam was either “the biggest nothing in history” or “defending America”. Take your pick; he’s made both claims.

Ultimately, Kerry is a cipher. No one knows what he really stands for, because he takes no stands except what is politic at the moment.

Come to think of it, Jerry, forget it. We’ve had this conversation before and here we are again, starting it again where we left off.


Jerry West - 9/18/2004

**
He fought in Vietnam, came home and “turned on his masters”....
**

I guess this would hinge on where one's ultimate allegience lies, with the government whatever it may do or with the Constitution and the principles that the nation was founded on.

Whether one agrees with them or not, many who protested the war did so because they saw it as the patriotic thing to do and supportive of the principles of the nation.

I knew officers right up into the field grades that were in their own way supportive of the anti-war movement, which in the military in my experience was also an anti-corruption movement.

Also, one can be bullish about one's service in Vietnam which attests to courage and leadership, and still be opposed to the war. There is no incongruity in this particularly if the opposition arises after the experience.

Of course the problem with Kerry is that he is not the best choice for President. The problem with George Bush is that he is an even worse choice than Kerry. The tragedy of this election is that we have to choose between the two.


stephen Brody - 9/18/2004

“My one fixed belief in respect to the presidency is that the office of the president has become too powerful, too royal.”

Andrew, I would argue that it is not the Executive branch that has assumed power of monarchical proportion, but rather the Judiciary. Every four years we have the opportunity to throw the President out, if that is the will of the electorate. No monarchy ever ceded that power to its subjects.

Now the Judiciary, particularly the federal Judiciary, is more akin to monarchy. Judges, appointed for life, answerable to no one save another judge, act as lords over their little fiefdom.

But if you believe that the Executive branch should be modeled after the Federal Reserve System, then I accuse you of being a closet monarchist. The knock on the Federal Reserve has always been that it is run by a chairman who is answerable to no one and governed by a Board that meets and acts with secrecy. Sounds pretty monarchical to me.

As for picking some alternative to Bush, other than Kerry, what’s the point? We have our choice. In January, it will either be Bush or Kerry. Why fantasize otherwise?

Anyway, I do reject your premise that anyone who opposes Kerry does so “from the fact that he is opposing Bush, or from the complainants being adherents of the neoconservative belief in empire.” A good case can be made that Kerry is the most pathetic nominee in recent history. A do-nothing, backbench Senator, with a 20-year lack-luster track record. No wonder he has stressed his 4-month tour of duty in Vietnam rather than his 20-year senate career.


stephen Brody - 9/18/2004

“My one fixed belief in respect to the presidency is that the office of the president has become too powerful, too royal.”

Andrew, I would argue that it is not the Executive branch that has assumed power of monarchical proportion, but rather the Judiciary. Every four years we have the opportunity to throw the President out, if that is the will of the electorate. No monarchy ever ceded that power to its subjects.

Now the Judiciary, particularly the federal Judiciary, is more akin to monarchy. Judges, appointed for life, answerable to no one save another judge, act as lords over their little fiefdom.

But if you believe that the Executive branch should be modeled after the Federal Reserve System, then I accuse you of being a closet monarchist. The knock on the Federal Reserve has always been that it is run by a chairman who is answerable to no one and governed by a Board that meets and acts with secrecy. Sounds pretty monarchical to me.

As for picking some alternative to Bush, other than Kerry, what’s the point? We have our choice. In January, it will either be Bush or Kerry. Why fantasize otherwise?

Anyway, I do reject your premise that anyone who opposes Kerry does so “from the fact that he is opposing Bush, or from the complainants being adherents of the neoconservative belief in empire.” A good case can be made that Kerry is the most pathetic nominee in recent history. A do-nothing, backbench Senator, with a 20-year lack-luster track record. No wonder he has stressed his 4-month tour of duty in Vietnam rather than his 20-year senate career.


John H. Lederer - 9/18/2004

To ex-servicemen there is a distinction to "military" and "naval", and "seaman" and 'soldier".

That is because within the field these are terms of art. Moreover, the field is one that for a variety of reasons is extremely protective of traditions and precise usage of terms.

Thirty years ago when a large portion of the adult male population had been in the service the distinctions were well understood. Moreover, there was a surviving compulsion brought on by having hammered into one the necessity of doing it the "the Army way" or "the Navy way". I can recall being publicly humiliated many years ago from confusing a "rope" and a "line" -- a matter of tradition but also a distinction needed for functional reasons.

One of the things that has bothered me about all the ruckus about Bush's and Kerry's service records has been the ignorance of the press. Many lack the base knowledge to udnerstand what they are reading and what they are talking about.

Right now, for instance, a pet peeve is the idea that Bush (or Kerry for that matter if one digs a bit) signed a "contract" with the ANG or Navy and the fact that they got out early means that they did not perform the terms of their contract.

The "contract" is a one sided one since the government can keep you in service longer if it chooses, kick you out sooner if it pleases, and let you go earlier on your request, if you choose-and it pleases. Some "contract".

The government chose to let Bush out early, and chose to switch Kerry from active to non-active reserve duty early. That isn't surprising as the government was forcing out officers against their will in 73-75 because of the winding down of Vietnam.

Similarly I am troubled by the press's assumption that a waiting list for the guard in 1968 meant that there was waiting list for pilot training that Bush somehow "jumped" from influence.

First, there wasn't a waiting list for pilots. Bush was not jumped. Indeed the fact that Bush went into the guard and into pilot training in and of itself speaks of a pilot shortage... historically ANG outfits got almost all their pilots from active Air Force pilots leaving the active service. The fact that they were direct training guard pilots indicates that that supply was insufficient.

Second, guard appointments as pilots in the ANG have always been the result of influence, but not quite in the way that you think.

The better ANG units (South Carolina and Arizona come to mind though that may be dated info) are superb and are arguably better than any regular Air Force unit. They typically win or place very well in competitions with regular units. Why? Because they are self-selective of their pilots, generally have more experienced pilots, and generally have very tight unit morale and integrity. The key questions asked with a pilot applying to an ANG unit is "How well can he fly?" and "How well can he fit in?". These are small units, with substantial history, and a lot of pride. The end result probably would seem a bit clubby to an outsider, but a military historian would recognize something of the British regimental tradition.

Much more than having a Daddy who is a congressman, it helps to have a friend or former wing man or co pilot already in who can vouch for you. The interview also matters a lot.

This is emphatically not true of the Army National Guard (for a lot of different reasons).

Thirty years ago, I suspect that the press would have been more of this underlying knowledge. They sure don't seem to know much about the military or Air National Guard any more.









Andrew D. Todd - 9/18/2004

That is just it. I am not a closet monarchist. I do not yearn for a king. I do not have any personal commitment to John Kerry. He is easily replaced if someone better comes along. Given a choice of flawed candidates, one can make judgments about the relative speed with which they changed their coats, the length of time they spent in a neutral position, etc. Name your alternative candidate! Given the late date, of course, you would have to come up with some fairly definite proposals for getting him on the ballot, etc.

My one fixed belief in respect to the presidency is that the office of the president has become too powerful, too royal. Historically, the federal government did not control very much money, and the president did not exercise very much power. As the federal government grew, the checks and balances failed to keep up with its growth. We should set up independent bodies, along the lines of the Federal Reserve Bank, until the president's de-facto powers are back where they were in Calvin Coolidge's day. I should qualify this with a comment about divided power. Someone who has enormous power subject to supervision is under enormous temptation to escape from supervision. Congressional oversight is no substitute for dividing up the Executive into politically autonomous branches.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/18/2004

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/18/opinion/18kristof.html?hp


stephen Brody - 9/18/2004

“Zell Miller is not acceptable-- a man who will betray one master will betray another..”

You, of course, realize that under the conditions you lay out, Kerry wouldn’t be acceptable. He fought in Vietnam, came home and “turned on his masters”, became anti-war, threw his medals, ribbons, or someone else’s medals (take your choice) over the White House fence, and now has “turned on his masters” yet again, and is bullish about his Vietnam service.

As you said, “a man who will betray one master will betray another”.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/18/2004

The United States Navy disagrees with you. Look at the article I posted below.


Maarja Krusten - 9/18/2004

Although this thread seems to be addressed to "historians," as with most threads on HNN, it does not seem to attract many readers who actually do much research in government records or have much experience in assessing anecdotal evidence. On issues relating to Kerry's and Bush's past service, as a historian, I generally find the perspectives of people who served in the military interesting, however.

If you WERE a journalist or an historian and researcher, when you sought access to federal records, you would depend on government employees (records managers, archivists, federal historians, lawyers) doing their jobs properly at various points during the life cycle of the records. As a researcher, you would be dependent on all of these people being allowed to do their jobs under law, without improper interference.

What might get in the way of their doing their jobs properly? There have been various questions about lost records, selective disclosures, etc. raised in 2004. Here's a hypothetical question. Think of your own careers and activities, going back to when you were "young and irresponsible." If you were a powerful official, and you knew that records relating to your military and civilian activities would become the subject of scrutiny, would you try to pre-emptively "vacuum" the files (to use the Clinton era term) to sanitize them or would you let the chips fall where they may? Would you apply pressure to ensure that any disclosures from your records were done selectively to burnish your image or would you leave things alone?

In other words, would you let the records managers, archivists, historians and lawyers do their jobs and release to requestors those portions of records suitable for disclosure under law? Or, if you were in the executive branch or had powerful allies within the executive branch, and were in a position to apply pressure, at the worst, would you lean on government employees to illegally destroy records? Or, would you ask them to find reasons to broadly apply FOI exemptions to withhold from the public information in your records?

There are several levels of appeals available in FOI requests, including litigation. However, litigation is expensive and many researchers, other than news organizations, never go that far. If the researcher sued for accees, would you hope that the judges saw the issues your way in the event of a FOI appeal? If the judge didn't see it your way, and the suppressed records eventually were released, you would have won delay -- perhaps until after an election -- but at the cost of embarrassment to the officials who responded to pressure and applied FOI exemptions improperly. Of course, you could always point fingers and say that you weren't the one doing the screening but there would be a chance that your pressure might be revealed.

In this debate and in others on HNN, keep in mind that there are lots of points of vulnerability in getting at the "truth" in records.


John H. Lederer - 9/18/2004

"I have already provided the counter evidence to these uncorroborated charges many times, but click here for some more: http://www.factcheck.org/article.aspx?docID=231"

I have to correct your authority. Somehow Factcheck missed what is in its own citation of the criteria for a Purple heart by friendly fire. The regs cited by Factcheck include the requirement of in the "heat of battle". While paying attention to the rest of the paragrpah, Factcheck overlooked this requirment.

One of Kerry's Purple Hearts (The rice bin incident) was pretty clearly not in the "heat of battle".

It caused a significant downgrading in my mind of the reliability of Factcheck. That's unfortunate since neutral sources are hard to come by.


Jerry West - 9/18/2004

General Anthony Zinni


Andrew D. Todd - 9/18/2004

Correction: the aphorism: "a man who will betray one master will betray another" should be in quotation marks.


Andrew D. Todd - 9/18/2004

I am going to ask Bill Heuisler, Dave Livingston, Richard Henry Morgan, et. al. to fish or cut bait.

Take it as read that George W. Bush's services are no longer required, and that the same goes for the subordinate members of his administration, who are identified with his policies. Let the anti-Kerry complainants select an alternative replacement candidate, who is willing to publicly commit to the principle that a nation cannot be a republic and an empire at the same time, and who is further willing to assert that Neoconservatives are really Trotskyites under the skin, or words to that effect. The candidate must have made some kind of concrete demonstration of his commitment to this principle, and he must possess a reasonable degree of prior eminence, say, a senator, a governor, or possibly the mayor of one of the twenty or thirty largest cities.

To give you some idea, John McCain is acceptable under these criteria, and so is Colin Powell. Olympia Snowe of Maine is acceptable, and so is Norman Coleman from Minnesota. Zell Miller is not acceptable-- a man who will betray one master will betray another. Among the governors, Jeb Bush is unacceptable for reasons amounting to nepotism, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is not native-born. Governors are usually not very well known outside of their own states, and don't really have national politics unless they set out to become president, so I cannot comment on possibilities very well. Our own governor here in West Virginia, Bob Wise, is not suitable-- he has Clinton-style woman-trouble, or intern-trouble, as the case may be. Ed Rendall of Pennsylvania might be good. He did some fairly serious house-cleaning when he was mayor of Philadelphia.

I invite the anti-Kerry complainants to chose someone who also meets their requirements. If the anti-Kerry complainants cannot come up with any kind of alternative proposal, I will feel entitled to presume that their denunciations of Kerry stem either from the fact that he is opposing Bush, or from the complainants being adherents of the neoconservative belief in empire. Very well, gentlemen, fish or cut bait.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/18/2004

http://my.aol.com/news/news_story.psp?type=1&;cat=0700&id=2004091718340002636185


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/18/2004

Richard,
Your post seems to indicate that the lack of some specific number (10? 100?) means that Kerry did not risk his life many times in the course of combat. With respect, I find this simply a "gocha" technique (that is, the attempt of one side of a debate to trap the other into admitting that a relatively minor or uncontrovercial point lacks clear documentary evidence to support it, despite such evidence would not exist in any event).

In other words, your post implies that Kerry did not risk his life many times despite seeing combat, getting shot at, and serving in a very dangerous capacity during wartime. You base this on the fact that none of his citations says: "John Kerry risked his life X number of times."

Of course, as you must have known before you asked, I cannot provide a quote either from God or the Vietcong, or the military as to how many times Kerry risked his life. I am curious as to how many times any soldier risked his or her life, but I must assume that you would be able to give me a number for the average Vietnam veteran, correct?

In short, I believe the military records, John Kerry, his crew, and then combine that with the general pattern of events for people in his position at that time and in that place and thus concluded that he risked his life "many times," meaning that on many occations, he could have been killed by the enemy but was not.


Jerry West - 9/17/2004

Dave,

Your view of the military is of the ideal and not the reality. Truth, duty, honor, all highly touted virtues that many of us took to heart, but frequently are treated as mere platitudes. Given (and I know for a fact)that there is corruption and dishonesty and greed in the military, why should we automatically assume that a conveniently select group of swifties possess those traits, particularly ones like O'Neil who have a history of doing political dirty work?

More telling in the Kerry case than those who may well be acting either out of political motivations or encouraged and enabled by those with political motivations, is how those who served under him view his service. Most of them support him from what I have seen.

In your military career whose opinion would you judge more indicative of a person's leadership ability, those who followed him or those who in a sense were competing with him?



Richard Henry Morgan - 9/17/2004

Got rid of the parentheses in the link, got to Kerry's records, and I couldn't find a characterization that he had risked his life "many" times. You wouldn't just be talking out your six now, would you?


Richard Henry Morgan - 9/17/2004

The link turned up dead. I guess it depends on what one means by 'many'. You wouldn't happen to have number to go with that, or a direct quote?


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/17/2004

The claim that he risked his life many times comes from Kerry's service records (http://www.johnkerry.com/about/john_kerry/military_records.html) as well as the testimony of his crew, as well as the historical reality of his position at that time.


John H. Lederer - 9/17/2004

Adam,

Thanks for the reply. Taking the questions you raise in order:

1. As an aside, I think there are two criteria for a purple heart: the legal one and the sensible one. One may legally be entitled to a purple heart that doesn't particularly incur praise.

As I understand the legal test at the time, a Purple Heart required a wound that required the attention of a medical officer. If the wound had been from friendly fire it required that it be in the "heat of combat" and as the result of action against the enemy.

The contusion, I assume, would not meet the first test. That is just an assumption -- my Dad when he was in his late sixties fell off his roof when he was fixing a tile. Nothing broke, but he massively bruised, could barely move for several days, and was in great pain -- a contusion that in my layman's opinion did require the attention of a doctor, for narcotic pain relievers if nothing else. Kerry's arm bruise did not sound like that sort of problem given the lack of treatment.

The wound in the buttocks probably did require the attention of a doctor, but it did not occur in the heat of battle. Thus, it would not be entitled to a Purple heart if friendly fire. Tour of Duty kind of sloughed off on who put the grenade in the rice bin that wounded Kerry, and I know of no statement by Kerry that he did (he avoids the issue, merely saying he did not run fast enough when "we" were grenading rice bins. Tour of Duty implies the grenade might also have come from the Nung troops with them.

Larry Thurlow, who was there says:
"Kerry's buttocks shrapnel wound came from a self-inflicted wound when Kerry threw a concussion grenade into a rice pile and stayed too close."

I am sure that I have heard Rassman concur with that.

The present criteria for a purple heart state:

(b) Individuals wounded or killed as a result of "friendly fire" in the "heat of battle" will be awarded the Purple Heart as long as the "friendly" projectile or agent was released with the full intent of inflicting damage or destroying enemy troops or equipment.

There was no "heat of battle" at the rice bins. The area was deserted.

The present criteria for a negligently self-inflicted award state:

(c) Individuals injured as a result of their own negligence; for example, driving or walking through an unauthorized area known to have been mined or placed off limits or searching for or picking up unexploded munitions as war souvenirs, will not be awarded the Purple Heart as they clearly were not injured as a result of enemy action, but rather by their own negligence.


I think, on balance, Kerry would not have been entitled to a Purple Heart. I suspect, perhaps too cynically, that he got one because the ambiguous reference in the medical records (presumably from Kerry's account to the MO) implies that the mine caused the buttocks wound.


The second point you raise, the river mine incident, is difficult. I have given up trying to reconcile the various accounts. As tends to be the case with any incident involving high stress and different view points the accounts do not jibe. Some points, however, I place stronger credence in than others, either because multiple people recall very similar things, or because the viewpoint was good and the picture one likely to be memorable (but, needless to say, not "seared" into memory).

Rassman's account is one that I place very low credence in. Not because I think he is a liar, but because his viewpoint from in the water was lousy, he was understandably terrified, he was a bit panicked, and there are , not surprisingly, a number of inconsistencies in his account. Conversely, I would value very highly the viewpoint of some helicopter pilot sitting fat, happy, and secure, 2000 feet above the action.

2. O'Neill is mistaken if he states that KGW were Kerry's initals (obviously). I believe "KGW" was tracked down to the clerk at the base who would often type or retype the reports. That seems likely since "KGW"'s initials appear on a lot of different documents. Thus KGW is not indicative of authorship.


I don't disagree that the Swift Boat Veterans have an axe to grind. Most people do. I do think it wrong to label them partisan if by that you mean political partisans. Unless, of course, Karl Rove had the incredible prescience to make sure that almost all the officers who served with a furture presidential candidate were republicans....
















Richard Henry Morgan - 9/17/2004

Actually, Kerry got out of Vietnam based on his medals (and we won't go into that at this point). He then was assigned as an Admiral's aide, stateside. He then applied for early release from his service obligation (the medals were irrelevant to that request). It was granted.

Gore requested, and received an early out from both Vietnam and the service. The distinguishing mark seems to be that Gore and Kerry actually did the paperwork, and got early releases, while it is not clear that Bush completed his service (some would say it's clear he didn't) and there is certainly no paperwork releasing Bush from his service obligation.

You say Kerry risked his life "many times". What is your basis for that claim?


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/17/2004

Richard,
You may be right about Gore, but Kerry got out early as a matter of law of the time due to his medals. As for Bush's record, it is all pointless to me. If I agreed with his policies, I wouldn't care about his past.

I think for many people (perhaps for Rather as well?) seeing Kerry's actual combat service trashed in the worst way with little or no evidence, while Bush's record is ignored or only slightly referred to despite actual records that indicate an ambiguity in his past causes a lot of frustration.

The reality is that all of these people came from wealthy and prominant familes and all could have avoided the draft, just as all most likely could have avoided military service alltogether. What bothers so many Democrats is the vitriol thrown at a man who actually served in combat and risked his life many times, while at the same time displaying amazement that anyone should call into question the service of his opponent.


Richard Henry Morgan - 9/17/2004

Rather's thesis (the one he's pushing even after you strip away the hilariously phony documents) is that Bush received preferential treatment, and that he failed to fulfill his service obligations. Possibly both true. Interestingly, the same questions aren't raised about Gore and Kerry, for instance. Both Gore and Kerry applied for, and both received, early outs from their service obligations. Is there anyone here who would seriously contend that the Gore and Kerry cases were evaluated on an equal basis with all other soldiers and sailors applying for early outs? I didn't think so.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/17/2004

1) “The point is, Kerry exhibited very little in the way of the values those in the armed forces honor. In contrast, because the leading Swifties are retired or former officers, their word is good, until proven otherwise.”

Because I believe that the SBV are incorrect, I believe they are slandering the name of a fellow soldiers service simply because they disagreed with what he did AFTER. This is not honorable to me. What do you know about these people to give you the impression that their word is good? Several of them can be seen giving glowing endorsements of Kerry in the past, and when the author of the book (O’Neil) debated Kerry in the 1970’s on the Dick Cavet, he mentioned nothing about these new accusations (which would have been old news at the time if he was telling the truth). Still another can’t seem to decide if his signing of an affidavit was a mistake or not and ALL of them are contradicted by soldiers who actually witnessed the accounts.

As for your posts, the statements that you have made in the past dishonor thousands of Vietnam veterans (calling Kerry a “sissie” for leaving, and not really in danger since he was only there for 4 months, as just 2 examples). I am sorry, but none if these things will allow me to assume the word of men whose statements contradict other evidence unless they can provide some evidence themselves.

2) “IMO that is why Harvard educated Al Gore never attempted to gain a vommission, but rather remained an enlisted man, because his compulsive lying, "I invented the internet," "My sister was the first Peace Corps Volunteer," etc. was behavior that was (& is)unacceptable within the offcer corps & he knew it. In short, Admiral Hoffman's word, veracity, is good, unquestionable,in my book.”

That may be, or it may be that he had no interest in a military career, or that he didn’t enjoy it. However, since you bring him up, he too went to Vietnam as a journalist, and he did it in 1969, when the war was becoming increasingly unpopular (thus making it unlikely he did it for future political payoffs). He too could just as easily have been killed like many other journalists, and he too saw his service record and honor butchered by ideological opponents. Indeed, I can only speculate at the names you called him 4 years ago but I imagine them to be similar to Kerry. As I have said and maintain, neither the person nor his service to his country matters. This is a partisan or a personal issue, not a historical one.

Also, just for the record, and I always love refuting this myth, Al Gore never said that he invented the internet… it is a myth spread by Republican pundits and it stuck. What he said was that “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.” Gore did indeed take an intellectual and legislative interest in promoting high-speed data networks in the United States, and he did this during the 1980s, at a time long before most members of the public - let alone most politicians - were thinking about such issues. Read the following to learn more about how his comment, while perhaps a poor choice of words and an exaggeration on his part, is actually closer to the truth than his critics wild accusations: http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue5_10/wiggins/#w4
As for the claim about his sister, it is clearly false, but not as outrageous as many would make it out to believe. By the time she began working for the Peace Corps, there were only 100 other people. Perhaps saying “one of the first” would have been more accurate.

3) “As Ralph Peters, who btw is the author of a dozen or more books (copies of five of which I have), pointed out in his essay about Kerry, "trust is more important than any technology." That being the case, if an officer is caught having lied about any matter of consequence, he is promptly booted out of the armed forces. Quite simply, in combat liars cannot, are not, abided.”

Makes sense to me. I am curious as to what these people think about Bush. After all, this is not a contest between Kerry and Patton, it is between Kerry and Bush. I wonder if the unsubstantiated testimony that you believe without question is equal to an actual gap in the historical record? I also wonder how you and others would feel if Bush and Kerry were running under different party labels.

4) “There is absolutely no room for deceit in such a situation. After all, normal human error causes enogh problems. A deceiver or liar cannot be tolerated in situations where the mission & people's lives are at risk.”

As I have said many times, I have seen no evidence that the SBVT did not trust him when he was actually in Vietnam. I believe that it was his pos-war actions that provoked a reexamination (for lack of a better term) of his time in the service. Thus, Kerry was not in the situation that you are describing.

5) “Ergo, I trust Admirasl Hoffan's word, until proven untrustworthy.”

Since he is not running for president, and thus every statement he ever made and every action he ever took is not being meticulously examined for any weaknesses or controversy, I think it a safe bet that this will never happen. After all, if Kerry never got into politics and only now came out in support of Bush and trashed his Democratic opponent, I am content to believe that all past infractions would have been forgotten and others would be chatting on this very site saying that they trust Kerry’s word, until proven untrustworthy.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/17/2004

Dave,
Perhaps your frustration is well justified. I am simply using terminology that I have learned, right or wrong. Perhaps we are both correct. That is to say, perhaps in recent years since Vietnam, military terminology has actually changed. Just a speculation.


Val Jobson - 9/17/2004

In case you have not noticed YOU ARE LOSING THE WAR IN IRAQ!! THERE ARE A NUMBER OF CITIES WHICH AMERICAN SOLDIERS CAN NO LONGER ENTER FOR FEAR THEY WILL BE KILLED. Gee, what an impressive war George W; Bush decided to start. What a shame he cannot finish it; in fact it is becoming WORSE than Vietnam. Face reality by going outside of your crappy American media; read Sidney Blumenthal in the Guardian today; he quotes the opinions of many American military officers.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/16/2004

Dave,
You have assumed that anyone here believes in Rather’s documents and then proceed to attack us for doing so. I don’t recall ever endorsing those documents, nor do I recall anyone else even discussing them let alone supporting them?

Furthermore, I have responded to the attacks against Kerry many many times in this post, and yet you continue to persist that the SBVFT are correct without even making some attempt to refute my evidence. I will ask you directly: Why is my evidence supporting Kerry incorrect or inaccurate?

- “Of course, any questioning of Kerry's record is seen by his knee-jerk spporters as tantamount to expressing disloyaty to the Democratic Party's radical leadership's agenda.”

An interesting statement in with you manage to (at the same exact time) accuse Kerry supporters of assuming that anti-Kerry means anti Democratic party and then process to accuse the party of a radical agenda in the very same sentence!

- “But that is part of the problem, the Democratic Party's leadership of today is so radically counter-cultural so to be unrecognizable as Democrats of the J.F.K. & Scoop Jackson generation.”

How so?


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/16/2004

Dave,
You have assumed that anyone here believes in Rather’s documents and then proceed to attack us for doing so. I don’t recall ever endorsing those documents, nor do I recall anyone else even discussing them let alone supporting them?

Furthermore, I have responded to the attacks against Kerry many many times in this post, and yet you continue to persist that the SBVFT are correct without even making some attempt to refute my evidence. I will ask you directly: Why is my evidence supporting Kerry incorrect or inaccurate?

- “Of course, any questioning of Kerry's record is seen by his knee-jerk spporters as tantamount to expressing disloyaty to the Democratic Party's radical leadership's agenda.”

An interesting statement in with you manage to (at the same exact time) accuse Kerry supporters of assuming that anti-Kerry means anti Democratic party and then process to accuse the party of a radical agenda in the very same sentence!

- “But that is part of the problem, the Democratic Party's leadership of today is so radically counter-cultural so to be unrecognizable as Democrats of the J.F.K. & Scoop Jackson generation.”

How so?


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/16/2004

Dave,
I must say, that has been the most intelligent and thoughtful post I have ever read from you, and I thank you for it.

The editorial which I read was the one you posted obove by Mr. Peters.

As for the statement:
"There is no question that the vast majoirity of G.I.s & veterans despise Kerry and there's one whale of a lot more veterans than there are academics in our society."

I have seen no proof or evidence of this "fact" nor do I know if there has been any polling data to support it. Given how Bush has treated the military in his 4 years, I have a hard time believing that more vets support him than Kerry.

http://www.kintera.org/AccountTempFiles/cf/%7BE9245FE4-9A2B-43C7-A521-5D6FF2E06E03%7D/bushtroops.htm


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/16/2004

So many things to respond to, I know I am not giving each one full justice.
1) “What you & many others fail to see is that the campaign in Iraq is just that, but a campaign in the larger war against militant Islamism.”

But Iraq was a secular dictatorship, and unconnected to the fanaticism of religious zealots.

2) “The conquering of Iraq was not a stand-alone war, but rather done, successfully, to impress upon the Islamic world 1) that the U.S. wasn't (isn't) the paper tiger it was said to be by bin Laden & his ilk…”

Actually, the war in Afghanistan did that (remember that war?). The war in Iraq simply impressed upon the Islamic world that the United States is a threat to them and perhaps groups and organizations that are fighting it are right after all. Polls in that region as well as in Western Europe and even our closest allies show that the reaction of the war was anger and disapproval:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2994924.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3810895.stm
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0316-11.htm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3683067.stm
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2004-03-04-iraq-poll_x.htm
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5223494/
http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2004/701/in2.htm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/1311468.stm

2) “…to demonstrate to the other states in the region that if they fail to rein in anti-Western Islamists activities, such as raising recruits & funds, we'll ensure those activities are stopped, even shoiuld we need to invade & replace their governments.”

I disagree. Because of international opposition to Iraq, and the mess it created, the United States simply does not have the resources, the credibility, the international support, or the money to launch another major military operations. Because of Bush’s war, other threats such as N. Korea and Iran continue to defy the world community by advancing their nuclear ambitions.

3) “The Lybians clearly got the message, they halted their nuclear weapons development program at our government's suggestion, without our needing to take military action--because of the lesson driven home in Iraq.”

Actually, Iraq had nothing to do with it. Our sanctions had been crippling the Libyan economy since the 1980’s, and it was negotiation (you know, that thing Bush called blackmail with N. Korea and refused to consider) not threats that prompted the agreement. Remember that we are rewarding Libya handsomely for their decision. This is a fantastic development, but let us not confuse the motives of all parties involved.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2003-12-21-analysts-libya-tactics_x.htm
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4947515/

4) “…conquering Iraq served notice to militant Islamists around the world not to mess with us--or pay the price.”

Odd that the invasion would do that considering that many of those frightened militants are finding fertile ground in Iraq and lots of fine targets for them too. Since the country may very well fall into chaos, instability, and civil war, I find it difficult to make the argument that this invasion was nothing other than an incredible opportunity and success for the terrorists.
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/16/politics/16intel.html

5) “…taking Iraq put paid to the Iraqi efforts to further develop WMD. After all, there was no question that the Iraqis wouldn't hesitate to use nuclear or biological weapons, if they developed them. The Iraqis DID repeatedly USE poison gas against Iran during that eight-yesr long war & Iraq DID USE poison gas against the Kurds in northern Iraq.”

Iraq was contained, the sanctions were not only working but being strengthened! We had no proof that Iraq was an immediate danger and that we could not wait for inspections to confirm any noncompliance. This war cost the United States billions of dollars, over a thousand American lives, countless thousands of Iraqi lives, international credibility and trust that we had after 9/11, and most importantly, it cost us the ability to respond to future threats adequately. It also deflected resources away from finding and hunting down AQ, and what did get in return for all of this? A destabilized Iraq that is currently the new haven for terrorists in the region.

I would also remind you that we supported Iraq in that war against Iran that you now hold against them, and we made no indication at the time that the gassing of the Kurds would not be acceptable.

6) “Iraq's poison gas weapons were not much of a threat to us directly, but their repeated use against Saddam's enemies demonstrated clearly he wouldn't hesitate to use whatever weapons he could obtain. Ergo, biological weapons, which were under development, were a clear and present danger to us.”

Of course, nor would most powers in that region and elsewhere. The point is that he did not have them, nor did he have the capacity to actually send them to us. Bush said there was “no question,” “no doubt” that he had them. The intelligence said otherwise. He said that there was a link between Iraq and AQ and strongly implied (convincing most Americans) that Iraq was involved somehow in 9/11. Again, the intelligence said otherwise, proving no connection to 9/11, and no collaborative relationship with AQ.

What result do we see? No accountability (no one has been fired for the mistake and everyone pointing fingers somewhere else) and Republicans who once impeached a president for lying about an affair and whose platform once deplored being the worlds police and nation-building suddenly trying to justify this blunder on any grounds they can.

7) “If you don't think the expansion of nuclear weapons to scores of two-bit countries around the world wouldn't be a threat to us, you live in a different world than I.”

Indeed perhaps we do live in different worlds. I live in a world where real weapons being produced by real enemies is the danger. Under Bush’s watch, N. Korea became a nuclear power, and Iran seems to be following suit. Thankfully, neither Iraq’s non-existent arsenal, nor its well-contained dictator can threaten us any more, and it has given our military, and our tax dollars something to do for a very, very long time.


Jerry West - 9/16/2004

http://www.fair.org/activism/cbs-memos-knox.html


Ben H. Severance - 9/16/2004

Dave,

I agree with you that ensconced within the Bush Doctrine is modern age "Kulturkampf" between Arab Islam and the Neo-Con West. But your specific points are spurious. The U.S. proved it wasn't a paper tiger when it speedily and dramatically toppled the Taliban. Iraq was needless overkill in terms of setting an example, and rather than dissuading young Arabs from becoming terrorists, I would argue that U.S. occupation of Iraq has only rallied militant anti-Americanism in the Middle-East.

As for WMD, Saddam's capacity was minimal. Sure, he would have liked to have a nuke, but as happened in 1981, I have no doubt that Israel would have pre-empted Saddam well before he ever fired one off. Didn't you notice how unconcerned that country was during the build-up to war? And I think you need to realize that Saddam used poison gas against the Iranians and Kurds with tacit U.S. approval. The Reagan administration liked Saddam in the 1980s. He was a good Frankenstein's monster back then.

If you see a major war against militant Islam brewing, I suppose you will and must endorse an invasion of Iran, whose nuke program is real and rather advanced. And given the long animosity between America and Iran, and Bush's "Axis of Evil" absurdness, the sooner we conquer Iran the better. Wouldn't you agree? Rhetorical sarcasm aside, why can't you see that containment was working against Iraq even as it will work against Iran? A variation of Eisenhower's "New Look" is probably the proper way to handle potential foreign threats: keep close tabs via espionage, develop genuine international coalitions, and firmly warn countries like Iran that the imminent or actual use of a WMD will result in fierce retaliation, perhaps even a mushroom cloud over Tehran. Conventional, unilateral conquest is foolish, as we are increasingly seeing in Iraq.

But what do I know? I'm just a soft academic who believes there is more to this world than Apple Pie.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/16/2004

1) “If you think my comments concerning Kerry are uncivil, you oughta share some of the in-family disscssion held about him among some of my fellow Viet-Nam War veterans.”

I am not really sure that I have very little doubt that if any one of your friends, or yourself Dave, ever ran for the president, your service, character, and personal bravery would be challenged and dishonored just as surely as you and your colleagues dishonor Kerry. Since your posts do not contain evidence, and since you have refused to address the evidence that I have presented, I can only conclude that such reaction against Kerry is more partisan than genuine.

2) “But of course, he still has acadenmics, government employees, the abortion industry,dogmatic Democrats of the ilk who mindlessly supported Clinton through thick & thin, twittering coastal urban Liberals and welfare recepients in his corner.”

I am glad that you included “government employees,” but would also add that those people they serve are pretty happy too. The groups of government employees that you mention includes teachers, police officers, fire-fighters, building and construction workers, communication workers, farmers, environmentalist, civil libertarians, and yes, many Veterans (http://www.veteransunitedforkerry.com/vote/index.php, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/veteransforkerry/, http://gadflyer.com/articles/?ArticleID=191, http://www.4president.org/johnkerryveterans.htm, ). The list also includes many Republican and Independent voters, and many more. I could go on (and indeed will if asked) but at the risk of simply filling the page with Kerry supporters and endorsements, I think you get the point.

Also, I find it nothing short of amazing when I hear about “dogmatic Democrats of the ilk who mindlessly supported Clinton through thick & thin.” Considering the near deification of Bush by many Republicans and the knee-jerk attacks of anyone who does not feel the same, I would not talk about how Democrats viewed Clinton (remember even MoveOn.org condemned his behavior and recommended censure- today, many Bush supporters cannot even bring themselves to admit that he misspoke a work, let alone evaluate his performance as president with any degree of objectivity).


Jerry West - 9/16/2004

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/16/opinion/16dowd.html?th


Ben H. Severance - 9/16/2004

I haven't, and you're not going to like what I have say.


Ben H. Severance - 9/16/2004

Dave,

So, you can't let me gracefully depart the scene, and this after paying homage to your presumably honorable service to this nation. But then, I am only assuming that you served bravely and am giving you the benefit of the doubt. I don't have your service record handy to scrutinize, nor do I know any one who served with you who might have thought you a coward, or a shirker, or just plain incompetent. As for me, I am not a Leftist, whatever that means anyway, and I did serve my country in time of war--I was the Chemical Officer in the 2-7 Infantry (24th Mech), which saw action along the Euphrates River during Desert Storm. I worked in the Tactical Operations Center and personally witnessed Bradley line companies tear apart Iraqi units, all just a few kilometers away. Now, I never felt all that threatened, never fired my .45, and never did anything heroic, so I can only imagine what you may or may not have gone through in the jungle. But I can tell you that everything I've read on Kerry (TF Report 115 and the medal citations, both his and the other SBVs) strongly indicates that his life was in great danger and he fought with valor. So, screw your character assassination.

Regarding Vietnam, I am not taking any cheap shots when I state that I consider that war unjust. Perhaps it disappoints you to think that you didn't fight the Nazis, but rather killed people engaged in self-determination. Regardless, your agreement with the so-called "Domino Theory" indicates pronounced paranoia. In case you hadn't noticed, Vietnam did become Communist, tens years of U.S. bombardment and occupation notwithstanding, and yet American freedom and western values continue to thrive. And please don't cite Singapore's approval of Cold War policy as justification. Somehow, the gratitude of a police state rings hollow in my ears.

As far as "winning" the Cold War, you can subscribe to the fallacy that America's militant stance was the key ingredient, but I prefer to give credit to the dedicated actions of Gorbachev and Walesa and Havel and a host of other reformers and agitators behind the Iron Curtain. I'll concede that Reagan's prohibitively expensive 600 ship fleet program and the ludicrous SDI policy helped push the Soviets over the edge, but it was a precipice that that totalitarian state had been tottering on for decades. But now Putin is reestablishing authoritarian rule. Do you advocate branding Russia part of the Axis of Evil? But wait, they're fighting Chechen rebels who have Al-Quaeda connections. International policies and alliances can be so confusing. This country needs someone like John Kerry to sort it all out, as opposed to George Bush who only keeps the nation in a state of crisis.

By the way, you've never addressed why you like the duty shirking playboy Bush anyway. Or the five-time deferment Cheney. While you toiled away in Vietnam, they relaxed back in the good-ole U.S.A. And now they want you support them in a new war. Don't be sucker twice, Dave.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/16/2004

Ben,
I am so glad to hear it! If we cannot change anyone's minds, at least the casual observer will get both sides of the issue.


Ben H. Severance - 9/16/2004

Adam,

Thanks for your encouragement. As it turns out, I am not going to abandon the debate. In trying to politely concede the field, though not the argument, to the likes of Livingston and Heusiler, I have been assailed (particularly by Dave). Given the intractable hatred that these two feel toward Kerry and anyone else who does not gush praise for the unbridled military interventions they espouse, I thought my dialogue was futile and I have precious little hair left to waste my time banging my head against a brick wall. But if one side leaves the forum to the squawkboxes, then the uninformed will think the noise they are hearing is the only thing out there. So, back into the fray.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/16/2004

I would just like to add that the editorial presented confirms exactly what I have been saying: that it was Kerry's post-war actions that caused such animosity, and that the . At the risk of entering into a debate about that (which is certainly worthy of debate), the obvious should and must be noted: The attacks on John Kerry are not about his post-war testimony (although some are). It is about how and why he received the medals and honors that he received. Given the circumstances, I think it is at the very least fair to call into question the motivation for looking back at his actual record while in Vietnam.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/16/2004

Ben,
While not entering into this direct line of debate, I must confess sadness that you or anyone else would choose to allow questionable charges to go unchallenged because you do not want to appear to denigrate anyone’s service. Don’t you see that it is precisely the denigration of combat veterans that these people are engaging in?

If you believe that the SBVFT are correct, then by all means defend why you believe so as many on this post have (sometimes with intelligence and civility, often not).

However, if you believe as I do that the evidence simply does not support the very serious charges made against John Kerry, I would urge you to make you case, repeatedly if you must.

For myself, I have never made the charge that all of these SBVFT have not served their country in combat honorably and heroically. However, I have come to the conclusion that their evidence and testimony on many of the issues is simply not sufficient to convince me that John Kerry did not deserve his medals.

I have disagreed with you and agreed with you depending on the issue, but I just wanted to express my disappointment (for what is it worth) that you would discontinue debating it out of concern for the soldiers making the allegation and thus avoid defending other Vietnam veterans from some of the most personal and egregious attacks I have ever witnessed seen.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/16/2004

Interesting. Thank you for the clarification, as I said, I was unfamiliar with it.


Richard Henry Morgan - 9/16/2004

Supposedly, and i can't remember if I got from TV (I think it might have been O'Neill relating the story) or from skimming the book, two of the Vets approached him and asked him to leave when he got his third PH. Kerry's group hasn't denied it. Could be their was a certain animus going back to Nam.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/16/2004

1) “You are without question wrong.”

Without question, aye? The controversy, the debate, the contrary evidence, is it ALL a farce since you have obviously found the unequivocal truth? We shall see.

2) “The swifties WERE NOT covered until after the Democratic National Convention where Kerry reported for duty as a warrior. The swifties stepped up their campaign and the establishment news media were forced to cover the essential truths to their assertions (which have not been refuted).”

You are incorrect. Although their claims have not been proven wrong (could they ever be?) they have been refuted both by the official record, as well as by eye witness accounts to what happened in Vietnam. As for the timing of the coverage, you will get no dispute of that from me, nor is the start of the coverage under question. Of course the media are not going to cover anything during the convention, nor did they during the RNC. Top stories dominate the news, such as hurricanes in Florida.

3) “They just thought they would bring it up, and wala, instant news. The same with the CBS forgeries--no new facts, just some spin, a trip to Kinkos, and wala, a news story.”

You are mistaken. Bush’s service was not just “brought up” by the media. Attention surfaced when Michael Moore made an issue of it at a major Wesley Clark rally, and then again when Dan Rather introduced those documents. The story was covered only briefly when Moore did so, and today, the story is centered exclusively on the authenticity of the CBS documents, not on the actual substance of the matter (i.e. Bush’s record in the Guard).

4) “Kerry has yet to confront the accusations of the Swifties.”

Again, you are mistaken. Kerry has posted his records on his web-site, has flatly rejected the SBV arguments, and is supported by eye witness accounts that say differently. If you are complaining that he has not made a bigger issue of it, you are right to complain: if he did, it would give even more media attention to the subject (if possible).

Your scorecard is rather arbitrary is it not?

5) “1. Cambodia lies: Swifties 1, Kerry 0.”

I may give them that point. Evidence does appear that contrary to what Kerry claimed many times, he seems to have only been near Cambodia and not within the borders itself. Whether this was a malicious lie designed to become president (as his critics suggest) or superimposing something he read or heard to his own life (as is not uncommon for soldiers), or he really is telling the truth, he was just wrong about his exact location or the precise date, we will never know (but I am sure that will not stop his critics from making definitive statements of “fact”).
http://www.slate.com/id/2105529

6) “1st Purple Heart: Swifties 2, Kerry 0. Silver Star with Battle G; Swifties 3, Kerry 0. (and still pending)”

I can’t help but note that you conveniently assume the veracity of the very claims that surround the whole controversy in one simple score. It would be as if I said:
Performance of Bush: Democrats 100, Bush 0. Where do these #’s come from?

I have already provided the counter evidence to these uncorroborated charges many times, but click here for some more: http://www.factcheck.org/article.aspx?docID=231

7) “Had any of these 3 issues (or similar issues) been connected with President Bush, they would have had to create new TV shows (60 Minutes 3, 60 Minutes 4, and 60 Minutes 5 are my guesses) to cover them.”

And yet Bush has been the subject of zero investigations, zero congressional hearings over his possible crimes and blunders, and zero press attention about what his policies have resulted in. Both sides have cries bias for years and will continue to do so forever. “Fox is fair and balanced and everything else is a liberal bias,” or “sure we control all branches of government, virtually every radio in the country through 24 hour conservative talk radio, and numerous think-tanks, foundations and organizations,” but our students are being brainwashed by liberal lunatics!” These arguments have been around for a long time and will not go away.

Your last sentence is the only one that I will agree with, if you or I think that the press leans one way or the other, there is little more that can be done (although empirical studies have been done to test these hypotheses).


John Brennan - 9/16/2004

Well, I am not going to say we will agree to disagree.

You are without question wrong.

The swifties WERE NOT covered until after the Democratic National Convention where Kerry reported for duty as a warrior. The swifties stepped up their campaign and the establishment news media were forced to cover the essential truths to their assertions (which have not been refuted).

As to the National Guard issue--it has been covered. It was a big story in 2000. It was a big story last winter. But no new facts or assertions. The two interviews with Bush in the latest DNC commercial were conducted by the establishment press earlier in the year--with no impetus by way of new facts in the case. They just thought they would bring it up, and wala, instant news. The same with the CBS forgeries--no new facts, just some spin, a trip to Kinkos, and wala, a news story. Too bad they got caught, right?

Kerry has yet to confront the accusations of the Swifties.

46 days and no words from the noble warrior.

1. Cambodia lies: Swifties 1, Kerry 0.
2. 1st Purple Heart: Swifties 2, Kerry 0.
3. Silver Star with Battle G; Swifties 3, Kerry 0. (and still pending)

Had any of these 3 issues (or similar issues) been connected with President Bush, they would have had to create new TV shows (60 Minutes 3, 60 Minutes 4, and 60 Minutes 5 are my guesses) to cover them.

If you really think that the establishment press is Pro Bush...well, there is nothing that I can do.


Ben H. Severance - 9/16/2004

Bill,

As I told Dave Livingston, I am withdrawing from this debate because it pits me against too many veterans whose service and sacrifice are contributions I never want to denigrate. I do NOT believe, and have never believed, that the U.S. military, SBVs or otherwise, is comprised of war criminals. I consider President Richard Nixon the war criminal of the Vietnam era. He reinforced a failed strategy in Vietnam for four years longer than it needed to go on and at the cost of over 20,000 more American lives.

Regarding Kerry, had he never spoken before the Senate, then no one would care too much about the particulars of his war record, (which is something that he has foolishly branded as the center piece of his current campaign). I think the ire of veterans such as the SBVs comes from a misunderstanding of what Kerry was really trying to do when he came home from Vietnam. In citing various alleged atrocities, I do not think he was implicating servicemen simply for the sake of spiting his comrades. Rather, he was pointing out how a flawed Cold War policy, one obstinately pursued by the executive branch, placed otherwise decent American servicemen into situations that compelled them to take actions that can only be described as brutal and grim. Kerry was intemperate in many of his descriptions, but he was right to point out how "free fire zones" and "search and destroy" missions, all designed to "neutralize" the enemy, invariably led to unjust conduct. None of this is meant as an indictment of the American soldier (read Keegan's Face of Battle), but it does highlight how unpopular, protracted guerrilla wars often produce questionable combat behavior. Perhaps the SBVs need to take Kerry's comments less personally and try to see the bigger, more laudable aim of a man who could very well have been killed in his supposed efforts to gain cheap purple hearts. Now, wouldn't that have been ironic?


Ken Melvin - 9/16/2004

Yahoo! News - Lawmaker Seeks Probe Into Bush Documents

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&;cid=536&ncid=536&e=2&u=/ap/20040915/ap_on_el_pr/bush_guard_questions

Are these guys (Cox) really this flipping dumb? Let the investigation begin.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/16/2004

Richard,
Could you please elaborate on this issue of Kerry being asked to leave Vietnam? I am genuinely unfamiliar with it.


Jerry West - 9/16/2004

If political opportunism were a negative factor in selecting a president or any other elected office, then we would be out of candidates in short order. :)

However, I would find it strange that someone would become an anti-war activist solely with the intention of using it as a lever into the presidency 20 or 30 years down the road. Such an act would be too much of a crap shoot if one was acting merely on pragmatic reasoning. I would suspect that there was some honest conviction involved.

One did not need to even be in RVN to develop an opposition to the war, and 4 months at least gives one a first hand impression of what it was about. In fact I began to recognize the futility of it in less than six months, but that wasn't an issue for me at the time and I hung on for 19. You can not employ a time line to determine one's motivation or sincerity here. Some people did not come to see the mistake of this war, at least publicly, until well after it was over. That may indicate political opportunism, or abandoning political opportunism or just finally realizing things that one never realized before.

Given all of the issues that confront us today the continuing Kerry RVN issue, which has turned into an execise in squabbling over minutia, says more about the deficiencies of the Bush presidency than it does about John Kerry. It is as if the public, or at least the media, has decided to ignore the elephant in the living room in favour of the spiders in the attic.


Richard Henry Morgan - 9/16/2004

I offered that possibility as a more attractive alternative to the common sentiment among Swift Boat Vets. As Dowd made fun of, Kerry was known as far back as prep school at St. Paukl's for his presidential ambitions. His critics find political opportunism in his late and sudden conversion to anti-war activism. According to the Swift Boat Vets, they approached him and asked him to leave, and he said he wanted to stay. His opposition wasn't born in Vietnam, apparently, and three months in Mekong strike me as insufficient for recognizing futility. I think it more charitable, and more human, that his anti-war stance was, at least in part, a reaction to his own rejection. Just a thought.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/15/2004

Jerry,
I could not agree with you more.


Jerry West - 9/15/2004

The politics surrounding this issue will make it almost impossible to get an objective view of why anybody did anything in connection with it. Memories are going to be shaped by current events.

From my experience I would not find it unusual for vets to encourage buddies to take advantage of 3 Hearts and get out while they were still in one piece. On the other hand I knew of those who fought to stay after getting 3 or 4 Hearts and were sent out anyway. Some people liked to fight.

For some of us the anti-war attitude developed in stages and in my own particular case did not reach the activist stage until after leaving RVN and several years of dealing with a lot of classified information and reflection on what was happening to both the military and the country.

I don't think that it really matters what his motivation might have been, but I would think that if getting back at his peers was the motivation it could have been done far more effectively from a pro-war stand point.

I take with less than a grain of salt the "his testimony hurt me" story. Partisan political issues aside, what they are really saying is that the Vietnam war was justified and honorable, or at least honorable. Since we could debate that easily without even referencing John Kerry I suspect that partisan politics has a lot to do with it.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/15/2004

Richard,
I would certainly not discount that as a possibility. It is an interesting theory, although I find it more probable that his opinions against the war had more to do with his witnessing the futility of it than being rejected by others. There could be numerous theories as to what convinced him that the war was wrong, including hearing testimony about atrocities that were committed there, meeting other veterans against the war, or perhaps he was against the conflict from the beginning but signed up in duty to his country (no less possible than the alternatives, after all). In any event, it is an interesting question worth pondering.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/15/2004

I suppose we will have to disagree with our interpretation of the media.

The SBVFT was covered extensively for many weeks, dwarfing any and all other issues. Members of the SBVFT were invited on virtually every news channel many, many times, their commercials were played free of charge almost daily, and there was no attempt to investigate the charges against Kerry. Instead, as they often do, the media portrayed the issue an adversarial debate between who could make the best case in 30 second sound bytes.

By contrast, Bush’s record in the National Guard has received only minor mention, and only to discuss the CBS story, not the numerous other issues related to it.

It is my opinion that this controversy is not unlike many other unsubstantiated character assaults that we often see in any given campaign. The difference is the tremendous free coverage by the so-called establishment press.

As I have said, you obvious have a very different perception. I suppose absent some empirical study that systematically looks at the quantity and quality of the coverage, we will both have to rely on little more than our own antidotal observations.


Richard Henry Morgan - 9/15/2004

There seems very little consideration of other explanations. As far as I can tell, nobody has come forward to corroborate that Kerry had strongly anti-war feelings before he left the service (early). More than one Swift Boat Vet is implicated in going to Kerry and asking him to use his three PH's to leave Vietnam. It seems to me that the arrow of causality may run the opposite direction -- that Kerry developed his anti-war views in reaction to his rejection by fellow Swift Officers. Just a thought. Discuss.


Jerry West - 9/15/2004

Ben H. Severance wrote:

Kerry has certainly overplayed his war record, but he is an honorable veteran, which is something George Bush can never claim.

********************

Exactly!

This whole Vietnam issue has turned into a side show with the intent to take focus away from the record of GWB and his mismanagement of the country.

I am no fan of Kerry's, but not because of either his Vietnam record nor his anti-war stand, both of which took more guts than most of his critics have displayed.

The central fact of the matter is that Kerry did go to Vietnam, he did volunteer for forward duty, and he did that duty. The issue of exactly what he may or may not have done, or the fact that he may be guilty of telling war stories and anti-war stories is not unusual for the times or situations 30 some years ago.

The fact that after combat he got out as quick as he could makes him no different than many other of his contemporaries. Some of us stayed longer by choice, but most would have left at a moments notice if they had had the opportunity. No grounds here for any valid criticism of Kerry.

No grounds on the medal issue either. If we applied the same standards to all vets as some are applying to Kerry a massive medal recall would be in order.

The Swift Boat rent-a-vets and Nixon dirty trickster retread O'Neil are prostituting themselves for political purposes and should be ashamed. Regardless of what facts they spin, they dishonor all of us who served in RVN with their viscious attacks on a fellow veteran, particularly in support of someone who ducked out of the war and then racked up a somewhat questionable record in the Guard.

There are officers that I served with in RVN that I think did not do a very good job and who I would not want to see as President. But, I would never attack them for their service in the dishonorable manner that these guys are doing to Kerry.

The argument is made that they are not political but offended by Kerry's anti-war actions with some claiming that "they were dogged by accusations of atrocities." I find this amusing. I can't decide whether they are reacting out of guilt or just ignorance or are doing it for pure politics. Kerry's testimony certainly exaggerated the case, and again I have issues about this with the VVAW, but the case was built on some fact.

The cutest thing that I have heard recently relating to this and the election is the question:

What is the difference between Iraq and Vietnam?

The answer:

In Vietnam GWB had an exit strategy.

:)




John Brennan - 9/15/2004

Now wait a minute. The establishment press ignored the swifties for nearly 4 months after they announced their endeavors in the spring. Only when charges about the first purple heart and Kerry's searing moments in Cambodia withstood scrutiny--and Kerry continued stonewalling--and the conservative newsradio shows and internet bloggers continued coverage--did the establishment news people step forward ever so churlishly. This churlishness has culminated in forgery. Yeah, they really have given the Swifties an easy stage.


John Brennan - 9/15/2004

It is both comical and surreal (delusional really) that the lynchpin of this article gets the facts reversed. The swifties stand unsullied while the liberal press establishment has been caught with forged documents. In countless interviews with this liberal press, swifties (especially John O'Neill) are curteous, credible, and convincing. Their interrogators--Chris Matthews comes to mind--are left foaming at the mouth in states of partisan terror. On more than one occassion, swiftie opponents (including Matthews) who shared the debate stage admitted to not having read the book they were debating (and it seems that O'Neill, agaion on more than one occassion, was the only debater who read Brinkley's hagiography of Kerry, TOUR OF DUTY).

Mastery of the facts goes a long way in any debate and when going toe to toe with their opponents in the liberal media, the swift boat veterans usually walk away the winner(s) on points, usually unanimously.

Wow. If the swifties are so wrong, why does Kerry refuse to answer their charges? He is not talking to the press either. Something to hide? It's not like they are going to ask him anything controversial. He better have one heckuva an answer come debate time. The question will come.

I have yet to see a detailed, blow-by-blow refutation of the Swiftie charges. The problem with the establishment press is that they will use official military documents--post event accounts emanating from field reports written by you know how--John Kerry. After these, the documentary accounts are quite thin. It appears that just by repeating over and over that the Swifties are liars and that their charges have been refuted and debunked (repeat! repeat! repeat!) that Kerry's supporters in the Press hope the story will go away.

Convince me.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/15/2004

1) “If the swifties are so wrong, why does Kerry refuse to answer their charges? He is not talking to the press either. Something to hide?”

There are many who would argue that Kerry should indeed have come out with an explanation or a response a long time ago. However, his thinking was quite rational in that the more he engages the issue, the more free media coverage it gets. I would also note the difference of opinion we have on the media. You would claim that they are liberal by challenging the SBVFT, I believe they are conservative for giving them such an impressive platform to begin with.

2) “I have yet to see a detailed, blow-by-blow refutation of the Swiftie charges. The problem with the establishment press is that they will use official military documents--post event accounts emanating from field reports written by you know how--John Kerry. After these, the documentary accounts are quite thin.”

It seems to me that the burden of proof lies with the SBVFT in challenging the official record (especially since the authorship of Kerry applies to my knowledge in only one incident- and that is in serious dispute). The rest of their case relies on their word against Kerry, his crew, eye witnesses, and the official record. For a more thorough refutation of their claims, please see: http://www.factcheck.org/article.aspx?docID=231

I would also ask that you keep in mind the political motivations of these people. All of those whom I have heard from freely admit that their real anger towards Kerry was from events that occurred after the war. Many of their testimony is contradicted by themselves when they once supported Kerry, or received the same honors for the same events as Kerry did.

3) “It appears that just by repeating over and over that the Swifties are liars and that their charges have been refuted and debunked (repeat! repeat! repeat!) that Kerry's supporters in the Press hope the story will go away.”

I wish I could agree that Kerry had many supporters in the press, but I really can’t find any of them, other than the “left” side of a 2 man pundit show.


Bill Heuisler - 9/15/2004

Mr. Severance,
You defend Kerry by discounting everything that casts a negative light on him while assaulting 250 Swiftvets with directly inverse logic. Time for an accounting?

You wrote, "Kerry's perceived betrayal" in your last post. Perceived? Kerry maligned every US fighting man in VN in 1971 on Meet the Press and in front of the Senate. Do you believe all US military were war criminals? Do you believe Kerry spoke the truth? Does your now-congealed opinion entertain the possibility that some of those 250 men were innocent? If so, why use the word "perceived"?

Your insistance on Kerry's righteousness seems awkward and unbalanced in light of your otherwise literate contributions to this site.
Bill Heuisler


John Brennan - 9/15/2004

It is both comical and surreal (delusional really) that the lynchpin of this article gets the facts reversed. The swifties stand unsullied while the liberal press establishment has been caught with forged documents. In countless interviews with this liberal press, swifties (especially John O'Neill) are curteous, credible, and convincing. Their interrogators--Chris Matthews comes to mind--are left foaming at the mouth in states of partisan terror. On more than one occassion, swiftie opponents (including Matthews) who shared the debate stage admitted to not having read the book they were debating (and it seems that O'Neill, agaion on more than one occassion, was the only debater who read Brinkley's hagiography of Kerry, TOUR OF DUTY).

Mastery of the facts goes a long way in any debate and when going toe to toe with their opponents in the liberal media, the swift boat veterans usually walk away the winner(s) on points, usually unanimously.

Wow. If the swifties are so wrong, why does Kerry refuse to answer their charges? He is not talking to the press either. Something to hide? It's not like they are going to ask him anything controversial. He better have one heckuva an answer come debate time. The question will come.

I have yet to see a detailed, blow-by-blow refutation of the Swiftie charges. The problem with the establishment press is that they will use official military documents--post event accounts emanating from field reports written by you know how--John Kerry. After these, the documentary accounts are quite thin. It appears that just by repeating over and over that the Swifties are liars and that their charges have been refuted and debunked (repeat! repeat! repeat!) that Kerry's supporters in the Press hope the story will go away.

Convince me.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/15/2004

The following things stick out about your post:

1) The total lack of any substance, point, idea, or fact that has any relevance to the current debate, or to any debate for that matter.

2) Your meticulous attention to a typo while ignoring any or all of the massive spelling and grammatical mistakes of other posts either here or elsewhere

I would like to respond, as always, to messages addressed to me, but there is nothing to respond to, only a petty rant. I have always avoided dwelling on such irrelevant minutia such as spelling and grammar on an open forum. Reading your posts helps to remind me why.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/15/2004

John,
Thank you for your post. It is nice to actually have some evidence to look at rather than a mere tirade.

You make 2 points, which I would like to examine:
1) “Thus we have 3 witness accounts, including Kerry, that disagree with the "official" record.”

Although this is technically correct, it does nothing to lend credibility to the SBVFT story. Rather, it is simply what it is: an ambiguity in the precise circumstances, the proper resolution of which would still have earned Kerry the award.

In Kerry’s account, Kerry says his arm was hurt later, after the mine blast that disabled PCF-3, when a second explosion rocked his own boat. "The concussion threw me violently against the bulkhead on the door and I smashed my arm," Kerry says on page 314 of the book.
And according to a Navy casualty report released by the Kerry campaign, the third purple heart was received for "shrapnel wounds in left buttocks and contusions on his right forearm when a mine detonated close aboard PCF-94," Kerry's boat. As a matter of strict grammar, the report doesn't state that both injuries were received as a result of the mine explosion, only the arm injury.
In any case, even a "friendly fire" injury can qualify for a purple heart "as long as the 'friendly' projectile or agent was released with the full intent of inflicting damage or destroying enemy troops or equipment," according to the website of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. All agree that rice was being destroyed that day on the assumption that it otherwise might feed Viet Cong fighters.
Another major discrepancy raises a question of how close Kerry's accusers actually were to the rescue of Rassmann. Tour of Duty describes Rassmann's rescue (and the sniper fire) as happening "several hundred yards back" from where the crippled PCF-3 was lying, not "a few yards away," the distance from which the anti-Kerry veterans claim to have witnessed the incident.
2) “One of the main claims of the Swift Boat Vets is that Kerry made many of the after action reports (apparently volunterring to do so, even when that mnormally would not be his duty) and inaccurately reported what occurred in them. Thus to say "the official reports back up Kerry" really does not resolve the issue.”

This is true, but it does shed more light into the situation.
“Much of the debate over who is telling the truth boils down to whether the two-page after-action report and other Navy records are accurate or whether they have been embellished by Kerry or someone else. In "Unfit for Command," O'Neill describes the after-action report as "Kerry's report." He contends that language in Thurlow's Bronze Star citation referring to "enemy bullets flying about him" must also have come from "Kerry's after-action report."
O'Neill has said that the initials "KJW" on the bottom of the report "identified" it as having been written by Kerry. It is unclear why this should be so, as Kerry's initials are JFK. A review of other Swift boat after-action reports at the Naval Historical Center here reveals several that include the initials "KJW" but describe incidents at which Kerry was not present…
Even if Kerry did write the March 13 after-action report, it seems unlikely that he would have been the source of the information about "enemy bullets" flying around Thurlow. The official witness to those events, according to Thurlow's medal recommendation form, was his own leading petty officer, Robert Lambert, who himself won a Bronze Star for "courage under fire" in going to Thurlow's rescue after he fell into the river. Lambert, who lives in California, declined to comment.”
The real issue here for me is that a group of men have come forward with an ax to grind and with a partisan agenda, many of whom have changed their story over the years, in order to discredit John Kerry. The official Navy records (whether you wish to accept them or not), and eye witnesses to the events all support Kerry. For some reason however, there are many people who blindly lend full and complete faith into this group. Why? I am not suggesting that they should be dismissed out of hand, but they are making serious charges with little to no evidence, and their support has been extraordinary given these realities.

Why do I say they have an ex to grind?

“Many Swift boat veterans opposed to Kerry acknowledge that their disgust with him was fueled by his involvement in the antiwar movement. When they returned from Vietnam, they say, they were dogged by accusations of atrocities. While Kerry went on to make a prominent political career, they got jobs as teachers, accountants, surveyors and oil field workers. When he ran for president, partly on the strength of his war record, their resentment exploded.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A21239-2004Aug21.html

With much respect,
Adam


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/15/2004

Dave,
I do not want to now enter the debate on the exact phraseology of where the Marines should be or their history (although that is an interesting fact about their historic size), but sufficed to say, all branches of the US Armed Services are a part of the United States military, and all could rightly be called “soldiers.” That is the only issue that I wished to illustrate, and even that only because you seemed to put a lot of weight on the argument that Kerry (and thus, the entire Navy) was not a soldier and was not part of the military.


William A. Henslee - 9/15/2004

"I will loose little sleep over your HO however, as my so-called problem with English"

I couldn't stop laughing when I saw this. You can't even write coherently when defending your very obvious problem with English. [I'm going to give you a hint since you haven't a clue: Try looking up 'lose' and 'loose' in the dictionary. Like many people today, you may have been 'rooked by phonics']

Sir, if you are truly a historian, which implies being employed in the profession as a teacher in some capacity, I doubt your students are getting good value for their tuition.


david horowitz - 9/15/2004

I think the question Jonathan Rees wants to pose is would any leftwing historian take .... etc. Since he doesn't seem to have read the Swift Boat vets' book and certainly doesn't challenge any of its specifics except to quote a fatuous claim by Kevin Drum that forged documents are true and the testimonies of 250 Swift Boat veterans and the authetnic documentary evidence they present are not.


Ben H. Severance - 9/15/2004

Dave,

I think what I hate most about this whole debate is that I find myself arguing with veterans like yourself for whom I have the deepest respect. I was a staff officer during Desert Storm, so I know how the military works to a certain extent, though I would never consider myself a battle-hardened veteran and sometimes feel a bit awkward when people even call me a veteran. But you have fought the enemy and faced death up close, just as Kerry did. I guess I'll never completely understand the contempt so many Vietnam vets have for Kerry, but I maintain that his combat credentials are real, and I don't know why more vets aren't infuriated by Bush's deliberate avoidance of service and his current childish prancings as a war president who has sent 1,000 soldiers to their death in a war whose rationale is every bit as dubious as Vietnam. But enough, I will now stand down.


John H. Lederer - 9/15/2004

There is much truth in "views" and recollections being different without any intent to deceive.

But that also should not obscure the fact that people sometimes lie. In at least several incidents it appears pretty clear that Kerry lied and did so with the intent to deceive. In one, the so called "sampan incident", Kerry and his crew contradict sharply the report that Kerry himself filed.

Similarly, "Christmas in Cambodia" seems a pretty clear intent to deceive (and thereby make a political point on the Senate floor).


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/15/2004

Adam, Adam,

1) “If you cannot see the difference between the two, IMO you've a problem with plain English & with common sense.”

Well, you know what they say about opinions. I will loose little sleep over your HO however, as my so-called problem with English and common sense is shared by military magazines (http://www.military.com/), as well as the United States government, which defines military service in the following terms:
“A branch of the Armed Forces of the United States, established by act of Congress, in which persons are appointed, enlisted, or inducted for military service, and which operates and is administered within a military or executive department. The Military Services are: the United States Army, the United States Navy, the United States Air Force, the United States Marine Corps, and the United States Coast Guard.” (http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/doddict/).

2) “Your apologies on behalf of Kerry's deceitful and manipulative acquisition of his decorations, his Purple Owies, two of which the first & the third were based upon self-inflicted wounds.”

Let us take the first PH first, shall we, and look at the facts of its dispute.
Two of the vets who appear in the SBVFT ad say Kerry didn't deserve his first purple heart. Louis Letson, a medical officer and Lieutenant Commander, says in the ad that he knows Kerry is lying about his first purple heart because “I treated him for that.” However, medical records do not list Letson as the “person administering treatment” for Kerry’s injury on December 3, 1968 . The person who signed this sick call report is J.C. Carreon, who is listed as treating Kerry for shrapnel to the left arm.
In his affidavit, Letson says Kerry's wound was self-inflicted and does not merit a purple heart. But that's based on hearsay, and disputed hearsay at that. Letson says “the crewman with Kerry told me there was no hostile fire, and that Kerry had inadvertently wounded himself with an M-79 grenade.” But the Kerry campaign says the two crewmen with Kerry that day deny ever talking to Letson.
On Aug. 17 the Los Angeles Times quoted Letson as giving a slightly different account than the one in his affidavit. The Times quotes him as saying he heard only third-hand that there had been no enemy fire. According to the Times, Letson said that what he heard about Kerry's wounding came not from other crewmen directly, but through some of his own subordinates. Letson was quoted as saying the information came from crewmen who were "just talking to my guys … There was not a firefight -- that's what the guys related. They didn't remember any firing from shore."
Letson also insisted to the Times that he was the one who treated Kerry, removing a tiny shard of shrapnel from Kerry's arm using a pair of tweezers. Letson said Carreon, whose signature appears on Kerry's medical record, was an enlisted man who routinely made record entries on his behalf. Carreon signed as "HM1," indicating he held the enlisted rank of Hospital Corpsman First Class.
Also appearing in the ad is Grant Hibbard, Kerry’s commanding officer at the time. Hibbard’s affidavit says that he “turned down the Purple Heart request,” and recalled Kerry's injury as a "tiny scratch less than from a rose thorn."
That doesn't quite square with Letson's affidavit, which describes shrapnel "lodged in Kerry's arm" (though "barely.")
On to his third PH:
The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth further says Kerry didn't deserve his third purple heart, which was received for shrapnel wounds in left buttocks and contusions on right forearm. The Swift Boat group's affidavits state that the wound in Kerry's backside happened earlier that day in an accident. "Kerry inadvertently wounded himself in the fanny," Thurlow said in his affidavit, "by throwing a grenade too close (to destroy a rice supply) and suffered minor shrapnel wounds."
The grenade incident is actually supported by Kerry's own account, but the shrapnel wound was only part of the basis for Kerry's third purple heart according to official documents. The evidence here is contradictory.
Kerry's account is in the book Tour of Duty by Douglas Brinkley, who based it largely on Kerry's own Vietnam diaries and 12 hours of interviews with Kerry. "I got a piece of small grenade in my ass from one of the rice-bin explosions and then we started to move back to the boats," Kerry is quoted as saying on page 313. In that account, Kerry says his arm was hurt later, after the mine blast that disabled PCF-3, when a second explosion rocked his own boat. "The concussion threw me violently against the bulkhead on the door and I smashed my arm," Kerry says on page 314.
And according to a Navy casualty report released by the Kerry campaign, the third purple heart was received for "shrapnel wounds in left buttocks and contusions on his right forearm when a mine detonated close aboard PCF-94," Kerry's boat. As a matter of strict grammar, the report doesn't state that both injuries were received as a result of the mine explosion, only the arm injury.
The official citation for Kerry's Bronze Star refers only to his arm injury, not to the shrapnel wound to his rear. It says he performed the rescue "from an exposed position on the bow, his arm bleeding and in pain." The description of Kerry's arm "bleeding" isn't consistent with the description of a "contusion," or bruise.
Rassmann's Aug. 10 Wall Street Journal article states that Kerry's arm was "wounded by the explosion that threw me off his boat," which would make that wound clearly enemy-inflicted.
In any case, even a "friendly fire" injury can qualify for a purple heart "as long as the 'friendly' projectile or agent was released with the full intent of inflicting damage or destroying enemy troops or equipment," according to the website of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. All agree that rice was being destroyed that day on the assumption that it otherwise might feed Viet Cong fighters.
Another major discrepancy raises a question of how close Kerry's accusers actually were to the rescue of Rassmann. Tour of Duty describes Rassmann's rescue (and the sniper fire) as happening "several hundred yards back" from where the crippled PCF-3 was lying, not "a few yards away," the distance from which the anti-Kerry veterans claim to have witnessed the incident.

3) “His Silver Star was gained through lies.”

One of those SBVFT affidavits, signed by George Elliott, quickly became controversial as soon as it was made public. Elliott is the retired Navy captain who had recommended Kerry for his highest decoration for valor, the Silver Star, which was awarded for events of Feb. 28, 1969, when Kerry beached his boat in the face of an enemy ambush and then pursued and killed an enemy soldier on the shore.
Elliott, who had been Kerry's commanding officer, was quoted by the Boston Globe Aug 6 as saying he had made a "terrible mistake" in signing the affidavit against Kerry, in which Elliott suggested Kerry hadn't told him the truth about how he killed the enemy soldier. Later Elliott signed a second affidavit saying he still stands by the words in the TV ad. But Elliott also made what he called an "immaterial clarification" - saying he has no first-hand information that Kerry was less than forthright about what he did to win the Silver Star.
What Elliott said in the ad is that Kerry "has not been honest about what happened in Viet Nam." In his original affidavit Elliott said Kerry had not been "forthright" in Vietnam. The only example he offered of Kerry not being "honest" or "forthright" was this: "For example, in connection with his Silver Star, I was never informed that he had simply shot a wounded, fleeing Viet Cong in the back.
In the Globe story, Elliott is quoted as saying it was a "terrible mistake" to sign that statement:
George Elliott (Globe account): It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign the affidavit with those words. I'm the one in trouble here. . . . I knew it was wrong . . . In a hurry I signed it and faxed it back. That was a mistake.
In his second affidavit, however, Elliott downgraded that "terrible mistake" to an "immaterial clarification." He said in the second affidavit:
Elliott (second affidavit): I do not claim to have personal knowledge as to how Kerry shot the wounded, fleeing Viet Cong.
Elliott also said he now believes Kerry shot the man in the back, based on other accounts including a book in which Kerry is quoted as saying of the soldier, "He was running away with a live B-40 (rocket launcher) and, I thought, poised to turn around and fire it." (The book quoted by Elliott is John F. Kerry, The Complete Biography, By The Reporters Who Know Him Best.)
Elliott also says in that second affidavit, "Had I known the facts, I would not have recommended Kerry for the Silver Star for simply pursuing and dispatching a single, wounded, fleeing Viet Cong." That statement is misleading, however. It mischaracterizes the actual basis on which Kerry received his decoration.
The official citations show Kerry was not awarded the Silver Star "for simply pursuing and dispatching" the Viet Cong. In fact, the killing is not even mentioned in two of the three versions of the official citation (see "supporting documents" at right.) The citations - based on what Elliott wrote up at the time - dwell mostly on Kerry's decision to attack rather than flee from two ambushes, including one in which he led a landing party.
The longest of the citations, signed by Vice Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, commander of U.S. naval forces in Vietnam, describes Kerry as killing a fleeing Viet Cong with a loaded rocket launcher. It says that as Kerry beached his boat to attack his second set of ambushers, "an enemy soldier sprang up from his position not ten feet from Patrol Craft Fast 94 and fled. Without hesitation, Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY leaped ashore, pursued the man behind a hooch, and killed him, capturing a B-40 rocket launcher with a round in the chamber."
Two other citations omit any mention of the killing. One was signed by Admiral John J. Hyland, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, and the other was signed by the Secretary of the Navy. Both those citations say Kerry attacked his first set of ambushers and that "this daring and courageous tactic surprised the enemy and succeeded in routing a score of enemy soldiers." Later, 800 yards away, Kerry's boat encountered a second ambush and a B-40 rocket exploded "close aboard" Kerry's boat. "With utter disregard for his own safety, and the enemy rockets, he again ordered a charge on the enemy, beached his boat only ten feet away from the VC rocket position, and personally led a landing party ashore in pursuit of the enemy." In these citations there is no mention of enemy casualties at all. Kerry was cited for "extraordinary daring and personal courage . . . in attacking a numerically superior force in the face of intense fire."
Elliott had previously defended Kerry on that score when his record was questioned during his 1996 Senate campaign. At that time Elliott came to Boston and said Kerry acted properly and deserved the Silver Star. And as recently as June, 2003, Elliott called Kerry's Silver Star "well deserved" and his action "courageous" for beaching his boat in the face of an ambush:
Elliott (Boston Globe, June 2003): I ended up writing it up for a Silver Star, which is well deserved, and I have no regrets or second thoughts at all about that. . . . (It) was pretty courageous to turn into an ambush even though you usually find no more than two or three people there.
Elliott now feels differently, and says he has come to believe Kerry didn't deserve his second award for valor, either, based only on what the other anti-Kerry veterans have told him. He told the Globe Aug. 6:
Elliott: I have chosen to believe the other men. I absolutely do not know first hand.
On Aug. 22 an officer who was present supported Kerry's version, breaking a 35-year silence. William B. Rood commanded another Swift Boat during the same operation and was awarded the Bronze Star himself for his role in attacking the Viet Cong ambushers. He said Kerry and he went ashore at the same time after being attacked by several Viet Cong onshore.
Rood said he was the only other officer present. Rood is now an editor on the metropolitan desk of the Chicago Tribune, which published his first-person account of the incident in its Sunday edition. Rood said he had refused all interviews about Kerry's war record, even from reporters for his own paper, until motivated to speak up because Kerry's critics are telling "stories I know to be untrue" and "their version of events has splashed doubt on all of us."
Rood described two Viet Cong ambushes, both of them routed using a tactic devised by Kerry who was in tactical command of a three-boat operation. At the second ambush only the Rood and Kerry boats were attacked.
Rood: Kerry, followed by one member of his crew, jumped ashore and chased a VC behind a hooch--a thatched hut--maybe 15 yards inland from the ambush site. Some who were there that day recall the man being wounded as he ran. Neither I nor Jerry Leeds, our boat's leading petty officer with whom I've checked my recollection of all these events, recalls that, which is no surprise. Recollections of those who go through experiences like that frequently differ.
With our troops involved in the sweep of the first ambush site, Richard Lamberson, a member of my crew, and I also went ashore to search the area. I was checking out the inside of the hooch when I heard gunfire nearby.
Not long after that, Kerry returned, reporting that he had killed the man he chased behind the hooch. He also had picked up a loaded B-40 rocket launcher, which we took back to our base in An Thoi after the operation.
Rood disputed an account of the incident given by John O'Neill in his book "Unfit for Command," which describes the man Kerry chased as a "teenager" in a "loincloth." Rood said, "I have no idea how old the gunner Kerry chased that day was, but both Leeds and I recall that he was a grown man, dressed in the kind of garb the VC usually wore."
4) “It, his Bronze Star & his Purple Owies are all under investigation by the Navy as falsely & unlawfully obtained. If they are determined to have been improperly acquired, they will be recinded. This I fully expect to happen once the election has passed.”

Do you have any evidence for this fact, because I have been unable to confirm it, and the US Navy show no news stories expressing any such investigation? In your next post, I would appreciate some evidence.

5) “In fact, Bush the pilot certainly drew $50. a month flight (harardous duty) pay. That was the same dollar amount Kerry drew as combat(hazardous duty) pay, regardless whether he was in a rear echelon training assignment, as he was for the first quarter of his vastly shortened tour in 'Nam.”

If you would like to make the argument that serving in a combat zone in Vietnam was actually LESS dangerous than flying planes in Texas, you are free to do so, just as you would be to argue that mopping the floor of a ship docked in a harbor is as dangerous as the D-Day invasion.

6) “As said before, you who never were close to Indochina may be impressed with Kerry's self-adulation & self-promotion, but those such as I are not the least impressed by his phony Purple Heart Owies, nor by his discredited tales of his own heroism.”

Your so-called military exploits mean little (nothing) to me. How do I know you ever even served, and are not simply a partisan Republican trying to pose as a veteran to lend credibility to your vitriolic hatred towards Democrats? Certainly, your total contempt for the military and for veterans does not lend you any credibility in this regard. In any event, I think we both know that this line of arguing is pointless as to who did what.

7) “Adam, you a chair-bound non-warrior don't know a damned thinbg about medal inflation during the Viet-Nam War. Bwcause it abounds in Iraq doesn't necessarily mean that it did in 'Nam. You weren't there & consequently you don't know beans about the war.”

When you are able to put together a coherent argument without allowing obvious frustration to seep its way onto the keyboard, perhaps you will review your posts and discover why they cannot possibly be taken seriously by rational people. In any even, writers of Military.com, Bill O’Reily, Brit Hume, and David Hackworth, the famous Army analyst agree that, to use Hackworth’s phrase "the Army grossly," and Navy, "grossly inflated awards, and it sunk to a new low at that period in time." Given your general inability to discern fact from partisan score points, I believe I am more inclined to believe them than you sir. It’s been a pleasure as always.

All information from The Annenberg Political Fact Check, “a nonpartisan, nonprofit, "consumer advocate" for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.”


Ben H. Severance - 9/14/2004

My title is sarcastic and meant to mock those who insist Kerry transformed cowardice into valorous conduct in a war zone. First, critics wrongly use the term "self-inflicted" for "accidentally" inflicted. There is crucial distinction, for the former suggests premeditation, which is unfair to Kerry. Does anyone really think that Kerry fabricated his heroics FIVE times in FOUR months and received official commendations for them all and it is only now that his alleged lies and misrepresentations are coming to light? But this debate is useless and it only brings into question the validity of all medals and all heroism. Is it not sufficient that Kerry was in a war zone and saw action (as Task Force Report 115 confirms)? Does it matter that he saw only four months of action? Is a brand-new soldier wounded in the butt as he left a landing craft on D-day any less of a veteran because he saw only a few hours of combat and his wound is inglorious? Kerry has certainly overplayed his war record, but he is an honorable veteran, which is something George Bush can never claim.


Marc A. Comtois - 9/14/2004

A similar Civil War-related debate occured between Gen. Joshua Chamberlain and a junior officer, Ellis Spear, over the exact nature of the action seen by the Twentieth Maine in the Battle of Fredericksburg. Spear was also supported by another general, Adelbert Ames. Edward Longacre's "JOSHUA CHAMBERLAIN: THE SOLDIER AND THE MAN" spends some time highlighting this and other points of debate between Chamberlain and Spear, though he eventually, perhaps reluctantly, seemed sympathetic to Chamberlain's account. The book is an interesting read if only because it attempts to cast Chamberlain in a more "realistic" light, and seemed to have been written as a response to Alice Rains Trulock's more recognized "IN THE HANDS OF PROVIDENCE: JOSHUA L. CHAMBERLAIN & THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR"


Ben H. Severance - 9/14/2004

Well said, Andrew. Even in such trivial ways, history repeats itself. To add to your comments. John B. Hood described himself as a brilliant commander and Joe Johnston as an incompetent, whereas Johnston always considered himself a genius and Hood a buffoon. Who was right? The SBVs are speaking out of a still simmering anger over Kerry's perceived betrayal before Congress, not out of any real disagreement over his actions in a combat zone.


Andrew D. Todd - 9/14/2004

In 1884-87, The Century Magazine publishes are series of reminisces by Civil War commanders, eventually published in book form as _Battles and Leaders of the Civil War_ (4 vols).

http://www.ehistory.com/uscw/library/books/battles/index.cfm

The series contains a significant amount of this kind of bickering. Men formed fixed impressions of what had happened, with their noses about two inches above the dirt, with no field of view to speak of, and did not reassess these impressions afterward. For example, see the material relating to to Gen. Lew Wallace's march on the first day of Shiloh. Twenty years afterward, he was still sore about it, and petitioning U. S. Grant to publish an exoneration. And Wallace wasn't even running for President at the time. Why should Vietnam be any different?


John H. Lederer - 9/14/2004

John Kerry, quoted in Tour of Duty, p. 313:

"I got a piece of small grenade in my ass from one of the rice bin explosions..."(referring to destroying rice storage bins by putting grenades in them).


This wound is later referred to ambiguously along with a bruised arm in a report on the later action that day (the mine incident with Rassman in the water). The ambiguity makes it appear that this wound occurred at the time of the mine.

Thurlow and Rassman both saw the wound in the buttock incident and regarded it with some humour.

Thus we have 3 witness accounts, including Kerry, that disagree with the "official" record.

One of the main claims of the Swift Boat Vets is that Kerry made many of the after action reports (apparently volunterring to do so, even when that mnormally would not be his duty) and inaccurately reported what occurred in them.

Thus to say "the official reports back up Kerry" really does not resolve the issue.

My own take, for what it is worth:

(1) Kerry did not deserve two of the purple hearts the wounds for which were not incurred in the heat of combat and were negligently self-inflicted,

(2) He did not deserve the Bronze Star with V for picking up Rassman because it was not then a situation under fire, but neither Kerry's slur on the other Swift boat commanders, not theirs on him is deserved. Neither Kerry nor the other Swift boat captains fully appreciated the situations that the others were in.

(3) The Silver Star appears to be an inflated award -- Kerry shot a wounded, fleeing, but armed VC. That was correct in the circumstances, laudable, and probably appropiate for a citation, but not a silver star.

(4) Kerry did dissemble, exaggerate, and shade his official accounts and in that respect did not display the integrity that a naval officer should have. Reprehensible, but not uncommon. What is a bit more uncommon and a bit disturbing is to have him do so in a way that deprecates the actions of his fellow officers.

(5) Perhaps as a result of human nature, over the intervening 30+ years Kerry has lost track of what occurred and what he made up or wanted to have had occurred.

(6) Kerry's refusal to release all his records invites the natural conclusion that he is hiding something. I suspect that the problem may be in some of OER's.

(7) Something is wrong with his official record -- e.g., the reissuances with changed citations years after the fact are abnormal. The dd-214 , repeatedly amended, and now showing a nonsensical and nonexistent silver star with a "V" is another example.







Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/14/2004

A fair point well taken.


Richard Henry Morgan - 9/14/2004

All I think one can do is bring as many facts to light as possible, and then admit even that probably isn't enough to determine the truth . Apparently, one or more of the vets say they asked Kerry to leave, so (if true) that means that the animosity predates Kerry's post-Vietnam activities. That makes me curious, and nobody else is disputing it (though perhaps for other reasons). And I'm not sure what distinguishes a man's war record from other aspects such that one is off limits while everything else is not. Remember LBJ and his phony Silver Star? And yeah, one can raise questions -- Ellis raised them about Dole, and somebody raised them about Bush senior. It seems that when one centers one's campaign on one's service it's a bit too much to ask that it be off limits. But we can disagree.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/14/2004

Richard,
Thank you for your post. You may be correct about Kerry's being refused a deferment, although I have not been able to confirm this outside of blogs and conservative magazines whose credibility I do not trust.

As for the rest of your post, I think you and I can agree at the very least that the actual events that occurred are open to question, although we obviously fall on different sides of the fence. Indeed we may never know what really happened, although I think it is safe to say that the questions raised about Kerry’s service could probably be asked about many soldiers service, if you investigate closely enough. Would you agree with that speculation?

In any event, as I have said on a previous post, the issue here is about defending a man’s war record who fought and risked his life on the battlefield. It is not about his post-Vietnam testimony, which is IMHO much more legitimate to debate, nor is this about Kerry’s Senate history, his policy positions, or even his honesty. All of those things are legitimate targets for debate. Going after a man’s war record, on the other hand, is simply low. It will not go away and both sides will use whatever dirty tricks that they can, but that does not change my opinion of its moral depravity.


Richard Henry Morgan - 9/13/2004

That last sentence should have a 'not' after 'does'.


Richard Henry Morgan - 9/13/2004

If the sampan incident is a rewrite of history, it is rewritten by Brinkley, Kerry's handpicked biographer, and backed by Kerry's boatmates -- while the after action report (read "previous written history") departs from the version offered by Brinkley and Kerry's crew. Documents are not sacrosanct bearers of truth -- they too must be evaluated in the light of all other evidence.


Ken Melvin - 9/13/2004

The question is: If these respondents be the representatives of the this professional set, would they qualify for jury duty? I don't think so. Subtlety please. Some modicum of decency, pray. Going around so exposing yourselves is sure to frighten the women and children and probably the horses. Pray tell, how can someone so opinionated darest pose as a historian or academic of any sort? What next, are creationists to teach biological science to our young?


Richard Henry Morgan - 9/13/2004

Two observations:

1. Those with military service under their belts, and the professional knowledge that goes with it that is necessary to comment knowledgably about such things, don't confuse three things (howevermuch common parlance may depart from professional practice): soldiers, sailors, and airmen.

2. Medal inflation occurs. Even valor medal inflation occurs, though the latter is rarer.

The Purple Heart is even awarded for self-inflicted wounds, when engaging the enemy, as long as the recipient has not engaged in gross negligence. The cases of Dole's one Purple Heart (as opposed to the one he got for being machine-gunned and maimed) and Kerry are similar, the main difference being that Dole actually said his was self-inflicted, and it occurred while engaging the enemy (Dole made fun of his, and it wasn't used as a passport out).

The Kerry wounds are closer to the line, or even over. As I understand it (perhaps erroneously, I admit it, so correct me with details if I'm wrong) the "rose thorn wound" was a frag from Kerry's M-79, in what was essentially a recon by fire episode. That is close to the line or over. The other Purple Heart is much more in dispute. The guy that Kerry pulled from the water said that Kerry fragged himself in the six, while blowing up a rice storage bin. It is rather expected that with a standard five second fuse grenade, one had mapped out a safe position that one could retire to before detonation. To do otherwise is negligence, gross or otherwise. Kerry's paperwork is that he got it when his boat hit a river mine (later that day), but his boatmates don't concur, and there is no record that his boat hit a mine. Hmmm.

Kerry's one account has him rescuing Rasman under heavy fire. Another boat's commander received a decoration that day for valor under fire, and Kerry's boatmates and Rasman claim they were under heavy fire. Kerry's boat, however, was absent from the action for several minutes, and no records show damage to his boat on that day. What to make of this, I'm not sure, but it certainly isn't completely clear by a long stretch.

We do know that Kerry too did not fulfill his term -- he asked for and received an early out from the Navy, not just an early out from Vietnam (after three whole months in riverine service).

My understanding is also that Kerry applied for a deferral, was denied, was informed he was to be drafted, and then volunteered -- and later volunteered for Swift Boat duty when these boats were still being exclusively used for relatively safe coastal patrol. It was a ticket punch, a chance to get command experience on one's resume at a low rank. Unfortunatley (and contrary to Edwards' assertion), the Swifts were only later transferred to riverine service after Kerry volunteered. That does make him out a coward, but let's keep the facts straight, without punching them up.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/13/2004

1) “For one thing, Adam refers to John McCain as a "soldier." For pete's sake, why should anyone value the comments of one about the armed forces, if that person doesn't know the difference between a soldier and a sailor?”

Dave, you have made this argument before, and I find it as baseless now as I have before. To repeat my earlier claim, the Navy is a branch of the United States military, indeed for many centuries it was considered THE essential characteristic of military power. To suggest that Kerry or McCain were not soldiers is to suggest that a chemist is not a scientist. Certainly, few would argue that the Pacific fleet of WWII or the Great White fleet of TR’s were for mere fishing, or that John Paul Jones was not a soldier. Certainly, the Navy Seals who have risked their lives in almost every combat since Vietnam would argue that they are soldiers, not mere sailors.

2) “For another, Adam, you're darned right Kerry was a sissie in Viet-Nam. He not only gave himself two self-inflicted wounds, two little owies so thathe could cut & run from Viet-Nam, from danger, upon serving only a third of a normal tour of duty.”

I have already provided the necessary evidence that confirms that Kerry’s medals, according to documentation and eye witness accounts were perfectly valid and eared. Frankly, you might as well call ALL Vietnam veterans “sissies.” Why not? Many of those killed were drafted (unlike Kerry) and thus did not sign up, and many more left Vietnam as soon as they could, either because of medals or injuries. Of course, somehow, I suspect that only those veterans who are today liberals would earn your scorn.

3) “The claim that decorations for valor were awarded solely to boost morale is in error, whether a deliberate lie or not. Decorations are awarded primarily to recognize extraordinary valor. To say such awards are less than they are is malicous back-stabbing by armchair warriors who've never heard "a shot fired in anger," and who don't know a damned thing about the battlefield.”

For a person who would tarnish the honor and the war record of a decorated Vietnam veteran simply for partisan disagreement, your talk of “malicous back-stabbing” falls on deaf ears. Medal inflation in times of war are as common as they are documented. I understand that Bob Dole received a medal for a self-inflicted wound when a grenade bounced off a tree and harmed him. There is nothing immoral or uncommon about this.

4) “If you hadn't noticed, it isn't Kerry's fellow pacifists criticizing his dishonestly acquired decorations, his valor, his incompetence in Viet-Nam, it is rather combat veterans who individually & collectively served far longer in Viet-Nam than this gutless wonder, Kerry.”

Does this have any relevance to anything? If those same vets were in Kerry’s shoes, you would no doubt be throwing the same venomous rage against them and not Kerry. I would remind you that those who are defending Kerry are also combat veterans (by the way, why would you compare a groups collective time in Vietnam to one man’s time?).

5) “Too, thousands of Viet-Nam veterans showed up in D.C. to protest against Kerry, a mere half dozen offered him support.”

I am not sure when this happened or what event you are referring to, but I will give you the benefit of the doubt on this issue. Do you see many Bush supporters at anti-Bush rallies? Every now and again, there will be some minor counter-protests but honestly, does the lack of Kerry supporters at an anti-Kerry protest really mean something to you?

By the way, with all of this vitriol leveled against Kerry, surely you cannot think of voting for Bush, since by almost any measure, Bush served in a far less dangerous capacity than Kerry, and perhaps not even his full term? What on earth are you to do?

By the way Dave, and I have been meaning to say this to you for quite some time, I am more than capable of debating Bush or Kerry without having to rely on petty name-calling and mean-spiritedness. Although you are under no obligation to discontinue your language on this site, I believe it would give your post far more credibility, especially in light of the fact many Bush supporters on this post are capable of intelligent and civil dialogue without having to resort to the vitriol. Just a thought.


Richard Henry Morgan - 9/13/2004

It is unfortunate timing, indeed, that Drum should have sauntered forth just as the avalanche of evidence descended that the Bush "documents" (what should be the word for photocopies where no original has been presented?) should look to all the world like forgeries. Drum, at least, has taken that into account since his statement above.

What has come out of the Swift Boat Veterans controversy are certain facts. Kerry's boatmates support his account of events that led to his Silver Star and Bronze Star, and their accounts bear a great weight. Kerry (apparently, as he was the commanding officer of the boat) produced the false after-action report of a sampan incident, claiming that seven VC had been taken captive, when actually one armed adult male had been killed, a child killed, and a mother and child captured. Very few media have picked up on this falsification of a combat report.

Two of Kerry's Purple hearts are probably from self-inflicted wounds -- one received when he submitted paperwork months later, when his entire local chain of command had turned over, and there was nobody above him familiar with his "rose thorn wound". The other from when he blew up a rice storage bin with a grenade (Kerry's claim that it came from a mine is unsupported, while even Rasman, the guy Kerry pulled from the water, confirms that Kerry fragged himself).

Kerry's account that he spent Christmas in Cambodia has not been corroborated by a single source, not even his otherwise supportive boatmates (in fact, Kerry's handpicked biographer, Brinkley, didn't find it believable). His other supposed trips into Cambodia, dropping off CIA and special ops troops, have no corroboration either -- not from his boatmates, not from documents (other than Kerry's own journals, unavailable to other scholars), not from the histories of SOG Salem House operations into Cambodia (understandably, given the tactical disadvantages of boats for clandestine insertion). Brinkley has evolved on this score. In his book, he said Kerry dropped them along the border. When Swift Boat Vets pointed out that the Christmas in Cambodia story hadn't made it into Brinkley's book, Brinkley then gave an interview to the London Telegraph, wherein the Cambodia special ops stories were punched up -- now he has it that Kerry delivered them INTO Cambodia, not along the border.

At the Chicago Sun-Times, Tom Lipscomb has discovered that Kerry applied for a correction of records to his DD214 in 2001!! What was corrected? We don't know. What we do know is that the DD214 Kerry posted to his website has a V combat device for his Silver Star -- an award that doesn't carry a V device, since it is only awarded for valor. Lipscomb also reports that the Kerry document claims four campaign stars, when his record only supports two. Interestingly, there are three different citations for Kerry's Silver Star, the last over the signature of John Lehman. who was Secretary of the Navy under Reagan, and who can't remember signing one. Just like Bellesiles' work, we now now know a lot morethan before, but very little of it has been communicated in the mainstream media in any comprehensive fashion.

I would conclude that there have been unfounded allegations against Kerry -- and founded ones too. And new ones too.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/13/2004

The ads against Kerry are nothing short of disgusting, perhaps the lowest attacks I have ever seen (surely dwarfing the infamous “daisy” add from LBJ). What is extraordinary is not that the media have allowed this myth to spread like cancer without opposition (I can think of a hundred other instances of the destruction of American TV journalism), but that so many Republicans accept it so readily, given their traditional respect for the military. And the truly partisan ones, which dominate the radio, and which permeate this very site, feel the need to belittle Kerry’s service so much (indeed the word “sissie” has even been used) it would be difficult to imagine ANY soldier, be they John McCain or Patton that would not receive similar attacks if they disagreed with Republicans.

It is almost as if in order for Republicans to justify their hatred of John Kerry, they must do more than simply disagree with his policies, his voting record, and his “values.” They must also dig into his war record, and call him, his crew, and official Navy documents liars. This without any evidence, and relying exclusively on former Veterans who happen to hold a personal grudge against Kerry for his anti-war activities which occurred AFTER his service (indeed, many of the ads specifically mention this).

The book Unfit for Command is now a bestseller, and is unquestionably having a major impact on the polls. It may very well cost John Kerry the election, much to the happiness of Republicans. That these lies, not the nuclear crisis in Iran and N. Korea, not whether or not invading another country was the right decision, not the future of social security or the size of the deficit, not tax policy or healthcare or the environment, but testimony that contradicts all of the available historical evidence will likely make Bush president for another four years is beyond infuriating to me. It is actually a very sad commentary on the sheer gullibility of the American people.

I must also add that the ads are nothing like the questions on Bush’s guard service (which I find equally irrelevant to choosing a president- if I supported Bush’s policies, it would make no difference to me). The guard service question is based on genuine ambiguity of the records, which has led to an over reliance on witnesses, many of whom disagree with the president’s position. Kerry’s Vietnam record is not ambiguous. It is simply charging that the unambiguous documentary evidence and eye witness accounts are all lies.

By the way, just some examples of how these ads have been discredited:

The Silver Star:
“One of those affidavits, signed by George Elliott, quickly became controversial. Elliott is the retired Navy captain who had recommended Kerry for his highest decoration for valor, the Silver Star, which was awarded for events of Feb. 28, 1969, when Kerry beached his boat in the face of an enemy ambush and then pursued and killed an enemy soldier on the shore.

Elliott, who had been Kerry's commanding officer, was quoted by the Boston Globe Aug 6 as saying he had made a "terrible mistake" in signing the affidavit against Kerry, in which Elliott suggested Kerry hadn't told him the truth about how he killed the enemy soldier. Later Elliott signed a second affidavit saying he still stands by the words in the TV ad. But Elliott also made what he called an "immaterial clarification" - saying he has no first-hand information that Kerry was less than forthright about what he did to win the Silver Star.”…

On Aug. 22 an officer who was present supported Kerry's version, breaking a 35-year silence. William B. Rood commanded another Swift Boat during the same operation and was awarded the Bronze Star himself for his role in attacking the Viet Cong ambushers. He said Kerry and he went ashore at the same time after being attacked by several Viet Cong onshore.

Rood said he was the only other officer present. Rood is now an editor on the metropolitan desk of the Chicago Tribune, which published his first-person account of the incident in its Sunday edition. Rood said he had refused all interviews about Kerry's war record, even from reporters for his own paper, until motivated to speak up because Kerry's critics are telling "stories I know to be untrue" and "their version of events has splashed doubt on all of us."

The Bronze Star:

“The most serious allegation in the ad is that Kerry received both the Bronze Star, his second-highest decoration, and his third purple heart, which allowed him to be sent home early, under false pretenses. But that account is flatly contradicted by Jim Rassmann, the former Army Lieutenant whom Kerry rescued that day.”

There is so much more evidence that contradicts these people, I would seriously recommend everyone to check out the following article and read for yourselves:

http://www.factcheck.org/article.aspx?docID=231


Nathan Machula - 9/13/2004

The Swift Boat Vets have hundreds of sworn affidavits. Whether one agrees with their claims or not, they deserve to be taken seriously. As you said: "Just because someone has a particular bias, that doesn't mean they're wrong."

On the other hand, the newly 'discovered' memos regarding Bush's National Guard service are almost certainly forgeries, and rather low quality ones.

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