August 19, 2004

John Kerry: I Like This Candidate

Atrios quotes from a John Kerry speech:

Eschaton: Kerry Speech to IAFF:

Over the last week or so, a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has been attacking me. Of course, this group isn’t interested in the truth – and they’re not telling the truth. They didn’t even exist until I won the nomination for president. But here’s what you really need to know about them. They’re funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Republican contributor out of Texas. They’re a front for the Bush campaign. And the fact that the President won’t denounce what they’re up to tells you everything you need to know—he wants them to do his dirty work.

Thirty years ago, official Navy reports documented my service in Vietnam and awarded me the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. Thirty years ago, this was the plain truth. It still is. And I still carry the shrapnel in my leg from a wound in Vietnam. As firefighters you risk your lives everyday. You know what it’s like to see the truth in the moment. You’re proud of what you’ve done—and so am I. Of course, the President keeps telling people he would never question my service to our country. Instead, he watches as a Republican-funded attack group does just that. Well, if he wants to have a debate about our service in Vietnam, here is my answer: “Bring it on.” I’m not going to let anyone question my commitment to defending America—then, now, or ever. And I’m not going to let anyone attack the sacrifice and courage of the men who saw battle with me. And let me make this commitment today: their lies about my record will not stop me from fighting for jobs, health care, and our security – the issues that really matter to the American people.

The situation in Iraq is a mess. That is the President’s responsibility and he owes the American people an answer. America is on track to lose more jobs than it’s gained under George Bush and he supports a tax code that rewards companies for shipping jobs overseas. He owes the American people an answer. Health care costs have exploded out of control. The President has done nothing and he owes the American people an answer. The middle class is paying a bigger share of America’s tax burden. The President needs to answer to the American people why that is fair.

Unfortunately, those in the White House are coming from a different place than you and I. They see things a little differently than you and I. They tell us that today, when it comes to the issues that matter most, we’re getting the job done....

Somewhat to my surprise, the Washington Post actually does its job and calls the Republican Slime Machine what it is:

Records Counter a Critic of Kerry ( Military records of one of Sen. John F. Kerry's most vocal critics... contradict his own version.... Larry Thurlow... strongly disputed Kerry's claim that the Massachusetts Democrat's boat came under fire.... But Thurlow's military records... [refer] to "enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire" directed at "all units" of the five-boat flotilla. Thurlow won his own Bronze Star... the citation praises him for providing assistance to a damaged Swift boat "despite enemy bullets flying about him."... Thurlow swore in an affidavit that Kerry was "not under fire" when he fished Lt. James Rassmann out of the water. He described Kerry's Bronze Star citation, which says that all units involved came under "small arms and automatic weapons fire," as "totally fabricated." "I never heard a shot," Thurlow said in his affidavit, which was released by Swift Boats Veterans for Truth....

A document recommending Thurlow for the Bronze Star noted that all his actions "took place under constant enemy small arms fire which LTJG THURLOW completely ignored in providing immediate assistance" to the disabled boat and its crew. The citation states that all other units in the flotilla also came under fire....


[Thurlow] said he was unwilling to authorize release of his military records because he feared attempts by the Kerry campaign to discredit him.... The Post filed an independent request for the documents with the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, which is the central repository for veterans' records. The documents were faxed to The Post by officials at the records center yesterday.

And Michael Froomkin reminds us that starting up the Republican Slime Machine has been standard Bush family operating procedure for more than a quarter century: Whoa: The next thing is a dead cert: there is one absolute constant in the Bush family M.O. when threatened electorally—go deeply negative, ideally via surrogates. I first saw this in action in the Republican Presidential primary in Connecticut in 1980, when for a time it looked as John Anderson might carry one of GHW Bush’s several home states. All of a sudden anonymous fliers, mass telephone calls, and ads on small radio stations blanketed the state making false allegations against Anderson such as that he wanted to eliminate social security. And all of a sudden GHWB’s poll number bottomed out.

Indeed, it looks to me as if the smear campaign is already well under way.... It’s always possible the voters will rise above this sort of smear, or that the press will treat it sufficiently critically to defang it, but ‘hope is not a strategy’.

Posted by DeLong at August 19, 2004 09:39 AM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post

We are ruled by transformer mental-midget monsters!

Meanwhile, fourth-hand scuttlebutt has it that Usama bin Laden was killed at Tora Bora in Dec. 2002 by U.S. gunners but buried under a mountain of rubble by bombs; they are digging his remains out; Republican advisors to Bush are trying to figure out the best way to release this information to gain the election; and that the Kerry camp has been advised of this. Don't know whether any of it is true.

Posted by: Lee A. on August 19, 2004 10:06 AM


I'mn glad Kerry is respinding, but I think he can do more.

The response would have been even better if Kerry had linked the attacks on him to Bush's poor treatment of veterans (e.g., cutting veteran health benefits) and those currently serving (e.g., back door draft).

He could have called it part of a pattern of Bush's disrespect for those who've seen real combat, and yesterday's VFW conference would have been the perfect venue to make his case.

The "Bring it On!" challenge would have been not only a defense of Kerry's personal record of service, but of all men and women who have served and have been treated shoddily by this Administration. He has an opportunity to turn a personal issue into an issue of national concern, and he shouldn't pass that up.

Posted by: dan on August 19, 2004 10:08 AM


Was the audience stuffed with Dem supporters displacing genuine fire fighters? Was the speech 'reported' by any of the major media outlets? Such a difference between this and the Bush stump to the 'carpenters', no?

Posted by: calmo on August 19, 2004 10:26 AM


Kevin Drum ( is also on the story.

Posted by: Harold McClure on August 19, 2004 10:53 AM


But inquiring minds want to know - where is Patrick 'Rose Food' Sullivan, and Adrian Spittle?

Come on guys - there's a draft-dodging TANG-boy to defend, and a war hero to slime.

Posted by: Barry on August 19, 2004 10:59 AM


Kevin even catches Virgia Postrel trying to promote this sleaze in an underhanded pseudo-objective way.

This issue makes a good "extra-chromosone" litmus test.

Posted by: Kaus Hackula on August 19, 2004 11:06 AM


If a candidate such as Bush or Kerry did publically order a 527 group such as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth or to cease running a particular ad, would the candidate be in violation of McCain-Feingold's prohibition of "co-ordinating" ads between the candidate's campaign and the "independent" group?

The SBVFT held a press conference in May 2004 -- did Kerry have the nomination clinched at that point?

In June members of SBVFT demanded the Kerry campaign stop using their images (along with his own and one of a supporting fellow officer of the era) in a particular ad. Was that a fair request?

Did the Kerry campaign send legal challenges to TV stations warning them not to air the SBVFT truth ads? Has the Bush campaign similarly challenged's ads?

Where do Navy Reports come from and how are they more or less reliable than National Guard records?

Isn't this all arising because Republicans are rich but stupid and evil? Wouldn't a rich and smart Texan Republican activist have bribed a few -- less than a dozen -- former TANG personnel and pilots to lie in favor of the candidate; providing the electorate a positive upbeat optimistic fiction, instead? Isn't it STUPID for an activist to waste the money to bribe several dozen -- several score; two gross! -- SWIFT personnel and officers to lie against the other candidate; imposing upon the voters a negative, downer, bummer, pessimistic attack on the patriotism of John Kerry?

Didn't the SBVFT also, along with Kerry, operate heavy caliber weapons against personnel, in violation of the Geneva convention -- participate in war crimes such as free-fire zones? Did any of them slaughter peasant's chickens and pigs or burn down huts? Did they have the guts to confess such atrocities when they got back to the United States, the way John Kerry did?

Anybody OTHER than Bush attempts to "bring on" the debate about VietNam, will Kerry respond?

Posted by: Pouncer on August 19, 2004 11:31 AM


Personally, I wouldn't have cared how many medals Kerry won or even how he got them IF he had spent a full 12 month tour in country like I and just about every other Vietnam veteran did who wasn't carried out on a stretcher or in a body bag.

It's this "three-hearts-and-home" crap that rankles me. I knew Marine helo pilots with more than five Purple Hearts who kept on flying until the end of their 12 month tour. They would have never bugged out even if they had known about this obscure Navy regulation. Too much lose of face with their squadron mates.

Mark John Kerry down as MOA (Master of Ambition). And if you want to throw something in about George Bush, go right ahead. It won't make Kerry smell any better.

Posted by: Lawrence on August 19, 2004 11:38 AM


Lawrence - it looks as if you may not have read about this very much, or very carefully.

Maybe this will highlight the issue a bit for you.


Mark him down as someone who showed up. And if you want to throw something in about George Bush, find someone who remembers meeting him during his missing months of TANG service.

Posted by: reader on August 19, 2004 11:48 AM


The full text of Kerry's speech is now up on Salon.
I have thought all along that "values" is the way to
win this time. It's what has been so appealing about
Edwards -- "we must not turn our back on poverty
because it is _wrong_".

Posted by: Dave MB on August 19, 2004 11:56 AM


Yes, Lawrence, Kerry's a Master Of Ambition-- when was a politician ever otherwise? But at least he's willing to take chances with, and for, his peers, in or out of uniform. Bush doesn't have that kind of trust. He lives in a tight cocoon and licks the hands of the rich and powerful wherever he finds them. All Bushes do this all the time--it's like the law of gravity; and the odor of that household is overwhelming.

Posted by: alabama on August 19, 2004 11:58 AM



As you can easily read about in his biography by Brinkley, "Tour of Duty". Twelve long terrifying months under constant enemy fire as the newly commissioned Navy ensign aboard the USS GRIDLEY, where from June 1967 thru May 1968 the little ship was harrowed by attacks from Viet Cong forces lurking along the shores of the Gulf of Tonkin, Luzon, Subic Bay, Wellington, Long Beach, and other ports of VietNam and Cambodia.

Posted by: Pouncer on August 19, 2004 12:02 PM


Yes, Lawrence, Kerry's a Master Of Ambition-- when was a politician ever otherwise? But at least he's willing to take chances along with, and for, his peers--in or out of uniform. Bush doesn't have that kind of trust. He lives in a tight cocoon and licks the hands of the rich and powerful wherever he finds them.

Posted by: alabama on August 19, 2004 12:04 PM


My Mac told me that the first post didn't go through. Wrong, but why?

Posted by: alabama on August 19, 2004 12:10 PM


What is it that Republicans have against our veterans? Especially our Vietnam veterans? There were a lot of soldiers that never made it past the supply bases in Saigon. Plenty of sailors never made it off an aircraft carrier or a destroyer. WTF. They served honorably in our military and they were following orders. Fewer than 1 in 100 soldiers in Vietnam saw combat. They seem to think that if they didn't go down to their death that they were slackers and not patriots. Gee, Max Cleland only lost 2 legs and an arm. He didn't die so he must not be a patriot? WTF

Just because soldiers or sailors were not in a firefight does not mean they did not perform hazardous duty. Were the firefighters that saved the Forrestal not heroes because the Vietnamese were not shooting at them? These Republican tactics are disgusting. Maybe if the Republicans had a good record, some good issues or good news to campaign on they would not have to resort to spitting on our Vietnam Veterans.

Posted by: bakho on August 19, 2004 12:22 PM


bakho, your average Republican Vet just can't restrain his Right(wing)ful Wrath at any Democratic politician who wasn't killed in Vietnam. Republican politicians, of course, get a pass on getting killed in Vietnam. Or being there. Or even showing up for duty in the NG. Or not even being in the NG. Educational deferments are A-OK (other priorities, ya know).

Posted by: Barry on August 19, 2004 12:48 PM


The only question unanswered now is whether Hillary will accept the Sargent Shriver role when Kerry bows out. Which he will have to when his service records are opened and the truth about who wrote the citations and on whose authority. For just one instance, look at the three different stories from Jim Rassmann. First, from an Oregon newspaper during the Dem. convention:

"The former Green Beret remembered sitting on the deck of the pilothouse of Kerry's boat, eating a chocolate chip cookie, when an explosion under a nearby boat blew him into the Bay Hap River and caused Kerry to smash his arm."

Here he is on CNN with Judy Woodruff:

"We had the boat hit the mine to our left. And John immediately had his driver, Del Sandusky (ph), turn to the left and head towards it.

"And it was at that time that our gunner on the bow got his gun knocked out and he started screaming for another weapon. I ran another weapon up to me, and we hit something or something hit us. There was an explosion, and I was blown off the boat to the right."

Then we have Rassman's Wall Street Journal Op-ed:

"While returning from a SEA LORDS operation along the Bay Hap River, a mine detonated under another swift boat. Machine-gun fire erupted from both banks of the river, and a second explosion followed moments later. The second blast blew me off John's swift boat, PCF-94, throwing me into the river. Fearing that the other boats would run me over, I swam to the bottom of the river and stayed there as long as I could hold my breath.

"When I surfaced, all the swift boats had left, and I was alone taking fire from both banks."

The last one is a physical impossibility regardless of which of the three versions is correct (if any). He could not be ALONE IN THE RIVER. There were others in the water too, as well as the Swift Boats that had gone to the aid of PCF-3. All three of his stories have him in the water almost at the same time as the others.

There's another falsehood that is easy to spot in the Oregon news article:

" 'He [Kerry]dropped to his hands and knees, and he reached over, and he pulled me aboard,' Rassmann told the group. 'The fighting continued until we got out of the kill zone, and we managed to get out to the Gulf of Siam.'"

Definitely not true. PCF-3 was disabled and Kerry's boat helped keep it afloat. In fact, Kerry's boat was the towboat that got it back home. They were all sitting there for an hour treating wounded and keeping PCF-3 from sinking. And in all that time no one was hit by an enemy bullet.

Kerry is a major league fool to take this tack.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on August 19, 2004 01:04 PM


"What is it REPUBLICANS have against veterans?"

Y'know, it's not about veterans. It's about frauds.

Tom Harkin, for example, did very honorable service -- exhibiting a kind of day-to-day constant bravery that may have required more sheer testosterone than any luckier bastard who ever won a medal for surviving ten-minutes of terror.

Harken, in contrast to Shrub (who flew jets we may fairly presume were undamaged and well maintained), was tasked with flying DAMAGED or MALFUNCTIONING aircraft from Saigon to higher echelong repair facilities in Atsugi, Japan or maybe the Phllipines.

I'm trying to imagine what special and different kind of day-to-day courage it takes to climb into the cockpit of an already dangerous machine that has suffered just enough battle damage to be too much for the local guys to fix, but not quite enough to ground it.

I mean if Harkin wanted to tell a tall tale about how brave he was he had good material to work with. It's not about having to suffer enemy fire. It's about going in and doing your job when the job isn't easy, you could easily get killed for screwing up, or even doing it right if somebody ELSE has screwed up -- and when nobody is looking, and there are no medals offered, expected, or even appropriate.

Harkin did that tough important job. But he's not bragging about THAT. He claimed he was a fighter pilot who shot it out with MiGs over North Vietnam...


Cut it out, Senator. You don't have to be that kind of hero to be an honorable and patriotic man.

Neither do I. My service consisted of making sure the radio-telephone exchange was up whenever the anti-aircraft battalion wanted to either launch a missile or phone out for pizza. I had an aluminum shelter with dehumidifiers and airconditioners to protect the equipment, (and me) from the weather, and my most important responsibility with my M-16 was to make sure I didn't lose the damn thing.

Got a couple of Army Commendation Medals for stuff like keeping the system working during a big thunderstorm, and helping the battalion pass a major evaluation ...

I'd have a problem with a platoon-mate I knew who was doing the same job as me telling bar stories -- or running for public office -- on the strength of his "heroic service" , or talking about doing secret missions in East Germany and Poland. I'd have problem if I thought he got the same puny little ArCom as me, when I knew his rig had frequent outages and his unit flunked inspections. Those aren't REPUBLICAN problems. Those aren't problems with veterans generally. That'd be a problem with a particular unreliable goldbricking asshole (Specialist Snellbaker, are you still out there?) whose biggest contribution to my operation was generally staying out of my fucking way!

Sorry. Cold War flashbacks, there.

You know what? People spat at me, wearing the uniform, for doing that little radio-work peacetime army job.

I'm pretty sure those spitters weren't Republicans. Greens, I think... They were, after all, German college students.

I don't exactly fault them. But I'd have a problem with anybody from MY SIDE who ENCOURAGED them. Guys who claimed to see things they couldn't have seen, been places they couldn't have been, done things they couldn't or shouldn't have done. That's my problem.

Harkin, whom I would otherwise be thrilled to honor, set himself up for some gentle mockery in my book.

Kerry, who came back and founded his political career upon being "right about the war" when two million other, quieter, veterans were, by their silence, "wrong" -- has set himself up in my books for something rather stronger than mockery.

I'm thrilled John O'Neill and his 200-man-strong crew are prepared to deliver it. (O'Neill, by the way, professes to have supported Al Gore in the 2000 elections. What is it about Democrats have against veterans?)

So "Bring it on." When was Lt Kerry in Cambodia? What was the mission with the CIA when he collected the lucky hat? Who wrote the offical Navy Reports on those award-winning actions we're now supposed to treat as gospel, and when were they written? What, exactly, were the conditions of a "free fire" zone? Did Kerry's admitted war crimes arise from following orders and complying with those conditions, or was he confessing to violations of the conditions?

The war is far from over. Bring it on.

Open questions:

Accounting for MIA. A Senate commission -- including John Kerry -- assures us that, based on the documetns (which we're not allowed to see) and the best recollections of the folks who were there (and we KNOW how reliable such memories are) that no P.O.W.s remain in custody in VietNam. But there remain MIAs lost. Are the remains and the evidence still in Cambodia? Were there secret missions we still have no documentation of? Candidate Kerry suggests that is so. IF so, shouldn't we be asking how many men were sent on how many missions, when, on what rivers, to do what -- so that we can begin to account for the missing?

War crimes. Even FIFTY years after World War II war criminals were dragged from Brazil, Argentina, and SPain to face charges of atrocities and genocide for acts committed in Nazi Germany. Justice was slow, but the pursuit of justice was never forsaken. In the mere 30 years since the last American soldier left Vietnam there have been many new and surprising accusations and revelations. Even Medal of Honor winner Senator Bob Kerrey (who I do not confuse with Purple Harp winner John Kerry) was accused of -- and admitted to -- questionable acts during the war. John Kerry generally referred to war crimes he himself saw, and committed, in VietNam. Have we had due-process, full investigation, and judgement on those acts? Has justice been served? (And here I leave aside the real and burning issue of bringing Viet Cong and North Vietnamese officials to justice for THEIR OWN war crimes...)

Settlement of refugees. Again, Candidate Kerry was involved in the US and UN efforts to "settle" the issue of refugees. Kerry's approach has been to send the people who fled their homeland BACK to the mercies of their conquerors. Hanoi has solemnly pledged the returnees would not be harmed, and would be treated fairly. Has Hanoi kept that bargain, any better than they kept the bargain stuck by Kissinger and Le Duc Tho? And what of Hmong and like groups from inter-border areas of Laos, Cambodia, and Burma? Are all those who fled the chaos of falling dominoes circa 1975 to date -- chaos that was predicted by men like John O'Neill -- safely settled in secure lands today? Is the war over for them?

Finally, a question of "rightness" remains. However badly the war turned out, however imperfect the tactics, the strategies, the implementation of policies, or even the rapid changes of policy -- the question remains: was the US right to attempt to intervene in VietNam, to resist communism, to ally with the heirs of European colonial powers in pursuit of Western-style civilizations in what used to be called Indochina. Or, was the US fundamentally wrong to attempt to impose Western, modern, free-market values upon peoples unlike ourselves?

History hasn't closed the book on the questions of Vietnam. Much less revealed, from the back pages, any answers.

But John Kerry presents us the opportunity take a closer look at these questions again, questions we'd rather ignore, questions we MUST address before we face other POW/hostage situations, before we loose more men in secret and unofficial actions behind forbidden borders, before we create more refugees, and before we ever again can unite behind one common (Western, capitalist, democratic) ideal.

John Kerry, tell us, how do you address the open questions of VietNam? Do you propose to use the powers of the presidency -- if we entrust them to you -- to provide answers? Or will you shred the last documents, intimidate the last witnesses, inter the last refugees, ignore the families of men still missing, and try to pretend that it never happened, nobody saw it happen, whatever happened wasn't your fault, and nobody can prove anything?

John Kerry, you're running on the record of VietNam. This is your last chance -- maybe our nation's last chance -- to revise and correct that record. Do you take your opportunity? Do you grant us ours?

Bring it on.

(I note in passing that GW Bush is an ignoramous who has no knowledge of anything that happened in Vietnam and has no capacity to make any contribution to this discussion whatever. GWB was either flying an obsolete jet over the Gulf of Mexico 12,000 miles away from events, or AWOL. In either case he has never attempted to clear up OR cover up questions of VietNam. He is NOT running on his record on that question.

His record on Afghanistan and Iraq is fair game.)

Posted by: Pouncer on August 19, 2004 01:17 PM


Pouncer, it sounds like you've wasted the last thirty-odd years of your life. And yes, for most of us that war is over, and most of us will vote.

Posted by: alabama on August 19, 2004 01:23 PM


"Those who refuse to study history are condemned to repeat it." As true in life as it is in a freshman's year of college.

In 1968 a hot topic of the election was the problem of insurgents crossing back and forth from sanctuary in a sovereign nation to attack US forces in an allied, though "occupied", nation. Cambodia and South Vietnam then. Iran and Iraq now.

We MIGHT decide to send special forces and CIA teams into Iran to carry the fight to enemy. We MIGHT decide to carpet-bomb guerilla encampments in that nation despite their "soverignty". We MIGHT decide to suck it up, wait for them to cross to "our" side of the border, and engage there. We MIGHT declare war on Iran, or try to topple the current regime and install one more to our liking...

All were tried, at various times, in Vietnam. What worked? The Vietnam war is over, you say. What lessons have you learned from that period in history that suggest how we might proceed in similar circumstances in 2005?

More interestingly, what lessons has John Kerry brought away from the experience?

Or more simply, more broadly -- Are the notions of Western Civilization, Democracy, and free-market capitalism ever going to work in non-European nations?

Thirty years after the "experiment" in Vietnam do you or John Kerry have an opinion?

Posted by: Pouncer on August 19, 2004 01:42 PM


Pouncer, I'm 65 years old, and I've watched the war in Southeast Asia unfold from the days of Dien Bien Phu (50 years ago!) up to the present time. I've always had strong convictions about it, and I've suffered with everyone else. Remembering it well is the only way to forgive, and to forgive something unforgettable is, for me, the most necessary thing (what they call, in South Africa, "truth and reconciliation"). And no, I didn't spit on anyone when they came home. That would have interfered with the learning process.

Posted by: alabama on August 19, 2004 02:26 PM


"Yes, Lawrence, Kerry's a Master Of Ambition-- when was a politician ever otherwise? But at least he's willing to take chances along with, and for, his peers--in or out of uniform."

So, Alabama, when Kerry was accusing (falsely) all his Vietnam veteran peers with war crimes in 1971, he was really "taking chances along with [them]"? Wow, you could have fooled me!

Posted by: Lawrence on August 19, 2004 04:11 PM


Patrick doesn't give up easily, does he? I wondered why he kept saying that Thurlow actually won his Bronze Star in "another action", but wouldn't say what it was. Now we know. He was simply wrong.

As for the Washington Post article: it DOES quote a third Swift Boat captain -- Richard Pees -- as saying that there was no enemy fire. It also, however, quotes Thurlow as saying that (A) His own Bronze Star citation -- which says repeatedly that he helped in the rescue with "enemy bullets flying about him" -- must have been based on Kerry's account; (B) he lost his own copy of his citation in 1984; (C) he was shocked -- shocked! to learn that it repeatedly metnions those flying bullets (having apparently never bothered to read his own copy during the 15 years he claims to have had it); and (D) he won't release his own military records "for fear that they might be used to discredit him and other anti-Kerry veterans."

MOST interesting. This business still isn't completely cleared up; but -- when you combine this with the fact that Adm. Hoffmann and Capt. Lonsdale have unquestionably and drastically changed their own stories about Kerry just in the last month in order to make him look much worse, and that Thurlow himself told "USA Today" in April that Kerry "was extremely brave, and I wouldn't dispute that" -- the probability looks very high now that the SBVTers are engaged in a deliberate conspiracy to get Kerry because (as Thurlow said again in the Post article) they hate his guts for saying that US war crimes were frequent in Vietnam. Which, unfortunately, they were.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on August 19, 2004 04:53 PM


Lawrence, My Lai happened. Some of us have accepted this awkward fact, but you apparently haven't, which leaves me with the rather pointless task of wondering why not--a task that I've learned to walk away from. I learned how to walk away from that task when the revelations came down in the first place, and some people couldn't accept them. Not all of these folks were in the military, by the way, and indeed a lot of military handled it very well. Let's just say that the process was a collective one, and hardly the less painful for being so.

Posted by: alabama on August 19, 2004 05:00 PM


Er, Lawrence. Kerry didn't accuse "all" of his Vietnam peers with war crimes -- he said a lot of them were guilty of them, including himself. He added that a lot of those crimes consisted of the (unquestioned) US habits of setting up free fire zones and burning villages, which according to him are flatly prohibited by the Geneva Convention. And, regarding the evidence that the US frequently engaged in war crimes much worse than that, you can see the Toledo Blade's Pulitzer-winning series on the Tiger Force (which they're still following up):

...and the detailed account by the decidedly non-extreme-left Charles Lane in the Apr. 17, 1995 New Republic (including Colin Powell's role in helping to cover up the My Lai massacre):

The ugly fact is that US war criems WERE frequent in Vietnam -- as they seem to have been frequent in every guerilla war the US has ever gotten involved in. (I notice that George Will now agrees in his latest Post column that the US killed fully 200,000 Filipinos during its gory repression of Aguinaldo's pro-independence revolt a century ago -- which, unlike so many so-called "national liberation movements" later in the 20th century, was apparently genuinely democratic. (Aguinaldo ended up reluctantly joining the US occupational government.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on August 19, 2004 05:04 PM


Ah, one other thing, Lawrence: where and when did Kerry "accuse all his veteran peers with war crimes in 1971"? I welcome a dry and factual answer to this one, by the way: place-names, publications and dates only. If you can come up with just one such instance, then I can certainly accept the merit of your complaint. I, for my part, recall no one, anywhere, ever, making such an accusation, least of all John Kerry.

Posted by: alabama on August 19, 2004 05:09 PM


One additional interesting paragraph from the Post article:

"The Bronze Star recommendations for both Kerry and Thurlow were signed by Lt. Cmdr. George M. Elliott, who received reports on the incident from his base in the Gulf of Thailand. Elliott is a supporter of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and has questioned Kerry's actions in Vietnam. But he has refused repeated requests for an interview after issuing conflicting statements to the Boston Globe about whether Kerry deserved a Silver Star. He was unreachable last night."

Thurlow, by the way, gave his latest story to the Post immediately after "a strategy session with other members of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth". I would have liked to be a fly on the wall.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on August 19, 2004 05:39 PM


"...many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command." John Kerry, 22 April 1971, Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Here you go. Surprised that you've never heard of Kerry's infamous false Senate testimony on the ubiquity of war crimes in Vietnam.

Maybe you've been walking away from Vietnam too much? I personally see no need for such, but each to his/her own.

Posted by: Lawrence on August 19, 2004 05:53 PM


Er, Lawrence:

(1) I repeat that you falsely said earlier that Kerry accused "all his Vietnam peers" of war crimes. He didn't; he said that war crimes were frequent, and that a lot of high-ranking officers knew about them.

(2) Before you repeat again that Kerry surely must have been lying about the latter, you MIGHT take a look at those two articles I mentioned above. They're very interesting, I assure you.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on August 19, 2004 06:12 PM


Lawrence, he says "with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command," which is not the same as saying "all veterans". You know they aren't the same, and yet you carry on as if they are. Why? What's the point? Where are you going with this? What's in it for you, or for me, or for anyone? Yes, a commanding officer is answerable for the deeds of all his subordinates, but every subordinate is an individual, individually answerable to the rule of law. Were this not the case, Lieutenant Calley would never have come to trial.

I find your contempt very strange. It's not the sort of thing I hear from military veterans, for example, quite a few of whom have discussed this problem with me.

Posted by: alabama on August 19, 2004 06:24 PM


"Out of desperation, the Bush campaign has picked the wrong fight with the wrong veteran," said Jim Jordan, former Kerry campaign manager who now runs an outside group airing ads against Bush. "Today's the start of the mother of all backlashes."

Posted by: bakho on August 19, 2004 07:33 PM


Its interesting how the story morphed just today on the Newshour. John O'Neill's current version of the story - in order to get past the discrepancies between Thurlow's story and his Bronze Star citation - is that the 4 *other* swift boats, all of whom had gone to the rescue of the damaged boat, were under fire but Kerry, coward that he is, stayed away from the firefight.

Perhaps we should start a betting pool on what the story will look like by Nov 2.

Posted by: flory on August 19, 2004 07:39 PM


IF your account is accurate, Flory -- and I'm still waiting for news on that -- then the whole story has totally broken down, since Thurlow, Chenoweth and Pees have all said flat-out that they were not under fire at all.

By the way, I've E-mailed nine Swift Boat veterans whom I had reason to believe might have been present at that fight, but only two have gotten back to me. One (very politely) told me that he wasn't there and couldn't provide any information. The other -- one of Droz's crewmen -- was virtually apoplectic in his general defense of Kerry, but so far hasn't given me any details. I'll keep his name secret until he gives me permission otherwise.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on August 19, 2004 07:52 PM


You sure that's what O'Neil told Newshour, Flory? CNN's own website says: "John O'Neil, one of the founders of the group that ran the ad, said no bullet holes were found in any boat that took part in the flotilla. 'Kerry's report that day describes something like the battle of Gettysburg,' O'Neil said."

However, CNN also quotes Thurlow as apparently changing his story about his Bronze Star citation again. He now says he lost it in 1974, not 1984 -- and that he never even knew he'd gotten a Bronze Star until after he left the Navy. (Presumably this is his new story as to why he never bothered to read it):

Again, it's not quite impossible that the SBVTers are telling the truth about this -- Thurlow really might have lost his Bronze Star citation before ever bothering to read it, Elliott might have a valid reason for refusing to talk to reporters at all anymore, and Hoffmann and Lonsdale might just have totally forgotten over the course of the last three or four months about the most fundamental things they said about Kerry. However, we are now seeing increasingly clear circumstantial evidence of the trout-in-the-milk variety, to quote Thoreau.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on August 19, 2004 08:15 PM


Postscript: the NY Times has just busted the whole fucking SBVT conspiracy wide open. Hoffmann and O'Neil were its coordinators from the beginning, and its liaison with the Bush campaign people. And, yes, the SBVTers were motivated entirely by rage over Kerry's accusations of war crimes. They've also caught Hoffmann flatly contradicting himself again, plus one veteran who says that a private detective hired by the group interviewed him and then totally distorted his testimony to make it look as though Kerry was lying about his first Purple heart. Charming.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on August 19, 2004 08:23 PM


A footnote to the above: Lawrence would have us understand that I said I learned to "walk away from Viet Nam". But this is imprecise: I said (at 5:00 PM upthread) that I learned to walk away from the task of trying to remind certain kinds of people--Lawrence among them--that "My Lai happened," thereby saving myself a lot of otherwise wasted energy. But was this, perhaps, a mistake? Did we end up giving those blood-thirsty cowards the green light to avenge themselves on the disappointments of Viet Nam? Take O'Neill, for instance: should we have hammered away at O'Neill for the past three decades? I don't think so. I think we spent the time wisely, teaching our kids to laugh at the likes of O'Neill.

Posted by: alabama on August 19, 2004 08:29 PM


Correction: "O'Neil," not "O'Neill". It matters, but how or why, I really can't say.

Posted by: alabama on August 19, 2004 08:36 PM


Bruce Moonmaw: that would explain why the great O'Reilly has refused to pursue the topic. He must have gotten wind of the NYTimes story a couple of days ago.

Posted by: alabama on August 19, 2004 08:42 PM


Actually, according to an anti-Kerry story in the American Spectator a few days ago, O'Reilly smelled a rat and was defending Kerry on this one almost from the start. As I've said before, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on August 19, 2004 09:23 PM


He has a good nose, that O'Reilly!

Posted by: alabama on August 19, 2004 09:38 PM


And actually, the Times has caught Hoffmann flatly contradicting hismelf twice more, not just once. They've also established -- on the basis of comments from Lonsdale -- that what actually motivated him and Hoffmann was not
general rage over Kerry's war crimes accusations, but rage over the derogatory remarks made about them personally in Douglas Brinkley's book.

They've also found a second of Kerry's main accusers besides Elliott -- Charles Schacht -- who, after being accused of making self-contradictory or flatly false accusations against Kerry, is now refusing to talk to reporters at all.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on August 19, 2004 09:40 PM


On the subject of the Bush family, I think it's worth remembering that GHW was the one who led the Republican Party in its new direction, much as the contradicts the conventional evaluation of him. According to the book What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer, a non-partisan examination of the careers of several of the 1988 Presidential candidates, George HW in his first Congressional campaign in 1962 realized he could not win using only the Rockefeller/Eisenhower constituency, so he recruited the Birchers and other "fringe" groups that had been anathema to the party and moved them into positions of influence. These people were instrumental in the nomination of Goldwater two years later. And the rest is history.

Posted by: Martin Bento on August 19, 2004 10:48 PM


I guess we'll have to wait for the transcripts, but that's certainly the interpretation I took away from the discussion.
The story is changing so regularly that O'Neill may very well have said something different on CNN than he did on Newshour.

Posted by: flory on August 20, 2004 02:09 AM


Right.--O'Neill, not O'Neil.

Posted by: alabama on August 20, 2004 08:24 AM


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