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August 28, 2004

Kerry's Medals: The "They're Official" Argument

I just realized something funny about the main line of defense for Kerry's medals: "The Navy gave him the medals, and all the official documents support him". I don't mean the the problem that the official documents we can see don't actually support him, or that he refuses to release many of the official documents, or the problem that Kerry and his supporters refuse to admit that George Bush's lack of bad reports or Honorable Discharge gives a prima facie case that we should believe he did fine in the National Guard until we hear contrary evidence. No, all that I realized some time ago.

No, the new thing is this: These liberals are saying, in effect,

"It's unpatriotic to doubt something asserted officially by the US armed forces in the Vietnam War. If Kerry got a medal from the Navy, he must have been a hero-- the Navy would never exaggerate, lie, or even get things wrong by accident."

This, of course, is sneered at as a conservative Vietnam War argument, though I'm not sure conservatives pushed it as much as pro-Johnson Democrats. Can we trust the body counts of Viet Cong dead? Of course-- the army says, so, and who is some amateur to dispute it? Is the war practically won (this in 1966, or 67, or 68)? Sure-- the army says everything is under control, or will be in a few months if they get another 200,000 men. The armed forces were wrong on these things, and we should expect them to be wrong on medals, for much the same reason-- they are exaggerating their own success. Is the Navy full of heroes? Sure-- just look at all the medals-- so long as you don't look too closely.

This is not, of course, to say that the army is always wrong, either. They did kill a lot of enemy, and later evidence shows that the Viet Cong were pretty much wiped out in 1968 and that in 1972 the North Vietnamese regulars were unable to conquer a single provincial capital from the South Vietnamese operating with essentially no US ground support (though with lots of air and supply support). And lots of medals were deserved. But the "Trust me. A military officer signed off on it" argument is nonetheless a weak one.

Posted by erasmuse at August 28, 2004 09:01 PM

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