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September 09, 2004

What if the Navy Makes President Kerry Return His Medals?

What if Kerry is elected President, and then a Navy inquiry determines that his medals should be revoked?

That is an unpleasant thought. It would be hard for Kerry to hold his head up as Commander in Chief of our armed forces if he has been stripped of his medals. America would be a laughingstock in the world. This would be even worse for effectiveness in office than Clinton's libertinism and perjury. The President is naturally a moral role model, and his duties do include enforcing the law, but he is not Chief Priest or Chief Judge.

A President stripped of medals would be so bad, in fact, that there is a strong case for not doing it even if it is clear his medals were frauds. On the other hand, it would also be very bad for the President to be above the law, exempt from the normal rules just because he is President.

First things first, though. If we step back from the question of whether Kerry deserved his medals to the more legalistic question of whether there is grounds for revoking them, what do we find?...

... You can read Judicial Watch's formal complaint to the Inspector-General, but I look at things a bit differently (I guess if I'd been more on the ball, I could have made my own formal complaint, but Judicial Watch is probably better at handling these things.)

The clear cases are the First and Third Purple Hearts.

The documentary evidence is that Kerry's First Purple Heart wound was so minor as to need only a medic's attention-- the medical report says it was minor, and it was signed by a medic, not a doctor as explicitly required by the Purple Heart regulations. That is bad enough, but a certain Dr. Letson says he was the doctor for the Swiftboats at the time, and he did treat the wound and would not have certified it for a Purple Heart. Even if you think Letson's testimony is worthless, though, Kerry's First Purple Heart is invalid under current documentary evidence.

The documentary evidence also puts Kerry's Third Purple Heart in grave doubt. Kerry's medical report lists two minor injuries, buttocks shrapnel and a bruised arm, with a notation "minor" next to the mention of the arm "contusion". If bruises are not injuries requiring a doctor's attention, then Kerry must rely on the shrapnel, which though too minor to prevent him from walking and carrying on his duties, might count. The problem there, though, is that the Tour of Duty campaign bio and the Navy records both clearly say that the buttocks shrapnel was self-inflicted while not in combat-- Kerry was blowing up some rice. Thus, it is not valid for a Purple Heart. That leaves no valid injury for the Third Purple Heart.

Things are not so clear for the Bronze Star and the Silver Star, the heroism medals.

The Bronze Star was awarded for pulling a man who'd fallen overboard back into the boat while the boat was under enemy fire. Most people who were there say there was no enemy fire, but the men in Kerry's boat plus the other person who got a Bronze Star that day for doing the same kind of thing as Kerry say there was fire. Nobody was hit by any bullets, though, and the only boat damage was 3 bullet holes that might have been shot the previous day. The after-action report does say there was gunfire-- and lots of it-- but we don't know who wrote that report.

If there are conflicting eyewitnesses, then I think Kerry's model wouldn't be revoked. The standard would not, I think, be our best estimate as to what happened, but whether the evidence strongly shows that Kerry did not deserve the medal.

The Bronze Star is not safe yet, though. What if it can be clearly shown that the after-action report on which the medal was based was lying? I have heard plausible arguments that there is no way the tremendous amount of gunfire described in the report could have occurred without any injury to any of the five boats or to the two to four Americans who had fallen in the water, and also that it would be quite unusual for the Viet Cong to keep shooting for that long (see the discussion forum exchange at the end of this post).

If the action report is clearly a lie, then I would expect the Bronze Star to be revoked, not just for lack of documentation, but for having been obtained by fraud.

How about the Silver Star? This is the safest medal. It was awarded for Kerry's command of the mission and for his charging and killing the wounded Viet Cong. Once a person hears details of the story, it is clear that Kerry's beaching his boat and charging the Viet Cong was not heroic and was, in fact, a danger to his boat. That, however, while excellent grounds for saying he did not deserve the Silver Star (the rest of the operation he commanded being successful but also not heroic), would not, I think, be grounds for revoking the medal. It was not obtained by fraud, there were many witnesses to the fact that Kerry commanded an operation, beached his boat, and chased a Viet Cong, and though Admiral Zumwalt may have bypassed the usual medal-award procedures, he knew what he was doing and probably had the authority to do so. This would be the more typical case of the Navy being too lax in giving out medals, and we only revoke medals for bad general policies on housecleaning occasions such as the mass revocation of 900 or so Medals of Honor in 1916 that I talked about in my McCain post.


As I said, earlier, Judicial Watch has issued a formal
complaint:

As noted in the operative instruction: "Any award for a distinguished act, achievement or service may be revoked . . . after presentation by SECNAV, if facts subsequently determined, would have prevented the original approval of the award, or if the awardees service after the distinguishing act, achievement or service has not been honorable." [Emphasis added] (See Paragraph 116.2 of Exhibit 1)

...


Judicial Watch also submits this formal complaint and request for investigation to the Inspectors General of the Defense Department and the U.S. Navy, who each have the inherent duty and obligation to conduct concurrent and independent investigations of the serious fraud, waste and abuse matters alleged herein. Evidence and testimony is now publicly available that Senator Kerry engaged in conduct violating law, rule, and/or regulation and abused his authority. While a U.S. Navy regulatory remedy may exist (via an administrative departmental board) for the correction of award records, the matters presented in this complaint are sufficiently serious to merit the full and immediate attention and action of the Inspectors General, as well as the Chief of Naval Operations. Subsequent action by the Secretary of the Navy may also be required.


...

This formal complaint and request for investigation, determination and final disposition is consistent with and satisfies the reporting requirements of Paragraph 116.3 of SECNAVINST 1650.1G. It is also in accordance with specific reporting guidelines and subject matters enumerated on the Department of Defense Inspector General Internet site and the Naval Inspector Generals Internet site. Therefore, we urge you to take action based on this complaint and investigate these allegations concerning Senator Kerry immediately.

September 1 Swiftvet Forum on the Bronze Star action:


Regarding the incident of March 13 1969;
As I have read the accounts of various swifties and heard the pundits in the media relay this story (and I just finished "Unfit for Command"), I have heard bits and pieces of certain accounts that have yet to be fully explored (I think) in the minds of the public.

As I understand it, there were 5 PCF's operating in a section of river that was only 70 Yards wide (that's a scant 210 feet). The PCF's themselves, although small by Navy standards, are actually quite huge by the public's standards. If I got this right, they're 50 ft long! I actually heard (in an interview) from a gunner that he sat in a gun turret that was 12 feet off the water. I did not, at first, realize just how big these boats were. Good grief, they're the size of a semi-trailer!

Now, Kerry claims that there was enemy fire (automatic weapons fire) coming from BOTH sides of the river bank and yet...there were NO bullet holes reported in any of the boats!

I don't think that the public fully understands how implausible this whole scenerio is. If you were positioned in the very center of the river (thus maximising your distance from an enemy firing from both sides of the river bank) you would only be a mere 35 yards from either bank. That's 105 feet. YOu could hit a semi-trailer with a rock from 105 feet!

How is it possible that someone firing automatic weapons at a target the size of a semi-trailer from a distance of 105 feet managed to MISS all 5 boats?

Seriously....the next time you see a semi parked somewhere walk up and pace off 35 steps, turn around and look at what you see and ask yourself that one question.

Do I have my facts wrong or...are we not illustrating this point to the public properly?

...


You have your facts right, and a demonstration/re-enactment of the Kerry mission would be devestating to Kerry. For example, I could shoot your eyes out at 35 yards with a .22 rifle pretty much every shot, the boats were in a fixed position (salvaging/towing the 3 boat, performing rescue/first aid), Kerry states there was 5000 yards of heavy automatic weapons fire, yet nobody received a bullet wound. I wasn't there, but I'm not stupid enough to believe that's possible under any conditions. No matter who tells me. Keep reading, it gets better. Wink

...


If this engagement was anything like the ones I saw, it usually involved one or two VC shooting perhaps one rocket round and 10 or 15 small arms rounds, the entire thing lasting 3 to 5 seconds, then running like stink before the real show begins. Our guys would typically have returned fire with hundreds and sometimes thousands of rounds and basically killed anything that moved in the vicinity.
Most of the VC were ill trained young men and women given a task to do and not much instruction on how to do it. It is conveivable that they hit nothing. You gotta realize that they were nervous and scared and knew what wrath they would being upon themselves.

If this engagement were like the Kerry description, all they guys would have gotten medals, not just Kerry.

...

Let's bring this into a little more clarity. As I recall the reports there were 5 PCF's coming up river and they encountered a fishing weir across the river. PCF 3 went to port (left side) of the river, PCF 94 went to starboard (right side) of the river. Assume that there was an opening of 25 feet on either side of the river to allow sampans to transit the river, then each PCF would have been very near the riverbank when the mine exploded under PCF 3. Kerry's PCF 94 was to have made a hard highspeed turn to starboard (right side) and this would have grounded his PCF, thereby exposing he and his crew to extreme danger from the withering rocket and automatic fire such that Kerry claimed. I can assure you the VC could have hit a PCF at that range. Yet there were no hits from rocket or AK47 to Kerry's 94 boat. Yet his boat ended up 5,000 yards up river away from the four remaining PFS that were still under rocket and automatic weapons fire. Not one PCF nor crew memebers were hit. AMAZING!


Posted by erasmuse at September 9, 2004 04:23 PM

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