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September 18, 2004

Admiral Route on Kerry's Medals

Beldar's "Judicial Watch strikes out with demand for Navy Dep't investigation" is extremely good. The Navy has said that John Kerry's medals were awarded by correct procedures, and that it isn't worth looking at the substance of whether they were awarded properly....

... On the issue of procedure, Vice Admiral Ronald A. Route says:

In accordance with our established review procedures, we carefully examined the process by which Senator Kerry was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts in 1968 and 1969. We found that existing documentation regarding his medals indicates the awards approval process was properly followed. In particular the senior officers who authorized the medals were properly delegated authority to do so. In addition, we found that they correctly followed the procedures in place at the time for approving these awards. [see Beldar's post for full linking of everything]

It is unsurprising that the senior officers actually had the authority to award authority, a frivolous charge by Judicial Watch. What is important is what I've put in red. Beldar tells us it is quite possibly true, but

By regulation, for example, Kerry's first Purple Heart should have been supported (see paragraph 2-17i of Army Regulation 600-8-22 on page 23 of the .pdf file) by both an after-action report documenting "the key issue that commanders must take into consideration," which is "the degree to which the enemy caused the injury" (see paragraph 2-8b(3) on page 19 of the .pdf file), and by a casualty report documenting the injury.

Admiral Route's memo is not ambiguous. It says, "we found that they correctly followed the procedures". Thus, if the proper documentation is not in the Navy files, Admiral Route is lying. I note this because if the files are ever opened up and the proper documentation is not there, Admiral Route should lose his job. He should not be allowed to say that "we found that they correctly followed the procedures" means "we guessed that they correctly followed the procedures, even though there was no evidence in the Navy files". Unfortunately, if he is indeed lying, this will make the Navy doubly reluctant to release Kerry's files, even if Kerry gives his approval some day.

Admiral Route also said,

Conducting any additional review regarding events that took place over thirty years ago would not be productive. The passage of time would make reconstruction of the facts and circumstances unreliable, and would not allow the information gathered to be considered in the context of the time in which the events took place.

This is a refusal to investigate the substance of the complaint. It is more generally a refusal to investigate the substance of *any* complaint that a medal awarded over thirty years ago was based on fraud-- in effect, a statute of limitations created by the Inspector General. I don't know whether such a refusal is legal or not.

It might be that on further reflection, the Inspector-General would revise his statement to say that he does not rule out *all* accusations of fraud about old medals, but that this particular one is too weak to warrant investigation. He would be on more solid ground there, since clearly the Inspector-General has to be given authority not to investigate frivolous complaints, and one might argue over what "frivolous" means. This, too, however, means that almost all complaints of fraud in the award of medals would be disallowed, since the evidence here is exceedingly strong.

A commenter on Beldar's post says

Formerly employed by GAO, I am somewhat surprised someone within the Congress has not requested an expedited inquiry into the whole process. And before the objections get posted--my former colleagues (the ones I worked with--I can't vouch for many others) are good at what they do and work to obtain objective answers to posed questions. But it is hardly a secret that, despite it's press, GAO takes on jobs that are driven by partisan considerations. On an issue such as this, it may be difficult to get both a ranking chairman and minority member to sign on to a specific committee or subcommittee request. But certainly individual members--especially of both parties and involving a number of standing committees with military oversight responsibilities--could request a narrowly focused inquiry as to the nature of the medal awarding process; the individuals listed as cites or responsible parties, and a list (probably not the contents themselves, although a brief descriptor could be provided) of the relevant documents which are not available publicly--but could be released with Mr. Kerry's permission.

The Admiral was correct and cautious in his approach and communication. A Congressional inquiry (not hearing--too much a shadow play that allows grandstanding)will provide cogent and concise information that can then be requested, rather than speculation and what-if inquiries.

As to who on the aisles might be interested? Either retiring members of either House, or perhaps someone who might be looking to the WH in 2008, might be in the safest position. The former won't have to deal with outraged colleagues or the junior senator from MA. And the latter will likely only have to deal with the senior senator from MA--the current candidate is losing all credibility, and thus influence, within the party. And the candidate I have in mind is so sure of her base support, she can afford to be seen as doing something for the credibility of military procedure, say, to establish a bridgehead with the institution she has so maligned in the past.

Another comment says

IG Route may say the awards were given in accordance with established procedures of the times, but that's not saying a lot.

Consider for example the policy Anthony Herbert outlined in the book "Soldier" -- the policy in his brigade was for every infantry officer leaving the unit to be awarded a Silver Star, on the basis that they must surely have done something heroic that no superior officer noticed, and it wouldn't be fair to leave Nam without a medal to their record.

In another case, when the Air Force started flying the first models of the AC-130 Spectre gunships over the Ho Chi Minh trail, they racked up incredible numbers of kills on NVA truck convoys. Air Medals and Distinguished Flying Crosses were awarded in great number.

But they noticed the truck traffic was not decreasing. So the Air Force conducted its own tests, and discovered that their criteria for claiming a truck destroyed were deeply flawed. Many truck kills had been claimed on vehicles that were only slightly damaged and fully operational. So the Air Force lowered its estimates of destroyed vehicles, revised its criteria for claiming kills, and made changes to its equipment, ammunition and procedures to improve their effectiveness.

But they decided to let all the medals previously awarded based on the nonexistent kills stand.

It is possible that Admiral Route is reluctant to get started on this road, because if Kerry's fake medals are invalidated, so might a lot of other medals-- all possessed by people who are veterans and voters. This would make more work for his department, less support for the Navy, and a lot of bitterness among the people with whom he works and socializes. I would guess that Navy people despise Kerry, but they care more about their own Service. This is one reason, I think, why it took so long for the Swiftvets to come forward-- they are sacrificing loyalty to Service in favor of loyalty to Country, a hard thing to do.

Posted by erasmuse at September 18, 2004 11:47 AM

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