September 24, 2004

Biographer Brinkley Doubts Kerry

UPDATE: The
Kerry Campaign has issued a press release saying that Brinkley mis-spoke. He stands by his book's story

"A story in the September 24 New York Times leaves the false impression that I think John Kerry was not 'the war hero we thought he was.' Nothing could be further from the truth. He was a great American fighting man in Vietnam and deserved all of his medals. Over the past year I have vigorously defended Kerry's military record and will continue to do so.

"My comment was meant to be about the political consequences of the anti-Kerry Swift boat attacks vs. the anti-Bush National Guard ones. I was speaking about public perceptions not my personal beliefs."

So he didn't mean to say he doubted Kerry's truthfulness- probably just a Freudian slip. Brinkley, in fact, stands by the discredited stories in his book.

The press release also says:

Paid for by Kerry-Edwards 2004, Inc.

That is OK, but it seems a bit crude to put such emphasis on how the Kerry campaign is pulling Brinkley's strings.


Kerry's official biographer seems to be turning on him! September 24 New York Times says


"Every American now knows that there's something really screwy about George Bush and the National Guard, and they know that John Kerry was not the war hero we thought he was," said Douglas Brinkley, the historian and author of a friendly biography of Mr. Kerry's war years, acknowledging that Mr. Kerry's opponents had succeeded in raising questions about his service....

... It's true that people think there's something screwy about George Bush's National Guard service, though a close shows there isn't-- his entry, service, and exit were all boring, ust like Kerry's less well explored Reserve Service. Kerry got out of the Navy earlier than his contract called for, didn't do any drills in the Reserves, and didn't get his discharge for many more years than usual, but available evidence doesn't indicate any impropriety (of course, one wonders what the lengthy records Kerry won't reveal say, and improper Reserve service might be what's keeping him from allowing the Navy to release them).

But that's an amazing admission about Kerry's war hero status. Brinkley's book, after all, is how we got the Kerry version of his war service. Is Brinkley trying to save his reputation as a historian, readying for an admission that Kerry duped him? It would be the professional thing to do. It is quite clear that Brinkley missed important, perhaps essential, information about Kerry's service, very likely not because Brinkley was covering up but because he wrongly trusted that Kerry was telling the truth and so did not dig deeply.

I wouldn't exonerate Brinkley completely, though. Even the official records on Kerry's website (the medical reports and Bronze Star and Silver Star citations) show that Kerry's medals were obtained by fraud, and probably Brinkley had access to those records.

I hope soon to post side by side excerpts from the descriptions in Brinkley's book of Kerry's medal-winning activity and the descriptions in the Kerry Campaign website documents. They don't seem to match up.

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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.

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September 14, 2004

It Wasn't Hard to Get into the Air National Guard in 1968

People keep saying it was hard to get into the Air National Guard in 1968, but after all the lying the Democrats have been doing, I've been wondering if there is any factual basis for that assertion, plausible though it is. According to the Dallas Morning News of July 4, 1999, as posted by Beldarblog, it is false. The article gives specific numbers which if true show that the Air National Guard had more slots than it could fill. Thus, we can deduce that Bush was shown no favoritism for the simple reason that there was no favor-- he was volunteering to do something nobody else wanted to do. It wasn't hard to get in. Here's the story....

...


Records provided to The News by Tom Hail, a historian for the Texas Air National Guard, show that the unit Mr. Bush signed up for was not filled. In mid--1968, the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group, based in Houston, had 156 openings among its authorized staff of 925 military personnel.

Of those, 26 openings were for officer slots, such as that filled by Mr. Bush, and 130 were for enlisted men and women. Also, several former Air Force pilots who served in the unit said that they were recruited from elsewhere to fly for the Texas Guard.

...

While Guard slots generally were coveted, pilot positions required superior education, physical fitness and the willingness to spend more than a year in full--time training.

"If somebody like that came along, you'd snatch them up," said the former commander [Staudt], who retired as a general. "He took no advantage. It wouldn't have made any difference whether his daddy was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

...

His score on the pilot aptitude section, one of five on the test, was in the 25th percentile, the lowest allowed for would--be fliers.

...

On the "officer quality section," designed to measure intangible traits such as leadership, Mr. Bush scored better than 95 percent of those taking the test.

...

Former Guard officials and members of Mr. Bush's unit said that release, seven months early, was not unusual for the Guard. Mr. Bush's unit was changing airplanes at the time, from the single--seat F--102 to the dual--seat F--101. They said it made little sense to retrain him for just a few months' service, and letting him go freed spots for the Guard to recruit F-- 101 pilots from the Air Force and elsewhere.

Maybe--*maybe*-- it was hard to get into the Army National Guard in Massachusetts in 1968 because lots of people afraid of being drafted were volunteering. But that doesn't mean it was hard to get into the Texas Air National Guard.

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September 11, 2004

Kerry's Reserve Service

Here's some evidence and comment on John Kerry's Reserve Service, 1970 to 1978 from Flyunderthebridge. I am posting this for reference on the open question of whether Kerry's Reserve service was all in proper order, for and possible comment from readers, not because I know what to do with it....

...

... Which happens to be three more people than can testify that John Kerry fulfilled the terms of his enlistment

Which clearly calls for Kerry to serve three years active duty, two years of ready reserve (with 48 drills per year of week-end warrioring, and a 17 day "summer camp"), and one year of standby reserve with no activity. Kerry fulfilled the three years active duty by early 1970. He appears to have plead the need to blow off the two years of ready reserve drills because he was going to run for congress. However, that intention didn't last long. Once relieved of his obligation, he withdrew in favor of another Democrat.

Still unresolved is the question of why Kerry didn't receive his discharge in 1972, when his service should have ended, but six years later in 1978. A good question for George W. Bush would be: "You say you think John Kerry served honorably. Can you think of a reason why he didn't get his honorable discharge when his six year term ran out?"

And here is more from Flyunderthebridge:

At this excellent compilation of Kerry and Bush's service records, one can read that officially, John Kerry was supposed to be drilling 48 times per year in the Ready Reserve, and they thought he was.

The first document is offering him the opportunity to continue in Ready Reserve status, rather than transfer to Standby Reserve. Apparently he declines to get his hair cut, because the second page places him in Standby effective July 1, 1972.

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September 10, 2004

Kerry's Second Choice, after Swifboats-- PBR Combat Duty

It's nice to be able to report something positive about John Kerry's military service. Many people have commented that joining the Navy was a pretty good way for Kerry to avoid getting drafted into the Army, similar to how George Bush joined the Air National Guard. Not dishonorable, but not sign of gung-ho desire to kill Viet Cong. Kerry did volunteer for the Swiftboats, but at the time the Swiftboats did coastal patrol rather than go up rivers, so that, too, was not a volunteering for combat-- rather, it was a way for him to get his own boat, even if a small one-- in fact, one more like the yachts he was used to. Then the Swiftboats' mission changed, and Kerry got his 4 1/2 months on the rivers before he ducked out using his fake Purple Hearts as an excuse.

But I've recently noticed a true sign of interest in combat: in his request for Swiftboat duty, Kerry lists "PBR's" as his second choice , if he couldnt' get a Swiftboat. Those, I think, are Patrol Boat-River, which I think would be true combat duty. I commend him for that.

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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 awardee’s 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 General’s 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!


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McCain's Reasons For Not Wanting Anyone Checking on Medals

I was wondering why McCain was so hostile to the Swiftvets who have questioned Kerry's medals. My first thought was that McCain was of high enough rank in Vietnam that he had written up some of his own subordinates for medals for minor incidents or without corroboration (for his subordinates, note, not himself). But trying to Google this, I discover that (a) McCain's service was mostly as a prisoner, so maybe he wouldn't have been putting subordinates up for medals, and (b) he has a number of medals himself, all dubious. I can't find much on this, but the well-known David Hackworth wrote this:...

...

For sure, McCain has the fruit-salad -- a Silver Star, a Legion of Merit for Valor, a Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Stars , two Commendation medals plus two Purple Hearts and a dozen service gongs.

...

McCain's valor awards are based on what happened in 1967, when during his 23d mission over Vietnam, he was shot down, seriously injured, captured and then spent 5 1/2 brutal years as a POW.

In an attempt to find out exactly what the man did to earn these many hero awards, I asked his Senate office three times to provide copies of the narratives for each medal. I'm still waiting.

I next went to the Pentagon. Within a week, I received a recap of his medals and many of the narratives that give the details of what he did.

None of the awards, less the DFC, were for heroism over the battlefield -- where he spent no more than 20 hours. Two Naval officers described the awards as "boilerplate" and "part of an SOP medal package given to repatriated (Vietnam- era) POWs."

McCain's Silver Star narrative for the period 27 October 1967 -- the day after he was shot down -- to 8 December 1968 reads: "His captors... subjected him to extreme mental and physical cruelties in an attempt to obtain military information and false confessions for propaganda purposes. Through his resistance to those brutalities, he contributed significantly towards the eventual abandonment..." of such harsh treatment by the North Vietnamese.

Yet in McCain's own words just four days after being captured, he admits he violated the U.S. Code of Conduct by telling his captors "O.K, I'll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital."

A Vietnam vet detractor says, "He received the nation's third highest award, the Silver Star, for treason. He provided aid and comfort to the enemy!"

The rest of his valor awards -- issued automatically every year while he was a POW -- read much like the Silver Star. More boilerplate often repeating the exact same words. An example: "By his heroic endeavors, exceptional skill, and devotion to duty, he reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Naval Service and the United States Armed Forces."

Yet McCain's conduct while a POW negates these glowing comments. The facts are that he signed a confession and declared himself a "black criminal who performed deeds of an air pirate." This statement and other interviews he gave to the Communist press were used as propaganda to fan the flames of the anti-war movement.

Accounts by McCain and other writers tell of the horror he endured: relentlessly beatings, torture, broken limbs. All inflicted during savage interrogations. Yet no other POW was a witness to these accounts.

A former POW says "No man witnessed another man during interrogations... We relied on each other to tell the truth when a man was returned to his cell."

The U.S. Navy says two eye-witnesses are required for any award of heroism. But for the valor awards McCain received, there are no eye-witnesses, less himself and his captors.

...

McCain refused an early release. An act of valor? Three former POWs told me he was ordered to turn it down by his U.S. POW commander and he "just followed orders."

McCain certainly doesn't appear to be a war hero by conventional standards, but rather a tough survivor whose handlers are overplaying the war hero card.

This isn't on the same level as the Kerry medals scandal, because the charge is not that (a) McCain lied about what happened to get phony medals, or even (b) McCain has made a big deal of getting medals he didn't deserve. In fact, McCain's Senate bio doesn't even mention his Vietnam service! And a CNN article says

"They are treating us like heroes," he told his Naval Academy roommate Chuck Larson when he got back to the States, "and all I did was get shot down and try to survive the best I could. I really want to put that behind me. What's important to me is what I do from now on. I don't want to live and be nothing but a POW."

Rather, what Hackworth is saying is (c) McCain has lots of medals, but really they seem to boil down to just being medals for being a prisoner -- that is, for being unlucky-- rather than for doing anything special as a prisoner. Thus, as with Kerry, we've heard a lot more about McCain having medals than about what exactly he did that made him deserve the medals.

If any readers know anything that refutes Hackworth on this, please let me know. I didn't find anything. In an hour or so, I did find the interesting U.S. Veteran Dispatch which makes strong (wild?) charges against McCain with lots of very specific questions and requests for McCain to release clarifying records, but though I found lots of claims that Bush people questioned McCain's credentials in the 2000 Republican Primary, I couldn't find any specific claims, anything refuting any such claims, or any links to McCain war records. In particular-- what do McCain's medal citations say?

This matters because Kerry's first line of defense in his own medals controversy-- the first five paragraphs of his campaign's "FACT CHECK: Swift Boat Veterans for Bush" page-- is that Senator McCain says nobody should question Kerry's medals. It matters all the more because Kerry's first line of defense is pretty close to being his last line of defense, too-- just check out the web page and note how much of it actually isn't even close to being fact-checking, as opposed to (a) saying it's unfair to criticize Kerry or (b) commentary on the people who are criticizing him without reference to what they actually say.

I should add that McCain's "don't inquire into whether medals are deserved" stance is not just something he's doing to help Kerry. McCain has long held that belief, and not just with respect to his own medals.

The best example is his position in the Wounded Knee Medal of Honor controversy. The U.S. army gave out disgracefully large number of Medals of Honor before World War I, and in 1916 a board was set up to look them over. The Medal of Honor website says

This board rescinded the awards of 911 Medals of Honor. Stricken were the 27th Maine, the 29 officers and men who had accompanied the remains of President Lincoln from Washington to Springfield, Illinois in April, 1865, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, and another very colorful hero of the Indian Wars, William F. "Wild Bill" Cody. Cody, like James J. Andrews, had been a civilian guide or scout and thus was not eligible for the award. The most ridiculous award that was rescinded was one that had been issued to a Lieutenant Colonel Gardiner in 1872 by Secretary of War Belknap upon Gardiner's application. Gardiner wrote, "I understand there are a number of bronze medals for distribution to soldiers of the late War, and request I be allowed one as a souvenir of memorable times past."

Thus, not all medals are deserved (surely not a shocking item to combat veterans). I'm sure there are even more acts of heroism that don't get medals than medals unassociated with acts of heroism too, but that's not our focus here.

Now let's return to Senator McCain. Among the medals *not* stricken in 1916 were 17 awarded for heroism at the Battle of Wounded Knee, one of the last Indian War battles. Some peole call it "the Wounded Knee Massacre", because the Indians were so pitifully outgunned and it was more like a brawl than a battle. Since 25 U.S. soldiers were killed, not all by friendly fire, I'm willing to call it a battle. It wasn't an occasion that required heroism, though. Here is Senator McCain's letter on the medals.

Thank you for your recent letters, together with signatures and comments from other citizens via the Internet, proposing that Congress rescind seventeen Medals of Honor awarded to U.S. Army personnel for actions at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on December 29, 1890, and at Drexel Mission on the following day.

The policies and decisions of the United States Government that led to the Army's being at Wounded Knee in 1890 doubtless can be characterized as unjust, unwise, or worse. Nevertheless, a retrospective judgement that the Government's policies and actions were dishonorable does not warrant rescinding the medals awarded to individual soldiers for bravery in a brief, fierce fight in which 25 soldiers were killed and 45 others wounded. Neither today's standards for awarding the medal nor policies of the United States with regard to Indian tribes are what they were in 1890.

This is a bit disingenuous. Medals of Honor in the Civil War weren't awarded at a rate of 17 per 25 men killed. Standards were far lower in 1890 than either in 1863 or 1918. It shows McCain's attitude, though: don't mess with whether medals are deserved.

Permalink: 09:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 08, 2004

Kerry's Senate Testimony: 3000 refugees, 200,000/year Murders by Americans

I forget where I found this wonderful comment with its long excerpt on John Kerry's Senate Testimony with his precise and massively wrong numbers on refugees from a communist takeover of Vietnam and "murders" of Vietnamese by the United States: ....

...


Posted: Sat Sep 04, 2004 3:32 am Post subject: This is the info I was trying to find when I started this thread

I found the quote and commentary here: http://hughhewitt.com/#postid855

Now if we only had a tape of Kerry saying what is in bold below it would make an awesome ad.

Senator AIKEN. I think your answer is ahead of my question. I was going to ask you next what the attitude of the Saigon government would be if we announced that we were going to withdraw our troops, say, by October lst, and be completely out of there -- air, sea, land -- leaving them on their own. What do you think would be the attitude of the Saigon government under those circumstances?

Mr. KERRY. Well, I think if we were to replace the Thieu-Ky-Khiem regime and offer these men sanctuary somewhere, which I think this Government has an obligation to do since we created that government and supported it all along. I think there would not be any problems. The number two man at the Saigon talks to Ambassador Lam was asked by the Concerned Laymen, who visited with them in Paris last month, how long they felt they could survive if the United States would pull out and his answer was 1 week. So I think clearly we do have to face this question. But I think, having done what we have done to that country, we have an obligation to offer sanctuary to the perhaps 2,000, 3,000 people who might face, and obviously they would, we understand that, might face politic al assassination or something else. But my feeling is that those 3,000 who may have to leave that country --

Senator AIKEN. I think your 3,000 estimate might be a little low because we had to help 800,000 find sanctuary from North Vietnam after the French lost at Dienbienphu. But assuming that we resettle the members of the Saigon government, who would undoubtedly be in danger, in some other area, what do you think would be the attitude, of the large, well-armed South Vietnamese army and the South Vietnamese people? Would they be happy to have us withdraw or what?

Mr. KERRY. Well, Senator, this, obviously is the most difficult question of all, but I think that at this point the United States is not really in a position to consider the happiness of those people as pertains to the army in our withdrawal. We have to consider the happiness of the people as pertains to the life which they will be able to lead in the next few years.

If we don't withdraw, if we maintain a Korean-type presence in South Vietnam, say 50,000 troops or something, with strategic bombing raids from Guam and from Japan and from Thailand dropping these 15,000 pound fragmentation bombs on them, et cetera, in the next few years, then what you will have is a people who are continually oppressed, who are continually at warfare, and whose problems will not at all be solved because they will not have any kind of representation.

The war will continue. So what I am saying is that yes, there will be some recrimination but far, far less than the 200,000 a year who are murdered by the United States of America, and we can't go around -- President Kennedy said this, many times. He said that the United States simply can't right every wrong, that we can't solve the problems of the other 94 percent of mankind. We didn't go into East Pakistan; we didn't go into Czechoslovakia. Why then should we feel that we now have the power to solve the internal political struggles of this country?

We have to let them solve their problems while we solve ours and help other people in an altruistic fashion commensurate with our capability. But we have extended that capacity; we have exhausted that capacity, Senator. So I think the question is really moot."

Of course, there were at least 160,000 South Vietnamese who fled by boat --not 2,000 or 3,000-- and more than 500,000 southeast Asians became refugees. Between two and three million were murdered by Pol Pot's regime in Cambodia, and hundreds of thousands went into prison camps, and the regime's human rights record remains terrible.

So there we have Mr. Kerry's judgement as a young man-- the Communists would not be nearly as bad as the Americans in Vietnam, though perhaps 3,000 people would have to flee, and stopping Communism wouldn't be worth keeping as many as 50,000 American troops in a country. I wish somebody would ask him what he has to say about his massively wrong prediction, and whether he now regrets his role in helping the communist takeover of Vietnam. If he does regret and repent, I wouldn't hold his youthful folly against him too much-- was it Joan Baez who admitted she was wrong on Vietnam?-- any more than I'd hold against him a youthful fling with Nazism or the Klan. But I'm afraid that while he'd grant he was wrong on the number of refugees and killings, he'd still say that a million gook lives aren't worth 50,000 Americans stuck in a jungle.

No wonder Vietnamese-Americans hate John Kerry!

Permalink: 10:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 06, 2004

The Cover of Kerry's Book

This is from the cover of John Kerry's book, The New Soldier, from the 1970's. Notice that the American flag is upside down and the scruffy soldiers are mocking the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. I don't think Kerry has ever repudiated this insult to the U.S. soldier. The contents, of course, are even more insulting, consisting of false Communist propaganda stories of American atrocities.

Permalink: 10:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kerry's Reserve Service and Student Deferments


This Swiftvet discussion forum
is about Kerry's service in the Reserves. My reading of it is that Kerry probably didn't evade duties as a reserve officer after he left active service, because the Navy was very flexible in what it required of reserve officers and didn't really need Kerry to do any drilling or any real work. Kerry stayed in the reserves till 1978, but probably just because there was no reason to quit, since he wasn't required to do anything. Of course, if Kerry released his secret military records, they might turn up something.

Kerry's reserve service is nonetheless worth mentioning, because it sounds similar to the last part of George Bush's National Guard service. The National Guard didn't need Bush to do much, just as the Navy didn't need Kerry to do much. Rather than impose make-work on them, the military let them go away and do other things, so long as they were available if some real need arose.

Another thread, still in progress, is on Kerry's student deferments. No comment linked to evidence has been posted yet, but it appears that Kerry must have gotten student deferments during his four years of college. What I don't know yet is whether he got them automatically or whether he had to apply for them; it seems they were routine in any case.

The student deferments don't reflect badly on Kerry at all-- it is quite reasonable to go to college rather than volunteer for the army or accept being drafted, and I wouldn't hold it against anybody even in a war like World War II. Bush Senior volunteered and went to war first, college later, but it's OK not to volunteer.

Where the student deferments are relevant,though, is exposing Kerry's hypocrisy. Democrats heavily criticize Cheney for getting student deferments. Why then don't they criticize Kerry? (and, of course, Edwards, who was, I think, in college during the last part of the Vietnam War and certainly had the opportunity to volunteer out of high school)

Permalink: 05:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 05, 2004

Byron York on Kerry in Vietnam-- A Commentary

I was disappointed by the National Review article, "In
Vietnam"
by Byron York. He pulls his punches. Kerry's Vietnam story has been deflating so fast that even conservative journalists can't quite comprehend how small his balloon has gotten. They, like all of us, took Kerry's medals at face value until quite recently, and the disinterest of the mainstream media really has helped Kerry a lot. Despite the punditry, I think Kerry has been quite smart to keep the bulk of his Vietnam records secret and to refuse to reply to anyone who disputes his Vietnam stories. If you're in the wrong, you're going to lose whenever you let out more truthful information or whenever you try to answer charges against you. The best thing is to try to laugh away the charges, at least, if the Press is on your side.

Let's look at York's article in detail to see what a pro-Kerry spin it has. Overall, the article is heavily anti-Kerry, simply because it presents some of the evidence against him. But its general tone is, "People have questioned Kerry's record but Kerry says they're wrong," rather than "People seem to have shown Kerry's record is fraudulent, and Kerry isn't saying anything to try to refute them". ...

...

Last May, when the newly formed group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth first spoke
to the press about John Kerry, the men -- mostly Kerry's fellow officers from
the four months he skippered a Navy Swift boat in Vietnam -- seemed divided on
the issue of Kerry's war record. Some questioned the medals he was awarded.
Others had no desire to cast doubt on his service. But all agreed on one thing:
that Kerry had betrayed them when, upon returning from Vietnam, he characterized
the American military -- and, by extension, the Swift boat veterans themselves
-- as having committed widespread atrocities in Southeast Asia.

That was then. After their opening news conference, the veterans -- most of whom
had not seen one another in 35 years -- began talking among themselves about
their memories of Kerry. They read Douglas Brinkley's hagiographic war
biography, Tour of Duty, and found descriptions of events they didn't recognize.
They compared notes. And their point of view changed. They came to question what
Kerry had done, not just after leaving Vietnam, but while he was serving
alongside them. In particular, they came to question some of
the cornerstones of Kerry's Vietnam record,
the engagements in
which he won the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. The
result of that questioning was a book, Unfit for Command, written by the group's
main spokesman, John O'Neill.

More accurately, "they came to question every single one of the
cornerstones of Kerry's Vietnam record"

...

Unfit for Command, and a series of television ads made from it, have scored some
direct hits. But O'Neill and the Swift boat veterans have also missed their mark
on occasion, giving the Kerry campaign an opening to claim that everything they
say is untrue. In the end, however, when all the claims and counterclaims are
balanced against one another, it seems clear that the veterans, relying mostly
on their own eyewitness experiences, have raised some valid
-- and serious -- questions about John Kerry's four months in Vietnam color=red>.

No, they did much more than raise questions-- they answered a lot of
questions too. York's phrasing makes the Swifvets sound like the Democrats who
question Bush's National Guard service by saying,"Well we don't have any
evidence Bush didn't serve improperly, but how can we know he didn't?" Anybody
can raise questions. It is much harder to raise valid questions. But the
Swiftvets have not only raised some valid questions that they don't have the
information to answer (e.g., why are there three version of Kerry's Silver Star
citation, not just one?) but also, and mainly: (a) provided new evidence
(e.g., Dr. Letson saying that Kerry's First Purple Heart was for a minor
scratch), and (b) found inconsistencies in Kerry's stories (e.g., Kerry's
Bronze Star was for bravery under heavy gunfire, but nobody was injured by it
even slightly and the only evidence of any bullets to the five boats was three
bullet holes that might have been shot the previous day).

...

THE FIRST PURPLE HEART

Another area in which the Swift boat veterans have raised fundamental questions
concerns the first of Kerry's three Purple Hearts. On December 2, 1968, newly
arrived in Vietnam, the future senator volunteered to undertake a nighttime
mission on a small "skimmer" craft north of Cam Ranh. Kerry and the others in
his boat saw a group of sampans being unloaded on the beach. They set off an
illumination flare to get a better look. Something happened — it's not clear
what, although there's no indication that anyone in the sampans opened fire —
and Kerry began shooting. During the firing, "a stinging piece of heat socked
into my arm and just seemed to burn like hell," according to Kerry's
recollection in Tour of Duty.

...

"What I saw was a small piece of metal sticking very superficially in the skin
of Kerry's arm," Letson recorded in a written account detailing his encounter
with Kerry. "The metal fragment measured about 1 cm. in length and was about 2
or 3 mm in diameter." Letson said he used forceps to remove the piece of metal,
which had penetrated no more than 3 or 4 mm into the skin. "It did not require
probing to find it, did not require any anesthesia to remove it, and did not
require any sutures to close the wound," Letson wrote. "The wound was covered
with a bandaid."

...

When Letson first went public with his account, the Kerry campaign suggested
that he had not been present at Cam Ranh Bay and was not even a medical doctor.
In a letter threatening television-station managers who ran the first Swift boat
ad, Kerry's lawyers wrote, "The 'doctor' who appears in the ad, Louis Letson,
was not a crewmate of Senator Kerry's and was not the doctor who actually signed
Senator Kerry's sick-call sheet. In fact, another physician actually signed
Senator Kerry's sick-call sheet."

But it turned out Kerry's lawyers were wrong. The sheet was
signed not by another doctor but by Letson's assistant, J. C. Carreon, who is no
longer alive.
And the sick-call sheet's description of Kerry's
wound, while very brief, is entirely consistent with Letson's recollections. It
reads, in full: "Shrapnel in left arm above elbow. Shrapnel removed and appl
bacitracin dressing. Ret to Duty."

York ought to have mentioned here that a Purple Heart can be received only
for an injury severe enough to require treatment "by a medical officer", i.e.,
by a doctor. If the assistant, Carreon, was the only person to treat the
injury, it doesn't count for a Purple Heart. If the doctor, Letson, treated it,
then it doesn't count either, because Dr. Letson says he really didn't have to
see it. Kerry's medal is bogus either way.

...

THE RASSMANN INCIDENT

No event plays a larger role in Kerry's Vietnam epic than the March 13, 1969,
engagement in which Kerry pulled Army Green Beret Jim Rassmann from the Bay Hap
River. Rassmann, who has become an active surrogate speaker for Kerry on the
campaign trail, says that he was on board Kerry's boat that day, in a group of
five Swift boats, when one of them, PCF-3, was rocked by a mine explosion. After
that, Rassmann says, the entire group of boats came under heavy fire from both
shores of the river. Then, according to Rassmann, there was another explosion,
this one near Kerry's boat, which threw Rassmann overboard. Rassmann dove
underwater to avoid both the gunfire and the propellers of the Swift boats; when
he came up for air, he says, all the boats had left. But there was still
shooting. With bullets whizzing around him, Rassmann dove again, and again. Then
he saw Kerry's boat coming back to get him. "John, already wounded by the
explosion that threw me off his boat, came out onto the bow, exposing himself to
the fire directed at us from the jungle, and pulled me aboard," Rassmann wrote
in the Wall Street Journal.

...

The medal citations for Kerry and for Thurlow (who, like Kerry, won a Bronze
Star for his actions that day) say that everyone was working under enemy small-
arms and automatic-weapons fire. But the Swift boat veterans have raised at
least some doubt about that. For example, in addition to their personal
recollections, they say that there were no bullet holes in the boats, indicating
a lack of hostile fire. While that is not entirely accurate -- records indicate
that there were three bullet holes in Thurlow's boat, at least one of which he
attributes to an earlier engagement -- it does suggest that the boats were not
significantly shot up in the incident. Compare that with another ambush, shortly
before Kerry took command of PCF-94, in which the boat was riddled with about
100 bullets.

...

In any case, the Swift boat veterans' account of the Rassmann incident casts
Kerry's actions in a somewhat less heroic light than, say, the legend-building
presentation at the Democratic convention. But it is simply
not an open-and-shut case on either side
, and, barring some
future revelation that could change the story entirely, it seems likely that it
will remain in dispute.

How strong does evidence have to get before it is "open and shut"? I don't
see how there could have been enemy small- arms and automatic-weapons fire
significant enough to justify a medal for picking up someone who fell off a boat
if nobody was injured and the maximum claimed damage is 3 holes in one of the
five boats. That sounds open-and-shut even before we get to the claims of
witnesses. Of the witnesses, Kerry is supported by himself and his crew-- who
sped away at first,leaving the other four boats-- Rassmann, who, struggling in
the water, is not terribly reliable-- and Lambert, someone else who got a Bronze
Star that day because he rescued someone under the supposed gunfire. On the
other side are the officers and crew in the other four boats. Doing a headcount
of witnesses, Kerry loses. Looking at who benefits personally from which story,
Kerry's side also loses. Note, too, that it isn't clear who wrote the action
report that the medal citations are based on, so we can't vouch for the
reliability of the official documents based on it (the Swifvets suggest,
plausibly, that Kerry himself wrote the report; Kerry says he didn't, but
doesn't say who did' in any case, the official reports do not add any names of
witnesses that would support Kerry's story). So what else do we need to make
the lack of enemy fire "open and shut"?

THE SILVER STAR AND MORE PURPLE HEARTS

...

On the other hand, some of their criticism of Kerry has fallen short. They
suggest, for example, that Kerry's second Purple Heart was, like the first,
accidentally self-inflicted. It happened on February 20, 1969, when Kerry was on
a mission in the Cua Lon River: Suddenly, the boat was hit by a rocket-propelled
grenade, and Kerry suffered a shrapnel wound in his left leg. One member of the
Swift boat veterans was on another boat during that mission and suggests there
was no hostile fire, but there appears to be no reasonable
scenario under which Kerry's wound could have been self-inflicted. color=green> And there is evidence that Kerry's wound, while
not serious enough to keep him away from duty, was more substantial than the
wound for which he was awarded his first Purple Heart.

I haven't read up on this. What is the Swiftvet's scenario? York's readers
might like to decide for themselves whether it is reasonable.

York only hints at how severe the wound was. Pretty much any wound
would be more severe than the "band-aid" wound. As Kerry said, the wound was
"not serious enough to keep him away from duty". Thus, while this wound might
have truly qualified for the Purple Heart under the lax standards of the Vietnam
War, it isn't the kind of hospital wound the public thinks about when they hear
Kerry got a Purple Heart.

The Swift boat vets also criticize Kerry's third Purple Heart, the one awarded
after the Rassmann incident. Kerry suffered two wounds that day, one a shrapnel
wound to the buttocks and another an injury to his arm. Both Tour of Duty and
the Swift boat veterans' accounts say that Kerry was hit by shrapnel when he
dropped a grenade in a bin of rice, an action that was part of a general policy
to deplete supplies for the Viet Cong. "I got a piece of small grenade in my ass
from one of the rice-bin explosions," Kerry said in Tour of Duty. Later in the
day, during the Rassmann incident, Kerry is said to have hurt his arm in the
(disputed) explosion near his boat after the mining of PCF-3. While the rice-
bin wound seems clearly accidental, there also seems no doubt
that any injury Kerry suffered in the wake of the mining was the result of a
hostile enemy action.

No-- the doubt-- indeed, the near-certainty, since it is what the official
medical documents posted by the Kerry campaign say-- is as to whether Kerry
received an injury. Bruises not requiring a doctor do not count as injuries,
either in common language or for the official purpose of getting a Purple
Heart. The Bronze Star citation says that Kerry's arm was bleeding, but the
medical record says it was a "minor contusion"-- minor, that is, even by
comparison with the buttock shrapnel, which itself was not severe enough to
prevent Kerry from walking around normally. No-- what seems to have happened
was that Kerry had a minor shrapnel wound that was self-inflicted but at least
had some claim to require treatment by a doctor,

Perhaps the weakest case made by the Swift boat vets concerns the action in
which Kerry won the Silver Star. That occurred on February 28, 1969, when Kerry
famously beached his Swift boat, jumped onto land, and chased and killed a Viet
Cong guerrilla who had fired a rocket at the boat. The Swift boat veterans
suggest that Kerry's action was not only not heroic, but reckless and dangerous.
They also suggest that the guerrilla was a teenager, clad only in a loincloth,
who was fleeing when Kerry killed him. And they suggest that
there was some sort of official interference in the awarding of the medal that
resulted in the Silver Star's being awarded with suspicious haste.
red>

Look below, and you'll see that York hardly gets back to the "suspicious
haste" question. It's important not because there is evidence of bribery, etc.
but because one scenario is that Kerry received the medal because Admiral
Zumwalt wanted some Swift officer to get a medal to raise morale and strengthen
his hand in intra-service disputes, and didn't really care whether the
particular officer deserved it or not.

But officials considered the recklessness of Kerry's actions
when they awarded him the medal
-- something that commanding
officer George Elliott, now a member of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, has said
on a number of occasions.

As I said above, the official who awarded the medal may have had other things
in mind besides whether Kerry's actions were heroic. In any case, the question
is not whether Kerry persuaded his superiors to give him a medal, which he
obviously did, but whether he rightly persuaded them.

On the lone-guerrilla issue, crewmates who were there at the time have
recollections that conflict with the version of the story in Unfit for
Command
. "Number one, it was a man," Fred Short, who was on board Kerry's
boat and now supports Kerry's candidacy, told National Review. "And if it was
just one guy, he was real good, 'cause he fired about four or five rocket-
propelled grenades at once."

The biggest problem for this story is not conflicting eyewitnesses, but
plausibility. Kerry beached his boat, so it was an easy target and its machine
guns were at a bad angle for firing, and jumped out, leaving his men with no
officer. If there was more than one enemy soldier, why wasn't Kerry's boat
destroyed in its near-defenseless situation?

That testimony is supported by the account of William Rood, who commanded the
other Swift boat in the action and believes there were other guerrillas firing
at the Americans.

No mention here of the fact that Rood also received a medal for the events of
that day, and hence has the same interest as Kerry in maximizing the size of the
battle.

And unlike the Rassmann incident, the Swift boat vets have not been able to
produce eyewitnesses to challenge that version of events. As for the haste with
which the medal was awarded, it is simply not clear what happened -- perhaps
more could be learned from the records that Kerry has not yet released.

Finally, the Swift boat veterans are caught in a difficult argument over the
Silver Star. They say they are not condemning Kerry's killing of the young
guerrilla, only the fact that he received such a prestigious decoration for it.
But in Unfit for Command, O'Neill writes that Elliott, when he approved
the medal, did not realize that Kerry "was facing a single, wounded young Viet
Cong fleeing in a loincloth," which suggests that Kerry acted improperly.

No-- York misses the point, probably because he hangs out with liberals who
*would* think such an action improper. The problem with getting a medal for
killing a single, wounded, fleeing, non-uniformed, poorly equipped enemy is not
that it is improper (indeed, non-uniformed combatants have very few rights under
the law of war-- remember Nathan Hale and Major Andre's executions for spying),
but that it is not heroic. Kerry should of course have shot the Viet Cong, but
why get a medal for it?

But imagine reading an account today of a young U.S. Army officer, patrolling
the outskirts of Baghdad, who comes under attack from an insurgent with a rocket
launcher. The officer orders his men to pursue the shooter -- and takes the lead
in the pursuit. He finds and kills the insurgent, who is still carrying the
rocket launcher. Since the insurgent had already fired on U.S. troops, and since
the insurgent was still armed, how many Americans would question the officer's
conduct? Probably not many (and, in one of the many ironies of this case, the
people angered by the incident would likely be Kerry supporters).

...

Of course, Kerry was entitled, under the military's
regulations, to ask for that Purple Heart
. And he didn't give
himself the other medals, either; the Navy approved each one. But the way he
operated, taking advantage of the full measure of the rules to
compile a politically appealing résumé
, diminished some of
those accomplishments, at least in the eyes of many of his fellow Swift boat
sailors. They didn't like it then, and they don't like it now.

Again, York underplays the seriousness of the charges against Kerry. Is it
really true that you're entitled to ask for medals you don't deserve? Maybe,
but I find it hard to believe that asking a superior to commit fraud by giving
you a medal would be well-regarded by the military, even if there's no specific
regulation against it.

There are two ethical problems here that York conflates. The first problem is
that Kerry seems to have asked for a Purple Heart for a wound-- I am thinking of
the leg shrapnel, the Second Purple Heart-- so minor that although it may have
qualified under the written rules and standard practice of the time, a real
gentleman would not have applied for a medal. This is the more excusable moral
lapse, though when Kerry later ran for President boasting of his Purple Heart,
it amounted to fraud on an American people who, as Kerry well knows, think
Purple Hearts are given for injuries that require hospitalization. And it is
somewhat insulting to soldiers who got their Purple Hearts for severe injuries.

Kerry seems to have done more, though. The second problem is that Kerry asked
for medals he knew would violate the rules, as well as the spirit of the rules.
Even if one's superiors make mistakes, it is morally wrong to take advantage of
their mistakes, and when we detect such mistakes, we should revoke the medals.

I, for example, am not injured, and, in fact, I'm not even in the army.
Suppose I apply for a Purple Heart anyway-- in fact, suppose I apply for a
thousand of them, for a thousand nights of poor sleep, and one applications
gets past a sleepy colonel and I get my medal. It's been officially awarded, but
that doesn't mean I'm blameless or that I got my medal fair and square so nobody
can say I don't deserve it.

Kerry went even further in this second problem, though. Someone provided Kerry's
superiors with false information-- the conflation of the buttocks shrapnel and
the bruise for the Third Purple Heart, for example. Who else but Kerry would do
this? This is not just "taking advantage of the full measure of the rules to
compile a politically appealing résumé". It is fraud, and Kerry is claiming
medals that although officially awarded, are in violation of the official rules.

Permalink: 03:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 03, 2004

Kerry's Bronze Star-- Discussion Forum Data, Maps

The following Swiftvets discussion forum exchange shows how worthwhile these forums can be, another example of how the Web can beat conventional journalism. In reading it, the Washington Post's Great maps of Mekong Delta, the particular river area, close-up of the ambush with possible boat paths are useful....

...

FIRST COMMENTER: 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?

SECOND COMMENTER: 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

THIRD COMMENTER: Not to nit pick, but VC snipers would likely not have been at the water's edge. So figure some extra distance for the cover on or near the banks/beach. I don't think this correction changes the image of what the VC would have done to the boats, but the distance might have been closer to 250 ft.

FOURTH COMMENTER: 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.

I should perhaps add that the best way to read discussion forums is edited, as you are doing here with me as editor. There is quite a bit of filler and confusion in the forums too. But if journalists were smarter, they'd use discussion forums like this one as their sources.

Permalink: 11:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kerry: The Sampan Incident

I thought it would be good to sort this Kerry story out a bit, even though I've no new insights to add. It is, by the way, unconnected with medals, though it has relevance on whether Kerry was a good officer and whether he lied to his superiors....

...

(1) According to the pro-Kerry Brinkley book, one night his boat mistakenly opened fire on a noncombatant sampan (after firing warning shots) and killed a man and a child. This is bad enough in itself-- it says that Kerry's control of his crew was loose enough that he couldn't stop them from shooting civilians by accident.

(2) Kerry's official report contradicts version (1), because it says five Viet Cong were killed and two captured in a fight with the sampan.

(3) Crew member Gardner says that Kerry was below deck, supposedly monitoring the radar but apparently neglecting it, since a sampan appeared, the Swift boat threw on its lights and Gardner shouted a warning and then opened fire because he thought he saw someone in the sampan picking up a weapon. Only then did Kerry appear and tell everyone to stop firing or they'd be court- martialed.

Details follow, from the August 19 Washington Times article by O'Neill and Corsi:

Kerry recounts that the Swift Boat under his command, PCF 44, and another, PCF 21, were patrolling a shallow channel on a pitch-black night and continually running aground.

For "Tour of Duty" (William Morrow, 2004), Brinkley drew his account from Kerry's journals and subsequent explanations, noting that "neither Swift's search or boarding lights were working properly."

" 'Many minutes of silent patrolling had gone by when one of the men yelled, "Sampan off the port bow," Kerry wrote [in his journal]. 'Everybody froze, and we slowed the engines quickly. But the sampan was already by us and wasn't stopping. It was past curfew, and nothing was allowed in the river. I told the gunner to fire a few warning shots, and in the confusion, all guns opened up. We moved in on the sampan and taking one of the battle lanterns off the bulkhead, shone it on the silhouette of the craft that was now dead in the water.' "

...

"But knowing that they were following official Navy policy didn't make it any easier to deal with what the crews saw next. 'The light revealed a woman standing in the stern of the sampan with a child of perhaps two years or less in her arms,' Kerry wrote. 'Neither [was] harmed. We asked her where the men from the stern were, as one of the gunners was sure that he had seen someone moving back there. She gesticulated wildly, and I could see traces of blood on the engine mounting. It was obvious that they had been blown overboard.

"'Then somebody said there was a body up front, and we moved in closer to see the limbs of a small child limp on the stacks of rice. She had already covered it, and when one of the men asked me if I wanted it uncovered I said no, realizing that the face would stay with me for the rest of my life and that it was better not to know whether there was a smile or a grimace or whether it was a girl or boy.' "

O'Neill and Corsi make this comment on that, the Kerry account:

... Kerry, according to one of his own accounts, appears to have lost control of his boat after crazily ordering that "warning shots" be fired at a small sampan with heavy .50-caliber weapons, instead of the numerous small-caliber weapons on board. ...

(2) O'Neill and Corsi also note the disjunction between the Brinkley book Kerry story and the official Navy documents we have available:

Critically important is the fact that Kerry filed a phony after-action operational report concealing the fact that a child had been killed during the attack on the sampan and inventing a fleeing squad of Viet Cong . The operational report is one of the important missing documents that Kerry neglects to make public on his campaign Web site.

Here is what we do have from the Navy:

The Commander Coastal Surveillance Force Vietnam (CTF 115) Quarterly Evaluation Report of March 29, 1969, states: " ... 20 January PCFs 21 and 44 operating in An Xuyen Province ... engaged the enemy with a resultant GDA of one VC KIA (BC) [body count], four VC KIA (EST) and two VC CIA ."

This is Kerry's victory: killing in action (KIA) five imaginary Viet Cong, capturing in action (CIA) two Viet Cong (an exaggeration of the mother and baby who were actually rescued from the sampan) and simply omitting the dead child from the body count (BC) and the estimate (EST).

Roy F. Hoffmann, then commander of Coastal Surveillance Force Vietnam, CTF 115, received Kerry's false report of probably killing five Viet Cong and capturing two others. Hoffman sent Kerry a congratulatory message.

(3) But neither Kerry version squares with what Steve Gardner, a member of his crew, says:

Gunner Steve Gardner sat above Kerry on the double .50-caliber mount that night in January 1969.

PCF 44, engines shut off, lay in ambush near the western mouth of the Cua Lon River. The boat's own generator was operating and its radar was on, with Kerry supposedly in the pilothouse monitoring the radar.

Although the radar was easily capable of picking up the sampan early, Kerry gave no warning to the crew and did not come out of the pilothouse. Instead, first an engine noise and then a sampan suddenly appeared in front of the boat -- still no Kerry.

The PCF lights were thrown on -- still no Kerry. The sampan was ordered to stop by the young gunner, Gardner -- still no Kerry.

According to Gardner, there was no order to fire warning shots , as Kerry claimed. Indeed, there was no Kerry until it was over. When an occupant of the sampan appeared to Gardner to reach for or hold a weapon, he opened up (as did others), killing the father and, unintentionally, a child.

Then Kerry finally appeared; he ordered the crew to cease-fire and then threatened them with courts-martial.

This account is made more credible because it reflects badly on its narrator -- Steve Gardner, who gets the responsibility and blame for killing the child. (Gardner apparently accepts this, but says that he made a justifiable, if mistaken, decision.) And maybe Kerry could come out of this version better than it seems-- maybe he was not sleeping like Jonah during the storm, which is what I read into this. Kerry might have some good reason for staying below and not warning the crew. But Kerry won't talk.

Permalink: 11:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wright and Bates on Kerry's Trigger Happiness and Love of Destruction

From the August 19 Washington Times article by O'Neill and Corsi: ...

...

Thomas W. Wright , another Swift Boat commander in Coastal Division 11, said Kerry "was not a good combat commander."

Wright said he had such "serious problems" working with Kerry that he finally objected to going on patrol with Kerry. Elliott granted Wright's request that Kerry no longer be assigned to operations under his command.

Wright remembers that Kerry would disappear without warning on multiboat operations. He recalls that Kerry's boat had poor fire discipline and would open fire without prior clearance or apparent reason.

"John Kerry's leadership and operational style were different from mine," Wright said in a written statement in April. "I can see how his crew thought he was a hero, but it seemed like he was a hero fighting out of situations he shouldn't have been in to begin with. I had a lot of trouble getting him to follow orders.

"You had to be right, and you had to have fire discipline. You couldn't blame something on the rules of engagement."

George Bates, another officer in Coastal Division 11, participated in numerous operations with Kerry from January 1969 to March 1969.

In Bates' view, Kerry was a coward who overreacted with deadly force when he felt threatened. Bates, a retired Navy captain, believed that Kerry treated the South Vietnamese in an almost criminal manner.

Bates is haunted by a particular patrol with Kerry on the Song Bo De River in early 1969. With Kerry in the lead, their Swift Boats approached a small hamlet with three to four grass huts. Pigs and chickens were milling around.

As the boats drew closer, the villagers fled. There were no political symbols or flags in evidence. It was obvious to Bates that existing policies, decency and good sense required the boats simply to move on.

Instead, Kerry beached his boat. Upon his command, numerous small animals were slaughtered by heavy-caliber machine guns. Acting more like a pirate than a naval officer, Kerry disembarked and ran around with a Zippo lighter, burning up the entire hamlet.

Do we want this man's finger on the nuclear button?

There has been a lot of emphasis on the faked Kerry medals, but this is even more alarming from the point of view of having Kerry as President. It is not just that Kerry was savage towards the South Vietnamese and too ready to use force. It is also that people like John O'Neill and George Bates are ready to publicly call Kerry a coward and a brute, and to back it up with specific stories. It isn't hard to come up with some nut who will call any given politician a Nazi, or even some nut who will tell a crazy story. That's why although I believe Juanita Broderick was telling the truth when she said Bill Clinton raped her, it is understandable that many people thought she was a liar. But it is a lot harder to find a group of ex-military officers who will go on record like this--- and who have announced their willingness to go head- to-head with Kerry in debating who is telling the truth and who is lying.

Permalink: 11:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 02, 2004

Lambert's Bronze Star, Like Kerry's, for Pulling Up a Man Overboard

I asked in an earlier post why, when four people were pulled out of the river in 1969, only John Kerry got a Bronze Star for pulling someone out. Well, I was wrong. Someone else did. Robert Lambert *did* get a Bronze Star for pulling Larry Thurlow out....


...Retired Chief Petty Officer Robert E. Lambert, of Eagle Point, Ore., got a Bronze Star for pulling his boat commander -- Lt. Larry Thurlow -- out of the Bay Hap River on March 13, 1969. Thurlow had jumped onto another swift boat to aid sailors wounded by a mine explosion but fell off when the out-of-control boat ran aground.

I haven't seen the citation, but this Bronze Star sounds just as dubious as Kerry's. If Kerry was the one who wrote up the reports, though, it makes sense that he'd want to square Lambert (and Thurlow, who got a somewhat better Bronze Star-- for jumping into the damaged boat, giving first aid to the injured men on it, steering the out-of-control boat, etc.)

Permalink: 11:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

If Dr. Letson is a Liar, Kerry's First Purple Heart is a Fraud

Matthew Continetti has a rather strange article in the Weekly Standard on Kerry's medals. He says,

... WHICH IS TOO BAD FOR KERRY, actually. The available evidence in the Purple Heart case seems to support his story. More or less. ...

...

But then the evidence Continetti gives seems to me to pretty clearly wreck Kerry's story. Take a look:

In the anti-Kerry Swifties' first commercial, a doctor named Louis Letson says that "I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart," because "I treated him for that injury." In fact, it is an open question whether this was the case. Letson says he used tweezers to remove the shrapnel from

Kerry's arm a day after the firefight, and then bandaged the wound. And Letson's description matches what we know from the only available piece of documentary evidence--a concise medical report written one day after the firefight. The report, released by the Kerry campaign and obtained by the Boston Globe, reads: "3 DEC 1968 U.S. NAVAL SUPPORT FACILITY CAM RANH BAY RVN FPO Shrapnel in left arm above elbow. Shrapnel removed and appl. Bacitracin dressing. Ret to duty." That's it.

Here is Letson's problem. The report is signed "J.C. Carreon." Carreon, it turns out, was an orderly who has since passed away. Letson says he was Carreon's boss, and would let his orderly sign routine medical reports. Still, there is no evidence available which says Letson treated Kerry's wound or even saw Kerry that day in December.


As I said in an earlier post, one requirement for a Purple Heart is that the injured person be treated by "a medical officer". The story makes most sense if Kerry went out of his way to get treated by the medical officer who standardly treated Swiftboat sailors, who, it seems (I'd like verification) was Dr. Letson, since Kerry would know he couldn't get a Purple Heart if no doctor ever looked at the injury. And it's not surprising that Letson would assign the paperwork to his orderly (though it's a bit surprising that Letson would remember just a minor wound now... that might be explained, though, by Kerry's rise to fame with his atrocity charges in 1971-- no doubt everybody with whom he served was struck by his false charges against them).

But let's go with the skeptics who doubt Dr. Letson ever treated Kerry, and say Carreon, the orderly, was the one who treated him. What happens to Kerry's Purple Heart? It become fraudulent, because he wasn't treated by "a medical officer". The document alone seems to say that Kerry's scratch doesn't justify a Purple Heart, because it wasn't big enough to require a doctor. If Dr. Letson is a liar, and didn't treat Kerry, then thatPurple Heart, Kerry's exit ticket from Vietnam, was wrongly given!


For more on Dr. Letson and a clarification that a Corpsman is not a "medical officer", see the Washington Times.

Permalink: 11:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 01, 2004

Pro-Kerry People Post Documents Contradicting Their Chief Witness, Rassmann

Human Events had a story that contained an important tidbit I haven't seen mention of yet, 3 official documents all posted by pro-Kerry people that cast more doubt on the testimony of Mr. Rassmann, the man overboard whom Kerry rescued. The tidbit is from the Kerry press release of August 19:

"The fire was strong enough to knock out Tommy Belodeau’s machine gun" I was in the middle of the firefight," Rassmann has said of the false claims that there was no fire that day and that other boats rescued people from the water. "There was one person in the water that day and that was me, anyone who is telling you otherwise is giving you a lie."

The Swifvest say there were three other men overboard that day, two from the boat which was lifted bodily from the water by the mine blast, and Mr. Thurlow. I don't know about evidence for the other two, but Thurlow's wetness is supported not only by various Swiftvets, but by the Thurlow's Bronze Star military documentation. Thurlow's Bronze Star Citation says

While attending to the forward gunner, he was knocked overboard. He managed to remain afloat until pulled from the water.

Thurlow's Bronze Star Recommendation is a bit more detailed:

While administering first aid to the forward gunner, LTJG THURLOW was knocked overboard when PCF-3 ran aground out of control. Fighting a three to four knot current, LTJG THURLOW managed to stay afloat with PCF-51 rushing to his aid to pull him aboard. Once aboard, though exhausted and out of breath...

It's interesting that both of these documents were put on the web by the Washington Post in connection with a story in which they were used to attack Thurlow's credibility. Kerry and Rassmann said there was enemy gunfire; Thurlow and many others say there wasn't; Kerry's Bronze Star writeups say there was-- and Thurlow's Bronze Star writeups say there was. The Washington Post seems to think that the evidence of Thurlow's Bronze Star writeup impeaches Thurlow's credibility. Thurlow makes the obvious answer that both his and Kerry's paperwork was done by the same, wrong, person (probably Kerry), and he didn't pay much attention (Thurlow says he thought he got the Bronze Star for heroically jumping from boat to boat to rescue the mined boat, out of control because its skipper was knocked out, and help its injured crew, enough to justify the Star without any enemy fire.)

The bottom line is this: using the same official writeups which Kerry says are accurate, we find we can't trust Kerry's main witness. It isn't necessarily that Rassmann is lying-- rather, as you can tell from his tone, he rushes in to say things to help Kerry without thinking much about whether they are true. If he is the kind of person who says there was nobody else overboard-- when he himself had been scared and drenched and really couldn't be expected to know what was going on with all five boats-- then he is the kind of person who would say there was enemy fire without thinking that the enormous volume of fire he heard might just have been the five boats' machines guns and rifles or wondering why the enemy couldn't hit him (or anybody else) as he floundered helpless in the water.

Permalink: 12:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 29, 2004

Kerry's Anoka Lie About No Crewman Disputing Him

Maybe Clinton is not so exceptional as I thought. It's just amazing what
absolute lies Kerry gets away with. I'm not talking about just exaggerations, or
honest mistakes, or broken promises, or misstatements about facts that he
learned wrong in briefings; I'm talking about statements which are inaccurate
beyond any dispute or interpretation, and which we have strong reason to think
Kerry knows about.

For example, isn't it reasonable to suppose that Kerry knows that the crewman he
served longest with on his Swiftboat is calling him a liar? Yet ABC News tells us,

...

At a health care town hall meeting in Anoka, Minnesota, Senator John Kerry faced
a direct question from a self-proclaimed Independent male voter who asked at
12:31pm EST, "The two things they say about you is that you waffle on the issues and that you lied about Vietnam. So, do you waffle on the issues and did you lie
about Vietnam?"

A revved up Kerry addressed Vietnam first retorting, " All the
guys who were with me on my boat absolutely document what I've said...you're now hearing about the lie.
I am absolutely telling you the
God's honest truth with regard to what happened over there."

The Senator, who has faced increasing criticism from groups such as the Swift
Boat Veterans for Truth in recent weeks, argued that this was all a part of
"Republican playbook" and that both issues were simply meant to build a buzz
until they broke through to the public, never having a solid
base in fact
.

I don't see how Kerry can get out of this,and it's a relevant lie-- he is saying
that no crewmen dispute his statements, only people on other boats and this is
an important part of his defense, not an incidental one. Yet it's a lie.

In fact, as Frontpagemag.com tells us

The latest Swift Boat Vets ad is out, and it's a killer.
Stephen Gardner points out that he served on John Kerry's boat longer than
anyone else, and says that Kerry's claim to have spent Christmas 1968 in
Cambodia is a lie.
Gardner says the crew was never in Cambodia on a secret mission--not in December, not in January, never. You can see the ad
here


You may believe that Kerry and the handful of crewmen and officers who support him are more credible than the more numerous Swiftboat officers and crewmen who served with him and dispute his accounts. But you can't say that nobody on Kerry's boat disagrees with him unless you believe that Stephen Gardner does not exist. Yet Kerry says it. And what does that say about Kerry's credibility on
everything else, not to mention whether he plays fair in political debates?

Permalink: 07:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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.

Permalink: 09:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Info-Collecting Value of Weblogs; Specific Records Kerry Ought to Release

Swiftvets.com has a very good message board are with good comments l which show how the web can combine the information and experience of thousands of people in a way that a journalist cannot copy. The journalist's problem is that he does not know which of the many thousands of people has the information-- he does not know who to telephone. A website can attract them and get them to elicit their special information.

Here,. for example, is a list that speculates on documents the Kerry camp has on his Vietnam service but is not releasing:

But let´s look at the documents that he did _not_ put up on his site:

1. The injury report that justifies his first PH. It was awarded 78 days after the date of the "wound". In comparison, the second was delayed 13 days and the third required 33 days. These were approved in Saigon - hardly an international mail problem.

2. The OPNAV 1650/3 that recommended a Silver Star.

3. The requests that resulted in two revisions of the citation for the Silver
Star.

4. The requests for the amendment of his DD-214 and the justificactions.

5. His medical records that justify the three Purple Hearts

6. Page 1 of the radio message to BuPers that transmitted the new and improved
detaching FitRep

7. Page 1 of the new and improved FitRep

I would like to see these documents.

Dane

Of course, "Dane" does not know what other documents might exist that are non-routine. The full list even of what exists would be available only if Kerry signs the Form 180 that allows full release.

Another comment, which shows how someone with military experience can read the records better than the rest of us, is this:


I now understand what the Kerry crew is doing on his web site with the FitReps.

They present his favorable FitReps starting from GRIDLEY and present the rest in
chronological order. All well and good. But we get to his Detaching FitRep from
COSDIV11 and this is followed by the second page only of "another" FitRep. The
idea is that the casual reader will assume that it is a separate FitRep. Or,
perhaps, the person that included it on the site did not understand what he was
looking at. In fact it is the replacement for the Detaching Fitrep that
supposedly never arrived to BuPers. The first page is not included because that
would show the reporting period and the reader would realize the truth of the
matter.

The inclusion of both versions on his site is a grave tactical error. It is
proof of hanky-panky. I will explain.

1. The new and improved version was requested by BuPers when Elliot was in
Newport. BuPers did not request a copy from the originating command which is the
normal procedure. Instead, they checked to see where Elliot was at the time and
asked him to resubmit. Very unusual.

2. Elliot did not contact COSDIV 11 to have them resubmit the original. Instead,
he chose to draft another Fitrep. Very unusual.

3. One must assume that it was done by memory since, if he had had a copy of the
original, he would have simply sent that.

4. But if we assume that it was done by memory, how is it that it appears so
similar to the original?

I contend that whoever drafted the replacement version had the original in hand.
Thus, this was not a case of the original never reaching BuPers but, rather, a
case of replacing the original with a more glowing version. And this required
coordination.

I am willing to bet that the official records of Kerry in the archives will show
only the new, improved version of the FitRep. I bet that Kerry had the original
version in his personal files and turned it over to his staff. Not realizing the
significance of the matter, both versions were placed on his site.

To me, though, it is proof of a machination that was operating IOT help Kerry in
his bid for the Senate. And this would have been done at the admiral level. More
on that later.

Dane

Permalink: 03:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 27, 2004

The Records Kerry Won't Release

I'm willing to pass along the letter below, but since so many people, even Kerry supporters, have already wondered why Kerry won't reveal more than just 6 of his 100+ pages of records and he hasn't, I'm not sure it'll help much. I think we can deduce that release of the evidence would wreck his reputation even more.

O what a tangled web we weave,
when first we practise to deceive!

It's interesting to compare Bush, Kerry-in-August, and Kerry-in-June on this.

Bush and Kerry-in-June are in a similar position: they haven't disclosed all their military service records (I think-- maybe Bush has, but suppose he hasn't for the sake of argument) and accusations have been made casting their military service in doubt. Should they reveal their records? If their military histories really are bad, of course not. If their histories are good, though, they also should not reveal the records. The critics so far do not have much evidence, and really want to go on a fishing expedition in the records, hoping that something embarassing will turn up. In the case of Bush, this is very clear: his critics seem to be saying that BUsh hasn't turned up enough evidence of his routine National Guard service, a weak charge, and they have no evidence that he did anything improper in the National Guard. Thus, Bush coudl only lose by releasing records.

Kerry-in-August is in a different position. There is now very strong evidence that his military history is bad-- that some or all of his medals were undeserved and he has told lies about his service. IF he reveals no new evidence, he loses-- his critics have the stronger case. Thus, if his military history really is good, he should now reveal the full records instead of just the ones that he thought made him look good, and risk that some minor new problem will show up, because he will at least resolve some of the apparent problems with his medals. If, on the other hand, his military history really is bad, he would be foolish to release the records that would confirm what his critics are saying.

So, what do we deduce from his refusal to release the rest of his records?

Note, too, that his campaign made a mistake in releasing even the carefully selected records they did release earlier. As I have noted in detail in this weblog, using just those records, we can find a lot of problems in the Kerry story about his medals. An example is what I blogged on earlier today: the three different citations for his SIlver Star. It is very odd to have three different citations by three different bigwigs, and odd that the first of the three includes an incident that is dropped from the later two. But some non-expert in the Kerry campaign no doubt thought that if one citation made Kerry look good, three citations would make him look three times as good, and didn't notice the discrepancies or know that experts would find three citations a sign of fishy behavior.

Anyway, here is the letter I got:

Kerry has lied so often and so long that only the release of his records will settle the matter. This can be done simply by his completing a DOD Standard Form 180.

If millions send in a faxed or email copy to the Kerry Campaign, he may have another "change of mind."

Let's start a campaign to force him to do that.

The Form can be downloaded here:

https://www.perscomonline.army.mil/tagd/cmaoc/powmia/faqs/sf0180.pdf


A notice in your blogs could start a land rush campaign.

Here are the contacts:

Kerry-Edwards 2004, Inc.
P.O. Box 34640
Washington, DC 20043
202-712-3000
202-712-3001 (fax)
202-336-6950 (TTY)

Permalink: 03:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 26, 2004

Kerry and The Postwar Truce on Vietnam Service

Herman Jacobs writes:

Never mind that Mr. Cheney has never breathed a word of criticism of Mr. Kerry's military service in Vietnam. Also never mind that Messrs. Bush and Cheney have never even breathed a word of criticism of Mr. Kerry's antiwar activities. For them to criticize Mr. Kerry's antiwar record would violate the second prong of the domestic truce. So in questioning the service, or lack thereof, of Messrs. Bush and Cheney, Mr. Kerry attempts to turn to his advantage the curious fact, mentioned above, that although the domestic truce grants honor to those who fought in the war and grants amnesties to those who actively opposed it , those in the middle (like Messrs. Bush, Cheney, Clinton and Quayle) receive no protection.


As the above story illustrates, long before the SwiftVets arrived on the scene, Mr. Kerry all by himself had succeeded in demeaning his service by transforming it into a crass non sequitur. As one vet put it, "Nobody who claims to have seen the action he does would so shamelessly flaunt it for political gain." In his run for the presidency, Mr. Kerry's Vietnam references became so ubiquitous that one pundit adopted the practice of never mentioning Mr. Kerry's name without the aside that he had "by the way served in Vietnam." With far less humor, Howard Dean and Mr. Kerry's other Democrat primary rivals made the same point, noting that his Vietnam record had "become the stock answer for almost every issue for Kerry's campaign."

The predominant quality revealed in Mr. Kerry's spinning and unspinning his personal history in the Vietnam era is that, like everything else in his political life (from the SUVs he owns but doesn't own, to the medals he tossed but didn't toss, to the war in Iraq he supports but doesn't support), he's trying to have it both ways. But because of how the Vietnam era tore this country apart and still weighs on the nation's political soul, Mr. Kerry's trying to have it both ways about that war is so much more telling than his SUV moment or even his flip-flops on the current war.

Yes, it's true that under the strict terms of our long-standing domestic truce, John Kerry was not required to apologize for the things he said 30 years ago, even though he himself had more recently tested that truce with his attacks on George W. Bush's National Guard service. But then in January of this year, to burnish his credentials as a war president, Mr. Kerry's authorized biography reported a story implying that his Swift Boat comrades had fled the scene of an enemy attack while he alone returned to rescue the wounded. Honor being such an insignificant thing to John Kerry, he probably had no idea that--with his biography reviving war crimes accusations and, more specifically, implying cowardice on the part of his fellow Swifties--he had broken the domestic truce.

The truce is over....

And those guys, unlike Kerry, know how to fight!

Permalink: 10:03 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

John O'Neill Interview; Kerry vs. Benedict Arnold

Human Events is very good on the Kerry Vietnam story. In particular, this interview with John O'Neill is utterly convincing. O'Neill knows how to lay out facts for skeptics in a plain manner.

The Silver Star story is now coming into focus. Kerry beached his boat, jumped out, and pursued and killed a wounded Viet Cong, supposedly under heavy fire. If he'd been under heavy fire, though, why didn't the enemy overwhelm his helpless boat, and kill Kerry too? And why would Kerry make himself and his boat vulnerable rather than just having his boat kill the wounded Viet Cong with its machine guns? Answer: there must not have been heavy fire--indeed, maybe not any fire. Kerry wouldn't have gotten a medal if he'd just used the boat's machine guns, and if the Viet Cong was fleeing, there wasn't much risk to Kerry or the boat in running after him with an assault rifle, so long as there were no other Viet Cong around. So Kerry went after him personally for sport, so to speak.

O"Neill makes the claim that it is very unusual for a Silver Star not to have any documentation except the after-action report. That is extremely important. Is the medal based on more than just one person's claims-- even if it turns out that the one person is not Kerry, but someone else who wrote the report? I know Kerry's people keep saying that Silver Stars are based only on multiple corroborating accounts-- but what is more precise is that Silver Stars are * supposed* to be based only on multiple corroborating accounts. Kerry broke the rules to get his Purple Hearts, so why not to get his Silver Star?

Thus, the picture clarifies of John Kerry as rigging all his medals, for glory and to get out of Vietnam, after his signing up for the apparently safe Navy job inadvertently thrust him into combat when the Navy decided to send small boats into combat.

Many people are saying, "So what?". I'm surprised. I know Clinton has lowered standards, but at least Clinton wasn't running for office as being a wonderful husband and a war hero. Kerry is running as a war hero, when it turns out that he was not.

In fact, even if everything Kerry claimed was true, he did much more for the Viet Cong than he did for America. Four months of minor exploits as a junior officer are nothing compared to the propaganda he put out for the enemy later-- propaganda he must have known at the time was false and in aid of the enemy. I wonder if he got a medal from the North Vietnamese-- a secret one, like the British spies got from Stalin in the 1930's?

It is worth reminding everyone about Benedict Arnold, who compares favorably with Kerry. Arnold was a hero both genuine and major. He was a top commander in the Battle of Saratoga, perhaps the turning point in the Revolutionary War, with personal heroism in that battle that crippled his leg. Later, he tried to turn over the fort of West Point to the British, but was foiled. THus, overall, his contribution to the AMerican cause was definitely positive, and major. Kerry made at most small contributions to the American cause while he was a junior officer. Then he made a bigger contribution-- not major, perhaps, but something noted in the history books-- to the enemy cause. THus, overall, his contribution to the American cause was definitely negative.

But I can't imagine Benedict Arnold running against John Adams for President in 1796 and saying, "How dare you question my patriotism! While you were doing lawyer stuff in Congress, I was losing the use of my leg by charging Redcoats! Kill some British, and then you can comment on my war service."

Permalink: 09:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 25, 2004

Kerry-Edwards Joke--Spilling MacDonald's Coffee


Nordlinger at NRO
has

... a homemade joke -- sent to me by a reader, Mark Turk.
Kerry and Edwards are at McDonald's, doing some campaigning. An employee, in her
excitement, spills some coffee on Kerry's hand. Edwards wants to sue-- but Kerry
wants to write it up for his fourth Purple Heart.

I might add this:

... because he's found a regulation that says if you have four Purple Hearts,
you no longer have to answer questions from webloggers about your military
service.


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Kerry's Silver Star, Medal Inflation--Qando Military Experts' Observations

Qando has a very interesting discussion of the Silver Star action. Points to note:

1. Someone with military experience says that the Silver Star was undeserved because this was routine, not exceptional fighting.

2. Someone with military experience says that it has long been noted that Admiral Zumwalt was generous with medals, to keep up morale.

3. Someone with military experience says that the Silver Star was awarded for Kerry being in charge of the entire day's operation, with the killing of the Viet Cong soldier was a minor, or maybe even a negative, part (negative as being a stupid move, endangering his boat).

4. Why didn't Kerry's boat stay in the water and kill the Viet Cong with the rocket launcher using its heavy machine guns, instead of beaching (so the machine guns were out of action) and having one sailor chase him?

5. Having beached his boat and run out, Kerry left it pretty much defenseless against the Viet Cong. It couldn't move or use its machine guns. If there had been more Viet Cong in the bushes, he would have lost his boat and crew.

Here is one of the many good parts of the post:
Sometimes being in the right place at the right time has benefits.

What many commanders have done in many wars is use commendation as "impact awards". That is, he wants the award to make an impact on the unit, to stress this is the sort of results he wants, to reward those who were successful. Obviously there's the possibility that the desire to give those "impact awards" may see some, upon review, believe they just didn't rise to the level of that award. I think that's the case for many who view this now.

But then, it had a purpose, which is why it was pushed through so hurridly and awarded by Zumwaldt himself.

Look, it seems rather silly to dispute whether its deserved or not when his chain of command obviously thought it was at the time. Whether it rises to the level we expect for a Silver Star is debatable, but the bottom line is, it was awarded, not by John Kerry, but by his chain of command. And all indications are the reason was to "impact" the command, get them riled up, get them on board with the program of taking the rivers away from the VC.

(See my Kerry in Vietnam archives for more posts)

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Kerry's Bronze Star--Why Didn't the Other Three Rescuers Get Them?

I've already discussed the fraudulence of Kerry's Third Purple Heart in great detail. It is clear just from documents at the Kerry Campaign website and from a Washington Post article-- you don't need to listen to the Swiftvets if you think they're all biased and Kerry's people are not.

We can apply the same approach to the Bronze Star Kerry received for that same day's action. In essence, the undisputed facts seem to be that a man fell overboard from Kerry's boat, and after initially continuing along the river, Kerry turned his boat around to rejoin four other American boats and Kerry personally pulled the man overboard into his boat. Two men who had gone overboard from the boat that hit a mine (and were at least slightly injured) and one man who had gotten knocked off it later while trying to rescue the boat were picked up out of the water by other boats. The big dispute is over whether the Americans were subject to gunfire after the mine explosion, as Kerry, his crew, and the official medal citation say, or not, as all but one person on the other four boats says. It is undisputed that nobody in any of the five boats or of the four men overboard was hit by a bullet.

Suppose we accept Kerry's story that he was under fire while pulling Mr. Rassmun out of the water. I can't see how Kerry ought to have gotten a Bronze Star even then. Any gunfire there may have been was not too dangerous, since nobody was hit, including the men floundering in the water. And though four men were pulled out of the water, including two who were at least slightly wounded, only one rescuer got a medal-- Kerry.

Some medals are awarded just for serving in a particular war or campaign. You get those just for showing up and doing your duty like almost everybody else. Other medals, such as the Bronze Star, are for heroism, for doing something beyond the call of duty.

How do we know what is simple duty and what is beyond the call of duty? A good measure is whether you would be disgraced by *not* doing the action in question. If you don't jump on a grenade to save your buddies, you don't get court-martialled. If you don't charge a machine-gun nest single-handed, you don't have to hang your head in shame. Thus, we give medals for that kind of thing.

How about turning your boat back during a firefight to rejoin other boats in your flotilla and pick up a man overboard? Suppose Kerry had just said,

"Well, there's a lot of shooting back there, and I think it is reasonable to just head back to base and let those other hotheads deal with it. We'll just have to give Rassman up for lost-- it would endanger my boat to go back and pick him up."

I think Kerry would have been in big trouble if he'd taken that course. The other Swift boats would have returned with not a single man wounded from enemy gunfire, and if they'd taken the safe option of not rescuing men overboard, presumably that would have meant four Americans dead or captured, instead of every man coming safely back to base.

No, simple duty required Kerry to rescue Rassman. Even if there was enemy fire, what Kerry did was not heroic; it was just the ordinary stuff of military combat. Quite simply, you're expected not to run away just because there's shooting. You're expected to carry on, and shoot back, and pick up comrades who have fallen out of your boat.

Here's more elaboration on the story. A mine exploded and damaged one of five Swift boats. It seems another mine exploded and knocked Kerry's arm against his boat, inflicting what the doctor wrote later were minor contusions and throwing Mr. Rassman overboard. The citation then gets to what Kerry got the medal for (full citation http://www.rasmusen.org/x/images/kerry3.jpg">here.):

... In addition, all units began receiving small arms and automatic weapons fire from the river banks. When Lieutenant (jg) Kerry discovered he had a man overboard, he returned upriver to assist. The man in the water was receiving sniper fire from both banks. Lieutenant (jg) Kerry directed his gunners to provide suppressing fire, while from an exposed position on the bow, his arm bleeding and in pain and with disregard for his personal safety, he pulled the man aboard. Lieutenant (jg) Kerry then directed his boat to return and assist the other damaged Inshore Patrol Craft. His crew attached a line and towed the damaged boat to safety....

A Washington Post(R) article says,

While Kerry was rescuing Rassmann, the other Swift boats had gone to the assistance of Pees and the 3 boat. Thurlow, in particular, distinguished himself by leaping onto the 3 boat and administering first aid, according to his Bronze Star citation. At one point, he, too, was knocked overboard when the boat hit a sandbar, but he was rescued by crewmates.

The Kerry and anti-Kerry camps differ sharply on whether the flotilla came under enemy fire after the explosion that crippled the 3 boat. Everybody aboard Kerry's boat, including Rassmann, says there was fire from both riverbanks, and the official after-action report speaks of all boats receiving "heavy a/w [automatic weapons] and s/a [small arms] from both banks." The Bronze Star citations for Kerry and Thurlow also speak of prolonged enemy fire.

A report on "battle damage" to Thurlow's boat mentions "three 30 cal bullet holes about super structure." According to Thurlow, at least one of the bullet holes was the result of action the previous day, when he ran into another Vietcong ambush.

Apparently, four Americans were thrown into the water that day: Rassman, Thurlow, and two sailors from the 3-boat. All were picked up. Only one person, Kerry, got a medal for picking someone up. Why? (Thurlow, though, did get a Bronze Star for jumping into the driverless 3-boat and trying to get it under control before being thrown into the water himself after a big bump.) CNN Transcript says


THURLOW: Yes, I do. My thought is that since no mine was detected on the other side of the river, no blast was seen, no noise heard, there's two things that are inconsistent with my memory.

Our boats immediately put automatic weapons fire on to the left bank just in case there was an ambush in conjunction with the mine. It soon became apparent there was no ambush.

The rescue efforts began on the 3-boat (ph). And at this time, the second boat in line, mine being the third boat on the left bank, began to do this.

Now, two members in this boat, keep in mind, are in the river at that time. They're picked up. The boat that picks them up starts toward Lieutenant Rassmann at this time, that's the 23-boat (ph). But before they get there, John does return and pick him up. But I distinctly remember we were under no fire from either bank.

WOODRUFF: Jim Rassmann, what about that? You hear Mr. Thurlow saying there was no enemy fire at that point.

RASSMANN: Mr. Thurlow is being disingenuous. I don't know what his motivation is, but I was receiving fire in the water every time I came up for air. I don't recall anybody being in the area around us until I came up maybe five or six times for air and Kerry came back to pick me up out of the water.

WOODRUFF: Disingenuous. He says you are being disingenuous in not recalling what happened.

THURLOW: Let me ask Mr. Rassmann this question: I also ended up in the water that day during the rescue efforts on the 3-boat (ph). And my boat, the 51-boat (ph), came up, picked me up, business as usual. I got back on board, went about the business at hand.

I received no fire. But the thing I would like to ask is, we have five boats now, John's returning, and four boats basically dead in the water, working on the 3-boat (ph). If we were receiving fire off the bank, how come not one single boat received one bullet hole, nobody was hit, no sign of any rounds hitting the water while I was in it?

WOODRUFF: What about that, Jim Rassmann, quickly?

RASSMANN: There were definitely rounds hitting the water around me. If Mr. Thurlow feels that what his story is purported to be was the case, he had ample opportunity 35 years ago to deal with it. He never did, nor did anyone else. John Kerry did not tell this story. I told this story when I put him in for a Silver Star for coming back to rescue me. The Navy saw fit to reduce it to a Bronze Star for valor.

That's OK with me. But If Mr. Furlow had a problem with that, he should have dealt with it long, long ago. To bring it up now, I think, is very disingenuous. I think that this is partisan motivation on his part and for the part of his whole organization.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Thurlow, why didn't you bring this up earlier?

THURLOW: For one thing, I did not know that John had been put in for a Bronze Star, a Silver Star or, for that matter, a Purple Heart on that day. I did not see the after-action report, which, in fact, was written by John. And as the years went by, John was not running for the highest office in the free world.

(See my Kerry in Vietnam archives for more posts)

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August 24, 2004

Tom Smith on Oliphant and the Mainstream Press as Dem Shills

Tom Smith at the Right Coast has a classic post on how Thomas Oliphant said that the mainstream press is a shill for the Democratic party.

Thomas Oliphant (whom I can never look at without imagining him in one of those propeller beanies) was there to uphold the honor of the daily press. I thought he was pathetic, but my lovely wife Jeanne thought he did OK.

Most annoying was Oliphant's repeating, over and over, that O'Neill's allegations simply did not live up to the standards of evidence required by the legitimate press. Oh please. It's rather late in the day to stand on the daily papers' claim to journalistic objectivity. O'Neill says he has sworn statements from eight officers and four sailors to the effect that Kerry left the scene of the incident of the action for which Kerry got his bronze star, and only came back later. The testimony of 12 eyewitnesses is evidence, and a lot more than the one or two anonymous sources behind many stories in the regular press.

...

JOHN O'NEILL: Jim, one other thing, they can look at swiftvets.com, which is the web site that has a great deal of information on it.
JIM LEHRER: Is there a web site that's comparable to that? I'm sure the Kerry --
TOM OLIPHANT: Yes, it's called the daily press, which is the most difficult thing for these guys to deal with.

Too, too funny. Oliphant says that what the Swiftvets are for Bush, the daily papers are for Kerry. Meaning what? Surrogates? That's correct, but Oliphant probably didn't mean to say it quite that way.

Take a look at the PBS Transcript of the Oliphant-O'Neill exchange. O'Neill is extremely persuasive, and his tone is utterly reasonable.

(See my Kerry in Vietnam archives for more posts)

Permalink: 11:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Vietnam Service of Bush, Kerry, Edwards, and Cheney: Not All That Different

Kerry has made a big deal of his service in Vietnam, and Democrats sneer a lot at Bush and Cheney. It turns out, though, that Kerry and Bush actually made very similar choices regarding combat service in Vietnam. Cheney and Edwards also made similar choices, though a different one than Kerry and Bush. Kerry and Bush chose to volunteer for military service that had little likelihood of seeing combat in Vietnam. Cheney and Edwards chose not to volunteer, and were not subject to the draft under the standard rules.

The brief story is this. Bush served in the Air National Guard, safe from combat duty because the National Guard was not called up. Kerry served in the Navy, which he thought was safe from combat duty for non-pilots, but after he volunteered for small-boat duty, the Navy unexpectedly started sending small boats into combat. Cheney was exempt from the draft for a year because he was married and then because he had a child, and he didn't volunteer, though he could have. Edwards was exempt from the draft too-- maybe because they'd ended it by the time he was old enough, maybe because he was a college student-- and he didn't volunteer, though he could have. None of them engaged in the same kind of dishonorable evasion as Clinton, unless Kerry is unable to refute recent evidence of fraud in manufacturing two of his Purple Hearts in order to escape the combat zone.

What I hadn't realized until recently was Kerry's position. Here is the Washington Post's (R) report on how he got into combat.

When Kerry signed up to command a Swift boat in the summer of 1968, he was inspired by the example of his hero, John F. Kennedy, who had commanded the PT-109 patrol boat in the Pacific in World War II. But Kerry had little expectation of seeing serious action. At the time the Swift boats -- or PCFs (patrol craft fast), in Navy jargon -- were largely restricted to coastal patrols. "I didn't really want to get involved in the war," Kerry wrote in a book of war reminiscences published in 1986.

The role of the Swift boats changed dramatically toward the end of 1968, when Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., commander of U.S. naval forces in South Vietnam, decided to use them to block Vietcong supply routes through the Mekong Delta. Hundreds of young men such as Kerry, with little combat experience, suddenly found themselves face to face with the enemy.

I'd just assumed that Kerry volunteered to join Swift boats rather than stay safely on the big ships offshore, because he wanted to see action. But it seems he admits that is not the case. Rather, he thought the Swift boats wouldn't see action. Kerry had a lot of yachting experience, and he no doubt thought it would be more fun to skipper his own small boat instead of serving as a flunkey on a ship. Navy policy changed, and Kerry found he had inadvertently volunteered for combat. He accepted that, as he had to, and served enthusiastically in combat for four months before getting out as quickly as he could.

How about Edwards? Did he have the chance to volunteer? Yes. He finished NC State in 1974, so he could have volunteered in 1970, fresh out of high school. But he did not. That's fine-- but don't criticize Cheney for not doing what Edwards failed to do.

How about Cheney? As even a web post critical of Cheney makes clear, he did not have to do anything special to be exempt from the draft, unless getting married at age 23 and having a child after you get married is special. He is no more to be criticized than some 35-year-old who was exempt from the draft but failed to volunteer. He is less to be criticized than the many, many 19-year olds who were not drafted and did not volunteer, since Cheney had already entered the adult world and would have found a stint in the military much more disruptive than an unmarried teenager would have.

The liberal response is, I think, something like this from the article posted above.

Quite frankly, I would have done the same thing as Cheney (if I wasn't 9 at the time). The difference between the Veep and me is that I wouldn't have the temerity to criticize someone who not only served in Viet Nam, but was wounded three times and won several honors for courage and bravery.
A second liberal response is that Cheney favors the war in Iraq, even though he did not volunteer to serve in the War in Vietnam.

Both of these are bad objections, even aside from the fact that their objection is not to Cheney's behavior but to his policy views. First-- why is it wrong for someone who doesn't deserve medals and doesn't claim to deserve them to criticize Kerry if he didn't deserve medals but did claim them? Actually, I don't think Cheney did even that. Cheney just criticized Kerry's foreign policy positions-- fair game regardless of who did what back in 1968. Second, Cheney may well have opposed the Vietnam War even while supporting the Iraq War. I, myself, think service in the Vietnam War 1965-68 was largely a waste of time due to the incompetence of President Johnson and his military leaders, even though I strongly believe we ought to have defended South Vietnam with the more effective policies of Richard Nixon. In particular, the Johnson policy of drafting large numbers of young men and sending them to Vietnam was a mistake-- a mistake Cheney and Bush have avoided in the Iraq War. Also, a conservative who supports a war is like a liberal who supports bigger government. We shouldn't criticize the conservative if he fails to volunteer his services for the war, and we shouldn't criticize the liberal if he just pays the taxes he owes and doesn't kick in extra because he supports big government.

Most of this Cheney stuff is digression, though. The bottom line is that Bush and Kerry volunteered for relatively safe and pleasant-- though still time- consuming-- forms of military service, and Cheney and Edwards chose not to volunteer. All four choices seem reasonable to me. The only dishonor would be in Kerry manufacturing evidence of wounds in order to get out of Vietnam with 7 months of his 12-month tour of duty still to go.

(See my Kerry in Vietnam archives for more posts)

Permalink: 11:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Hypocrisy of Kerry's "My medals are all officially awarded" Argument-- His Reserve Service

Kerry has not done much of anything to defend his Vietnam record except to repeat the argument that the U.S. government awarded him those medals, and everybody ought to trust that the government looked into things carefully, even if evidence turns up that it did not. Of course, that's a bad argument. What makes it worse is that Kerry has never been willing to apply it to George Bush's military service. Various people have been citing this Kerry Press Release:

"If George Bush wants to ask me questions about that through his surrogates, he owes America an explanation about whether or not he showed up for duty in the National Guard. Prove it. That's what we ought to have. I'm not going to stand around and let them play games." -- John Kerry, NBC News, 4/26/04

The Air Force was quite happy with George Bush's service, and gave him an honorable discharge. Is that enough to prove that Bush did everything he was supposed to do in the Air Force Reserve? Yes, I should think so, in the absence of any other evidence. If a person doesn't get fired or disciplined, we don't disbelieve his story that he did show up for work and complain that he doesn't have notarized records of showing up. If, of course we actually have evidence he didn't show up, then we might believe he didn't show up. We would have to conclude, though, that either his employer didn't mind-- as in the case, say, of a salesman who makes his quota anyway, despite going fishing sometimes-- or that he had cleverly fooled his employer.

In Kerry's own case, though, he says that the fact that the government gave him a Purple Heart is conclusive evidence that he deserved it. I would say it is *presumptive evidence*-- in the absence of other evidence we should believe he deserved it-- but not *irrefutable evidence*-- if we do find other evidence that indicates the government made a mistake, we should believe that other evidence instead.

By the way, not only is Kerry hypocritical in questioning Bush's Reserve service rather than accepting the Air Force's contentment with it at the time; Kerry is also vulnerable to exactly the charge he makes against Bush. As Mudville points out, Kerry served in the Navy Reserve from 1970 to 1978. If I remember rightly, from 1970 to 1972 he was in a semi-active category and from 1972 to 1978 in the most inactive category. Do we have any evidence-- other than his honorable discharge in 1978-- that Kerry was doing whatever a reservist is supposed to be doing? Does anybody remember him showing up?

(See my Kerry in Vietnam archives for more posts)

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Kerry's First Purple Heart--Kerry Camp in Retreat

On the First Purple Heart, now admitted false by the Kerry cmapagn: Captain's Quarters reports that Kerry is backing off from the claim that his first Purple Heart was for an injury received in combat (no backing off yet from the claim that it was too trivial to require a medical officer's treatment). This is a doubly significant Purple Heart if it is true that he only started pushing for it (after his commander's initial refusal) when he thought it would be a way to get out of Vietnam.

A number of people have written to me overnight stating that a Kerry campaign spokesman has acknowledged on Brit Hume's Fox news show that John Kerry's wound on 2 December 1968 came from an unintentionally self-inflicted wound -- an accident, in other words. So far, I find nothing on this on the Fox web site, but they are notoriously poor at posting transcripts, or even summaries of their own programs. Can someone post the link in the comments section of this post if any confirmation can be made?

UPDATE: Here's the link to the Fox News report from Major Garrett. It mostly covers the Chris Wallace interview with John Hurley and CNN's interview of Bob Dole. Towards the end, Garrett talks about the first Purple Heart:

GARRETT: And questions keep coming. For example, Kerry received a Purple Heart for wounds suffered on December 2nd, 1968. But an entry in Kerry's own journal written nine days later, he writes that, quote, he and his crew hadn't been shot at yet, unquote. Kerry's campaign has said it is possible his first Purple Heart was awarded for an unintentionally self-inflicted wound.

Score another one for the Swiftvets, and another retreat for Kerry, this time on a key contention for both a medal (which some, including me, felt were too difficult to argue effectively) and for his truncated tour of duty. Without that first Purple Heart, Kerry would have had to stay on the Swiftboat assignment past March 17th and remain in combat. Now that the Kerry campaign seems to have retreated from Kerry's citation, the fact that Kerry pushed this award weeks later up a different chain of command takes on a great deal more significance. Instead of bravely taking on combat, he now looks desperate to get out ahead of everyone else and willing to falsify records to do it -- which is exactly the impression that his later assertions have given us.

CQ mentioned the 2 December/11 December conflict back on August 18th in this post, based on a tip from CQ reader Amelia and an article in World Net Daily by Art Moore. Today's links to the Fox News report come from CQ readers Jay Howard and Jim Leonard. Thanks to the entire CQ community for keeping the media on its toes.

(See my Kerry in Vietnam archives for more posts)

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August 23, 2004

Cleland's Good Attitude towards his Undeserved Medals

National Review has this good comment on how another Vietnam vet talks about medals that he didn't really deserve.

However in his 1986 autobiography, Cleland downplayed his experience. He wrote that he was awarded the Soldier's Medal "for allegedly shielding my men from the grenade blast and the Silver Star for allegedly coming to the aid of wounded troops...." But, he acknowledges, "there were no heroics on which to base the Soldier's Medal. And it had been my men who took care of the wounded during the rocket attack, not me. Some compassionate military men had obviously recommended me for the Silver Star, but I didn't deserve it." He also writes that, "I was not entitled to the Purple Heart either, since I was not wounded by enemy action."

Cleland seems to be handling it just right. It reminds me of the proverb that if your record is a bit shaky it's better for people to ask why you aren't praised more than for them to ask why you are praised so much. An example in economics is James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock. Buchanan won the Nobel Prize in economics, largely for work the two of them did together. Afterwards, some people questioned whether Buchanan deserved the Prize for work of that quality, and others questioned whether Tullock oughtn't to have gotten one too, since his work was as good as Buchanan's.

CORRECTION, AUGUST 27: I now learn from the article of the article which quoted Cleland's book that he did *not* in fact, get a Purple Heart. Rather, he is explaining *why it was a correct decision not to award him one.* The point I was making still holds. (See my Kerry in Vietnam archives for more posts)

Permalink: 10:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 22, 2004

Kerry's Third Purple Heart--Fraudulent

[UPDATED, 11:49 p.m. Aug. 22 at the end) It is clear that Kerry lied about being in Cambodia and about what he did with his medals after he came back to the States, but I'm still trying to sort out whether he deserved the medals. It is best to go one medal at a time. This is interesting both with regard to Kerry, and, more generally with regard to how well the Navy prevents fraudulent medal awards. So I went over the records released by the Kerry Campaign carefully (according to the Washington Post (R) , 6 pages out of about 100) looking at just one medal-- the third Purple Heart, of March 1969. Below I lay out the evidence (with images of the relevant parts of the documents at the end of the post). I originally wrote this Saturday night using just 1969 documents-- not any 2004 witness reports. Then I read the August 21 Washington Post (R) article. I've put information from there in italics below.

The March 1969 injury was received when a mine blew up near Kerry's boat. There may have been small arms fire around, too (this is disputed), and the American boats were certainly firing. Kerry received his Bronze Star in this action, for turning back his boat to rejoin the other American boats and rescue an army observer who had fallen out of his boat (exactly what happened is confused, too, but let's stick to one medal at a time).

(1) The Bronze Star citation says, "another mine detonated... wounding Lieutenant (jg) Kerry in the right arm. ... Lieutenant (jg) Kerry directed his gunners to provide suppressing fire, while from an exposed position on the bow, his arm bleeding and in pain..."

(2) The Bronze Star recommendation says "another mine detonated... wounding LTJG KERRY in the right arm. ... LTJG KERRY, from his exposed position on the bow of the boat, managed to pull LT RASSMAN aboard despite the painful wound in his right arm."

(3) The Kerry Campaign's description says, "... a second mine detonated near PCF94, wounding Kerry ... Kerry, who had received shrapnel wounds and hurt his right arm,..."

(4) The August 21 Washington Post (R) says, "Although Kerry's injury report speaks of a mine that "detonated close aboard PCF-94," helmsman Del Sandusky believes it was more likely a rocket or rocket- propelled grenade, as a mine would have inflicted more damage. Whatever it was, the explosion rammed Kerry into the wall of his pilothouse, injuring his right forearm."

Okay-- so far it seems that Kerry was wounded in his arm by shrapnel from the mine. Note, by the way, that (1), (2), and (3) are all ultimately based on (2), the recommendation for the Bronze Star, which in turn may have been based on an action report written by Kerry himself (this is disputed). But compare (1), (2), (3), and (4) with the medical documents:

(5) The Spot Report says "LTJG JOHN F. KERRY, USNR, HSHRAPNEL WOUND LEFT BUTTOCK AND CONTUSIONS RT. FOREARM (MINOR)..."

(6) The Personnel Casualty Report says " LTJG Kerry received shrapnel wounds in left buttocks and contusions on right forearm when a mine detonated...".

Merriam Webster Online says a contusion is an "injury to tissue usually without laceration : BRUISE"

(7) The Spot Report also says (not in the excerpt in the image below), "TREATED BY MEDICAL OFFICER ABOARD USCGC SPENCER (WHEC-36) AND MEDEVACED." (The August 21 Washington Post (R) seems not to have tried to contact that person.)

This raises two questions. (A) Was Kerry's arm really bleeding, or just bruised? and (B) Why isn't the shrapnel wound in the left buttock mentioned in the Bronze Star reports, when it seems to have been the more serious injury? Is it just too embarassing to be wounded there? Or did it come later, as a result of friendly fire?

This last possibility is important because, as Swiftboats.net says, to get a Purple Heart for a wound, it must be:

As the result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed force.

...

A "wound" is defined as an injury to any part of the body from an outside force or agent, sustained while in action as described in the eligibility requirements. A physical lesion is not required, provided the concussion or other form of injury received was a result of the action engaged in. Except in the case of a prisoner of war, the wound must have required treatment by a medical officer .

The August 21 Washington Post (R) clears up the buttocks mystery. First, a red herring:

On the core issue of whether Kerry was wounded under enemy fire, thereby qualifying for a third Purple Heart, the Navy records clearly favor Kerry. Several documents, including the after-action report and the Bronze Star citation for a Swift boat skipper who has accused Kerry of lying, refer to "all units" coming under "automatic and small-weapons fire."

The "automatic and small-weapons fire" dispute is not relevant to the Third Purple Heart (though it is to the Second Bronze Star). Kerry's arm contusion occurred at the time of the mine explosion, which was enemy action, and nobody claims the bruise was caused by "automatic and small-weapons fire".

Note, however, that the arm bruise, though received in combat, was minor-- presumably not needing medical treatment of any kind except Ben-Gay ointment or its equivalent. The Purple Heart would have been received for the mysterious buttocks shrapnel. Was it received during the same mined-boat action? The August 21 Washington Post (R) clears up the mystery:

As they were heading back to the boat, Kerry and Rassmann decided to blow up a five-ton rice bin to deny food to the Vietcong. In an interview last week, Rassmann recalled that they climbed on top of the huge pile and dug a hole in the rice. On the count of three, they tossed their grenades into the hole and ran.

Evidently, Kerry did not run fast enough. "He got some frags and pieces of rice in his rear end," Rassmann said with a laugh. "It was more embarrassing than painful." At the time, the incident did not seem significant, and Kerry did not mention it to anyone when he got back on the boat. An unsigned "personnel casualty report," however, erroneously implies that Kerry suffered "shrapnel wounds in his left buttocks" later in the day, following the mine explosion incident, when he also received "contusions to his right forearm."

Anti-Kerry veterans have accused Kerry of conflating the two injuries to strengthen his case for a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Kerry's Bronze Star citation, however, refers only to his arm injury.

Recall that Rassman is a strong Kerry supporter, one of his key witnesses. So from the Kerry side, we learn that the buttocks wound was not the result of enemy action, and so did not qualify for a Purple Heart. Unless the minor arm contusion that he *did* receive in action was severe enough to "require treatment by a medical officer," the Third Purple Heart was wrongly given. And the medical officer's report said that the contusion was minor even in comparison with buttocks shrapnel that failed to prevent him from walking back to his boat and carrying on with his duties.

I've heard it said that only the Marines really are careful about giving out medals, and medals from the Army, Navy, and Air Force are overused, as a means of cheap compensation. Any army has the following problem: the supposed hero, his superior who authorizes the medal, and the entire army all look good if they report an act of heroism instead of being skeptical. (And this isn't just an army problem-- I teach in a business school, and it is in our self-interest to give every single professor a teaching award, to impress students and outsiders.)

Recall, too, the suicide of Admiral Boorda back in 1996. Boorda, the top officer in the Navy, committed suicide after Newsweek discovered he was wearing Vietnam War decorations to which he was clearly not entitled. People in the Navy have gotten away with a lot, it seems.

This larger problem doubles back in being relevant to the Kerry Medals Kerfuffle, because it might explain the behavior of the Swiftboat vets. Why did so many of them wait so long to come forward? Maybe because a lot more people than Kerry got dubious medals, or authorized dubious medals for their subordinates. I'd like to know how many Bronze Stars, in particular, were given out. Kerry got one-- but maybe every other Swiftboat officer got three. And I wonder if there was pressure to award medals to justify the operations of the Swiftboats and to attract good officers and men to that duty.

The Boston Globe of April 24, 2004 (an article mainly about the first Purple Heart-- the one with missing records that Dr. Letson, "Medical Officer at Naval Support Facility, Cam Ranh Bay", says he saw and thought was trivial):

During the Vietnam War, Purple Hearts were often granted for minor wounds. "There were an awful lot of Purple Hearts--from shrapnel, some of those might have been M-40 grenades," said George Elliott, who served as a commanding officer to Kerry during another point in his five-month combat tour in Vietnam. (Kerry earlier served a noncombat tour.) "The Purple Hearts were coming down in boxes." Under Navy regulations, an enlistee or officer wounded three times was permitted to leave Vietnam early, as Kerry did. He received all three purple hearts for relatively minor injuries -- two did not cost him a day of service and one took him out for a day or two.

So, was Kerry's third Purple Heart justified? No, I would say from this account. The only issue is whether a minor contusion on the arm qualifies someone for a Purple Heart.

Does it matter? Kerry's Third Purple Heart is, after all, only one of his six medals, and not the most important (except for getting him out of the combat zone early).

Yes. Kerry has always put his war record at the centerpiece of why we should elect him President. If he lied about a significant part of it then, and upholds the lie now, that wipes out what he offers as his strongest suit. If the Third Purple Heart was fraudulent-- or even if it was standard procedure, but medals are given out for trivial reasons like bruised arms-- then we should be dubious about his other medals too. If we can reject the validity of the medals we can check on, we should not blindly accept the validity of medals whose legitimacy depends on disputed "soft" evidence. And, of course, even if his other medals turn out to be valid, we have learned something about Kerry's character.

UPDATE, 11:49 p.m., Sunday August 22. I've found more details, in a careful defense of Kerry's Third Purple Heart from Eriposte.Com. First, it refers us to a more detailed listing of the requirements for the Purple Heart at Excerpts from "AR 600-8-22, 25 February 1995 and Public Law 104-106 - Feb. 10, 1996":

(5) Examples of injuries or wounds which clearly do not qualify for award of the Purple Heart are as follows:...

(h) Self-inflicted wounds, except when in the heat of battle, and not involving gross negligence.

...

(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.

Thus, friendly fire injuries *do* count for getting the Purple Heart, so long as they were not self-inflicted outside of heat of battle, self-inflicted in battle with gross negligence, and the friendly fire was intended to damage enemy troops or equipment.

How about Kerry's buttocks shrapnel from the grenade he threw at the rice? It still doesn't seem to qualify. It was self-inflicted, but not in the heat of battle. I'm not sure that blowing up rice counts as trying to damage enemy equipment. Even if it did, there still is no "heat of battle".

Here is what Eriposte has to say, with my thoughts on italics inside:

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.

I haven't found an official document which says exactly what the basis for the Purple Heart is-- just the record of the injuries. But in any case, the shrapnel must be the entire basis, not just part of the basis, for the Purple Heart if the bruised arm does not count because it did not require "treatment by a medical officer".

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.

So the causes of the two injuries are confirmed by Kerry himself.

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.

If I recall rightly, the casualty report was just a casualty report, and didn't say anything about Purple Hearts, either way. It would have been nice if it said, "This particular wound is severe enough to justify a Purple Heart," but all it says is that the arm wound was "minor".

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.

I've wondered about this. It could be that "contusion" means "bruise or laceration" in military medicine. But the military and medical professions are known for their pedantic precision, so more likely "contusion" means bruise and "laceration" means laceration. One of the medical reports did say "abrasion" in connection with someone else's 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.

This is a good point I hadn't known about-- that friendly fire injuries can count for a Purple Heart. But this paragraph omits a key requirement-- that the wound be received "in the heat of battle". The buttocks wound was not received while Kerry was under enemy fire.

(See my Kerry in Vietnam archives for more posts)

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August 20, 2004

War Lies of Kerry, Gore, Harkin, and Lyndon Johnson; Kerry's Law School

Ann Coulter has a good column on politicians who lie about their war records and the unwillingness of the press to investigate. Here is most of it (with my redfonting).

The Boston Globe biography of Kerry published earlier this year compliantly repeats Kerry's yarn about how he spent Christmas 1968 in Cambodia "despite President Nixon's assurances that there was no combat action in this neutral territory."

Only recently did someone point out: (1) Kerry was 55 miles away from the Cambodian border on Christmas 1968 and (2) Nixon wasn't president in 1968. (How did "historian" Doug Brinkley miss that in his biography of Kerry?)

The media will spend weeks going through pay stubs for Bush's National Guard service in Alabama in the waning days of war, but if Kerry tells them exotic tales of covert missions into Cambodia directed by Richard Nixon, they don't even bother to fact-check who was president in December 1968.

Tom Harkin , Crazed Moron, was shouting this week that Dick Cheney is a "coward," evidently for not fighting in Vietnam like Harkin. Except Harkin didn't fight in Vietnam either! The last time Harkin was bragging about his Vietnam service was in 1984 when he told David Broder of The Washington Post: "I spent five years as a Navy pilot, starting in November of 1962. One year was in Vietnam. I was flying F-4s and F-8s on combat air patrols and photo-reconnaissance support missions."

Sen. Barry Goldwater -- not the Post -- checked with the Defense Department and soon Harkin was forced to admit he had never been in combat in Vietnam, but was based in Japan during the war, ferrying damaged planes from the Saigon airport to Japan for repairs. Oops!

Then there was Al Gore who, like Kerry, was in Vietnam just long enough to get photos for his future political campaigns. (Apparently all future Democratic politicians take cameras to war zones.)

Gore enlisted in the Army in 1970 in a calculated gambit to help his senator dad in an election year. Young Al was given a cushy job writing for the Stars and Stripes newspaper, a bodyguard, and an exit strategy when Pops lost the election. After five months of this hygienic tour of duty, Little Lord Fauntleroy asked to come home, and before long he was safe and sound and preparing to flunk out of divinity school and then drop out of law school.

But over the next 30 years, Gore provided the media with increasingly macho reminiscences of his combat experiences in Vietnam -- almost as vivid and stirring as the impassioned account he gave of being a tobacco farmer.

-- "I pulled my turn on the perimeter at night and walked through the elephant grass and I was fired upon." (The Baltimore Sun)

-- "I took my turn regularly on the perimeter in these little firebases out in the boonies. Something would move, we'd fire first and ask questions later." (Vanity Fair)

-- "I was shot at. I spent most of my time in the field." (The Washington Post)

I think someone needs to explain to the Democrats that having your picture taken is not what most veterans mean by "being shot at."

During World War II, then-congressman Lyndon Johnson went on a single flight -- as an observer -- for which he was awarded the Silver Star by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Only recently has it been exposed that the medal was a complete fraud, probably awarded by MacArthur to curry favor with a congressman.

At the time, no one in the press bothered to investigate why Johnson was the only member of the crew to receive any sort of decoration for the 13-minute flight that never came under enemy fire -- and on which Johnson was merely an "observer." For the rest of his life Johnson got away with wearing what historian David Halberstam called "the least deserved and most proudly displayed Silver Star in military history."

Johnson told harrowing tales of his uneventful 13-minute flight, boasting that the men had called him "Raider Johnson."

This last is relevant to the question of whether a Silver Star such as Kerry received is a sure indicator of heroism.

Ann Coulter also points out that John Kerry went to Boston College Law School, not Harvard, or Yale, or Michigan, or Chicago, or Columbia, or even Boston University. Do we know his LSAT scores? As a Boston Globe story makes clear, Kerry should have been very attractive as a student because of (a) a Yale degree, (b) war medals, (c) fame from antiwar activism, (d) being antiwar in his politics, (e) elite family connections, both his own and his wife's, and (f) having been a serious contender in a congressional race.

(See my Kerry in Vietnam archives for more posts)

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