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Thursday, August 5, 2004
Swift Boat Allegations

By Steven Taylor @ 12:36 pm

Like James Joyner, my initial reaction to the Drudge Report story about the new book by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is severe skepticism. Stories such as these are so fantastic as to be difficult to believe, and not to borrow too much from the Paranoid Left, there are timing issues here (in terms of why some of these allegations weren’t made in the early 1970s).

However, I am prepared to withhold judgment, and even predisposed to afford some credibility to the book for three reasons.

1) It strikes me as odd that a large number of veterans would come together to make these allegations, knowing the amount of public and media scrutiny they would have to endure. Appearing in the related TV ad, for example, is as good as painting a target on oneself with a sign saying: “come examine my life and destroy me if you can.” I am not saying that that is sufficient to give credibility to the ad and the book, but it make me pause to consider the motivations here.

It is certainly possible that this is pay-back by a set of veterans who are still angry at what Mr. Kerry did after he returned home from Viet Nam. It is also possible that the attacks are wholly partisan.

2). The leader of this group, and the first named author on the book, Houston lawyer John O’Neil, has had some compelling character witnesses, if you will, who also give me pause for thought. One of my best friends (I have known him now for over 24 years), who is an attorney in Texas, has direct knowledge of Mr. O’Neil, and speaks very highly of him. This perspective is further bolstered by a post by Beldar of BeldarBlog (also a Texas attorney with direct knowledge of Mr. O’Neil).

If Mr. O’Neil has credibility, then the accusation are worthy of consideration.

3) Mr. Kerry’s own words give credence to some of the accusations. To wit (via MTP on April 18, 2004):

(Videotape, MEET THE PRESS, April 18, 1971):

MR. KERRY (Vietnam Veterans Against the War): There are all kinds of atrocities and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free-fire zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire. I used 50-caliber machine guns which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I took part in search-and-destroy missions, in the burning of villages. All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare. All of this is contrary to the Geneva Conventions and all of this ordered as a matter of written established policy by the government of the United States from the top down. And I believe that the men who designed these, the men who designed the free-fire zone, the men who ordered us, the men who signed off the air raid strike areas, I think these men, by the letter of the law, the same letter of the law that tried Lieutenant Calley, are war criminals.

(End videotape)

And from my post of April 19th discussing the Russert interview:

Then comes the interchange between Kerry and Russert. Note the rather direct question (indeed, statement) by Russert and note Kerry’s attempt at humor, but more importantly the fact that he never answers the question:
MR. RUSSERT: You committed atrocities.

SEN. KERRY: Where did all that dark hair go, Tim? That’s a big question for me. You know, I
thought a lot, for a long time, about that period of time, the things we said, and I think the word is a bad word. I think it’s an inappropriate word. I mean, if you wanted to ask me have you ever made mistakes in your life, sure. I think some of the language that I used was a language that reflected an anger. It was honest, but it was in anger, it was a little bit excessive.

MR. RUSSERT: You used the word “war criminals.”

SEN. KERRY: Well, let me just finish. Let me must finish. It was, I think, a reflection of the kind of times we found ourselves in and I don’t like it when I hear it today. I don’t like it, but I want you to notice that at the end, I wasn’t talking about the soldiers and the soldiers’ blame, and my great regret is, I hope no soldier-I mean, I think some soldiers were angry at me for that, and I understand that and I regret that, because I love them. But the words were honest but on the other hand, they were a little bit over the top. And I think that there were breaches of the Geneva Conventions. There were policies in place that were not acceptable according to the laws of warfare, and everybody knows that. I mean, books have chronicled that, so I’m not going to walk away from that. But I wish I had found a way to say it in a less abrasive way.

So “atrocities” and “war criminals” are honest, but just over the top. Pardon?

It continues:

MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator, when you testified before the Senate, you talked about some of the hearings you had observed at the winter soldiers meeting and you said that people had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and on and on. A lot of those stories have been discredited, and in hindsight was your testimony…

SEN. KERRY: Actually, a lot of them have been documented.

MR. RUSSERT: So you stand by that?

SEN. KERRY: A lot of those stories have been documented. Have some been discredited? Sure, they have, Tim. The problem is that’s not where the focus should have been. And, you know, when you’re angry about something and you’re young, you know, you’re perfectly capable of not-I mean, if I had the kind of experience and time behind me that I have today, I’d have framed some of that differently. Needless to say, I’m proud that I stood up. I don’t want anybody to think twice about it. I’m proud that I took the position that I took to oppose it. I think we saved lives, and I’m proud that I stood up at a time when it was important to stand up, but I’m not going to quibble, you know, 35 years later that I might not have phrased things more artfully at times.

He essentially wants to have it both ways: yes, I was right in 1971, but I am right now to say that I was too angry in 1971. Indeed he seems to be saying that the words “war crime” and “atrocity” simply shouldn’t be used, even though he believes that war crimes and atrocities were committed,

These statements fit within the parameters of what the book claims to have happened. Now, granted, the book could have been written with those words in mind.

These three reasons leave me open to claims made in the book as reported in the press and in the anti-Kerry ad.

All of this being said, I am not sure whether any of this is smart politics and, indeed, my initial reaction is that it isn’t. Still, it could very well be simply what a set of veterans believe that needs to be said.

Filed under: 2004 Campaign
  • Backcountry Conservative linked with Kerry a War Criminal?
  • Outside The Beltway linked with Swift Boat Nuts?
  • the evangelical outpost linked with The Swift Boat Veteran With the Truth: Is John Kerry a War Criminal?
  • Signifying Nothing linked with Not so swift
  • Backcountry Conservative linked with John Kerry & Vietnam Round-Up

Click here to go to the main page.

9 Comments»

  1. It is certainly possible that this is pay-back by a set of veterans who are still angry at what Mr. Kerry did after he returned home from Viet Nam. It is also possible that the attacks are wholly partisan.

    hmmm of the 2, the former seems much more plausible.

    I suspect the truth on these allegations is somewhere in the middle but closer to Swift Vets side. It has long been known that the circumstances around the 3 Purple Hearts were dubious. How can you get 3 Purple Hearts but never go to a hospital or take even one hour of sick leave?

    Having said that, I think the Swift Vets got dealt a full house and are playing it like a straight flush.

    Comment by Paul — Thursday, August 5, 2004 @ 2:02 pm

  2. Well, I didn’t think this stuff was going to matter until I read this.

    If Kerry and Edwards are trying to suppress this information, it makes one wonder if it might be true. And even if it’s not true, the suppression attempt itself could sink the Kerry Kampaign.

    If this story is accurate, the Left’s claims about the attempt to silence dissent have finally come true. And It’s John Kerry who’s doing it.

    Comment by ScottM — Thursday, August 5, 2004 @ 2:36 pm

  3. Don’t be too fast to judge why now they speak out. During that time (vietnam) there was an expression, “I’t don’t mean Nothin.” All anyone wanted to do was get it over with and come home. Drink some and forget.

    I was called a baby killer in 1972. We all know who I had to thank for that. Since it don’t mean nothin, we just let it pass. Inside we hurt, got angry but forgot it all as best we could.

    Now the fool is running to be our president. Suddenly it DOES mean something. That’s all.

    Comment by pa_scoots — Thursday, August 5, 2004 @ 2:44 pm

  4. The attempt to suppress these claims has also been reported by Human Events (includes images of the letter).

    Unless this is a forgery, this has to hurt Kerry.

    Michael Moore unquestionably lies about President Bush. Can you imagine the outrage if Bush had sent his lawyers out to suppress F9/11?

    Comment by ScottM — Thursday, August 5, 2004 @ 2:58 pm

  5. “It is certainly possible that this is pay-back by a set of veterans who are still angry at what Mr. Kerry did after he returned home from Viet Nam. It is also possible that the attacks are wholly partisan.

    hmmm of the 2, the former seems much more plausible.”

    Err, aside from the fact that one of the SBVFT in the ad, Adrian Lonsdale, flew to Boston to support Kerry in his 1996 Senate campaign (to rebut a Boston Globe article which cast doubt on Kerry’s Silver Star), as did one other of the stars of the SBVFT ad. So you’re not dealing with the most reliable of character witnesses here. Plus, O’Neill has plenty cause to hold a grudge against Kerry; his political career would have been more golden had he not made such a mediocre showing against Kerry in 1971.

    Comment by Tom — Thursday, August 5, 2004 @ 6:38 pm

  6. To hinge the entire credibility of the Swift Boat vets on John O’Neill makes very little sense unless you believe he has somehow managed to brainwash scores of other vets.

    If you are open to that possibility, perhaps you ought to consider the possibility that Kerry has done the same thing?

    I have been covering this ever since I first started blogging. There is a lot on Kerry that hasn’t come out, and regardless of anyone’s motivation (partisan or not), perhaps it is time for it to see the light of day. The media has so far shown no inclination to cover it. I was “debunked” back in February for quoting a source that suggested Kerry’s medals and wounds weren’t all they were cracked up to be.

    Now Grant Hibbard (Kerry’s CO) and Louis Letson (the doctor who treated his first “wound") have come forward to say that the source I quoted was right on. So much for ‘debunking’.

    I can understand why someone would be reluctant to come forward - look at all the mud that is being slung at these vets. Would you want to go through that?

    Does it ever occur to anyone that perhaps they just got sick and tired (as I have) of the media refusing to cover the story? My father served in Vietnam, so did my father in law, who died an early death of something we think was related to his time over there. Admiral Jeremiah Denton, a POW for 7 years in Vietnam, lived one block back from me in HS and I went to school with his daughter. So maybe this seems real to me in a way that it doesn’t to some of you.

    Military people won’t soon forgive Kerry for what he did. We don’t hate him, but I know I want the truth to come out so people can make an informed choice. Some of them will undoubtedly vote for him anyway and some will vote for him out of sympathy because of this.

    This is America and that’s their right. But don’t you think people should know what they’re voting for?

    Maybe the question you should be asking is: why have the media refused to cover the Swift Boat vets or attend their press conferences? I wrote about this earlier, too. The Swift Boat vets tried this spring to get the word out via the press and were all but ignored. In fact, I’d call it a blackout. You can’t tell me that would have happened if GWB had been in his place.

    So they took out an ad. That’s the great thing about America - if our ‘unbiased’ media refuse to cover your story, you can pay for air time.

    Comment by Cassandra — Friday, August 6, 2004 @ 4:19 am

  7. There is an even stronger video message, just as true, that could bring Kerry out into the light of day once and for all: You take Kerry’s voice testifying on war atrocities for the Senate Congressional Committee. You place a contemporary profile of his in front of a close up of a background of the Vietnam memorial with the names visible. You let the names shift behind a static profile of Kerry while his pompous, self-righteous voice goes on and on lying about imaginary atrocities and bogus ‘witness soldiers’. You run that a few times daily for the last two weeks in October and he’s cooked. And all you are using are his own words and image.

    Comment by Ronald Proby — Sunday, August 8, 2004 @ 8:06 pm

  8. There is an even stronger video message, just as true, that could bring Kerry out into the light of day once and for all: You take Kerry’s voice testifying on war atrocities for the Senate Congressional Committee. You place a contemporary profile of his in front of a close up of a background of the Vietnam memorial with the names visible. You let the names shift behind a static profile of Kerry while his pompous, self-righteous voice goes on and on lying about imaginary atrocities and bogus ‘witness soldiers’. You run that a few times daily for the last two weeks in October and he’s cooked. And all you are using are his own words and image.

    Comment by Ronald Proby — Sunday, August 8, 2004 @ 8:06 pm

  9. There is an even stronger video message, just as true, that could bring Kerry out into the light of day once and for all: You take Kerry’s voice testifying on war atrocities for the Senate Congressional Committee. You place a contemporary profile of his in front of a close up of a background of the Vietnam memorial with the names visible. You let the names shift behind a static profile of Kerry while his pompous, self-righteous voice goes on and on lying about imaginary atrocities and bogus ‘witness soldiers’. You run that a few times daily for the last two weeks in October and he’s cooked. And all you are using are his own words and image.

    Comment by Ronald Proby — Sunday, August 8, 2004 @ 8:06 pm

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