Monday, January 02, 2012

To Newt Gingrich, on the occasion of his claiming to have been "Romney-boated"

Mr. Gingrich, some of us spent a whole lot of time and effort investigating and, then, publicizing John F. Kerry's true military record — including its blatant lies and exaggerations — in the 2004 election. We are extremely grateful to the men who served with Kerry on the U.S. Navy's "Swift Boats" in the riverways and canals of Vietnam, and who came forward in 2004 to tell what they knew.

We believe these "SwiftVets" were, are, and will always be brave patriots.

Then there are those others who, for whatever reasons, think that these veterans' campaign to put Kerry's military career under a more accurate spotlight was inappropriate, notwithstanding Kerry's own aggressive but dishonest efforts to portray himself as an Audie Murphy or a Sgt. York. Those Kerry allies feel sorry for poor John, and they (including their allies in the reflexively-liberal mainsream media) coined the term "Swift-Boated" to mean something awful, something nasty and dishonest. This cynical linguistic formulation is as neat a 180-degree reversal of the truth as any propaganda machine has ever attempted.

The truth is that the SwiftVets sunk Kerry's campaign by making it widely known that instead of being a hero in the Vietnam War, Kerry bugged out of active combat early, with a chestful of medals he deserved only barely or in some cases not at all; he returned home to provide Congress with his sworn testimony that falsely condemned his own comrades of being war criminals; and that while still a commissioned officer in the Navy Reserve, with his uniform hanging neatly in a Washington closet, John Kerry secretly connived with the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese delegations in Paris to undercut America's position. If there's anything equally perfidious in Gingrich's past, then I certainly hope some other GOP candidate would run advertisements to reveal that! And for those of us who supported the SwiftVets' efforts in 2004, their resulting success is seared — seared! — in our collective memories.

Thus, I'm inclined to spin on my heel and walk rapidly away, disgustedly, from anyone who uses the term "Swift-Boated" the way Kerry and his allies do. I do not want a president who identifies and sympathizes with John Kerry over men who are real heroes.

So when you're complaining about how hot it is in the kitchen you're trying to stay in, Mr. Gingrich, you might think twice, and then three times, about whining that you're being "Romney-boated" by attack ads.

If you want to pretend you haven't attacked other candidates for the GOP nomination, or if you think you can prove that there's something egregiously wrong with other GOP candidates attacking you — and if you think that's a plus for you, something that will give us confidence in your prospective ability to stand up under Obama's attack ads for the rest of 2012 if you're our nominee — then make your best pitch.

But if you make it in this language, you can expect an extremely frosty reception from people like me. Those people are going to tell you, "If that's what you think about the SwiftVets, then you can go straight to hell, Mr. Gingrich!" And then they're going to walk away from you as fast as they can, fists clenched at their sides (lucky for you).

You'd best apologize, Mr. Gingrich. Alas, for those of us who fear you've long since been captured by the Beltway Mentality, for those of us who fear you really do naturally sympathize and empathize with John F'ing Kerry over the men who stayed and fought, apologies don't go very far against evidence like this.

Posted by Beldar at 02:04 PM in History, Politics (2011), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sen. Kerry permits last statute of limitations for defamation to lapse, forever barring any defamation claim against SwiftVet authors O'Neill and Corsi

When I first brought it to his attention in September 2005, I reminded Sen. John F. Kerry that — based on the publication date on or about August 25, 2004, of Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry by John E. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi — Sen. Kerry had already allowed the one-year statutes of limitations for defamation to expire in Texas (where Mr. O'Neill resides), New Jersey (where Dr. Corsi resides), and the District of Columbia (where their publisher Regnery Publishing, Inc. has its principal place of business and Sen. Kerry has his own regular place of business).

But as I noted then, Sen. Kerry's home state of Massachusetts has a very unusual, extremely generous and pro-plaintiff three-year limitations period for defamation claims. Massachusetts' three-year statute of limitations for defamation claims made it the very last feasible venue in which Sen. Kerry conceivably could file suit and gain his public vindication, if the SwiftVets' allegations about him were false. Those claims were certainly, indeed deliberately, injurious to his reputation; his damages arguably include the loss of the 2004 presidential election, however that might be valued in dollars and cents; and if John Kerry could hope to find a home-town advantage anywhere, surely it would be there. But now he's let the incredibly generous Massachusetts statute of limitations run out, too.

In my 2005 post, I offered this free and helpful legal advice to Sen. Kerry (who may need it, since his own bar membership is still on inactive status):

Seriously, though, Senator, some folks might draw the inference that rather than your having just forgotten the one-year anniversary of the publication of Unfit for Command — oopsies! — you're instead desperately afraid to ever face cross-examination under oath, or [to face] document subpoenas of yourself and your hagiographer Doug Brinkley, or the rest of the brilliant spotlight that accompanies a public lawsuit. Folks might become more and more convinced that you've very deliberately let most state statutes of limitations expire already, and that you'll continue to allow the clock to run on any that haven't yet.

So let's drop the snark and call a spade a spade: The very last thing John Kerry wants is to ever give the SwiftVets the legal tools they'd need to conclusively document their claims, because truth is, of course, a complete defense to defamation claims. Kerry doesn't deserve vindication, and he knows he could never get it in court. In court, there would be compulsory discovery of witnesses and documents, followed by a fair and disciplined adversary process, followed by a definitive determination of the truth or falsity of the SwiftVets' charges — a determination that he damn well knows would go against him. Instead, the haze of time and the near-universal bluster of his mainstream media allies (who continue to insist that the SwiftVets' claims were "debunked" and that Kerry was victimized) has given him a far better result than he could ever get in court.

Unfit for Command I'll tell ya what, though, Senator: On the off chance that I'm misreading what's behind your allowing limitations to lapse against O'Neill and Corsi, and you really intended to sue them but just, I dunno, forgot:

You have a standing offer from me: Just sue me here in Houston for defamation. After all, I've republished most of the SwiftVets' claims here on my blog, and I've made many of them again in my own voice. I use a pseudonym for my blog name, but it's not anonymous — my name and address are linked on every page of this blog, and have been since the day it started. I'll waive any statute of limitations defense. I'll waive service of process. Hell, I'll meet you at the federal courthouse doors for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division (you have diversity jurisdiction), and I'll even pay your filing fee!

You think it will be too expensive to have big teams of lawyers? Fine — since you were once a big-time courtroom lawyer, let's just you and me tangle one-on-one, both of us pro se. (I'll agree not to oppose your application for admission pro hac vice to the federal court here in Texas, and I'll even pay the fees to get your law license reinstated in Massachusetts.) Just me at my table, you at yours, and then a set of jurors good and true in the jury box. (I may need a napkin, though, or maybe even a drool-bucket, because the very notion of going one-on-one with you in court is causing me to salivate.) Or, hell, you can have as many lawyers as you want, and I'll still go pro se. Go fetch David Boies, he might do it for free (unless he's already figured out what a loser your case would be). Whatever. As long as there's a judge who can make you shut up each time your turn is over and who'll then give me a fair turn, I'll be satisfied.

My one stipulation is: No confidentiality orders, and no motions to quash. Everything that's uncovered in pretrial discovery has to become part of the public record without delay. We'll put it all on the internet via a neutral host (say, the WaPo). We'll do the pretrial depos on video, too, and jointly move the court to permit TV coverage of the trial, so that the public (and the jury, eventually) can see who sweats under oath under the bright lights.

Doesn't that sound like fun, Senator? Gosh, it does to me.

Posted by Beldar at 08:00 AM in Law (2007), Politics (2007), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (46)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Kerry's and Beauchamp's shared pre-traumatic stress disorder

Others have noted the parallels between fraud Scott Thomas Beauchamp and fraud John F. Kerry in their lies about their fellow servicemen, but it wasn't until I read Charles Krauthammer's op-ed today — in which he noted (as have others) that the "whole point of [the "melted face in the Iraq mess hall"] story was to demonstrate how the war had turned an otherwise sensitive soul into a monster" — that I suddenly remembered Sen. Kerry's own episodes of pre-traumatic stress disorder, about which I blogged at some length (albeit without that wonderfully descriptive diagnosis) on August 29, 2004, in a post entitled "The war-torn soul of John Kerry."

Although I wrote it during the middle of the SwiftVets controversy, that particular post — and the transparent phoniness it demonstrated — relied solely on Kerry's own wartime writing, and on the date and place from which he was writing to his then-sweetheart:

From biographer Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War, we get this powerful portrait of young John Kerry's anguish, quoting a lengthy letter he wrote to his sweetheart (pp. 82-83; boldface mine):

Judy Darling,

There are so many ways this letter could become a bitter diatribe and go rumbling off into irrational nothings.... I feel so bitter and angry and everywhere around me there is nothing but violence and war and gross insensitivity.  I am really very frightened to be honest because when the news [of the combat death of his college friend, Dick Pershing] sunk in I had no alternatives but  to carry on in the face of trivia that forced me to build a horrible protective screen around myself....

The world I'm a part of out there is so very different from anything you, I, or our close friends can imagine.  It's fitted with primitive survival, with destruction of an endless dying seemingly pointless nature and forces one to grow up in a fast — no holds barred fashion.  In the small time I have been gone, does it seem strange to say that I feel as though I have seen several years experience go by....  No matter [where] one is — no matter what job — you do not and cannot forget that you are at war and that the enemy is ever present — that anyone could at some time for the same stupid irrational something that stole Persh be gone tomorrow.

You can practically hear the mortar rounds shriek overhead Kerry's foxhole, can't you?  Everything around him "is nothing but violence and war" — "endless dying," the enemy "ever present."

Except that this letter was written in Febuary 1968, while Kerry was an ensign aboard the missile cruiser U.S.S. Gridley as it plied the dangerous waters of war-torn Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.  The Gridley was still almost 6000 miles and many weeks away from the waters offshore of Vietnam....

Same sort of drama queens; same exaggeration; same self-aggrandizement; even the same bad writing (especially if the comparison is to Beauchamp's blog writing, which obviously lacks the benefit of TNR's copy editors). They're definitely birds of a feather, those two. Sort of a three-way cross between peacocks, vultures, and mocking-birds (although I suspect even vulture-lovers would object to that comparison, and it's definitely unfair to mocking-birds, but they're the first kind of bird I can think of who're frauds, sort of).

Posted by Beldar at 12:44 AM in Books, Global War on Terror, Politics (2007), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (6)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Memo to Sen. Kerry

TO: Sen. John F. Kerry
FROM: William J. Dyer (a/k/a Beldar)
RE: Limitations

Spectacular lawyer though you may (or may not) be in your own right, I know your staff includes some agile and diligent legal minds. Nevertheless, in the interests of fairness, I feel obliged to remind you of the fact that Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry by John E. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi — which spent several weeks at No. 1 on the NYT Bestsellers List before last year's presidential election — was published on or about August 25, 2004, just over one year ago.

I'm quite sure you'll recall that many of your supporters, defenders, and admirers argued enthusiastically that fall, and even after the election, that you ought to sue Mr. O'Neill, Dr. Corsi, and their publisher, Regnery Publishing, Inc., for defamation — more specifically, for libel based on the book and slander based on their public comments in connection with it.

I'm less sure — but will nevertheless give you the benefit of the doubt — that you'll remember from law school and perhaps from your bar review course that defamation lawsuits are generally are based on state law, and that they are generally subject to state statutes of limitations, regardless of whether they are filed in state or federal court.

My concern, however, is that you may not be aware that most state statutes of limitations for defamation are quite short. In Texas (where Mr. O'Neill resides), New Jersey (where Dr. Corsi resides), and the District of Columbia (where their publisher Regnery Publishing, Inc. has its principal place of business and you have your own regular place of business), those jurisdictions' respective statutes of limitations on defamation claims expire only one year after the alleged defamation is published.

Thus, in most of the logical, permissible, and likely venues in which you might have brought such a defamation lawsuit against Mr. O'Neill, Dr. Corsi, and Regnery Publishing, you've already allowed your potential claims to become time-barred, Sen. Kerry! D'oh! Why'd you let that happen?

There may be still be a few permissible venues — perhaps Massachusetts, which has a shamefully generous three-year statute of limitations for defamation — in which your sloth (or whatever else may explain your inaction to date) has not yet extinguished your potential claims.

Nevertheless, you're also doubtless aware that with each additional day that passes, the evidentiary trail grows colder; potential witnesses' memories fade; and the chances that jurors are likely to take your potential claims seriously continue to evaporate. There is no possible tactical or strategic benefit to your continuing to withhold your claims, and there are overwhelming downsides to doing so. Your delay is inexplicable if you believe your claims are meritorious.

On the other hand, regardless of limitations, truth is a defense to a defamation claim — whether that claim has been brought in days, weeks, months, years, or even decades after the alleged libel or slander is published. A defendant might even voluntarily choose to waive his or its limitations defenses. And even a defendant who has asserted an applicable statute of limitations as an affirmative defense may nevertheless choose, as a tactical preference, not to bring an early summary judgment motion. Indeed, some defendants may quite relish the opportunity to begin discovery on the merits, being delighted to finally have an opportunity to have subpoena power, oaths, and penalties of perjury to help them finally dig out the truth.

In fact, just based on my own personal experience with him, Senator, I'd sorta bet that John O'Neill would not only waive limitations, but even pay your filing fees for you!

Seriously, though, Senator, some folks might draw the inference that rather than your having just forgotten the one-year anniversary of the publication of Unfit for Command — oopsies! — you're instead desperately afraid to ever face cross-examination under oath, or document subpoenas of yourself and your hagiographer Doug Brinkley, or the rest of the brilliant spotlight that accompanies a public lawsuit. Folks might become more and more convinced that you've very deliberately let most state statutes of limitations expire already, and that you'll continue to allow the clock to run on any that haven't yet.

The 2008 campaign season is right around the corner, Senator, and nobody is likely to forget the SwiftVets' allegations before then. If you believe that you have a legitimate defamation lawsuit, sir, you must use it or lose it. Put up or shut up. You snooze, you lose.

Tick-tock, Senator. Tick-tock!

Posted by Beldar at 10:02 PM in Law (2006 & earlier), Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (13)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Kranish and the Boston Globe should post Kerry's records for public review

Today's Boston Globe contains two articles by staff reporter Michael Kranish that discuss Navy records pertaining to Senator (and failed presidential candidate) John F. Kerry.  The articles say that the Globe obtained the records pursuant to a Standard Form 180, signed by Sen. Kerry, which named the Globe as the party to whom the records were to be directly released. In one article, Mr. Kranish asserts:

The lack of any substantive new material about Kerry's military career in the documents raises the question of why Kerry refused for so long to waive privacy restrictions. An earlier release of the full record might have helped his campaign because it contains a number of reports lauding his service. Indeed, one of the first actions of the group that came to be known as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was to call on Kerry to sign a privacy waiver and release all of his military and medical records.

The second article focuses on Kerry's Yale undergraduate grades and concludes that Kerry was a "lackluster student" whose grade average was "virtually identical" to Dubya's. (Although in fact Kerry's grades appear to be slightly worse, both can fairly be characterized as "lackluster.")

Although both articles make interesting reading, I can't help feeling considerable skepticism about their conclusions.

Mr. Kranish and the Globe have indeed sometimes been critical of Sen. Kerry. But at other times — in particular with their trashy and unethical treatment of Captain George Elliott — they've skewed facts in ways that have been extremely beneficial to Sen. Kerry. And sometimes they've simply made incredible and inexcusable factual bloopers that likewise worked to Sen. Kerry's benefit — as, for example, in their biographical book "John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best," in which they described Sen. Kerry as "a man who was severely wounded in combat [and] who watched men under his command die." As I wrote last summer, the first statement is absolutely false. Kerry's wounds were trivial, but this egregious factual mistake about them wasn't. The second statement is unsupported and almost certainly an exaggeration.

Moreover, despite Mr. Kranish's subjective conclusion that the records he's reviewed contain no "substantive new material," his articles utterly fail to address, either in detail or in summary form, some of the most controversial questions about Sen. Kerry's war service — including in particular the questions regarding Sen. Kerry's discharge.

The Boston Globe should immediately post all the records, and the signed Standard Form 180, as .pdf scans on their website. Perhaps they already plan to do so, and simply haven't gotten the scans made yet. But even were there no past examples to create doubts about the Globe's and Mr. Kranish's objectivity and accuracy, those members of the public who are inclined to study the actual source documents — rather than accepting as gospel Mr. Kranish's pre-digested conclusions — should have the chance to do so.

If the Globe and Mr. Kranish feel themselves to be precluded from posting the source documents because of some lack of further authorization from Sen. Kerry or other privacy concerns, they should disclose the facts about that.

The Rathergate memos were only debunked when the public was able to examine them. Perhaps Mr. Kranish's and the Globe's analysis of the new records has been fair, balanced, accurate, and complete. But there's no excuse for preventing the public from seeing the source documents.

(Mr. Kranish's email address is kranish@globe.com, and the Globe's online feedback form can be accessed through this link. And there are many, many links to blogospheric reactions similar to mine at Michelle Malkin's, Captain Ed's, and Tom Maguire's blogs.)

---------------

Update (Tue Jun 07 @ 7:30pm): Hugh Hewitt and N.Z. Bear also had reactions very similar to mine.

Posted by Beldar at 11:02 AM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (159)

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Kerry: "I didn't flip-flop on anything"

By far the funniest line I've read since the 2004 election comes from the conclusion of Michael Kranish's interview of Sen. John F. Kerry in today's Boston Globe (hat-tip to an alert reader who emailed me the link):

Asked what hurt him the most during the campaign, Kerry mused about how ''all of us are flawed as human beings" and ''I think I have a strong record" before raising his voice and declaring: ''One thing I know is that I didn't flip-flop on anything."

Surely that line must induce soda-through-the-nose chortling among even many loyal but clear-eyed Democrats. It would be like Dubya declaring, "One thing I know is that I don't have a Texas accent." It leaves one wondering — actually, it leaves me in a state of absolute conviction as to — whether John Kerry really does inhabit an alternate, not-quite-parallel universe.

But now that Sen. Kerry's a big-time national loser, previously friendly MSM interviewers like Kranish or Meet the Press' Tim Russert have become strangely, very belatedly interested in whether he'll finally sign Standard Form 180. Sen. Kerry responds exactly like a child who's already been grounded but is still being questioned about the neck of the broken cookie jar draped around his wrist (bracketed portion by the Globe):

The furor over military credentials hasn't ended with the campaign. Kerry pledged to sign Form 180, releasing all of his military records, but challenged his critics, including Bush, to do the same.

''I want them to sign it, I want [swift boat veterans] John O'Neill, Roy Hoffmann, and what's their names, the guys on the other boat," Kerry said. ''I want their records out there. They have made specific allegations about my record, I know things about their records, I want them out there. I'm willing to sign it, to put all my records out there. I'm willing to sign it, but I want them to sign it, too."

Kerry later confirmed that his decision to sign the form is not conditional on any others signing, but he expressed lingering bitterness over double standards on military service.

''Let me make this clear: My full military record has been made public," Kerry said. ''All of my medical records and all of my fitness reports, every fitness report involving each place I served, is public. Where are George Bush's still? Where are his military records? End of issue."

End of issue? End of issue?!? I suppose that's true in the sense that the 2004 election effectively destroyed John Kerry as a politician of national scope — to the point that I feel slightly frivolous in bothering to write this post.

But doesn't this sound a lot like the "Tommy was stealing cookies too" defense? Earth to Astronaut Kerry: The "guys on the other boat" — which boat, which "guys"? shouldn't it be "guys on the other boats" (plural), plus "the guy on my boat"? — and even your opponent weren't running for President as self-proclaimed war heroes. You were.

And Dubya's military records have been sliced, diced, puréed, and even (when the real records were not deemed sufficiently damning by his enemies) forged and promulgated worldwide through a mainstream media conspiracy that, thank goodness, the blogosphere exploded.

By contrast —

  • An official Navy Department spokesman confirmed during the campaign that the Navy had "withheld thirty-one (31) pages of documents from the responsive military personnel service record as we were not provided a release authorization" — i.e., the now-finally-promised (but still-not-signed) Form 180.
  • WaPo's Michael Dobbs wrote way back on August 22nd (and then seemed, conveniently, to forget he'd written) that only selected medical records had been shown (and then snatched back) from the press; that the Kerry campaign was "continu[ing] to deny or ignore requests for other relevant documents, including Kerry's personal reminiscences (shared only with biographer [Douglas] Brinkley) [and] the boat log of PCF-94 compiled by Medeiros (shared only with Brinkley)"; and that there were "at least a hundred pages" of records that the Navy Department had withheld on privacy grounds (again, no signed Form 180) in response to WaPo's Freedom of Information Act request.
  • Kerry's own pet biographer, Douglas Brinkley, has said to the press of the "massive archive" of Kerry's private papers that he (Brinkley) had reviewed in writing his book, "go bug John Kerry" since "the papers are the property of the senator and in his full control."

In short, not only many details of John Kerry's active duty service record, but of his discharge status and his Paris trips (plural) to meet with the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese, still remain shrouded behind Sen. Kerry's very effective stonewall.

If the American public had come to believe that Sen. Kerry had the sort of passionate dedication to protecting us that I believe he has for protecting his own secrets, the guy might actually have been elected. To complete my backhanded compliment, I'll add that John Kerry could have taught Richard Nixon the true meaning of the terms "brazen" and "cover-up."

And yet John F. Kerry, the self-promoting "war hero" and former presidential candidate, has the unmitigated gall to suggest that the "guys on the other boat[s]" be put under the microscope he's repeatedly and successfully deflected from himself.

I suppose to have a sense of shame, one must first have a sense of reality — and John Kerry is so shameless precisely because he lacks any grip on reality. He's still living in the fantasy world of his Super 8 home movies and war diaries — the noble, tragically misunderstood Last Action Hero of his own peculiar alternate universe.  Of course, he's got friends who live there with him — Michael Moore, Garrison Keillor, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Al Sharpton, etc. The question confronting the Democratic Party, however, is whether they all want to live there with him.

Posted by Beldar at 01:42 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (31)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

NYPost gossips about possible Kerry defamation lawsuit against SwiftVets

Reader and frequent commenter "Raving Atheist" emailed me a link to a very amusing blurb written by Richard Johnson in the New York Post's "Page Six" column entitled "Kerry Fit to Sue 'Unfit' Author," which begins:

Liberal loser John Kerry might be planning to strike back at John O'Neill, the "Unfit for Command" author who claims some of the credit for Kerry's defeat, sources say.

In the book, published by Regnery not long before the election, O'Neill — who, like Kerry, commanded swift boats in Vietnam — attacked Kerry's war record and branded him a traitor.

(Another reader thoughtfully emailed me with this link to a NewsMax write-up on Johnson's blurb, but it doesn't add much to the NYPost's own gossip.)

I first wrote on the topic of the Kerry campaign's threats of a defamation lawsuit last August 11th, when The New Republic's Kenneth Baer argued (in an article that's now been moved to TNR's subscription-archive, but that I quoted extensively) that such a lawsuit would be well-founded. For reasons both legal and factual, I rather strongly disagreed, and for reasons entirely political, I thought that such a lawsuit would not possibly be filed during the campaign season. Nothing that happened later during the SwiftVets vs. Kerry saga in any way changed any of my original opinions as to the lack of legal and factual bases for such a lawsuit. But Mr. Johnson's unnamed source apparently thinks that the political dynamics no longer would prohibit such a case from being filed:

Now, "the Kerry camp is thinking about filing a libel lawsuit against Regnery and O'Neill," a source close to the candidate's inner circle tells PAGE SIX. "I don't know if they will actually go forward, but consideration is serious. If Kerry plans on running again in 2008 — and I'm hearing he will — it would make sense that he'd file the suit."

Kerry's rep, David Wade, said he hadn't heard about any proposed lawsuit, but promised to look into it.

Let's just say I'm not holding my breath waiting for this lawsuit to be filed. Nor, I strongly suspect, is SwiftVets' spokesman John O'Neill. According to Mr. Johnson's blurb,

O'Neill, who charged that Kerry faked his wounds and won his medals under false pretenses, says he won't write another book if Kerry runs in 2008, but will definitely campaign against him again.

That's actually a substantial overstatement of the SwiftVets' allegations — they never claimed that Kerry "faked his wounds." They did claim, however, that all three of Sen. Kerry's Purple Heart wounds (or four, if you count the bruised elbow) were trivial, and that two of the three Purple Hearts were undeserved because they resulted not from enemy action, nor even from someone else's "friendly fire" while there was incoming enemy fire, but rather from Kerry's own unintentional carelessness (on one occasion while firing a M-79 grenade launcher and on another when using a hand grenade to scatter a rice pile thought to be a Viet Cong food cache).

Regardless, however, if these or the SwiftVets' larger set of allegations were altogether false and groundless, they could have been exploded with a stroke of Sen. Kerry's pen on a Standard Form 180 — during his just-past campaign. The undisclosed military records still being withheld by the Navy Department, Sen. Kerry's and a crewman's wartime journals, and other documents that Sen. Kerry successfully stonewalled throughout the campaign would all become grist for the pretrial discovery mill in the early stages of any defamation case he ever files, however. I remain confident in my previous inference that if those documents were uniformly flattering to and supportive of Sen. Kerry, we'd have long since seen them, and in my further inference that because they aren't, we never will.

Beldar continues to confidently predict: Ain't gonna be no defamation lawsuit. If there is, I'll gladly eat Sen. Kerry's lucky CIA hat.

Posted by Beldar at 07:21 PM in Law (2006 & earlier), Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (127)

Monday, November 01, 2004

Former Navy Sec'y Middendorf delivers broad hints on Kerry's discharge

Art Moore at WorldNetDaily.com just put up a stunning article — not for what it says directly, but for what figuratively bounces off the page at anyone willing to read between the lines even just a little bit:

A former secretary of the Navy is urging Sen. John Kerry to open up his personnel files to resolve the question of whether the Democratic presidential nominee received a less-than-honorable discharge from the Navy.

William Middendorf, the Navy chief from 1974 to 1977, told WorldNetDaily today that Kerry, who began inactive reserve status in 1972, would have been issued a document three years later either for a reserve reaffiliation or a separation discharge.

An "honorable discharge" from 1978 appears on the Kerry campaign's website, but a Navy lawyer who served under Middendorf believes that document is a substitute for one that would have been issued in 1975.

However, no such document can be found among the records Kerry has made available.

"I should think it would be in his interest to open up the files, to clear up any misunderstanding," said Middendorf, who later served as ambassador to the Netherlands, European Union and Organization of American States.

Middendorf said he cannot comment specifically on any action taken on Kerry, because he is barred, under the 1974 Privacy Act, from discussing personnel matters.

However, he enthusiastically vouches for the character of Mark Sullivan, who formed the basis for a story today in the New York Sun by Thomas Lipscomb, the first to report discrepancies in Kerry's discharge record.

Sullivan, who served in the secretary of the Navy's office in the Judge Advocate General Corps Reserve between 1975 and 1977, says the "honorable discharge" on the Kerry website appears to be a Carter administration substitute for an original action expunged from Kerry's record, Lipscomb reported.

Asked by WorldNetDaily to address Sullivan's findings, Middendorf cited the Privacy Act.

"I shouldn't comment other than to say I respect Mark Sullivan as one of the finest Navy officers we had."

Friends and neighbors, I know that hard-core Kerry partisans will pooh-pooh this because of its source.  "Right-wing hacks," they'll fume, "hatchet jobs, quotes Corsi too (and he's a racist thug)," etc., etc.  I wish this had been on the front page of the WaPo, the NYT, and the LAT, and leading Dan Rather's and Tom Brokaw's nightly news broadcasts, a month ago.  It wasn't — and that in itself is an ugly story.

Yet these are direct quotes, on the record and with attribution, from someone of spotless record who demonstrably was in a position to have personal knowledge of whether John Kerry was attempting to get an originally less than fully honorable discharge upgraded.  Former Navy Secretary Middendorf just can't — because of the privacy laws that Sen. Kerry is hiding behind — simply come out and tell what he knows while Kerry continues to stonewall on signing Standard Form 180.

But this is a pretty broad hint.  In fact, it couldn't get any broader without breaking the law.

Can America take a hint?

Posted by Beldar at 05:06 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (37)

Today's NY Sun article on Kerry's discharge status

Reporter Thomas Lipscomb's article in today's New York Sun — which Big Trunk at Power Line correctly describes as the "capstone of a series of pieces this year that should earn him a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism" —  is entitled "Kerry's Discharge Is Questioned by an Ex-JAG Officer."  The lede:

A former officer in the Navy's Judge Advocate General Corps Reserve has built a case that Senator Kerry was other than honorably discharged from the Navy by 1975, The New York Sun has learned.

This article builds and expands upon Mr. Lipscomb's October 13th article in the Sun, which has since been moved to a subscription-only archive.  I blogged at considerable length about that article, with meaty quotes, in a post entitled "Was Kerry's original discharge less than honorable?" and no doubt Mr. Lipscomb's October 13th article can be found in full various other places on the net.  My commenters have done a commendable job of providing additional links and arguments, pro and con, both on my original thread and in a newer one from last Friday.  If you have the patience to parse through Mr. Lipscomb's two articles and my two prior posts and their comments, I daresay you'll be about as well informed as any layman in the country on the question of whether an inferential case can be built that Sen. Kerry's original discharge was less than fully honorable — based on the records reproduced on Sen. Kerry's website and the records that experts say should be there, but aren't, if Sen. Kerry's original discharge was indeed fully honorable.  What Mr. Lipscomb's article today adds to the inferential case are the opinions of Navy lawyers — JAG lawyers — who have first-hand experience in dealing with these regulations and procedures from within the Navy Department that I certainly lack. 

What fascinates me most about Mr. Lipscomb's new article, however, is this quote — purportedly based on first-hand recollection rather than inference (boldface added):

Certainly something was wrong as early as 1973 when Mr. Kerry was applying to law school.

Mr. Kerry has said, "I applied to Harvard, Boston University, and Boston College. I was extremely late. Only BC would entertain a late application."

It is hard to see why Mr. Kerry had to file an "extremely late" application since he lost the congressional race in Lowell, Mass., the first week of November 1972 and was basically doing nothing until he entered law school the following September of 1973. A member of the Harvard Law School admissions committee recalled that the real reason Mr. Kerry was not admitted was because the committee was concerned that because Mr. Kerry had received a less than honorable discharge they were not sure he could be admitted to any state bar.

Both law school and bar applications require quite comprehensive disclosures from the applicants and inquire specifically about past military service and the conditions of the applicant's discharge.  And given young John Kerry's then-existing fame, it is entirely unsurprising that a member of Harvard Law School's admissions committee would clearly remember discussing the circumstances of his application, even thirty-odd years later.  On its face, then, this report from Mr. Lipscomb's source definitely qualifies as someone with first-hand knowledge of Sen. Kerry's application and his statements therein about the character of his then-existing discharge status.

But is the source reliable?  I'm quite certain that Mr. Lipscomb, and his editors at the Sun, would have much preferred to use an on-the-record quotation attributed to his source by name.  However, the reasons why such a source would decline to speak on the record and for attribution are obvious:  although probably not protected by legal teeth comparable to those in the federal privacy laws that govern Sen. Kerry's military records, both Sen. Kerry's application and the Harvard Law School admissions committee's deliberations on it were undoubtedly considered by the committee to be confidential, both in the interests of the applicant and of the institution.  Whether one characterizes this source as a deplorable "leaker" or a courageous "whistleblower" largely depends, of course, on one's political predispositions.  But either way, this clearly is a classic example of a situation in which reporters have traditionally relied upon and reported information from confidential sources.

Here's another important bit from Mr. Lipscomb's article:

Kerry spokesman David Wade did not reply when asked if Mr. Kerry was other than honorably discharged before he was honorably discharged.

If I'd asked the same question of the Kerry campaign — here on my blog, or in an email or a telephone call — the campaign would have almost certainly ignored me.  But there can be no doubt that the Kerry campaign is aware of Mr. Lipscomb (who, I'm told, earned his spurs as a journalist at the New York Times) and his previous reporting on Sen. Kerry's military record in the Sun and the Chicago Sun-Times, and they've explicitly responded to his questions and reacted to his reporting in the past.  The odds that the Kerry campaign simply ignored Mr. Lipscomb's inquiry altogether (as they would have my own) are therefore nil.  Rather, Sen. Kerry and his surrogates deliberately decided not to respond.  If Sen. Kerry's original discharge was fully honorable — if the Harvard Law School admissions committee member is mistaken or lying, and if the inferential case argued from Sen. Kerry's records is mistaken — why did the Kerry campaign not simply flatly answer with an affirmative assertion that his original discharge was fully honorable?

You don't have to be a crusty old trial lawyer, with many seasons of cross-examining reluctant witnesses, to spot that as a huge red flag and draw appropriate inferences from it.  But the Kerry campaign — perhaps correctly, if audaciously — is gambling that because Mr. Lipscomb's article is in the New York Sun instead of in the New York Times, no significant portion of the voting public will notice. 

John Kerry is stonewalling, and he's gambling that he'll get away with it, at least through the close of the last poll tomorrow.

Posted by Beldar at 09:14 AM in Law (2006 & earlier), Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (43)

Friday, October 29, 2004

Rumor mill buzzing on Kerry's discharge status

Update (Sat Oct. 30 @ 12:50am): This rumor hasn't yet panned out, as acknowledged by its original source, and may or may not ever pan out; see Update #3 below if you want the details.  I'm leaving the original text of this post in the extended entry/archive version, marked with strikethroughs.

If the rumor is not true, of course, it could be definitively proved so were Sen. Kerry to sign Standard Form 180.  That probably isn't going to happen, at least not before the election.  One remains free to draw whatever inferences one thinks are justified based on Sen. Kerry's refusal, but they are, at best, only inferences — in this context, guesses.  — Beldar

-----[original post and numbered updates follow]-----

My email inbox is brimming. 

Yes, I'm aware that there are rumors buzzing about a breaking big story on Sen. Kerry's Navy discharge, about which I last wrote in a post entitled "Was Kerry's original discharge less than honorable?" on October 13th.  My conclusion then was that records analyzed by reporter Thomas Lipscomb in a New York Sun article could support the hypothesis that Sen. Kerry received something other than a full-fledged honorable discharge.  But as you'll see if you read my comments thread, there were lots of contrary arguments as well.  And as I recognized in my last update to that post, there was at least one other plausible contrary inference from the records — equally speculative — that could have explained what seemed to be an odd statutory reference in a page from Kerry's records displayed on his campaign website.

The immediate source of the rumors is a [since-pulled —  see updates below] post by "NavyChief" on the SwiftVets site (but their server is likely to be overwhelmed shortly):

Okay, folks.

We got it finally. We have the Former Secretary of the Navy who stated, "Yes, Kerry did receive an Other Than Honorable Discharge".

Stay tuned for more...

Now to MAKE THE MEDIA AND CONGRESS LISTEN!

Go my brothers and sisters -- spread the news to everyone!!!!

- Chief

PoliPundit, Power Line, and Redstate all have threads up, plus check the Trackback link from Power Line and also the Trackbacks to my post here.

I have no inside info at this point, although I would not be surprised if, as PoliPundit's post suggests, this rumor may refer to something about to be published by Mr. Lipscomb.  I know he's been continuing to work on the story, but I don't know any details. 

I repeat that these are, at this stage, rumors, and I humbly request that anyone linking this post make clear that such is my present opinion. 

Based on my past experience with him and reading of his work, though, like many others, I've found NavyChief — a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer and father of five named Troy Jenkins from San Antonio, who's included (at about the 3-minute, 55-second mark) in the fourth of the SwiftVets' "mini-documentaries" released yesterday, entitled "No Man Left Behind (Pt. 1)" — to be a diligent, bright, and knowledgeable fellow.  Like all of us, he's human, and he's occasionally stumbled in his digging through Kerry's records, but when he's done so, he's acknowledged it quickly.  His new post on the SwiftVets site certainly indicates, however, that this is more than an inference drawn from records — and instead a former Navy Secretary, speaking, one would presume, from personal knowledge.  (See also this very provocative post, from a blogger I'm unacquainted with and hence cannot vouch for even by reputation.)

As they say ... "developing."  If this falls through, I'll be among the first to concede that point.  If it pans out, I admit that I'll be tickled pink.

---------------------

Update #1 (Fri Oct 29 @ 2:35pm):  The original thread on the SwiftVets forum has been pulled.  Make of that what you will; I don't know what to make of it, but it would seem to be equally consistent with either (1) a glitch in the story that casts doubt upon it or (2) a desire to release the story in a less haphazard fashion.

---------------------

Update #2 (Fri Oct 29 @ 2:52pm):  This thread suggests that NavyChief's post was pulled because it represented his personal statement rather than something that the SwiftVets organization is yet ready to be identified with:

We have been advised that material was recently posted to this forum referencing the nature of John Kerry's discharge from the military service. That material has been deleted from this forum.

Please be advised that posts made to this forum express the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Swift Vets and POWs for Truth.

That strikes me as prudent at this point, regardless of whether the rumor turns out to be well-founded or not.  This is still just a rumor.

---------------------

Update #3 (Sat Oct 30 @ 12:50am):  From a post on the SwiftVets forums from NavyChief:

New information has developed on Kerry's Discharge. We have been proven correct in our assertions, however without the proper folks coming forward this will not be public until after the elections.

- Chief

---------------------

Update #4 (Sat Oct 30 @ 3:18am):  D'oh!  A sharp-eyed reader emailed me to note that the link just above is a very old one going back to Thursday, Oct. 28th.  Mea culpa maxima.  I'm not sure what the current status of efforts/research is, but we still seem to be somewhere in the rumors stage.

Posted by Beldar at 02:21 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (81)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

SwiftVets release five powerful new "must-view!" videos

This, obviously, isn't the post I teased about below; I'm still working on that one.  But wow.  Wow x 5!  And this won't wait.

You may think you're "SwiftVetted out."  You may have made up your mind one way or the other — you believe 'em, you disbelieve 'em, you think it doesn't make a damn one way or the other.

But if you have any opinion whatever on the SwiftVets and the allegations they've made about Sen. John Kerry's war record, you need to spend the few minutes it takes to watch each of the five short video clips — "mini-documentaries" — that you can access here.

John O'Neill, as he has throughout, serves as spokesman and narrator.  But most of the videos are composed of extended statements by eyewitnesses to each of the events being discussed (which O'Neill concededly is not, and has never claimed to be).  I'm tremendously impressed with all five. 

The first one, entitled "The Sampan Coverup," covers the least well-known of the incidents — a night encounter on 20Jan69 with a sampan that Kerry, who wasn't paying attention to his Swift Boat's radar, had allowed to approach too close without warning his crewmen.  When Kerry's crew noticed the sampan and lit it up with a spotlight, Gunners Mate Steve Gardner, manning the twin .50-caliber machine guns in the gun tub atop the Swift Boat, saw a man aboard the sampan run over to grab an AK-47.  Gardner explains in the video that he opened fire, killing the man and causing damage to the sampan that would result in it sinking within seconds.  But the crewmen then saw, to their collective horror, that in addition to the man who'd been going for the AK-47, Gardner's shots had killed a young boy around 10 years of age.  The crew rescued a woman and her small baby before the sampan sank.  Gardner says in the video — his voice thick with emotion, in what must have been an incredibly difficult statement for him to make — "There was only two people killed in the boat, and I killed both of them, and I'll take that to my grave with me."  But the child's death might not have happened had Kerry been paying attention to the radar.  Regardless of that, it was a tragedy that should have been reported.  Instead, Kerry falsely wrote the event up as a great victory — two VC captured in action, and five (!) killed. 

The second video, "Christmas in Cambodia," covers territory (so to speak) that's now familiar to anyone who's been following the controversy, but like a "Greatest Hits" reprise, it's still entertaining.  The third, entitled "John Kerry's first Purple Heart," is likewise familiar, but worth watching especially for the eyewitness statements of Skip Hibbard and Louis Letson about how they'd refused Kerry's request for the medal.  Captain Charley Plumley is presented as "speaking for" Adm. Bill Schachte; I wish they could have persuaded Adm. Schachte to speak out again in person, although what Plumley relates is exactly the same as what Schachte himself reported to Lisa Myers and Bill Novak.

The stars of the quintet, though, to my mind, are the fourth and fifth videos, both covering the Bay Hap River action that resulted in Kerry's Bronze Star and third Purple Heart.  (Kerry's Silver Star isn't covered by any of these five.)  And oh! Calm thyself, Beldar's heart!  For whether prompted by my suggestion back on September 6th or not, these clips include animated graphics that exactly match the multiple eyewitnesses' telling of the sequence of events and the locations and actions of the various boats.  In particular, the "5000 meters of enemy fire" claim is exposed to be completely ridiculous.  And another point that suddenly became clear to me for the first time while watching these videos was that the whole group of boats was traveling down-river, and continued moving down-river after the first mine explosion while the rescue of PCF 3 and its crew took place.

The production values on all five videos are okay — neither flashy nor crude enough to be noticeable.  There's a sad trumpet and snare-drum background score, with occasional intercuts of blow-ups from documents and some generic stock footage of Swift Boats zooming down-river or peasants in sampans, just to break up what would otherwise be nonstop "talking heads." 

But with the exception of the extremely helpful (and therefore powerfully persuasive) graphics mentioned above, these videos are mostly indeed about the personal stories of the men telling them.  Their credibility is on the line, and it's important that you get a fair chance to size them up — to hear them speak in the way real humans tell what's happened (instead of like actors or, God forbid, politicians).   As someone who sizes up witnesses and the truthfulness of their testimony for a living, I continue to be impressed by the dignity and inherent credibility of these men when they're allowed to simply tell what they know, without interruption and without some maniac shouting "Creepy liar!" to drown them out.

Remember when the SwiftVets' controversy first broke back in August, and there were threats of defamation litigation from the Kerry camp?  That was all bluff, of course, as I said at the time.  But watching these clips, I continue to ache for the opportunity for someone — some reasonably competent trial lawyers — to develop these controversies in the methodical fashion we use in courtrooms.  Could a seasoned Kerry advocate land some blows if he were allowed to cross-examine the men you see in these videos?  Yes, of course.  But in very vivid contrast to the men from Kerry's "band of brothers, these guys speak out at length, in detail, and without falling back on stock "talking points."  I think they'd eagerly agree to be grilled under oath and in a public spotlight, provided that their counterparts from the Kerry campaign were similarly subject to close questioning.  I've got a pretty good idea whose fleet of witnesses would end up shredded by skilled cross-examination, and whose would still be steaming proudly.

Update (Fri Oct 29 @ 3:30pm):  I neglected to note that the entire "Stolen Honor" documentary can also now be viewed for free, in multiple streaming video formats, from their website.

Posted by Beldar at 06:00 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (33)

Friday, October 22, 2004

NYT review of "Stolen Honor"

Like many others (e.g., InstaPundit, Just One Minute, Smash, and PrestoPundit), I was surprised to see this generally sympathetic review of "Stolen Honor" in the NYT — especially this beginning statement:

"Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," the highly contested anti-Kerry documentary, should not be shown by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. It should be shown in its entirety on all the networks, cable stations and on public television.

I'm less surprised after pondering it a bit, however.  The rebound risks from attacking ex-POWs are frankly higher than from attacking the Swiftees who've joined the SwiftVets' campaign, and the folks who've tried — with comments to the effect of, "Well, those POWs weren't really tortured all that much" or "there really were atrocities committed by the American military in Vietnam" — have done Sen. Kerry's campaign no favors.  This NYT review is consistent with the smarter pro-Kerry strategy of saying, in effect, "Well sure the ex-POWs are miffed, and they have understandable hard feelings about the way the American public treated them upon their return,  but that's an old grudge that really doesn't have much to do with Kerry's current fitness to be President."

I'm still miffed, however, that after finally admitting its repeated errors in describing Kerry as having met with "both sides" in Paris, the NYT continues to repeat its separate mistake about whether his trip was secret:

The imagery is crude, but powerful: each mention of Mr. Kerry's early 1970's meeting with North Vietnamese government officials in Paris is illustrated with an old black-and-white still shot of the Arc de Triomphe, an image that to many viewers evokes the Nazi occupation of Paris. The Eiffel Tower would have been more neutral, but the film is not: it insists that Mr. Kerry "met secretly in an undisclosed location with a top enemy diplomat." Actually, Mr. Kerry, a leading antiwar activist at the time, mentioned it in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971.

The clear inference here is that Kerry was forthright about revealing the details of his Paris trip.  Yet   he's been anything but.  As I've previously written, Kerry's first trip to Paris to meet with the enemy was in May 1970, immediately after his marriage.  His Fulbright Committee testimony didn't come until almost a year later, in April 1971.  If there's any record of Kerry revealing that trip to Paris to the public prior to his Fulbright Committee testimony, I haven't seen it. 

Rather, as far as I can tell — and I'd welcome any further or contrary information, with links, from any of my readers — the May 1970 trip was a secret at the time it was made and for almost a year afterwards; and later, it was pointedly left out of both Brinkley's biography and the Kranish et al. biography, as well as Kerry's campaign website.  By April 1971, Kerry and the VVAW certainly knew they were under investigation by the FBI, according to rabidly pro-Kerry and pro-protest movement historian Gerald Nicosia.  My strong hunch is that Kerry mentioned it in his Fulbright Committee testimony because he expected details to be leaked by the Nixon administration to try to discredit him, and decided — to use a trial lawyer metaphor — to pull the teeth on this monster himself, before it bit him.

And of course, the NYT still ignores Nicosia's claim (based on FBI records released on the basis of Nicosia's Freedom of Information Act request) that Kerry made at least one other trip to Paris to meet with the enemy.  The dates and details of that trip, if Nicosia's right, continue to be secret — which I continue to find outrageous.

Posted by Beldar at 02:58 AM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (41)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

No word whether the goose was in a loincloth

John Kerry went hunting.  "Now here's where the story gets strange, as only a John Kerry story can get," explains Radio Blogger, and he's right.

Posted by Beldar at 10:12 PM in Humor, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (10)

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Koppel vs. O'Neill: Nightline goes to Vietnam

I'm late in blogging about ABC News' "Nightline" segment this week on Kerry's Silver Star.  Despite helpful heads-ups from several emailers, I missed all but the tail end of the broadcast — Koppel's verbal firefight with John O'Neill — because I was watching the Astros lose.  However, I've read more than a dozen blog posts from both left- and right-leaning blogs — including Captain's Quarters, Tom Maguire, INDC Journal, Wizbang!, Patterico, PrestoPundit, Demosophia, Watcher of Weasels, Andrew Sullivan, Kevin Drum, Josh Marshall, and Linkmeister —  and the ABC News websight's version and John O'Neill's statement on the SwiftVets' website.  (If someone has a link to the full video somewhere, I'd appreciate a link.)

I don't fault, but rather commend, ABC News for attempting to do some original investigative journalism "on the scene."  But at least two initial points about that need to be emphasized. 

  • Most importantly, while ABC News invested a great deal of time and money going to Vietnam, they've failed to exhaust, plumb, or even scratch the surface of trying to do any investigative reporting here in the United States.  It's not only that they've failed to interview pro-SwiftVets eyewitnesses, but also that they've also failed to interview pro-Kerry eyewitnesses — and no one, from either side of the debate, can seriously defend their failure to do that.  Indeed, they failed to review, summarize, or even reference what others have reported — including, notably, the eyewitness account given by their fellow mainstream media source, Chicago Tribune editor William B. Rood — and that's simply inexcusably sloppy.
  • Next, ABC News made only passing and oblique references to the fact that their reporting from Vietnam was done at the pleasure of, through cooperation with, and subject to deliberately injected bias from, the Vietnamese government — indeed, with a "watcher" on the scene from that government who had the power to reward or retaliate against the individuals whom they interviewed.  John O'Neill's protests to Ted Koppel that ABC News' interviews took place in a "closed society" were way too mild.  The totalitarian government of Vietnam has a direct stake in the outcome of the upcoming U.S. presidential election:  Not only was John Kerry, their candidate of choice, the leading U.S. critic of America's participation in the war among all U.S. combat veterans, but he also has been, as a senator, the leading proponent of normalization and increased trade ties with Vietnam in the post-war era.  The North Vietnamese (with guidance from, and in cooperation with, the KGB) were incredibly clever at exploiting American anti-war sentiment — they got America out of Vietnam by using useful fools like John Kerry in the first place.  It's unfortunately not metaphoric to describe ABC News' interviewees — the supposedly disinterested peasants described so enthusiastically by Koppel — as "testifying at gunpoint."  That doesn't necessarily mean they were lying, but any remotely fairminded journalistic effort should have carefully considered that situation — and should have reported clearly on the bias it very likely injected into their efforts.

That noted, my main reaction to the ABC News reporting is one of continuing, mouth-foaming frustration.  ABC News made only the most clumsy efforts at doing what every lawyer is required to do for every single witness who testifies in court, and what every reporter should likewise do before reporting a purported witness' story:  laying a foundation to show personal knowledge.  ABC News' apparent standard:  If the government minder let them talk to someone who appeared to be ethnically Vietnamese and was within range of their cameras and microphones, then each such person's claim to have personal knowledge was accepted as gospel.  Yes, of course it's difficult — it requires persistence — to separately qualify each such witness.  But the facts that the events occurred long ago, that they took place during combat, that there are language barriers, that there is a government watcher present — all these factors counsel more careful qualification of the purported eyewitnesses, not less.

By every previous account — except the abbreviated ones in Kerry's Silver Star citation — there were two separate locations involved.  In the ABC News website version, there's but a single, fleeting reference to that critical fact.  At the initial, main ambush location, the Swift Boats offloaded dozens and dozens of Ruff Puff infantry to chase down and kill the enemy who were present, and the Swift Boats themselves expended an enormous amount of lethal ordnance.  That's where the enemy KIAs — other than Kerry's single prey — were reported.  It's extremely doubtful that even at that location, the American and South Vietnamese forces faced a numerically superior enemy or overwhelming incoming fire.  But unless every American eyewitness is lying through his teeth, at the second location — the only location where Kerry did anything arguably more valorous than what every man jack aboard every one of the (undecorated) officers and crew of the Swift Boats did — there were fewer enemy soldiers and considerably less enemy fire.  How many fewer enemy and how much less fire?  The ABC News reporting shed essentially no light on that subject because either through sloppy reporting or willful conflation, it didn't make the critical distinctions necessary to draw meaningful conclusions.

Andrew Sullivan calls this an "excellent reporting job."  Mr. Sullivan, other than the fact that it was done in a far-off country, can you point to a single aspect of this reporting that was "excellent," or even minimally competent?

Time-lines.  Maps and diagrams.  Lists of individual witnesses, thoroughly annotated to show their opportunities to observe, their qualifications to appreciate what was happening, and their possible biases.  Physical evidence (or reports thereof, like boat damage reports, ordnance expenditures).  If you're going to make any credible effort to "pierce the fog of war," that's how you have to go about it.  Compare, for example, the care and detail that's gone into reconstructions of what happened at Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963 — not just in the years since, but in the days after.  Compare, for that matter, the kind of investigation that Hollywood writers dream up for any average episode of "Dragnet" or "CSI: Miami" or "Law and Order."  By any serious or responsible standard — journalistic standards, much less courtroom standards — this bit of reporting was a shallow, ridiculous joke of an effort. 

It makes me nauseous to think that an American presidential election might be influenced by such ham-handed hackery.  Any principled and half-competent cub reporter, any first-year law student, any backcountry magistrate, would be ashamed to turn in such an effort.

Posted by Beldar at 02:34 AM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (24)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Eighth and ninth SwiftVets ads feature 90 heroes, including Medal of Honor-winning ex-POW

Mike Krempasky at Redstate.org has a scoop — the scripts for the about-to-be-released eighth and ninth SwiftVets ads. 

The first of these two new ads apparently will feature ninety Swiftees and ex-POWs gathered en masse to demonstrate their conviction that Sen. Kerry is unfit to be commander in chief.  The second includes ex-POW and Congressional Medal of Honor winner Bud Day, one of America's most highly decorated pilots.  Mike reports that these spots will appear, among other places, on "Monday Night Football," and will be previewed tonight by Brit Hume on Fox.

Sen. Kerry will doubtless continue to try to brush these ads off as the work of right-wing cranks, and some folks will doubtless continue to buy into that defense.  But ninety highly decorated veterans, men who look like your father or grandfather or husband or brother — enough men to field ten baseball teams; seven and a half dozen heroes — all standing tall and defiant and very disapproving.  I'd love to see Sen. Kerry try to stare them down in person.

Update (Wed Oct 13 @ 11:10pm):  All of the SwiftVets' ads, including the new ones, can be viewed here.  Watch them both.  Look at their clothes — ranging from bankers' conservative suits to laborers' Sunday best.  Look at their faces — and think about how glad you'd be to see any of them, as a young man, sharing your foxhole. 

Look at Bud Day, in his flight jacket and his Medal of Honor, and listen to him deliver, in measured, deadly serious tones, this simple, devastating question: 

"How can you expect our sons and daughters to follow you, when you condemned their fathers and grandfathers?"

   

I'd pay a lot of money for a video of John Kerry's face as he watched these ads for the first time.

Update (Thu Oct 14 @ 1:15am):  Wow.  WaPo has a page A4 article about the new ads in Thursday's edition that's actually pretty fair.  It even quotes Bud Day's line.

Posted by Beldar at 03:16 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (16)

Dean Esmay interview with Captain George Elliott

Dean's World has another nice piece of original, investigative blogger-journalism up — an interview with retired Navy Captain George Elliott.  (Hat-tip INDC Journal.)

As I've written before at some length (here, here, and here), Captain Elliott's views on his former subordinate John Kerry have been vigorously twisted by the Boston Globe and the Kerry campaign to make them appear to be inconsistent.  Read Dean Esmay's interview, and decide for yourself if they are.

Posted by Beldar at 01:41 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (1)

Was Kerry's original discharge less than honorable?

In a front-page article in today's New York Sun entitled "Mystery Surrounds Kerry's Navy Discharge," reporter Thomas Lipscomb asserts that in all probability, Sen. John F. Kerry originally received a less-than-honorable discharge from the United States Naval Reserve — a discharge that was only upgraded to honorable after President Carter's 1977 executive order proclaiming a presidential amnesty for Vietnam War resisters.

My purpose in this post is to provide links to and more extended quotes from the documents that Mr. Lipscomb's article references for those who are interested in assessing this assertion, and of course my own admittedly tentative take on these issues.  [Update: Be sure to read through to my 5:25pm update below for a speculative, innocuous scenario possibly involving section 1163(a) — Beldar.]

I.  The Claytor document

Mr. Lipscomb's assertion begins with this document from John Kerry's website, described there as Kerry's "Honorable Discharge From Reserve."  Dated February 16, 1978, and issued in the name of Carter administration Secretary of the Navy W. Graham Claytor, it provides:

Subj: Honorable Discharge from the U.S. Naval Reserve
Ref: (a) Title 10, U.S. Code, Section 1162
(b) Title 10, U.S. Code, Section 1163
(c) BUPERSMAN 3830380
Encl: (1) Honorable Discharge Certificate

1.  By direction of the President, and pursuant to reference (a), you are hereby honorably discharged from the U.S. Naval Reserve effective this date.

2.  This action is taken in accordance with the approved recommendations of a board of officers convened under authority of reference (b) to examine the official records of officers of the Naval Reserve on inactive duty and determine whether they should be retained on the records of the Reserve Component or separated from the naval service pursuant to Secretarial Instructions promulgated in reference (c).

3.  The Navy Department at this time expresses its appreciation of your past services and trusts that you will continue your interest in the naval service.

There's another 1978 document on the Kerry website, labeled "Acceptance of Discharge Naval Reserve," that as best I can tell simply reflects Sen. Kerry's acceptance of the Claytor letter.

II. Former sections 1162 and 1163 of
Title 10  of the United States Code

As part of a reorganization of the relevant portions of Title 10, sections 1162 and 1163 were repealed effective December 1, 1994, and because their text no longer appears in the current United States Code, they're somewhat hard to locate.  However, with some digging using Lexis/Nexis, one can determine that as in effect from 1956 through 1994, 10 U.S.C. § 1162 read:

(a) Subject to the other provisions of this title, reserve commissioned officers may be discharged at the pleasure of the President.  Other Reserves may be discharged under regulations prescribed by the Secretary concerned.

(b) Under regulations to be prescribed by the Secretary of Defense, a Reserve who becomes a regular or ordained minister of religion is entitled upon his request to a discharge from his reserve enlistment or appointment.

Since Kerry was not a regular or ordained minister, section 1162(b) can't have applied.  Rather, the first sentence of section 1162(a), pertaining to "reserve commissioned officers," was what the first numbered paragraph in the Claytor document must be referencing, and stands for nothing more than the unremarkable proposition that the President has authority to discharge reserve commissioned officers.

Where things get interesting, however, is the second numbered paragraph of the Claytor document quoted above, and in particular its reference to the "approved recommendations of a board of officers convened under authority of [section 1163] to examine the official records of officers of the Naval Reserve on inactive duty and determine whether they should be retained on the records of the Reserve Component or separated from the naval service ...."  As in effect from 1956 through 1994, 10 U.S.C. § 1163 read:

(a) An officer of a reserve component who has at least three years of service as a commissioned officer may not be separated from that component without his consent except under an approved recommendation of a board of officers convened by an authority designated by the Secretary concerned, or by the approved sentence of a court-martial. This subsection does not apply to a separation under subsection (b) of this section or under section 1003 of this title, to a dismissal under section 1161 (a) of this title, or to a transfer under section 3352 or 8352 of this title.

(b) The President or the Secretary concerned may drop from the rolls of the armed force concerned any Reserve (1) who has been absent without authority for at least three months, or (2) who is sentenced to confinement in a Federal or State penitentiary or correctional institution after having been found guilty of
an offense by a court other than a court-martial or other military court, and whose sentence has become final.

(c) A member of a reserve component who is separated therefrom for cause, except under subsection (b), is entitled to a discharge under honorable conditions unless —

(1) he is discharged under conditions other than honorable under an approved sentence of a court-martial or under the approved findings of a board of officers convened by an authority designated by the Secretary concerned; or

(2) he consents to a discharge under conditions other than honorable with a waiver of proceedings of a court-martial or a board.

(d) Under regulations to be prescribed by the Secretary concerned, which shall be as uniform as practicable, a member of a reserve component who is on active duty (other than for training) and is within two years of becoming eligible for retired pay or retainer pay under a purely military retirement
system, may not be involuntarily released from that duty before he becomes eligible for that pay, unless his release is approved by the Secretary.

Unfortunately, I've been unable to locate the text of the third reference from the Claytor document, "BUPERSMAN 3830380," which I presume to have been a Bureau of Personnel Manual  regulation.  [Update: see James Lederer's and Cecil Turner's helpful comments and links below, which I've edited this text to conform to — Beldar]

III.  Mr. Lipscomb's arguments from the Claytor
document and sections 1162 and 1163

Here's Mr. Lipscomb's analysis of how the Claytor document and the two relevant statutes lead to inferences about Sen. Kerry's original discharge and possible later upgrade:

An official Navy document on Senator Kerry's campaign Web site listed as Mr. Kerry's "Honorable Discharge from the Reserves" opens a door on a well kept secret about his military service.

The document is a form cover letter in the name of the Carter administration's secretary of the Navy, W. Graham Claytor. It describes Mr. Kerry's discharge as being subsequent to the review of "a board of officers." This in itself is unusual. There is nothing about an ordinary honorable discharge action in the Navy that requires a review by a board of officers.

According to the secretary of the Navy's document, the "authority of reference" this board was using in considering Mr. Kerry's record was "Title 10, U.S. Code Section 1162 and 1163." This section refers to the grounds for involuntary separation from the service. What was being reviewed, then, was Mr. Kerry's involuntary separation from the service. And it couldn't have been an honorable discharge, or there would have been no point in any review at all. The review was likely held to improve Mr. Kerry's status of discharge from a less than honorable discharge to an honorable discharge.

After noting that the Kerry campaign had not replied to his inquiry about "whether Mr. Kerry had ever been a victim of an attempt to deny him an honorable discharge," Mr. Lipscomb discusses how a less-than-honorable discharge — one that would need further processing in 1978 to be upgraded to honorable — might have come about in the first place:

The document is dated February 16, 1978. But Mr. Kerry's military commitment began with his six-year enlistment contract with the Navy on February 18, 1966. His commitment should have terminated in 1972. It is highly unlikely that either the man who at that time was a Vietnam Veterans Against the War leader, John Kerry, requested or the Navy accepted an additional six year reserve commitment. And the Claytor document indicates proceedings to reverse a less than honorable discharge that took place sometime prior to February 1978.

The most routine time for Mr. Kerry's discharge would have been at the end of his six-year obligation, in 1972. But how was it most likely to have come about?

NBC's release this March of some of the Nixon White House tapes about Mr. Kerry show a great deal of interest in Mr. Kerry by Nixon and his executive staff, including, perhaps most importantly, Nixon's special counsel, Charles Colson. In a meeting the day after Mr. Kerry's Senate testimony, April 23, 1971, Mr. Colson attacks Mr. Kerry as a "complete opportunist...We'll keep hitting him, Mr. President."

Mr. Colson was still on the case two months later, according to a memo he wrote on June 15,1971, that was brought to the surface by the Houston Chronicle. "Let's destroy this young demagogue before he becomes another Ralph Nader." Nixon had been a naval officer in World War II. Mr. Colson was a former Marine captain. Mr. Colson had been prodded to find "dirt" on Mr. Kerry, but reported that he couldn't find any.

The Nixon administration ran FBI surveillance on Mr. Kerry from September 1970 until August 1972. Finding grounds for an other than honorable discharge, however, for a leader of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, given his numerous activities while still a reserve officer of the Navy, was easier than finding "dirt."

For example, while America was still at war, Mr. Kerry had met with the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong delegation to the Paris Peace talks in May 1970 and then held a demonstration in July 1971 in Washington to try to get Congress to accept the enemy's seven point peace proposal without a single change. Woodrow Wilson threw Eugene Debs, a former presidential candidate, in prison just for demonstrating for peace negotiations with Germany during World War I. No court overturned his imprisonment. He had to receive a pardon from President Harding.

Mr. Colson refused to answer any questions about his activities regarding Mr. Kerry during his time in the Nixon White House. The secretary of the Navy at the time during the Nixon presidency is the current chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Warner. A spokesman for the senator, John Ullyot, said, "Senator Warner has no recollection that would either confirm or challenge any representation that Senator Kerry received a less than honorable discharge."

Mr. Lipscomb next explains how the amnesty issued by President Carter may have facilitated an upgrade in 1978 if indeed Sen. Kerry's original discharge was less than honorable:

The "board of officers" review reported in the Claytor document is even more extraordinary because it came about "by direction of the President." No normal honorable discharge requires the direction of the president. The president at that time was James Carter. This adds another twist to the story of Mr. Kerry's hidden military records.

Mr. Carter's first act as president was a general amnesty for draft dodgers and other war protesters. Less than an hour after his inauguration on January 21, 1977, while still in the Capitol building, Mr. Carter signed Executive Order 4483 empowering it. By the time it became a directive from the Defense Department in March 1977 it had been expanded to include other offenders who may have had general, bad conduct, dishonorable discharges, and any other discharge or sentence with negative effect on military records. In those cases the directive outlined a procedure for appeal on a case by case basis before a board of officers. A satisfactory appeal would result in an improvement of discharge status or an honorable discharge....

There are a number of categories of discharges besides honorable. There are general discharges, medical discharges, bad conduct discharges, as well as other than honorable and dishonorable discharges. There is one odd coincidence that gives some weight to the possibility that Mr. Kerry was dishonorably discharged. Mr. Kerry has claimed that he lost his medal certificates and that is why he asked that they be reissued. But when a dishonorable discharge is issued, all pay benefits, and allowances, and all medals and honors are revoked as well. And five months after Mr. Kerry joined the U.S. Senate in 1985, on one single day, June 4, all of Mr. Kerry's medals were reissued.

Mr. Lipscomb also notes that to confirm or refute his chain of inferences, one would need Sen. Kerry's 1972-era records that could be expected to give details on whatever it was that the 1978 board proceedings were reviewing:

Mr. Kerry has repeatedly refused to sign Standard Form 180, which would allow the release of all his military records. And some of his various spokesmen have claimed that all his records are already posted on his Web site. But the Washington Post already noted that the Naval Personnel Office admitted that they were still withholding about 100 pages of files.

Mr. Lipscomb's reference here is most likely to Michael Dobb's August 22nd WaPo article, which reported:

Although Kerry campaign officials insist that they have published Kerry's full military records on their Web site (with the exception of medical records shown briefly to reporters earlier this year), they have not permitted independent access to his original Navy records. A Freedom of Information Act request by The Post for Kerry's records produced six pages of information. A spokesman for the Navy Personnel Command, Mike McClellan, said he was not authorized to release the full file, which consists of at least a hundred pages.

The Navy Department also confirmed that it has unreleased records that aren't on the Kerry website in response to the Judicial Watch complaint.

IV. Beldar's take on Mr. Lipscomb's article

Rumors, supposition, and yes, inuendo about whether Sen. Kerry may have received a less-than-honorable discharge have swirled through the blogosphere at least since August, when the SwiftVets' ad campaign kicked off.  However, in previous articles published by the New York Sun and the Chicago Sun Times, Mr. Lipscomb has previously provided serious original investigative reporting on, for example, Sen. Kerry's documented attendance at VVAW meetings where assassinations of American political figures were seriously discussed, Sen. Kerry's re-issued Silver Star citation, the Navy Department's consideration of the Judicial Watch complaint, and the likely authorship of the 13Mar39 after-action report that likely was the basis for Kerry's Bronze Star and third Purple Heart.  His latest effort is another serious attempt to probe the mysteries of Kerry's military record that most reporters, and certainly that Kerry-friend biographers like Doug Brinkley, have persistently ignored.

Are the inferences Mr. Lipscomb makes in this latest article justified?  Quite frankly, I lack the personal military background, and the familiarity with either the normal or unusual workings of military separation proceedings, to draw a confident conclusion or argue it here. 

But I'm certainly intrigued — indeed, that's too mild a word — by Mr. Lipscomb's reporting.  And there's no doubt that the Kerry campaign and Sen. Kerry himself are stonewalling.  If there is a contrary explanation for the odd timing of Sen. Kerry's honorable discharge, and documents to support that explanation, Sen. Kerry should come forward with them.  As Mr. Lipscomb's article points out, if indeed Sen. Kerry received a less-than-honorable discharge as the result of his antiwar activities while still a commissioned officer in the Naval Reserve, "one might have expected him to wear it like a badge of honor" — although that spin would certainly be questioned by others who remain unpersuaded by the rationales that prompted President Carter's blanket amnesty in 1977 and, possibly, the upgrading of Sen. Kerry's discharge to honorable status in 1978 if in fact that's what happened.  And others who agreed with President Carter's actions may still, in weighing Sen. Kerry's overall military record, find it significant if in fact Sen. Kerry's original discharge needed upgrading; the fact that one's since been forgiven by an act of presidential grace doesn't necessarily block the original transgression and punishment from consideration for purposes of determining fitness now to be the nation's commander in chief.

PoliPundit (hat-tip InstaPundit) has printed an email from a reader with some military and legal credentials who suggests that if Sen. Kerry's discharge was for "other than honorable" conditions, "bad conduct," or "dishonorable," that might have interfered with his admission to the Massachusetts bar in 1976.  With due respect, however, I'm entirely unpersuaded by that particular suggestion.  There were zillions of lawyers admitted to practice in the mid- and late-1970s despite convictions for protesting and minor drug offenses.  Expungements of convictions under the Federal Youth Corrections Act, for example, wiped clean the records of even felony convictions, clearing the way for a great many folks to become lawyers who'd otherwise have been disqualified, and I'm quite confident that most states' bars include members with worse records than what's being hypothesized here for Kerry.  If Kerry's original discharge was "general-honorable conditions," for example — the next rung down from an unqualified honorable discharge — I doubt that the Board of Bar Examiners would have blinked an eye, much less done any serious investigation or raised any serious reservations.  And even a lower-level discharge might very well have been forgiven for someone with Kerry's connections, background, and other military credentials.

In any event, Sen. Kerry needs to end the stonewall, before the election.  If — as seems entirely possible, and now perhaps even probable — there are still-hidden facts about his separation from the Naval Reserve, then those facts should be revealed, and voters should be entitled to make their own value judgments about those facts.  Sen. Kerry's refusal to address these issues squarely is in itself a strong basis for drawing inferences that reflect poorly on him.

----------------------

Update (Wed Oct 13 @ 11:00am):  Power Line's post promises an update with comments from the SwiftVets.  Democracy Project has a post up, as do VodkaPundit, Milblog, Just One Minute, Little Green Footballs (also here, thanks for the link, Charles!), Wizbang!, PajamaPundits, Cranial Cavity, Posse Incitatas, Jawa Report, Dr. Zhibloggo, Michelle Malkin, Chasing the Wind, Travelling Shoes, Secure Liberty, INDC Journal, Ace of Spades, Media Lies, California Yankee, Pink Flamingo, Commonwealth Conservative, Political Junkie, QandO, and Captain's Quarters.  [Continuing to update this list as I find new posts; see also the trackbacks below — Beldar]

Commenter Roland at CQ provides an interesting link to a current regulation, 32 C.F.R. § 70.9(b)(4)(ii), which provides that

A General Discharge for an inactive reservist can only be based upon civilian misconduct found to have had an adverse impact on the overall effectiveness of the military, including military morale and efficiency.

I haven't done the digging to confirm it, but I suspect that this or something very similar would have been effect in 1972-1978.

"Navy Chief" apparently did some of the background digging that may have gone into Mr. Lipscomb's story; there's a thread on this story on the SwiftVets' forum that's picking up lots of comment.

Human Events has a reprint of Mr. Lipscomb's article if you have any trouble accessing it on the New York Sun's website.

----------------------

Update (Wed Oct 13 @ 4:30pm):  This update started out as a comment from me in response to other comments, but I've "promoted" it to text here.

If, as initially issued, Sen. Kerry's discharge was a normal, fully honorable one after completion of his full active-duty and reserve obligations, then why would a board of officers — one convened and acting specifically under section 1163 — ever have been involved?

As I understand it, Mr. Lipscomb's point is that section 1163 wouldn't have been cited in the Claytor letter, nor would that letter have referred to "a board of officers convened under authority of [that section]," if Sen. Kerry already had, or was entitled to get, an honorable discharge without such a board of officers' intervention.  I'll try here to make what I understand his argument to be, with more specific reference to the specific language and subsections of section 1163.

Only subsections (a) and (c) of section 1163 refer to such a board: 

  • Subsection (a) involves separations from the Reserves without the separating officer's consent, and says that can only be accomplished pursuant to either an approved board of officers' recommendation or a court martial sentence. 
  • Subsection (c) says if an officer is separated from the Reserves "for cause" — a key term which normally roughly equates to being fired for screwing up and/or breaking the rules — then he's nonetheless entitled to an honorable discharge except in two situations.  The first situation, per subsection (c)(1), is if the discharge is under conditions other than honorable as per either a court martial sentence or the approved recommendations of a board of officers.  The second situation is if the officer consents to the discharge being under conditions other than honorable, and waives the right he would otherwise have to accept such a lesser discharge only after a court martial or board finding.

We don't have any reason to believe that only subsection 1163(a) was involved.  That subsection would keep the DoD from booting somone who has more than three years' service and doesn't want to be discharged even with an honorable discharge (e.g., because he wants to stick around to qualify for greater benefits).  [Update: But see my 5:25pm update below for a speculative, innocuous scenario possibly involving section 1163(a) — Beldar.]

So it seems more likely that subsection 1163(c), or both it and subsection 1163(a), were involved.  Again, note that subsection 1163(c) deals only with separations "for cause."  In most legal contexts, "for cause" means being fired for breaking the rules — it's being shown the door, not just asking and having it opened for you voluntarily.

Geek, Esq.'s suggestion in the comments below, working backwards from the Claytor letter's language, presumes that a board of officers must always be convened in order to determine whether someone should be retained on the rolls of the Reserves, and that this was the normal method of separation for everyone dropped from the rolls with an honorable discharge when they're no longer needed.  But that's certainly not what the statute says; and if there's a different statute or regulation which says that, I haven't seen it yet.

Rather, the board of officers referenced in section 1163(c) would only seem to come into operation if at least at some point the discharge involved was both less than honorable and without the officer's consent.

The only discharge we've seen, from 1978, is indeed honorable.  But there's nothing in section 1163 to suggest that a board would be involved in approving a top-quality, consented-to (and indeed welcomed) honorable discharge that was unmixed with any prior complications.

By contrast, the reference in 1978 to a "board of officers" acting pursuant to section 1163 would be explained in either of two circumstances.  First, Kerry could have consented to a less-than-honorable discharge back in, say, 1972, in which case no section 1163(c) board would have been involved then.  Second, Kerry could have refused to have accepted a less-than-honorable discharge back in, say, 1972, in which case the Navy Department couldn't have imposed it on him without an approved finding pursuant to section 1163(c).  But in either of those events, the statute could reasonably be read to require such a finding of an officers' board for an upgrade of a less-than-honorable discharge in 1978.  And — to repeat — I don't see any other explanation for why an officers' board acting pursuant to any part of section 1163 would otherwise have been involved in 1978, or referenced in the Claytor letter.

I'll also repeat this important point:  I don't have the personal military experience to confidently argue that the fact that there was a board somehow involved necessarily means that there was a less-than-honorable discharge involved at some point along the line.  But if there's another explanation for a "board of officers" acting pursuant to section 1163 being involved, I haven't seen or heard it yet.  [Update: But see my 5:25pm update below for a speculative, innocuous scenario possibly involving section 1163(a) — Beldar.] With due respect — and I have no idea if "Geek, Esq." is indeed even a lawyer, and by his own admission he jumped to a conclusion before he'd even read Lipscomb's article closely, and now continues to defend that conclusion without bringing any new source material to the table — I rather doubt that Geek has those qualifications either.  Indeed, as stated in my introduction to this post, the reason I put this post up to begin with was to provide wider access to the relevant statutes (which are otherwise very hard to track down), and to solicit and encourage the exchange of further pertinent information. 

----------------------

Update (Wed Oct 13 @ 5:25pm):  Okay, lots going on in the comments.  I want to thank, and commend, everyone who's commented or emailed me, definitely including the skeptics.

Since my previous update, one speculative but innocuous scenario has occurred to me that I ought to mention here, rather than just in comments.  Perhaps in 1978, the DoD or the Navy Department was doing a mass review of its reserves rolls trying to winnow out those who'd been completely inactive for a long time.  It is conceivable, I suppose, that they'd have convened a board of officers for the purpose of approving unconsented-to honorable discharges of officers with more than three years' service, which section 1163(a) would seem to require absent specific consent from the affected individuals.  That's obviously speculation, but it might explain a reference in the Claytor letter to section 1163 that would not necessarily imply a previous involuntary discharge on a less-than-honorable basis.

Again, however, it seems that the cleanest way for all this to be cleared up would be for Sen. Kerry to sign Standard Form 180.

Posted by Beldar at 08:40 AM in Law (2006 & earlier), Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (122)

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Sorriest excuse for a book review I've ever read

A helpful reader, Allan J. Favish, has emailed me to point out that finally, in Sunday's edition, the New York Times has finally gotten around to reviewing John O'Neill's Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry.  I say "finally" because this week, the book holds the number three spot on the NYT's own best-seller list for the second week in a row; it held the number one spot threefourfive, and six   weeks ago; and it's been on the list now for eight consecutive weeks.   

I'm a fan of book reviews, having commissioned and/or edited about a dozen very strong, article-length book reviews — as the first person to hold that editorship unmixed with other responsibilities — for the Texas Law Review.  (The reviewers I dealt with included Professors Charles Alan Wright, Herma Hill Kay, Mark Tushnet, Douglass Laycock, Sanford Levinson, and William C. Powers, Jr.)  So I'll claim some credentials as, so to speak, a "book review reviewer."  But frankly, no expertise is needed to size up this particular book review as a piece of shallow, partisan garbage.  Written by "Susannah Meadows[, who] is covering the Kerry campaign for Newsweek," this one concludes:

Kerry has never been a terribly beloved figure in Massachusetts politics, and in the presidential race he's buoyed more by hatred of Bush than by any passion for his candidacy. But the irony is that this book goes after the one piece of Kerry's history that left the politician with his greatest friends, the lifelong die-hards for the cause. In its determination to wreck Kerry's candidacy, ''Unfit for Command'' seems to reveal more about the authors than about Kerry.

But Ms. Meadows' extremely superficial review reveals more about herself and her determination to promote Kerry's candidacy than it does about the book.  Here, for example, is the review's entire description of the controversy over Kerry's medals:

Navy records have discredited the book's claim that Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star and third Purple Heart — though only after the sensation hijacked cable news for a month.

That's it — half a sentence that mentions only half the medals in dispute; and far, far less than half an effort at comprehensiveness or honesty. 

Ms. Meadows' begins her review with this statement, very nearly the only accurate one in her entire review:

If John Kerry loses the presidential election, ''Unfit for Command,'' by John E. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi, will go down as a chief reason.

Yes, ma'am — and you and the NYT will be on record as having completely failed to grasp, much less to honestly deal with, that chief reason.  This is an effort so pathetic that it actually should be insulting even to Sen. Kerry's partisans.

Posted by Beldar at 12:29 AM in Books, Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (16)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

LAT repeats NYT's error on Kerry meeting with "both sides" in Paris

PoliPundit's caught the LAT yesterday making the same error — claiming (falsely) that Kerry met with "both sides" in 1970 at the Paris peace talks before his 1971 Fulbright Committee testimony — that the NYT made on three successive days last month, and then, after complaints,  belatedly made the subject of an apparently unnoticed correction.  Of course, Los Angeles is several time zones behind New York, but I don't think that's an adequate excuse.

Both papers and the rest of the MSM, of course, continue to ignore the dispute between the Kerry camp and rabidly-pro-Kerry Vietnam-protest-historian Gerald Nicosia on whether Kerry made at least one additional trip to Paris to meet with our country’s enemies, in 1971 after his testimony before the Fulbright Committee.  (Hat-tip PrestoPundit.)

Posted by Beldar at 09:42 PM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (13)

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

SwiftVets update

Dean Esmay has an extended, original interview with prominent SwiftVets member Van Odell that's an ambitious and noteworthy effort.  The post includes a terrific detailed photograph of a Swift Boat in which Mr. Odell can be seen in the twin .50-caliber gun tub.  Dean does a good job of giving contextual information about Mr. Odell — as a typical SwiftVet — that the mainstream media has essentially ignored in their efforts to paint all the SwiftVets as cranks and kooks with partisan political axes to grind.  Especially when credibility is an issue, such information — "placing the witness," lawyers sometimes call it — is awfully important, and in Mr. Odell's case, the antidote for mainstream media distortion is, quite simply, more detailed information. 

If an opportunity arises and time permits between now and the election, I'd love to try something similar to what Dean's done, perhaps with a slightly different focus — the kind of detailed, moment-by-moment analysis of the Bay Hap River action on 13Mar69 out of which Kerry was awarded his Bronze Star and third Purple Heart — in the way that a lawyer probes multiple witnesses' recollections to try to determine whether and where they actually conflict.  My expectation is that while I might hope for some cooperation from various SwiftVets like Mr. Odell, or perhaps unalligned witnesses, I'm unlike to get any cooperation from, for example, Mr. Sandusky or other members of Sen. Kerry's "Band of Brothers."

Although several of my commenters have linked and discussed it on other posts, I've been remiss in not previously linking Thomas Lipscomb's October 1st article in the Chicago Sun-Times which examines the probability that young Lt. Kerry was the author of the after-action report from the 13Mar69 events.  The SwiftVets and their supporters have long argued that by process of exclusion, Kerry was the most likely source of the report, and have pointed to it as an example of Kerry "gaming the system," conflating or confusing facts about other boats' and skippers' actions, and inflating his own actions in order to justify the Bronze Star he was eventually awarded.  Mr. Lipscomb's article expands on those arguments and adds the results of detailed analysis of cryptic records from that day that's been done by a Navy communications expert, Chief Petty Officer Troy Jenkins, who, along with others participating the SwiftVets' forums, has been very active in gathering, cross-checking, and dissecting those reports.  The level of detail in this sort of analysis, unfortunately, will cause some readers to declare MEGO (mine eyes glazeth over).  And once again, as so often before with respect to the entire SwiftVets vs. Kerry controversy, I find myself frustrated at not being able to compel a detailed response from the Kerry partisans, many of whose working strategy is simply to throw up their hands and refuse to "go behind" Kerry's medal citations.

TimesWatch.org has a terrific article contrasting the ways in which the New York Times has consistently ignored, misrepresented, and dismissed the SwiftVets' allegations, while relentlessly fanning the flames of the "Bush AWOL" charges.

Way back on September 4th, as I was beginning to read Michael Kranish et al.'s John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best, I posted my amazed reaction to this paragraph from page xxvi in the book's Introduction:

Do these actions reflect the conflicts of a powerful intellect, of a man who appreciates nuance in policy and deeds but sometimes has trouble translating it to a mass audience? Do his statements and votes on military force reflect the natural caution of a man who was severely wounded in combat, who watched men under his command die, who lost five of his best friends in a war that ended in U.S. withdrawal? ...

I've been remiss in failing to follow up on this, but having long since finished the book (and re-read the portions on Kerry's Vietnam service many times), I can confirm that whoever at the Boston Globe wrote this paragraph clearly had read a lot of Kerry's campaign rhetoric, but hadn't read either their own book or the 2003 news articles from which it was largely compiled.  Kerry was never "severely wounded in combat."  There's no record anywhere that he ever "watched men under his command die."  (Kerry did help recover the body of a RuffPuff soldier whom he'd transported into combat, and he watched as another South Vietnamese soldier, whose name he didn't even know and whose wounds he didn't see inflicted, expired in a field hospital.)  I can't disprove the assertion that Kerry "lost five of his best friends," other than to say that there aren't five such names named in either the Kranish book or in Brinkley's Tour of Duty.  The Kranish book (at page 108) names only three — "Yale classmate Richard Pershing and St. Paul's classmate Peter W. Johnson," plus Swiftee skipper Don Droz.  The other two "best friends" may be known to Kerry, but if so he either didn't share their names with his biographers or else they didn't bother to write about them.  Indeed, on that same page, the Kranish book notes that "all of his crewmates survived their tour in Vietnam."  (Kerry crewman Tommy Belodeau passed away many years later, but his life was not "lost in [the] war.)

I'm working on what's likely to be a long post summarizing the results of my "debunked" challenge from September 25th.  My thanks in advance to the many, many readers who've commented on that post.

Finally, the SwiftVets have formally combined their efforts with the ex-POWs who've been involved in the Stolen Honor documentary — free excerpts and a $5 pay-per-view version of which are online, and well worth an investment of your time and/or money.   Both organizations have retained their websites at the same URLs, but the SwiftVets organization has been renamed "Swift Vets and POWs for Truth."

Posted by Beldar at 07:10 PM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (10)

Sunday, October 03, 2004

MSM still clueless about basic details of Kerry's military record (and SwiftVets' claims)

Tom Maguire of Just One Minute points out that NYT reporter Lawrence K. Altman (who reports that he's a physician-reporter himself) felt obliged to make a derogatory reference to the SwiftVets while writing an article about Sen. Kerry's medical history and health, but revealed a complete lack of understanding of either Sen. Kerry's war record or the SwiftVets' allegations.  Per NYT's Dr. Altman:

Mr. Kerry's injuries as a young man, however, seem to have given him more trouble — political trouble, that is — than his shoulder surgery.

A group of veterans has challenged the validity of the three Purple Hearts that Mr. Kerry received for wounds he suffered while serving on Swift boats in the Vietnam war. These critics suggested that the shrapnel that hit him in one mission was rice, not metal.

However, CT scan X-rays taken at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston document that two pieces of metal shrapnel are embedded deep in Mr. Kerry's left thigh, next to the femur, said Dr. Gerald J. Doyle, Mr. Kerry's personal physician in Boston who reviewed the X-rays at the request of this reporter, who is a physician. Doctors treating the wound in 1969 decided to leave the shrapnel in place. "One piece of shrapnel is about the size of a bullet, the other a bit smaller," Dr. Doyle said.

Mr. Kerry said, "I can't tell you I really feel it," but "it's back in here somewhere," as he slapped his thigh.

As Tom writes, this is indeed a thigh-slapper, at reporter-doctor Altman's expense.  Kerry has three Purple Hearts, the first for a tiny shrapnel injury to his arm sustained on 02Dec68; the second for a shrapnel injury to his leg sustained on 20Feb69; and the third, according to the medal citation, for a bruise to his arm sustained on 13Mar69.  The "accusation" that Kerry was also treated for "rice" blown into his butt earlier in the day on 13Mar69 from careless behavior around a grenade used to blow up a rice pile has its origins not from the SwiftVets, but from Kerry supporter and rescuee James Rassmann, as reported in Brinkley's Tour of DutyEven the most fundamental, basic research that any junior high school newspaper reporter would have done would have alerted the NYT's Altman that the metal shrapnel thigh wound from on 20Feb69, and likewise the Purple Heart medal resulting therefrom (that is, Kerry's second Purple Heart), has never been seriously contested by the SwiftVets.

Physicians and reporters are both supposed to get their patient's/subject's "history" before drawing and recording their conclusions.  Physician-reporter Altman flunks — badly — in both capacities, and the NYT once again shows that its editors and fact-checkers completely lack even the most basic familiarity with Kerry's military record and the SwiftVets' claims to catch such errors.  I repeat, this would be embarrassingly for a junior high school newspaper, and falls well below the journalistic standards of tens of thousands of blogs from either side of the political spectrum. 

The Kerry campaign has consistently refused to release medical records, including those relating to Kerry's Vietnam wounds, for inspection by genuinely independent outsiders, insisting instead that the public's "right to know" is sufficiently satisfied by peek-and-tell sessions with friendly reporters.  When the NYT sends someone to do the peeking who's either unprepared, an idiot, or perhaps both, how seriously are we supposed to take the rest of his or the NYT's reporting on Kerry's medical history?

The New York Times' Public Editor is Daniel Okrent — public@nytimes.com.

Posted by Beldar at 12:30 PM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (13)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Seventh SwiftVets ad features POWs' wives

John Kerry's antiwar activism had a devastating and foreseeable effect on the American POWs who were still being held in Vietnam while he was condemning the American military as war criminals.  It also affected the families of those POWs.  The just-released seventh SwiftVets' ad, offers evidence of the collateral consequences of Kerry's actions on two wives of POWs (who've also been featured in the parallel Stolen Honor campaign).

Posted by Beldar at 08:10 AM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The two most flattering photographs ever taken of John F. Kerry

I've published (and will probably continue to publish) mocking photographs of Sen. John Forbes Kerry.  But in this post, you'll see what I believe to be the two most flattering pictures of him ever made. 

The first is famous and has been widely seen:  It's on Sen. Kerry's campaign website, for instance, and on the cover of Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War, and shows Kerry in his Navy dress whites, receiving one of his medals:

The second photograph is comparatively obscure, although it appeared (without the cropping I've imposed here) in Kerry's 1971 book The New Soldier:

Scot Lehigh's Boston Globe op-ed from April 28, 2004, describes this second photo thusly:

The photograph shows a man sitting hunched on the lawn near the Capitol, his head bowed. Sitting beside him is a woman.

The picture, in "The New Soldier," a book of photographs and essays about the April 1971 antiwar protest in Washington, is of John Kerry.

The woman comforting him is Julia Thorne, Kerry's first wife. The photograph was taken just minutes after veterans tossed their war decorations over a wood-and-wire fence erected to keep protesters off the Capitol steps.

Kerry was overcome with emotion at the time. Both David Thorne, Julia's brother and one of Kerry's best friends, and George Butler, the documentary filmmaker [and another of Kerry's lifelong friends since Yale] who took the picture, recall him being in tears. He had come to Washington to try to wake America up about the Vietnam War, and he had returned ribbons commemorating war heroism [that] he was proud of [in order] to make a statement.

My blogospheric friend the Carnivorous Conservative points out that Ms. Thorne knew in advance of young Kerry's plan to throw his (or someone's) medals (and/or ribbons) over the Capitol fence, having told of the plan while lunching "one day in 1971 at the Italian Embassy with a group of elegant Washington women."

In the years since 1971, Kerry has grown defensive over this "return" of his medals — a highly publicized symbolic act that has been used by his opponents in many of his previous political races, and now again (as I've previously written about) in the fourth and fifth of the SwiftVets' ads.  I continue to believe that he has good reason to be defensive — that the symbolic act, though sincere and heartfelt, was profoundly foolish and offensive.  That it provoked young Kerry at the time to tears, and to seek comfort in his young bride's arms, however, actually speaks better of him to me than anything he has said or done since, although I don't know whether his mix of powerful emotions then included any shame or regret.  Michael Kranish et al.'s biography of Kerry tells us (at page 127) that just "days earlier, Kerry had been quoted in the Washington Post as expressing distaste over 'medals for nothing.'"  But the sight of Kerry weeping seems rather more consistent with the look of pride on Kerry's face in the first picture than such a cynical statement by him, even then, would suggest.

I'm not suggesting now that candidate Kerry should contrive an "Edmund Muskie moment."  Not everyone would react to this old picture with the same degree of sympathy that columnist Lehigh did in his above-quoted op-ed.  John Kerry continues to strike me as, on the whole, a particularly unsympathetic person.  But I will allow that this obscure second picture strikes a sympathetic chord in me.  It makes it all the more a pity that as he's aged and progressed through his political career, John Kerry has done so little to apologize to others, or redeem himself, for the symbolic act that brought him to tears in this second, obscure photograph, and so little to justify the honor that was being conferred upon him in the first, more famous one.

Posted by Beldar at 08:48 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (17)

Saturday, September 25, 2004

A challenge to those who claim that the SwiftVets' allegations have been "debunked" or are "unsubstantiated"

My lawyer readers will immediately recognize this as an invitation to Kerry supporters to make a motion for partial summary judgment on the SwiftVets' claims.

This short paragraph from a New York Times article perfectly illustrates the liberal media's widespread characterization of the results to date of the SwiftVets' campaign (boldface added):

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which drew national attention with advertisements making unsubstantiated attacks against Mr. Kerry's military service, has less money and uses several strategies to stretch its dollars, said one of its leaders, John O'Neill.

To find a similar example from the blogosphere, one need look no farther than Andrew Sullivan's passing dismissal of the SwiftVets' campaign (boldface added):

As word spread, anti-Kerry forces sent in more money to the Swift Boat Veterans for truth website, allowing them to ramp up their ad efforts. And within a few days, the old media was forced to cover the claims extensively — even if much of their coverage amounted to a debunking.

As someone who's followed the SwiftVets' campaign closely — someone who's read Brinkley's Tour of Duty, O'Neill's Unfit for Command, and Kranish et al.'s John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography cover to cover, plus all of the mainstream media reports I could find on the internet and a goodly portion of what's appeared from both political sides of the blogosphere — I'm simply stunned to read these sorts of statements.

I can think of one major SwiftVets allegation on which they've arguably failed to offer more than circumstantial evidence — that Kerry "gamed the system" to get his medals. Kerry's stonewall — his refusal to sign Standard Form 180 and thereby release the documentation that should, if it exists, reveal still-hidden details like how he came to get his first Purple Heart — has been effective in keeping the SwiftVets from nailing down that point with direct evidence. Yet the circumstantial case is powerful — Kerry's commanding officer at the time, Skip Hibbard, says he refused to approve that Purple Heart in December 1968, yet Kerry showed up with the medal anyway in March 1969 in some as-yet-unexplained fashion.

I can think of other SwiftVets allegations on which there is directly competing evidence that requires the public to draw conclusions. For example, does one credit Adm. Bill Schachte's account of his first-hand knowledge of how Kerry received the trivial wound that led to his first Purple Heart, or does one credit Zaldonis' and Runyan's claims that Schachte wasn't aboard the skimmer? Which of the eyewitnesses does one choose to find credible on the question of whether Kerry was or wasn't under enemy fire when he plucked Rassmann from the Bay Hap River? Other allegations require an exercise of subjective judgment. For example, was Kerry's pursuit and dispatching of a single VC soldier sufficiently valorous to merit his Silver Star?

But on none of these issues I've just listed have the SwiftVets' allegations been "debunked" or proven "unsubstantiated." Andrew Sullivan or the NYT repeating over and over that they have been simply don't make them so. To employ the legal jargon of summary judgment proceedings, a rational factfinder could conclude from the evidence that the SwiftVets have produced on each of these allegations that, indeed, they're true. A trial judge who dismissed these allegations outright, without letting the factfinder (typically a jury) consider them, would certainly be reversed on appeal and told to let the jury do its work. They haven't, in lay terms, been "debunked" — but rather, they're fiercely disputed by competent evidence (some of it eyewitness, some of it circumstantial, some of it documentary).

Hence my challenge for the weekend to my readers — you're probably a minority, as these things go, but I know from my comments pages that you're out there — who may agree with the NYT or Mr. Sullivan:

Can you identify even one specific and material SwiftVets allegation that you believe to have been fully "debunked" or fully proven to be "unsubstantiated"?

Some ground rules for this challenge that I think are not unreasonable:

By "specific," I mean to exclude sweeping conclusions like "John Kerry wasn't as big a hero as he's made out." By material, I mean to exclude trivia like "the VC soldier John Kerry shot was in a uniform instead of in a loincloth." And I ask that if you're to make an honest effort to meet my challenge, you provide quotes and links, both to the SwiftVets' allegations and to the evidence that you offer to show debunking or lack of substantiation.

If you rely on documents — for example, Larry Thurlow's Bronze Star citation as support for the proposition that he and Kerry were under enemy fire after PCF 3 was struck by a mine — then to reach "debunked" status, you ought to show that there are no contrary eyewitness accounts to those documents, nor other contrary documents. Otherwise, you've merely established that a dispute exists — what lawyers would call a "genuine issue of fact" that must be resolved by a judgment call as to which side has the greater weight of the credible evidence.

Saying your side has the greater weight of the evidence isn't "debunking" or showing that something is "unsubstantiated," it's saying that your side ought to ultimately prevail on the factual dispute, and that's a very different kettle of fish. To use a converse example by way of illustration: I would argue that the "Christmas in Cambodia" story repeatedly told by Sen. Kerry has indeed been thoroughly debunked and proved unsubstantiated — that is, there simply is no credible evidence from which any rational factfinder could conclude that Kerry's claim to have spent Christmas 1968 several miles inside Cambodia, under friendly fire and on a secret mission, was truthful.

I of course reserve the right to offer a rebuttal, as will, I'm sure, my like-minded readers. But I'm genuinely curious about this, and will try to summarize the results of this challenge fairly in a new post sometime early next week.

----------------------

Update (Mon Oct 18 @ 10:40am): It's no one's fault in particular unless my own, but the comments to this post have kept coming in. Every time I'd try to take a day to write a summary of the responses to my challenge, in would come four or five new comments. Today I printed out this post to have a hard-copy handy for cross-referencing as I worked on the long-promised summary, and it ran to 154 printed pages. So: By fiat, the challenge is closed. If you have something else to say, you'll need to do it in comments on another post.

Posted by Beldar at 06:52 AM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (215)

Judicial Watch appeals Adm. Route's dismissal of its complaint

The echos haven't faded away, but I think the fat lady has basically already sung on Judicial Watch's challenge to John Kerry's medals.

When I was a law clerk for a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, one of my regular duties was to review, and advise my judge upon, pending petitions for rehearing en banc.  Then as now, each appeal in the Fifth Circuit was normally heard by a three-judge panel selected at random.  Before asking the US Supreme Court to overturn the Fifth Circuit's ruling, however, the losing side before the three-judge panel had the opportunity to petition the full Fifth Circuit — all of the judges acting collectively, "sitting en banc" — to overturn the panel's decision.  Statistically, the odds of success on a motion for rehearing en banc were slim indeed, but the procedure did give the losing side another "bite at the apple," and their odds of persuading the Supreme Court to even hear their case would be even slimmer.

In one of the most common types of petition for rehearing en banc, the losing side would attack the panel's written decision for failing to address specifically and negate every single argument that the losing side had presented to the three-judge panel.  "We raised thirty-two different points of appeal in our initial brief," these petitions would typically read, "and the panel's written opinion only discusses twenty-seven of those points!"  In the vast majority of cases, however, the unaddressed points — upon closer examination (which was partly my job) — would turn out to have been the weakest arguments anyway.  (Most of the time, in fact, they were arguments that a confident and focused lawyer would have left on his own cutting-room floor to begin with.)  The judges of the Fifth Circuit necessarily operated with a high degree of trust in one another — and their trust included a highly justified working presumption that no serious and substantive argument was likely to have been ignored altogether by all three judges who'd participated in a given panel decision.  Instead, almost all of the cases that were accepted for review by the full Fifth Circuit, sitting en banc, involved serious legal issues that had been squarely and explicitly addressed by the three-judge panel and that, for whatever reason, a majority of the full court believed should be reconsidered.

On Thursday, September 23rd, with an accompanying press release, Judicial Watch filed its appeal from the September 17th decision of the Naval Inspector General, Vice Admiral Ronald A. Route, to dismiss without further investigation Judicial Watch's complaint requesting an investigation into Sen. John Kerry's medals.  It is a competent piece of lawyering, but unfortunately it reads to me all too much like one of the petitions for rehearing en banc that I've described above.  There's a quality of sputtering indignation — "How could Adm. Route have failed to talk about the Combat 'V' on Kerry's Silver Star?!?" and "Where's Adm. Route's citation of regulations to show that Adm. Zumwalt had authority to award one without the Secretary of the Navy's involvement?!?" (my paraphrases, not quotes) — that may indeed have been unavoidable for want of better arguments, but that is still unlikely to be very effective.  There's simply no due process requirement that a decisionmaker address each and every argument made by a litigant/complaintant in the degree of detail that the litigant/complaintant might desire; and the decisionmaker's failure to do so, by itself, is unlikely to impress a reviewing authority who begins with a predisposition to believe that the decisionmaker has given all of those arguments their due consideration.

Judicial Watch was wise to tone down its initial rhetoric — the appeal letter doesn't include the offensive phrase "whitewash," for instance, that Judicial Watch used in their press release immediately after Adm. Route's decision.  And I stress that Adm. Route's decision does not, and ought not, preclude further public argument on these subjects, notwithstanding Adm. Route's refusal to convene a more thorough investigation that would address their merits in a formal proceeding.  But I continue to expect that Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England is likely to reject Judicial Watch's appeal and affirm Adm. Route's exercise of discretion.

Posted by Beldar at 04:13 AM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Van Odell debates Del Sandusky re Kerry's Bronze Star

Unfortunately, it's pretty rare to hear any of the Swiftee eyewitnesses from Kerry's Bronze Star action — the Rassmann rescue on the Bay Hap River after Dick Pees' PCF 3 was hit by a command-detonated mine on March 13, 1969 — debate each other one-on-one.  But here's a link (hat-tip PrestoPundit) to a talk radio program that's worth listening to,  despite Florida radio station WTWB-AM 1570 host Lynne Breidenbach's failure to get the participants' names right, her failure to ask the follow-up questions I would have loved to have asked, and her preference for talking about Kerry's post-war activism instead of the events on 13Mar69.

Sandusky and Odell were both there — Sandusky as the helmsman aboard Kerry's PCF 94, Odell as the twin .50-caliber gunner atop Jack Chenowith's PCF 23.  Sandusky continued to insists that there was incoming enemy fire; Odell continued to insist that there wasn't.  To support his claim that there was incoming enemy fire, Sandusky referred to records showing damage to PCF 94; Odell pointed out that those records referred to damage which PCF 94 had sustained on the previous day, and that PCF 94 actually ended up being the boat that towed the striken PCF 3 to safety.   Sandusky pointed to Larry Thurlow's Bronze Star citation that refers to enemy fire; Odell explained that Thurlow has insisted that his citation language wasn't written by him and that he's stated that if his own Bronze Star depended on being under enemy fire, he didn't deserve that medal.  And as always, Sandusky had no explanation for how the Swift Boats could have survived the supposed "5000 meters" of heavy enemy fire from both banks without any of the boats or their crew being hit during the hour-plus time it took to rescue and medevac out PCF 3's injured crew and rig it for towing to safety.  Odell said he saw Kerry as he was being transferred from his own boat to another for evacuation for medical treatment, and saw no blood on his uniform.

Odell mentioned that yet another eyewitness, Bob Hornberger (probably "Robert Eugene Hornberger," whom Swiftboats.net lists as a GMG2 on PCF 3), has recently stated that there was no incoming enemy fire.  Mr. Hornberger was the subject of an August 7, 2004, article in the Augusta Chronicle entitled "Veteran Questions Kerry's War-Hero Credentials," which includes this paragraph:

Again, Hornberger has no first-hand knowledge of Kerry's war actions. But he does question reports about them. Pulling someone from the water? "We all did that. I was pulled from the water. I pulled men from the water. I didn't get a medal for it."

I suspect that Mr. Hornberger does indeed have first-hand knowledge of the events on 13Mar69, although I'm unsure whether Mr. Odell was correct in the radio show in placing him aboard LTJG Droz' PCF 43.  Does anyone have a link to any more information about Mr. Hornberger?

Posted by Beldar at 09:00 PM in SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

SwiftVets' sixth ad focuses on Kerry's Paris meeting (or meetings) with America's enemies — Did he "betray his country"?

I. What the new SwiftVets ad says

According to Fox News, the SwiftVets organization

has made its largest media buy yet of the presidential campaign. It has put $1.2 million behind a new ad that attacks the candidate's 1970 meeting in Paris with members of two North Vietnamese delegations. The ads, which will be launched Wednesday, will run on broadcast affiliates in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Nevada and New Mexico.

The ad can be viewed in multiple streaming video formats from the page on the SwiftVets' website that collects all their other ads.  Here's the script from the ad, titled (somewhat strangely, to my mind) "Friends":

Opens with: Footage of Jane Fonda.  Cuts to: Stills of Kerry, protesters, then Kerry testifying.  Cuts to: Fonda at a press conference

Announcer: "Even before Jane Fonda went to Hanoi to meet with the enemy and mock America, John Kerry secretly met with enemy leaders in Paris. Though we were still at war and Americans were being held in North Vietnamese prison camps. Then, he returned and accused American troops of committing war crimes on a daily basis. Eventually Jane Fonda apologized for her activities, but John Kerry refuses to. In a time of war, can America trust a man who betrayed his country?"

Obviously, in a short television ad, the SwiftVets could not include many factual details, but this advertisement will inevitably encourage more extended debate on the underlying questions: 

What are the facts about Kerry's meeting(s) with the enemy, and what laws may he arguably have broken?  Did John Kerry, while still an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve, "betray his country"?

(Warning: this is another one of Beldar's long-winded™ and link- and quote-filled diatribes; proceed at your own risk.)

II. Fox News' brief summary

Fox News' brief summary of the historical record on Kerry's Paris trip(s) is a fair introduction to these broader subjects:

The Kerry campaign has acknowledged that Kerry traveled to Paris in 1970 with his then new wife, Julia Thorne. Kerry's campaign said the meetings were not part of any negotiation with the enemy but were part of Kerry's fact-finding efforts relating to the war and ways to win the release of U.S. prisoners of war.

Historian Gerald Nicosia has told FOX News that Kerry made a second trip to Paris in 1971 for many of the same reasons Kerry's campaign has cited for the 1970 trip. Kerry's camp denies a Kerry meeting with the North Vietnamese in the summer of 1971.

Unfortunately, although I've skimmed portions of a library copy of Nicosia's 2001 book, Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement, I don't have a copy of my own and didn't photocopy the relevant pages about Kerry or other Vietnam Veterans Against the War members meeting with enemy representatives in Paris.  But Nicosia's book, and subsequent writings in the Los Angeles Times on the subject, are discussed below in part VII of this post.

III. The Holzer & Holzer analysis of the relevant
laws and the Navy Department's rejection of
Judicial Watch's complaint

Although it doesn't contain a very meaty discussion of the facts of Kerry's Paris trip(s), the most thorough analysis of the relevant criminal statutes prohibiting trafficking directly with the enemy, and of the cases interpreting those statutes, is in a passionately anti-Kerry article in FrontPageMag.com by Brooklyn Law School Professor Emeritus Henry Mark Holzer and author-attorney Erika Holzer.  I've not independently studied the cases they cited.  The two statutes they discuss, however, are 10 U.S.C. § 904 (from the Uniform Code of Military Justice) —

Any person who —

(1) aids, or attempts to aid, the enemy with arms, ammunition, supplies, money, or other things; or

(2) without proper authority, knowingly harbors or protects or gives intelligence to, or communicates or corresponds with or holds any intercourse with the enemy, either directly or indirectly;

shall suffer death or such other punishment as a court-martial or military commission may direct.

— and 18 U.S.C. § 953:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both....

Of course, in each of the precedents from these statutes discussed by the Holzers, there had been a full-blown criminal trial, and the essential elements of the crimes charged were proved beyond a reasonable doubt.  While their discussion of the statutes and interpreting precedents is useful, their discussion — as I suspect, if pressed, they'd admit — falls necessarily short of a thorough analysis of how those statutes might apply to Kerry's Paris meeting(s) (and perhaps his subsequent conduct, if it was pursuant to an agreement or quid pro quo reached there). 

We do know (from Nicosia's FOIA request results) that the FBI was digging around about Kerry's and his comrades' Paris trips.  Yet no indictment was ever filed — which I interpret not as a lack of zeal on the part of the FBI or the Nixon administration DoJ, but rather simply as a lack of sufficient evidence gathered then that could have supported an indictment (much less a conviction).  There simply is not now, and never has been, enough factual detail for anyone to conclude yet, or even assert yet with prosecutorial confidence, that what Kerry did in Paris actually satisfied all of the essential elements of these crimes as defined — and of course, the only "conclusive conclusion" would be one reached by a court martial or criminal proceeding.  The title of the Holzers' article — "John Kerry, Criminal" — is thus metaphorical and speculative at best. 

But neither is there detail in the public record that would exonerate Kerry of these temporally distant crimes.  While Kerry enjoys a constitutional presumption of innocence unless and until there's a conviction, the absense of an indictment isn't itself affirmative proof of innocence — and doesn't end the public discussion.  (Insert semi-obligatory O.J. Simpson comparisons here if you wish.) 

These two statutes were among the bases for Judicial Watch's original and supplemental complaints to the DoD and the Navy Department, calling for an investigation and the possible stripping of Sen. Kerry's medals.  However, the Naval Inspector General, Vice Admiral Ronald A. Route, in a one-page letter to Judicial Watch last Friday, September 17th, refused to initiate such an investigation.  With respect to Judicial Watch's (and implicitly the Holzers') allegations that Kerry had violated these statutes, Adm. Route wrote in pertinent part:

Our review also considered the fact that Senator Kerry's post-active duty activities were public and that military and civilian officials were aware of his actions at the time.

I recently blogged in considerable detail about Adm. Route's decision, and with respect to this aspect I wrote:

What we still don't know — and what neither military or civilian officials knew at the time — is what actually transpired in those meetings, or even how many such meetings took place!

Then and now, Kerry has been carefully vague in describing those meetings, characterizing them as "fact-finding" expeditions.... That [Kerry and his VVAW comrades] have succeeded in keeping the details of their negotiations, and their agreements (if any), secret for so long is hardly a reason to assert that those details were known long ago.

Here again, however, I must concede that even if not supported by persuasive reasoning, Inspector General Route is probably the authority within the military structure who has the discretionary authority to decide whether this is something the Navy Department wishes to pursue. And clearly, he has exercised that discretion against any further investigation.

Thus, the odds of even administrative proceedings in the Navy Department on these allegations are now extremely remote, and the odds of an actual criminal proceeding are essentially nil.  Indeed, the Kerry campaign, and probably too its sycophants in the mainstream media, will portray Adm. Route's ruling as a "pre-buttal" of the sixth SwiftVets ad in attempting to dismiss it out of hand.

I disagree, however.  Adm. Route's rulings, to use a bit of lawyer-speak, weren't "on the merits," but rather represented a procedural refusal to delve into the underlying questions.  And those underlying questions therefore remain genuinely unanswered — whether likely to result in current consequences or not, what did Kerry do in Paris, and did it break either of these laws?

IV. Kerry's Fulbright Committee testimony

So what did happen in Paris?  As is typically the case, the starting point for all accusations against John Kerry remains — John Kerry.

Kerry acknowledged in his famous testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committe (chaired by Sen. J. William Fulbright (D-Ark.)) on April 22, 1971, that he'd met with enemy representatives in Paris, and that in so doing, he'd been on the "borderline" of violating section 953 (at .pdf file pp. 13-14; hyperlink and bracketed portions added):

The Chairman: The congress cannot directly under our system negotiate a cease-fire or anything of this kind. Under our constitutional system we can advice the President. We have to persuade the President of the urgency of taking this action. Now we have certain ways in which to proceed. We can, of course, express ourselves in a resolution or we can pass an act which directly affects appropriations which is the most concrete positive way the Congress can express itself.

But Congress has no capacity under our system to go out and negotiate a cease-fire. We have to persuade the Executive to do this for the country.

Mr. Kerry: Mr. Chairman, I realize that full well as a study [sic — probably should be "student"] of political science. I realize that we cannot negotiate treaties and I realize that even my visits in Paris, precedents had been set by Senator [Eugene J.] McCarthy [(D-Minn.)] and others, in a sense are on the borderline of private individuals negotiating, et cetera. I understand these things. But what I am saying is that I believe that there is a mood in this country which I know you are aware of and you have been one of the strongest critics of this war for the longest time. But I think if we can talk in this legislative body about filibustering for porkbarrel programs, then we should start now to talk about filibustering for the saving of lives and of our country.

Kerry had not yet started law school when he gave this testimony, but it seems relatively clear that he was already studying section 953 and uncomfortable about the possibility that he might have arguably violated it.  He was already referring here to "visits" (plural), for whatever that's worth.  But his sentence structure has begun to slip (as compared to most of the rest of his testimony).  From the "et cetera" in particular — and in general from the abrupt dropping of the subject without going into any details whatsoever about the "visits" or what he'd learned about our enemies (who elsewhere in this speech he was so eager to expound upon and about) — it looks to me like Kerry suddenly realized that he was skating on thin ice, and wisely decided to change the subject before he focused anyone else's attention on this subject.

V. Biographer Brinkley's contributions

As to what authorized Kerry biographer Douglas Brinkley has to say about Kerry and the long-running Paris peace talks in Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War:  First he quotes Kerry at the start of his Swift Boats service in late 1968, as the Swiftees were switching from coastal patrols to patroling the inland rivers and canals that would take the battle to the enemy as part of Operation Sealords (page 137):

"You might say I was conflicted," he confessed.  "On the one hand, I wanted the Paris peace talks to end the war.  On the other hand, I had trained to fight, and I wanted to."

Then in 1971, after he'd left active duty with the Navy (but was still in the Naval Reserve) and shortly after his televised debate with John O'Neill on The Dick Cavett Show (page 403):

Led by Patricia Hardy of Los Angeles, [wives of POWs] charged Kerry with using antiwar issues to further his political career.  When a Boston Globe reporter caught up with Kerry, he was saddened that these angry wives had taken issue with him.  It hurt.  But he kept to his point.  "What bothers me most is that action must be taken now in the Paris peace talks," Kerry stated.  "We need a date set, for total withdrawal from Vietnam."

Brinkley's book, which frequently cites Nicosia's Home to War with regard to Kerry's antiwar activities, reports that Kerry married Julia Stimson Thorne in Bay Shore, Long Island, on May 23, 1970, and that they honeymooned in Jamaica (ToD pages 340-41).  Strangely, however — given that Brinkley is the only historian, biographer, or reporter who's had (at least supposedly) unfettered access to (at least supposedly) all of Kerry's own war notes, journals, diaries, correspondence, and military records — Brinkley's book says nothing about Kerry ever meeting with representatives of the North Vietnamese government or Viet Cong in Paris, either in 1970 or 1971.

VI.  Kranish & Healey's reporting for the Boston Globe

 

On March 25, 2004, the Boston Globe's Michael Kranish and Patrick Healey wrote an article on Kerry's 1970 Paris meeting:

In a question-and-answer session before a Senate committee in 1971, John F. Kerry, who was a leading antiwar activist at the time, asserted that 200,000 Vietnamese per year were being "murdered by the United States of America" and said he had gone to Paris and "talked with both delegations at the peace talks" and met with communist representatives.

Kerry, now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, yesterday confirmed through a spokesman that he did go to Paris and talked privately with a leading communist representative. But the spokesman played down the extent of Kerry's role and said Kerry did not engage in negotiations.

The Kranish and Healey article gives these further details:

After their May 1970 marriage, Kerry traveled to Paris with his wife, Julia Thorne, on a private trip, Meehan said. Kerry did not go to Paris with the intention of meeting with participants in the peace talks or involving himself in the negotiations, Meehan added, saying that while there Kerry had his brief meeting with Binh, which included members of both delegations to the peace talks.

As Kerry runs for president, he is finding that many of his statements and activities over the last 33 years are drawing new attention. Last year, the Globe published White House transcripts of discussions about Kerry by President Nixon in the Oval Office. More recently, the Los Angeles Times focused on FBI surveillance reports, obtained by historian Gerald Nicosia, in which the FBI monitored meetings of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a group that Kerry led in 1971.

Indeed, there may be a tie between Kerry's statement before the Senate committee and the interest of the FBI in his activities. One FBI report provided to the Globe by Nicosia shows that the government was monitoring whether Kerry planned to go to Paris again. Kerry was "planning to travel to Paris, France ... for talks with North Vietnamese peace delegation," said the report, dated Nov. 11, 1971.

After describing Kerry's reference (quoted above) to section 953 in his Fulbright Committee testimony, Kranish & Healey wrote:

Kerry's statement dealt with the question of whether he was trying to negotiate in Paris as a private citizen and was thus on that "borderline" of what was allowable. A US law forbids citizens from negotiating with foreign governments on matters such as peace treaties. Meehan said Kerry was not negotiating.

"Senator Kerry had no role whatsoever in the Paris peace talks or negotiations," Meehan said in his statement. "He did not engage in any negotiations and did not attend any session of the talks. Prior to his Senate testimony, he went to Paris on a private trip, where he had one brief meeting with Madam Binh and others. In an effort to find facts, he learned the status of the peace talks from their point of view and about any progress in resolving the conflict, particularly as it related to the fate of the POWs."

Kerry's suggestion before the Senate committee that there be an immediate pullout led to questions about whether such a move would endanger the lives of South Vietnamese allies.

Kerry responded that "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." If the United States did not withdraw, Kerry said, then US bombing would continue, and "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 ...."

Meehan, asked to explain Kerry's comment, said: "During a very emotionally charged time in American history, Senator Kerry was testifying against a failed policy, which resulted in the killing of hundreds of thousands of people. That policy resulted in one of the highest civilian casualty rate in the history of war. In answering Senator [George D.] Aiken's question about the consequences of an American withdrawal and potential additional bloodbath, Senator Kerry used a word he deems inappropriate.

"Senator Kerry never suggested or believed and absolutely rejects the idea that the word applied to service of the American soldiers in Vietnam. While opposed to the failed policy, Senator Kerry insisted that Americans must never confuse the war with the warriors."

Although not published until April 27, 2004 — over a month after Kranish & Healey's Boston Globe article — the Kerry biography by Kranish et al., John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography By The Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best, contains no reference to Kerry's Paris meeting(s).  Perhaps the book, based largely on a series of Boston Globe articles from June 2003, was already too close to publication.  On the other hand, the book (at pp. 124-25) manages to tell the story of Kerry's Fulbright Committee testimony without mentioning one of Kerry's most infamous lines — that he was testifying to atrocities that were "not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command" — and dutifully repeats the Kerry campaign's disingenuous arguments that Kerry was only purporting to describe statements about atrocities that had been made at the so-called "Winter Soldier hearings" some months earlier in Detroit.

VII.  The allegations in O'Neill's Unfit for Command

John O'Neill's Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry has quite a bit to say about Kerry's meetings, and they would probably point to it as the primary source material for the sixth SwiftVets ad — although it draws heavily on Nicosia's book and the Kranish & Healey article.  Beginning at page 126:

In June 1971, Lo [sic — should be "Le"] Duc Tho arrived in Paris to join the North Vietnamese Communist delegation to the peace talks.  His arrival marked a change in the Communists' approach to advancing their goals through negotiation.  [Le] Duc Tho was, with Ho Chi Minh, one of the original founders of the Communist Party of Indochina and one of North Vietnam's chief strategists.

He arrived to join a comrade, Madame Nguyen Thi Binh .... Madame Binh was recognized as the Viet Cong delegate to the conference.

On July 1, 1971, within days of [Le] Duc Tho's arrival, Madame Binh advanced a new seven-point proposal to end the war.  Central to this plan was a cleverly crafted provision offering to set a date for the return of U.S. POWs in exchange for the Americans' setting a date for complete, unilateral military withdrawal from Vietnam.  In other words, America could have its POWs back only if we agreed that we lost, then surrendered, and then set a date to leave.

O'Neill's book then runs through the substance of the Kranish & Healey article's reporting, and then picks up thusly (at page 127):

On July 22, 1971 [some three weeks after Madame Binh's proposal], Kerry called a press conference in Washington, D.C.  Speaking on behalf of the VVAW, Kerry openly urged President Nixon to accept Madame Binh's seven-point plan.

After discussing the obvious reasons why the Nixon administration rejected Madame Binh's plan, O'Neill describes section 953, and then continues (at page 129):

There is no public record of what Kerry discussed with the Vietnamese Communists in Paris in 1970.  Kerry's presidential campaign has refused to provide any detailed account of the discussion, nor has the campaign answered questions regarding who set up the meeting.  There must have been contact between Kerry or his representatives and the representatives of the Vietnamese Communists.  Which Communists assisted Kerry in arranging his meeting with Madame Binh, and why?

... [I]t is hard to find any disagreement whatsoever between Kerry's words and actions as a leader of theVVAW and those of the Hanoi and Viet Cong leadership.  Had Madame Binh herself been permitted to appear at the July 22, 1971, press conference instead of John Kerry, the most noticeable difference in the argument presented might have been the absence of a Boston accent.

Unfit for Command goes on to discuss (at pp. 130-31) an FBI confidential surveillance report dated November 11, 1971, which "indicates that the FBI was monitoring Kerry to see if he planned another trip to Paris to meet with the Communist delegations."  Other FBI reports discuss multiple trips to Paris to meet with the Communists that were undertaken by Kerry's cohorts in the VVAW, including the radical Al Hubbard (who was eventually exposed as not being a Vietnam veteran at all after having falsely claimed to have been wounded as a combat pilot there).  As for whether Kerry himself made another trip (at page 135; hyperlink to Lexis/Nexis download and bracketed page reference added):

There is also good reason to believe that prior to the Kansas City [VVAW] meeting in November 1971, Kerry himself had made a second trip to Paris to meet with the Vietnamese Communists.  Evidence for this comes from Gerald Nicosia, a very pro-VVAW and pro-Kerry historian ....  Writing in the Los Angeles Times on May 24, 2004, Nicosia noted [page 5 of .pdf file], "Kerry's public image was perhaps tarnished most in 1971 by his attempts to hasten the return of American POWs.  The files record that Kerry made a second trip to Paris that summer to learn how the North Vietnamese might release prisoners."

VIII. Beldar's take

The sixth SwiftVets' ad is careful not to use the word "treason," and neither it nor O'Neill's book accuses Kerry in so many words of that crime or of violating statutes like 18 U.S.C. § 923.  From their point of view as veterans who were still fighting in Vietnam while Kerry was urging an immediate and unilateral withdrawal, they are certainly entitled to assert, however, that Kerry's actions — even if there were no substantive agreements reached at his Paris meeting(s) and it was "pure coincidence" that Kerry ended up endorsing unreservedly Madame Binh's "seven-point peace plan — nevertheless "betrayed his country."  That is a moral value judgment, not a legal conclusion — and obviously it's one that Kerry's supporters, and probably many undecided voters, will reject outright.

From a purely political standpoint, however, I believe that this latest ad — whether its viewers join in or reject the SwiftVets' judgment — will be another effective blow to Kerry's candidacy.  As with his medal-throwing incident and the words he spoke before the Fulbright Committee, Kerry's Paris trip(s) have long been known to those who've carefully studied his history — but I strongly suspect that a substantial portion of the American public has remained unaware of that part of his antiwar activist history.

As for my own reaction:  Again, I fully respect the SwiftVets' right to draw their own judgments, based on their service and their sacrifices, which neither I nor most Americans ever directly shared.  With no disrespect to them, however, from my own admittedly cushy perspective, "betrayal" is still a stronger word than I would yet feel comfortable using, and it conveys a more damning moral  judgment than I am yet comfortable making.  Although the circumstantial evidence is powerful, it still requires the drawing of an inference to conclude that there was an express quid pro quo or agreement between Kerry and his VVAW comrades and the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong representatives in Paris.  Kerry's resolute silence on all the details of his discussions, what was actually discussed, how and through whom the meeting(s) were arranged also cuts against him, and in favor of drawing the factual inference of a quid pro quo and the moral conclusion of "betrayal."

But in the absence of more facts — which, frankly, seem unlikely to be developed unless Sen. Kerry has a sudden change of heart, or other eyewitnesses step forward — I personally will continue to withhold judgment on the ultimate question of "betrayal." 

I have no hesitation, however, in agreeing that even in what Sen. Kerry has admitted, his actions in meeting even once with our nation's enemies during wartime, while the uniform of a Naval Reserve officer still hung in his closet, showed a profound foolishness — not a casual or trivial mistake in judgment by a callow youth, but a reprehensible misjudgment by a young man then already in his late 20s who ought to have known far better.  I'd think better of him now if he admitted that, and apologized.  But I'm not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

------------------

Update (Wed Sep 23 @ 2:05am):  Wednesday's WaPo has the Kerry camp's first reaction to the sixth ad, which is to blast the "secret" allegation — pointing out that Kerry admitted the contact in his Fulbright Committee testimony.  Well, yes — after the fact.  That doesn't mean it wasn't a "secret" trip at the time he made it, though, and as far as I know, it was. 

It's also pretty funny that WaPo quotes Brinkley — who, as I mentioned above, doesn't mention the Paris trip(s) in any of his copious writing about Kerry's antiwar activism.  Apparently it was a secret to him, too. 

Although there is that (nervous) reference to Paris in Kerry's Fulbright Committee testimony, it's certainly fair to say that Kerry hasn't gone out of his way to publicize the meeting.  For example, according to Google's search function, there are five references to the word "Paris" on the official Kerry website, none of them about the meeting.  "Le Duc Tho" draws zip, as does "Nguyen Thi Binh."  Neither name is in the index of Brinkley's book; ditto the Kranish book's index.  I'm pretty sure I didn't hear either of those names mentioned at the Democratic National Convention, either.  And of course, the Kerry website also doesn't mention that Kerry repeatedly called Ho Chi Minh "the George Washington of Vietnam" during his antiwar days either, as Nicosia's LAT article notes (pp. 3-4 of the .pdf). 

This WaPo article another marks another appearance of the "evil WaPo twin" — the incredibly biased or fact-challenged one — as the concluding paragraph shows:

Some of the [SwiftVets'] assertions were refuted, and several links between it and President Bush's campaign subsequently came to light. But the media storm created by the ad put Kerry and his campaign on the defensive.

Gee, I'd like to see the backup for that "refuted" claim, and I'd like to see even the same limited degree of objectivity that poor Nick Kristof displayed in admitting that the SwiftVets have at least scored some service aces (Christmas in Cambodia) and have proved Kerry to be a serial exaggerator about his war record.  WaPo could say, I suppose, "We've decided to believe the eyewitnesses who say there was enemy fire incoming on the Bronze Star, and disbelieve the ones who say there wasn't, and we just think all the VC were really, really bad shots to miss everyone and the boats during the hour and a half they were dead in the water rescuing PCF 3's crewmen and setting it up for a tow."  But I suspect staff writer Paul Farhi knows even less about the details of Kerry's war record, and the SwiftVets' claims, than even Mr. Kristof.  Mr. Farhi should maybe read what his colleague Michael Dobbs has written; Dobbs at least acknowledges that the Bronze Star comes down to a swearing match over enemy fire, and that Kerry's stonewalling on his military records that might support other SwiftVets claims.

But best of all is WaPo's quote of John O'Neill (boldface added):

In an interview yesterday, John O'Neill, an organizer of the Swift boat group and co-author of the anti-Kerry book "Unfit for Command," said it would be "unprecedented" for a future commander in chief to have met with enemy leaders. "It would be like an American today meeting with the heads of al Qaeda," he said.

I agree with Jim Geraghty's take on O'Neill's quote:

Team Kerry better have a good defense to refute that talking point, because if that one sentence comparison breaks through the media static and gets into voter's heads, Kerry will make Walter Mondale look like Bill Clinton.

The evil twin must not have thought of that.

Nicosia also repeated his insistence about the second (1971) trip to CNS News in a June 2004 story.  And although I didn't notice it before, Nicosia's LAT article (page 2 of the .pdf) pegs the 1970 trip as being in May "with his new wife" — they must not have spent much time in Jamaica if they were married on May 23rd and were in Paris with Madame Binh before the month was out.

Finally, from an April 24, 2004, article in the New York Times re the 1970 trip (at page 2 of the .pdf file):

Two weeks later, he married Julia Thorne, and on a trip to Europe with his new bride, Mr. Kerry, the 26-year-old ex-lieutenant took a taxicab from Paris to a suburban villa. The son of a diplomat, Mr. Kerry had managed to arrange a private meeting with North Vietnamese and Vietcong emissaries to the peace talks.

He says he does not remember who else was in the room except for Nguyen Thi Binh, the Vietcong spokeswoman in Paris, who was then bedeviling the Nixon administration by issuing peace proposals it considered little more than propaganda.

''It's not a big deal,'' he says now. ''People were dropping in. It was a regular sort of deal.'' Senator Eugene J. McCarthy had visited Paris months earlier, and other officials often sat in with the Vietnamese and held news conferences afterward.

Mr. Kerry said he considered it a fact-finding mission. The talks had been stalemated for months. Still on the table was a year-old Vietcong initiative that included an offer to release American prisoners of war when American forces pulled out.

Mr. Kerry recalled ''testing what I thought the lay of the land was'' in the meeting. ''Not that you take their word for their word, but because you sort of put the pieces of the puzzle together.''

Asked why the Vietnamese would meet with a 26-year-old, Mr. Kerry suggested it was because he had been on television as a veteran opposed to the war. He acknowledged that they might have been trying to use him to shape American public opinion.

''I knew that, and I was trying to be careful about what was real and what wasn't real,'' he said. ''I wanted to really probe. I wanted to look them in the eyes, and say, 'Well, what happens if this happens? And what does this mean?'''

Mr. Kerry came home, and before a Senate hearing 10 months later he criticized President Nixon for not accepting Mrs. Binh's assurances that the Vietnamese would release American prisoners of war if U.S. troops simply left.

See, Brinkley forgot the part about Paris, and Sen. Kerry forgot the part about Jamaica.  Odd honeymoon, that.  But he asked Madame Binh, "what happens if this happens"?  Sounds oddly like "negotiations" to me.

Update (Wed Sep 23 @ 4:30am): Three nits that've been gnawing on me:  First, the WaPo article gets the year of the undisputed meeting wrong (I'm assuming that's what WaPo was referring to, since it doesn't mention the Nicosia quotes or the Fox News story saying that Kerry's campaign denies a 1971 meeting):

The group, whose members served in the Navy at the same time as Kerry, is referring to a meeting Kerry had in early 1971 with leaders of the communist delegation that was negotiating with U.S. representatives at the Paris peace talks. The meeting, however, was not a secret.

Second, I was probably wrong to characterize the "wasn't secret" point as coming from the Kerry camp rather than from WaPo initially.  The current Kerry campaign reaction (as opposed to what they were arguing when the LAT and NYT articles came out earlier this year) is to ignore what they've already admitted, and to attack the SwiftVets again:

"This is more trash from a group that's doing the Bush campaign's dirty work," Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton said. "Their charges are as credible as a supermarket rag."

Supermarket rag, Congressional Record, whatever.

Third, the WaPo article reminded me that one other place in his Fulbright Committee testimony (page 11 of the .pdf file), Kerry stated (boldface added; bracketed portions mine):

I have been to Paris.  I have talked with both delegations at the peace talks, that is to say the Democratic Republic of Vietnam [a/k/a "Communist North Vietnam"] and the Provisional Revolutionary Government [a/k/a the Communists who claimed to govern South Vietnam, and whose military arm was the Viet Cong] and all eight of Madame Binh's points it has been stated time and time again, and was stated by Senator Vance Hartke when he returned from Paris, and it has been stated by many other officials of this Government, if the United States were to set a date for withdrawal the prisoners of war would be returned.

So despite his fuzzy memory when speaking to the NYT in April 2004, apparently on April 22, 1971, young Kerry still remembered who else he'd met with in May 1970 besides Madame Binh — and it was someone from the North Vietnamese government (although it's unclear whether it was at the same meeting or a different one).  Too bad there's no "delete button" on either Lexis/Nexis or the Congressional Record, Senator.

Update (Fri Sep 24 @ 6:08pm): I've edited the post above to correct my original reference to another press account of Nicosia's insistence on a second Paris trip from "CBS" to "CNS," and I've also fixed a broken link to Kerry's Fulbright Committee testimony.

Posted by Beldar at 11:03 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (29)

Monday, September 20, 2004

Op-ed by SwiftVets' Adm. Hoffmann

The Sunday edition of the Richmond Times Dispatch included a long and detailed op-ed by SwiftVets founder Adm. Roy Hoffmann (hat-tip Discriminations).  Those who've been following the controversy closely will find nothing much new, but it's an impassioned summary of the current state of the SwiftVets' overall case.

Posted by Beldar at 05:51 AM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (7)

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Fifth SwiftVets ad: "Dazed and Confused"

The fifth SwiftVets ad, "Dazed and Confused," again focuses on John Kerry's/someone's discarded medals/ribbons — but this time with the emphasis on Sen. Kerry's flip-flops on the   subject of what he actually threw away, juxtaposing TV images of him in 2004 and 1972. 

"We threw away the symbols of what our country gave us ... and I'm proud of that."  That's from 2004, friends and neighbors. 

Sen. Kerry, are you also proud of the upside-down American flag, mocking the Marine flag-raising atop Iwo Jima, that was on the cover of your 1971 book, The New Soldier?  If so, why have you surpressed the reprinting of that book with that cover?  Why doesn't Amazon.com have a cover image for your book on its website?

   

What symbol of your country would you not have been proud to mock or throw away in 1971-1972, sir?  And now?

The histories that will be written of the 2004 campaign, if it ends up the way it's headed now, will all agree that John Kerry's bid for the presidency was sunk by ... John Kerry.

Posted by Beldar at 08:32 AM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (13)

Should Dubya pardon Kerry?

I just read a creative and impassioned legal argument from the Holzer & Holzer team in FrontPageMag.com that effectively pre-empted something I've been intending to research and write about for weeks now.

Given the Navy Department's dismissal on Friday of the Judicial Watch complaint, I think that as a practical matter, there is zero practical chance that Kerry will ever be formally called to account for whatever he may have done, in Paris or elsewhere, as he finished out his Naval Reserve time. 

Still, I'd wager that an overwhelming majority of the public are still entirely unaware of Kerry's meeting(s) with representatives of the North Vietnamese government and Viet Cong in Paris before his famous Fulbright Committee testimony.  And the SwiftVets probably are working on an ad or two about "Tall John in Paris," so the issue's bound to keep coming up.

I therefore have decided to ply my hand at presidential speechwriting:

The President:  I know you're all curious why I've called this press conference.  I will keep this very short, and will take no questions afterwards, and neither will my staff make any comment upon it.

Allegations have been made that my opponent, Sen. John Kerry, may have run afoul of various criminal statutes and/or military regulations in meeting with representatives of the North Vietnamese government and the Viet Cong in Paris prior to Sen. Kerry's 1972 testimony before the Fulbright Committee.  I do not know the details of that meeting or those meetings.  Questions have also been raised about whether his participation as an antiwar activist while still a commissioned officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve may have run afoul of military regulations in one way or another. 

But in my judgment as Chief Executive, and under the power and responsibility granted me in that position by the Constitution, I have determined that it would serve the national interest to put to rest any further consideration of such issues during this critical time in our nation's history.  I have said before, and repeat, that I honor Sen. Kerry's combat service; and I will take on faith, without reservation, that anything he may have done in meeting with the enemies of this country during wartime were well intentioned and undertaken in a sincere belief that they were in the best interests of this country. 

I therefore have signed today a full and unconditional pardon in favor of John Forbes Kerry, absolving him from any potential criminal responsibility for such acts as he may have committed in such meetings, and/or in his capacity as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve. 

I urge all responsible Americans to accept this decision and action on my part as a complete and final closure of the issue, and like Sen. Kerry, I look forward to conducting the remainder of this year's presidential campaign with a forward-looking focus on how we should fight today's war, rather than a backward looking focus on what a presidential candidate may have done during that war more than thirty years ago.  This concludes my statement.  May God continue to bless these United States.

Your reaction, gentle readers?

Posted by Beldar at 05:14 AM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (20)

Fisking Nicholas Kristof's NYT op-ed "A War Hero or a Phony?"

In Saturday's New York Times, columnist Nicholas D. Kristof offers an interesting op-ed entitled "A War Hero or a Phony?"  Since only one presidential candidate has claimed to be a war hero, you'd be correct in inferring that it's about Sen. Kerry. 

NYT columnist Nicholas D. KristofIf you try to recall the state of public knowledge about Sen. Kerry's war record before the first SwiftVets ad appeared in early August, you'll recognize that at a minimum, the SwiftVets' campaign has had at least some success in knocking some of the burnish off that record.  But if you've been following the controversy closely, you'll see from Mr. Kristof's op-ed that on important points, he — and by fair inference, most of the mainstream media — is still clueless.

Mr. Kristof is obviously trying to write a balanced, if brief, examination of the SwiftVets vs. Kerry controversy.  He begins:

So is John Kerry a war hero or a medal-grabbing phony?

Each time that I've written about President Bush's dalliance with the National Guard, conservative readers have urged me to scrutinize the accusations against Mr. Kerry. After doing so over the last week, here's where I come out:

This is a good start, Mr. Kristof, that I only fault for the loaded term "dalliance" and for your failure to note that only Sen. Kerry has made his military service a cornerstone of his campaign.  You imply an equivalency that is facile, but false, as you've elsewhere acknowledged yourself.  Moving on (boldface in original throughout):

Did Mr. Kerry volunteer for dangerous duty? Not as much as his campaign would like you to believe. The Kerry Web site declares, "As he was graduating from Yale, John Kerry volunteered to serve in Vietnam — because, as he later said, 'It was the right thing to do.'"

In fact, as Mr. Kerry was about to graduate from Yale, he was inquiring about getting an educational deferment to study in Europe. When that got nowhere, he volunteered for the Navy, which was much less likely to involve danger in Vietnam than other services. After a year on a ship in the ocean, Mr. Kerry volunteered for Swift boats, but at that time they were used only in Vietnam's coastal waters. A short time later, the Swift boats were assigned exceptionally dangerous duties up Vietnamese rivers. "When I signed up for the Swift boats, they had very little to do with the war,'' Mr. Kerry wrote in 1986, adding, "I didn't really want to get involved in the war."

Again, the only quibble I have with this is that if one insists on drawing parallels between the candidates, it would only be fair here to also note that at the time Dubya signed up for the TANG, its units were flying F-102s in combat over Southeast Asia, and that Dubya unsuccessfully volunteered to join them there.

Did Mr. Kerry get his first Purple Heart for a self-inflicted wound? That's the accusation of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who say that the injury came (unintentionally) from a grenade that Mr. Kerry himself fired at Viet Cong. In fact, nobody knows where the shrapnel came from, and it's possible that the critics are right. It's not certain that the Viet Cong were returning fire. But the only other American on the boat in a position to see anything, Bill Zaldonis (who says he voted for Mr. Bush in 2000) told me, "He was hurt, and I don't think it was self-inflicted."

GONG!  First major set of errors, Mr. Kristof.  Everyone agrees that there were three men on the skimmer.  There's a major dispute, however, regarding who else was there besides young Lt. Kerry.  How can you possibly have missed Lisa Myers' and Bob Novak's interviews with Adm. Bill Schachte?  And how can you have failed to learn that by regulation, "the key issue that commanders must take into consideration" in deciding whether to award a Purple Heart is "the degree to which the enemy caused the injury"?  How can you have missed the facts that Kerry's commander, Lt. Cmdr. Skip Hibbard, refused to put Kerry in for a Purple Heart after the 02Dec68 mission, but Kerry somehow mysteriously was awarded one anyway in March 1969, and that none of the normal paperwork that, again by regulation, should back up a Purple Heart citation has been produced?

Did Mr. Kerry deserve his second and third Purple Hearts? There's not much dispute that the second was merited. As for the third one, the Swift Boat Veterans' claim that he received it for a minor injury he got while blowing up food supplies to keep them from the enemy. But documents and witness accounts show that he received a shrapnel wound when South Vietnamese troops blew up rice stores, and an injured arm in a mine explosion later that day.

You're right, Mr. Kristof, that the SwiftVets haven't seriously challenged the second Purple Heart, although it was for another trivial bandaid wound.  But it wasn't "South Vietnamese troops" that blew up the rice pile, Mr. Kristof, it was Lt. Kerry and Lt. Rassmann, and they weren't under enemy fire at the time.  As for the "injured arm," that's a bruise, Mr. Kristof — not even a bandaid for that one.  These are important facts, and they're absolutely undisputed.  How can you have missed them?

Did Mr. Kerry deserve his Bronze Star? Yes. The Swift Boat Veterans claim that he was not facing enemy fire when he rescued a Green Beret, Jim Rassmann, but that is contradicted by those were there, like William Rood and Mr. Rassmann (a Republican). In fact, Mr. Rassmann recommended Mr. Kerry for a Silver Star.

GONG!  You're right, Mr. Kristof, that there is a dispute as to whether Kerry was under enemy fire when he plucked Rassmann out of the river.  But Lt. Rood wasn't there that day — and no one has ever claimed he was.  From Rood's ChiTrib article:  "I was part of the operation that led to Kerry's Silver Star. I have no firsthand knowledge of the events that resulted in his winning the Purple Hearts or the Bronze Star."  There are indeed eyewitnesses who say there was enemy fire and other eyewitnesses who say there wasn't.  But none of the eyewitnesses who claim that there was incoming enemy fire have ever been able to explain how no one, and none of the five boats, were hit by it.  Sen. Kerry's own version — that he braved enemy from both banks over a 5000 meter stretch — is almost certainly a gross exaggeration.  Finally, Mr. Rassmann's credentials as a Republican are somewhat questionable — and mostly irrelevant, Mr. Kristof, unless you'd like us to ignore your op-ed based on how you've voted recently.

Did Mr. Kerry deserve his Silver Star? Absolutely. He earned it for responding to two separate ambushes in a courageous and unorthodox way, by heading straight into the gunfire. Then he pursued one armed fighter into the jungle and shot him dead. According to Fred Short, a machine gunner who saw the event, the fighter was an adult (not the half-naked teenager cited by the Swift Boat Veterans) who was preparing to launch a grenade at the boat. "Kerry went into harm's way to save the lives of the guys on the boat," Mr. Short told me. "If he hadn't done that, I am absolutely positive I would not be here today." Mr. Kerry's commander said he had wanted to give him an even higher honor, the Navy Cross, but thought it would take too long to process.

Whether the tactics used that day were courageous or foolhardy is a subject of debate, but what's clear is that Kerry stayed on his boat during the first ambush, and all three boats offloaded a large contingent of South Vietnamese "Ruff-Puffs" to chase the bad guys in the first ambush; Kerry was in no more danger, and behaved no more bravely, than any of the other skippers or crew with respect to that ambush.  With respect to the second spot where Kerry and Rood beached their boats, there were at most one or two enemy soldiers, and the one Kerry chased down was already wounded and fleeing.  The "half-naked" allegation came not originally from the SwiftVets, but from reporting by Boston Globe reporter Mike Kranish, and it's absolutely irrelevant.  And Adm. Zumwalt — who by everyone's version was eager to find some Swiftees to pin medals on — was basing his understanding of what happened on the after-action report written by Kerry that conflated the two ambushes, making it look as though (as the citation reflects) he led a team ashore under overwhelming enemy fire and against numerically superior odds.  Kerry did his duty that day and was brave — but it was ordinary duty and ordinary bravery, not Silver Star-type heroism, and certainly nothing remotely justifying a Navy Cross.

Did Mr. Kerry exaggerate his exploits? Yes. For example, he has often said over the years that he spent Christmas 1968 in Cambodia as part of the secret war there. Others who served with him confirm that on Christmas Eve 1968 (not Christmas Day) he got very close to the border, and possibly even strayed across it. But it doesn't seem to have been, as Mr. Kerry has suggested, a deliberate incursion into Cambodia.

Close, Mr. Kristof!  But there's absolutely no evidence — including from any of Kerry's "Band of Brothers" — to support the claim that Kerry ever set foot in Cambodia at any time.  Yes, some of the canals he patrolled were within yards of the border.  But he was never in Cambodia — and there's no evidence to show that he was except for his own tall tales (which you rightly admit were exaggerations).

What do those who served with him say? Some who served on other boats have called Mr. Kerry a hypochondriac self-promoter. But every enlisted man who was with Mr. Kerry on various boats when he won Purple Hearts and Silver and Bronze Stars says he deserved them. All praise his courage and back his candidacy. "I was there for two of the Purple Hearts and the Bronze and Silver Stars, and he earned every one of them," said Delbert Sandusky, in a typical comment. "He saved our lives."

Mr. Kristof, you've completely ignored the crewman who served the longest under Kerry, SwiftVet Steve Gardner.  Did you somehow miss the third SwiftVets ad, which featured only him?  And you've ignored, too, the fact that the Swift Boats almost never operated alone, but almost always operated in groups in which Kerry's fellow Swift Boat skippers had a better perspective from which to observe his ability to work together, to follow orders, to support the overall operations, than his own crew had.  Those officers overwhelmingly support the SwiftVets' contention that Kerry is "Unfit for Command."

The bottom line? Mr. Kerry has stretched the truth here and there, but earned his decorations. And the Swift Boat Veterans, contradicted by official records and virtually everyone who witnessed the incidents, are engaging in one of the ugliest smears in modern U.S. politics.

What can one do but sigh and shake one's head in bewilderment at this?  "Ugliest smears in modern U.S. politics"?  Mr. Kristof, your own column has just demonstrated — you've just admitted — that the SwiftVets have succeeded in exposing Kerry as an exaggerator.  But for their efforts, neither you nor anyone else would likely have had a second thought about John Kerry's consistent portrayal of himself as a latter-day Audie Murphy or Sgt. York.

Every American voter is entitled to reach his own considered judgment as to whether Sen. Kerry was, as you put it, "A War Hero or a Phony?"  But Mr. Kristof, when you still are so badly deluded as to undisputed facts — such as the identities of major players in the controversy like Bill Rood or Bill Schachte or Steve Gardner — I respectfully submit that your considered judgment, as expressed in this op-ed column, is worse than worthless, it's deceptive and misleading.  You should be ashamed, sir — any junior high school editorialist could do a better job of fact-gathering than this.

Mr. Kristof publishes email exchanges with his readers, and writes in one:

Many conservatives have told me to look at Kerry’s records, and his failure to execute an SF 180. I’ve been looking at the issue, and I’ll address it in a column soon.

Oh, I can hardly wait.  Got that one calendared for November 9th or so, Mr. Kristof?

Update (Sat Sep 18 @ 11:20am): Captain Ed has an independent fisking that, unsurprisingly, notes many of the same fundamental errors I did.

Update (Sun Sep 19 @ 4:40pm):  Tom Maguire and Patterico also found Mr. Kristof to be an irresistible fisking target. 

Patterico's second update notes that Mr. Kristof's statement that "every enlisted man who was with Mr. Kerry on various boats when he won Purple Hearts and Silver and Bronze Stars says he deserved them" may be technically correct.  I did not claim otherwise, but I did (and do) accuse Mr. Kristof of ignoring Gardner, who served longer under Kerry than any other crewman (but not, indeed, on any of Kerry's medal-winning occasions), and the overwhelming number of Kerry's fellow Swiftee skippers who participated in missions with Kerry on a daily basis and who've joined the SwiftVets' assessment of him as "Unfit for Command."   Given the topic Mr. Kristof's paragraph — "What do those who served with him say?" — I think Mr. Kristof's focus only on crewmen who served under Kerry on his medal-winning days is ridiculously narrow.  Instead, as phrased, Mr. Kranish's own question would embrace within its scope the hundreds of Swiftees who've joined the SwiftVets, most of whom claim no personal knowledge of Sen. Kerry's actions, but object to Sen. Kerry's mischaracterizations of their service in his antiwar activism.  They are also in an extremely knowledgeable position to draw conclusions from second-hand information about Sen. Kerry's war service — much of which comes, indeed, directly from Kerry's own admissions and claims, or from his authorized hagiographer Douglas Brinkey, or from the biography written by the Boston Globe's Michael Kranish et al.

Posted by Beldar at 03:18 AM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (43)

Judicial Watch strikes out with demand for Navy Dep't investigation

John Kerry has finally gotten some unequivocally good news in the ongoing controversy about his military service and antiwar activism.

As I wrote on August 19th, by formal request on August 18, 2004, as supplemented on September 8, 2004, Judicial Watch asked the Department of Defense and the Navy Department to investigate Sen. John Kerry's medals and antiwar activities.  On September 5th, I wrote that I thought Judicial Watch and some in the blogosphere were making too much of what I thought, on close examination, to be to be a letter which did nothing more than acknowledge receipt of Judicial Watch's complaint.

On Thursday, September 16th, Judicial Watch issued a press release advising that the

U.S. Navy Personnel Command, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request, has refused to release additional documents on the naval service of Senator John Kerry....

[Navy Personnel Command FOIA Officer Dave German] wrote [by email to Judicial Watch that] "We have withheld thirty-one (31) pages of documents from the responsive military personnel service record as we were not provided a release authorization.

According to the Judicial Watch press release, the Navy "referred Judicial Watch to the Kerry campaign Internet site for 'Numerous responsive U.S. Navy service record documents, as well as service record documents not subject to disclosure requirements under the FOIA'" — presumably meaning that the 31 withheld pages were not already disclosed there.

*******

On Friday, September 17th, Judicial Watch received a one-page letter from the Naval Inspector General, Vice Admiral Ronald A. Route, declining to take any action — or even to further pursue a full-blown formal investigation — in response to Judicial Watch's complaint:

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.

(Actually, all five medals were awarded in 1969, although the first Purple Heart was based on a trivial injury that Sen. Kerry received on December 2, 1968.  For reasons discussed below, this is not a trivial distinction.)

It's not at all clear what "existing documentation regarding his medals" Adm. Route may have reviewed, and it's extremely disappointing that he doesn't say.  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.  No such documentation has been produced by the Kerry campaign (the one-page medical record bearing the signature of Hospitalman J.C. Carreon isn't a "casualty report").  And indeed, Adm. Bill Schachte has repeatedly stated that neither document was created because there was no return enemy fire on that mission. 

Did Adm. Route locate and review a casualty report and an after-action report that someone — Lt. Kerry? — ginned up weeks or months after December 2, 1968, and routed around Lt. Com. Skip Hibbard, who'd refused to authorize a Purple Heart?  Adm. Route's letter leaves us still wondering.  In other words, if indeed the senior officers "correctly followed the procedures in place at the time for approving these awards," they must have done so using documents that are not in the public record — and that Sen. Kerry's continuing refusal to sign a Standard Form 180 will keep out of the public record.

Adm. Route's reference to "senior officers who authorized the medals [being] properly delegated authority to do so" refers to Judicial Watch's argument — which I thought was extremely weak to begin with — that only the Secretary of the Navy had authority to approve Kerry's Silver Star, and that Adm. Zumwalt lacked the authority to do so.

*******

Adm. Route's letter next says:

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.

Well, nobody ever said it would be easy, and the same could be said — to one degree or another — of any request for such an investigation.  Whether such an investigation would or wouldn't "be productive" is, of course, a value judgment.  However, I must reluctantly concede that for purposes of the Navy Department's decision whether to pursue a path that might strip Kerry of his medals, the Naval Inspector General, in the person of Adm. Route, is probably the proper military authority — perhaps subject to review upstream, but if so probably under a very deferential standard — to make that value judgment. 

That of course leaves free members of the public — including voters — who've followed the SwiftVets vs. Kerry controversy to make their own value judgments based on the incomplete public record that's available.  But it means they'll do so without the development of a fuller record than what's already available to the public — unless somehow Sen. Kerry can be induced by media and public pressure to end his stonewall, which would add significantly to the documentary evidence that's now available.

*******

Adm. Route's letter concludes with this final substantive paragraph:

Our review also considered the fact that Senator Kerry's post-active duty activities were public and that military and civilian officials were aware of his actions at the time.  For these reasons, I have determined that Senator Kerry's awards were properly approved and will take no further action in this matter.

Again, with due respect to Adm. Route, no one knows the full extent of Sen. Kerry's "post-active duty activities."  From his contemporaneous admissions, we know — as did civilian and military officials at the time — that young Kerry, while still an officer in the Naval Reserve, met with representatives of the North Vietnamese government and the Viet Cong in Paris before his Fulbright Committee testimony.  What we still don't know — and what neither military or civilian officials knew at the time — is what actually transpired in those meetings, or even how many such meetings took place!

Then and now, Kerry has been carefully vague in describing those meetings, characterizing them as "fact-finding" expeditions.  Yet he and his fellows in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War organization endorsed in full the wartime demands of our country's enemies for an immediate cease-fire and unilateral American withdrawal from South Vietnam.  Some of his fellows from those days have suggested that discussions included a partial release of prisoners of war that the North Vietnamese would expressly credit to VVAW's actions to bolster the domestic credibility and clout of Kerry and his fellow protesters.  That they have succeeded in keeping the details of their negotiations, and their agreements (if any), secret for so long is hardly a reason to assert that those details were known long ago.

Here again, however, I must concede that even if not supported by persuasive reasoning, Inspector General Route is probably the authority within the military structure who has the discretionary authority to decide whether this is something the Navy Department wishes to pursue.  And clearly, he has exercised that discretion against any further investigation.

*******

Adm. Route's letter makes no mention whatsoever of the impossible "Combat 'V'" designation for Kerry's Silver Star.  Nor does it address the multiple and varying versions of Kerry's Silver Star citation.  Nor does it indicate whether or not an investigator was appointed within the Navy Department to look into Judicial Watch's allegations — although the strong inference of his letter is that no such formal appointment was made, and that instead he determined to rule on Judicial Watch's complaint on a more peremptory basis.

*******

Judicial Watch's press release today declared:

"Admiral Route’s politicized letter raises more questions than it answers.  Kerry’s fellow and commanding officers have made credible, sworn allegations that call into question the legitimacy of John Kerry’s military service awards.  The Navy IG obviously is afraid of the political ramifications of a thorough investigation into a presidential candidate’s service record.  There is no statute of limitations, as the admiral seems to suggest, for fraudulent medals and questionable conduct.   We will appeal as appropriate this whitewash," stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

I'd agree that Adm. Route's letter leaves important questions unanswered and that it is puzzling and unsatisfactory in many respects.  I'd also agree that by necessity — given the fact that Sen. Kerry is a presidential candidate — this entire inquiry is necessarily "politicized," including both Judicial Watch's complaint and Adm. Route's response.  The term "whitewash," however, strikes me as over the top, and imputes to Inspector General Route and/or the Navy Department a pro-Kerry motivation that I think is unfair to assume.  I can certainly think of other rational bases for them to have reached this result besides a desire to "whitewash" Sen. Kerry's record.  And just as prosecutors and judges have no obligation to explain in detail every factor they've taken into account in making their decisions, nor to respond to every detail of a citizen complaintant's allegations, I can accept that some purposeful blurring or nonresponsiveness in Adm. Route's letter may be acceptable. 

Although brand new to this position, Adm. Route's  career accomplishments are as impressive as one would expect for the office he holds, and I'm confident that he secured the input of the Inspector General's in-house Legal Office as well.  Both Adm. Route and his decision are entitled to respect even from those who may disagree with it.  Judicial Watch's use of overblown rhetoric like the term "whitewash" diminishes its own credibility with the public, gives the Kerry camp tools to argue that Judicial Watch itself is behaving in a partisan fashion, and can't improve the prospects of whatever appeal Judicial Watch plans to pursue.

*******

Beldar's bottom line opinions on this decision: 

  • If this was a ticking time bomb, the fuse on it has been snuffed out at least for now, and the Kerry campaign is certain to garner more political benefit from Adm. Route's decision than it sustained damage originally from Judicial Watch's complaint.  Fairly or not, this decision will be trumpeted, and likely perceived — and is already being treated by the press — as the Navy Department sustaining and even bolstering Kerry's war-hero claims, and rejecting the criticisms of those like Judicial Watch and the SwiftVets who've argued the contrary case.  (Both of these press reports reference a memo from Adm. Route to Navy Secretary Gordon England that appears to track his letter to Judicial Watch essentially word-for-word.)
  • The confirmation that the Navy Department has at least 31 pages of Kerry records that aren't on his website, however, is important.  Again, the fact that the Navy Department has punted this hot potato ought not obscure the fact that Sen. Kerry continues to engage in a cover-up and stonewall — not only of his military records, but of his personal diaries and journals, the Medieros journal for PCF 94, and all the other materials that no one but Sen. Kerry and his pet biographer Douglas Brinkley have been allowed to review.

*******

So where does that leave us?  I know where it ought to leave Sen. John Forbes Kerry, anyway:

The Navy is letting you keep the medals you once so contemptuously threw over a Capitol fence, Sen. Kerry.  Be grateful for that, sir — it's an act of military grace.  But genuine questions remain about your service — questions that the Navy Department may be disinclined to pursue, but that substantial segments of the public still want to see answered. 

You and your surrogates have repeatedly chastised President Bush about his responses to questions regarding his military service, and you have demanded complete disclosure from him of all pertinent records.  Surely you've been embarrassed by the spectacle of some as-yet-not-quite-identified opponents of President Bush use of forged military records in an attempt to perpetrate a fraud on the American electorate through Dan Rather and CBS News.  Are you still so incredibly arrogant that you will continue to maintain that you are immune from legitimate public inquiry, even after all this?

Posted by Beldar at 12:45 AM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (19)

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Vietnam Vets for Truth Rally in DC on live now on C-SPAN (with internet streaming video)

Not interested in early NFL football?

The Vietnam Vets for the Truth rally in Washington is on C-SPAN live now, and can be viewed or listened to via internet streaming video.  Click on the LIVE link at the top left of the listing at the page I've linked, then on the next page, choose your player in the right side column to open the stream.

(Note:  There may be some common members — John O'Neill's speaking now, for instance — and there definitely are a lot of common supporters and sentiment, but this isn't a SwiftVets operation per se.  I've nonetheless coded it for my Swiftvets vs. Kerry archive, which also includes a fair number of other posts of Kerry's war record and antiwar activism that don't directly relate to the SwiftVets.)

Update (Sun Sep 12 @ 3:40pm):  Steve Pitkin just finished telling of how Sen. Kerry and others pressured him into giving made-up testimony about war crimes for the Winter Soldier farce in 1971.  He spoke with tears streaming down his face (and my eyes are not dry as I write this).  He came, he said, to tell the crowd the truth about what happened, and to apologize for what he did.  And he ended by shouting, "Lieutenant Kerry, now it's your turn!"  (I'll write more later about Mr. Pitkin, whose affidavit I first saw a few days ago, in a new post later tonight or tomorrow.)

Update (Sun Sep 12 @ 8:18pm):  Deacon at Power Line has more on the rally.

Posted by Beldar at 01:30 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, September 11, 2004

On 9/11/01 plus three, I worry about John Kerry's short memory

Shortly before last year's anniversary of the 9/11 attack, I wrote a post entitled "Debriedment," which is a fairly obscure medical term for an extremely painful process that severe burn victims undergo on their long paths toward healing.  This time last year, I was angry that on the second anniversary of 9/11, so many Americans seemed to be shushing their fellow citizens who were actively reminding them of the horrors of 9/11.

This morning I awoke suddenly, from a sound and much-needed sleep, at about the same time when, three years ago, the first plane hit the World Trade Center.  And I spent about an hour reviewing old news reports, blog entries, photographs and video clips, and so forth on the internet.  I tried to take stock, to see how I feel today about 9/11, and to compare that to how I've felt on the two previous anniversaries.

I concluded that for myself, at least, what's faded — or perhaps "healed" — has been the element of shock and surprise.  My horror, and my anger and outrage and determination, have not.  I am satisfied with this, on a personal basis.  Three years ago, I vowed that I would not forget, ever; and three years hence, I have not forgotten.  Thus, on a personal basis as a simple citizen, have I marked this anniversary of our greatest national tragedy in my lifetime.

But my reaction to this year's anniversary is also very much influenced by the fact that this is a presidential election year.  And so I write today on the subjects of memory and judgment over a period of three years, and what inferences we can draw on those subjects with respect to one of our presidential candidates.

*******

A few weeks ago, I read Doug Brinkley's description in Tour of Duty (pp. 117-24) about the few days John Kerry spent, back in 1968 before his Swift Boats service began, in the SERE training course — survival, evasion, resistance, and escape — designed to help him appreciate, and to prepare him for, the prospect of being hunted behind enemy lines and then made a prisoner of war.  This training is brutal, and designedly so.  My best friend from college underwent the SERE training as an Air Force pilot, and he told me that the only thing which enabled him to get through it without breaking, without cracking up and going catatonic, was the knowledge that it was, indeed, training and that he wasn't really a prisoner of war.  It was a very convincing bit of play-acting; but he knew he wasn't going to be maimed or executed, and one way or another, pass or fail, he knew it would end with him being free again.  For him, however, the training had its intended life-long effect.

As Brinkley describes it, Kerry's SERE training had a powerful effect on him.  It made as great an impression upon Kerry as military imagination and ingenuity could devise, short of actually handing him over to the North Vietnamese.  Here's part of what Brinkley relates about the training (at page 123; boldface mine):

A hood was placed over Kerry's head and he was ordered into a room for a private interview where the "big four" responses were name, rank, serial number, and, "I'm sorry, but my country will not allow me to tell you that."  The verbal drilling started in earnest and Kerry refused to speak.  After it was clear he wasn't going to cooperate, and once he had made the mistake of smirking again, he was punched in the face.  "I have never in all my life been hit as hard as that and for a moment I just glared straight ahead and tried to pull the senses back into their proper places," he wrote.  This went on for an hour with Kerry forced to do knee squats and push-ups.  "I started to do the push-ups but would not count them out loud," Kerry noted.  "We had been warned of this trick.  They make you count them and when you say ten or twelve or whatever push-up you are on they record your voice.  Later you hear a tape that asks the question: 'How many people's soldiers have you killed' and your voice answers on the tape 'ten' or 'twelve' or whatever number they chose to dub in.  Finally, again, I collapsed exhausted."

And yet:  Just under three years after his SERE training, in April 1971 John Kerry gave his infamous testimony to the  Senate Committee on Foreign Relations chaired by Sen. Fulbright.  And there — uncoerced, and indeed eagerly performing before TV cameras and the eyes of the world — Kerry gave testimony of a sort that he had to know would be seized upon and used in the mental torture of American POWs still in North Vietnamese hands:  Testimony of "war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."  Testimony vastly more damning and useful to the enemy than some numeral stripped out of context and dubbed into a phonied-up tape recording, because indeed Kerry's sworn and unforced testimony wouldn't have to be stripped out of context to be used by the enemy. 

And so it was used by the enemy.  As ex-POW Paul Galanti recounts in the second SwiftVets ad, John Kerry "gave the enemy for free what I and many of my comrades in North Vietnam, in the prison camps, took torture to avoid saying."  As ex-POW wounded-in-action Vietnam vet Joe Ponder said in that ad, "The accusations that John Kerry made against the veterans who served in Vietnam [were] just devastating.  And it hurt me more than any physical wounds I had."

*******

On September 11, 2001, America was punched in the face — a sucker punch harder than we'd ever been hit before in all our collective lives — harder even than Pearl Harbor, which at least had been directed at a military target, and which caused fewer American deaths.  As a country, we glared straight ahead and tried to pull the senses back in their proper places.

Three years after 9/11/01, it is clear to every American, and to the world, that our President hasn't forgotten that punch in the face, or what it meant.  It transformed him and his presidency, and has guided his every judgment and decision thereafter as our Commander in Chief.

But from his personal history between 1968 and 1971, I have serious doubts that Sen. Kerry has comparable powers of memory and judgment.

Posted by Beldar at 05:52 PM in Current Affairs, Global War on Terror, SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (10)

Thursday, September 09, 2004

On the off chance that WaPo's Michael Dobbs hasn't already put me on his "spam" list ...

Jim Geraghty's Kerry Spot, after quoting from Friday's WaPo front-page piece on the CBS forgeries, argues:

Many Kerry Spot readers hold the mainstream media in low esteem - and not undeservedly so. But when a mainstream newspaper treats a hot topic with this much detail and hits "one of the club" like CBS so hard, they ought to be applauded.

I agree entirely, and had already fired off my own email of congratulations — and encouragement: 

FROM:  William J. Dyer
DATE:  Thursday, September 09, 2004 11:00 PM
TO:  Michael Dobbs (WaPo) [dobbsm@washpost.com]
CC: Mike Allen (WaPo) [whitehouse@washpost.com]; Howard Kurtz (WaPo) [kurtzh@washpost.com]

Mr. Dobbs,

Bravo on a fine and timely article on the CBS documents!  Congrats too to Mr. Kurtz for his assist, and to Mr. Allen, whose bemusement covering the WH reaction to this was obvious.

True glory awaits you if you can bust Kerry's records stonewall, however.  Four-fifths of America still doesn't know the key fact that you reported almost three weeks ago — that Kerry's engaged in a cover-up of documents that probably would either justify his medals once and for all, or blow them to hell.  If the former, why the cover-up?

The only way Kerry will ever relent on his cover-up is if you guys — meaning you, Michael Dobbs of the Washington Post in particular — create intolerable pressure on him.  And all you have to do to do that is to tell — again, in more compelling fashion, and again, and again — the undeniable fact that you already reported. 

Pick one of the fact witnesses from either side at random and do a really thorough Q&A — not the superficial questioning that your mainstream media colleagues have done on every fact witness so far — and there you have a peg to hang a story on to remind the public of the cover-up.  Rinse and repeat until Kerry comes clean.

Best regards,

- Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar
http://beldar.org

Note:  Those email addresses are on WaPo's website, so I'm not violating anyone's privacy.  They want us to give them feedback, eh?  So — let's!

Posted by Beldar at 11:52 PM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (1)

More about Captain George Elliott, from one who knows him personally

The first major attempt at character assassination of a SwiftVet by the mainstream media was directed at Captain George Elliott by Boston Globe reporter Michael Kranish on August 6th.  When I saw Kranish's article and Captain Elliott's two affidavits — pre- and post-smear — I knew almost to a certainty what Kranish had done, and how he did it.  Kranish used an old and at best marginally ethical lawyer trick that, ironically, only works on witnesses who are extremely conscientious about telling the truth.  Three of my first four SwiftVets posts (here, here, and here) explained why and how Kranish manufactured a bogus scoop by painting an honest man as being either a liar or a fool.

If there's a circle in hell for cruel and unethical journalists, Michael Kranish deserves to spend some serious time there someday.

Since being burned by Kranish, Captain Elliott has understandably stayed out of the public limelight.  But  John O'Neill, in various interviews, has pretty much confirmed that my inferences were accurate.

Now, as it happens, National Review Online contributing editor Michael Novak is a neighbor of Captain Elliott's, and he's written a bit about the man, and a bit about why Captain Elliott and other SwiftVets had occasion to revise their opinions of Sen. John Kerry:

One of the most important of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth turns out to be a neighbor of mine, and so I've been lucky enough to have a few chats with him this summer. Captain George Elliott is a graduate of Annapolis, his back is still straight, and he deeply loves and honors the United States Navy. I want to keep what we talk about off the record, so as to not mix friendship with work. But there is one point I've learned from him that is so important to the ongoing debate, especially on the Kerry side (that is, the Big Media side), that I asked his permission to present it in public.

In recent days, I've heard at least three Kerry-supporting journalists say that the story of the Swift Boat Vets is crumbling. That certainly surprised me, so I listened carefully. One of the three or four instances they glancingly cited concerned Captain Elliott's testimony on behalf of Kerry in the Senate campaign of 1996.

They have missed an absolutely crucial point. In 1996, Kerry was being accused by a journalist of having committed war crimes. Captain Elliott and others hated this charge with regard to anything that occurred under their command, and so, putting out of mind Kerry's use of the same charge in 1971 against them and their fellows in Vietnam, these good men were willing to go to Boston "to defend the honor of the U.S. Navy," this time in the person of John Kerry. Thus, Captain Elliott's support of Kerry in 1996 does not contradict the criticism he makes now. And he is far from backing down in his support for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. He is painfully truthful himself, and is scrupulous in choosing his words.

That much I quote from Captain Elliott. What comes next is my own.

Close followers of this debate will know that the paperwork describing the actions on which Kerry's Silver and Bronze Stars were originally based came from Lieutenant (j.g.) Kerry's reports, passed up until they came to Captain Elliott. The Navy system is based on the honor code.

Only when they read the accounts published in the campaign biographies by Douglas Brinkley and a team from the Boston Globe did Kerry's superiors and peers, including Captain Elliott, come to see how widely Kerry's perception and self-serving descriptions differed from reality. Beginning then, they started to reevaluate everything they had heard from him back then. The man presented in those books was not the man they knew, and the events were not the events they knew. In wartime, one must trust one's mates. After they saw those books, they saw what Kerry reported to them then in a new light.

I infer that Captain Elliott and others in 1969 took on trust some reports from Kerry, reports they can no longer consider as truthful as they thought them before.

I recommend Mr. Novak's entire column, which includes additional remarks about the SwiftVets vs. Kerry controversy and an eloquent placing into context of the latest casualty figures from Iraq.

Posted by Beldar at 02:15 AM in Law (2006 & earlier), Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Judicial Watch supplements its request for Navy Dep't investigation of Kerry medals

An eagle-eyed reader alerts me that Judicial Watch has a new press release summarizing its supplemental request filed today with the Navy Department and other DoD officials, asking them to look into various irregularities and oddities regarding Sen. John Kerry's medals from his Vietnam service. 

Art Moore's related WorldNetDaily.com article indicates that John O'Neill's Unfit for Command co-author, Dr. Jerome Corsi, is assisting Judicial Watch in its efforts, and that this hot potato still resides on the corner of a desk somewhere in the Navy Department:

Chris Farrell, Judicial Watch's director of investigations and research, told WND he had a 20-minute phone conversation last week with a Navy inspector who had the complaint on his desk but said he was waiting for instructions from "someone with a much higher pay grade."

This strikes me as an astute effort to try to generate more public attention on the medals irregularities.  But I continue to think it would be a stretch to expect much, if any, action by the Navy Department on this complaint anytime soon.

Posted by Beldar at 06:36 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (1)

With ethics complaint against John O'Neill, Houston lawyer not only barks up the wrong tree, but misidentifies the squirrel

Is anyone's law license in jeopardy as a result of the SwiftVets versus Kerry controversy?

With the very notable exception of Lee Cearnal's August 16th op-ed in the Houston Chronicle, my hometown press here in Houston has mostly been missing-in-action in the SwiftVets vs. Kerry debate, notwithstanding the fact that SwiftVets' spokesman John O'Neill has lived and practiced law here for three decades and that several other SwiftVets live in the Houston area.  Mr. Cearnal is the Chronicle's special projects editor, and his op-ed's title — "Where's my colleagues' interest in Kerry's war records?" — remains a mostly unanswered question.

But into the fray wades the hard-left-leaning Houston Press, with a blurb entitled "Fog of War" (scroll down, it's the next-to-last entry):

Maybe you've heard lately about Houston attorney John O'Neill. Something about Swift boats and Nam, and John Kerry having a wimpy military record that makes George W. look like Rambo.

O'Neill's book Unfit for Command has launched countless shouting matches on overheated cable shows: Democrats say U.S. Navy records and Kerry's crewmates refute O'Neill's claims; O'Neill's supporters loudly change the subject.

It's hard to imagine how the Press could have started off more bass-ackwards than this.  The preferred early tactic of Kerry's supporters like Lanny Davis and James Carville was to literally shout down  O'Neill's efforts at calm explanation — as this CNN transcript clearly reveals.  (Even Davis later had the decency to express some small measure of shame for that tactic.)  O'Neill actually loves to talk about the documents and the witnesses, because the documents reveal how Sen. Kerry gamed the system to get his medals, and because there are witnesses aplenty whose first-hand, on-the-scene observations (many of them sworn in affidavit form) directly contradict those of Sen. Kerry and his small "Band of Brothers."

But on to the breaking news, as revealed by the Press (bracketed portions in original):

Now there's a chance the whole thing will play out in an unusual arena: the normally staid, under-the-radar offices of the State Bar of Texas.

A Houston attorney is one of several statewide to file ethics charges against O'Neill, saying he has violated bar rules by spreading lies, as opposed to all those other lawyers who tell only the truth.

"If we lawyers live scared to death each day of violating the ethics rules, why should he be able to violate them so publicly?" she asks. Her complaint includes TV transcripts of O'Neill's claims and newspaper articles debunking them.

(No Rambette here -- she's filed the complaint anonymously. Because, she says, going public "would make my practice [of law] impossible…Things will probably happen anyway, but I'm not going to hand [my name] to them on a silver platter.")

The wording here suggests that even the Press recognized that it's a bit of a stretch to suggest that "bar rules" prohibit lawyers, in general, from "spreading lies."  And to its credit, the Press actually asked someone at the State Bar of Texas for some clarification — a good idea, since Ms. Non-Rambette is clearly clueless about the rules that govern her, my, Mr. O'Neill's, and Sen. Kerry's profession:

Mark Pinckard, projects director for the bar's disciplinary counsel, says any investigation would first have to determine whether O'Neill's actions came in the course of being a lawyer. If not, the bar doesn't get involved.

But what if it does? Will Pinckard be issuing subpoenas to President Kerry? Will he, a now-unknown Austin lawyer, be the person who finally gets to the bottom of what happened 35 years ago on those war-torn rivers?

"Things could be interesting," he says, only half-seriously. "This could make or break my name."

"[O]nly half-seriously"?  How about, "trying hard not to dissolve into a fit of giggling"?

The disciplinary rules of ethics (drawn from the old Canons of Professional Ethics) that bind lawyers in Texas pretty closely parallel those in other states.  Because it's a felony involving "moral turpitude" and deemed incompatible with the moral character required to hold a law license, deliberately lying under oath on a material matter in a civil deposition or a grand jury proceeding can get one's law license pulled in Texas or in (to pick another state entirely at random), say, Arkansas. 

In this dispute, however, there've been no such judicial proceedings in which any of the SwiftVets or Sen. Kerry has testified.  And while many of the other SwiftVets have indeed executed sworn affidavits that are subject to the penalties of perjury, Mr. O'Neill is not, and has never claimed to be, a first-hand witness to any of Sen. Kerry's service for the very simple reason that their tours in the Swift Boats did not overlap.  (This was indeed one of the points repeatedly if inanely shouted by Messrs. Carville and Davis at Mr. O'Neill.)  Mr. O'Neill has served as a spokesman for the group, is personally knowledgeable about Swift Boat operations in general, and certainly is among those with "standing" to complain of Sen. Kerry's characterizations of the Americans who fought in Vietnam; but I don't recall seeing an affidavit from him, nor any reason why he would or should have executed one.

So what Ms. Non-Rambette must have been referring to, I surmise, was the former Canon of Professional Ethics prescribing "Candor to the Tribunal," which in Texas now resides in Rule 3.03 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.{note1}  The short and entirely complete rebuttal to her complaint — even assuming for purposes of argument that Mr. O'Neill's statements are "lies" (and I believe they aren't, for a variety of reasons) — is that none of Mr. O'Neill's statements in this matter have been to a "tribunal" within the meaning of the Rules.{note2}

Sen. Kerry is, of course, a member of the bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Although he's currently on "inactive status" — presumably because he's not been practicing law while busy voting for them (before he voted against them){note3} — Sen. Kerry's licensure is subject to continuing supervision and review by the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers.  If Mr. O'Neill's statements were indeed grounds to attack his law license in Texas, so, too, would be Sen. Kerry's — in which case the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers might find itself looking into the Christmas in Cambodia fairy tale, among others.

But as much as John O'Neill would love to have any forum in which he could compel the production of documents and the appearance and testimony of witnesses under oath, that's simply not going to happen in connection either with his own or Sen. Kerry's law licenses.  I think Ms. Non-Rambette has misidentified the squirrel here — but in any event, she's barking up the wrong tree.

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{note1} Rule 3.03, entitled "Candor Toward the Tribunal," provides:

(a) A lawyer shall not knowingly:

(1) make a false statement of material fact or law to a tribunal;

(2) fail to disclose a fact to a tribunal when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act;

(3) in an ex parte proceeding, fail to disclose to the tribunal an unprivileged fact which the lawyer reasonably believes should be known by that entity for it to make an informed decision;

(4) fail to disclose to the tribunal authority in the controlling jurisdiction known to the lawyer to be directly adverse to the position of the client and not disclosed by opposing counsel; or

(5) offer or use evidence that the lawyer knows to be false.

(b) If a lawyer has offered material evidence and comes to know of its falsity, the lawyer shall make a good faith effort to persuade the client to authorize the lawyer to correct or withdraw the false evidence. If such efforts are unsuccessful, the lawyer shall take reasonable remedial measures, including disclosure of the true facts.

(c) The duties stated in paragraphs (a) and (b) continue until remedial legal measures are no longer reasonably possible.

Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 3.03, reprinted in Tex. Gov't Code Ann., tit. 2, subtit. G app. A (Vernon Supp. 2004) (Tex. State Bar R. art. X, § 9).  This closely tracks Rule 3.3 of the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which Massachusetts has also followed since 1997.

{note2} Rule 1.0(m), the definitional section in the Model Code, defines "tribunal" thusly, in a way which pretty clearly excludes arguments addressed to the public in a national election:

"Tribunal" denotes a court, an arbitrator in a binding arbitration proceeding or a legislative body, administrative agency or other body acting in an adjudicative capacity. A legislative body, administrative agency or other body acts in an adjudicative capacity when a neutral official, after the presentation of evidence or legal argument by a party or parties, will render a binding legal judgment directly affecting a party's interests in a particular matter.

The Texas version uses different language, but also clearly doesn't embrace public political debate within its scope:

Tribunal denotes any governmental body or official or any other person engaged in a process of resolving a particular dispute or controversy. Tribunal includes such institutions as courts and administrative agencies when engaging in adjudicatory or licensing activities as defined by applicable law or rules of practice or procedure, as well as judges, magistrates, special masters, referees, arbitrators, mediators, hearing officers and comparable persons empowered to resolve or to recommend a resolution of a par-ticular matter; but it does not include jurors, prospective jurors, legislative bodies or their committees, members or staffs, nor does it include other governmental bodies when acting in a legislative or rule-making capacity.

Thus, even Sen. Kerry's whoppers on the floor of the Senate didn't come in a context in which that body was sitting as a "tribunal" — so his misstatements there of matters that were "seared — seared" into his memory, although they may properly affect the upcoming election, aren't likely to cost him his ticket to practice law.

{note3} Interestingly enough, the senior senator from Massachusetts has kept his homestate bar status "active."  That's rather odd, given that of the two of them, it's Teddy who's been noted for hands-on legislating, and Tall John who's been noted for show-horse quasi-prosecutorial roles.  And Teddy's also licensed and in active standing in the District of Columbia; Sen. Kerry isn't.

(Belated hat-tip to Kevin Whited, who alerted me to the Houston Press story by email and then linked to this post with kind words on his own blog.)

Posted by Beldar at 05:02 PM in Law (2006 & earlier), Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (10)

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Kerry goes for fourth Purple Heart

Adm. Bill Schachte, as interviewed by NBC's Lisa Myers, on the events on 02Dec68 that led to Kerry's first Purple Heart (boldface mine throughout):

My [M-60 machine] gun jammed after the first burst and as I was trying to clear my weapon — John's [M-16 rifle] apparently jammed too because he wouldn't fire anymore — I heard the old familiar, "thump" — "POW!."  And I looked, and John had fired the M-79 grenade launcher. 

We were receiving NO fire from the beach.  There were no muzzle flashes.  The water wasn't boiling around the boat as it were — and the only noise was the noise we were making.  So, I told the boat operator — the motor operator — to, you know, "let's leave the area." And we did, went back to port, eventually — went back to the swift boat and went back to port.  And that morning, I went in and debriefed my commanding officer — our division commander, then Lieutenant Commander [Grant] "Skip" Hibbard.

And I told him what happened.  And I told him I was NOT going to be filing an after-action report, which is required if you have enemy action, because we had no enemy action.  And I also after giving him all the details and I said, "Oh, by the way —" and I don't remember my exact words — "John nicked himself with the M-79."  Those M-79s, by the way, have a kill radius of about five meters.  A  little over five yards.  But, there is a shrapnel area beyond that.  And that's what happened.  And I was upset because that could have gone in somebody's eye and so on and so forth.

Some people never learn.  Here's Sen. John Forbes Kerry, Democratic nominee for President, while trap shooting in Edinburgh, Ohio, on September 4, 2004, to impress the gathered reporters and photographers with his manliness:


No eye protection, no ear protection.  No fourth Purple Heart, but not for lack of trying.  From the applicable regulation regarding eligibility for Purple Hearts:

When contemplating an award of this decoration, the key issue that commanders must take into consideration is the degree to which the enemy caused the injury.

If metaphorical enemy fire counts, Kerry's campaign is now under considerably heavier fire now than he ever was on 02Dec68:

Asked about the polls as he wrapped up a round of trap shooting in Edinburg, Ohio, Kerry wrinkled his face, turned up his palms, shrugged and walked away without responding.

Well, hell, he didn't respond because he couldn't hear the question!  His ears were still ringing!  Now, I'm not worried about him wrinkling up his face — Botox works wonders, and he can afford it.  But doncha know that if he'd put his damned fool eye out, he would've claimed it was Dubya's fault?

So how was his shooting?

Later yesterday afternoon, Mr. Kerry stopped at a farm near Edinburg for a backyard barbecue. After milling around the crowd for a few minutes, Mr. Kerry and former Ohio Sen. John Glenn stepped down the hill for some trap shooting in front of the three busloads of reporters traveling with him.

After practicing his shooting stances with several different guns in front of the cameras, the Massachusetts senator chose the 12-gauge over-and-under shotgun. After a couple of rounds, Mr. Kerry had hit four and missed six while Mr. Glenn had hit eight and missed three.

(Sen. Glenn, by the way, turned 83 last July 18th; Kerry's 60.) 

If the "practicing his shooting stance" comment leaves you with any doubts about Sen. Kerry's motivations — sport versus photo op:

Should a man who's a menace even to himself with loaded weapons be trusted as Commander-in-Chief?  Next thing you know, he'll be running somewhere with scissors, trip, and put in for the Navy Cross.

(Hat-tip InstaPundit and Sine Qua Non.)

Posted by Beldar at 08:18 PM in Humor, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (25)

Monday, September 06, 2004

SwiftVets need computer animations to help sell their case

I wish the SwiftVets would invest, bigtime and right away, in the services of a first-rate computer animation firm.

So far I've seen one semi-decent (and still badly flawed) attempt by anyone to present in visual form the competing versions of events on 13Mar69 regarding Kerry's Bronze Star and the Rassmann rescue — that being WaPo's artist's drawing that accompanied Michael Dobbs' August 22 article.

But so, so much more could be done.  Imagine the best graphics and animations you've seen on, say, the History Channel as they've illustrated the progress of some great battle or the sinking of the Titanic and you'll get a sense of what I'm talking about:  maps, moving arrows, timelines, scale models.

With respect to those same events from 13Mar69 on the Bay Hap River, for example, a good computer animation firm could create multiple animated clips to show what was where, and when, under the various witnesses' versions of events.  One of the flaws in the WaPo drawing, for example, was the trench-looking line that marked where the artist had omitted an unspecified portion of the distance that Kerry's PCF 94 traveled from the fishing weir.  I don't fault the artist for that — he had to do something like that to make everything fit onto the page.  But it completely distorts the time-and-distance aspect of Kerry's version of events.

An animated graphic — yes, a cartoon — could zoom in and out, and could run a set of stop-watch numbers in the corner to demonstrate the time passage.  A cartoon could show how far Kerry's 1500 meters of fire actually would have actually taken him from the weir, for instance, and how much time it would have taken PCF 94 to travel that distance and back.  To be watchable, the cartoon would probably need to run a while in fast-forward, but that could still be done in ways that made it clear to the viewer how much time it would have taken for Kerry's version to be true.  The better one appreciates the times and distances, the more improbable it becomes that enemy fire could have been incoming without any boats or crew being hit by it.

An alternate version of the same cartoon could then show folks the events as described by Thurlow.

Understanding the SwiftVets' precise arguments requires one to visualize the scene and assess the relative probability and improbability of the competing accounts.  The more clearly the competing accounts can be visualized, the more confident the viewer becomes in his assessment as to which is more probable.

Similarly, animated cartoons using detailed maps could zoom in and out to show where the rivers and canals ran with respect to the Cambodian border, the locations of the Swift Boat bases, the places we know that Kerry's boat was on various dates, and therefore just how improbable/impossible it is that Kerry ever crossed into Cambodia to insert SEALs/CIA guys.

Constructing these kinds of computer-generated cartoons wouldn't be cheap — we're talking five or maybe low six-figure expenditures, I'm guessing.  Lawyers already use these sorts of things in trials now, but only in the big cases where the stakes justify the expense; and there's always a fight over admissibility, which usually comes down to how well the cartoons can be defended as being "fair."  Obviously, the SwiftVets would want to be as scrupulously fair as they could, just for reasons of credibility; but there's no judge in this dispute to bang his gavel and say, "Objection sustained!  The jury shall not view that cartoon!"

Even with skilled artists to help conceive and create them, the results would probably be too long to run in 30 second TV ads.  But this sort of stuff would be tailor-made for distribution through alternative media — and in particular, through the internet and through cable TV. 

I'm sure John O'Neill knows from his courtroom experience that talking heads and historical documents induce MEGO — mine eyes glazeth over — which means your audience, be it jurors or voters, zone out quickly if that's all you've got.  Plus they're ineffective in creating the mental images that need to be understood here.  When you've got a tough case to sell simply because it's outside ordinary people's daily experiences and therefore hard for them to conceptualize and visualize, MEGO is your worst enemy.

I think computer generated graphics would be a good investment.  It's time to get creative.

---------

Update (Mon Sep 6 @ 8:25am): Readers who have ideas about how graphics generally, and computer animated graphics in particular, might be used to help shed light on these issues are invited to leave those ideas in my comments here!

Posted by Beldar at 07:47 AM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (16)

WaTimes reminds WaPo to chase the smoking gun found by Dobbs

The Kerry camp will respond with derision, "That's just those Moonies again, yer gonna believe them?"

But Nat Hentoff's op-ed in today's Washington Times is very clever indeed, because it relies upon and quotes heavily from Michael Dobbs' August 22 article published in the WaTimes' cross-town rival, the Washington Post:

Deep in a long front-page article in The Washington Post by Michael Dobbs, "Swift Boat Accounts Incomplete," there is a smoking gun. In the Aug. 22 piece, Mr. Dobbs largely gives credit to Mr. Kerry's version of one of the controversies — whether there was enemy fire on March 13, 1969, the day Mr. Kerry rescued James Rassmann from the water. But the smoking gun appears later:

"Although Kerry campaign officials insist they have published Kerry's full military records on their Web site (with the exception of medical records shown briefly to reporters earlier this year), they have not permitted independent access to his original Navy records."

On tumultuous cable talk shows, Kerry defenders repeatedly maintained that all of Mr. Kerry's Vietnam records are on his Web site. But, writes Mr. Dobbs:

"A Freedom of Information Act request by The Post for Kerry's records produced six pages of information. A spokesman for the Navy Personnel Command, Mike McClellan, said he was not authorized to release the full file, which consists of at least 100 pages."

What is in these 100-plus pages? Since the centerpiece of Mr. Kerry's presidential campaign is not his 20-year Senate career, but what he did in Vietnam, including his medals, aren't voters entitled to look at the entire record? If not, why?

In the same article, Mr. Dobbs points out that while both sides in this volatile debate have a lot of information on their respective Web sites, both "the Kerry and anti-Kerry camps continue to deny or ignore requests for other relevant documents, including Kerry's personal reminiscences (shared only with biographer Brinkley)" and the boat log....

The Post story continues: "The Kerry campaign has refused to make available Kerry's journals and other writings to The Washington Post, saying the senator remains bound by an exclusivity agreement with Brinkley." (In a subsequent Post story, Mr. Brinkley said those papers are in Mr. Kerry's "full control." Why not release them?) ...

A post-Vietnam fog of war does indeed hover over the Kerry candidacy. And why has most of the mainstream media not followed up on this smoking gun about Mr. Kerry's failure to release all of his Vietnam documents? 

Whatever one may think of its ownership, I'm pretty sure that the Washington Times is definitely on WaPo's radar screens.  It's got to be embarrassing to WaPo to have its upstart rival point out that WaPo's not following up on the story its own reporter broke more than two weeks ago.

As good as Dobbs' August 22 article was, it barely scratched the surface of what good investigative reporters could and should do — notwithstanding the Kerry cover-up of essential documents.  There's plenty of material out there — heck, WaPo could run at least two weeks' worth of articles that would be entirely new to the mainstream media out of my index page alone!  And each one of them could repeat what Dobbs said (too politely, and buried too deeply) on August 22, and what Hentoff's op-ed has just repeated:

Cover-up.  Stonewall.  Hidden records.  Cover-up.  If he'd only come clean!  Smoking gun.  Evasion.  Cover-up.  Won't return calls.  Stonewall.  Won't answer questions.  Cover-up.  What's he got to hide?  Cover-up.  Sing it with me brothers and sisters!  Form 180.  Stonewall.  Brinkley's seen 'em, why can't we?  Cover-up.  Right here in Potomac City!  How dare we?  Cover-up.

The only way to break Kerry's stonewall is to apply continuous, ever-building pressure, until the entire country's aware that Kerry's hiding documents and can draw the obvious inference that he's hiding them because there's something in them he needs to keep hidden.  The blogosphere snapped to this three weeks ago.  Will WaPo?

(Hat-tip, yet again, to PrestoPundit.)

Posted by Beldar at 05:38 AM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (9)

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Brinkley continues to play coy on Kerry records

WABC Radio's Steve Malzberg interviewed Kerry biographer Doug Brinkley today, which interview generated this NewsMax.com report about Brinkley's guarded comments on the Navy Department's very preliminary-stage  investigation of Kerry's medals.  (Hat-tip to one of my readers and to InstaPundit.)  The report also has this bit, which puzzles and frustrates me:

The presidential historian called on Kerry to authorize the release of his full military file, saying, "Clearly some of these military records should be made available to the press."

I wish I'd heard the interview live, or had a full transcript, because I'd like to know whether Brinkley called on Kerry to release his "full military file," or whether he's really only calling for "some of these military records [to] be made available to the press."  All isn't some; the press, and we, have some already, but the problem is they're only the ones Kerry has decided to show anyone outside his campaign, and even then, he's apparently shown some of his military medical records only briefly to reporters, and then snatched them back so that no one can review them in any detail.

Moreover, coy Doug continues to dodge the question of why — if, as he wrote in Tour of Duty, Kerry authorized Brinkley to obtain all of Kerry's military records directly from the Navy — Brinkley won't either clear up some of the discrepancies himself, or better yet, turn over to everyone what Kerry authorized the Navy to turn over to him.

Posted by Beldar at 05:32 PM in Books, Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (3)

Navy Department review of Kerry's medals and alleged misconduct

Several readers have emailed me recently to point out Thomas Lipscomb's articles for the Chicago Sun-Times (Aug. 27, Aug. 28, Sep. 3) and Prof. Henry Holzer & Erika Holzer's FrontPageMag.com article, which raise questions about the multiple, nonidentical citations issued for Kerry's various medals and related matters.  Some of the citations include additional language puffing up the descriptions of Kerry's heroics, and the form DD214 displayed on Kerry's campaign website references a "Silver Star with Combat 'V'" — which is a nonsequitur, since this "Combat Distinguishing Device" for "valor" is never awarded as part of a Silver Star, which already requires combat "gallantry" anyway.  [Update: Dr. James Joyner of Outside the Beltway has more about this point and adds an example of a clerical screw-up on his own Bronze Star.]

I haven't previously blogged much about this subject, but I did, however, post briefly (for me) on August 19th about Judicial Watch's formal complaint and request for investigation to the Navy Department and the DoD.

Today, the indispensible Prof. Reynolds has posted on InstaPundit with a link to an Australian newspaper (reg. req'd) that reports:

The Pentagon has ordered an investigation into the awarding of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's five Vietnam War decorations.

The highly unusual inquiry is to be carried out by the Inspector-General's Office of the US Navy. Senator Kerry served as a Swift boat captain for four months in 1968, serving two tours of duty in Vietnam.

The good Professor muses that this may result in some "more serious vetting" of Kerry's combat record than that which the mainstream media — prodded reluctantly along by the SwiftVets, talk radio, and the blogosphere — has provided.

Alas, while I would that it were so, and hope that it will be so, I'm unconvinced that it yet is so.  As best I can determine, the Australian newspaper's story, and similar ones here in the states, are the result of Judicial Watch's own September 2 press release.  It, in turn, is based on a one-page September 1 letter from the DoD's Inspector General to Judicial Watch in response to its August 18th complaint.  The DoD-IG's letter does indeed state that he has a legal responsibility to "report suspected or alleged violations" of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to the "Secretary of the Military Department concerned or the Secretary of Defense," and that the DoD-IG has forwarded Judicial Watch's allegations to the Secretary of the Navy.  But when you get past the citations to statutes and regulations, this boils down to:  "We've received your complaint and we've sent it along to the people who look into such things."

I believe it would be a serious overstatement to suggest that the DoD-IG has made any sort of preliminary determinations about the Judicial Watch complaint — certainly nothing even remotely akin yet to a finding of "probable cause" to believe there has indeed been a UCMJ violation (as opposed to, for example, a clerical mistake by whoever wrote up Kerry's DD214).  As Lipscomb's September 3 article notes,

If the Department of the Navy determines after a review of documents that it is warranted, an investigator is assigned by the naval inspector general to examine the validity of the charges.

A spokesman for the Navy said that no investigator has been assigned at this time.

That certainly doesn't mean that an investigator won't be assigned in due course.  Although the wheel of justice grinds exceedingly fine, it's also noted for grinding exceedingly slow.  Perhaps the military version of the wheel of justice turns more quickly, but I frankly will not be surprised if this takes several more weeks to get to the next procedural step, and many more weeks beyond that to reach even preliminary conclusions with respect to such relatively simple questions as the propriety of the "Combat 'V.'"  The other allegations in Judicial Watch's complaint — which include, for example, Kerry's meeting(s) in Paris with representatives of the North Vietnamese government and Viet Cong while still a Naval Reserve officer — are vastly more complicated, both factually and legally, and would require the Navy Department or the DoD to go far afield of its own personnel and records to resolve.  And regardless of how slowly the wheel turns, expect the Kerry camp to loudly "question the timing" — especially if there's even a hint that the Bush administration has given the Navy Department even the gentlest of nudges.

Don't get me wrong (switching metaphors here) — this may be a slow fused bombshell, or even a cluster bomb, waiting to explode.  As Lipscomb pointed out in a September 2 op-ed for the New York Sun,

The chief admiral of the Navy, Jeremy Michael Boorda, committed suicide over questions raised about his right to wear a Combat V by Newsweek magazine in 1996. Boorda stated in his suicide note to his sailors that the questions raised about those he wore caused him to take his life. And that was only a Bronze Star, not the Navy’s third highest decoration.

At the time, Mr. Kerry told the Boston Globe that Boorda’s conduct was "sufficient to question [Boorda’s] leadership position.... If you wind up being less than what you’re pretending to be, there is a major confrontation with value and self-esteem and your sense of how others view you."

I'm not at all sure that the fuse will reach the shell, though, much before the November 2nd election, if by then.  And yes, it would be just swell if the mainstream media did its own digging on these subjects in the meantime.  But I'm not holding my breath.

Update (Sun Sep 5 @ 9:30pm):  The Holzers have a new article entitled "The 34-Year Old 'Typo'" which argues that Kerry's at fault for failing to correct the DD214 even if the "Combat 'V'" reference was just a clerical error.  I see their point, but in a target-rich environment for Kerry mistakes and exaggerations, this one doesn't particularly thrill me.

Also, commenter Norman Rogers graciously directed me to a London Telegraph story which quotes an unidentified Navy Department official as saying, "There's a feeling that it's time to deal with this thoroughly, once and for all."  This article is a longer version of the same piece by the same reporter that Prof. Reynolds linked from the Australian paper, however, and with the exception of this unattributed remark doesn't really add anything new.  I'm not quite ready to get excited yet about a British reporter quoting an unidentified Navy Department source about unidentified parties' "feelings."  But I'm willing to be proved wrong!

Posted by Beldar at 04:59 PM in Law (2006 & earlier), Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (14)

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Kranish book makes awful first impression

I'm genuinely trying to withhold judgment, but even before I got to the pages with regular numbers, I'm having serious doubts about Michael Kranish et al.'s John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best.  At page xxvi in the Introduction (boldface mine):

Do these actions reflect the conflicts of a powerful intellect, of a man who appreciates nuance in policy and deeds but sometimes has trouble translating it to a mass audience?  Do his statements and votes on military force reflect the natural caution of a man who was severely wounded in combat, who watched men under his command die, who lost five of his best friends in a war that ended in U.S. withdrawal? ...

I'm wondering if maybe this book is actually about former Sen. Bob Kerrey.  I'm almost certain that John Kerry wasn't ever "severely wounded" because I Google-searched his campaign website for that phrase and got zero hits.  Maybe he was "severely wounded," and just didn't tell anyone on his campaign staff, d'ya think?  I'm in suspense — must resist the urge to skip ahead in the book to find out whether he survived or not!

(Google search is so much fun!  It tells us that "bandaid," for instance, does appear one time — but it's something about Bush's "bandaid solutions" to economic problems.  No hits for "ouchie," "boo-boo," "kiss it and make it better," "Ghengis Khan," "Hanoi Hilton," "Jane Fonda," "cabana boy," "diddler," "Boston Strangler," or "do you know who I am," either.  Twenty-six hits for "Purple Heart," though, which would be approximately 26 more than the stitches Kerry's severe wounds required; zero hits for "stitches" or "stitch."  But "Vietnam" pulls 236 hits — hey, did you know Kerry served in Vietnam?  "Combat" gets 165 hits; "veteran" scores 164; "courage" pulls up 106; "swift boat" draws 71; "brave" and "decorated" tie at 50; "medal" pops up 34 hits; and "hero" draws a modest 24.  "Gridley" bottoms out at 11; man, those guys have such a right to feel slighted.) 

And I'm pretty sure that if Kerry'd had a crewman die in his arms, Doug Brinkley would have already written the major motion picture movie script and Spielberg would have rushed it into production. 

But we'll see, we'll see.  Maybe by chapter three, I'll have it figured out.

Posted by Beldar at 05:44 AM in Books, Humor, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (46)

WaPo's Dobbs stumbles farther off the track

Michael Dobbs is really disappointing me.  Saturday's WaPo contains his article entitled "Democrat Says He Helped Bush Into Guard to Score Points," which contains absolutely no news (boldface mine):

A former senior politician from Texas has told close friends that he recommended George W. Bush for a pilot's slot in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War because he was eager to "collect chits" from an influential political family.

The reported comments by former Texas lieutenant governor Ben Barnes add fuel to a long-running controversy over how Bush got a slot in an outfit known as the "Champagne Unit" because it included so many sons of prominent Texans. Friends said that Barnes had recorded an interview for the CBS program "60 Minutes" that will address the question of whether Bush pulled strings to evade being sent to Vietnam.

Barnes, a longtime Democrat who works as a lobbyist and political consultant in Austin, has said that he is now "very ashamed" of helping "a lot of people who had family names of importance get in the National Guard." He made the statement during a meeting with John F. Kerry supporters in Austin on May 27, a video of which is now circulating on the Internet.

Friends said Barnes will expand on the remarks in his interview with "60 Minutes" while taking care not to contradict sworn testimony from 1999, in which he said that no member of the Bush family had directly asked him for help. Barnes was unavailable for comment yesterday....

Barnes is now telling friends that he understood that [Houston businessman Sidney] Adger was making his request on behalf of the Bush family, even though Barnes has no memory of Adger explicitly saying he was.  Barnes based his understanding on the knowledge that Adger was extremely close to the Bush family and Barnes's feeling that Adger would not have acted without the family's consent.

News flash:  Big-time Texas favor-trader did an unsought favor for the Bush family!  Stop the presses!  WaPo has second-hand information that Ben Barnes is about to give a "60 Minutes" interview in which he says the same thing he said in 1999, only now he's got ... a guess based on a "feeling"!  Barnes says he was willing, even eager, to pull strings without the presumed beneficiaries having requested or even known about it — yet his guess and his feeling are good enough to negate the possibility that Adger might have been doing the same?

Mr. Dobbs sure gives up easily, it seems:

At the time, Barnes was speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and in close touch with the head of the Texas Air National Guard, Brig. Gen. James Rose. Adger and Rose are dead.

Hey, if we're going to go on Ben Barnes' guess about his feeling, wouldn't a séance for Gen. Rose and Mr. Adger be in order as well?

Mr. Dobbs, recycling five-year-old news isn't going to win you any Pulitzer Prizes.  Busting through a presidential candidate's cover-up and stonewalling might.  Are we going to have to ask you to sign the newspaper equivalent of Standard Form 180, whatever that may be, to find out whether your editors have ordered you to ignore the "mystery" that you wrote about only two weeks ago?

Posted by Beldar at 02:43 AM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (9)

Friday, September 03, 2004

Kerry apparently signed Form 180 for Brinkley, but Brinkley is cooperating in the cover-up

I had always assumed that Sen. Kerry had himself provided his biographer Douglas Brinkley with Kerry's official military records that were already in Sen. Kerry's hands.  But in reviewing Brinkley's citations and references for ToD, I came upon this statement at page 520 of his "Acknowledgements" section (boldface mine):

Also with Kerry's permission, I obtained his Navy records and have used them as a reliable source.

I don't know any other way to interpret this than to presume that Kerry signed, and gave to Brinkley for Brinkley's submission to the DoD, Standard Form 180.  Brinkley's wording — "I obtained" — indicates that he submitted the form and that the results were sent directly to him by the DoD.

If so, I believe that a strong argument can be made that by authorizing the DoD to release these confidential materials directly at the request, and into the hands of, one historian, Kerry thereby waived any and all rights to insist that he has a privilege to prevent their release to other interested members of the press, the academic community of historians, and the public.  Brinkley's not Kerry's lawyer, wife, priest, or otherwise in a position such that sharing privileged information with him might not constitute a waiver.  [Important Note: as discussed in an update below, I haven't been able to find caselaw under the Privacy Act of 1974 to support this broad waiver argument, and it may well be incorrect.]

The public disclosure of these records via Standard Form 180 is precisely what the SwiftVets have been demanding since May 2004.  WaPo's Michael Dobbs has pointed out Kerry's refusal to release these records — although he didn't use the perfectly apt phrases "cover-up" or "stonewall" — in the same August 22nd article that Kerry's sympathizers in the media claim to have "knocked down" the SwiftVets' claims:

Some of the mystery surrounding exactly what happened on the Bay Hap River in March 1969 could be resolved by the full release of all relevant records and personal diaries. Much information is available from the Web sites of the Kerry campaign and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and the Navy archives. But both the Kerry and anti-Kerry camps continue to deny or ignore requests for other relevant documents, including Kerry's personal reminiscences (shared only with biographer Brinkley), the boat log of PCF-94 compiled by Medeiros (shared only with Brinkley) and the Chenoweth diary.

Although Kerry campaign officials insist that they have published Kerry's full military records on their Web site (with the exception of medical records shown briefly to reporters earlier this year), they have not permitted independent access to his original Navy records. A Freedom of Information Act request by The Post for Kerry's records produced six pages of information. A spokesman for the Navy Personnel Command, Mike McClellan, said he was not authorized to release the full file, which consists of at least a hundred pages.

Brinkley insists — both in ToD's Author's Note (at page xiii) and in its Acknowledgements (at page 520) — that Kerry "had no editorial control" over Brinkley's book manuscript or the entire biography project.  Fine.  If that's so, and if Brinkley didn't obtain Kerry's military records from Kerry as part of the personal archives subject to Kerry's exclusive control and subject to some sort of contractual restriction that would bind Brinkley, then nothing prevents Brinkley from handing them over to WaPo's Dobbs or any other reporter (or blogger, or SwiftVet). 

Nothing, that is, except a partisan desire to help Kerry succeed in his cover-up.

---------------

Update (Fri Sep 3 @ 11pm):  My working assumption in writing this post is that the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, is what creates Sen. Kerry's right to maintain the privacy of his military records.  This is similar to, but not quite the same as, common law rights to assert privileges against compelled disclosure (for instance, attorney-client).  Although I have a good familiarity with privileges and the ways in which they may be deliberately and inadvertantly waived, I'm not an expert on the Privacy Act.  Hence the qualification of my suggestion above that a "strong argument" can be made that if Kerry authorized Brinkley to receive his military records with Form 180, he's waived his right to continue to insist upon those records' privacy.  I'm doing some digging in the caselaw to see if this precise issue has come up under the Privacy Act, and may update this post, or start a new post, depending on what I find.

Update (Fri Sep 3 @ 11:50pm):  The relevant portion of the statute is 5 U.S.C. § 552a(b), which provides:

No agency shall disclose any record which is contained in a system of records by any means of communication to any person, or to another agency, except pursuant to a written request by, or with the prior written consent of, the individual to whom the record pertains, unless disclosure of the record would be [followed by a number of exceptions that don't appear to apply].

The question is whether Kerry's prior written consent for DoD to disclose Kerry's records directly to Brinkley would operate as a broad waiver and, in effect, consent for DoD to disclose Kerry's records to anyone else who might later ask.  Alas, and somewhat to my surprise, I cannot find a case in the annotations to the statute that's directly on point in either direction.  But given the prohibitory language of the statute as it applies to government agencies — and, frankly, given the purposes of the statute — it may be too great a stretch to argue that "consent for anyone equals consent for everyone."  This may indeed be a situation where a statutory privacy right differs from a common-law privilege.  I've deleted the phrase "thereby waiving confidentiality" from the original title of this post.  Mea culpa; I plead guilty to probably going off half-baked on the broad waiver argument.

My other main point in this post, however, I think is still valid.  On its face, once Brinkley has the records, nothing in the Privacy Act would appear to prevent him from making whatever further distribution of them he chooses.  {return to text}

Posted by Beldar at 07:30 PM in Books, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (20)

Kerry brought the Belodeau Eulogy to Brinkley's specific attention

Yes, I admit that I'm obsessed with the Belodeau Eulogy, having previously posted about it on August 17, August 26, and most recently, on August 31, 2004.  But I keep stumbling upon indications that Kerry biographer Douglas Brinkley — and indeed, Kerry himself — also regard the Belodeau Eulogy as particularly significant.

From the Epilogue chapter of Brinkley's Tour of Duty:  John Kerry and the Vietnam War, at page 436 (boldface mine):

Late in the summer of 2003 the fifty-nine-year-old junior U.S. senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry, sat at a desk in the study of his house high atop Boston's Beacon Hill, riffling through his Vietnam War files.  He was searching for the long statement he had written for a memorial service held for an old Swift boat crewman who died in 1997.  Kerry and Chelmsford native Thomas Belodeau had become friends serving together in Vietnam aboard PCF-94....  Belodeau had been the first of the Swift's mates to pass away.  "I'm sorry he's not around for Charleston [referring to Kerry's official announcement of his 2004 presidential campaign, planned for September 2, 2003, with the historic U.S.S. Yorktown as a backdrop]," Kerry said softly.  "He'll be with us in spirit, though."

My guess is that this passage is taken from Brinkley's interview with Kerry on June 30, 2003, as referenced in the list on page 466 of ToD; the next listed interview isn't until September 8, after the Charleston event.  Perhaps Prof. Brinkley thinks of June 30 as being "late in the summer" in the same general sense that Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is described at page 453 as "Kerry's fellow Democratic Senator."  Perhaps it's in that same general sense that the water-jet-propelled Patrol Boats (River), or PBRs, that are pictured at the bottom of ToD's ninth picture page (between text pages 274 and 275) are described by Brinkley as a "Swift boat [i.e., PCF] convoy." 

Mid summer or late summer; PCFs or PBRs; Republican or Democrat; Rassmann falling overboard due to a sharp turn or due to a nearby mine blast — details, details, who cares about the details when you've got a candidate to help elect?

I'm left wondering exactly why Kerry was searching for a copy of his Belodeau Eulogy in the midst of one of Brinkley's brief twelve total hours of personal interviews (per the Author's Note on page xiii).  Apparently, out of all the materials in his archives, Kerry thought the Belodeau Eulogy was important enough to bring to Brinkley's direct attention — although perhaps it didn't occur to Kerry that if a copy wasn't readily at hand in his desk, he could also find it online from the Congressional Record for January 28, 1999 (first page and second page in .pdf format).

We know that eventually, Brinkley somehow found a copy of the Belodeau Eulogy, because Brinkley quoted directly and extensively from it at page 264 in Chapter Twelve of ToD, as I wrote in my August 31 post.  Shortly after writing that post, I found another direct quote from the Belodeau Eulogy later in Chapter Twelve of ToD (at page 267):

New Englander Tommy Belodeau felt an immediate kinship with his new lieutenant based on simple regional pride.  "The crew didn't have to prove themselves to me," Kerry explained in retrospect.  "I had to earn my spurs with them.  When the chief petty officer, Del Sandusky — known as Sky — finally gave me the seal of enlisted man's approval, Tommy was the first to enthusiastically say: 'I told you so, Sky — he's from Massachusetts!'"

Brinkley actually omitted the words "who came from Illinois to be with Tom today" after the phrase "known as Sky," and did so without indicating the omission through an ellipsis, but otherwise that's another direct quote. 

Although he clearly used the Belodeau Eulogy as a primary source for two direct quotes in Chapter Twelve, as I noted in my earlier post, Brinkley did not include it in his listed sources for that chapter in his unnumbered Notes section at the conclusion of the book (pp. 483-84).  And neither does the Belodeau Eulogy appear in the Notes for the Epilogue chapter (pp. 495-97).  Elsewhere in the Notes for various chapters in ToD, Brinkley at least mentions in general terms the unpublished source materials upon which he's drawn — for instance, for Chapter Eight he writes (at page 479), "Kerry's journals and correspondence for the crux of this chapter," and for Chapter Nine he writes (at page 480), "Again Kerry's war journals form the backbone of this chapter." 

But in contrast to, say, Kerry's letters to his parents or his journal writings, the Belodeau Eulogy was originally delivered in a public setting, and was subsequently, deliberately, published by Kerry in the Congressional Record, both in print form and in a searchable online database.  And yet the Belodeau Eulogy is nowhere listed in ToD's Selected Bibliography.  As Alice cried from Wonderland, "Curiouser and curiouser!"

Posted by Beldar at 07:01 PM in Books, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (2)

Roy Rogers, Rambo, and Rassmann: What happened to Belodeau's weapon on 13Mar69, and what replacement was Rassmann bringing him?

I may be late in noticing this quote from Jim Rassmann in an August 19th press release on Kerry's campaign website (ellipsis in original; boldface mine):

"The [enemy] 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."

This is almost certainly nonsense.

Let's give Mr. Rassmann a large benefit of the doubt when he said there was only "one person in the water that day."  Perhaps he meant in his immediate area, excluding the injured crewmen who'd been blown off Lt. Pees' PCF 3 and those like Larry Thurlow who jumped into the water to rescue them.

But I haven't been able to find any reference in Mr. Rassmann's other statements about the "firefight" — for example, his August 10 WSJ op-ed, or his quotations in Michael Dobbs' August 22 WaPo article, or his quotations in Jeff Barnard's January 24 AP article — that are consistent with Mr. Rassmann's assertion in this press release that enemy fire "[knocked] out" Belodeau's M-60 machine gun on the bow of PCF 94.  In the Dobbs article, for example, we read (boldface mine):

Almost simultaneously [with the explosion of the mine under Pees' PCF 3], Kerry's forward gunner, Tommy Belodeau, began screaming for a replacement for his machine gun, which had jammed. Rassmann grabbed an M-16 and worked his way sideways along the deck, which was only seven inches wide in places.

The Barnard article is silent as to what happened to Belodeau's M-60, but says (boldface mine):

Rassmann recalls sidling along the deck next to the pilot house, a rifle in each hand, intending to give one to the bow gunner [Belodeau], when a second mine detonated, launching him into the water....

In the Belodeau Eulogy, Sen. Kerry doesn't claim that Belodeau's gun was knocked out by enemy fire, although Kerry said there (boldface mine):

We were receiving incoming rocket and small arms fire and Tommy was returning fire with his M-60 machine gun when it literally broke apart in his hands.  He was left holding the pieces unable to fire back while one of the Green Berets [Rassmann] walked along the edge of the boat to get Tommy another M-60.  As he was doing so, the boat made a high-speed turn to starboard and the Green Beret kept going — straight into the river....

Now this contains its own inprobabilities.  While an M-60 could be carried and fired by one man — think Rambo — it's a heavy weapon that was often mounted on a jeep, helicopter, or boat (as Belodeau's M-60 probably was), or else used with its own bipod:

 

It seems rather more likely that Rassmann was carrying an M-16 assault rifle in each hand — his own, plus a spare to give to Belodeau — than that he was lugging his own M-16 plus another M-60 for Belodeau.

Moreover, it seems rather more likely that Belodeau's M-60 jammed, or even that it broke apart from its own vibrations, than that it was shot apart in his hands by VC fire from the riverbanks — managing to hit only Belodeau's weapon, without hitting him, or anyone else, or the boat, would be a trick worthy of Roy Rogers on his best day.

So what does it say about Rassmann's credibility that he relies on trick-shooting VC to try to justify his claims of being under enemy fire?

Posted by Beldar at 06:23 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (24)

Chronological index of BeldarBlog posts re SwiftVets versus Kerry

For my own use, I've compiled, and will try to keep updated, an index listing my many posts about the SwiftVets versus Kerry controversy and, somewhat more broadly, all of my posts regarding Sen. Kerry's military record and antiwar activism.

These posts are all accessible in full-text, reverse chronological order through the "SwiftVets" archive link in my sidebar, but I hope that this index will help me — and perhaps others — more quickly navigate through them; with 73 posts to date, the SwiftVets archive has just become unwieldy on its own. I've also added a link to this index in the top-right portion of my sidebar.

Thursday, August 05, 2004 What the other Swifties say about Kerry; and another type of "war story" about Beldar's courtroom cross-examination of one of those Swifties (cross-examination of John O'Neill)
Saturday, August 07, 2004 Captain George Elliott's "retraction" and his two affidavits regarding Kerry's Silver Star
Saturday, August 07, 2004 Musings regarding affidavit drafting
Sunday, August 08, 2004 Kranish and Elliott on the phone: a fictional recreation
Sunday, August 08, 2004 More details from the SwiftVets (O'Neill's response to threat letter)
Monday, August 09, 2004 Best line I've heard today (Dinner with Kurtz)
Tuesday, August 10, 2004 John Kerry's "lucky hat" from his trip(s?) to Cambodia
Tuesday, August 10, 2004 Fisking Rassmann's WSJ op-ed
Tuesday, August 10, 2004 War heroes in the White House (Kerry thinks he's Martin Sheen)
Wednesday, August 11, 2004 Impermeable to the facts: Kenneth Baer's article "Frontal Assault" in The New Republic Online (defamation threats)
Thursday, August 12, 2004 More re John O'Neill's and the SwiftVets' "Tar Baby" strategy (Holzers' analysis of KE2004's defamation threat letter)
Thursday, August 12, 2004 Kerry's positive campaign (cartoon)
Thursday, August 12, 2004 WaPo enters the SwiftVets fray (WaPo editorial)
Friday, August 13, 2004 WaPo has the scent, but can't or won't find the meat yet in the SwiftVets vs. Kerry controversy (Terry M. Neal op-ed re 527s)
Monday, August 16, 2004 The frying pan begins to sizzle, and Sen. Kerry's getting seared, seared (Pollock WSJ op-ed and Wooten AJC op-ed)
Monday, August 16, 2004 New ad from MoveOn PAC urges President to violate campaign finance laws
Monday, August 16, 2004 SEALs smack senator (doubts cast on CIA/SEAL insertions into Cambodia)
Tuesday, August 17, 2004 Fisking the LAT's new article, "Veterans Battle Over the Truth"
Tuesday, August 17, 2004 O'Neill's debating points (when he's not shouted down) (John O'Neill's and John Hurley's Scarborough Country appearance)
Tuesday, August 17, 2004 A tale of two cities and two op-eds (Cearnal's Houston Chronicle and Vennochi's Boston Globe op-eds)
Tuesday, August 17, 2004 Kerry's Belodeau eulogy: Yet another version of the Rassman rescue, and screaming up the river "50 yards from Cambodia" in the dead of night
Thursday, August 19, 2004 Judicial Watch calls on DoD to investigate Kerry and possibly revoke his medals
Thursday, August 19, 2004 WaPo reports on Thurlow's Bronze Star citation (Dobbs article and responsive SwiftVets' statements)
Thursday, August 19, 2004 Movie daydreams (Kerry as Gollum)
Thursday, August 19, 2004 NYT late and lame to the SwiftVets controversy (Zernike and Rutenberg article)
Friday, August 20, 2004 New SwiftVets ad ("Sell-Out" — Kerry's Fulbright Committee testimony)
Friday, August 20, 2004 More O'Neill sans shouting hecklers (Human Events Online interview)
Friday, August 20, 2004 Funniest line I've heard today (Kerry "wins" any time there's a debate about Vietnam
Friday, August 20, 2004 The NYT's "Connections and Contradictions" line chart (re Bush ties to SwiftVets)
Saturday, August 21, 2004 WaPo and NYT see the blood in the water, but still won't look for its source; can't they remember the "five Ws and an H"? (Nagourney and VandeHei articles)
Saturday, August 21, 2004 Do you agree with LAT that the 2nd SwiftVets ad takes Kerry out of context? (re Fulbright Committee testimony)
Saturday, August 21, 2004 WaPo's beginning to find the meat! (White and Faler article)
Saturday, August 21, 2004 ChiTrib's William B. Rood adds context, but no revelations, about Kerry's Silver Star
Saturday, August 21, 2004 WaPo digs in on Kerry's Bronze Star and third Purple Heart (Dobbs article)
Saturday, August 21, 2004 USN&WR snarks MSM re Kerry's Christmas in Cambodia
Saturday, August 21, 2004 Who's not being careful about campaign finance disclosures, and why?
Sunday, August 22, 2004 The native superiority of lawyer-bloggers posing as journalists
Sunday, August 22, 2004 Newsweek examines Kerry's Bronze Star and the Bay Hap River action; Sandusky backtracks on enemy fire
Sunday, August 22, 2004 Sunday talking heads and guests argue the SwiftVets vs. Kerry controversy
Sunday, August 22, 2004 Funniest line I've heard today: Kerry on SwiftVets' secret motivation (the Barney Connection)
Sunday, August 22, 2004 The new Jim Russell version of the Bay Hap River action, the Rassmann rescue, and Kerry's Bronze Star
Sunday, August 22, 2004 WaPo lets new Kerry ad lie go unremarked, mocks Dole, and republishes Russell account as gospel (Romano and Nakamura article)
Tuesday, August 24, 2004 Jim Russell and other witnesses of uncertain provenance appearing from out of the woodwork
Tuesday, August 24, 2004 Flipfloppitude
Tuesday, August 24, 2004 SwiftVets update website photo, but leave honest footprints
Tuesday, August 24, 2004 Bear catches goose complaining about gander's sauce (lawyers for 527s)
Tuesday, August 24, 2004 One Vietnam vet's letter to another (Russ Vaughn letter)
Wednesday, August 25, 2004 McQ finds where NYT became confused re three bullet holes and enemy KIA and WIAs on 13Mar69
Wednesday, August 25, 2004 Staking the heart of the SwiftVets vampire
Wednesday, August 25, 2004 Funniest line I've heard today: Kerry camp on ties between their lawyers and anti-Bush 527s
Thursday, August 26, 2004 Why Kerry's Belodeau Eulogy deserves more attention
Thursday, August 26, 2004 Evidence mounts on Bush-Barney connection
Thursday, August 26, 2004 Honor and war heroes: John Kerry and Benedict Arnold?
Thursday, August 26, 2004 Batman rips Robin: Adm. Schachte disputes Kerry's 1st Purple Heart claim in new Novak column (also Lisa Myers interview)
Thursday, August 26, 2004 The third SwiftVets ad (just Kerry crewman Steve Gardner)
Thursday, August 26, 2004 Lambert/Lambeau Field: Does Kerry have SwiftVets on the brain?
Friday, August 27, 2004 Coordination between Bush and SwiftVets?
Friday, August 27, 2004 Butch Vorphal joins eyewitnesses disputing enemy fire during Kerry's Rassmann rescue
Friday, August 27, 2004 Brandishing the "liar finger" in the SwiftVets vs. Kerry dispute
Saturday, August 28, 2004 WaPo's Dobbs stumbles off track
Saturday, August 28, 2004 With friends like Doug Brinkley, does John Kerry need enemies?
Saturday, August 28, 2004 Questions I wish Lisa Myers had asked, or would ask, William M. Zaladonis
Sunday, August 29, 2004 The war-torn soul of John Kerry (Kerry's Gridley service)
Sunday, August 29, 2004 Brinkley and Kerry as students of history
Tuesday, August 31, 2004 Brinkley had in-hand the Belodeau Eulogy, but ignored it in telling the Rassmann rescue story
Tuesday, August 31, 2004 SwiftVets' fourth ad focuses on medals over the fence
Tuesday, August 31, 2004 No blogging tonight
Tuesday, August 31, 2004 SwiftVets offer Kerry peace with honor
Wednesday, September 01, 2004 Three questions from four weeks in John Kerry's calendar
Wednesday, September 01, 2004 Former counsel to the President urges Kerry to sue SwiftVets for defamation
Thursday, September 02, 2004 Occupiers versus liberators
Thursday, September 02, 2004 Preserving Lee Cearnal's op-ed
Thursday, September 02, 2004 Occupiers versus liberators, part II
Friday, September 03, 2004 Chronological index of BeldarBlog posts re SwiftVets versus Kerry
Friday, September 03, 2004 Roy Rogers, Rambo, and Rassmann: What happened to Belodeau's weapon on 13Feb69, and what replacement was Rassmann bringing him?
Friday, September 03, 2004 Kerry brought the Belodeau Eulogy to Brinkley's specific attention
Friday, September 03, 2004 Kerry apparently signed Form 180 for Brinkley, but Brinkley is cooperating in the cover-up
Saturday, September 04, 2004 WaPo's Dobbs stumbles farther off the track (Barnes/TANG story)
Saturday, September 04, 2004 Kranish book makes awful first impression
Sunday, September 05, 2004 Navy Department review of Kerry's medals and alleged misconduct
Sunday, September 05, 2004 Brinkley continues to play coy on Kerry records
Monday, September 06, 2004 WaTimes reminds WaPo to chase the smoking gun found by Dobbs
Monday, September 06, 2004 SwiftVets need computer animations to help sell their case
Tuesday, September 07, 2004 Kerry goes for fourth Purple Heart
Wednesday, September 08, 2004 With ethics complaint against John O'Neill, Houston lawyer not only barks up the wrong tree, but misidentifies the squirrel
Wednesday, September 08, 2004 Judicial Watch supplements its request for Navy Dep't investigation of Kerry medals
Thursday, September 09, 2004 More about Captain George Elliott, from one who knows him personally
Thursday, September 09, 2004 On the off chance that WaPo's Michael Dobbs hasn't already put me on his "spam" list ... (encouragement to pierce Kerry cover-up)
Saturday, September 11, 2004 On 9/11/01 plus three, I worry about John Kerry's short memory
Sunday, September 12, 2004 Vietnam Vets for Truth Rally in DC on live now on C-SPAN (with internet streaming video)
Saturday, September 18, 2004 Judicial Watch strikes out with demand for Navy Dep't investigation
Saturday, September 18, 2004 Fisking Nicholas Kristof's NYT op-ed "A War Hero or a Phony?"
Saturday, September 18, 2004 Should Dubya pardon Kerry?
Saturday, September 18, 2004 Fifth SwiftVets ad: "Dazed and Confused"
Monday, September 20, 2004 Op-ed by SwiftVets' Adm. Hoffmann
Tuesday, September 21, 2004 SwiftVets' sixth ad focuses on Kerry's Paris meeting (or meetings) with America's enemies — Did he "betray his country"?
Thursday, September 23, 2004 Van Odell debates Del Sandusky re Kerry's Bronze Star
Friday, September 24, 2004 NYT bungles description of Kerry's 1970 Paris meeting, and publishes a Brinkley gaffe
Saturday, September 25, 2004 Judicial Watch appeals Adm. Route's dismissal of its complaint
Saturday, September 25, 2004 A challenge to those who claim that the SwiftVets' allegations have been "debunked" or are "unsubstantiated"
Sunday, September 26, 2004 The two most flattering photographs ever taken of John F. Kerry
Wednesday, September 29, 2004 Seventh SwiftVets ad features POWs' wives
Wednesday, September 29, 2004 NYT corrects; Beldar takes a bow (re Kerry meeting with "both sides" in Paris)
Sunday, October 03, 2004 MSM still clueless about basic details of Kerry's military record (and SwiftVets' claims) (NYT errors re Kerry's leg shrapnel)
Tuesday, October 05, 2004 SwiftVets update (Esmay interview with Odell, Lipscombe's Chicago Sun-Times article on 13Mar69 after action report, conclusions re Kranish book intro, SwiftVets join POWs)
Tuesday, October 05, 2004 LAT repeats NYT's error on Kerry meeting with "both sides" in Paris
Sunday, October 10, 2004 Sorriest excuse for a book review I've ever read (the NYT's review of Unfit for Command)
Wednesday, October 13, 2004 Was Kerry's original discharge less than honorable?
Wednesday, October 13, 2004 Eighth and ninth SwiftVets ads feature 90 heroes, including Medal of Honor-winning ex-POW
Wednesday, October 13, 2004 Dean Esmay interview with Captain George Elliott
Saturday, October 16, 2004 Koppel vs. O'Neill: Nightline goes to Vietnam
Thursday, October 28, 2004 SwiftVets release five powerful new "must-view!" videos
Friday, October 29, 2004 Rumor mill buzzing on Kerry's discharge status
Sunday, October 31, 2004Politicians' secrets: Ryan versus Kerry
Monday, November 01, 2004Today's NY Sun article on Kerry's discharge status
Monday, November 01, 2004Former Navy Sec'y Middendorf delivers broad hints on Kerry's discharge

Posted by Beldar at 04:30 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Occupiers versus liberators, part II

Some of my commenters to my wee-small-hours post about Sen. Zell Miller's "occupiers versus liberators" line have been claiming "Gotcha!" — pointing to, for example, President Bush's description of our presence in Iraq, until the recent return of sovereignty, as an "occupation."  Word games of this sort bring out the rant subroutine in the Beldar programming.

Look, this is really simple.  Kerry knew damned well the difference between "liberator" and "occupier," and which term he associated with both German invaders and American troops in Vietnam.  Kerry thought America in Vietnam was like Germany in France.  Is that simple enough for you?  If not, let me boil it down a little more:

Kerry thought we were the bad guys.  There, that's the absolute nub.

Now, for those who want to pick a further fight over semantics with the crusty, less-bemused-than-usual trial lawyer who writes this blog: 

You occupy a country when your military forces have entered its territory, you've defeated its or any other hostile military forces, and you've displaced the existing regime.  Thus, we were indeed "occupying" Iraq until we returned its sovereignty because, yes indeed, we overthrew its previous government and defeated its military.  If we had gone home the day after accomplishing that, we'd have been solely conquerors, but neither occupiers nor effective liberators (since chaos and anarchy would have prevailed).

If you've deposed a despot and you use the military power you have as an occupier of a country to put political power back into the hands of its people through their democratically chosen representatives, then you're a liberator.  Hence:  In Germany and Japan after World War II, we were both liberators and, until we returned sovereignty to their peoples, occupiers.  Ditto Iraq and Afghanistan today.

By contrast, consider German forces in any of a dozen countries during World War II.  They were definitely occupiers and not liberators:  They'd deposed the existing democratic governments of those countries and defeated their military forces, and Germany's own military forces had seized possession of those countries' territory and maintained that hold through brutal force, and they'd set up military governments or Quisling puppets.  The people there weren't free, nor did they have a prospect of becoming free, nor a prospect of becoming self-governing, for as long as the Nazi occupation lasted.  And there was no natural end in sight for these Nazi occupations (other than through conquest by a different, superior military force). 

Garrett Morris will now shout this very loudly for the very, very hard of hearing:  Recapping our top story tonight — this is the kind of occupier Kerry thought we were in Vietnam — perpetrators of a perpetual occupation designed to destroy the liberty of a country's citizenry!

In Vietnam, our armed forces were there by invitation of that country's government.  Maybe that government was inept or riddled with corruption, and maybe it was far from being a classical liberal democracy like, say, Iowa.  But it was not the South Vietnamese government that was slaughtering tens of thousands outright, putting hundreds of thousands into "re-education camps," and creating millions of refugees; that didn't come until 1975, when the North Vietnamese became the bad-guy kind of occupiers. 

Indeed, in Vietnam we weren't ever occupiers, technically speaking.  We didn't get there by defeating the South Vietnamese military and deposing its government, we were there by invitation — as we were in the still-free parts of France in World War I and in South Korea.  We were defenders primarily, and liberators insofar as we recovered enemy-occupied territory for the regimes who'd invited us to help defend themselves from an external threat.

So, don't give me word games about "Bush said we're occupiers, blah blah blah."  Zell Miller knew exactly what he was saying when he spoke of "occupiers" last night, and everyone listening to him understood what he meant.  John Kerry knew exactly what he was writing when he spoke of "occupiers" in 1968-1969, and everyone reading his words understands exactly what he meant.  For once, Kerry didn't flip-flop or contradict himself:  He was very consistent in calling the American presence in Vietnam an "occupation" and the American military presence an "occupying army" — and in case you had any difficulty following him, he said, in so many words, that we were the bad-guy liberty-destroying type of occupiers, just like Germany. 

Zell Miller could — and probably should — have read from Brinkley's book to make his point about Democratic leaders who see our troops as occupiers instead of liberators.  Supplementing his point with factual backup was the simple point of my original post.  But only someone willfully obtuse can fail to understand "us bad, others good" — and if you pretend you can't follow that distinction, expect to be ranted at by your host.

Note well:  I genuinely don't know whether John Kerry also thinks our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan today are the bad-guy liberty-destroying type of occupiers.  If Kerry wants to rebut that argument, he can stand up and say he was wrong about our troops being that kind of occupiers in Vietnam then, and that he agrees our troops are "liberators" (and were only temporary, good-guy occupiers) in Iraq and Afghanistan now. 

But he won't do that, and he can't do that.  Whatever he really thinks of our troops today, saying that now would cost him his Angry-Left base who genuinely believe that our troops and their leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan — just exactly as Kerry did of our troops and their leaders in Vietnam — are the non-liberating bad-guy Nazi-scum kind of "occupiers."  You know — the blood-for-oil imperial-stormtrooper baby-killer kind of occupiers.  [Add additional slurs of your choice for our troops here, chosen at random from either Kerry's 1971 Fulbright Committee testimony or Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11.]

Any questions?  Or am I "scaring the children," like Zell did?

Posted by Beldar at 05:11 PM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (32)