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Saturday, August 21, 2004

Do you agree with LAT that the 2nd SwiftVets ad takes Kerry out of context?

The Kerry campaign and its allies — obviously including the Los Angeles Times — are reacting to the second SwiftVets ad thusly (second bracketed portion in original):

The ad does not make it clear that Kerry is recounting stories that came to light during the so-called Winter Soldier Investigation in Detroit earlier in 1971, in which more than 150 honorably discharged veterans talked about war crimes they had committed in Southeast Asia. He was not claiming to describe events that he had witnessed.

Contrary to [SwiftVet ad spokesman Joe] Ponder's assertion, Kerry did not say that all soldiers committed heinous acts against the enemy. In his testimony excerpted in the Swift boat ad, Kerry was describing only what the Winter Soldiers said themselves that they had done.

"In the context of that testimony, this is not a statement of every soldier, sailor and Marine in Vietnam," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, whose organization documented the widespread recognition of the group's first ad.

"You can say that by repeating it, he's legitimizing [the allegations], but it's not fair to him to make it seem that he's making the charges himself and making them about all soldiers."

The Kerry campaign argued that the new ad took Kerry's Senate testimony out of context and edited his comments in a manner that distorted the facts.

Okay then, let's see.  Let's ignore, for example, that many of those whom the LAT characterizes as "more than 150 honorably discharged veterans" were complete phonies who never served at all in Vietnam.

Here's quite a bit more of what young Kerry said under oath to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on April 22, 1971, just to add some context that the SwiftVets short ad didn't have time for, and that the LAT certainly wants to ignore.  The full context makes it absolutely clear that Kerry was purporting to speak for many more than just the veterans then protesting in Washington, and of many more than just the veterans who'd "testified" in Detroit (boldface mine throughout):

STATEMENT OF JOHN KERRY, VIETNAM VETERANS AGAINST THE WAR Mr. Kerry: Thank you very much, Senator Fulbright, Senator Javits, Senator Symington, Senator Pell. I would like to say for the record, and also for the men behind me who are also wearing the uniforms and their medals, that my sitting here is really symbolic. I am not here as John Kerry. I am here as one member of the group of 1000, which is a small representation of a very much larger group of veterans in this country, and were it possible for all of them to sit at this table they would be here and have the same kind of testimony.

Here young Kerry has deliberately and explicitly begun his prepared statement by claiming not to speak only of, or for, the "Winter Soldier 150," but at a minimum for at least 1000 veterans (presumably then in Washington for the ongoing antiwar protests) — and more likely for a "they" and a "them" consisting of a "very much larger group of veterans in this country."  In terms of who Kerry's speaking for, then, everything else in his testimony was subject to his claims in this introduction.

I would simply like to speak in very general terms. I apologize if my statement is general because I received notification yesterday you would hear me and I am afraid because of the injunction I was up most of the night and haven't had a great deal of chance to prepare.

I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to 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.

Again, Kerry claims to be "representing all those veterans" — at a minimum the "1000" and more probably the "very much larger group."  He does here make his first reference to the 150 so-called "Winter Soldiers," without identifying them yet by that name.  But he immediately and deliberately broadens the remaining scope of all his Senate testimony by making the charge that the war crimes of which the 150 Winter Soldiers "testified" were "not isolated incidents."  Rather, says young Kerry — and this is a line that wasn't included in the SwiftVets' ad, but completely undercuts any claim that Kerry's testimony is now being taken "out of context" — the war crimes of which the 150 Winter Soldiers spoke were "not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."  It is simply impossible to square that line with any of Sen. Kerry's or his supporters' current efforts to minimize the scope of the accusations he made in 1971 or the targets of those accusations.

Having indicted the entire US military, both in the field and at "all levels of command," young Kerry did indeed next return to a specific discussion of what the 150 Winter Soldiers had claimed:

It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit, the emotions in the room, the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam, but they did. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.

With that last phrase, young Kerry goes out of his way to broaden the responsibility for the acts about which the 150 Winter Soldiers "testified" to the entire United States.  Continuing:

They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.

This language is in the SwiftVets' second ad.  To claim, as Kerry's campaign and supporters and the LAT does, that he was speaking only of the 150 Winter Soldiers absolutely ignores the deliberate, sweeping indictment immediately above it — "not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."  And indeed, the whole point of the Winter Soldiers charade was not for them to confess individual atrocities they had committed, but to present those as being representative of normal US military practice, carried out with the full knowledge, conplicity, and responsibility of everyone up the entire chain of military command.

We call this investigation the "Winter Soldier Investigation."  The term "Winter Soldier" is a play on words of Thomas Paine in 1776 when he spoke of the Sunshine Patriot and summertime soldiers who deserted at Valley Forge because the going was rough.

We who have come here to Washington have come here because we feel we have to be winter soldiers now.  We could come back to this country; we could be quiet; we could hold our silence; we could not tell what went on in Vietnam, but we feel because of what threatens this country, the fact that the crimes threaten it, not reds, and not redcoats but the crimes which we are committing that threaten it, that we have to speak out.

The reference to "what went on in Vietnam," again, is a reference to the broad pattern that both the 150 Winter Soldiers and the 1000 antiwar protesters claimed to have seen.  The "we" in the phrase "the crimes which we are committing" can refer, at a minimum, to the 1000 protesters — since Kerry wasn't himself one of the 150 Winter Soldiers, "we" couldn't mean just them — but far more likely, the "we" was meant to refer to the entire American military.  Otherwise, the war protesters wouldn't have been going to petition Congress, but to turn themselves in to the MPs.

I would like to talk to you a little bit about what the result is of the feelings these men carry with them after coming back from Vietnam. The country doesn't know it yet, but it has created a monster, a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence, and who are given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history; men who have returned with a sense of anger and a sense of betrayal which no one has yet grasped.

Here it is absolutely clear that the "monster" created by the claimed systematic commission of and complicity in war crimes encompasses "millions of men."

The next several paragraphs, discussing Vice President Agnew's characterization of veterans who were protesting the war, can fairly be read as Kerry speaking for, and of, a limited subset of the American military.  But then he shifts back into a broader mode, first referring to "we" war protesters, but then clearly indicting the entire American military presence in Vietnam beginning with the odd phrase "our taking umbrage" (when he probably meant "taking refuge," although umbrage can also mean "shade" in addition to meaning "a feeling of anger caused by being offended"):

We are here in Washington also to say that the problem of this war is not just a question of war and diplomacy. It is part and parcel of everything that we are trying as human beings to communicate to people in this country, the question of racism, which is rampant in the military, and so many other questions also, the use of weapons, the hypocrisy in our taking umbrage in the Geneva Conventions and using that as justification for a continuation of this war, when we are more guilty than any other body of violations of those Geneva Conventions, in the use of free fire zones, harassment interdiction fire, search and destroy missions, the bombings, the torture of prisoners, the killing of prisoners, accepted policy by many units in South Vietnam.  That is what we are trying to say.  It is part and parcel of everything.

Only when he reaches this next to last sentence has young Kerry shifted back into "we" war protesters.  But even then, he deliberately broadens the scope of his accusations, painting what "we [war protesters] are trying to say" as being "part and parcel of everything."


I could continue.  Throughout the remainder of young Kerry's prepared statement, and then through his responses to the softball questions tossed to him by fawning senators, he continues to pontificate about the entire American military and indeed, the entire American culture — arguing, for example, that the entire culture bears responsibility for war crimes like those of which Lt. William Calley was convicted.

But surely this is enough for one to ask — Who, exactly, is Sen. Kerry now trying to kid?  How stupid, exactly, do Sen. Kerry and his proxies think the American people are?

The simple fact is that the SwiftVets would have loved to add more context to their ad, I'm sure.  The closer one looks at the full context, the more powerful the conclusion becomes that John Kerry's sworn, televised testimony in the United States Senate was an indictment of the entire American presence in Vietnam — from the lowest buck private to the Commander in Chief, and indeed beyond that to the entire nation.


Update:  Add PBS Newshour talking head Mark Shields to the list of those desperately trying to insist that the SwiftVets second ad takes Kerry's testimony out of context.  (Hat-tip: Power Line.)  Captain Ed also points to CNN's attempts to make the same claims, and adds his own excellent debunking of those claims, quoting not only from the Senate testimony but a contemporaneous Kerry appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" (rebroadcast this year) in which Kerry asserted his first-hand knowledge of, and personal involvement in, the same types of "war crimes" that he'd broadly accused the entire US military of complicity in during his Senate testimony. 

Finally, I've noted some minor variations in the transcription of Kerry's Senate testimony from the source I linked above and the .pdf scan from the Congressional Record; I've edited my blockquotes above to conform them to the Congressional Record version, and I've also interspersed throughout them more specific comments of my own, outside the blockquotes, regarding who Kerry claimed to be speaking for, and who he claimed to be speaking of, at various points in his testimony.

Posted by Beldar at 02:27 AM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Do you agree with LAT that the 2nd SwiftVets ad takes Kerry out of context? and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) M. Simon made the following comment | Aug 21, 2004 4:59:58 AM | Permalink

John Kerry gave veracity to "the government does bad things" with his racism charge. Which was to a certain extent true.

It was not Just Kerry giving America a black eye. It was its recent racism. The killing of MLK was still raw etc.

We are giving short shrift as to how the country's own defects helped the anti-war movement. It swayed me.

And today we have the policy of persecuting people based on what they smoke, snort, or inject. Why?

Any way that is a weak point in our armor and may cause us as much hurt in the 2000s as Kerry did in the 1980s.


Do you know how John Kerry got a piece of shrapnel buried in his leg?

You don't?

That is all right. Neither does John.

What is the War Hero Afraid of?
Form 180. Release ALL the records.

(2) M. Simon made the following comment | Aug 21, 2004 5:04:48 AM | Permalink


Did I mention that though drug use and sales is rather evenly distributed across the populatio it is blacks and Hispanics who are doing most of the jail time. Fancy that.

A little French for the Kerry folks: sauve qui peut

What is the War Hero Afraid of?
Form 180. Release ALL the records.

(3) ter0 made the following comment | Aug 21, 2004 8:34:36 AM | Permalink

The one sure way he might have been able to distance himself now from Winter Soldier testimony would have been his own disclaimer at the time, for example:

While I never personally witnessed any of these atrocities, nor to my knowledge did any of the sailors with whom I served, .....

but then he wasn't as accomplished a butt-coverer as he would be later in his career. More importantly, even though it was probably true that he had no personal knowledge, he wanted to give the opposite impression at the V VAW meetings, as set out in this letter to Mark Steyn's Mekong Mailbox.
I met John Kerry when I became a member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1971. If I were running for office, I might be tempted to say that I joined the VVAW because I was opposed to the war. The truth was less noble. I was broke, their offices were a convenient crash pad and you could meet a hell of lot of loose women by going to demonstrations as a “Vet”.


John was clearly on the make, but he was also a classic preppy mook. He wanted so much to be one of the people like Scott Camille who had been “stone killers” but after a few minutes of talking to him it was clear that he was one of the guys who never knew where the fire was coming from even when the enemy were using tracers.


John’s only replay was something along the lines of “Man, it was hell.” I doubt it. There were few safer places to be in Viet-Nam than the Mekong after Tet. The VC had been pretty much wiped out, and the NVA never made any serious attempts to use the rivers.

What I do not doubt is that John successfully gamed the system to get his 3 purples and his quick ticket home. I suppose I should be bitter about it, but life is too short; and you have to look at it from the point of view of his fellow sailors. The ones who knew what they were doing also knew that a guy that arrogantly dumb was a menace. He could get you killed. Better to ship him home.

John’s current stature as a “war hero” is a measure of how few Americans - even those of the “Greatest Generation” – have ever seen the sharp end of war.

Mark Steyn Link
I read this first on Ace of Spades

I don't know about the relative safety of the Mekong during this period, but it sure gives context to why it may have been unusual to receive hostile fire. Likewise, the image of Steyn's correspondent sounds more true to real John Kerry than the one portrayed at the Democrat Convention -- and I suspect that's why the Swifties' ads will resonate with ordinary voters.

(4) Charlie (Colorado) made the following comment | Aug 21, 2004 9:31:49 AM | Permalink

How stupid, exactly, do Sen. Kerry and his proxies think the American people are?


It's obvious from their whole approach: they figure the "elite" are on their side, and the rest of us dumb clucks can be fooled long enough for them to take power.

(5) jim made the following comment | Aug 21, 2004 12:02:15 PM | Permalink

The only action that would account for the shrapnel in Kerry's leg is the one where he and Rassmann chucked grenades into the rice cache earlier in the day on 13 Mar 69, prior to the mine explosion under PCF #3. Rassmann moved smartly out of the blast radius like a good infantryman, but Kerry didn't, resulting in his ass being self- 'fragged' with a blast of rice, which then had to be picked out of his ass literally by the grain.

This is known for the record as the 'brown rice' incident.

X-rays would, indeed, prove enlightening, if not entertaining.

And also positively devastating.

This was also his final mission. Wonder why?

(6) AC made the following comment | Aug 21, 2004 12:52:06 PM | Permalink

Kerry clearly endorsed the claims made in the "Winter Soldier Investigation," as he predicated his indictment of the U.S. and its military on them. He was presenting them as credible, as conclusions drawn from the investigation. He was leveling charges, not reporting charges leveled by others. For him now to claim that he was not accusing the U.S. government and military of having a criminal policy in Vietnam not only is false but undercuts completely the argument that he is a man of courage for having made the claims. His running from the claims when it is politically expedient to do so shows who he really is.

(7) Jacquelyn made the following comment | Aug 21, 2004 1:25:27 PM | Permalink

Kerry knowingly lied to congress regarding Cambodia. The mainstream press is acting like this isn't a big deal. It was just a mistake. I will never be convinced that a 25 year old in a war zone for the first time wouldn't know exactly where he was on Christmas. That's enough, in my opinion, to question his integrity and disqualify him from serving as president.

His testimony and anti-war activities had a horrible impact on those Americans still in Vietnam (both POW's and soldiers). John Kerry played a huge role in the change in public opinion that caused our vets to come home, not to parades but to screams of "baby killers".

He has at least two opinions on every issue currently facing our nation. He didn't bother to attend the intellegence committee meetings after the first WTC bombing.

I personally don't care what the circumstances of his medals were. I don't even care that he used the "3 purple hearts and your're out" rule in order to serve just 4 months in Vietnam

What I do care about is keeping this country safe and fighting the war on terrorism. This man is not qualified to do either.

(8) jim made the following comment | Aug 21, 2004 1:47:18 PM | Permalink

This is probably his ultimate act of treason, done with the extremely active participation of John McCain.


(9) jim made the following comment | Aug 21, 2004 2:10:05 PM | Permalink

More details here:



(10) jim made the following comment | Aug 21, 2004 2:28:44 PM | Permalink

For the researchers here, this is a good jump-off point:


(11) Jim Rhoads (vnjagvet) made the following comment | Aug 21, 2004 5:00:12 PM | Permalink

This "out of context" bs surfaced with a few trolls on Roger Simon's comments last night.

I responded quickly (and much less persuasively than your excellent treatment) that it was clearly the work of the spinners and would not work because the "context" was much worse than the statement itself.

Any good trial lawyer knows that overplaying the opening statement is the kiss of death. If anything you underplay but you try to hit the essence of the case with as few words as possible. This ad in one minute hits the essence of the VN Vets case against this pompous officious candidate.

Reading "the whole thing" only digs the hole deeper. Man this is going to be fun.

(12) JWG made the following comment | Aug 21, 2004 5:00:33 PM | Permalink

PBS must be on a mission to push the out-of-context theme. I caught NOW with Bill Moyers last night (8-20 episode) with David Brancaccio interviewing Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. I was astounded by the following two comments made by her (among many others):

"The Washington Post and New York Times have done a very good job of getting to what we can reasonably get to in the record."

"They thought they heard him accusing them of atrocities...To make their own internal story coherent about Vietnam they have to somehow reconcile what they heard as an attack on them...which is different actually, I believe, than what Kerry said..."

Both these comments were made in a discussion about how this controversy is a battle of memories. She also was firm about the second swiftvet ad taking Kerry out of context. She urged people to watch the whole testimony, but she didn't say how that was possible.

(13) Al made the following comment | Aug 21, 2004 5:17:22 PM | Permalink

I'm with a couple of the other commenters.

Screaming "Out of Context" for a week as the only defense... is just going to make ad #3 where it is John talking about what _he_personally_ did devastating. I've heard those quotes somewhere, and they're obnoxious on their own. But a week of "I was just quoting others!" will set the table nicely.

(14) Mike Roberts made the following comment | Aug 21, 2004 7:48:36 PM | Permalink

Simply the best site to dissect the whole Swiftvet issue. No spin, just the facts. With blogs like this, no wonder old media is worry. Had old media done its job (not carrying water for any campaigns), blogs like these won't come up like mushrooms after a rainstorm. If the Swiftvets sink Kerry's boat this Nov., the other big loser will be old media. Bye bye to their monopolies and reporting.

Keep up the good work. No spin for either side, just the facts, let America decides.

(15) CNChristy made the following comment | Aug 21, 2004 8:30:14 PM | Permalink

Is there some point in referring to John Kerry as "young Kerry"? He was a 27 years old man during the 1971 Senate hearings. I would hope by then he was old enough to know what he was saying!

(16) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 21, 2004 9:14:12 PM | Permalink

CNCristy, that's a very fair question and comment!

There are some who've accused Sen. Kerry, without too much hyperbole, of having a multiple personality disorder because they have such a hard time reconciling him running for office as both the Vietnam War's greatest hero and its most severe critic among the veterans who served in it. The former characterization overstates even what Sen. Kerry would claim for himself. But it's an incongruity that many find grating.

I use the phrase "young Kerry" or "Lt. Kerry" sometimes when I'm writing about this controversy just to try to make clear, from the context, that I'm referring to something he said or did as a young man, rather than more recently as a senator or a candidate. If it's annoying, I apologize. Your point that he was a full-grown man who could and should be held fully responsible for his actions in the late 1960s and early 1970s is, of course, absolutely correct, and I don't use these phrases with any intention of suggesting otherwise.

(17) daniel made the following comment | Aug 21, 2004 11:24:59 PM | Permalink

In that very same testimony Kerry accused the US miltary of MURDERING - YUP: that's the word Kerry used - MURDERING 200,000 Vietnamese EACH YEAR of the war.

Kerry called all of his fellow vets - and those still in Vietnam, and te brass in the Pentagon -and the president MURDERERS.

Kerry. Has. No. Shame.

(18) Meep made the following comment | Aug 22, 2004 3:38:06 AM | Permalink

As I wrote in my own journal, if you whine "out of context", people reply "Well, give us the context"! And then it doesn't look good.

They really need to quick reacting in such a kneejerk manner -- man, O'Neill =is= a good lawyer. It's like he knows what the reactions will be, and then uses them. Ouch.

(19) Robert made the following comment | Aug 22, 2004 12:57:32 PM | Permalink

I found this on another website with heavy veteran attendance. Can someone point me to a link of the debate video or transcript she references?

MR. KERRY: Did you serve in a free fire zone?

MR. O'NEILL: I certainly did serve in a free fire zone.

MR. KERRY: [Reading] "Free fire zone, in which we kill anything that moves – man, woman or child. This practice suspends the distinction between combatant and non-combatant and contravenes Geneva Convention Article 3.1."

MR. O'NEILL: Where is that from, John?

MR. KERRY: Geneva Conventions. You've heard about the Geneva Conventions.

From the John & John debate on the Dick Cavett show, June 20th, 1971 - just 2 months after Kerrys Senate Hearing address.

I'm sure most of you have seen the video, or at least read the transcript of the debate. Both men debated well - with neither side really hitting any home-runs. With one exception: The short exchange I just quoted above.

O'Neill spent 50% of his debate time pressing the question: "Why did you accuse 2.5 million of your fellow servicemen of commiting war crimes?" Well, Kerry answered that misguided question. You see, Kerry wasn't calling all in the military rapists, or body mutilators. Everyone likes to focus on those more sensational comments, but they were just mentioned in passing as stories 150 *OTHER* vets were telling. These weren't Kerrys personal accusations, they were the admissions of other veterans Kerry cited to bolster his primary case. Kerry was saying the war was criminal - on many different levels - and therefor those who participated in it were guilty as well. That was the big accusation against the whole military - and it hasn't been refuted to this day.

Even John O'Neills own confession stands as proof that the war crime problem was wide spread throughout the military. Kerry also had to admit that he too took part in these criminal behaviors (interdiction fire, free-fire zones, etc.). Those of you that have read his actual statements during that hearing know Kerry wasn't trying to persecute every grunt that obeyed an order and thereby broke international law or an article of the Geneva Conventions. No, Kerry was only after the policy makers, the leaders, the administration. The very people that allowed this kind of behavior to become Standard Operating Procedure. Yes, this war crime behavior became so common place and routine that John O'Neill didn't even realize his confession until Kerry started quoting international laws to him.

What I don't understand is this burning need for so many veterans to make themselves appear to be a victim. "Kerry said bad things about me!" "Kerry disgraced the whole military!" "Kerry stabbed me in the back!" Give me a break already. Kerry did no such thing, and you know it. Or maybe you don't, but I can't believe so many of you can be that thick. It's easy to take statements out of context to paint Kerry as this evil man that hates the military, and tries to denigrate them at every turn for some twisted reason. However, it's not so easy when you leave those statements in context, and you see that same "evil" man pleading for the quick return of our troops, complaining about the mistreatment of our veterans upon their return and defending our individual soldiers against being made scapegoats to cover misconduct of those in command.

I saw a doctor on CNN a while back, and he literally said, "Latest studies show: America is obese!" Now did I, upon hearing that, fly off the handle and scream "slander?" Of course I didn't. I'm smart enough to realize that he didn't mean *every* American. The doctor saw a problem that was big enough to warrant that general description - and it's true. The population of America is more overweight than in any other country on earth, 45% of us being clinically obese. Now, if this doctor were to ever run for president, should we all band together and lynch him for slander against us Americans? Most of us aren't obese, so how could he dare disgrace us with such remarks? Surely this doctor intended to slander us all, right? Ridiculous.

To those vets who absolutely must play the role of victim, to you I say: Get over yourselves already. If you need pity that bad, at least pick a culprit that has some credibility like PTSD or Agent Orange illness. The "Kerry slandered me" routine doesn't fly. And no, I'm not a vet, but my husband is. My family and his family met him on his return in San Francisco with a warm welcome. As we walked from the arrival gate to the baggage claim to get his gear, six different people stopped him and thanked him - one even hugged him. Not a single person called him names; not a single person even gave him a dirty look. He is proud of his service, as are we all.

(20) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 22, 2004 1:29:55 PM | Permalink

Robert — if that really is your name, what does your husband call you? Heh, just joking, I assume that was a MS-IE prompt on a shared computer that you just didn't correct.

I don't believe that "free fire zones" meant "kill everything that moves," either in practice or under the regulations. But I'll leave it to some other commenter to address that in more detail, perhaps.

As to your broader insistence that young Kerry's Senate testimony be looked at "in context," ma'am, that's exactly what the point of this post was. You insist that Kerry

wasn't calling all in the military rapists, or body mutilators. Everyone likes to focus on those more sensational comments, but they were just mentioned in passing as stories 150 *OTHER* vets were telling. These weren't Kerrys personal accusations, they were the admissions of other veterans Kerry cited to bolster his primary case.

Ma'am, with due respect, you've managed to entirely ignore every bit of the boldfaced language of my original post, in which I provided the full context from young Kerry's testimony. You completely ignore, for example, the most incredible line of all: "[N]ot isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."

But anyway, thanks for posting. I'd hug your husband — "Robert"? — if I could, too.

(21) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 22, 2004 1:35:37 PM | Permalink

D'oh. Reading more closely, I see that perhaps "Robert" was posting at length something written by an anonymous-to-us veteran's wife on another website. Guess that makes it less likely that I'll be hugging her husband, and explains why she ignored my bolded language.

Robert, there's a transcript of the O'Neill-Kerry debate from the Cavett show in June 1971 on the SwiftVets' website, here, but I believe the link there to streaming video from C-SPAN is broken.

(22) Robert made the following comment | Aug 22, 2004 4:43:58 PM | Permalink

Howdy, Beldar-

I have indeed read all of your preceding commentary (and even peeked at your personal info, just to get an idea of your bearings) prior to submitting my previous post. I apologize if I was not clear that I was reposting a letter from a third party. Thank you for the link to the Cavett Show transcript, I just read it. I think the information it provides is quite relevant, since that debate took place just two months after the this senate speech you are now disecting -- and many of the same issues you raise were addressed in more detail during that debate. Since that debate took place right after (and because of) that speech, both O'Neill and Kerry were still true to their convictions, and had not yet been influenced by hindsight, maturity or presidential politics. I've recently started to research this myself, somewhat to satisfy my own curiosity but more to finally settle an ongoing debate between diametrically opposed family members of mine.

In your reply, you mentioned Kerry's "most incredible line of all," wherein he claims violations are wide spread and even condoned by officers. I beg to differ - that statement seems most credible. Military war crimes had indeed become epidemic, and while I would hesitate to say they were 'official' policy, they most certainly were condoned and even ordered by many. The afore mentioned "Free Fire Zones" are just one example. You attempt to brush that off with your statement, "I don't believe that free fire zones meant kill everything that moves ... But I'll leave it to some other commenter to address that." (Perhaps this will help: http://www.crimesofwar.org/thebook/free-fire-zones.html) I think this goes to the heart of your failure to grasp just what Kerry was alleging when he referred to crimes on a daily-basis, and with the knowledge of officers. You are focusing on allegations of ear-collecting and rape, and you are rightly incredulous that these atrocities could be wide-spread. Kerry never said they were. In fact, even the 150 veterans he quotes don't say they happened on a daily basis. Instead, they say "at times" they occurred, and nothing more. Kerry does say those 150 testified to crimes on a day-to-day, and indeed they did. Perhaps you should read through them (they are all in the congressional record). You will read about Free Fire Zones, and Harassment and Interdiction Fire, and other transgressions of international law that Kerry alleged went on as a matter of routine. If I'm missing something here, please let me know.

I could go one about statements you've made during your analysis of Kerrys speech...

"Let's ignore, for example, that many of those whom the LAT characterizes as "more than 150 honorably discharged veterans" were complete phonies who never served at all in Vietnam."

Yes, you'd do well to ignore that. Not a single person that gave testimony was a phony, nor was any of the testimony ever refuted. Burkett tried for his book, but failed (although he did find numerous phonies that never gave testimony). Levy tried for his book, but also failed - and tried to cite an investigation by the Navy that never existed. But if you can give me the exact name and rank of an alleged "phony" that gave testimony (Not an organizer, or financer, or moderator, mind you - a Testifier), and the exact false statements made, I'll be happy to listen.

"The full context makes it absolutely clear that Kerry was purporting to speak for many more than just the veterans then protesting in Washington, and of many more than just the veterans who'd "testified" in Detroit..."

Yes, he did. He was also speaking for other members of VVAW nationwide. As he made quite clear, he neither spoke FOR all veterans, nor was he speaking ABOUT all military. That's obvious when you read his full Senate speech transcript, and clearly stated in the days afterward in interviews and debates (See the O'Neill - Kerry debate.)

"Here's quite a bit more of what young Kerry said under oath to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations..."

Actually, unless they have changed their Senate Hearing Procedures for special committees, Kerry wasn't under "oath." Not that it means anything - just a notation in the interest of accuracy.

I'll stop here, as I seem to be low on mana... *grins*

(23) jaed made the following comment | Aug 23, 2004 10:54:14 AM | Permalink

Military war crimes had indeed become epidemic, and while I would hesitate to say they were 'official' policy, they most certainly were condoned and even ordered by many. The afore mentioned "Free Fire Zones" are just one example.

Erm, Robert. A "free fire zone" is not a "war crime". A free-fire zone is an area in which there are no ROE - in other words, no specific restrictions governing when soldiers may fire, other than the general law of war which always applies. It means you are allowed to use your own judgment, instead of referring to canned rules or getting special permission from your base.

That Kerry thinks "use your own judgment" is equivalent to "shoot at everything that moves" says something much more frightening about him than anything the Swift Boat vets have come up with as yet.

(24) Robert made the following comment | Aug 23, 2004 1:03:40 PM | Permalink

Jaed -
From the link cited above:

"Free fire zones as defined by Department of Defense doctrine and the rules of engagement are a severe violation of the laws of war for two reasons. First, they violate the rule against direct attack of civilians by presuming that after civilians are warned to vacate a zone, then anyone still present may lawfully be attacked. The rule prohibiting direct attacks on civilians provides no basis for a party to a conflict to shift the burden by declaring a whole zone to be “civilian free.” And second, they violate the rule against indiscriminate attack by presuming without justification in the law that warning civilians to leave eliminates the legal requirements to discriminate in targeting its weapons."

That you think Kerry equates "use your own judgement" to "shoot at everything that moves" says something frightning about your reading comprehension skills. Your definition of FFZs post-dates their actual definition and application during the Vietnam conflict. When fighting combatants that would frequently appear identical in dress and manner to civilians, and even cohabitate - FFZs did indeed result in "shoot at anything that moves" situations. You might argue that goes contrary to the strictest interpretation of military doctrine - but that is irrelevant: Kerry wasn't protesting the written policy. He was protesting what was becoming the "actual policy." And there is ample documented evidence to show that civilian casualties due to action in FFZs had risen above the level of "occassional" incident.

(25) F. Rottles made the following comment | Nov 7, 2004 8:10:34 PM | Permalink

I do not think that Kerry's testimony can be minimized.

Still, even if one would claim that he had merely reported what others had said, surely he had a very significant responsibility to 1) validate the credentials of the Winter Soldiers, and 2) find corroboration for each accusation, and 3) be very diligent in the pursuit of jutice for provable war crimes.

Instead he took ownership of the accusations and amplified them while drawing attention to his decorations. Throughout his testimony he posed as someone who spoke for a generation of soldiers -- even for those who had died in combat -- as well as for the soldiers of our South Vietnam ally. He made a specific point of claiming to represent the very people that VP Agnew had referred to as the best of our country.

It is absurd to defend Kerry on the basis of his having merely reported the words of others. He was the bullhorn for the most irresponsible charges against his comrades. And he was the bullhorn, coincidentally, of the Communist regime in Hanoi. That's part and parcel of the context. And Kerry has yet to be held to account for his central role.

(26) TEWSPilot made the following comment | Nov 11, 2004 4:23:53 PM | Permalink

To save time, just visit Scott Swett's superb repository of information. I have it linked to my own site.

WinterSoldier.com is dedicated to the American veterans of the Vietnam War, who served with courage and honor.

A cursory review of the information on Scott's site will convince even the most dedicated defenders of Kerry that he is, was, and always will be "Unfit for Command".

For the nation, November 11 is celebrated as "Veterans Day". This year, November 2 was "Vietnam Veterans Vindication Day".

(27) TEWSPilot made the following comment | Nov 11, 2004 4:46:36 PM | Permalink

For those who don't understand terms like "Free fire zones, harassment interdiction fire, search and destroy missions, and .50 caliber weapons", read this excellent exposition

Kerry's Testimony Speaks Volumes

...about his ignorance and incompetence as an officer in the United States Navy during a time of war.

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