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August 8, 2004
Christmas In Cambodia, Part II: Not Without My Shipmates

Drudge reports that the Christmas in Cambodia story continues to fall apart. John O'Neill of Swiftboat Veterans for the Truth writes in his upcoming book at more length on the Cambodia story than his letter to the station managers I reprinted last night. Here's the key passage that points out the dangerous situation the Kerry campaign faces:

All the living commanders in Kerrys chain of command . . . deny that Kerry was ever ordered to Cambodia. They indicate that Kerry would have been seriously disciplined or court-martialed had he gone there. At least three of the five crewmen on Kerrys boat, Bill Zaldonis, Steven Hatch, and Steve Gardner, deny that they or their boat were ever in Cambodia [emph mine -- CE].

ONeill observed that the Cambodia incursion story is not included in Tour of Duty (Kerrys recent biography). Instead, Kerry replaced the story with a report about a mortar attack that occurred on Christmas Eve 1968 near the Cambodian border in a town called Sa Dec and Christmas day was spent at the base writing entries in his journal.

This report destroys the argument coming from various Kerry defenders that the criticisms of his combat record come from second- and third-hand sources. One of the recent comments on my blog disputed the Swiftvets story because of a lack of corroboration from those who served closest to the young Lieutenant. In this case, 60% of his own crew disavow Kerry's statements to Congress on his combat record, including Stephen Gardner but also two other crew members.

The effect of the collapse of Kerry's Cambodian Christmas should be devastating. It shows that Kerry repeatedly lied about the nature of his service in Viet Nam, destroying his credibility and bolstering that of the Swiftvets. It also casts a lot of doubt on Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony regarding widespread atrocities committed by American soldiers and Marines in the war and the complicity of US leadership. In fact, such blatantly false assertions and testimony undermine the confidence any reasonable person would have in Kerry's entire character.

No wonder he sicced a passel of attorneys onto John O'Neill and the more than 200 Swiftboat veterans who have stood up to him this year. I guess the combat hero of Cambodia couldn't find the courage to stand up to a collection of Viet Nam veterans, his own colleagues, and release his military records to prove his story once and for all. After all, it's all he and Terry McAuliffe could talk about this winter and spring, releasing military records, as long as the subject was George Bush.

Kerry can spare himself the attorney fees. In the clash of character, Kerry has already lost.

UPDATE: Instapundit and reader Captain Joe point out one report of how the Kerry campaign plans to face up, man to man, with his band of brothers:

The Democrat National Committee has prepared a full-scale assault against the Vietnam Veterans for Truth to draw their character and veracity into question, according to one anonymous source inside the DNC. The campaign of character assassination is scheduled to coincide with the release of the book Unfit for Command which reveals inconvenient facts for the Kerry campaign.

We have prepared what we call Brown Books that contain damaging military records, personal credit histories, medical histories, psychiatric histories, divorce records, you name it, our source told us. "We've got the goods on the Veterans who oppose Kerry." ...

The Brown Books are so called because of their distinctive plain brown covers, which contain no words. Some books have already been delivered to Kerry-friendly reporters. Others are on their way, our source told us. When asked if we could have a copy, our source declined, saying there is a limited number of Brown Books and they have been carefully inventoried to control in whose hands the books ended up.

Ultimately the Brown Books will end up in the hands of pro-Kerry news agencies and reporters. According to our source, who demanded to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, The New York Times is already on the hook to run a negative series on the Vets, as is the Boston Globe, which is owned by the Times.

Here's a message to John Kerry: If you want to discredit the Swiftvets, release your military records!

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 8, 2004 9:02 PM

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