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August 10, 2004
Mark Steyn: Kerry Doesn't Add Up

The priceless Mark Steyn, the prose laureate of the Right, deconstructs the Christmas in Cambodia mythology with the skill of a surgeon in today's column. Steyn also answers those courageous Democratic Underground commenters here at CQ who called us Nazis for questioning Kerry's war record, but left no name or e-mail address on their missives:

For decades, John Kerry has told anyone who'd listen that at Christmas 1968 he was on an illegal mission inside Cambodia. On the floor of the Senate in 1986, while attacking President Reagan for turning Central America into another Vietnam quagmire (wrong as usual), Kerry said: "I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by the Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the President of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared seared in me."

The illegal Yuletide foray was so seared into him that he brought it up at every opportunity.

As he told the Boston Herald in 1979, "I remember spending Christmas Eve of 1968 five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas. The absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real."

LBJ was President on Christmas Eve 1968, but let that pass. Here's an Associated Press story from 1992: "Navy Lt John Kerry knew he had no business steering his Mekong River patrol boat across the border into Cambodia, but orders were orders By Christmas 1968, part of Kerry's patrol extended across the border of South Vietnam into Cambodia."

Just one problem. It never happened. Every living officer up his chain of command says Kerry was never ordered to Cambodia. At least three of his five crewmen say their boat was never in Cambodia. And if you don't believe any of his fellow veterans, read the excerpt from Kerry's own journal published in Tour Of Duty, the recent hagiography by Douglas Brinkley.

On December 24 1968, Kerry was at Sa Dec that's well inside Vietnam, 55 miles from the Cambodian border and waxing wistful to his diary about a quiet Christmas far from home: "Visions of sugarplums really do dance through your head and you think of stockings and snow and roast chestnuts and fires with birch logs and all that is good and warm and real. It's Christmas Eve."

I'm Vietnammed out. But it's the centrepiece of Kerry's campaign: the other day, asked a straightforward question about 9/11, he stuck to the current millennium for a good 20 seconds and then veered off into "the war that I fought in was a war where we saw America lose its support for the war, where the soldiers came back having had to do what our soldiers are doing today, carry an M-16 in another country, try to tell the difference between friend and foe. I know what it's like to go out at night on patrol", etc, etc. So, since Vietnam seems to be the only subject on which he has anything to say, it would be reassuring to know that at least he's got that right.

Read the whole thing. And remember who brought up Viet Nam service first and accused who of lying about their service first. That honor belongs to Terry McAuliffe and the Democrats, and John Kerry himself indulged in it during the spring. Don't ask us to spare him the same scrutiny he demanded of George Bush, even though Bush wasn't making Viet Nam a part of his campaign at all.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 10, 2004 9:19 AM

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