Lipscomb Continues The History Lesson

Thomas Lipscomb continued to give John Kerry the rematch he demanded on the Swift Boat debate, this time by addressing one of Kerry’s rebuttals about the first Purple Heart medal. Lipscomb revisits the skimmer mission that resulted in his eventually winning the medal after first having it denied by his commanding officer and later caused Kerry to call an admiral a liar:

According to Kerry’s accounts in both Michael Kranish’s Boston Globe reporting, the Brinkley account of TOUR OF DUTY, and the Zernike Times piece, Kerry, an officer stationed at Coastal Division 14 at Cam Ranh Bay, still in training before being assigned a Swift boat, who had never been in combat before, “volunteered for a special mission on what the Navy called a skimmer but he knew as a Boston Whaler.” Coastal Division 14 operations officer Bill Schachte, who says he was glad to have Kerry volunteer, agrees so far. …
Schachte says he designed the missions for two officers and one enlisted man to run the boat. He commanded forward with an M-60 7.62 machine gun, the other officer would carry an M-16 with a starlight scope scanning the shoreline or an M-14 with an infrared scope if it was cloudy. He wanted two officers because as an intelligence-generated mission he wanted to make sure two men on the boat had been cued in at the 4PM operations meeting on what to look for in the area to be explored. Enlisted men did not attend that meeting.
Schachte’s regular call sign on the radio was “Bacardi Charlie,” but when he ran the occasional skimmer missions Schachte took on a distinctive new call sign “BATMAN” and the supporting Swift boat, whoever was in command, was “ROBIN.”
Schachte says he personally led seven out of the eight skimmer missions he ran at Cam Ranh, and the one he didn’t lead was not led by what Hibbard terms “a ‘rookie’ who knew nothing about the concept or tactics involved to command the skimmer.” Schachte points out that if he had risked the lives of two enlisted men with a green officer on a difficult night mission like this he should have been reprimanded. Kerry, after all, was an “officer in training” at Coastal Division 14. Kerry had never had a command and had not yet been released to a first command of his own. His job was to go on missions with veterans and learn.

Admiral William Schachte has always insisted that he went out on the skimmer with Kerry on that engagement, and that Kerry’s description of the event greatly exaggerated what happened. The mission, according to the admiral, turned out to be a bust. The only weapons discharging were American — specifically Schachte’s M-60 and Kerry’s M-16, and an M-79 grenade launcher. The mission had counted on secrecy, and all of the gunfire had blown their cover, so Schachte ordered the boats to fall back to the protection of the swift boat, captained by Mike Voss.
Voss, not coincidentally, has contradicted Kerry’s assertion that Schachte lied about being aboard the skimmer that night. Since this mission was conducted by CosDiv 14, Schachte had to have ordered it himself, and would have known who went out on the water. Schachte ordered eight such missions in that area, and he went out on all but one of them himself; the only skimmer mission at CosDiv 14 that he did not personally command was one with Lt. Tedd Peck, over whose Swift Boat Kerry would take command on January 30, 1969.
If something happened that matched Kerry’s story more than Schachte’s, one would have expected the men to have contemporaneously made a report detailing the attack of the enemy on their position. However, as Lipscomb points out, that’s hardly what happened:

Poor Schachte, who had had a boring evening ending in a blown mission – somehow in the same time and place in that parallel universe to Kerry’s “frightening” magical mystery tour – got debriefed by the Coastal Division 14 commander Hibbard, filed no after action report since there was no enemy action, told Hibbard Kerry wanted a Purple Heart, and hit the sack, mildly disgusted.
Kerry got back in the same time and same place, and filed no after action report. Neither did Mike Voss, despite an action as described by Kerry that certainly merited one and would have guaranteed him an automatic purple heart with no problems with either Hibbard or Schachte had he filed one. In fact, according to Hibbard, it would have been the only after action report filed on one of Schachte’s skimmer missions which weren’t as effective as he and Schachte had hoped. Schachte disagrees and is convinced there must have been “one or two.” …
No reasonable explanation has yet been offered for the grant of Kerry’s first purple heart. Tedd Peck dissolves into laughter recalling a dispirited Schachte heading into the officers’ club for a drink the day after the mission muttering that Kerry was threatening “to write his Congressman if he didn’t get his purple heart,” knowing the bales of quadruplicate paperwork that would ensue.

If nothing else, this clearly demonstrates that Kerry has badly miscalculated in his attempt to restart the entire Swift Boat controversy. He knows that he cannot avoid it if he wants to run again for the presidency, but he seems to think that he can simply assert that he has convincing evidence to support his stories and that everyone will trust him enough not to ask to see it. If that is his strategy — and the article in the New York Times leaves one with no other impression, since he produced no evidence for the story — then once again he will demonstrate why his initial campaign failed so badly. In the end, it isn’t the Swift Boat veterans that defeated Kerry, but Kerry himself, and he looks well on his way to doing it again.

Lipscomb Fisks The Gray Lady

Thomas Lipscomb, whose writing on the John Kerry campaign in 2004 earned him a Pulitzer Prize nomination, has fired a salvo back at Kate Zernike and her article on Kerry’s attempt to re-engage on the Swift Boat campaign. In an article at Real Clear Politics, Lipscomb deftly points out the journalistic, evidentiary, and logical flaws in Zernike’s rather naive reporting:

Kate Zernike’s story on the front page of the Memorial Day Sunday New York Times, “Kerry Pressing Swift Boat Case Long After Loss,” is an unfortunate reminder of the Times’s embarrassingly poor coverage of Kerry in the face of the Swift Boat Veterans’ for Truth charges in the 2004 election. Now as then, the Times acts as if the issues involved were between Kerry’s latest representations of his record and the “unsubstantiated” charges of the Swift Boat group. The Times used the term “unsubstantiated” more than twenty times during its election coverage and continues to make no discernable effort to examine any of the charges in detail.
But there was plenty of evidence in the work of other news organizations that some of the charges, and the Kerry military records themselves, were worth examining seriously. I found numerous problems with Kerry’s records on his website in my own reporting for the Chicago Sun-Times: a Silver Star with a V for valor listed that the Navy stated it had never awarded in the history of the US Navy, three separate medal citations with some heavy revisions in Kerry’s favor signed by former Navy Secretary John Lehman who denied ever signing them, to name two.
Additionally I found by examining the message traffic with experts that when the Swift Boat Vets charged that Kerry had written the Bay Hap after action report, by which he received his bronze star and the third purple heart that was his ticket out of Vietnam, the evidence showed that it was indeed probably written by Kerry himself. Zernike seems to have totally missed this in her reporting. Zernike is content to refer to Kerry’s claim that “original reports pulled from the naval archives contradict the charge that he drafted his own accounts of various incidents,” none of which she cites, provides, or analyzes.

One would think that after eighteen months, if anyone wanted to dredge this up again, a reporter would want to do so in order to achieve more clarity on the allegations. Instead, Zernike used these as a platform for Kerry to make even more unsubstantiated statements, such as the notion that he and his supporters had gathered evidence that would show all of the charges made by the SBVFT as baseless lies. Wouldn’t a reporter ask to see that evidence? Wouldn’t that kind of scoop put her on the top echelon of the media? Instead, Zernike did little more than take dictation from Kerry and his cohorts, as Lipscomb repeatedly demonstrates.
Read the entire article. I couldn’t agree more with Lipscomb’s conclusion — if the media wants to re-open this as a story, it should be prepared to demand all of the records from Kerry as well as thoroughly review the evidence gathered by the 250 veterans who opposed Kerry’s bid for the presidency. If no one is prepared for that commitment, then it should remain where the voters left it in November 2004.

Why Kerry Is The Democrat’s Nightmare

The New York Times reports that John Kerry wants to re-fight the Swift Boat debate, two years after his serial exaggerations and outright lies about his military service cost him the presidential election. The only possible reason for raising this issue would be to clear the decks for another presidential run in 2008, but like 2004, it shows that Kerry’s only strategy for elections is to live in a refashioned past:

Three decades after the Vietnam War and nearly two years after Mr. Kerry’s failed presidential bid, most Americans have probably forgotten why it ever mattered whether he went to Cambodia or that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth accused him of making it all up, saying he was dishonest and lacked patriotism.
But among those who were on the front lines of the 2004 campaign, the battle over Mr. Kerry’s wartime service continues, out of the limelight but in some ways more heatedly — because unlike then, Mr. Kerry has fully engaged in the fight. Only those on Mr. Kerry’s side, however, have gathered new evidence to support their case. …
His supporters are compiling a dossier that they say will expose every one of the Swift boat group’s charges as a lie and put to rest any question about Mr. Kerry’s valor in combat. While it would be easy to see this as part of Mr. Kerry’s exploration of another presidential run, his friends say the Swift boat charges struck at an experience so central to his identity that he would want to correct the record even if he were retiring from public life.
Mr. Kerry portrays himself as a wary participant in his own defense, insisting in the two-hour interview that he does not want to dwell on the accusations or the mistakes of his 2004 campaign. “I’m moving on,” he says several times.

Obviously, he’s not moving on, and that was the problem with his whole presidential run. It would be inaccurate, to put it mildly, to say that the Swift boat veterans cost Kerry the presidency. What defeated Kerry was his insistence on focusing his campaign on his valor in Viet Nam and the repetition of stories like Christmas in Cambodia that failed the smell test. Instead of offering coherent policies on foreign and domestic issues, but especially about the war in Iraq, Kerry insisted on talking about his service in Viet Nam as opposed to Bush’s National Guard service and Cheney’s deferments. When the opposition engaged on those topics, seeing as how Kerry didn’t want to talk about much else, he seemed shocked that people would question his assertions.
Had Kerry developed a coherent message on policy and left Viet Nam in the past where it belonged, he would never have had to deal with the Swift Boat vets at all. They only organized because Kerry stupidly put their photos on his campaign material and implied that these veterans supported him. When they angrily demanded a retraction, the Kerry campaign refused — and they set about telling their stories instead.
Interestingly, the Times never addresses the central Kerry fib that allowed the opposition to get a toehold on this issue. Kerry had pontificated during the 1986 debate over funding the Nicaraguan contras that he knew what it was like to be behind enemy lines, and told a story that he had often related regarding how he spent Christmas 1968 in Cambodia (March 27, 1986 CR 3594):

Mr. President, I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by 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 ….

In an article for the Boston Herald written on October 14, 1979, Kerry wrote about this experience:

“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 killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real.”

As has been pointed out time and time again, President Nixon took office a month after this incident supposedly occurred. Nixon was elected in 1968, but took office on January 20, 1969. Moreover, one of Kerry’s crew has always insisted that the closest their boat came to Cambodia at Christmas was Sa Dec, about 50 miles away. That testimony comes from Stephen Gardner, who served with Kerry until mid-January 1969, when Kerry transferred to another boat. Trying to address Kerry’s complaints without mentioning this obvious lie indicates a serious amount of bias in the reporter and leaves the story incomplete.
The Times reports that Kerry’s supporters are gathering evidence that will prove the Swift Boat vets liars. The report contains no evidence supporting this conclusion except Kerry’s assertion that William Schachte lied about his recollections of Kerry’s service. In this case, the article seems rather premature. Why not wait until Kerry and his supporters actually have the proof?
My coverage of the Swift Boat controversy can be found in the category I created especially for it. I have not posted on this topic for eighteen months, believing that the story had been thoroughly told. If Kerry really wants to open the topic for debate again, there are plenty of questions contained within the category that have never been answered. Here are just a few:
1. Why did Kerry appropriate Tedd Peck’s battle record into his own record?
2. Why did Kerry allow David Alston to appear at numerous campaign events and misrepresent himself as an eyewitness to Kerry’s Silver Star engagement?
3. Why did Alston disappear from the campaign after this became public, and why didn’t the Kerry campaign explain his absence?
4. If Kerry came under fire on the December 2, 1968 incident for which he requested and eventually received his first Purple Heart, why then did Kerry write in his journal on December 11 that he had not yet been shot at?
If he can explain all this with new evidence, I’ll be glad to post it. Until then, this looks like the same bluster that his supporters have used all along — to claim that the Swift Boat veterans have been thoroughly debunked and that Kerry had been vindicated without producing a single piece of supporting evidence for either conclusion. It also proves that Kerry will never get past Viet Nam, and as long as he occupies a leadership position in the Democratic Party, neither will the Democrats.
And once again, let’s point out that it’s Kerry who’s making this an issue — again.
UPDATE: Tom Maguire has more:

And just to be clear – I have no interest in beating on Kerry like a rented mule (again). I am much more curious to see whether we can demonstrate that the MSM was horribly deficient in their coverage of this story. My recollection, which may be colored by hyperbole, is that the entire NY Times coverage amounted to one story saying “The Swift Boat Veterans are lying because Kerry says they are”. That does not count the snide and ignorant asides in seemingly unrelated stories or misleading columns by Nick Kristof or the rest of the stable.

The New England Republican says the media is still in pro-Kerry spin mode. And the Confederate Yankee shows that geography must be part of the Swift Boat conspiracy against Kerry as well.
UPDATE II: Jon Henke says this should occupy about as much of the public debate as the 1972 Olympic basketball final, and has no idea why Kerry still insists on living in the past. Could it be that he has nothing to say about the present or the future?

The Man O’Reilly Should Be Honoring

Today’s Chicago Sun-Times chronicles the aftermath of the election for the most notable of Kerry’s Band of Brothers — the one who openly campaigned against him. Mary Laney reports that Stephen Gardner now finds himself broke and unemployed as a result of speaking out against a man he finds “dangerous”:

“They said I had a political agenda. I had no and have no political agenda whatsoever. I saw John Kerry on television saying he was running for the Democratic nomination for president, and I knew I couldn’t ever see him as commander in chief — not after what I saw in Vietnam, not after the lies I heard him tell about what he says he did and what he says others did.”
Gardner explains he was sitting at home in Clover, S.C., when he first saw Kerry on television. It was before the primary races. For 35 years, Gardner says, he hadn’t talked about his tour of duty in Vietnam. But when he saw Kerry talking about running, he says he got up, called the newspaper in town, called radio stations and “talked to anyone I could about why this man should never be president.” Eventually he got a call from Adm. Roy Huffman, who had been in charge of the coastal division in Vietnam, reunited with other swift boat veterans, and the rest is, as they say, history.

That’s not all that’s history, either. Once Gardner starting making himself heard, the Kerry campaign swung into action. John Hurley, part of Kerry’s veteran-outreach program, warned him that the campaign would “look into his finances” if he persisted. Douglas Brinkley interviewed him, falsely claiming to be fact-checking the next edition of Tour of Duty when in fact Brinkley used the interview to write a hit piece about him in Time magazine. All of this attention got him laid off by Millenium Information Services, via e-mail, twenty-four hours after Time published the article.
Now broke and unemployed, Gardner remains defiant about his efforts to tell what he saw as the truth about his former commanding officer:

“I’m broke. I’ve been hurt every way I can be hurt. I have no money in the bank but am doing little bits here and there to pay the bills,” he said. …
And, even though Gardner is broke and jobless for speaking out, the husband and father of three says he’d do it all over again. He says it wasn’t for politics. It was for America.

Bill O’Reilly should be talking about how exercising his freedom of political speech allowed the Kerry campaign to ruin Stephen Gardner instead of issuing blanket smears in defending Dan Rather. We need to find a way to give Stephen Gardner some support, either by finding him a job or helping him sue his former employer for damages, or both. We cannot allow yet another Vietnam veteran get screwed for serving his country. (via Power Line)

Questions About Kerry’s Discharge Make The Mainstream Media

For weeks, speculation has swirled on e-mail regarding the discharge granted to John Kerry. Some have speculated that Kerry received a dishonorable discharge that only was reversed under Bill Clinton. As these charges have been largely unaccompanied by objective evidence, I’ve passed on mentioning them here at CQ. I know that the Swiftvets and their supporters such as River Rat and Bandit have been researching the issue more carefully, and that if anything reportable arose , we”d hear it soon enough, if an enterprising reporter or two didn’t.
Now the ever-enterprising Thomas Lipscomb has pieced together some interesting information regarding Kerry’s discharge and reported them in today’s New York Sun (subscription only). I’ve received a slew of e-mails from my regular readers on this article, and it looks very interesting indeed:

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 it self 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.

As Lipscomb points out, there are all sorts of discharges other than honorable, and most of them imply no dishonorable conduct. A general discharge is often given for administrative reasons, and medical discharges routinely note those who are too disabled to continue their service, if that disability came under non-combat conditions. However, Lipscomb points to a particular item of interest that seems to indicate that Kerry’s discharge status was a political-career-killing “dishonorable”:

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.

Previously, we had asked why Kerry had three separate citations for his Silver Star medal, the last signed by John Lehman in 1985. We suspected that Kerry may have been trying to clean up (and pump up) his combat record shortly after joining the Senate and just before he tried to sacrifice the contras in order to appease the Sandinista communists in Nicaragua. (The more things change …) Lipscomb’s research makes the meaning clear, if correct — he needed to get back those citations he lost when dishonorably discharged.
It also would clear up another mystery, that of the reserve time he never served after his release from active duty and the failed Congressional run that interrupted his commission in the Navy. Had he been dishonorably discharged, especially due to his anti-war activities during the time he should have been serving out his commitment, then obviously he never would have had to fulfill his reserve duty.
One thing is certain: until John Kerry signs the 180, we will never know for sure what’s in his service record. All we know is that he has something significant to hide. We also know that Kerry has to be the dumbest son-of-a-gun to run for President in decades if his own record is so bad he can’t reveal it, and spent months attacking his opponent’s service anyway, making what would have been considered an irrelevancy a fair point for debate.
UPDATE: A couple of fair points have been raised about this article. In the comments, Rod Thompson thinks that Kerry may have been simply discharged for failing to be promotable, hardly a dishonorable issue for a reservist more interested in politics than in serving after several years. Via e-mail, though, comes this clarification from Raymond, an ex-AF JAG:

I believe that the only way one can receive a Dishonorable Discharge is as a result of a General Court-martial. A Dishonorable Discharge and a Bad Conduct Discharge are punitive discharges. An administrative discharge is one brought about by a board of officers. There are numerous categories of discharges including a General Discharge and Undesirable Discharge. Is it possible that kerry was discharged administratively because of his anti-war activities and issued a Undesirable Discharge?

This sounds more like what Lipscomb describes. However, Lipscomb’s research shows that the Honorable Discharge was granted by the board in an apparent reversal of an earlier finding. That doesn’t mean that Kerry wasn’t court-martialed earlier — in fact, it would be an even better explanation as to why he refuses to sign the 180. Also, does an Undesirable Discharge result in revocation of all commendations as the Dishonorable Discharge does?
Please note: A number of people have posted the entire Sun article on their blogs, a copyright violation. I won’t do that, as the Sun has hired me in the past as a free-lancer, and I hope they will in the future. The Sun is a subsciption-only publication, which can be a pain. I would challenge my colleagues and readers to pay the subscription fee, for a couple of reasons.
First, the subscription rate is not onerous and the website is beautifully engineered; it’s a breeze to read the paper, much better than anything you’ll see for other broadsheets. Second, if we want to create competition in the marketplace and support honest journalism, we need to support the start-ups and smaller-scale operations that one day will grow into positions of power. I don’t know how people expect folks like Ira Stoll to battle the New York Times behemoth while we whine about subscribing to his paper, which regularly features excellent writers who expect to get paid. And me, who would also like to get paid once in a while.
Think about it, and while you do, spend about what you’d pay for one month dial-up service and subscribe for a three-month period. You’ll be glad you did, and you’ll be part of the effort to force our mainstream media to adapt to the competition.

Lipscomb: Kerry Wrote After-Action Report For Bronze Star

Thomas Lipscomb writes a fascinating article about his clever piece of detective work which demonstrates that John Kerry wrote the after-action report that led to his Bronze Star for an engagement that almost all witnesses claim never involved enemy fire. Lipscomb uncovered a 35-year-old operations order which narrows down the source of the story Kerry denies inventing:

A faded 35-year-old operations order recovered from the Naval Historical Center in Washington bears directly on the ongoing dispute between Sen. John Kerry and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth about who wrote the key after-action report that ended Kerry’s service in Vietnam. The report appears in the official Navy records and is posted on Kerry’s presidential campaign Web site.
The report details Kerry’s participation in a naval operation on the Bay Hap River on March 13, 1969, in such glowing terms that he was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for pulling Special Forces officer James Rassmann out of the water while under heavy enemy fire. This third Purple Heart allowed Kerry to cut short his Vietnam tour after only four months.

Lipscomb reviews the action in the report and how it clashes with the memory of everyone except Rassmann and Kerry’s crew. It talks about three miles of sustained enemy fire on both banks, something that Roy Hoffman says not only didn’t occur that day, but never occurred under his command in Viet Nam. Larry Thurlow, who commanded the task force that day, insists that had they been met with that kind of withering enemy fire, he would have called in air support.
But Lipscomb puts on the gumshoes when he looks into the mysterious designation of the author given in the report: TE This is not a random series of numbers, nor is it a geographical designation. The sequence refers to the command structure of Kerry’s unit, or “task element” (TE).
194: Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, Commander of all Navy forces in Vietnam
5: Adm. Roy Hoffman, Commander of all Swift boats
4: Cmdr. Adrian Lonsdale
4: Cptn. George Elliot, CO of Kerry’s base at An Thoi
The ‘/1’ indicates that someone other than Elliot sent the report, and the ‘TE’ would have been ‘CTE’ had it been Thurlow, who commanded the task element that day. That leads to only three other officers, and Lipscomb traces their whereabouts:

According to a Navy communications expert, Chief Petty Officer Troy Jenkins, who has examined the message traffic, the report in question was sent from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Spencer, Lonsdale’s command ship, at 11:20 that night.
Only three of the officers on the mission that day were on the Spencer, John Kerry, Dick Pease and Donald Droz. Droz took the wounded from the mine explosion to be examined and treated at the Spencer, including the third officer, the severely wounded Dick Pease. Since the Spencer had no helipad for the evacuation of the wounded, Droz then had to return to the USS Washtenaw County, stationed about 25 nautical miles away, leaving only Kerry aboard the Spencer at the time the message was sent at 11:20 p.m.
Could Droz have somehow written the report? Lonsdale says command precedence of days in swift boat service alone rules this out. “According to the command procedure I set down, Kerry would have been the only logical candidate. Kerry had been in Vietnam since November. Droz just arrived at An Thoi in February.” Thurlow adds, “I never liked the paperwork anyway. I was happy to have Kerry write them up.”
And there is another factor. Thurlow ordered Droz to take care of the wounded after the action on the Bay Hap. Droz had ferried them 40 miles out to the Spencer and now had to take them 25 miles back to the USS Washtenaw County. Moving wounded on and off a 327-foot cutter from a 50-foot swift boat on the open sea was not something Droz was likely to leave unsupervised long enough to dash off a report. Kerry had no duties other than reporting to the sick bay, where according to his doctor he was seen at 7 that night. And he spent the night on the Spencer.

The Kerry campaign has always denied that Kerry wrote the after-action report that won him the Bronze Star. It looks like Lipscomb has demonstrated that Kerry’s denials have been less than truthful. (via Instapundit)

WaPo Swings And Misses On Swiftvets

The Swift Boat Veterans For Truth released their latest ad against John Kerry’s candidacy, and it’s as devastating as any they’ve produced thus far in the campaign. The Swiftvets also make the seventh chapter of their book, Unfit for Command, available online for free as an explanation of the commercial’s charges. Here’s the money graf from the chapter:

Loyal Americans think twice about violating the legal provision against negotiating with foreign powers (18 U.S.C. section 953) and the Constitutional prohibition against giving support to our nation’s enemies during wartime (Article III, Section 3). Anti-Communists do not openly support proposals that amount to an American surrender to Communist enemies, plus a demand to pay war reparations. … 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?

Kerry has long argued that he was a private citizen and violated no laws in his Paris meeting, which he describes as a fact-finding mission when he comments on it at all. His campaign website makes no mention of his trip to Paris, but he wasn’t always that reticent.
A year after conducting this secret meeting, he appeared before the Senate in April 1971 and admitted to Congress that he had met with the Provisional Revolutionary Government, otherwise known as the Viet Cong (the insurgents in South Vietnam), as well as the official North Vietnamese delegation. Three months later, he held a press conference in DC on behalf of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War urging American leaders to capitulate to the PRG’s seven-point proposal, which called for a unilateral withdrawal from Viet Nam and the payment of war reparations before the Communists would release any POWs.
In other words, Kerry advocated surrender as well as the extortion of payment for the POWs to the people who were torturing them.
Is that the kind of leadership we need in an age of Islamofascist terror?
The Washington Post misses the story by deliberately eliminating the year between Kerry’s meeting in Paris and his infamous Senate testimony:

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. Kerry, a leading antiwar activist at the time, mentioned it in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April of that year. “I have been to Paris,” he testified. “I have talked with both delegations at the peace talks, that is to say the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and Provisional Revolutionary Government,” the latter a South Vietnamese communist group with ties to the Viet Cong.
Kerry’s campaign said earlier this year that he met on the trip with Nguyen Thi Binh, then foreign minister of the PRG and a top negotiator at the talks. Kerry acknowledged in that testimony that even going to the peace talks as a private citizen was at the “borderline” of what was permissible under U.S. law, which forbids citizens from negotiating treaties with foreign governments. But his campaign said he never engaged in negotiations or attended any formal sessions of the talks.

The Post gets the date wrong; Kerry met with the PRG and North Vietnamese in Paris in 1970, not 1971. I purchased an archived NY Times article that Paul Farhi could have easily found on a Lexis-Nexis search, which makes the timing clear:

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. …
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 [emph mine — CE].

At the time of the meeting, then, Kerry’s meetings with the Communists certainly were a secret, only revealed 10 months later during the Senate hearings. Farhi misrepresents the events to rehabilitate Kerry in a subtle way. Nor is that the only way in which Farhi twists reality. His conclusion dismisses the Swiftvets without acknowledging their victories at all:

The Swift boat group’s first ad gained widespread exposure last month through talk-radio programs, cable television talk shows and newspaper articles because of its assertions that Kerry had exaggerated his war record as the commander of a Navy Swift boat in Vietnam.
Some of the independent organization’s 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.

So far, the Swiftvets have caused Kerry to retreat on at least four points of his Viet Nam narrative, which Farhi fails to mention in his recap. The “several links” innuendo is nothing more than that; no one has shown any indication that the Republicans have coordinated anything with the Swiftvets, while the Democrats have people working both in the Kerry campaign and in 527s like MoveOn simultaneously. This Post article by Farhi is a poorly researched hack job, obviously rushed out to attempt to blunt the effects of this latest Swiftvet ad.
You’d think after the CBS debacle, mainstream news outlets would be more careful.

Kerry’s Alston Source Made Clear

Frequent CQ contributor Bandit has uncovered a box of papers at the Naval Archives regarding John Kerry’s service during Viet Nam and has started the painstaking task of scanning and analyzing each new document. One new document answers one of the questions that arose during our Alston investigation, which was where Kerry came up with his story about the 29 January engagement in which Alston was seriously wounded. Kerry and Alston had passed himself off as the commander during that battle even though Tedd Peck had commanded PCF-94 on that day and had also been seriously wounded in that battle, one in which Kerry never took part.
Here’s what Kerry told a South Carolina veteran’s group in May 2002 about his purported service with Alston (who was present and had spoken earlier on the same topic) according to The New Republic:

“He [Alston] sat up in a turret above my head in the pilot house _ firing twin fifty-calibers to suppress enemy fire from ambushes. We were extremely exposed _ always shot at first…. On one occasion in an ambush his turret was riddled with almost one hundred bullets penetrating the aluminum skin. This gunman kept firing even though he was wounded _ one bullet going through his helmet, grazing his head and another hitting his arm….”

Now read the after-action report from the 29 January action, written and transmitted on 30 January:


Apart from a typical Kerry exaggeration of 28 bullets into “almost one hundred”, the phrasing sounds quite similar. It looks like Kerry researched Alston’s record in order to familiarize himself with the 29 January engagement, which also means that Kerry has his hands on more records than he’s released to the public. His conflation of his record with Peck’s was no accident; both he and Alston need to answer for their deception.

Kristof Gets It Wrong

Nicholas Kristof purports to take an objective look at the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth claims in an op-ed for today’s New York Times, but instead mostly just mouths the Kerry campaign’s obfuscations instead. Kristof starts by taking aim at the easiest target for Kerry’s counterclaims — his supposed volunteerism for hazardous duty, a claim contradicted by Kerry’s own words in a 1996 interview:

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.

Kristof also admits that Kerry is a serial exaggerator and also partially concedes the fiction of Kerry’s Cambodian Christmas, but with a Kristofian spin:

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.

No one who served on Kerry’s boat asserts that he ever got close to Cambodia on Christmas Eve, 1968. Three of the men reported that the closest they got to Cambodia was Sa Dec, which is 55 miles from the Cambodian border. Even Kerry’s own contemporaneous journals confirm that.
Beyond this, Kristof takes his arguments from Kerry HQ. For instance, there is this passage:

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.

That’s just a lie. Stephen Gardner, the enlisted man who served with him the longest on the Swiftboats, contradicts most of what Kerry has to say about his command on PCF-44 and is one of the Swiftvets opposing his candidacy. If Kristof did any kind of investigation into these issues, it would be impossible to miss Gardner; he’s appeared on numerous radio and television shows, and is heavily quoted by Swiftvets in support of their claims. Either Kristof is completely incompetent or is fronting for the Kerry campaign.

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.

There were a lot more people “who were there” than Rood and Rassman; this incident involved seveal boats operating in close proximity on a small river. Rassman was under water for most of the action, such as it was. The only one not aboard PCF-94 who asserts that there was enemy fire after the mine explosion threw Rassman overboard. Everyone else involved has testified that the only fire came from the PCFs, initiating suppression fire at both banks in case the explosion was an ambush instead of a mine. The other PCF OinCs also say that Kerry’s PCF bugged out, only coming back for Rassman once it was clear that no engaging fire was forthcoming.
I note that Kristof has not addressed any of the Swiftvets’ claims about Kerry’s post-Vietnam activities, either. I guess that Kristof can only provide a finite amount of spin after all.
UPDATE: I mixed up Rood’s engagements. Rood wasn’t there for the Bronze Star engagement. That leaves … er … no one but the guys on PCF-94, who understandably might be inclined to support Kerry’s version of events. Hat tips to several readers who corrected me on this point.

NY Post Verifies Silver Star After-Action Report

Deborah Orin — one of this blog’s favorite columnists — verifies the after-action report from John Kerry’s Silver Star action which I reviewed earlier this week:

A newly surfaced document from John Kerry’s Navy record says he shot a lone, wounded enemy who was running away in the incident that led to his Silver Star, his highest military decoration.
Members of the anti-Kerry Swift Boat Veterans for Truth say the report vindicates their claim that Kerry didn’t show the kind of valor that merits a Silver Star. The after-action report was obtained from the Navy archives by syndicated TV commentator Mark Hyman of “The Point.” A Navy official confirmed its authenticity.

This report came from Bandit’s review of previously overlooked documents at the Naval Archives, which the intrepid CQ contributor is still reviewing. Expect more revelations if Bandit’s track record holds up, and hopefully I can help get the word out.
The Swiftvets claim vindication, and certainly this proved Kerry wrong again; the VC was wounded when Kerry chased him down. I don’t like to get into qualitative arguments regarding the issuance of certain medals over others, as a civilian. The Swiftvets can argue that point without any help from me. Some have argued that chasing down a wounded enemy and killing him is a war crime, but I think that’s ludicrous. He was armed with a rocket launcher by all accounts, and in a war zone he’s fair game no matter which way he ran.
My issue with the Silver Star is the number of times this story has changed, both from Kerry’s lips and in the extraordinary three separate citations issued for the one medal over more than 15 years. Perhaps Kerry deserved a lesser commendation, perhaps he deserved the MOH, but it’s indisputable that he’s repeatedly puffed up this tale and changed it repeatedly to enhance his own reputation. That, to me, is the real issue.