John Kerry wants to re-fight the Swift Boats wars. My goodness, that is the only thing that could get the Times to cover this - during his campaign they stayed about as far from this story as Kerry was from Cambodia at Christmas time.
Let me seize on just one detail - this relates to Kerry's controversial first Purple Heart:
But he can also barely resist prosecuting a case against the group that his friends now refer to as "the bad guys." "Bill Schachte was not on that skimmer," Mr. Kerry says firmly. "He was not on that skimmer. It is a lie to suggest that he was out there on that skimmer."
He shows a photograph of the skimmer being towed behind his Swift boat, insisting that it could barely fit three people, himself and two others.
"The three guys who in fact were in the boat all say he wasn't there and will tell you he wasn't there. We know he wasn't there, and we have all kinds of ways of proving it."
(1) Show us Kerry's diary, aka the "War Notes". Surely his first combat and first medal merited a contemporaneous account, yes? But that has never been made public, and Brinkley does not refer to Kerry's notes for that portion of his Kerry biography.
(2) Show us the paperwork backing the first Purple Heart - it should include a witness statement of the circumstances surrounding his wound; Kerry never released that during the campaign.
This should be beautiful. [More Schachte backstory from May 4 - "Schachte ready to re-engage in Kerry Purple Heart dispute"]
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 Washington Post took a good look at one incident (Kerry's Bronze Star), ran a pro-Kerry headline, and concluded that they could not sort it out. The WaPo did not research the possibility (really, a high probability) that Kerry himself wrote the report on which the Navy records are based.
But that ambiguity notwithstanding, and notwithstanding Kerry's refusal to authorize the release of his military records, we can still get statements like this in the Times:
Naval records and accounts from other sailors contradicted almost every claim they made, and some members of the group who had earlier praised Mr. Kerry's heroism contradicted themselves.
And note how the Times puts itself firmly in Kerry's camp with their framing of the "Christmas in Cambodia" story:
...[Kerry's defenders] have returned, for instance, to the question of Cambodia and whether Mr. Kerry was ever ordered to transport Navy Seals across the border, an experience that he said made him view government officials, who had declared that the country was not part of the war, as deceptive.
The Swift boat group insisted that no boats had gone to Cambodia. But Mr. Kerry's researcher, using Vietnam-era military maps and spot reports from the naval archives showing coordinates for his boat, traced his path from Ha Tien toward Cambodia on a mission that records say was to insert Navy Seals.
The Times version sort of gives short shrift to his speech on the floor of the US Senate where Kerry was quite emphatic about the date:
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, that says to me, before we send another generation into harm's way we have a responsibility in the U.S. Senate to go the last step, to make the best effort possible in order to avoid that kind of conflict.
Bring it on.
MORE: Check the pop-up graphic for Kerry's new evidence, apparently meant to be in his defense. I am especially amused by "Kerry versus Kerry":
The Silver Star: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth said the enemy whom Mr. Kerry shot and killed in the incident for which he won a Silver Star was actually a wounded and fleeing teenager "in a loincloth".
Mr. Kerry says his [recently discovered] photograph shows the body of a man fully dressed and lying face-up, suggesting, he says, that the man was shot while approaching.
Does the Times really not understand how absurd this is? There were no Swift Boat Veterans for Truth at the scene of the Silver Star incident - all they did was compare different versions of the incident as described in Kerry's medal citation and by Kerry himself, years later, to the Boston Globe. Here is the newly debunked John Kerry speaking to the Globe for a 2003 series:
On Feb. 28, 1969, Kerry's boat received word that a swift boat was being ambushed. As Kerry raced to the scene, his boat became another target, as a Viet Cong B-40 rocket blast shattered a window. Kerry could have ordered his crew to hit the enemy and run. But the skipper had a more aggressive reaction in mind. Beach the boat, Kerry ordered, and the craft's bow was quickly rammed upon the shoreline. Out of the bush appeared a teenager in a loin cloth, clutching a grenade launcher.
An enemy was just feet away, holding a weapon with enough firepower to blow up the boat. Kerry's forward gunner, Belodeau, shot and clipped the Viet Cong in the leg. Then Belodeau's gun jammed, according to other crewmates (Belodeau died in 1997). Medeiros tried to fire at the Viet Cong, but he couldn't get a shot off.
In an interview, Kerry added a chilling detail.
"This guy could have dispatched us in a second, but for ... I'll never be able to explain, we were literally face to face, he with his B-40 rocket and us in our boat, and he didn't pull the trigger. I would not be here today talking to you if he had," Kerry recalled. "And Tommy clipped him, and he started going [down.] I thought it was over."
Instead, the guerrilla got up and started running. "We've got to get him, make sure he doesn't get behind the hut, and then we're in trouble," Kerry recalled.
So Kerry shot and killed the guerrilla. "I don't have a second's question about that, nor does anybody who was with me," he said. "He was running away with a live B-40, and, I thought, poised to turn around and fire it." Asked whether that meant Kerry shot the guerrilla in the back, Kerry said, "No, absolutely not. He was hurt, other guys were shooting from back, side, back. There is no, there is not a scintilla of question in any person's mind who was there [that] this guy was dangerous, he was a combatant, he had an armed weapon."
Teenager in a loin-cloth? So says the Globe.
Fleeing? So says Kerry, unless "running away" has a new meaning (say it with me - he was for the guy fleeing until he was against it...).
Wounded? What else could be meant by "Kerry's forward gunner, Belodeau, shot and clipped the Viet Cong in the leg."
Well. If the Times want to continue to run photos purporting to show that Kerry is full of it, I'm cool.
And the "Christmas in Camopdia" rebuttal is classic - For the disputed incident the memory of which is seared into Kerry, where he claims to have spent Christmas in Cambodia, Kerry can now demonstrate that he was within 35 miles of the border! Getting closer!
MORE: Some of Kerry's military records are available at FindLaw - the Times has a link saying ""Kerry's Military Service Records". This is the material that was on Kerry's website during the campaign. As we know (but Times readers do not), this is not complete.
WHAT THE HAIL IS GOING ON?
My email to the Times on yet another laugher in their story:
Regarding "Kerry Pressing Swift Boat Case Long After Loss
By KATE ZERNIKE, Ms. Zernike reported this:
The group has sent a letter to Mr. Schachte calling for a meeting with him, Mr. Kerry and two former veterans who maintain — as they did publicly during the campaign — that they were the only other people on the skimmer with Mr. Kerry and that he was wounded in a hail of enemy fire.
"Wounded in a hail fo fire" - I would be curious to see the Times document just when they said that, since it represents a substantial change in their story.
The Boston Globe published a Kerry biography in 2004 and interviewed both Zaldonis and Runyon about this indicent. Here we go (excerpted by the Wash Times):
Zaldonis and Runyon both said they were too busy to notice how Kerry was hit.
"I assume they fired back," Zaldonis said. "If you can picture me holding an M-60 machine gun and firing it -- what do I see? Nothing. If they were firing at us, it was hard for me to tell."
Runyon said he assumed the suspected Viet Cong fired back because Kerry was hit by a piece of shrapnel.
"I can't say for sure that we got return fire or how [Kerry] got nicked," Runyon told the Globe. "I know he did get nicked, a scrape on the arm."
So how did "What do I see - nothing" and "I can't say for sure we got return fire" add up to "a hail of fire"?
Did their story change (and is that newsworthy?), or did your reporter get this wrong?
I assume you will pursue this with zeal, since, as Kerry noted, "They lied and lied and lied about everything". Well, he meant the Swift Boat vets, but maybe there are other sources of bad information as well.
Have a great weekend.
Boston Globe book:
John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography By The Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best
The Times always welcomes reader feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org
Now, I don't imagine the Times will follow up on a point they raised in the story when they wrote this:
"The three guys who in fact were in the boat all say he wasn't there and will tell you he wasn't there," he said. "We know he wasn't there, and we have all kinds of ways of proving it."
However, if they do have an investigative reporter to spare, they might ponder this - there is precious little evidence, beyond their say-so, that Zaldonis and Runyon were on that skimmer with Kerry.
These skimmer crews were put together on an ad-hoc basis, and Runyon never served with Kerry before or after that night. Zaldonis, however, ended up on Kerry's boat (PCF-44) a week later.
But puzzle over this - Kerry did not remember the names of the two men in the skimmer with him when he discussed it with the Boston Globe in 2003. And Douglas Brinkley, who wrote Keery's "Tour of Duty" did not identify the two men either, even though he interviewed Zaladonis for the book.
I find that odd - here is Zaladonis being interviewed about his personal history with Kerry and he never mentions that he was with Kerry when Kerry had his first combat and got his first Purple Heart? How did that not come up?
And why is there no apparent mention of Kerry's first medal in his own war diary? Brinkley never cites that as a source for his coverage of this incident. However, Captain Ed finds Kerry's diary to be illuminating on another point - here is what Kerry wrote on Dec 11, 1968, just a week after being under a "hail of fire":
'A cocky feeling of invincibility accompanied us up the Long Tau shipping channel because we hadn't been shot at yet, and Americans at war who haven't been shot at are allowed to be cocky.'"
Waddya mean "we", Tall Guy - you and Zaladonis had been shot at a week earlier, yes?
Oh, well - Zaladonis and Runyon emerged in April 2004 to defend Kerry's first Purple Heart, so I guess they remembered by then.
BAIT AND SWITCH: The Times pop-up graphic has a cryptic comment, the gist of which is, the Swift Boat veterans claim Kerry drafted and embellished his own after-action reports to collect medals, but Kerry's folks have pulled the report and it was done by a "Gibson".
Weird - every report for every Kerry medal was done by this young Boswell? Presumably not. However, per this Globe story, Charles Gibson, "who served on Kerry's boat that day because he was on a one-week indoctrination course", was a witness to the Silver Star incident.
And so what? Thomas Lipscomb did a lot of research demonstrating that Kerry very probably wrote the after-action report for the controversial Bronze Star engagement. Here is the WaPo reporting on that, and note how they lean on the official report to back Kerry:
On the core issue of whether Kerry was wounded under enemy fire, thereby qualifying for a third Purple Heart, the Navy records clearly favor Kerry. Several documents, including the after-action report and the Bronze Star citation for a Swift boat skipper who has accused Kerry of lying, refer to "all units" coming under "automatic and small-weapons fire."
Does the Times even realize that the Kerry crowd is rebutting the wrong argument? Do they even know what the arguments are? I doubt it.
[For a serious rebuttal to Lipscomb, try here - this looks like a well-researched site debunking the Swiftees. An excerpt (to aid future Googlers):
O'Neill has cited an October 1, 2004 article by Thomas Lipscomb based on the research of Troy Jenkins. [Chicago Sun-Times] This article is a fantasy. It sets out to prove that Kerry wrote the after-action "spot" report on March 13. In reality, however, it demonstrates two things. First, Droz was the officer responsible for the report on February 28. Second, Thurlow was the officer responsible for the report on March 13.
The first part of the argument presented in the article is based on a misreading of the "designators" used in the header of the report:
- "... The last "1" indicates someone other than the commander of the mission. If the report had been submitted by the mission commander, in this case Thurlow, according to the operations order, it would have begun with a "C" for commander of the Task Element, and the sender would have been "CTE 18.104.22.168."
Two points need to be made here. First, the missing "C" in the "Market Time Spot Report" line is an error. Just look at the "FM [From]" line at the top of the report, where it clearly indicates "FM CTE ONE NINE FOUR PT FIVE PT FOUR PT FOUR". Second, the "/1" at the end of the line indicates "first report." Both of these points are easily demonstrated by looking at any number of these reports from January/February/March 1969. In no case, ever, does the "Market Time Spot Report" line end with "CTE 22.214.171.124"—there is always a "/1" or "/2" at the end. Only very rarely is there a second report, indicated by a "/2"—for examples, see the reports that were filed for Sea Lords missions 326 and 270. [PCF-94_spot_reports.pdf, pp. 11-13, 18-20] [NOTES]
Read it all. Then whisper it to Kate Zernike, for whom this will be Book of Revelation material.
As to the author's conclusion that Droz wrote the Feb 28 Silver Star report - well, now, what about Charles Gibson? Puzzling.