Patterico%27s Pontifications%3A %3Ci%3ENew York Times%3C%2Fi%3E Hit Piece on the Swift Vets Finally Comes Out


Well, the New York Times has now weighed in. Hat tip Sovay, who noticed the piece and finds it completely convincing, so much so that she titles her piece "Swift Boat Liars."

Patterico wasn't quite so pleased with it:

...The piece makes one telling point. It provides quotes praising Kerry from three of the Vets who currently condemn him -- A Roy F. Hoffmann, Adrian L. Lonsdale, and George Elliott. I think this is fair commentary -- the only fair commentary in the piece. If three Vets praised Kerry in previous years, that's a fair point. They should explain why they are saying something different now.

That makes three of over 250 veterans who are in the group.

What is both amazing and utterly predictable is that the "Christmas in Cambodia" story is saved for the very end. This is the one accusation made by the Vets where the facts are clear -- and the facts show that Kerry was not truthful, as even the Kerry campaign has had to admit. How does the New York Times characterize the "Christmas in Cambodia" story?

Take a deep breath. It says that the story is "the one allegation in the book that Mr. Kerry's campaign has not been able to put to rest." Not "the allegation that has forced Mr. Kerry's campaign to explain that Mr. Kerry has not been telling the truth." Just the one allegation that they haven't yet "put to rest...."

Simply unbelievable. Nothing about the magic hat. Nothing about his gun-running missions. Nothing about the memories being "seared -- seared" into Kerry's head.

The longer this goes on, the more troubling I find it. There are, as the gentleman points out, 250 sailors represented by SBVFT. They are speaking out against just one sailor, John Kerry. Kerry's defenders say they want to make sure that Kerry's service is not slandered, which is a fine and noble goal. They ought to take care not to slander 250 men in their rush to defend their own, one, man.

Some of these questions -- I put all the Bronze Star issues into this category -- can probably be resolved by recognizing that people's memories of combat are often vastly different, one to another, as with any high-stress event. Some of them may simply be mistakes or misunderstandings. I expect Kerry to be exonerated on many of these charges, including the Bronze Star, which is enough to say that I think he was for at least that one moment a real war hero.

But some of these charges aren't going to be resolved without shame coming hard on someone's head. It's going to be Kerry's, or it's going to be 250 other fighting men.

The Christmas In Cambodia story has already been admitted to be false. Navy SEALs have written to say that no swift boats were used for Cambodian insertions; the Navy's entire chain of command for the region has said so. All of Kerry's boat companions have written to say that they don't recall ever being in Cambodia. MACV-SOG had its own boat service, which used PTF "Nasty" boats rather than SWIFT boats, and therefore had no need of taking on an inexperienced LTjg to do what they had experienced operators to do, or using a SWIFT boat for a mission that a PTF could do better. The CIA likewise had its own budget for these matters.

This leaves two remaining possibilities consistent with Kerry telling the truth:

1) He was performing missions that were illegal in the real sense, having not been approved by anyone in the chain of command. This is not entirely implausible; our SEAL noted that they sometimes did things without asking because they didn't trust the chain of command. If they thought young Kerry was a sucker, some operators might have convinced him to do something that would have gotten him into a lot of trouble if it had been discovered. It's much more likely they would have used one of their own for this mission (again, per the SEALs), but it is not completely impossible that someone decided to con the LTjg into doing it for them. Problem for Kerry: his boatmates still don't remember this mission.

2) All 250 sailors are lying, including Kerry's entire chain of command; his boatmates who do support him are also lying about the Cambodian incursions.

And none of that touches the geography issues, which are still unexplained. There is not yet enough information to evaluate these claims, except to say that Kerry's story to date is not consistent with the facts of how the rivers run. Attempts to find another river nearby that does comply with Kerry's story are underway, and that's fine. It may be that this is going to prove to be another area in which it is only the vagaries of memory that are in dispute.

The Cambodia story remains a serious problem, however. Defenders of Kerry should take care not to slander 250 servicemen to protect the principle of not slandering servicemen. Until there are answers, we can't say for certain which group is telling the falsehood: the one career politician, or the 250 men from all walks of life.

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