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Read about Jay Rosen's book, What Are Journalists For?

Excerpt from Chapter One of What Are Journalists For? "As Democracy Goes, So Goes the Press."

Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

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Recommended by PressThink:

Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

Eschaton by Atrios (pen name of Duncan B;ack) is one of the most well established political weblogs, with big traffic and very active comment threads. Left-liberal.

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Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

Betsy Newmark's weblog she describes as "comments and Links from a history and civics teacher in Raleigh, NC." An intelligent and newsy guide to blogs on the Right side of the sphere. I go there to get links and comment, like the teacher said.

Rhetoric is language working to persuade. Professor Andrew Cline's Rhetorica shows what a good lens this is on politics and the press.

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Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

Susan Mernit's blog is "writing and news about digital media, ecommerce, social networks, blogs, search, online classifieds, publishing and pop culture from a consultant, writer, and sometime entrepeneur." Connected.

Group Blogs

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Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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August 23, 2004

Swift Boat Story a Sad Chord

That we are still fighting about the Vietnam War is sad. Watching an old political fight try to finish itself thirty years later in either the wreckage of the Kerry campaign or its triumph over the attempt to wreck-- that's sad. William B. Rood of the Chicago Tribune spoke out Sunday; he was a commander of a swift boat who had first hand knowledge. Rood thought it was sad that we're still fighting about this.

Asked if Mr. Kerry had lied about his war record, Mr. Bush said, “Mr. Kerry served admirably and he ought to be proud of his record.” — New York Times, Aug. 24

It’s sad. That’s my comment on the Swift Boat Veterans campaign to impeach the honor of John Kerry and question whether he deserved his medals. The whole thing is sad. I admit it’s not a very interesting opinion. It adds nothing to the debate to say: how sad for all of us. How sad for Kerry to be subjected to this. How sad for the Swift Boat Veterans that they have to take such measures. “Vietnam has moved on and we haven’t,” wrote Jeff Jarvis.

That we are still fighting about the Vietnam War is sad. Watching an old political fight (among veterans, but involving the nation) try to finish itself thirty years later in either the wreckage of the Kerry campaign or its triumph over the attempt to wreck— that’s sad. I’m with Meep, a voice at Jarvis’s weblog, Buzzmachine: “Are boomers going to be eating their livers in retirement because of Vietnam? Sounds like it to me.” Me too. That’s a sad thing to say about boomers, and I was born near the crest of that boom.

Now if you like sad as the best mood for consuming Swift Boat stories, if you think it fitting, then pay especially close attention to what the Chicago Tribune published over the weekend: This is what I saw that day by William B. Rood, a brilliantly disciplined and moving work of first-person journalism, which is also a moral statement, for while it defends John Kerry and his military record—and thus makes news—that is not the heart of what Rood meant to say. He was there with Kerry on one of his Swift Boat raids. His moral statement begins with this:

Many of us wanted to put it all behind us—the rivers, the ambushes, the killing. Ever since that time, I have refused all requests for interviews about Kerry’s service—even those from reporters at the Chicago Tribune, where I work.

But with the Swift Boat Veterans campaign heating up, Kerry—who could become president—calls him and says: please, tell what you know. Rood’s intention never to speak comes under severe pressure. If he’s going to break with that policy, it requires a reason. We are free to speculate on the real reason; I’m interested in what William Rood says it was:

I can’t pretend those calls had no effect on me, but that is not why I am writing this. What matters most to me is that this is hurting crewmen who are not public figures and who deserved to be honored for what they did. My intent is to tell the story here and to never again talk publicly about it.

Rood is an editor on the Chicago Tribune’s metropolitan desk— a career journalist. His published account broke 35 years of silence about events on Feb. 28, 1969 that resulted in Kerry’s Silver Star. You cannot understand Rood’s statement Sunday unless you also attend to this earlier silence, through which he has been speaking since ‘69. It says: wars don’t end until we stop fighting in them.

And so part of Rood’s “statement” is his intention to speak once about Feb. 28, 1969, and be done with it— in other words, return to his silence after breaking form once because of the high stakes in an election for president. He made the same point in other ways, by setting limits you would not set if you wanted to “get your voice out there.” Rood did not want his voice out there; he did not want to keep fighting that war. But something compelled him to testify— loyalty to men other than John Kerry:

Kerry’s critics, armed with stories I know to be untrue, have charged that the accounts of what happened were overblown. The critics have taken pains to say they’re not trying to cast doubts on the merit of what others did, but their version of events has splashed doubt on all of us.

Rood’s point is that we need to stop this. And he’s defending his right to privacy (even while speaking publicly) by restricting his statements to a careful minimum: only what he knows from direct experience serving in battle with Kerry, and the background knowledge needed to understand that eyewitness account.

Thus he engages in anti-frenzy behavior, even though he knows his statement will contribute momentum to the Swift Vets story, via the news cycle. This is from the Tribune’s news account of the statement (emphasis is mine):

Rood declined requests from a Tribune reporter to be interviewed for this article. Rood wrote that he could testify only to the February 1969 mission and not to any of the other battlefield decorations challenged by Kerry’s critics—a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts—because Rood was not an eyewitness to those engagements.

It’s journalism as its most elemental: This is what I saw that day. It’s journalism at its most disciplined: Rood testifies only to what he knows, and declines to go beyond that. It is also a compelling and vivid eyewitness account that helps you understand war. For 35 years he had refrained from giving any account of that day, precisely because Kerry’s involvement guaranteed it would be politicized.

And politicized it was at the moment Rood finally wrote about it. Here is the lead his own newspaper ran when it extracted nuggets of news from This is what I saw:

Swift boat skipper: Kerry critics wrong
Tribune editor breaks long silence on Kerry record; fought in disputed battle

The commander of a Navy swift boat who served alongside Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry during the Vietnam War stepped forward Saturday to dispute attacks challenging Kerry’s integrity and war record.

That’s the news, right? “Skipper: Kerry critics wrong.” If you’re scoring the debate, William Rood comes down on Kerry’s side. But Rood was saying something else when he added: This is my one statement. I will give no interviews. I will make no television appearences. I will not elaborate. I don’t care if your radio show needs a guest who was there. I am not interested in continuing this story. I actually don’t want to be a party to it. I will make no more media from my story.

He notes that the “survivors of all these events” are scattered across the country, and he gives us little sketches of them in peacetime— people who are “not in the public eye.”

Jerry Leeds lives in a tiny Kansas town where he built and sold a successful printing business. He owns a beautiful home with a lawn that sweeps to the edge of a small lake, which he also owns. Every year, flights of purple martins return to the stately birdhouses on the tall poles in his back yard.

Cueva, recently retired, has raised three daughters and is beloved by his neighbors for all the years he spent keeping their cars running. Lee is a senior computer programmer in Kentucky, and Lamberson finished a second military career in the Army.

With the debate over that long-ago day in February, they’re all living that war another time.

And Rood finds it sad that we’re doing that too, “living that war another time” during a presidential campaign, via a scandal story. What I admire about his account is the way it limits itself to a small territory within the Swift Boat Veterans’ contested claims— the day Kerry won his Silver Star. (There were only three officers who commanded boats that day: Rood, Kerry and a third who was later killed in action in 1969.) He makes no attempt to evaluate the strength of the group’s case overall. He declines to characterize Kerry’s credibility overall. He does not speak in any way excessively, or in the manner of Ed Cone’s ingenius Sunday column, “Don’t talk while I’m interrupting.”

My candidate is a hero. Yours is a zero. One cannot compare the youthful hijinks of my guy with the youthful wantonness of yours. My guy makes mistakes, yours commits sins of the worst kind. And likes it. My guy was misquoted, or simply misspoke, while your guy was caught on tape saying exactly what I expected him to say.

The mainstream flows right by my house while you live somewhere way out past the flood plain with the other weirdos. You are not in touch with the values of America, which I and those like me just happen to exemplify. You and your ilk have poisoned the culture, and I know the antidote.

What is the opposite voice to that voice? I say it’s William Rood, practicing a journalist’s discpline: This is what I saw that day, what I recall from experience, what I could verify by checking the record and the recollections of others. To go beyond that is to contribute to the frenzy; I decline to do that.

Plus: “There’s no final authority on something that happened so long ago—not the documents and not even the strained recollections of those of us who were there,” he wrote. It’s sad when people forget this, and feel they have found that final authority. Their zeal is sad.

It’s sad to me that the Swift Boat Veterans named themselves “for Truth,” but it would be equally sad if a Kerry Defense Squad did that. The Swift Boat Veterans were built for politics, and for stressful action in the theatre of a presidential campaign. Some of that action has been successful.

It’s sad that Kerry seems to have lied about or misrepresented his experience in Cambodia, one of the stories on which his truthfulness has been attacked. (See John Leo. On the other hand see Fred Kaplan in Slate.)

It’s sad that Douglas Brinkley, an historian quite savvy in the ways of media, disappears and cannot be reached by the Washington Post when his research is called into question. Brinkley’s Book, “Tour of Duty” mentions an unfinished book proposal Kerry prepared sometime after November 1971, more than two years after he had returned home from Vietnam. Michael Dobbs, the Post reporter, had questions about it and other sources Brinkley used. It’s at least possible that he could shed some light about matters in hot dispute. So Dobbs tried to reach Brinkley, a man normally quite accessible to reporters seeking an authoritative quote.

Brinkley, who is director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans, did not reply to messages left with his office, publisher and cell phone. The Kerry campaign has refused to make available Kerry’s journals and other writings to The Post, saying the senator remains bound by an exclusivity agreement with Brinkley. A Kerry spokesman, Michael Meehan, said he did not know when Kerry wrote down his reminiscences.

This is sad because Brinkley (who is said to be writing an account for the New Yorker) should be in the business of giving out knowledge, and that doesn’t include eluding the press when you so often use the press to broadcast your work.

It’s sad that Kerry has based so much of his argument for election on his service in Vietnam, but I find it even sadder that he went ahead with this while expecting to avoid reflection on the anti-war chapter of it, which has now roared back into his campaign.

Its sad that he said in his speech from Boston, “I defended this country as a young man,” without realizing or caring that if the war in Vietnam was, indeed, defending the United States, then the anti-war movement’s arguments are rendered hollow. But those were Kerry’s arguments, so how could he say that?

It’s sad that his campaign appears to have been surprised by the Swift Boat Vets and their success in getting onto the public’s radar. The outlines of the attack on Kerry’s truthfulness have been known for many months. Just in the comments section at PressThink, I learned quite a bit about the coming charges and what made Swift Boat supporters think they would have legs. As Josh Marshall says today, “This was always in the cards. Always.” I agree. And there was a sad inevitability to the events as they played out last week.

Even so, this post by Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit was great blogging (and real journalism) while this page from the Chicago Tribune was web journalism at its Big Media best. (But you have to register.)

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links….

I got this e-mail the next day from Harris Meyer, a journalist in Florida:

Don’t you think the news media are now obligated to put aside the he said/he said form of coverage of Kerry’s war record and basically say in every story that reporting in the NY Times, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune in the last few weeks has documented that the key attacks on Kerry’s record —concerning how he shot the VC, whether he came under fire while rescuing Rassman, that he acted inappropriately in responding to the VC ambush — are not empirically supported and that those reports have demonstrated that substantial evidence supports Kerry’s version of these events, which also happens to be the official U.S. military version?

I’d say this is another example of how the “objective” school of journalism— which considers itself obliged to report all sides of a dispute as if they all had equal empirical support — has badly failed the public. Every time a news organization reports that Kerry is responding to the “dispute” over his war record, a reader or listener has reason to think there is some plausible empirical basis for the “dispute.” But that dispute essentially has been put to rest on the merits.

—Harris Meyer

My reply: I am not sure how advice of this kind deals with the problem that zero disputes get “put to the rest” in a world where political actors are taught to dispute everything, just to slow down the other side, or confuse the press, or take up space. Journalists can still make decisions: charge X is bogus, Y’s case collapsed, Z has zero credibility, and so on. But they will be doing so in an atmosphere where no case is put to rest. This means they become a factor in the dispute.

What Harris advises is: become an actor, a judge of that dispute. Our press is not that bold. Michael Tomasky is on to the larger question when he writes: “If the conventions of mainstream journalism prevent our media from letting readers, viewers, and listeners examine the full truth in its broadest context, then it’s time to reexamine those conventions.” Sharp words.

Here’s Tomasky in the American Prospect: “Cowards All Around: The media should take a step back and remind us what Bush and Cheney were up to in 1969.”

Our media can sort through the facts in front of their nose and determine, at least some of the time, who’s lying and who’s not. But they are completely incapable of taking a step back and describing the larger reality. Doing that would require making judgments that are supposedly subjective rather than objective; but the larger reality here is clearer than clear.

… If the conventions of mainstream journalism prevent our media from letting readers, viewers, and listeners examine the full truth in its broadest context, then it’s time to reexamine those conventions. Until that happens, people who are willing to say anything, and who have the money to back them up, will be setting the agenda.

See Kaythryn Joyce in The Revealer on the vanishing of a scandal: “The story of how Bush’s top Catholic adviser resigned in anticipation of the publication of a report detailing his sexual abuse of an intoxicated and damaged young student.” (The article that started it all.)

The Los Angeles Times, editorial: These Charges Are False: It’s one thing for the presidential campaign to get nasty but quite another for it to engage in fabrication.

Bring a charge, however bogus. Make the charge simple: Dukakis “vetoed the Pledge of Allegiance”; Bill Clinton “raised taxes 128 times”; “there are [pick a number] Communists in the State Department.” But make sure the supporting details are complicated and blurry enough to prevent easy refutation.

Then sit back and let the media do your work for you. Journalists have to report the charges, usually feel obliged to report the rebuttal, and often even attempt an analysis or assessment. But the canons of the profession prevent most journalists from saying outright: These charges are false. As a result, the voters are left with a general sense that there is some controversy over Dukakis’ patriotism or Kerry’s service in Vietnam. And they have been distracted from thinking about real issues (like the war going on now) by these laboratory concoctions.

Belmont Club, Battle in the Clouds, is a brilliant analysis of one thing going on. (Aug. 24)

The undercard in the Kerry vs Swiftvets bout is Mainstream Media vs Kid Internet, two distinctly different fights, but both over information. The first is really the struggle over the way Vietnam will be remembered by posterity; whether its amanuensis will be John Kerry for the antiwar movement or those who felt betrayed by them. The victor in that struggle will get to inscribe the authoritative account of that mythical conflict in Southeast Asia: not in its events, but in its meaning. The fight will be as bitter as men for whom only memory remains can be bitter.

But the undercard holds a fascination of its own. The reigning champion, the Mainstream Media, has been forced against all odds to accept the challenge of an upstart over the coverage of the Swiftvets controversy.

Steve at Llamabutchers makes special reference to this post from Glenn Reynolds: “the photo showing the Congressional Record version of Kerry’s Cambodia speech I think was what crystalized this for many people.” The image of crystallizing opinion by extending the story, and opening up its contents, is a very useful way to think about the weblog sphere.

See The Note for a good round up of the Swift Boat coverage in the mainstream press.

There’s something sad, too, in this way of addressing it, from Tom Oliphant in the Boston Globe:

Discerning voters will notice that the more reputable organs of the national press have not cast doubt on Kerry’s Vietnam service. That is because political attacks on it don’t pass the smell test. We are influenced by eyewitnesses, not by people whose stories keep changing or are contradicted by official records. We are used to arguments over things like war records, but the burden of proof is with the accuser and Kerry’s accusers cannot shoulder it with the credible evidence required of credible stories.

Jeff Jarvis: Testing blog mettle

Think of the next 11 weeks until the election as a challenge: as a test of weblogs’ real value:

When we wake up after the election, will we be able to point to the ways and posts in which this new medium contributed, or at least tried to contribute, to improving the coverage of the campaign and the policies of the candidates and the wisdom of the electorate? Will we have made a difference at all? Or will we have made it worse?

Did we push the coverage and the candidates in ways that mattered? Or did we wallow in mud?

Via Instapundit, two interesting blog posts:

Let it Alone by Adeimantus: Conservative Political Commentary.

Years ago, wearied by their own arguments as much as by the arguments of their antagonists, sensible majorities of both the supporters and the opponents of the Vietnam war yielded to an unwritten domestic truce composed of two principles:

(1) Those who participated in the war, with the exception of anyone at or above the rank of general officer, are entitled to public honor for their service.

(2) Those who actively opposed the war, with the exception of the most extreme Jane Fonda-types, are not to be branded as cowards or traitors to their country.

Suggestion for keeping the peace by Dale Franks… “In order to move the presidential campaign away from what happened or didn’t happen in Vietnam 35 years ago, I offer a suggestion. Since the Kerry camp wishes to argue that official Navy records are conclusive proof that Kerry served honorably and with distinction, I suggest that those of us opposed to Kerry offer to accept that argument, as long as the Kerry people accept the logical corollary: the official Air Force records indicating George W. Bush was honorably discharged from his service is conclusive proof that he properly met his obligations as well.”

Posted by Jay Rosen at August 23, 2004 4:07 PM   Print


Let It Alone (The breaking of America's Truce on Vietnam)

Posted by: Tim at August 23, 2004 5:22 PM | Permalink

Jay: while this page from the Chicago Tribune was web journalism at its Big Media best.

I tried to visit. It wanted me to register. I didn't.

I believe a newspaper should be able to restrict entry to its website to subscribers, those who register, or those who first get a "day pass" by looking at an ad.

I also believe that individuals -- bloggers -- ought to have a path to ask the newspaper to lift the requirement or to move that content to the newspaper website's large free front porch -- which the newspaper maintains to fulfill its community responsibility.

In this instance, the Trib should be willing to move the link to its free access location.

Posted by: sbw at August 23, 2004 5:22 PM | Permalink

Kerry's big mistake has been trying to be a gentlemen about this. You can't be a gentlemen with when you opponents are scumbags. He should have got out in front early, kicked the living shit out of Bush for deserting the National Guard and never let up.

Yes, I said deserting and I mean deserting!

That's what the records we've seen so far show.

And nothing else.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at August 23, 2004 6:02 PM | Permalink

I agree - this whole episode is sad. But it's saddest for the country, which cannot now have a debate about where the country is heading.

Posted by: Matt Stoller at August 23, 2004 6:20 PM | Permalink

> That we are still fighting about the Vietnam War is sad.

It is, though it is to be expected, I think, when a candidate tries to define himself by his Vietnam experience. In contrast, Bush barely made a point about his Guard service and the media piled on with apparent glee.

Really, though, whether or not Kerry is full of it, this wouldn't have blown up nearly as much if he hadn't gone full throttle with the Vietnam shtick. Aside from groans of pain, what else should he have expected after his "I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty" moment?

Not saying this will really matter a whole lot in defining the quality of the person who eventually becomes elected, but generally the "silent war hero" gains a lot more respect - and, perhaps, a bit less dirt-digging action - than the guy who not only tells all his stories but made sure to catch them on 8mm. Seeing Kerry's words and actions thus far, I'm more likely to vote for him despite his past than because of it.

Posted by: Jeff at August 23, 2004 6:20 PM | Permalink

"In contrast, Bush barely made a point about his Guard service and the media piled on with apparent glee."

When was this? I have YET to see a pile-on of any sort. As for his "barely making a point," how could he without opening up the can of worms that is his National Guard semi-service?

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at August 23, 2004 6:49 PM | Permalink

Couple of thoughts that, sadly, will probably not be uncontroversial.

Military service should not be a key to the door to the Presidency or other high political office. It can be a positive, but a sense of entitlement to political office because of military service should be a negative - period. Kerry's immodest heroism and creating a band of brothers to campaign for "LTJG" Kerry should cause concern, especially for those that were discomforted seeing President Bush in a flight suit uniform.

Sadly, attacking war records has become part of our political campaigns and there is a line to be drawn to this present data point through the campaigns of Dole v. Clinon (Kerry responded to Dole) and GHW Bush v. Clinton.

Since Lott is mentioned and the brewing of stories in the 'net, it seems an omission not to mention the Bush Guard story.

Do candidates with a military background have a civic responsibility in how they portray themselves as veterans and use their service against their opponents? Do their opponents have a responsibility in how they question or stipulate that service? Should candidate's military records be public domain along with their financial records?

Are we really re-fighting the Vietnam war, which I don't believe we are, or are we trying to understand how to discuss/debate post-WWII candidates, the last "good war".

Will we be re-fighting the first Gulf War 15 years from now? Will we be re-fighting the war on terror 25 years from now?

Or will we be fighting over characterizations of a veteran's service, no longer willing to accept all acts as honorable, all war stories as accurate and all medals as untarnished?

What would G. Washington or Eisenhower say?

Posted by: Tim at August 23, 2004 6:56 PM | Permalink

"Are we really re-fighting the Vietnam war, which I don't believe we are, or are we trying to understand how to discuss/debate post-WWII candidates, the last "good war".

Will we be re-fighting the first Gulf War 15 years from now? Will we be re-fighting the war on terror 25 years from now?"

Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

We LOST the Vietnam war, and those who believed in our invasion of that country will never get over it.

We are murderers. So why should the fact that we're also bullies be such a surprise?

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at August 23, 2004 7:26 PM | Permalink

"We are murderers"? Speak for yourself, David Ehrenstein.

Posted by: paladin at August 23, 2004 7:54 PM | Permalink

But, David, we're not debating the merits of the war. We're debating the merits of two men that came of age during the war.

If what you say is true, shouldn't the debate then be about Eisenhower's decision not to sent troops to Vietnam to save the French, propping up the South Vietnamese, Kennedy's decision to send troops, Johnson's decision to escalate the war, Nixon's win with honor?

Shouldn't we be debating 1968 in the US, rather than 1968 in Cambodia?

Is this a proxy war not over the Vietnam war, but "what did you do during the war"?

Posted by: Tim at August 23, 2004 7:55 PM | Permalink

As I've said on several weblogs, whatever happened during the Vietnam War has absolutely no bearing on what America faces today.

I couldn't care less about what Kerry did or Bush did or Clinton, etc, did during Vietnam. It doesn't matter on bit. That war and its aftermath is so long ago that only fools think it is relevant today.


Posted by: Donald Larson at August 23, 2004 8:04 PM | Permalink

"Speak for yourself, David Ehrenstein."

OK, I will. Being gay I was considered far too immortal to be trained to kill perfect strangers on the other side of the world.

So I supported the troops at home . . .

"If what you say is true, shouldn't the debate then be about Eisenhower's decision not to sent troops to Vietnam to save the French, propping up the South Vietnamese, Kennedy's decision to send troops, Johnson's decision to escalate the war, Nixon's win with honor?"

That's four different, but related, actions --each deserving serious discussion.

And what's with the "win with honor" bit? What was "honorable" about promising to end the war only to turn around and secretly expand it into Laos, Cambodia and Thailand?

"Shouldn't we be debating 1968 in the US, rather than 1968 in Cambodia?"

Why is this an either/or question?

"There you have it: the nuts out shout those with good sense and the rest are banned. Screw the whole damn bunch of you."

Speak for yourself, jeb.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at August 23, 2004 8:36 PM | Permalink

Jay: I feel your pain. It is a sad business to have these scars of war bared once more. But isn't that what war does? Leave an everlasting imprint? Isn't the ideological divide between the red states and the blue states a modern echo of the war between the states? As veterans of World War II fade into history, haven't we become aware of how devastating those experience were for them, even in the afterglow of "victory." I once met a Rabbi who counseled not only Holocaust survivors and their children, but the children of Nazis. The legacy of war can never be escaped, not just for the soldiers who fought, but for those of us who found ways to avoid it.

Posted by: Roy Peter Clark at August 23, 2004 8:39 PM | Permalink

Jeb, that was beautiful. Ed Cone would be proud.

Posted by: Anna at August 23, 2004 8:42 PM | Permalink

Being gay I was considered far too immortal to be trained to kill perfect strangers on the other side of the world.

I would think being immortal a plus for the military ... ;^)

That's four different, but related, actions --each deserving serious discussion.

Yes, but that's not being discussed in this campaign and why I don't think we're really debating the merits of Vietnam. Same with 1968 in the US.

What we are debating is what Kerry and Bush did or didn't do. We're debating the character of the two men by dissecting and denigrating their service - rightly or wrongly.

And what's with the "win with honor" bit?

Sorry, I was trying to play on Nixon's “peace with honor” catchphrase with something more descriptive and ironic given his strategic campaign and our eventual withdrawl.

Posted by: Tim at August 23, 2004 8:47 PM | Permalink

I was first drawn to the fray this year by Kerry's anti-American remarks of which I had previously been unaware. Then the media went after Bush's National Guard service as though he had been service time for rape. As a Vietnam Veteran, Naval aviator and former reservist, I look on in shock as the dumbest of questions were shouted by a pressroom full of jackals at the White House. If there is anyone on this board with a shred of intellectual honesty, they have to admit that to this day, Bush's service was subject to far more scrutiny (and claims later proved wrong) than Kerry's has been.

Because my best friend was killed flying for the Air National Guard, and because I had been a military aviator myself who lost friends in stateside crashes, I was deeply offended by those attacks - for example, Terry McCauliffe informing us that the Guard "was the easy way out." - Certainly not true for guard pilots. My last flight in the reserves involved 3 major fires (which is why I got out).

I also found the AWOL charges absurd and disgusting. Anyone today who tries to find proof that I was ever present at my last duty station is likely not too. I haven't been able to. I guess I'm AWOL.

So first of all, this mess was started by people attacking Bush.

Then the Swift Boat guys came along with a letter, signed by everyone in Kerry's chain of command, requesting him to release his full records (he has not done so) and casting doubt on his ability to command. As I documented here, the main stream media gave these guys a brush-off. This should have been a major news event. It was historic. I wonder how subcribers would feel if they knew they were protected from it by their news sources?

And now you're angry because they're questioning Kerry's war record? After the Bush attacks and the suppression of the news comference? Does anyone see how unbalanced that is?

Furthermore, not one person has come forward from Bush's old unit (where he flew a lot of hours over 3 years) to trash him. Not one.

But from Kerry's old unit, every single commander, all but 1 or 2 of his peers, and a number of others have condemned Kerry. But hey, that's bad, that's horrible.

No, it is not. It is indicative that they feel this individual is bad, very bad, and that as people who saw him at critical times, they know that and they want to get the word out. He smeared them and he smeared me. He chose to run on his Vietnam record. It's fair game.

If you don't think what a man did while at war is relevant, then what the hell is? War reveals a lot about character, and if you think about it, character is critical in a candidate. If you have someone who is not to be trusted, who gives a damn what his policy positions are? They don't matter, because he can't be trusted.

What I truly do not understand is this outcry about how horrible it is to attack someone's war record. Why is that? Is there anyone on this board who has been in the military? Do you think you should be given a pass on everything you did there? Is it like Juvie... no records?

Or am I hearing a cooked goose? Are people upset about this controversy because it is hurting their favorite candidate?

David, deserting means a courts martial. Did you find a paper for that, or are you just beating on Bush? Did you check how many drills Kerry attended between 1970 and 1972? Was he deserting? He tried to hide those dates of service, since he was engaged in some highly questionable behavior for a commisioned Naval Officer at the time.

But we have a special case here - a candidate running on his war record whose previous activity in that area was viciously attacking those with whom he served, and after meeting with enemy representatives, spread enemy propanda about the country - this have the enemy decided in 1968 (after their terrible losses in Tet) that the only way to win was to demoralize America. Also a candidate whose cats paws viciously attacked his oppoonent's service record.

So this is a candidate with two war records.

Furthermore,we have the historical novelty of all of a veteran's chain of command againt him - knowing the attacks that would be made on them.

Does anyone here think these guys are lying for the Republican Party? Does anyone believe the silly reporting that asserts this group is a republican group because Spaeth, a PR firm owner, had done previous republican work. Does anyone belief that rich Texas contributors could make these former Naval officers invent false charges? There are accounts from over 60 officers and enlisted men about Kerry's misdeeds. That's a hell of a conspircy - call Oliver Stone!

Personally, I am proud of my service, and deeply offended not only by John Kerry's behavior but also that of the maintream media, which belittled the work of all National Guard (and by implication) Reserve people. If you don't understand the military, damn it, find someone who does before mouthing off. That especially applies to inhterpretation of military records.

The press looked really dumb when some articles where published claiminng that the first purple heart claims by the SBVT were wrong because the doctor's name wasn't on the form. They were too frigging stupid to ask anyone what the HM1 on the form meant, or they would have realized that their conclusion was wrong. Of course, I'm sure some voters were subsequently convinced that the SBVT were liars, and since that is to Kerry's advantage, it's a win for the main stream press, no matter how dumb they look to those in the know.

Finally, let me comment that I anticipated helping fight Kerry on the grounds of his 1971 testimony and related activities. I had no idea that the guy was as opportunistic as he was while in the rivers (which, btw, he never signed up for), until O'Neill mentioned it to me.

And for those with visions of evil Republicans in their heads, the group held its first news conference at the insistence of Democrat members who wanted the party to have a chance to change nominees.

This group is composed of pretty normal people. I've talked with some, and people I trust have talked with others. They aren't a secret cabal, they haven't been hunkered down waiting for Kerry to pop up - they're just Americans, combat veterans who stayed a year there, who fought with Kerry, slept in the same barracks, ate at the same galley, and generally hung out together.

In conclusion,

Anything in a candidate's past should be fair game. Character is important, and the past gives strong clues.

The Swift Boat Veterans are an honest organization. They had difficulty breaking through the iron curtain of the main stream media, so they tried two alternate attacks: a book and an advertisement. Had they been Kerry backersd, I am convinced the would not of run into the iron curtain in the first place.

There are enough swifties to make it clear that some of Kerry's claims are wrong. The only swifty claim I question is that of the silver heart episode.

Kerry left Vietnam after only four months. transferring his subordinates to safe postings. In most units, people carried out on a stretcher returned to their units as fast as possible.

After 35 years, some incidents may be hard to remember. However, Kerry's use of official records derived from his own reports is something those tending to be skeptical should keep an eye on. Too many times I've heard "Official naval records contradict what so-and-so said" and immediately assuming that truth has been reached. News people shouldn't be that gullible.

There are many veterans watching all of this. Unlike civilians, we are not happy with someone who has won an honor improperly (although it was common in some units in Vietnam), nor with someone who finds a way to escape combat through a trick.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at August 23, 2004 9:46 PM | Permalink

I think you've given us a journalist's version of the "we deserve a politics worthy of the American people" argument.

On the one hand, it's pretty clear that G.W. is a bully by proxy throughout his political career who respects no one. It also seems that Kerry is something of a "P.T. Barnum goes to Vietnam" veteran who could only expect to see his anti-war activism complicate his "proud vet defending the nation campaign" (as you point out).

Yet those unpleasant truths do not change the fact that what is being regurgitated here for immediately political reasons is always also both a moral crusade (for the true believers on both sides), and a reopening of old wounds (for those old enough to remember Vietnam who felt they had come to some peace with it). There is surely a place for the elegiac longing for mutual respect that you have called for here.

Yet to my mind, our entire political process since at least Nixon and Agnew has been built on moralistic demonization of either side. Whether you want to point to the assassinations of leaders in the sixties, the Republican move to a neo-confederate alliance with the old south, or the cultural wedge issues designed to distract from economic exploitation or the Democratic perspective that the New Right is the New Taliban. Our political process has been almost entirely reduced to this sort of scorched earth moral demonization and finger pointing. Why else would it be that the favorite epithet of both parties vis-a-vis the other is to call them Nazis?

This situation bespeaks an utter loss of common national sympathy and understanding that leads me to feel that your elegiac mourning for the loss of our common civic respect isn't just a call to let Vietnam's bygones be bygones, it is a call to imagine that we haven't been in a culture war for fifty years that is beginning to rival the debates over abolition. EVERY political issue frames the other side as the devil incarnate. Vietnam is just one of the more bloody battlefields of a many-faceted ideological war.

I remember seeing Archie Bunker for president pennants at my local Penney's store in 1972. That had everything to do with Vietnam. But it also has everything to do with Zell Miller, Tom DeLay, and Trent Lott. The culture war goes on whether we want to retreat to safety or not.
This recent skirmish is one of the more shallow and embarrassing examples in a while. But the country I see around me was bitterly at war LONG before the Swift Vets showed up. And it will be long after their phony story has come and gone. The culture war is being fought over the sixties, and the sixties wouldn't mean what they do without Vietnam. What is Operation Rescue if not the Weathermen do fundamentalism? The battle over the sixties is all around us if we only have eyes to see. What is the Straussian accusation of relativism leveled at anyone who isn't a fundamentalist? It is payback for the 1960s. Indeed, that domestic war is far, far from over.

I would like to think of your post as calling for a Political Veteran's Day for the suffering we all have to go through as citizens of our deeply embittered and self-destructive country. Our two nations in one are no longer coherent enough to command common loyalty however much we all may desire it. It would be nice to have at least one day where we COULD sit back and respect one another to the degree that we still can, to live together in peace, at least for a day. I find THAT an inspiring thought--but it might take a peace and reconciliation board to get it done.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 23, 2004 9:47 PM | Permalink

This is not abot finishing a fight that didn't end 30 years ago. This is about using and abusing people and ideas.

Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past.

Posted by: MR at August 23, 2004 9:58 PM | Permalink

We are still fighting over Vietnam because the war in Vietnam was never really the actual fighting rather it was a proxy issue for the cultural divide within America.

That cultural divide is still alive and well so the wounds of Vietnam war never heal.

Posted by: Shannon Love at August 23, 2004 9:59 PM | Permalink

It is pretty unlikely that Bush's former commanders would come forward to complain about his performance when they've already come forward to say they never saw him show up to start with.

I think it is almost a certitude that many of the Swift Boat Vets are lying--either because they mistakenly despise him for his Senate testimony or for the way they were portrayed in David Brinkley's book. Not because they are Republicans, but because they are veterans who feel they were wronged.

Every time I hear a presentation like yours I wonder to myself if you've ever even LISTENED to Kerry's testimony. He doesn't accuse veterans of doing anything. HE QUOTES OTHER PEOPLE FROM THE WINTER SOLDIERS HEARINGS WHO TESTIFIED TO WAR CRIMES THEY EITHER DID THEMSELVES OR WITNESSED WITH THEIR OWN EYES.

I give the Winter Soldier testimony a lot more credence than the testimony of soldiers who claim Kerry told lies about them when he was quoting other people's testimony. IF YOU ARE HONEST YOU WILL AT LEAST ACCUSE THE WITNESSES HE QUOTES OF LYING, NOT KERRY HIMSELF. He didn't make this stuff up. He told their story. And why would a soldier lie at the Winter Soldiers meetings? Who would just invent a story that they personally committed or witnessed war crimes? It's preposterous on the face of it.

Can you think of any motivation for that? It was not a communist plot, it was a fit of morality breaking out. Opposing your country when it is wrong is patriotic. I know that doesn't fit into your world view, but we'll just have to live with that, won't we?

Admitting the fact that war crimes took place in Vietnam doesn't mean you personally committed them. It means you are willing to accept reality and will give up trying to revise history. I've heard the worst abuses were actually committed by South Korean troops. Our media has never even told us that tens of thousands of S. Koreans were in Vietnam as Cold War allies. It would be nice to hear the media admit that they existed someday, too.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 23, 2004 10:07 PM | Permalink

One interesting result of this election year polarization is that it's really hard to see where minds can be changed at some points. I checked out Ehrenstein's site, where the first post namechecks Chomsky and Alterman approvingly. Other posts support a similar worldview.

Given that worldview, I don't see where Mr. Ehrenstein wishes to argue, if argument involves putting himself in a position where his mind can be changed on points touched upon in this post. Given the small data set of his comments here and his current blog posts, I don't see where he's doing anything other than shouting his position from a rooftop. If one wants to change minds in a group that doesn't necessarily think everything Howard Zinn thinks is gospel, one has to consider that in formulating an argument.

I'm not saying my mind can't be changed on most things. I'm just saying that it's going to take a little more than what Ehrenstein is blasting to get some kind of dialogue.

I don't think he should consider that his comment that our president "deserting and I mean deserting", without something new and useful that is different from evidence already considered, will win him any new converts.

Posted by: Chap at August 23, 2004 10:12 PM | Permalink

I think what is most disappointing about your self-righteousness is the pretense that yours is THE veteran's point of view. It is A veteran's point of view. Not the only one, maybe not even the majority one. One of them.

Citizens are watching when you strike the John O'Neill pose of partisan veteran with wounded pride. It makes us lose respect for the sacrifice of all veterans when it is cheapened in this transparent and implausible way.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 23, 2004 10:13 PM | Permalink

In fairness to the veterans--especially to those who heard charges of "war criminal" while they suffered in POW camps--it's worth delving deeper into Kerry's testimony to Congress in 1971 as well as the credibility of the VVAW versus their critics. It's important for the sober thinkers among us to try to understand why over 250 veterans decided to come out of obscurity to oppose a man whose actions during and after the war they found so reprehensible. Here's an excellent summary with important sources written by a veteran who was there

Posted by: Jim at August 23, 2004 10:41 PM | Permalink

Sorry Jim,
No evenhandedness to be found there. Owens clearly thinks Vietnam was a good war and
Kerry is pro-commie traitor for criticizing
it. I didn't find it to be of much help.
It repeats the canard that quoting other veterans testimony is slandering them.
If they didn't commit war crimes, why
would they testify that they did?
If you don't like their testimony, why
not blame them rather than him?
It's not hard to understand that people
who think Vietnam was a just war would
be pissed off.

Pretending their self-righteous wounded
pride makes them a better judge of US
history and military strategy is just not a convincing argument.

Guerilla war is a dirty business. Pretending
it's not immediately calls a person's
credibility into question. Guerilla wars
are an invitation to commit war crimes.
UNLESS NATIONAL DEFENSE (not "security" issues anywhere on earth)IS REALLY AT STAKE.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 23, 2004 11:09 PM | Permalink

I can't believe I get to be the first to quote one of my favorite journalists, Faulkner: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

All this talk about re-opened wounds boggles my mind, as if the silly bleating of editorial pages was the true indicator of national health. The wound never fully closed; and lately it's been especially bloody. Certainly, comparisons of Iraq with Vietnam are overblown; but that doesn't mean that much of America, especially people like Meep, don't know their history and why it matters. Meep scares me.

I'd like all those who speak of letting the past stay in the past, of "looking ahead," etc., to tell me whether they'd look in the face of a Holocaust survivor and say the same thing. Forget it; ancient history. But, apparently, that's fine for Vietnam.

As for Rood: He's entitled to deal with what he's done and seen however he sees fit, but silence is never good journalism.

It does seem like SBVFT are engaged in some nasty politics; but they're absolutely correct that what happened that day in 1968 matters.

Posted by: Jeff Sharlet at August 23, 2004 11:20 PM | Permalink

John Moore: This one is for you to reflect upon.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 23, 2004 11:20 PM | Permalink

Douglas Brinkley was on Hardball tonight.

Posted by: Matt Stoller at August 23, 2004 11:34 PM | Permalink

What did he say?

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 23, 2004 11:35 PM | Permalink

Jay Rosen:

You address that link to John Moore, apparently feeling that his rhetoric is intemperate, yet you say nothing to commenters like David Ehrenstein and "Ben Franklin" who are much better exemplars of the style of argumentation which Cone is satirizing. How . . .interesting.

Posted by: Eric Deamer at August 23, 2004 11:46 PM | Permalink

I guess the problem I have is that if it shouldn't be a focal point, why put it out there as a part of the democratic platform and a part of the key-note address?

Posted by: J Walker at August 24, 2004 12:03 AM | Permalink


Any dispute about Bush's service is about the time in Alabama, not the time he spent learning to fly and flying in Texas. Highly disingenuous to imply that nobody anywhere ever remembers seeing the guy. Why isn't everyone in his chain of command in Texas lining up to attack his service there?

I think it's telling that you think, w/o citing any evidence, that the Swifties are lying, but are willing to believe the Winter Soldier folks were all telling the truth.

The authors of Stolen Valor argue differently and very persuasively, as did Neil Sheehan in the NYTBR reviewing a book by one of the Winter Soldier organizers, Mark Lane. Ditto Guenter Lewy who discovered that a number of Winter Soldier "vets" testifying in Detriot were not who they said were but had appropriated the names of actual Vets.

Why would they lie? I'll leave it to your imagination.

At the very very least Kerry should have been much surer of whose testimony he was repeating before congress.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at August 24, 2004 12:18 AM | Permalink

Jay, I'm not sure what you are referring to, but I'll readily admit to having attributed characteristics to the press that may or may not be correct.

As far as the SBVT, the question of their credibility hings in mind on how hard it would be to construct a conspiracy of over 60 people, most of whom have not been in contact for almost 35 years, to lie, in detail on complex subjects.

I suspect there areas of weakness of memory (just like I think Rassman sincerely believes he was being shot at when all the eviddence indicates otherwise).

However, the asymmetry between the wolfpack going after Bush's National Guard records, and the complete lack of investigation of Kerry was shocking. Does anyone know if Kerry did anything special to incentivize his "Band of Brothers" other than transferring them to safe spots on his exit from Vietnam? Has anyone even mentioned the latter? How about the rumoured trip to France last year - anyone check?

To get to the core of the issue: yes, it makes sense to examine someone's wartime service, just like it makes sense to examine his business career at the same age, although wartime service can be more revealing.

My main issue is with the Kerry testimony and speeches after he left the Navy. Someone informed me that all Kerry was doing was repeating what was told to him. I months ago analyzed all the testimony and the Q&A period afterwards, and that excuse doesn't wash. Yes, some but not all of his broad brush charges came from the Winter Soldier "Investigation." But does anyone think that Kerry was fooled into thinking the 150 "veterans" there were telling the truth? A congressional investigation, which offered amnesty, was not able to substantiate a single one of those charges. It did find many imposters and people who had lied about their background, but not one of the charges.

In questioning, Kerry states that he personally participated in war crimes. It was that statement that really got the swifties going, because they knew it not to be true.

If you read the questioning more closely, you will find intermixed some poiints that the enemy wanted to get across. For example, Kerry says we used weapons against "oriental human beings" that we would never use against Europeans. Since at the time we were prepared to use nuclear weapons against Europeans, I'd like to know what that weapon was. But the statement was useful to the North Vietnamese. In fact, that testimony IS STILL USEFUL to the communists.

There is a part where he speaks as an enemy representative, saying that our troops would be given safe conduct out of the country. He also recommends we immediately accept the enemy's negotiating points. How did a Navy LT come to this conclusion? He talked to the communists in Paris.

Ben, I'm not sure why I bother to respond, but of course my viewpoints are my own. It was Kerry, speaking before Congress in 1971, who arrogated the position of spokesman for all veterans.

I am a Vietnam Veteran. It gives me some insight into military matters, especially from that period. That's all.

Your characterization of the article linked by Jim was pure knee-jerk. The article is well worth reading, even if you don't believe the conclusions.

If you disagree with the data, then you have a problem. It is well sourced.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at August 24, 2004 12:24 AM | Permalink

"I would think being immortal a plus for the military ... ;^)"

Well the soldiers, sailors and marines I fucked thoughout the war certainly thought so.

Especially the sailors.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at August 24, 2004 12:32 AM | Permalink

"Given that worldview, I don't see where Mr. Ehrenstein wishes to argue, if argument involves putting himself in a position where his mind can be changed on points touched upon in this post."

The minds that post here are already made up.

With hospital corners.

"Given the small data set of his comments here and his current blog posts, I don't see where he's doing anything other than shouting his position from a rooftop."

Your point?

" If one wants to change minds in a group that doesn't necessarily think everything Howard Zinn thinks is gospel, one has to consider that in formulating an argument."

Howard Zinn has never really impressed me all that much.

Find another cliche.

"I'm not saying my mind can't be changed on most things. I'm just saying that it's going to take a little more than what Ehrenstein is blasting to get some kind of dialogue."

"Take a little more"?

I don't kiss ass.

Well maybe Matt Damon's -- and you sure as hell ain't him!

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at August 24, 2004 12:39 AM | Permalink

When you or Owen imply that Kerry is a traitor
to the communists because he mentions the obvious
fact that there were deeply racist aspects to
that war it is hardly a question of "sources."
Both of you think it was a just war. I disagree. It's a question of how you interpret the Cold
War. I think you're deadwrong and you feel the same way about my interpretation. Just because I catch a bullet doesn't mean I'm the best source
to figure out why bullets were flying at the time.

The idea that Kerry is a traitor for saying that
Vietnam was a racist war is laughable. It was a racist war. It was a pro-colonial war.
US troops did make Vietnam a living hell.
Does that mean communists are good? No.
Does it mean innocent Vietnamese are any
less dead after being bombed or any less
burned after being napalmed by us? No.
Doesn't that mean all the US soldiers who killed
innocent Vietnamese in a guerilla war
are bad people? No, it means John Kennedy,
Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon were
leaders who were as misguided as you
are. They should never have put our soldiers
in that position.

You live in a Manichean world. It must be nice
for EVERYTHING to be so clear and so
unequivocally Republican. The party of God.

When the US is wrong it is
patriotic to say so NO MATTER WHO AGREES.
Those are words to live by.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 24, 2004 12:50 AM | Permalink


Kerry's problem is that the sober readers of the news now know that he made or repeated the most outrageous charges about Vietnam, some sourced from people posing as veterans, others simply made up, denigrating all who served. It's impressive to find the NIS and Daniel Ellsberg in agreement that US atrocities were rare and usually reported and dealt with promptly. The vets who were accused of those heinous acts have every right to speak, to reject him as an opportunist, and to expose his lies. Whether they vote for Bush, vote for a third party, or vote at all, is for them to decide. I doubt that very many will vote for Kerry, to his dismay.

Kerry saw action in two wars: the first where he may very well have "sexed up" his military record because the level of action he actually saw wasn't sufficient to build his resume, and the second because he found no victory parade for returning vets, and instead decided to join the anti-war parade lead by the left.

Now Kerry wants to deny these men their right to speak once more, and to have his version of events hold sway. It won't work this time, because too many have found their voices, and too citizens many are listening--instead of turning their backs--this time. The aftermath of Kerry's apparent victory in his second war will be bitter for him and his party even if he manages to win. How will he repair the damage he's done now that he's done it again?

The Democratic party has opened Pandora's box by nominating such a charlatan.

Posted by: Jim at August 24, 2004 12:55 AM | Permalink

BF - in spite of your attempts to taunt me, I'm not interested in rehashing the arguments about the correctness of the war. So I'll simply say that your position is that of the hard left and leave it at that.

So was Kerry's.

Did someone say the word traitor in this discussion?

Not me. Do I think he was a traitor - I don't know, it depends on the degree of cooperation with the enemy.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at August 24, 2004 1:07 AM | Permalink

The SBVT may have sparked a renewed fight about the Vietnam war among Democrats more than between political parties. Cross-posting from BOPNews (and although I disagree with the poster, "Jim", I appreciate his post as a principled and coherent one):

Now I am being placed in an uncomfortable and unprincipled position of having to defend my candidate's service in a war myself and so many others did everything in our power to stop. This makes me feel a lot like I did in 1968, after we lost RFK, and Humphrey got the nomination. Ironically, much like now, I was placed in a no-win situation: a Democratic Presidential candidate who essentially agrees with republicans on a war I am vehemently opposed to.

Posted by: Tim at August 24, 2004 1:19 AM | Permalink

It seemed a good post on the whole, Mr. Rosen. Indeed it is sad that some of these things are being done. Some have to be done, and not doing them would be bad behavior, but it does not change the fact that it is sad.

Eric Deamer makes an excellent point, Mr. Rosen. At first I thought Ben Franklin a sensible liberal, but then he kept on talking. David E, well I'm not sure, he's either a troll, or naive enough to think that shouting convinces people. There is a third, worse, possibility--he's a bully. Which would be kind of amusing since this is the internet, and such behavior is kinda pointless.

I would respectfully suggest you look for a better class of commenters. Franklin could be okay, but David, no. And they are not worthy of your time or bandwidth. Feel free to differ; its just a friendly suggestion.


Posted by: Tadeusz at August 24, 2004 1:22 AM | Permalink

Thanks, Tim. I enjoy a reasonable discussion at a volume level that isn't painful to experience.

I understand that some of the SBVT signatories are lifelong Democrats. Their position on Kerry's fitness for the job of President is not an automatic endorsement of the war, or of the President.

Sometimes two parties just aren't enough.

Posted by: Jim at August 24, 2004 1:40 AM | Permalink

Ehrenstain - "Minds are made up. With hospital corners." LOL. Good line. I'll steal it. I find little else you say persuasive. You are not familiar with the circumstances of military service. You deserter charge is both vile and baseless. I think Kerry was a coward for bugging out after the mine blew up under PCF 3. Ran for almost a mile. That's a vile charge. But considering that the other boats stuck around to help and cover the stricken craft, I've got some evidence to back that up.

Jim in Chicago - Good points. "Stolen Valor" should be required reading for folks like Ben who want to apotheosize Kerry's Senate testimony. Kerry had been to Paris to "negotiate" America's surrender terms with the North Vietnamese. He returned with a draft proposal. Interestingly, his Senate/Winter Soldier testimony closely echoed North Vietnamese propaganda points. But, like MoveOn and the Kerry campaign, I'm sure there was no coordination. If there was, Kerry would really be the Cambodian Candidate.

John Moore - Great post. These are the issues.

Eric Deamer - Caught our gracious host getting a little snarky.

Posted by: Billy Hank at August 24, 2004 1:55 AM | Permalink

Jay Rosen - I have a challenge for the press which you may be in a position to further. Why did the blogosphere have to discover that Alston served, at best, a few days with Kerry. Why did Kerry appropriate Lt. Peck's actions as his own? What, if any, honorariums are Kerry's BoBs receiving? Any of them bought a new car recently, added a hot tub, paid off loans? Not, of course, that Kerry would think of doing anything like that. Where does all the Tides Foundation money go? Is it a good idea for America that billionaires like Soros are trying to buy the election? Do you think that Soros's plans are best for America? Have you even read his writings?

Americans believed the crap the press peddled back in the 60s and 70s. The press pounded on crap like the Winter Soldier and Kerry's testimony. There were a lot of vectors at play in those times. Many see that as journalism's finest hour. Stopped a war and brought down a President. Hoorah.

We are fast approaching journalism's lowest hour. Your profession's open cheerleading for the left and Kerry, your refusal to apply the minimum attempt to serve journalism's investigative charter, your Gilligans and Blairs, are turning "journalistic integrity" into a caustic oxymoron. Or have you all really become Oliphants?

Posted by: Billy Hank at August 24, 2004 2:06 AM | Permalink

I give you credit for civility, though we disagree. Otherwise we seem to be running a Republican veterans reunion here. Welcome!

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 24, 2004 2:06 AM | Permalink

Bill Hanks,
Given Richard Scaife and his pals billions to trash enemies over the years, you don't even want to go there. Rush would be proud of you though.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 24, 2004 2:11 AM | Permalink

Of course the medal business is all a side show. The SBVs real beef with Kerry (as John Moore points out) is what he did after the war. Did anyone really think Kerry could run for president without drawing fire from a group of Vietnam vets? He slandered them horribly. He called them baby killers and war criminals. He tarnished them, their service, their sacrifice, and their country. And he never apologized for it. The medals aren't the point. Whatever claim he had to them he gave up when he threw them away (and it doesn’t matter if they were really his, or his ribbons, or someone else’s – he performed the act and he made the statement that those medals were not worth having).

Then he goes and tries to run as a war hero. Stupid, stupid man.

But maybe you think Kerry told the truth in ’71, and that our soldiers were committing wide-spread war crimes. Fine. Seems worth figuring out what really happened back then. Since one of the people who spoke so publicly three decades ago is now running for the highest office in the land and acting as if he never made such devastating charges, perhaps this is as good a time as any to dig up the old bones. It is, after all, awfully hard to ignore the ghosts of the past when one of them walks through the door asking for your vote. And you shouldn’t expect him to be alone – ghosts travel in packs you know. They’re creatures of uncertainty after all, so there are always at least two, and usually at least one you won't much care for.

The SBVs have a view of the past: they think Kerry lied. They think he lied and exaggerated about war crimes because it was convenient and helpful to his political career. And they think that was consistent with his actions in Vietnam, where he lied and exaggerated to further his military career.

Are they slandering Kerry? Or did he slander them thirty years ago? It wouldn't matter if he wasn't running for President - and running as a War Hero to boot - but he is, so let’s find out. Instead of hiding their faces, journalists ought to be looking for whatever is left of the truth from back then. The relevant truth for this election isn’t going to be found in donor lists or campaign finance law. It’s going to be found in the answer to an unpleasant question: did John Kerry tell the truth about what he saw and did in Vietnam? I don’t really need opinions – I already have one of those. What I could use are some facts. The thing that’s really sad about all this is that almost no one who get's paid to do this is willing to dig. Journalists are apparently, ahem, AWOL.

Posted by: (the other) John Hawkins at August 24, 2004 3:04 AM | Permalink

John Hawkins,
If Dubya weren't already AWOL from leading
the country anywhere besides into the pockets of his friends I might almost care.

Even if everything you say about Kerry were true, he's a better man than Bush. That's how bad Bush is.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 24, 2004 3:41 AM | Permalink

John H

If you wander by my blog and dig, you can find answers to some of your questions, including a link to CSPAN's transcript of Kerry's testimony.

It is going to be hard to convince the partisans on here, but there are plenty of Democrat vets who are up in arms about Kerry - especially Vietnam Vets.

There are also a number of other Veterans Groups other than SBVT. I am part of Vietnam Vets for the Truth (another 527). We were formed independently of the swifties, but also for the purpose of redressing the lies directed at us by Kerry. There are many other groups, varying in size, organization, and national scope who are anti-Kerry veterans groups. When these groups (including SBVT) are attacked as part of the "Republican Smear Machine," the attackers are simply showing their ignorance. It would appear that the sophisticated press cannot conceive of true grass roots organizations.

Our group is totally grass roots. I know because there aren't many of us in the organizing loop.

There's another I started by accident - I put an anti-Kerry posting on my blog and before I knew it I had about 200 anti-Kerry Vietnam Vets - had to start a new website for it. This was an emergent event, unplanned and rather a surprise.

For those used to thinking in conventional political think, these groups just don't fit. They are grass roots and they are everywhere. They are non-partisan. All of this in spite of the fact that the VFW and American Legion are required by their rules not to show favoritism.

In any case, there is a phenomenon happening hear, what is is ain't exactly clear (reminds me of a '60s protest song).

THe biggest media screw-ups I have seen have been:

1) Ignorant reporting - drawing conclusions from documents that are inappropriate and obviously wrong to veterans. Some of this is sloppiness - using a document based on a Kerry report to support a Kerry position, saying that the document "is an official navy record' and thus should be believed.

2) One-sided reporting - again, where is the investigation of Kerry's band of brothers? Why wait 10 days to report important SBVT events? Why ignore or downplay the first SBVT press conference.

3) Denial - the failure to appreciate that SBVT could crack the Maginot Line. I was surprised too.

4) Confusion when unable to shape the public debate, again with the SBVT forcing their way in.

5) Failing to understand a new public view of Vietnam, where it is only some of the left who still vehemently believe that Vietnam was the wrong war. Almost all Vietnam Veterans (myself included) have said they would do it again if called.

6) The Bush National Guard feeding frenzy. This left the press looking like partisan fools to a whole lot of us. Veterans, including those from the National Guard, have relatives and friends, and many have been learning about the absurdity of the charges. Aviators like myself have also pointed out how dangerous Bush's choice was - his total service risk was probably higher than Kerry's.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what happens with Kerry's anti-war activities. Was Kerry totally duped by the Winter Soldier witnesses? Or did he present the findings knowing they were false.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools blog) at August 24, 2004 4:04 AM | Permalink

"Ben" Franklin's comment is about the saddest thing I've read this whole campaign. It shows the absolute pit of blind hatred in some parts of the Left. If everything the SBVs claim about Kerry is true, Kerry should probably be in prison for treason. But in Ben's world, that's still better than George W. Bush.

I don't know which set of vets is right about what Kerry did and saw. I have a hunch, but I don't know. The journalism profession isn't helping. Everyone is averting their eyes, their sad eyes no doubt, and wishing it would all go away. Note to journalists: this story isn't irrelevant to the country - it's a critical question and no matter how sad it makes you, you have a job to do.

Posted by: (the other) John Hawkins at August 24, 2004 4:17 AM | Permalink


Brinkley was seething on Hardball about SBVT - he buys into the right-wing conspiracy line of thinking on these guys.


I'd like to see this tied in with your 'Die, Strategy News' piece somehow. That piece is a good critique of one of the most irritating tendencies in our press corps. This episode is the same fight as the Iraq war (with different players), and given that it's fairly obvious that the debate over that war was not done over terrority condusive to good decision-making (a good argument could be had over whether the right or the left complained more about the press), perhaps you could bring into this debate what saddens you about the press coverage on this, if anything.

Posted by: Matt Stoller at August 24, 2004 7:40 AM | Permalink

John M.,
Nobody denies there are a lot of vets who hate Kerry. Just stop pretending there aren't a lot of vets who hate Bush. Like I said before, you've gotten a lot more attention per person that the anti-war protests got. The crazy liberal press blew them off too.

Stopping Bush's mad rush into Iraq affected a lot more lives this year than your attempt to get reparations from the anti-war movement against Vietnam.
Stop complaining.

John H.,
It's not blind hatred to say that all this could be true and John Kerry is still a better man than George W. Bush. It's clear-eyed observation of his catastrophic failure in every possible area of policy up and down the line. He should be impeached and in jail already if his lapdog party gave flying rat's ass about the rule of law. And he should be in the criminal court in the Hague for crimes against humanity for starting an unprovoked war of aggression and signing memos that violate the Geneva convention. It's not hate, its justice. Bush is a plague on the nation and it will be a dark day in hell before we get a worse candidate to run against him.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 24, 2004 7:52 AM | Permalink

I'm not familiar with the "Die, Strategy" piece. What was the general point? What connections do you see between the Iraq debate and the Swift Vets debate?

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 24, 2004 7:57 AM | Permalink

Sad. Interesting. I hadn't thought of something so simple. Thanks, Jay.

I'm afraid there is no way to get into these issues around Vietnam without inviting so much anger and intensity from all sides for one very obvious reason: we've never, in fact, resolved the various tensions and differences over the war itself.

John Moore tries to dress up the distinctions between Kerry and Bush and why he questions one and not the other, but it seems clear that the point is what his man did was okay and what the other guy did (and does) wasn't (and isn't). And that seems too easy (a la that brilliant Cone piece). As much as it may be worth wading into what happened in Vietnam and what Kerry did there, it's worth wading into, as Bush himself indicated in 1990, his decision to get into the Texas Air National Guard because it was a way not to go to Vietnam that didn't necessitate other draft dodging tactics.

It is sad that we haven't sorted out what it means that we were in Vietnam, why we went, why we left, what it means to have served, and what it means to not have served (as well as to conscientiously protest the whole operation) in Vietnam, specifically. I don't think it was necessarily weak or cowardly for Bush and Cheney to avoid going. I don't think Kerry is necessarily ennobled by having served. But I say that because I think the point is we shouldn't have been in Vietnam in the first place. And that's the ugly, sad topic no one wants to get into.

My own feeling is that, sad as it is, we all ought to come clean and talk about Vietnam. Or, deciding that it's too painful to revisit such a difficult, unsettled period, let's not. But this middle ground, where we pick apart the smallest details (really, I don't care whether he was in Cambodia in 68 or 69 or never... just as I don't care whether Bush was in Alabama... or not) as a way to ignore examining the larger issues, is just a painful, useless place to be. It tells us nothing. It teaches us nothing. And it's just, well, sad.

And as much as I'd like to say that's the media's fault, it's really rather all of our faults, now, isn't it?

Posted by: weboy at August 24, 2004 8:30 AM | Permalink

I'm thinking since so many of our fellow discussants on here clearly agree that we can't
move on until past wrongs are righted,
I'm sure I'll get a lot of backup in
calling for reparations to families of former slaves who were wronged for three hundred years before they were freed to meet the tender mercies of Jim Crow. Won't I?
They were clearly betrayed before and after the Civil War.
We want to make that right, don't we?
We couldn't just get over it and move on to other things with a moral mote in our eye of that size, could we?

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 24, 2004 8:51 AM | Permalink

I'd like to know what John, Eric, Billy and others here think about this:

Asked if Mr. Kerry had lied about his war record, Mr. Bush said, "Mr. Kerry served admirably and he ought to be proud of his record."

Was that an endorsement of the SBVT campaign and its claims? Or does it show that Bush is not persuaded by the Swifties and their record of truthfulness? Is it the Liberal Media again blowing things out of proportion? Did Bush lie when he said this (but then... why would he lie?) Was he caving in to a form of political correctness-- that is, hiding his true feelings about Kerry's service because he's unwilling to face groupthink reactions if he didn't conceal them? (Bizarre, but who knows?) Was he misquoted? Did he fail to think quickly enough when asked the question? Or let's see [sounds of rummaging] .... is it that he's so busy campaigning and governing that he didn't have time to really examine the Swift Boat Veterans' claims and so he doesn't know the strength of their case, but if he did know he wouldn't say: "Mr Kerry served admirably." Is that it?

I mean what is going on with that quote?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 24, 2004 9:09 AM | Permalink

I predict we are told he was defying the presses' game of gotcha. Because obviously President Bush doesn't play games.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 24, 2004 9:15 AM | Permalink

Krugman (as usual) nails it.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at August 24, 2004 9:25 AM | Permalink


You seem to have the answer to your question all figured out yourself, since you mock all possible responsibles, so I don't see why anyone would wish to answer a question posed so disingenuously. It's an interesting experience being called onto the carpet with all of the other token conservatives though. Sincerely, I would like to try to continue this conversation,
but with "Ben Franklin" (and you) putting words into people's mouth, and David Ehrenstein, whose idea of a helpful comment (and whose idea of reality) includes the phrase "Krugman (as usual) nails it", it seems to be turning into a train wreck.

Posted by: Eric Deamer at August 24, 2004 9:34 AM | Permalink

And is this "USA Today" story questioning Bush's National Guard service part of that "train wreck" ?

Spare us the "token conservative" Victim card blather!

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at August 24, 2004 9:42 AM | Permalink

Eric writes: "You seem to have the answer to your question all figured out yourself."

No. As regards that quote, I don't have anything figured out. To me it's all quite strange. Here is President Bush saying the guy served admirably and should be proud of his record. Here are the Swift Boat veterans and their supporters saying the guy's record is a fake, his medals are undeserved, and virtually every officer who served with him is in agreement on that. So I am asking you, Eric, but also others... how would you explain that? I have no answers.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 24, 2004 9:44 AM | Permalink

The answer is very simple: "White man speak with forked tongue."

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at August 24, 2004 9:58 AM | Permalink


The statement, as you quote it, is a bland, anodyne statement that in no way contradicts the claims of SBVFT. "He served admirably" means nothing other than that: He showed up. He served. (Possible subtext here: "Just as I did by flying rickety, unsafe jets for the Texas Air National Guard.") Unless you think that SBVFT and their supporters are saying that Kerry never joined the navy and never served in Viet Nam, then I don't see how this statment in any way contradicts their claims.

"and should be proud of his record.": Again, this is a bland, vague formulation. It says nothing about the specifics of that record. Nothing about medals. Nothing about Cambodia. He should be proud that he served the United States Navy, and no one is claiming otherwise. I also think there is a subtle dig here in the use of the word "proud", suggesting that Kerry has gone far beyond mere pride in the way he has exploited his war record.

This statement doesn't speak at all to specifics. It's purposely vague. I'm frankly gobsmacked that anyone could see it as being in any way a repudiation of SBVFT and all of us right-wing killbots who support them.

David Ehrenstein:

Here's a link for you to refelct upon. The author claims that it's bipartisan, despite the fact some seem to think it only applies to conservatives.

This one really makes me think of your style of argument:

Stop interrupting me while I'm shouting. Feel the crushing weight of my arguments, which are built on logic and constructed from facts that are sturdy and sound. You just whine about how you feel.

Posted by: Eric Deamer at August 24, 2004 10:04 AM | Permalink

Jay, the automatic thinking stopper.

The NYT tells us he was trying "to walk a fine line" with that quote. I guess between honoring Kerry's service and not condemning the Swift Boat vets.

That's interesting. What thickness was the line when Kerry stated back in February (the height of the AWOL "piling on"):

"Well, I don't know the facts on it [Bush's National Guard service]," Kerry said. "What I've always said is -- and I defended Bill Clinton's position, and I would defend the president's choice with respect to going into the Guard." "I've never made any judgments about any choice somebody made about avoiding the draft, about going to Canada, going to jail, being a conscientious objector, going into the National Guard. Those are choices people make," Kerry said. "But there is a question that's been raised about whether -- about what his service was. And I don't know the answers to those questions," Kerry said.

Or this gem:

"Just because you get an honorable discharge does not in fact answer that question," the Massachusetts senator said.

Or again in April, while defending against questions about whether he did or didn't throw medals or ribbons or both or ...KERRY QUESTIONS BUSH ATTENDANCE IN GUARD IN 70'S

I'd like to know, Jay, if you think the media has taken the pro-Kerry narrative stance that this is characteristic of Bush, like McCain and Cleland, rather than the more historically correct view that challenging, or attacking, the characterization of a vet's service has been part of our politics for a long time.

I find it interesting how very hard the MSM is working to tie the SBVT to the Republican party and the Bush campaign. As an example, the gymnastics the NYT article goes through to get to Sally Atwater and Willie Horton is pathetic. The article takes on its own aura of attack ad throughout. I think reporters should investigate the independence of 527s, but it seems odd in contrast to the scarcity of reporting on the wealthier and more active anti-Bush 527s linked to Democrats and Kerry's campaign. It might seem justified if the groups making the AWOL charge had been just as effectively tied to Kerry and politically active Democrats, no?

I was also very disappointed with the slice and dice job the NYT did on Dole, uh, reporting the conversation between Dole and Kerry.

I would also point out that the Kerry campaign does not seem interested in re-fighting Vietnam. They see this as entirely a character debate, or assassination:

"Again the president did the wrong thing today,'' said Chad Clanton, a campaign spokesman. "He has refused to specifically condemn the smear campaign against John Kerry's military record.'' (emphasis added)

Posted by: Tim at August 24, 2004 10:09 AM | Permalink

Read it..

(The "Conservatives" who post here will then explain to us all that everyone knows that the Los Angeles Times is a notorious left-wing rag secretly funded by the evil George Soros.)

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at August 24, 2004 10:12 AM | Permalink

Two questions:

1. "5) Failing to understand a new public view of Vietnam, where it is only some of the left who still vehemently believe that Vietnam was the wrong war. Almost all Vietnam Veterans (myself included) have said they would do it again if called."

Is this true? I know I don't have much of a perspective on this, being born after the war, but as a member of the after-Vietnam generation, I don't see how this fits. I was under the impression that most people (at least from my generation) acknowledge two things: 1) that Vietnam was a wrong war and 2) simply put, that VVs got the shaft.

2. "Vietnam? I don’t really need opinions – I already have one of those. What I could use are some facts. The thing that’s really sad about all this is that almost no one who get's paid to do this is willing to dig. Journalists are apparently, ahem, AWOL."

I concur. Would it be beyond the MSM to do an investigative report detailing the actual facts behind both candidates' service? I think now it's beside the point who brought it up and why. I want to have a clear, unbiased report on what happened (or as closely as it can get). I don't want to be told by people who have an agenda besides getting the truth out - which clearly isn't the Swifties. Is it unreasonable to think that it's the press's job to provide me with such?

Okay, three: Why does the press seem so reactive to me? These days, stories seem to be forced into the news, not dug up by reporters.

Posted by: CER at August 24, 2004 10:33 AM | Permalink

Vetting the Vet Record

But a comprehensive 1980 survey commissioned by Veterans' Administration (VA) reported that 91 percent of those who had seen combat in Vietnam were "glad they had served their country;" 80 percent disagreed with the statement that "the US took advantage of me;" and nearly two out of three would go to Vietnam again, even knowing how the war would end.

The News Media and the War in Vietnam: Myths and Realities
Myths and realities : a study of attitudes toward Vietnam era veterans

Posted by: Tim at August 24, 2004 11:31 AM | Permalink

You will be pleased to hear that I checked out some links related to the Winter Soldiers. I consider Neil Sheehan, whose Bright Shining Lie I read, to be a very credible source. Based on his review, I now agree with you that much of the Winter Soldier testimony was probably false.

You will not be pleased to hear that I have found an article in the Toledo Blade on the Tiger Force, and an article by Nicholas Turse (a Ph.D candidate conducting research on the matter) both of which are based on unimpeachable, declassified Pentagon documents that demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that precisely the sorts of things the Winter Soldiers falsely testified to ACTUALLY HAPPENED. They happened even more often than previously suspected, and even when charges were filed, the guilty parties were routinely let off with discharges. I would also recommend Christian Appy's Patriots: The Vietnam War From All Sides for your reading list if you ARE really interested in getting to the bottom of things.

Sorry. To say that war crimes were committed in Vietnam is a simple statement of fact: carpet bombing of civilians, anti-personnel bombs, bombing of dikes, napalm, free-fire zones, soldiers who treat "gooks," "slopes," and "dinks" like cockroaches, routine interrogation by torture at the hands of S. Vietnamese supervised by Americans.

Yes, there were a few war crimes committed. I even corresponded with Col. David Hackworth about it. He was a veteran, too. He was also there. I said I would put great stock in his opinion and would like to get his take on the question of war crimes in Vietnam. Were they widespread? Were they exceptions that were reported? Did it vary by unit commander (my guess)?

His reply: "The war was one raging atrocity."

At least one highly decorated veteran begs to differ. Are you going to claim that all of his medals are fake too? Or will you just call him a lefty who can't be taken seriously because he disagrees with you?

Jay and Tim have raised one serious question here: What could it mean for Kerry to run as a veteran "defending the nation" in a misguided war like Vietnam? That does cause debate between Democrats. It couldn't make Bush a remotely imaginable alternative, but it does cause debate. The pose requires him to pretend to John Moore's view of the war when he clearly doesn't believe it. John M. is right to hold him in contempt for that.

I hold Kerry in admiration BECAUSE of his testimony before the Senate. I hope that his cynical political self will eventually prove worthy of the speech he gave then--even if it was written by Robert Kennedy's speech writer.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 24, 2004 11:31 AM | Permalink

Tim: Many things John Kerry said about his service in Vietnam I do not find particularly honorable. I also believe the Swift Boat Veterans are mostly engaged in a smear campaign, using trumped up, tricked up evidence, mixed in with some genuine points, and that this is very much the way the game is played these days.

On Kerry and Vietnam: It is not very honorable, from my point of view, to claim that your service under fire in Vietnam qualifies you for the presidency, but your service in the cause of stopping a cruel and senseless war back home does not. Both are honorable, but in different ways. They tell us different things about America, too, and appeal to different dreams we have about ourselves.

I think it was a mistake to make the convention "about" one side of that war, his service as a solider, and it exposes the hubris of the handler class in Kerry's camp, along with a certain measure of gall in the candidate himself. (Not that gall isn't necessary to win.) Kerry's political life began, in the sense that he first emerged as a figure in the national story, when he turned against the war as a veteran of it.

I think Kerry should run on many things, but in the degree that it's his Vietnam record, it has to include both-- see John fight in the war, see John fight against it, and I don't care if reconciling those two is tough without alienating swing voters in Ohio. He's running for President of the United States. The challenge of doing just that--reconciling his roles in the Vietnam War chapter of our history--might have been breathed life into the campaign, tested the candidate's skills, and deepened our knowledge of Kerry. Also: it's more honest.

The Swift Boat campaign was cooked up, cranked up and ready to go independent of any decisions Kerry and crew made to rely or not rely, emphasize a lot or just a little, his record during four months of duty.

I mean, it's effective and all to shout out, "he's running on his record in Vietnam, therefore..." and everyone will agree, you have a point. Even so, the Swift Boats were in formation and going to make their move--the 527, the book, the donors, the ads, the talk shows, the blogs were all ready--even if Kerry had based his campaign on coupons for health care.

On Bush's statement, which has not been explained well by anyone here, myself included, here's a different Q for you, Tim. If you were a Swiftie or supporter--hoping to make an impact in this election and prevail in the battle for public opinion--would you take President's Bush's exchange, I mean this one:

Asked if Mr. Kerry had lied about his war record, Mr. Bush said, "Mr. Kerry served admirably and he ought to be proud of his record."

as good news for the cause, or bad news? And why?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 24, 2004 11:54 AM | Permalink

John Kerry is the reason we are talking about Vietnam. George Bush could drop out of the race tommorrow, and Vietnam would remain in Kerry's way. If Kerry would drop out of the race for the POTUS, as soon as he does, it's over.

His problem is with John O'Neil, the same guy who debated him on the Dick Cavett show over 30 years ago. Not George Bush. George Bush doesn't have the power to tell John O'Neil nor Michael Moore that they are not allowed to speak out in America. To do so is censorship. And only slimmy snakeoil selling polito burros would even suggest doing something so outrageous.

Posted by: Gary B. at August 24, 2004 12:10 PM | Permalink


The statement is none of the above. It's irrelevant. As I see it, the substantive issues that SBFVT are raising are the following:

1. Medals. They have different recollections and some different data regarding the incidents that resulted in him getting various medals. There is also evidence which supports Kerry's version of these events. This debate can never be adequately resolved. It's also the least substantive of all the issues that SBVFT have raised. Two reasons why this is the sole aspect of the story which the mainstream media has really seized upon.

2. Cambodia. This issue is far more substantive, and has also been decided completely in favor of SBVFT, which is why the mainstream media have studiously ignored it for the most part. John Kerry never ran sercret missions in Cambodia. He has continually lied about his for basically his entire adult life since. Most significantly, he lied about it on the floor of the Senate in order to make an emotional appeal for his side of a foreign policy question.

3. Anti-war activities. John Kerry accepted, without any investigation or vetting of the info on his own, all of the findings of the since-discredited Winter Soldier investigation and then used those findings to accuse all American soldiers at all levels of being war criminals. There is no "he said, she said" here. This is part of the public record, and nothing Bush says now could change that.

So, please show me where Bush speaks to any of those issues in the statement you quote. Does he talk about Cambodia? Does he talk about John Kerry's anti-war activities? Does he talk about medals? No. That's why I say it's neither good news nor bad news for the cause.

Posted by: Eric Deamer at August 24, 2004 12:17 PM | Permalink

-- Los Angeles Times, Aug. 24:

...Bring a charge, however bogus. Make the charge simple: Dukakis "vetoed the Pledge of Allegiance"; Bill Clinton "raised taxes 128 times"; "there are [pick a number] Communists in the State Department." But make sure the supporting details are complicated and blurry enough to prevent easy refutation.

Then sit back and let the media do your work for you. Journalists have to report the charges, usually feel obliged to report the rebuttal, and often even attempt an analysis or assessment. But the canons of the profession prevent most journalists from saying outright: These charges are false. As a result, the voters are left with a general sense that there is some controversy over Dukakis' patriotism or Kerry's service in Vietnam. And they have been distracted from thinking about real issues (like the war going on now) by these laboratory concoctions.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 24, 2004 12:18 PM | Permalink


I agree with much of that, but ...

The Swift Boat campaign was cooked up, cranked up and ready to go independent of any decisions Kerry and crew made to rely or not rely, emphasize a lot or just a little, his record during four months of duty.

I'm convinced that the Swift Boat vets would have campaigned against Kerry whether he was a Democrat, a Republican, or the name of Kerry's opponent.

However, we must also note that there might not have been as many, as vocal, as fired up, if Kerry hadn't made his campaign a referendum on his status as Vietnam war hero. This was not a group that campaigned every 6 years against Kerry during his Senate campaigns, and has been pointed out as an inconsistancy, even defended him during one campaign.

If you were a Swiftie or supporter--hoping to make an impact in this election and prevail in the battle for public opinion--would you take President's Bush's exchange ... as good news for the cause, or bad news? And why?

Well, first let me say I'm not a Swiftie - or a Swabby - so I don't have a dog in this fight between Navy men. I'm not as much a supporter of the Swifties as a spectator, and my interest lies more in how veterans manage to eat their own, civilains seem to like to watch, and hypocritical changing of sides between honoring "your" war hero while bad mouthing "the war" (or war in general), and trying not to call veterans murderers and baby-killers while trying to both acknowledge, and not, that atrocities are part of war.

Having said that, if I was a SVBT advocate, or activist, I'd want Bush out-of-the-way. This is my fight with Kerry. I want to give it to Kerry as good as I feel he dished it out and profitted at my expense. I really don't want Bush jumping into the ring with me. It's way too personal for the kind of political control his campaign managers and spin meisters would bring.

But, that's my read on it. That's more heat than what I've seen them display, but I think that's what's in their hearts and what motivates them to invest their time, money and reputation to take away from Kerry any glory for his Vietnam service - as they feel Kerry did to them.


Just for the humor of irony ...

Hackworth says error doesn't compare to Boorda suicide case
Part 2: Why Hackworth Left the Army

Posted by: Tim at August 24, 2004 12:27 PM | Permalink

Thanks, Eric: I hadn't known that Kerry's medals and performance in the field were not really "substantative" issues for the Swift Boat Veterans. I haven't checked it in a while, but I assume that if I go to the SBVT's website, I will find this reflected, yes? Not much about the medals. Not much about his valor in the field, his performance as an officer?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 24, 2004 12:30 PM | Permalink


My ranking of what was or wasn't substantive was purely subjective. I should have made that more clear. I'll say again that if you read the book, watch the ads, etc. (I know less about the content of the website.), you'll see all of the issues I outlined being mentioned, with, IMO, the most emphasis being on Kerry's smear campaign against all American soldiers upon returning home, which is all part of the public record. For some reason you seem inordinately fixated with painting the "performance in the field" issues as the sum total of SBVFT's critique of Kerry.

This playing dumb, asking questions for which you know the answer, style of conversation you use does not wear well with me. Perhaps you think of it as a socratic method type of thing, but I find it condescending, FWIW.


Posted by: Eric Deamer at August 24, 2004 12:41 PM | Permalink


Actually on re-reading I see that you misquoted me. I never said that the medals "were not really substantive issues for the Swift Boat Veterans", (though, they are to me personally) I said that they were "the least substantive", compared to the other issues they raised. I'm sure they consider it all to be substantive. But again, Bush didn't say anything about the medals, so I'm not sure how this relates to the earlier discussion we were having.

Posted by: Eric Deamer at August 24, 2004 12:46 PM | Permalink

Socratic method? No. It's my crazy hope that you, or someone just reading along, might go and look at the site and ask if it really de-emphasizes the attack on his medals and valor in the field, or on the contrary highlights such. That's my one agenda, my only "plan." And if you click, and go, and look, and think, and decide I am a condescending clown whose perspectives have no merit, fine. I don't care how you got there.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 24, 2004 12:57 PM | Permalink

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has been formed to counter the false "war crimes" charges John Kerry repeatedly made against Vietnam veterans who served in our units and elsewhere, and to accurately portray Kerry's brief tour in Vietnam as a junior grade Lieutenant. We speak from personal experience -- our group includes men who served beside Kerry in combat as well as his commanders. Though we come from different backgrounds and hold varying political opinions, we agree on one thing: John Kerry misrepresented his record and ours in Vietnam and therefore exhibits serious flaws in character and lacks the potential to lead.

We regret the need to do this. Most Swift boat veterans would like nothing better than to support one of our own for America's highest office, regardless of whether he was running as a Democrat or a Republican. However, Kerry's phony war crimes charges, his exaggerated claims about his own service in Vietnam, and his deliberate misrepresentation of the nature and effectiveness of Swift boat operations compels us to step forward.

That's the introduction. Both paragraphs emphasize the "phony war crimes charges" right alongside the "exagerrated claims about his own service". I would say that they're placed on an equal footing. As you say, anyone can go and see for themselves. I really sincerely don't understand what you're getting at with this. I'll leave it at that.

Posted by: Eric Deamer at August 24, 2004 1:06 PM | Permalink

Jay misses the point. Its not about Vietnam. Its about honor, and what you do in your life.

At the end, when you are laying in your bedpan, all you will have is your memories, your honor (or lack of it), your friends (or lack of them).

We all make mistakes. We don't get a free pass, though, and when looking at the person we choose to lead the free world, looking at honor and their past is entirely valid, and required.

Posted by: Skeej at August 24, 2004 2:03 PM | Permalink

If this passage from Drudge is true, Kerry realizes that he has a huge problem with veterans, as some polls now are beginning to show

"Kerry reached out to Robert "Friar Tuck" Brant Cdr., USN (RET) Sunday night, just hours after former Sen. Bob Dole publicly challenged Kerry to apologize to veterans.
Brant was skipper of the #96 and # 36 boat and spent time with Kerry in An Thoi. Kerry and Brant slept in the same quarters, and Brant used to put Kerry back to bed at night when Kerry was sleepwalking.

Brant received a call from Kerry at his home in Virginia while he was watching the Olympics on TV.

The call lasted 10 minutes, sources tell Drudge.

KERRY: "Why are all these swift boat guys opposed to me?"

BRANT: "You should know what you said when you came back, the impact it had on the young sailors and how it was disrespectful of our guys that were killed over there."

[Brant had two men killed in battle.]

KERRY: "When we dedicated swift boat one in '92, I said to all the swift guys that I wasn't talking about the swifties, I was talking about all the rest of the veterans." [Ed.--Emphasis added.]

Kerry then asked if he could meet Brant ["You were one of the best"] -- man to man -- face to face.

Brant declined the invite, explaining that Kerry was obviously not prepared to correct the record on exactly what happened during Vietnam and what happened when Kerry came back."

I also recommend this article from Dr. Larry Sabato of the University of VA on how long we should expect Vietnam to remain a part of US politics

Posted by: Jim at August 24, 2004 2:16 PM | Permalink

I'm assuming, Tim, your comment was directed at my question as to whether or not it was true that the public now felt that Vietnam was a wrong war or not.

I am not sure the 1980 study really addresses my question. For one, I was questioning whether the general public felt it was a right or wrong war, not vets. And two, 1980 was over 20 years ago. Does that reflect current opinion?

Posted by: CER at August 24, 2004 2:17 PM | Permalink

From the same article you linked to:

"It is part of the reason that even today, people who are too young to remember Vietnam are predisposed to believe the worst about the Vietnam War and those who fought it."

Posted by: CER at August 24, 2004 2:37 PM | Permalink


That comment was meant to back up what John Moore said about how Vietnam vets felt and provide references concerning PressThink about Vietnam and why public opinion might be misinformed.

I was not attempting to answer you.


Two other narratives to consider before you stray too far into the "NOW" is the time to go "we said" (which seems to come up here primarily when it benefits Kerry).

The press has creduously allowed Kerry to take both sides on his war record until challenged by the SBVT: The Power Elite's Dream Ballot

Kerry is really confusing on the issue of the military, too. Before pro-military audiences, Kerry trots out his military medals (three Purple Hearts!) and talks tough about his "duty and service" to the nation. But then he'll stand before the Dean Democrats and talk about how he led the anti-war movement when he got home. Well, John, what's it going to be: duty and service or conscientious objections?
Does Kerry's Kerry said/Kerry said deserve a press we said? Kerry's own Vietnam accounts are conflicting and you've already expressed your desire that Kerry try to explain the three Kerry's: war hero/self-admitted war criminal/war protester. Are you arguing the press make the call which one best characterizes Kerry today? Haven't some already tried to do that with the label opportunist?

How should the press keep tally and should the we said view of the forest conclude, "OK, Kerry lied or backtracked on Christmas in Cambodia, first Purple Heart was an unintentional self-inflicted wound, it was Peck's heroism not mine, ..., but the SVBT have lied or exaggerated about ..., and these other controversies we're calling for Kerry although we can't prove or disprove the disputes to meet Oliphant's recently discovered bar for a high standard of telling you about something."

Posted by: Tim at August 24, 2004 3:23 PM | Permalink


Asking questions is tiring work.

Posted by: Matt Stoller at August 24, 2004 3:28 PM | Permalink

Will those Republican smear artists at Counterpunch stop at nothing?

Posted by: Eric Deamer at August 24, 2004 3:28 PM | Permalink

Why is it 'sad' that a large group of veterans have something to say about the character of one of their own who is nominated by his party for president?

Is it sad that they have something to say? I think not: this is what participative democracy is about.

Is it sad that they are not unanimous in their opinions? I think not: this is what a real population looks like - not homogenous.

Is it sad that some, actually a good number, have negative things to say? I think not: it speaks well of them to come out of their private lives and say something they feel important enough for us to hear.

Is it sad that the references of a man who would be our president need to reach back 30-35 years? I think not: war, defense of country, honor - are all important in determining the character of the individual who would be our president.

Is it sad that these men have had to try so hard to have their opinions, their facts, and their testimonies heard by the public? OK you've got me there.

Posted by: John Lynch at August 24, 2004 4:23 PM | Permalink

Jay, and by extension La Times

...Bring a charge, however bogus. Make the charge simple: Dukakis "vetoed the Pledge of Allegiance"; Bill Clinton "raised taxes 128 times"; "there are [pick a number] Communists in the State Department." But make sure the supporting details are complicated and blurry enough to prevent easy refutation.

The fallacy is the credentials of those bringing the charges. Can anyone play the game, or is there some amount of verification as to who these people are? Is there a credible charge? Is there a motive? These are the same tests one would apply in choosing to hear (or not) a particularly salacious rumor from a neighbor.

In this case:

Who: a group of veterans: good; consisting of 250-300 in number: good; who served in the theater, in the period, in the unit, and in many cases in the same events: good; including all of the officers in the chain of command: good.

Seems to pass the "who" test.

Credible charge(s): that the service was less than stellar; and that the anti-war activities were over-the-top; and that self-interest rose above his loyalties to unit and country. Damn. Serious charges. Well prima-facie: four months service, first-person testimonies, no hospitalization, visiting the enemy during conflict; senate hearings with discredited charges; a book withdrawn from print.

Credible: enough to not get a summary judgment for no hearing.

Motive: Clearly stated and believable.

Apply those same tests to other issues covered and the issues might not have received the coverage that they did.

Inference: Someone has an agenda, and is biasing the reporting.

Posted by: John Lynch at August 24, 2004 4:50 PM | Permalink

Does anyone else see the irony of Kerry desperately defending the same medals/ribbons about which he previously said, "We threw away the symbols of what our country gave us for what we had gone through"?

Posted by: Tim at August 24, 2004 5:05 PM | Permalink


Good to see you are still here and posting. Well written stuff. It is a pleasure to read.

Ironies abound in this drama. The past two weeks have been full of Homeric tragedy and comedy. Brought (or not) by the usual players.

Posted by: John Lynch at August 24, 2004 5:23 PM | Permalink

As to what I was getting at with Eric... -- ABC's The Note has this observation:

Now that the charges of medal inflation and fabrication have been largely discredited by the likes of Tapper, Dobbs, the Los Angeles Times and others, supporters of the book fall back on the Cambodia charge to tar Kerry with the book's central thesis that he's prone to verbal prestidigitation.

If it sounds like an upside-down world version of a calculated PR effort — put your weak stuff out there first to get attention and your strong stuff out there when folks are paying attention — it is.

I'm noticing that all of a sudden the message from believers in the book is that the charges of medal inflation and fabrication were never that important, aren't key to the case, that's the media's bias, etc. etc. Next we'll hear that the Swift Boat Veterans never questioned whether Kerry deserved his medals.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 24, 2004 6:28 PM | Permalink


As Jeff posited earlier, "the past is never dead."

In this case, it is too soon to say that the actions of the likes of Dodd, L A Times, and Tapper have discredited anything.

So far: the Cambodia thing is being redefined; Kerry's boat was not the only one to return to pick up Rasmussen - well actually it was as the other boats didn't leave; the first PH may have been self-inflicted; and the whole "Bring it On" thing is observed as "Silence those people!"

I'm not sure that discredited is the word any reasonable observer would use.

Posted by: John Lynch at August 24, 2004 6:46 PM | Permalink

From that well-known outpost of the radical left, Business Week

COMMENTARY By Thane Peterson
Flinging the Foul Mud of Vietnam
John Kerry returned a hero. The smears his political enemies are now flinging mark them--not him-- as beneath contempt

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 24, 2004 6:48 PM | Permalink

I do however observe that this is not PR-like. PR starts with the strongest and then fills in when they have your attention.

This is more lawyer-like. Build your case step-by-step, saving the strongest for last.

Posted by: John Lynch at August 24, 2004 6:50 PM | Permalink

Be careful not to conflate this as a left / right issue. This is a character issue being debated by Vets - very publicly.

Many in the right are annoyed at this - for reasons of distraction. Many on the left are alarmed at this - for reasons having nothing to do with the facts of the issue, but for reasons of implications on their candidate.

The line-up of who's Ox is getting gored is long and distinguished. . . on both sides.

I would assume even Bush really wishes this would run its course and go away.

Posted by: John Lynch at August 24, 2004 6:55 PM | Permalink

Regarding my generation's view of the Vietnam War... I was born in 1970. Growing up, I learned in school that we lost the Vietnam War and got the distinct impression that it was a terrible war and we shouldn't have been in it. I didn't find out there were other viewpoints until I was an adult. Given that the public educational system seems to have uniformly agreed that the Vietnam War was a mistake, it's not surprising that a majority of my generation thinks it was a mistake.

Personally, I now believe that it was a lost battle in a war that we eventually won. If it was a mistake, then it was a mistake because the government we defended was corrupt, not because the forces we defended against weren't worth opposing. I'm also disturbed by what happened in southeast Asia after we left (especially the slaughter in Cambodia). Did this happen because we left, or because we were there in the first place? In either case, did our leaving enable it to happen?

Posted by: C. Sjoholm at August 24, 2004 7:07 PM | Permalink


The things that happened in S.E. Asia after we left are the subjects of much debate.

What is clear is that Kerry, during the Dick Cavett debate with John O'Neill stated that 'maybe 3000' would be dislocated or killed as a result of our leaving.

The actual numbers are closer to 800,000 dislocated and over 1.5M killed.

Speculating as to what would have happened is the subject of better minds than mine.

Posted by: John Lynch at August 24, 2004 7:32 PM | Permalink

Tim, John Lynch, Roy Clark, Jeff Sharlet and others... I think this is whole thing is very much about the animosity of some Vietnam veterans and military people toward Kerry for his role in the anti-war movement, and, yes, for what he said and did then-- serious charges he made, chances he took, ways he had of positioning himself.

I agree they have a right to criticize him for that, and to band together for that purpose; and if he is about to possibly become the next president, then I would expect those criticisms and that banding-together to rise in intensity. Now is the logical time when those with such doubts and disagreements would try to speak about Kerry, as well as influence the nation's opinion.

I agree that this would also be a good time for the political press to take an in depth look at Kerry's different Vietnams-- there must be two, three four of the--and ask how they fit together.

So I have no desire to bury the past. Nor am I surprised that Vietnam and Kerry's role in it becomes an issue now. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (the name says a lot, I feel) became a smear group when they gave into temptation, threw caution away, let their anger get the better of them, and contacted the howling ghost of Lee Attwater, who told them they might have a chance (to destroy the target) if they were willing to try something truly outrageous, something with real shock value to it, a suggestion dark enough to stain Kerry in the minds of all who heard it, something instantly recognizeable as not only wrong, but unAmerican and perverse. Got anything like that? asked Lee's spirit?

And the Swift Boat Veterans decided they did have something they could say, something they could try, something they could--and would--put out there: Kerry didn't deserve his medals because he lied to get them and other veterans know about it. He's no hero. He's been lying and getting away with it. Yes, we're certain.

This is not "one of the things" in a list of complaints; this is the essence of the strategy, the heart of the attack, and it begins the anatomy of the smeer. Only by keeping your eye on that particular charge and what happens to it can you understand the unfolding of this event.

For if a group of angry and fed-up veterans decided they really wanted to criticize Kerry for his actions and arguments against the War, and they formed an association to do just that, would anyone have heard of them by now? Would a book like that be climbing the charts? Would the call lines light up over it? Would anyone be saying the Swifties dominated the week?

They went for it: the "Kerry is a monster of deceit" strategy. He got medals he didn't deserve. Everyone knows it. Yes, we're sure. And they created their own monster.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 24, 2004 7:36 PM | Permalink

Mr. Rosen, I'll take a shot at answering your challenge:

Asked if Mr. Kerry had lied about his war record, Mr. Bush said, "Mr. Kerry served admirably and he ought to be proud of his record."

Continuing off-the-record, Bush elaborated: "So why Mr. Kerry came home and told outrageous stories like the Cambodian Christmas tale is beyond me. He should be proud enough of what he did not to invent things he didn't do, yet some deep-seated inadequacy seems to drive him to need to inflate himself ever taller.

As for me, I avoided Vietnam by joining the Guard, where I served with neither distinction nor ignominy, and I've no lucky hat to show for it.

But today I am running on my accomplishments as President, not what I did or didn't do 30 years ago. With me or against me, my record speaks for itself and is the basis of my candidacy."

Just a shot in the dark, there. Maybe I'm as off-base as Insta's alternative-universe Kerry.

Posted by: Rosen's Challenge at August 24, 2004 7:37 PM | Permalink

Sorry, no irony. Maybe good for Trivial Pursuit. Hackworth was appalled at the strategic stupidity of the war. It was a bad idea. Your point of view is the historical revisionist point of view.

It is just as plausible to say no war crimes were committed in Nanjing by the Japanese. Their veterans say this EXACT same crap, in the exact same way, for the exact same reasons. Vehemence and wounded pride doesn't make it true. A closed mind is not a winning argument, it's a refusal of argument.

Kerry "smeared" veterans with the truth about the war. How dare he. Live with it. Any of you who were there and didn't do it should be pissed at those who did, not in denial that anything happened. Apparently denile is a river in Vietnam.

You're all complaining that the media just isn't revisionist enough--"Why won't they immediately rewrite history when I call a press conference just because my fellow revisionists are also in denial along with me?" That's not an argument or evidence, it's militant ignorance.

"Why won't they erase all the facts they know about the war just because I insist on forgetting them?"

That's what Swift Boat Veterans for Revisionist History's outrage is all about. It's not the media's fault--it's your fault for despising the honor of the U.S. so deeply that you adamantly lie before the world about what happened, pout that the media won't repeat it at your command, and demand your lies be repeated like a catechism.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 24, 2004 7:41 PM | Permalink

I'll take a shot at what it means for Dubya to say,"Kerry has a fine record of service and he should be proud of it." It's like a card scam where Dubya's partner Karl marks the cards and then, a few minutes later, jumps up and shouts, "Kerry marked the cards! He's a cheater! Get him!" After this happens several times quite a few people in the room start to wonder if Kerry's cheating. Then John McCain walks into the room and says,"Dubya, your partner Karl pulled this same crap last year, marking my cards and then accusing me of cheating. It was months before they'd even let me play here again. Call out your partner and tell him to stop."

Dubya's reply is that he doesn't know anything about what his partner might be doing, that's between Karl and the two Johns. Finally, after the game is over and the pot is being taken away from Kerry, even though he had the best hand, someone asks Dubya directly: "Your partner Karl called John Kerry a cheating son of a bitch. What do you have to say about that?" Dubya says,"Why, personally, I think Kerry is a fine poker player and should be proud of the manner in which he competes." Dubya splits his winnings with Karl and goes home.

There's NO mystery to Dubya's statement that he respects Kerry's whatever. It's all in the smirk. Over the entire three and a half years of his administration it perhaps comes to truest to showing Dubya for the contemptuous fake-Texas, born in Connecticut, dry-drunk frat-boy punk he is.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 24, 2004 7:57 PM | Permalink


Your points are good ones - their anger, their banding together, their need to get this on the record, the press's need to examine the multiplicity of positions.

As to the 'monster' of inflating charges about undeserved medals: I am not so sure.

I suspect there is a lot of tolerance within the veteran community for what each other got in terms of recognition. I believe that for the most part, one would not criticize another about medals, even if they observed recognition being given for uneven reasons.

I suspect it would take a lot for any Vet group to attack on that basis. At the final call - unless there is some incontrovertible evidence, such as absence of enemy fire - recognition, any recognition - is a matter of opinion. BTW it is the opinion of the men who served with him that garners the initial recognition. The Navy department documents are intended to be reflections of those opinions.

The 'Fog of War' argument will leave the medals as awarded, but the allegation that his service was not stellar may stick. The point of the Vets is honor, not medals. The medal discussion is a means to bring the debate about his actions. Mission accomplished from their point of view.

Posted by: John Lynch at August 24, 2004 7:59 PM | Permalink


The problem with Hackworth is he totally missed the change in the war in 1969. He continued, and continues to this day honking the same horn. He was a colonel and knew how to fight. He despised those above him, such as those who tried to get him to obey some of the rules. In other words, he became arrogant, allowing himself to play general when he wasn't one. Also, from my readings, there's a good reason he didn't make general, other than his orneriness. He doesn't seem to be able to separate the tactical from the strategic. This means he emits a lot of opinions well above his capabilities, but his reputation lets him get away with it.

For example, if I wanted to know about a small battle - say the battle of Najaf - Hack would be very interesting (if you could talk him out of nuking the shrine). But if I was interested in whether a given war strategy was worthwhile, I wouldn't pay any attention to Hack.

My opinions only (and I should point out that I have never had rank anywhere close to his).

Kerry didn't smear veterans with the truth. He smeared us with communist propaganda. Nobody denies a small level of atrocities there.

The issue isn't that the media isn't revisionist enough (because the problem with the swift boat issue had nothing to do with that). It is that the media is biased pro-Kerry.

No, Mr. BF, if you are going to go around comparing us to Japanese soldiers in Nanking, then you are dropping to an unacceptably low level. There is no comparison. None. Zero. Zip. You are off by at least 4 orders of magnitude (for you, that means a factor of 10000),

Kerry reported that atrocities were a routine (day to day) occurrences approved by all levels of command.

That is a lie. It is not an exaggeration, it is a lie. That is why the communist Vietnamese used that line against our POWs. That is why they used it in June of this year to attack America.

John Kerry went around spewing untrue, vicious and divisive communist propaganda. I have as much respect for someone who did that as I do for a Ku Klux Klan grand wizard (or whatever they are). Instead of attacking blacks, Kerry attacked Vietnam Veterans, in a deliberate attempt to cause us to lose the war.

Wanting redress for this is not a wish for revisionism, its wanting people like you to learn that we weren't monsters, there were extremely few monsters, that an awful lot of American soldiers, like we do in every war, committed random acts of kindness, and that atrocities were indeed common and a policy - of the enemy, not us.

I realize the distinction may be difficult for you, but an enemy having a policy of atrocities is actually bad, worse than an army with an enforced policy against atrocities.

You tell us how we should feel. How arrogant. You have no earned to right for that.

The people who really need Kerry's apologies are those who died trying to minimize civilian casualties. There were some in the Swift Boats - they could do like Kerry and open fire at anything that moved, or they could go closer to verify that they weren't firing at civilians before cutting lose. The Swifties lost people doing the latter.

Your post in general appears to be designed to be maximally offensive. In fact, many of your posts have that characteristic. Do you get a thrill out of this? Or are you such a sap that you actually believe what you say?

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at August 24, 2004 8:24 PM | Permalink

John Lynch

I think you hit it pretty well. There is another factor, which is that many of the people involved were not aware that Kerry had received some of those medals until recently. He was there 4 months and then he booked.

The result was that Kerry could write up after action reports and other paperwork, add a few goodies (like the presence of enemy gunfire) and nobody who knew anything about the actual incident was aware that the exaggeration had occurred.

Another example is his first purple heart. The paperwork suddenly appeared three weeks after the incident, after he had gotten his other purple hearts. The presumed reason: the normal chain of command denied it, so Kerry found someone in Saigon to do the paperwork.

Soldiers do not like that kind of nonsense. On the bronze star incident, one of the other guys also got a bronze star. He just realized it was for action under fire - which he and all other skippers except Kerry denied happened. His bronze star was generated as part of the same process that generated Kerry's. He has said he would be glad to give the award back if hostile fire was the reasoning (he thought he had gotten it for some rescue activity).

I know that Kerry was disliked by his peers and superior officers. I think his anti-war actions, which directly indicted that unit, were considered a treasonous betrayal and led to deep anger.

I would point out that Kerry could have protested the war without some of his more eggregious charges. Millions did. Kerry was on the radical edge of things, and you have to wonder why.

Burkette in Stolen Valor says that Kerry used the VVAW as a steppingstone to national prominence. This is based on the opinions of some of the VVAW and also FBI surveillance, which concluded that he wasn't dangerous because he was just an opportunist.

This makes the insult even worse. He sold out his former comrades, all Vietnam Veterrans and his country for publicity?? What a great guy.

I have yet to see even an attempt to refute that charge.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at August 24, 2004 8:35 PM | Permalink

John Moore

You can put it better than I, having served.

I'm reading some of Kerry's 'pulled book' The New Soldier. Repulsive.

You should find a copy.

Posted by: John Lynch at August 24, 2004 8:45 PM | Permalink

oops 3 weeks

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at August 24, 2004 8:45 PM | Permalink

John Lynch - most of it is up on the site.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at August 24, 2004 8:57 PM | Permalink

My impression is that Kerry was something of a shoot first Rambo type. I grant you that. If you and your comrades or even other Swift Boat Veterans were more concerned about lessening civilian casualties, you have my sincere and heartfelt respect and gratitude for that. It shows you to be a man who respects human life, even in time of war, and that is a difficult thing. I really mean this.

When I hear you concede there were small scale atrocities, that also impresses me. This is the first time I've heard you concede that point in over thirty posts you've written on this subject, mostly claiming that charges of war crimes in Vietnam were complete fabrications. Now we're actually having a conversation for the first time. That gives you more credibility, because it acknowledges obvious facts. Thank you for that as well.

I'm not saying that you or your comrades were bad people at all. I am saying that our government had a policy of carpet bombing and napalm bombing that REQUIRED outrageous amounts of collateral damage. We killed millions of Vietnamese, many of them civilian whether by intent of individual soldier or not. This IS on a scale comparable to Nanjing, though I agree it was not hand to hand in the grisly manner of the Japanese. The scale in Vietnam in terms of dead civilians, however, was surely even worse.

To me those are war crimes. They are the fault of the command structure. Free fire zones are another example. The Swift Boat Veterans (the first time I accidentally wrote Swift Vote Veterans!) are incensed that Kerry pointed the finger at lines of command (which is obviously connected to why people in his own line of command are pissed). I think the Kerry of 1971 agrees with me that the real criminals were Johnson, McNamara and Westmoreland. Any soldiers who were stuck taking their orders--like you--have my sympathy.

We'll just have to pass on the communist conspiracy issue. We don't agree on enough to have an intelligent conversation about it. To me you look like Joe McCarthy. To you, I look like a Che Guevara wanna be. I don't imagine either of us finds that picture flattering. In fact, we both probably find it comical. But there we are, that's what we think of one another.

Thanks for finally engaging in a touch of real dialogue.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 24, 2004 9:10 PM | Permalink


I'm noticing that all of a sudden the message from believers in the book is that the charges of medal inflation and fabrication were never that important, aren't key to the case, that's the media's bias, etc. etc. Next we'll hear that the Swift Boat Veterans never questioned whether Kerry deserved his medals.

I haven't noticed that but I'll look for it now that you say so. My impression was the SBVT challenged Kerry's first Purple Heart and Bronze Star in their "Any Questions" ad that was accompanied by O'Neill's August 5 letter to the media. I haven't noticed that their position has changed much since their May announcement.

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I couldn't help wonder if what you say about the SBVT is true, there isn't a parallel to the VVAW:

The Vietnam Veterans Against the War (the name says a lot, I feel) became a smear group when they gave into temptation, threw caution away, let their anger get the better of them, and contacted the howling ghost of Lee Attwater, who told them they might have a chance (to destroy the target) if they were willing to try something truly outrageous, something with real shock value to it, a suggestion dark enough to stain the war in the minds of all who heard it, something instantly recognizeable as not only wrong, but unAmerican and perverse. Got anything like that? asked Lee's spirit?

And they decided they did based on , put together the Winter Soldier Tribunal and Kerry went in front of the Senate and the TV cameras for weeks.

For if a group of angry and fed-up veterans decided they really wanted to criticize the War, and they formed an association to do just that, would anyone have heard of them by now? Would a book like that be climbing the charts? Would the call lines light up over it? Would anyone be saying that John Kerry dominated the week?


Are you going to claim that all of his medals are fake too?

I see great irony in someone asking today about accusing Hackworth of wearing fake awards.

I'm also interested in how I became an militantly ignorant revisionist? Are you smearing me with the truth or what appears to me to be a rather closed minded tirade of your own?

Kerry "smeared" veterans with the truth about the war. How dare he. Live with it.

That the Winter Soldiers testified that "They had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads." Did they? They didn't want to discuss it with investigators.

There is a distinction between the accusations that Kerry made 30 years ago and the accusations the Swift Boat vets are making today and it is the specificity of who is being accused of what acts and when.

From the BW article Jay links above: "You can quibble over the exact words Kerry used and whether he should have said them when he did, but in broad terms he spoke the truth."

The disingenuous nature of accusing the Swift Boat vets of a smear campaign while defending Kerry's characterization of those serving in Vietnam is profound. The Swifties named Kerry. The Swifties brought forward their own observations. Their accusations can be checked, discredited if not true, validated if true, and weighed against the accused and accuser.

Kerry did not accuse anyone by name. He avoids responsibility for his broadbrush tarnishing by saying he was only repeating testimony of others. Testimony not under oath. Testimony that they were not willing to repeat to authorities.

Everyone that served in Vietnam was a potential war criminal because the accusations were broad, and many treated that way based on the testimony Kerry gave.

So yes, let's quibble. Let's quibble about smearing all Muslims with 9/11, or whether we should demand and praise Bush and other leaders for not allowing that kind of broadening of guilt. Let's quibble about smearing all our servicemembers for Abu Ghraib.

Let's. Let's hear from the SBVT how Kerry's broad accusations affected POWs and returning vets. And let's hear those vets challenge Kerry's character over the accuracy of his war stories and medals.

Let's debate how to honor our war veterans service without being unAmerican by questioning the character of their service when they run for high office.

August has been a tough month for Kerry.

Posted by: Tim at August 24, 2004 9:20 PM | Permalink


If I take the position of the regular press at its most favorable, I get something like:

This is an unscrupulous attack on a politician.

This is a maneuver somehow attached to a political machine.

We will not participate in such an unsubstantiated attack.

There are inconsistencies by the various allegers.

There is documentation from the Navy.

This proves that the allegations are false.

I suppose items one and two can be forgiven a cynical press. This is probably the way they think. The thought that there could be an honest group, relevant to the national debate, with face value intentions, is probably too direct for their thinking.

Items four and five can probably be forgiven as they do not normally deal with groups of people who are not speaking from script, but are honestly trying to recall events over thirty years old; and ignorance of military matters such as the awarding of medals, gaming the system, and the relative importance of Navy documents as opposed to their testimony (which under their world view is the reason for the medals.)

Item three however enters judgment calls. Why cover some completely unsupported stories vigorously and with apparent malice, and not cover this one? When did the press come to have decision-making authority on what justifies an important issue? When did the thinking become so lemming-like that it mattered what one outlet decided and all outlets decided the same way? From whence comes this groupthink?

Posted by: John Lynch at August 24, 2004 10:01 PM | Permalink

Jay wrote: Asked if Mr. Kerry had lied about his war record, Mr. Bush said, "Mr. Kerry served admirably and he ought to be proud of his record."

Jay, let me take a crack at analyzing your Bush quote.

Campaign/Media is like a skittish thoroughbred or high performance jet -- overcorrect and you are in more trouble than you started with. Bush, contrary to his parodies and the wishes of his more virulent opposition, is no amateur and no dummy. He responded softly to dampen the frenzy.

Remember back when George H. W. was President and during the Christmas season some malls forbade Salvation Army Santas? Barbara Bush quietly went shopping at a mall that DID have Santas and, paraphrasing, said in the presence of media, "I do love to shop where they have Santas." No more. No less. Point made.

Bush didn't have to disavow, rant, apologize, or do anything else the hypersensitive media wanted. He said something simple. No more. No less. Point made.

Posted by: sbw at August 24, 2004 10:32 PM | Permalink

Yes, something simple that contradicts the entire thrust of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's attack. "Mr. Kerry served admirably and he ought to be proud of his record." This is precisely the impression the Swift Boat group was created to overcome.

Does that dampen the frenzy or deepen the mystery? Is Bush speaking in code?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 24, 2004 10:44 PM | Permalink


Does that dampen the frenzy or deepen the mystery?

Might it not do both? Slow it down and deepen?

Is Bush speaking in code?

To whom?

Does the answer to that depend on your presumption of ties and interest between the SBVT and Bush's campaign?

If they are independant, why would it raise eyebrows if Bush takes a position contrary to the SBVT's goals? Because it helps Kerry?

Does the fact that the SBVT intend to continue with their next ad (and next?) speak to their independence from Bush? If they stopped, what would that say?

Posted by: Tim at August 24, 2004 10:53 PM | Permalink

There go unwarranted connections again.

This has nothing to do with Bush, Bush's campaign, John McCain, or Kerry's campaign.

This is a character discussion between vets, conducted for public consumption.

The Vets could care less, and have said so, about whether or not Kerry is a Dem or a Repub. They could care less whether Bush wins the election. They have eyes only on Kerry. Is face-value so difficult to read?

Posted by: John Lynch at August 24, 2004 10:53 PM | Permalink

No, no. Sorry not to have been clear. I am not alleging any ties between the SwiftVets and the Bush campaign. I'm just wondering from the average citizen's point of view, whom should said citizen believe?

The SwiftVets saying Kerry lied to get his medals, distorted his service record, and he should be ashamed of it.

Or President Bush: "Mr. Kerry served admirably and he ought to be proud of his record."

Which one?

I find it a pretty good question. If it makes no sense to you, then one of us is probably unable to think straight, politically. The trick is knowing which one.

John Lynch: Are you asking me to believe that someone like John O'Neill, author of Unfit for Command, doesn't give a rat's ass who wins this election? And the SwiftVets are actually a non-partisan group? Or did I misunderstand?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 25, 2004 12:55 AM | Permalink

Ben, thank's for your condescension. Yes, in spite of your many posts assuming or stating that I am an absolutist, indeed that is not true. Just because I don't put a parenthetical about atrocities in every sentence doesn't mean I'm an idiot who assumes there were none.

On the other hand, the idea that the whole war consisted of war crimes is nonsense. Was the use of Napalm in World War II a war crime? In the Korean War? Carpet bombing (B-52 ARC LIGHT raids) were hardly indiscriminate. They had specific targets and took place in enemy territory. They were also very effective.

It is a common myth that our air power killed huge numbers of civilians. It is also nonsense. It would have been a heck of a waste of assets to blow up civilians instead of VC or NVA. And by the way, think of what they were being defended against. Do you know any refugees from the communist regime? I do, and he and all of his brothers fought in the SVN military to try to stop the communists.

One thing I found ironic then and I find ironic now is how the terrible policies of the enemy's are never mentioned but our supposed widespread atrocities are still plaguing us after all this time.

Do you know what a FAC is? Do you know how it ties into bombing? Did you know that a free fire zone did not, unlike Kerry's implications and his behavior, mean that you could shoot anyone in it. It meant you could use firepower without coordination with other units. That's all it meant.

It would appear that there is no way the US can fight a war, no matter how justified, without having a snearing section complaining about our atrocities, and filling the TV with pictures of dead civilians. Too bad our enemies are not inflicted with the same problems.

What would you have us do when the VC were killing tens of thousnds of village chiefs, their wives and their children? What the press did was ignore it. What a surprise.

Your comparison to Nanking is still extremely offensive. Nanking involved a huge number of rapes and murders. It involved the use of bubonic plague against civilians. The whole thing targetted civilians. It was a classic Ghengis Khan sort of operation, unlike ours, which Kerry, of course, characterized the same ways.

No event like this occurred in 'Nam except when the VC massacred people, after torture. I would appreciate it if you would not bring it up, because it is unnecessarily offensive and is wildly inaccurate.


Regarding the political effect of the apparent contradiction. It will be interesting to see.

I would guess that the kind of voter who matters will think that Bush is saying what he has to say, and the SBVT are saying what they believe. I think they would be right.

Regarding John O'Neill... I can tell you this. He wants Kerry to lose. He held the press conference early because he didn't want Kerry to be his alternative to Bush. He told me (and others) that if Edwards had been the candidate, he would probably vote for him. But of course, if that were the case, there would be no SBVT and O'Neill would not be in the middle of all of this.

I will assert that the SwiftVets are a non-partisan group. They are single minded: get the truth (as they see it) out about Kerry, as effectively as possible. They have members of at least two parties in there. If you think about it, and look at the numbers, it would be a shock if the whole group of officers over Kerry were all of the same party. That in itself would be a statistical fluke.

A more interesting question than being suspicious about their bipartisanship is: What does having big-pocket partisan contributors do to their freedom of action? The SBVT really are bipartisan. Their big contributors apparently are Republican. What does that mean? I don't know.

I think the best way to look at the issue is that SBVT is anti-Kerry. He could be running against Frosty the Snowman and they would be anti-Kerry. It's really that simple. However, being anti-Kerry is, only in a practical effect sense, pro-Bush. John O'Neill may not feel even slightly pro-Bush, but the money men would look at this organization and recognize that, regardless of the way the members think of the goal, they are useful to Bush.

So I would say O'Neill doesn't give a rat's ass who wins this election, but he cares a whole lot that Kerry lose it.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at August 25, 2004 1:37 AM | Permalink

I'm just wondering from the average citizen's point of view, whom should said citizen believe?

I find it a pretty good question. If it makes no sense to you, then one of us is probably unable to think straight, politically. The trick is knowing which one.

Well, it's a good question, but I think you're exploring this issue from different angles:

- At first you seem to ask what was Bush thinking when he said it, or was he - thinking?

- Then you asked how the SBVT should interpret Bush's remark.

- Now you're asking how the citizen/voter should interpret Bush's remark.

They're all good questions, I'm just trying to keep up without being able to see you shift gears...

My view is (and I do not claim either politically straight thinking or average citizen spokesperson status) that there is a floor to how far Kerry's service can be deflated from the pumped up ceiling that his campaign has characterized it.

Remember that the Democrat campaign strategy had been to put John "Chest full of medals war hero" Kerry next to George "AWOL/Deserter" Bush.

Creating a big delta between the two has been the Democrat's narrative. But Kerry threw his medals away, including black-and-blue self-inflicted Purple Hearts that got him out of combat early, lied about Christmas in Cambodia for political partisan gain, ...?

Narrows the delta and takes some of the sacred shine off Kerry's Navy Whities.

Bush stated, or recognized, that there is a limit to where this challenge to Kerry's service should reasonably end up. "Mr. _______ served admirably and he ought to be proud of his record." is exactly the modest characterization of a war veteran that harkens back to the WWII vets. As Stephen notes - simply and quietly.

It also comes off as a humble admission that Mr. Kerry's admirable service compares favorably to his own, which is true, so why deny it? There is a delta.

It does not dispute the SBVT claim that Kerry inflated his war record, and almost admonishes Kerry for his bombastic fanfare - "you served admirably, you should be proud, now shut up about it".

Which, BTW, is what I think most people are thinking right now.

Posted by: Tim at August 25, 2004 2:05 AM | Permalink


You are asking a framing question, and you have a rather poor opinion of your loyal readers if you think we will fall into that trap. The President said what he said because he must. He is the Commander in Chief, and it would be nearly unthinkable for him to say something against a veterans’ service. He praised Kerry’s record by way of saying all vets should be proud of their service. To do otherwise would be a terrible lapse. It would not be “Presidential.” You, I think, know that, though Kerry didn’t when he personally joined in the questioning of George Bush’s Guard service. That misstep made him look bad and earned him some critics among former Guard members. He gets it now though, which is one reason he is trying so hard to pin the SBVFT on the Bush campaign.

Does it harm the SBVFT’s credibility that Bush has seemingly refuted their claim? No. People who care about the issue know first that Bush can’t, for reasons above, say anything else, and second, that Bush wasn’t there so he wouldn’t really know anyway. He was merely speaking as Commander in Chief and reminding the country to honor our veterans. He also, however, said it in a way that left a question in the air. Kerry “ought” to be proud of his record. Why isn’t he? Conscience nagging him, perhaps?

But, the medal claim was just the introduction, the teaser if you will, designed to get people’s attention for the main body blow. That came with the second ad, featuring Kerry’s own words from his ’71 Congressional testimony juxtaposed with the very people he was slandering. But the medal controversy did something else too, and I think it shows the SBVFT’s savvy (or Machiavellian cunning, if you’re inclined to the Left).

They ran with the medal issue long enough to draw a response from Kerry’s camp, a response that was essentially “how dare you question my service, how dare you slander me. I deserve better for the sacrifices I made.” And as soon as Kerry began attacking them in that way, they rolled out the second ad, and lo and behold, there was Kerry questioning their service, slandering them, giving them less than they deserved thirty three years ago. Goose, gander, sauce.

And here Bush’s comment, with impeccable plausible deniability, slams Kerry and reinforces the SBVFT’s real message. Those vets served admirably too, and they ought to be proud of their record. But it’s hard to be proud of your record when you are still under the cloud of being falsely accused of war crimes. Maybe the folks who made those long-ago slanderous accusations ought to apologize so these men can be proud of their record once more. Maybe John Kerry “ought” to finally come clean about his lies three decades ago so that everyone who served in that war – including Kerry himself, can be proud of their record. Maybe he “ought” to clear up this misconception of the US Military as a bunch of high-tech Genghis Khans so the current crop of soldiers and Marines can go about the necessary business of winning a war.

Posted by: (the other) John Hawkins at August 25, 2004 2:12 AM | Permalink

John M.,
The Japanese vets also insist that the Chinese were so vicious in their method of fighting that what they got in return was a pale shadow of what they dealt out. They also claim that there were only a few hundred, rather than a few hundred thousand, people killed in civilian clothes. They say that these people were not civilians, they were Chinese soldiers who slipped into civilian clothes so that they were legitimate military targets. They also say that any Japanese who says otherwise is a self-hating "Useful Fool" of Japan's enemies. The medical experiments on prisoners you seem to be referring to are not related to Nanjing.

There is a lot of documentary evidence that challenges their claim, and much of it comes from disinterested foreign doctors. Much of the documentary evidence that is building up against what the US did in Vietnam also comes from doctors who were appalled by what they saw.

You very deeply mistake and misjudge your opponents if you think we are pacifists.

I DO feel more responsiblity to condemn war crimes committed in the name of my country under orders from the government that I supposedly have some democratic control over.
At the same time, I condemn war crimes by our opponents. Obvously, we disagree on whether many of these people SHOULD BE our opponents.

I think Eisenhower drove Ho Chi Minh to the communists by refusing his plea for the U.S. to align itself with Vietnamese independence when the French started their colony all over again after the W.W.II. Minh was not a communist to start with. We blew him off. You can't be too surprised if he appeals to our opponent in that context. That means Eisenhower was a bad strategist, not that Minh was an evil commie at birth. Minh fought for national independence with weapons from whoever would support his cause and we refused to.

You completely blew off the sources I cited that document war crimes based on declassifed Pentagon documents. Harping on
the credibility of the Winter Soldiers or whether Kerry named names when there is documented evidence from the Pentagon itself that there WAS widespread tolerance of war crimes might feel good, but it is a losing argument. According to Pentagon documents, he would have had to name several hundred names. Those Pentagon documents weren't available until just recently, so the idea that he could have done that in 1971 when the Pentagon was still covering up the records that absolutely proved the case is a straw man.

When the premise of your self-righteous anger--that the charge that war crimes occurred in Vietnam on a routine basis is a vicious smear--is proven to be true, that means the charge is not a "smear." That means it is an accurate description of hundreds of documented cases of war crimes that soldiers of conscience will join us in condemning if they are men of honor. It's not John Kerry's fault that war crimes were committed. You are shooting the messenger of truth in the name of honor. You've got it backwards.

So yes, let's quibble. I think you are refusing to make the hard distinctions.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 25, 2004 3:10 AM | Permalink

Ben, there you go again - bringing in the Nanking comparison. Shame on you.

I really don't care what the Japanese veterans say. What happened in Nanking has been known for a long time. Furthermore, I doubt the Japanese said what you claim.

Vietnam was not like Nanking and to mention the two in the same discussion is disgusting and insulting.

I realize you believe that the whole war was a big atrocity. You even attempt to recreate the genesis, using the old Ho Chi Minh myths. Ho Chi Min was both a nationalist and a communist, long before the events of the '50s. But I'm not going to play the 50s game. It was very complex and would be a waste of time.

As to doctors coming up with information now, give me a break. The war was 35 years ago. There is no freedom to do unsupervised work and the population knows better than to deviate from the party line around foreigners.

So what horrible war crimes are these doctors testifying to?

I will continue to strongly resist your assertion (based on nothing) that war crimes were routine. You are making a major slander against Vietnam Veterans, and backing it up with nothing. Shame on you.

So be specific or shut up. As a Vietnam Veteran, I've had to deal with too many people like you, and it is tiresome. There are lots of folks with little tidbits of information that they think mean things. Much of the books of history of the war have been written by the victors - the left.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools blog) at August 25, 2004 3:45 AM | Permalink

John M.,
I've already cited my sources, but here they are again:
1. For evidence of Japanese veterans claiming war crimes in Nanking are baseless slander, see Tanaka Masaaki, Fabrication of Nanking Massacre.

Investigative reporting by U.S. Newspaper:
2. The Toledo Blade's Pulitzer Prize winning series on atrocities of the "Tiger Force", the group founded by David Hackworth that went on a rampage in 1967 just after he left, leaving 100s of dead, tortured, and raped Vietnamese civilians in their wake. The Army's own investigation in the early seventies established 18 soldiers were guilty of 20 different war crimes. No one was ever tried in a military court and no charges were ever brought against anyone. Rumsfeld called off the investigation during a previous administration.

Historian at Columbia doing research on
declassified Pentagon archival materials:
3. Nicholas Turse, The Tip of the Iceberg
"As a historian writing his dissertation on
US war crimes and atrocities during the Vietnam War, I have been immersed in just
the sort of archival materials the Toledo
Blade used in its pieces, but not simply for
one incident but hundreds if not thousands
of analogous events. I can safely, and sadly,
say that the "Tiger Force" atrocities are
merely the tip of the iceberg in regard to
US perpetrated crimes in Vietnam."

The Toledo Blade story establishes that there
was command knowledge of the atrocities
when they occured and that the entire
Pentagon chain of command was informed of
the situation and did nothing to punish
the soldiers involved.

Now when someone tells you to your face that
war crimes were widespread in Vietnam you
will recognize that they are stating the facts of the case based on Pentagon documents
and investigations. If personal reasons
incline you to call such statements of fact
libelous smears, shut up. The facts are against you and when you demand an apology
for statement of the facts about Vietnam
you are demanding an apology for the truth.
Shame on YOU.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 25, 2004 5:23 AM | Permalink

Turse says war crimes "were not a fact of daily life in Vietnam, but they were much MORE common than previous historical accounts
have claimed."

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 25, 2004 6:18 AM | Permalink

Christian Appy, Patriots: The Vietnam War from All Sides

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 25, 2004 6:19 AM | Permalink

Now here is a charming anecdote:

The [Kerry] campaign also highlighted an effort to oust a prosecutor in Clackamas County, Ore., who appeared in the group's first advertisement and signed an affidavit saying that there had been no hostile fire on the occasions for which Mr. Kerry was awarded Purple Hearts. The prosecutor, Alfred French, senior deputy district attorney, later told The Oregonian that he had no direct knowledge of the events on the days in question and was relying on hearsay from his friends.

Wouldn't that count as abuse of a veteran by the Swifties? Maybe he'll lose his job for the honor of doing his part in the smear.

There is more on it here. (Oregonian)

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 25, 2004 8:36 AM | Permalink

John Hawkins... thank you for your explanation of Bush, and the SBVT's strategy. It's the first convincing one I have heard.

John Moore: This...

So I would say O'Neill doesn't give a rat's ass who wins this election, but he cares a whole lot that Kerry lose it.

... insults my intelligence. Not that this doesn't happen all the time, but I thought I would mention it as a particularly extreme example.

And here's John Moore at Roger L. Simon's weblog (Aug. 24):

Professor Rosen seems to believe that the SBVT is a smear campaign made up mostly of falsehoods. I've been to busy to get back over there and deal with it.

Just curious if it's been dealt with yet, John, or whether that's still to come.

I would add that I understand a little better now that the SBVT think their current smear campaign is justified because John Kerry smeared them back in the 70s and has never been called to account for it. This explains a lot. And it may be how you get lawyers signing affidavits swearing to things they only heard from friends.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 25, 2004 9:13 AM | Permalink

Jay Rosen above:

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (the name says a lot, I feel) became a smear group when they gave into temptation . . .

Yet now you seem to take umbrage that someone dare assert that you've already made your mind up that this is a "smear campaign". Curious.

Since it's a term you seem to throw around so blithely I was wondering if you could define "smear campaign". Where does raising legitimate points about someone's character and public actions end and "smearing" begin? So far, your answer to that question seems to be "When it helps Republicans." You might have a better answer to that question, but that's the impression you've given so far.

Posted by: Eric Deamer at August 25, 2004 9:23 AM | Permalink

Eric: This comment from which you quote does, I think, a pretty good job of saying precisely where I believe the line is between being critical and a smear.

Where did I take umbrage that somebody said I see a smear campaign at work? I have no problem pleading guilty to that, Eric. Let me re-state it:

I think the SwiftVets are engaged in a smear campaign in disputing whether Kerry deserved his medals, and fought honorably in Vietnam. They believe this is justified because Kerry and others in VVAW smeared them during the anti-war movement, and were never called to account for it.

When an attorney--a prosecutor, yet!--signs an affidavit saying "Kerry lied to get his Purple Heart," and, when questioned about it, admits that he has no direct knowledge, but this is what he heard from friends, so he figured he would swear to it... you have the dynamism of a smear campaign at work.

Moreover, the smarter ones in the group, and some of their smarter defenders, understood the smear part of the case as a tactic to create a media uproar and a sensational climate of attention, in which their second ad--the one they really care about--would have greater effect.

A bonus, from their point of view, was the opportunity to further de-legitimate the news media when it reacted to the smear.

If you find "who's to say what's a smear?" a persuasive line of argument, Eric, then by all means continue it.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 25, 2004 10:02 AM | Permalink

If you find that using loaded, pre-formed, compounds like "smear campaign" (and its close cousin "Republican attack machine". The Democrats, apparently, make due without an "attack machine", or at least the press seems to think so because they never use that formulation.) with, still, no definition of what you mean to be a persuasive line of argument, then by all means continue it. Didn't Orwell write a little essay that was in part about how this tendency degrades political discourse once?

I sincerely had no idea, until now, whether by saying "smear campaign" you were expressing a complaint about: a) The veracity of the charges, or b)The way they were promulgating their message through the media, or c) The relevancy of all this, "Why don't we talk about the issues that really matter?" yadda yadda yadda.

I now see that you are saying that you have an issue specifically with a) the veracity of the charges, specifically with regards to the actions involved in attaining the medals etc. Yet you also admit that, because of the way that your profession works, the only way that they could get any hearing for the substantive part of their criticisms of Kerry - the anti-war activities part - would be to engage in this part of the attack.

There's a lot of conflicting information out there. Given all of it, I'm not sure how one could possibly come to the conclusion that everything that SBVFT are saying regarding the medal incidents is a lie, and everything that Kerry is saying regarding them is true. I mean, aside from reading the New York Times every day and absolutely nothing else.

So, I now understand that "smear campaign" means "lie". I wonder why professional journalists can't simply say "This is a lie". Or, "These men are liars" instead? To me it seems like deliberately obfuscatory language for those who lack the courage of their convictions. I've also seen journalists use the term "smear campaign" to refer to something that was true but was being touted in what they felt to be a sleazy manner, or something that they had simply decided was an improper subject for discussion. Still, the only common characteristic of "smear campaigns", as evidenced in your comments and in the LA Times article you quote, seems to be that they only happen to Democrats. For instance, I don't think I ever saw a mainstream journalist refer to the Bush/AWOL story as a "smear campaign". Hence my confusion as to what exactly the term meant.

Posted by: Eric Deamer at August 25, 2004 10:39 AM | Permalink

Alfred French Affidavit

"Kerry has wildly exaggerated and lied about his record in Vietnam. By way of example, on two occasions Kerry obtain Purple Hearts under false pretenses from negligently self-inflicted grenade wounds in the absence of hostile fire. His first Purple Heart is the subject of widespread coverage. Thus, for example, his third Purple Heart of March 13, 1969 is attributed in his report of that day to a "hip wound" from an enemy mine while he himself admits on page 313 of Tour of Duty (by Douglas Brinkley; New York: Harper Collins, 2004) that he was wounded supposedly by a grenade placed in a rice bin by friendly troops. Kerry's commercials, for example, portraying him as a soldier with bandolier going through the jungle totally mischaracterizes his actual role in Vietnam.


Harping on the credibility of the Winter Soldiers or whether Kerry named names when there is documented evidence from the Pentagon itself that there WAS widespread tolerance of war crimes might feel good, but it is a losing argument.

Not at all, but I guess there is are two important differences that seem too nuanced for the broadbrush crowd. Or perhaps there is a "higher" purpose -- ending all war for example, or obtaining an acknowledgement that war means something more than the white hat/black hat storyline that fills history texts -- that would applaud Kerry's use of hearsay, unsubstantiated lurid charges, and stereotyping but criticize it when done by others.

I'm not in denial mode that war crimes were committed in Vietnam by forces on both sides. Nor am I arguing that the war crimes committed by both sides have all been documented, properly punished, and/or well publicized.

According to Pentagon documents, he would have had to name several hundred names. Those Pentagon documents weren't available until just recently, so the idea that he could have done that in 1971 when the Pentagon was still covering up the records that absolutely proved the case is a straw man.

I thought that was the purpose for the Winter Soldier Tribunal? That there were 150 witnesses of servicemembers committing war crimes? I guess what you are arguing is that it doesn't matter that none of the witnesses cooperated with investigators and many were frauds because 30 years later, over a 10 year period, war crimes were committed, many were covered up and that justifies characterizing hundreds of thousands that served in Vietnam as having participated in a "doctrine of atrocity" that routinely committed war crimes - invoking the name of Ghengis Khan.

When the premise of your self-righteous anger--that the charge that war crimes occurred in Vietnam on a routine basis is a vicious smear--is proven to be true, that means the charge is not a "smear."

My self-righteous anger is directed at those that deny war crimes that happened, or defend war criminals like Calley, and those that smear the military as war criminals.

Your argument conveniently jumps back and forth from Vietnam was one big war crime to you're a militantly ignorant revisionist that can't admit any war crimes.

Nothing I've written justifies accusing me of the latter, and nothing I've read about justifies the former.

Posted by: Tim at August 25, 2004 10:54 AM | Permalink

And another thing, gosh darn it. I agree that the SBVFT campaign was teed up to go one way or another, but I think people would not have been so interested in the arguments over the medals etc, and would have been much more willing to dismiss everything as a "smear campaign", had John Kerry not "reported for duty". He presented himself as some sort of war hero on a par with Audie Murphy and presented that as his sole qualification (other than not being George Bush) for the presidency. He gave them a gift. He made his behavior in battle relevant. If he was the alternate universe Kerry from the minor-classic Glenn Reynolds post, these charges wouldn't have seemed relevant and wouldn't have captured peoples' imaginations.

Posted by: Eric Deamer at August 25, 2004 11:00 AM | Permalink

Jay: I'm just wondering from the average citizen's point of view, whom should said citizen believe? ... I find it a pretty good question. If it makes no sense to you, then one of us is probably unable to think straight, politically. The trick is knowing which one.

I think it is almost a non-question. Common campaign strategy is to fill the air with so much noise that the voters won't know whom to believe, drop the particular issue, and move on to other issues as deciding factors.

Bush's phrasing was neither supporting not condemning. It didn't take this side or that. It poured oil on the waters. That ability is, if you'll pardon the expression, presidential.

The yardsticks used to measure presidential timber that are frequently pulled out by some candidates (medals), by some media (verbal flubs), and by some sitting on bar stools (Bush lied) aren't necessarily the ones that ultimately count to voters. How one governs is. How one retains balance and sense of direction is. How one decides what to do or not do is. Sense of purpose is.

[Note: Keeping my own bias up front -- I may be a Bush supporter, but only because no other candidate (Liebermann dropped out and Paul Tsongas died) has come forward with sound ideas to be a pragmatic internationalist, a social liberal, and a fiscal conservative. Principles count, not parties.]

Posted by: sbw at August 25, 2004 11:04 AM | Permalink

I didn't smear the military as war criminals. I named names like you and John both asked me too.
Read the sources I cited. I'm not saying anything that isn't in Pentagon documents.
Thousands of Vietnamese civilians murdered and tortured with command awareness and investigations that proved war crimes and no punishment other than discharge. Some of them were later allowed to reenlist! Read the evidence and then tell me who's on first.

As long as you continue to insist that Kerry's speech to the Senate was a libel, than you are defining yourself as a historical revisionist. Apologize for pretending to be offended by Kerry's statement of the truth and then you aren't. The liars in the Winter Soldier's told stories that were true--of other people. These Pentagon documents support every Winter soldier charge including routine torture with portable telephones and even an ear that was cut off. They were not LATER events, they were from 1965-1971. It is the DOCUMENTS that didn't come out until later. Please don't play stupid. It doesn't become you.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 25, 2004 11:07 AM | Permalink


Reading Tim's link to the affidavit, and reading the Oregonian's treatment, and your recitation of that article does seem like abuse of a veteran. By the press.

The affidavit is clear enough: he recites facts and the sources of those facts. That some of the facts are from Kerry's biography is valid. The press then saying 'he has no personal knowledge' of the items he cites as coming from Kerry's biography is disingenuous.

I feel your outrage. I think it misplaced.

Posted by: John Lynch at August 25, 2004 11:13 AM | Permalink

When war crimes have in fact occurred, as they did in Vietnam, then your claim to be angry with those who deny actual war crimes conflicts with your repeatedly stated claim that Kerry's speech was a libel. You are contradicting yourself. Which is it?

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 25, 2004 11:15 AM | Permalink

I get it now, John. Sworn affidavits from veterans "testifying" to facts they drew from books. You could pile up a lot of affidavits that way, no?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 25, 2004 11:40 AM | Permalink


Here's another interesting take on what the SBVT are not doing. The SBVT are accusing Kerry of exaggerating and lying about his service in Vietnam to appear more of a hero than he actually was. But what they are not accusing Kerry of doing/being is the Vietnam war criminal.

Let's take Kerry's statement(s) of truth, to their natural conclusion. Should the average citizen believe Bush, that Kerry served honorably and admirably (as many Vietnam vets claim they did, including the SBVT) or Kerry who claimed he participated in an immoral war, committed war crimes and other routinely committed war crimes as part of official policy?

Wouldn't Bush's non-war criminal service in the TANG seem more admirable?

How far should the anti-war Kerry reparations make up for Kerry's confessed criminal acts? How far does the Left's anger at Bush for this war (he's the bigger war criminal) tip that scale for the average citizen?


Let me see if I understand correctly.

Let's take this out of the military context and put it in a more "neutral" context.

I bring together 150 self-proclaimed, and self-selected journalists, and accept at face value their claims that plagiarism, misquoting and mischaracterizing of news stories is routine, widespread, widely known about and tolerated throughout the media industry.

I then point to Jayson Blair, Howell Raines and any number of other recent and past examples to justify my claims, even though the 150 "witnesses" later prove to have never been journalists, or never have done what they say they did or never have witnessesed what they say they witnessed?

Other journalists think I've smeared them based on lies told by frauds, and with the acts of people like Jayson Blair, unjustly.

You're going to defend me, and what I did, because - why? - all journalists really do that? I spoke truth to power? My wrong is justified because there were actual wrongdoers?

Read the evidence and then tell me who's on first.

I've read it. I've read reports of atrocities that no one wanted to believe and were true, and reports that many wanted to believe that were not true.


Posted by: Tim at August 25, 2004 11:40 AM | Permalink

From the Intro to The New Soldier: "In February 1971, about 150 anti-war veterans met in a Howard Johnson’s motor lodge in Detroit and conducted hearing on the acts of violence which they had either committed or witnessed during their tours in Vietnam."

Posted by: Tim at August 25, 2004 12:02 PM | Permalink

Pentagon Documents. You don't need a parable to
understand Pentagon documents.

172nd MI, Norman Bowers, Franscisyck Pyclik,
Eberhard Gaspers, R.G. Gard
Rape, torture, and murder of civilians.
Military investigation found evidence of all
charges. No charges ever formally filed, no
punishment meted out.

Sam Ybarra, rape and stabbing of 13 year old girl, brutally stabbed 15 year old boy among
many others.

Sergeant Roy E. Bumgarner routinely killed civilians, perhaps over 1,000.
He was convicted of manslaughter by a court
martial and fined $97/month for six months.
He was later allowed to reenlist.

Nick Turse, The Tip of the Iceberg
Toledo Blade, Tiger Force Series

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 25, 2004 12:23 PM | Permalink


When he can "connect dots" between the medal citation (stating one thing) and a biography (stating another) and cite the lie, then it is valid.

If in fact you can build up a lot of affidavits that way then someone has been lying a lot.

That journalist standards of integrity can't or won't pick up on the lie, instead of attacking the one that points out the lie is a statement on the particular journalist - and by extension those that review the same facts and either don't or won't see the lie.

Posted by: John Lynch at August 25, 2004 1:13 PM | Permalink


Thus, for example, his third Purple Heart of March 13, 1969 is attributed in his report of that day to a "hip wound" from an enemy mine while he himself admits on page 313 of Tour of Duty (by Douglas Brinkley; New York: Harper Collins, 2004) that he was wounded supposedly by a grenade placed in a rice bin by friendly troops.

Drawn from the affidavit in question.

I suppose one could attack the author of the affidavit for "having no personal knowledge of the facts." Or, one could acknowledge that there is a lie in one of two things: the medal citation or Kerry's biography. In either instance of the lie, the attack on the author seems less the point than the validity of the inconsistency.

BTW, Kerry's ship mates seem to confirm the grenade/rice version of events. This brings into question the concept of enemy fire being required to earn a Purple Heart.

Posted by: John Lynch at August 25, 2004 1:21 PM | Permalink


I like that you are taking more visible positions in your blogs. Is this a conscience decision, or is it just this issue that has you visibly engaged?

However, I do feel that I am arguing with the master of the house. Where I was raised, that is considered very impolite.

I'll lay off the subject.

Posted by: John Lynch at August 25, 2004 1:54 PM | Permalink

Ben, those men committed war crimes.

Now the debate continues over how exceptional or routine were war crimes, whether war crimes were committed as part of official policy, the unwillingness to investigate/prosecute/convict/punish servicemembers that committed war crimes and how many unindicted leaders should have been held responsible - either for the war crimes or as war criminals.

Eventually, it devolves into me asking if you are self-righteously angry that these 150+1 names are not on your list?

Kerry's Senate Testimony:

... I am here as one member of a group of 1,000, which is a small representation of a very much larger group of veterans in this country, and were it possible for all of them to sit at this table, they would be here and have the same kind of testimony....
I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago, in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged, and many very highly decorated, veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia. These were not isolated incidents, but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis, with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command. It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit--the emotions in the room, and the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.
They told stories that, at times, they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam,in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.
... We are here in Washington to say that the problem of this war is not just a question of war and diplomacy. It is part and parcel of everything that we are trying, as human beings, to communicate to people in this country--the question of racism, which is rampant in the military, and so many other questions, such as the use of weapons: the hypocrisy in our taking umbrage at the Geneva Conventions and using that as justification for a continuation of this war, when we are more guilty than any other body of violations of those Geneva Conventions; in the use of free-fire zones; harassment-interdiction fire, search-and-destroy missions; the bombings; the torture of prisoners; all accepted policy by many units in South Vietnam. That is what we are trying to say. It is part and parcel of everything.
Meet the Press April 18, 1971, MR. KERRY (Vietnam Veterans Against the War): "There are all kinds of atrocities and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free-fire zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire. I used 50-caliber machine guns which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I took part in search-and-destroy missions, in the burning of villages. All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare. All of this is contrary to the Geneva Conventions and all of this ordered as a matter of written established policy by the government of the United States from the top down."
The Massachusetts butcher

Or would you like to go back to the New York Times. You don't need a parable to understand New York Times stories.

Posted by: Tim at August 25, 2004 1:57 PM | Permalink

Oops. Conscious (autocorrecting spell checker picked the wrong word .ed)(Interesting choice though .ed)

Posted by: John Lynch at August 25, 2004 2:00 PM | Permalink

On what grounds does asserting what I did about O'Neill insult your intelligence? Do you have contradictory information? Did Mr. O'Neill lie to me and everyone else?

It is my opinion, based on what I know, that Mr. O'Neill is purely anti-Kerry.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at August 25, 2004 2:03 PM | Permalink

Which, BTW Ben, is why most people ended up here.

Posted by: Tim at August 25, 2004 2:16 PM | Permalink

The situation is indeed sad -- because military records have NOTHING to do with the election. Given the amount of data collected on each candidate it's pretty safe to say that they have both done things that were self-serving, deceptive or even completely false -- in other words, they have behaved like politicians. Since politicians are what we are going to have as choices for president (at least for the foreseeable future) can we just forget about who lied MORE? How about, since the election is looming rather large, if we talk about what each of these two candidates is actually going to do? Has either of them really even told us, and do we really care? Or is the presidential election just another reality TV show?

Posted by: Alejo at August 25, 2004 2:29 PM | Permalink

Professor Rosen:

Also, it occurs to me that you are trying to make hay with the use of the name "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth". You say something like "the use of that name says a lot", but never bother to say what it is that it says.

What is the problem with including the word "truth" in the title of an organization which was set up to counter someone else's lies? Is this simply the cliched "liberal" view that there is no objective truth? If so, to put it in contemporary PC terms. Think of it this way: "Their truth is that John Kerry is a lying American." I'm only half-kidding when I say that.

Anyway, what is the problem with the name and how does that inform your argument?

Posted by: Eric Deamer at August 25, 2004 2:43 PM | Permalink

On more comment. I spent too much time here yesterday when I should have been working. I will try to avoid it today. And yes, I know you read Roger's blog, and I sometimes link here from there.

As far as the affidavits go - if the whole campaign is based on non-first hand information, then it is wrong.

How many affidavits meet that criteria? How many witnesses have shown up on TV to discuss their personal experiences.

Why they went after Kerry's medals is a mystery to me. That their campaign is not all wrong is testified to by the fact that Kerry's first purple heart is now impeached by Kerry's own words (the wound was Dec 2 and Kerry wrote in his diary that he had not come under fire as of 9 days later.

If it were me, I would have gone after that purple heart and left the rest alone. Just destroying the validity of that purple heart (now done) is enough to make Kerry a shirker - a person who got out of combat by fraud.

But when these guys looked at everything, they found other things that contradicted their memory: the bronze star event. They had three other officers who were on the scene who all remembered that lack of enemy fire, and they had a good reason to believe that - the situation would have evolved very differently under enemy fire. Kerry's campaign has been forced to change their depiction of that event radically.

Now, I'm curious why you think going after Kerry's medal and service in 'Nam is a smear campaign, while going after his anti-war behavior is not.

Finally, nobody here has discussed whether the press has investigated the veterans who follow Kerry around, whether there was an quid pro quo, etc?

Why such deep and pre-judged scrutiny of the swifties and none of Kerry's people? I will certainly admit to being biased towards SBVT, but maybe that's because I have more respect for the truthfulness of Navy Officers than those who didn't serve in the Navy.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at August 25, 2004 2:47 PM | Permalink

Jay wrote: The Swift Boat campaign was cooked up, cranked up and ready to go independent of any decisions Kerry and crew made to rely or not rely, emphasize a lot or just a little, his record during four months of duty.

This caught my eye:

After John Kerry's two campaign books came out — the more scholarly one by historian Douglas Brinkley and the more or less official one by writers from the Boston Globe — the Swift Boat Vets grasped for the first time John Kerry's view of his four-months service with them (from November 17, 1968 to March 17, 1969). In Brinkley, they read for the first time Kerry's contemporaneous (and also his recent) reports on that period — and they were shocked.

(via Instapundit to Greyhawk where a commenter left this:)

As a correspondent pointed out to me in an e-mail, each episode of the HBO series Band of Brothers, begins with a voiceover in which the narrator says of the World War II soldiers portrayed in the program: "I was not a hero, but I was surrounded by heroes." In contrast, what John Kerry is saying in essence about his "band of brothers" is that "in Vietnam, I was a hero, but I was surrounded by war criminals."

Posted by: Tim at August 25, 2004 3:31 PM | Permalink

John Moore: I simply meant that it's a stretch to see O'Neill as a nonpartisan Kerry critic. A big stretch. That's all.

Also: it's entirely possible to conduct a smear campaign on the topic of Kerry's anti-war actvities. And that may yet happen.

And also... as far as why is this a big smear campaign but stories in the press about Bush being AWOL aren't? Use your imagination. If, right this minute, there was "out there" in the media and campaign sea a group of Air National Guard veterans swearing they saw very little of George Bush when he was supposed to be serving and training; if they had say $500,000 to spend on advertisements saying just that--Bush? We never saw him--in battleground states, and if a known author like Joe Conason was in the stores with a best selling book, Bush Never Showed, and all the talk shows were featuring members of the Air National Guardsmen for Accuracy group, who are passionate in their insistence: "he shirked his duty," and it all came together like that, in between the conventions... in that event, Bush supporters might well be saying, "this is a smear campaign."

I mean: it's the sort of thing that might occur to them as plausible.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 25, 2004 3:54 PM | Permalink

It's a smear campaign. At least some of it also happens to be true.

Re: Christmas in Cambodia

I'll accept the "s word" if you'll accept the "t word".

It is both a "smear" and the "truth" -- or Johnson wasn't President in 1968.

In fact I believe one of the British censorship laws applied to American colonists back in the 1700's made the penalty for truthful libel much harsher than made-up stories, because "... the truthfulness of a charge increases the libel."

The frenzy to discredit SBVT -- and the impossibility of doing so -- is thus easily explained. They are, at least in part, telling the truth.

Their detractors meanwhile seem to have a "memory hole" right around Christmastime in 1968 somewhere near Cambodia. It is as if they black out whenever the thought arises, as they continue to honestly believe the SBVT is nothing but a smear campaign -- when in fact it is much, much more, thanks to the proven truth of at least part of their claims magnifying their effect far beyond MoveOn's millions.

Is Cambodia Kool-Aid or Kryptonite? I think the fact that I can personally check the records myself and prove the fairy tale false makes Cambodia a real issue, and that's why those who question the Swifties' credibility won't discuss it. Even if the SBVT is Kool-Aid, Cambodia is still there, green glowing and toxic.

As Laura Blumenfeld might quote, "Pow!"

Posted by: Cambodian Kryptonite at August 25, 2004 4:40 PM | Permalink

Hey, people?

You are busy arguing about this and that small truth in the Kerry/Bush campaigns when the underpinnings of both campaigns and the reporting of them are rusted out.

Current campaigns seem to be fought using brief unsubstantiated clichés at the top of verbal pyramids that may or may not be based on accurate experience. Why do you think media is ineffective drilling down to substance that makes up (or in some cases fabricates) those pyramid bases?

Do you see that campaigns really don't care since for the most part they are venal enough to believe the top-of-mind perception is what is important? At least Spinsanity, which we subscribe to and run weekly, tries to clear the air. But who else tries?

As a newspaper publisher, I am increasingly embarrassed to see blogs expose main stream media as emperors strutting around naked touting crap as pithy, substantive and useful when, instead, it is regularly shown to be incomplete, prejudiced, and defensive.

Newspapers should help dampen campaign oscillations but it is not happening. Both campaign guerrillas and foreign terrorists misuse media and I see little difference between the two. Can we smarten up? How?

Posted by: sbw at August 25, 2004 4:51 PM | Permalink

Jay wrote: ... and all the talk shows were featuring members of the Air National Guardsmen for Accuracy group, who are passionate in their insistence: "he shirked his duty," ...

smear: A vilifying or slanderous remark.
slander: A false and malicious statement or report about someone.

I wish Anna would chime in with her "Clinton test" thoughts.

Posted by: Tim at August 25, 2004 4:53 PM | Permalink

Yes, they would. I'd be looking at their evidence.

If a bunch of people who knew him were saying the same thing, I'd tend to believe them, and be very unhappy about it. I don't want to vote for a slacker.

However, if such people existed, given the deep search for anything wrong with Bush's service, they would already have gotten air time. We would know about it, and Bush would be toast. On the other hand, Bush would never have been elected in 2000. Furthermore, if those people felt about Bush the way the swifties feel or the way many of the rest of us feel, the hypothetical organization would exist and obviously would have no trouble getting money. Furthermore, they probably would have had a spokesman like O'Neill - vets are all grown up now and we have jobs and higher education and connections.

When I say O'Neill is non-partisan, I mean that he is not a republican or democrat partisan. He is certainly an anti-Kerry partisan.

But what do you think he would be doing if John Edwards had been nominated.

I know I would not be putting effort into activism, even though I am a Bush supporter. I was talked into becoming a Republican Committeemen and haven't been to any meetings except the first (family issue).

I would find McCain hard to support, but I would if he were the nominee. There are two fundamental issues: the character of the candidate, and the policies he would be forced to do by the dynamics of the two party system. The latter means it would require a major shift for me to vote for a Democrat. I don't think it would for O'Neill. I know what O'Neill thinks of Kerry and I'm not going to repeat it. Suffice it to say that it provides plenty of impetus for him to run a major anti-Kerry campaign - without regard to party.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at August 25, 2004 5:03 PM | Permalink

Lynch: "I like that you are taking more visible positions in your blogs. Is this a conscience decision, or is it just this issue that has you visibly engaged?"

I have strong feelings about the SwiftVets episode, and I tried not to make a secret of it in this particular post.

I don't have any trouble taking positions on press matters of different kinds, the trouble is I am bored by own opinions on most of the big issues, and so I rarely write from that place. I also find that a cooler approach to ideological questions allows more kinds of people to feel welcome enough to speak.

PressThink is not an opinion blog, the subject matter isn't "politics," and it isn't crammed with information. It's trying to be an insight blog with a limited focus and an open style.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 25, 2004 6:07 PM | Permalink

Since this thread is full of opinion already...

I wonder if you would answer a question or two...

1) If you believed everything the Swiftees said, or at least that they were in general corrct, would you still have strong negative feelings about them? In other words, is there a problem with the subject or the behavior of those making allegations?

2) Do you believe they are part of a coordinated Republican attack?

3) If they had confined themselves to Kerry's anti-war behavior, would you have the same feelings?

4) Do you see any similar smears from the other side?

5) Do you have any comments on the relationship between their activities and the relatively small and negative amount of press they got from their first press conference?

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at August 25, 2004 6:31 PM | Permalink

The "war hero surrounded by war criminals" line is from an editorial column that came out last week. The Nick Turse research is establishing
that free-fire zones, burning of villages, torturing with portable telephones WAS standard practice in many units. On top of that, internal Pentagon audits showed that as many as 22% of serving soldiers consistently answered questions regarding torture and Geneva conventions wrong, that they would torture to extract information or would kill prisoners. The Pentagon never changed their training procedures.

Even when incidents were reported, as documented above and in hundreds of cases that Turse has looked at, the Pentagon did not prosecute even when it found evidence, it simply discharged the guilty. Even serial murderers of civilians were not prosecuted, they were discharged. Kerry did not fall into that category. What part of this being general policy effectively instituted by the command structure--like Kerry claims in the testimony you cite--don't you understand?

This is an argument for recognizing that effective U.S. policy violated the Geneva conventions. That's not the fault of the Joes. It's the fault of their commanders and most specifically, Johnson, McNamara, and Westmoreland.

Why does it offend you that Kerry testifies to this fact clearly established by Pentagon documents?

If your only point is that it is ludicrous for Kerry to campaign as a war hero in a war based on war crimes, I argued that myself two days ago. If that's your point, than you are tilting at windmills because we agree.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 25, 2004 6:38 PM | Permalink

John M.,
SBVT got relatively little and negative press? You pretend to be living in a fantasy world that just happens to mesh perfectly with the culture war strategy of Buchanon, Atwater, and Rove for the last fifty years.

If they confined themselves to Kerry's anti-war campaign of course the response would have been absolutely distinct. They would have gotten more respect because they would have deserved more respect. Everybody knows that's their real beef. That's why non-cult members have not been impressed so far.

YOU insist on pretending that this type of character assassination hasn't been true of EVERY campaign run by Dubya or his father for twenty years. Given this track record,it is not a reflection on Kerry when the same kind of absurdities are forwarded against Kerry as McCain, Your world is built around pretending not to notice the ELEPHANT that is standing on your head.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 25, 2004 6:56 PM | Permalink

John M.,
Now that O'Neill is on tape telling Nixon that he himself was in Cambodia on a Swift boat, the last leg on the stool of SBVT credibility has collapsed. But then reality hasn't slowed you down so far, no reason to expect that to start now. The complete scam that is SBVT was been exposed just in time for round 2, I'm sure. And once again, the Rethuglican media will be played for the Useful Fools they are.

I just realized that, out of force of habit apparently, I've given you way too much credit for common decency. You are actually flattered by comparison to Joe McCarthy. You ASPIRE to the legacy of Joe McCarthy. Don't you?

Facts never slowed down Joe, either. At least you've got that part right.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 25, 2004 8:00 PM | Permalink

I completely agree with you. Strategically, the parties are using the media for psy-ops (as did the government for the Iraq war). There is no difference in that regard between the parties and terrorists when it comes to the media.

For starters, "he said she said" story frames when one side is absolutely lying have got to go. Pre-Drudge, there was some effort to actually check things out before deciding to run them or not. I guarantee that any news organization that unilaterally adopts that kind of approach will be appreciated by its readers and viewers. Efforts such as you have suggested that actually try to pull the discussion to real issues can only be to the good.

Up to now the fear has been that otherwise you'll be scooped. What you are realizing is that the more clear and present danger is being duped. It is more important to avoid the latter than the former in my opinion.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 25, 2004 8:39 PM | Permalink

Lehrer's NewsHour on PBS had a very good segment called Old Wounds tonight (Wednesday, August 25, 2004).

The transcript is not linked yet, but should be by tomorrow night.

Highly recommend it.

Posted by: Tim at August 25, 2004 8:56 PM | Permalink

Would you mind reviewing the highlights?

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 25, 2004 10:00 PM | Permalink


I'll try, but going from pure memory here.

The opening covers past presidential candidates with military records and how that played in campaigns - basically that there is a long history of people running on, and being attacked for, their military records or lack thereof.

The discussion then talks about the division in opinion about Vietnam and other wars that divided the country.

Which were the two main topics I thought most interesting.

There is also a brief discussion about how the Kerry v. SBVT is playing in Peoria.

Posted by: Tim at August 25, 2004 10:27 PM | Permalink


Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 25, 2004 11:05 PM | Permalink


Kerry's Cambodia Whopper

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools blog) at August 25, 2004 11:31 PM | Permalink

You've proven once again that the Post, like the New York Times, is solidly in the hands of Republicans. SBVT claims are being ignored, remember?

I guess just as it was better for Bush not to have completed his guard service than to have gone to Vietnam, it was better for Kerry to have lied about going to Cambodia than for John O'Neill to have actually gone. Are we going to have to courtmartial John O'Neill? Fortunately, Kerry wasn't really there so he didn't break the law. We know there were covert ops in Cambodia. I'm a little curious what's up with Kerry's story about it.

Dubya specifically lied about the number of years he flew in the guard in his autobiography. I'd say that about evens the score for this one little non-issue.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 26, 2004 12:19 AM | Permalink

John Moore: "I wonder if you would answer a question or two...

1) If you believed everything the Swiftees said, or at least that they were in general correct, would you still have strong negative feelings about them? In other words, is there a problem with the subject or the behavior of those making allegations?

Not sure which is which. There is a problem with the Swiftees and their truth claims, put it that way. And no, I am not going to argue them chapter and verse with you because this is part of how the SwiftBoat media virus works. You're in a political conflict, a fight, in truth a war zone, but it's presented to you as a factual dispute, about "the record." That's how the virus enters its host, the news system.

2) Do you believe they are part of a coordinated Republican attack?

Attack, yes. Coordinated? Definitely. Republican? Depends on what you mean. I would assume they are probably legal in their arm's length relationship with the Bush campaign and RNC, unless shown otherwise. The people who made this group happen as a campaign event were the ones with the money, expertise and party connections.

3) If they had confined themselves to Kerry's anti-war behavior, would you have the same feelings?

Depends on how you use and marshall evidence, how much certainty you claim for yourself, how badly you twist, jam and force facts to fit the pre-determined conclusion. How much of a bomb-thrower type you wanna be.

4) Do you see any similar smears from the other side?

It would not surprise me if they have been attempted. But nothing that seized hold of the campaign story like this, no. Also, you have to keep in mind this is betweem conventions, a very "live" window in politics.

5) Do you have any comments on the relationship between their activities and the relatively small and negative amount of press they got from their first press conference?

Actually, it's an excellent point. Someone should go back to that first press conference and look at what was available then--ignored, probably--that would help the press flailing about with the Swift Vets now.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 26, 2004 12:58 AM | Permalink

As I understand, the Swifties' claims against Kerry's valor in Vietnam are essentially based on misleading recollections, supposition, half-truths and fibs. The hard evidence generally supports Kerry.

Some Swifties now contradict the praise they gave Kerry for his military service in the past. Some base their sworn allegations of Kerry's false claims to heroics on what others say happened, not their own knowledge.

And they do so largely because he became a war critic after returning from Vietnam and because he recited claims of U.S. atrocities in that doleful war.

Much argument has been made here that the Swifties are acting out of honor, taking on Kerry because of a perceived dishonoring of Vietnam vets. They do so, it appears, through untruths and innuendos.

Where is the honor in that?

Posted by: Dave In Texas at August 26, 2004 1:17 AM | Permalink

John M. isn't saying their first press conference was ignored. He's saying their entire campaign has been ignored, except for negative attention. It's a patently false Republican talking point concerning the imaginary liberal media. You are WAY too charitable.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 26, 2004 1:39 AM | Permalink


If I was a consultant to the Kerry campaign, I’d suggest they refrain from making too much of a fuss about Alfred French and sworn testimony supposedly based on second-hand facts. After all, isn’t that exactly what Kerry did back in ’71 with his Congressional (under oath) testimony about the Winter Soldier "investigation"? He was mostly repeating (and amplifying) charges he heard from other people, rather than what he saw or did first-hand*. And if we’re going to start condemning folks for slander based on hearsay, where shall we start? With unjustly calling someone a liar and a fraud, or unjustly calling someone a baby-killer and a war criminal? How many times can SBVFT get Kerry's guys to fall for the same trick? It seems Max Cleeland already chalked up episode #2. Will French's affidavit get #3? Or am I really stretching the limits on the Jedi mind tricks here?

Now, as far as your question about smear campaigns and would it occur to the Bush camp there might be one if there were books, and groups, and 527 adds, etc. Perhaps the smear campaign against George W. Bush has been going on so long, with such intensity, that you’ve just stopped noticing it – sort of like traffic noise in the city. After a while, it becomes background noise. Although how anyone could fail to notice Michael Moore is a mystery to me. I envy you if you can tune him out.

* Of course, later, when Kerry I guess felt he needed more ummph to his charges, he started claiming that he too, participated in some war crimes. But his initial slander was supposedly based on the lies told to him by others.

Posted by: (the other) John Hawkins at August 26, 2004 1:44 AM | Permalink

Nevertheless, I was talking about the first press conference.

The SwiftVets were built to leverage a relatively small amount of money into a very large wave of negative attention on Kerry's military record. You do that by enlisting the news media--in fact, all media--in the spread of the charges, and their proliferation is assured. The ads are bought in three states, known about in fifty. You need something sensational for that, just a little savage: he didn't deserve his medals, and lied to get them, then made a political career as a war hero has that kick, that pop that all great demagoguery has.

Such a person has not only done contemptuous things and held contemptuous views; they are beneath contempt because of their stealth and sheer audacity. The SwiftVets decided they would spread that, cause a lot of motion and activity and a flurry of denials and charges, and just ram-ram-ram on a few points as they ride the publicity wave.

When John Moore says things like "medals? I don't know why they picked up on the medals..." that to me is a hilarious pose. I assign zero truth content to it, and I don't pretend to understand why he does it.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 26, 2004 2:01 AM | Permalink

John H.,
What Kerry said would first have to be untrue for it to be libelous or slanderous. What he said was true. See Nick Turse, The Tip of the Iceberg. Pentagon documents back him up. Your complaining about Kerry testifying to the truth.

Wake up, John H.. You are a historical revisionist denying the occurrence of war crimes that happened. Factual statements can't be libel. It's the law.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 26, 2004 2:03 AM | Permalink


Thanks. I definitely did not want to draw you into a point by point argument. Frankly, I'm tired of that.

My issue of coverage was indeed aout the first event - the press conference. The SBVT made it clear that something unusual was going on but it was basically ignored. Do you know of the last time that the entire chain of command of an officer came out thirty years later and said he was unfit? That was the core of the press conference, and was a clue as to what was to come.

Those guys and I were a bit naive. They thought that such a historic event would have a major impact, which is why they timed it early - in hopes of having the Democrats switch candidates. It was when that didn't happen that they decided to do the book. I have no idea when they decided to do the commercial.

Your understanding is radically flawed. Out of a book full of evidence, a few contradictions and confusions have arisen. That was to be expected.\

What you get from them (with an exception or two) is eye witness testimony of 60 combat veterans about one man. Given that some were influenced by others, you might want to cut the number down some. If you hold the Navy paperwork as automatically superior to the witnesses, you are falling into a trap - it depends on the sourcing of the paperword. A lot of what Kerry wrote was taken as is, and only this year found out to be contradictory. So the "official record" is Kerry's words and therefore of course supports his position.

The Kerry campaign has already had to retract some of their claims, including about the first purple heart and Cambodian Christmas. Some are trying to confuse the latter issue by ignoring the timeline - Kerry was near Cambodia, but not on Christmas 1968, a date "seared into his memory." Some supporters also get it confused when they talk about barricades on the Cambodian border (which existed on the Mekong but not on another river where they later operated).

As to honor and untruths, I have yet to see one fabricated untruth by the Swifties. I have seen disagreements (were the three skippers of swift boats in the bronze star incident telling the truth about no fire, or was Kerry and Rassman right that there was fire). I happen to think that there is honest misunderstanding on the part of Rassman - swimming is not the greates location from which to figure out the tactical situation. As a Navy Vietnam Veteran myself, the idea that these folks have constructed a gigantic conspiracy to lie about Kerry is very hard to swallow. It's out there in Oliver Stone country.

As for praises in the past, there are two types:

1) FITREPS - essentially report cards. If you have not been in the military, you probably don't know how to read them. I was not an officer, so I didn't eithere. I sent them to my father (WW-II Navy) and he said they were lousy. I ran them by two other officers, and got the same. The military writes those things in a code - it's almost impossible to get one that doesn't sound outstanding to a civilian. So if someone wrote in 1969 a report that has all sorts of great words in it, and now says the guy was a skunk, it takes a real knowledge of those reports to sort out whether there is a conflict.

2) More recent, especially 1996 - Kerry was attacked for war crimes in 1996. Some of the Swiftees stood up for up and even said some nice things.

The medal issue is very complex. The strategy of the press and the Kerry campaign is to look for apparent contradictions. In the process, some real ones turned up, and a lot of hay was made of meaningless ones also. I expected and forecast all of that. As I understand it, the attack on medals happened when the swiftees discovered, for the first time, some of the paperwork involved in the medals, and Kerry's claim in his book.

The original intent, and the intent of many other groups is based on his anti-war behavior, which goes far beyond "war protester."

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at August 26, 2004 2:31 AM | Permalink

Yea, he sold out his country to the commies. Not.
The fact that a person opposes John Moore, does not in itself mean they are a communist. I know it's hard to see the difference sometimes.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 26, 2004 3:01 AM | Permalink

No Ben, I am already awake, and frankly Mr. Franklin, it's late and I'm going to go to bed. A good night’s sleep is much more appealing than trying to argue you out of your heart-felt belief in American venality, especially since I’m certain I couldn’t budge you half and inch from your position.

And that’s another blame I lay at Kerry’s feet, though not his alone. I didn’t serve in Vietnam (I’ll come clean here and admit I finagled a deferment – not sure how I managed, though being all of nine years old when Saigon fell might have helped) so I don’t have the personal stake the SBVFT have in Kerry’s untruths – he never called me a war criminal. But I do recognize the horrible damage he – along with the rest of his anti-war crowd – did to this country, my country, and my future, by perpetuating those lies.

A generation and a half have grown up with these notions of America as a villainous, imperial brute, no better than any two-bit tin-horned dictator with an army of thugs. Our military – the salvation of civilization in the twentieth century, responsible for the liberation of more souls than any other force in human history – is tainted as a barbarian horde, reminiscent of, how did he pronounce it, Jen-Jiss Khan. I think those who point to Europe’s estrangement as an artifact of their relative weakness are right, but I suspect Kerry’s lies made it that much easier for them to scorn us, despite all we did for them. It gave them a fig leaf for their ingratitude. His lies contributed to the rise of hateful creatures like Michael Moore, and gave sustenance to discredited philosophers like Chomsky who otherwise would’ve already followed their beloved ideology into history's dustbin.

Kerry’s lies didn’t just dishonor men who deserved better, they dishonored an idea – America – that deserved better. And they helped lead a lot of people down the wrong path since then.

But I'm sorry Jay, I think I'm straying from what you're interested in here, and it's your bandwidth so I'll take my own advice and turn in for the night. But maybe my thoughts above explain something at least about my own point of view - I believe Kerry did enormous damage to perhaps the most precious possession of the entire human race - the American ideal. Call me a jingoist patriot or a hopeless fool if you want, but I really believe in this country and its ideals as the last, best hope of mankind.

And I also believe John F. Kerry spit all over it for petty personal gain.

Posted by: (the other) John Hawkins at August 26, 2004 3:14 AM | Permalink

Thanks John H.,
The actual commission of war crimes couldn't possibly be related to the world having a bad impression of us. It must be those darn Democrats! You should go into comedy. You have a bright career ahead of you.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at August 26, 2004 3:41 AM | Permalink

So from this noise, how do different sides extract common threads we can agree on to provide enough harmony for us to work together for a better future.

Frankly, the advantage of democracy is not that majority rules, but that good ideas can come from anywhere. A leader is one who can illuminate these threads in a way that brings greater combined sense of purpose.

We are, after all, in this together.

Posted by: sbw at August 26, 2004 9:44 AM | Permalink

Jay wrote:

The SwiftVets were built to leverage a relatively small amount of money into a very large wave of negative attention on Kerry's military record. You do that by enlisting the news media--in fact, all media--in the spread of the charges, and their proliferation is assured.
To my knowledge, the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth were "built" in the beginning of this year by phone networking between the veterans and passing around a letter for signature. They "enlist[ed]" the news media in May. Their charges were not proliferated - so much for "assured".

In fact, this is what John Moore wrote here in May about the assured proliferation that didn't happen:

As a Vietnam Veteran, I’ve have a special interest in John Kerry, and have thus been using various reputable raw sources (such as his web site and CSPAN archives) in addition to the news media. I have watched how stories examining Kerry’s behavior after Vietnam have glossed over, minimized or “explained” (excused) the actions that should attract the most serious attention, and how journalists have readily accepted, and printed without comment in many cases, the Kerry “spin”.
One example is the coverage of the charges that he was unqualified, made by his entire command chain. That was news. Real news. At least as important as how many drills Bush attended in Arkansas. How many people from Bush’s military past have shown up to criticize him? For an entire command chain to come to the same conclusion, and to feel strongly enough to subject themselves to the inevitable personal attacks that result from bringing those charges, is unprecedented as far as I know. Certainly this and that retired officer make comments about political figures (although more commonly they discuss policies). But an entire command chain from 34 years ago?
The commander’s made a charge against a presidential candidate that goes straight to his character, and attacks the very basis of his campaign (“I’m a Vietnam War hero, vote for me”). My survey of the various stories that resulted showed that they were short, and the only information other than a tiny part of what Kerry’s former commanders said was Kerry spin.
No further investigation by reporters was needed, apparently, once a link to a dead Republican was found. Someone found of a photo of Kerry’s replacement (O’Neil) with Nixon and the historical fact that Nixon had chosen O’Neil to debate Kerry. Hence the charge “Nixon shill” and the implied conclusion O’Neil is to be ignored. Apparently Nixon can reach out from his grave to twist O’Neil’s mind, by this reasoning. The fact that O’Neil actually believed what he said (as is obvious from the video of the Dick Cavette debate) is automatically precluded by his having been chosen by a notorious figure of the past. Also a public relations firm that works with Republicans was involved in the event, and this also consumed a chunk of the story. The conclusion we are left to draw from the way these two facts was reported was that these people were partisans not to be believed. Ignore the charge. Likewise, the tiny story about this event conveys a message that is is not important. In some stories, more words were used describing these two minor associations than the contents of the press conference.
We are seeing guilt by association used to destroy a legitimate story. Isn’t guilt by association supposed to be McCarthyism? Certainly that’s the word that comes from the left if this tactic is used.
I challenge the journalists and other readers here to find that story and check my accusation.
Then I challenge you to change the name Kerry to Bush, and the unit to the Texas Air National Guard and say, with a straight face, that this is a minor story.
The bias is obscenely obvious.
Jay continues:
The ads are bought in three states, known about in fifty. You need something sensational for that, just a little savage: he didn't deserve his medals, and lied to get them, then made a political career as a war hero has that kick, that pop that all great demagoguery has.
Well, apparently not. Not even the "brewing" in the "blogs", email, or online watchdogs accomplished what Jay claims - until now.

Something different happened this time around that Jay's either not recognizing, or not admitting. Obviously, the TV ad ("Any Questions") made a difference. The charges have not changed in 4 months, but the coverage DEFINITELY has.

I think there are lessons to be learned here. Lessons for the media on how to treat questions about candidates' military service. Lessons for candidates about how to treat their own military service and each others'. Lessons about when to "band together" and what two do when veterans attack each other. Lessons for citizens with no military background when listening to media reports (often uninformed) about the military today and especially when peering back across the decades.

So far, I've learned that Jay doesn't like the SBVT.

Posted by: Tim at August 26, 2004 10:40 AM | Permalink

So far, I've learned that Jay doesn't like the SBVT.

Is that a cheap shot? Should I emphasize that I don't mean that in the "only" - exlusive of learning other things - sense?

For example, I have learned from Jay's questions analyzing Bush's response:

Asked if Mr. Kerry had lied about his war record, Mr. Bush said, "Mr. Kerry served admirably and he ought to be proud of his record."
And (the other) John Hawkins' reply.

I'm just not sure I've distilled it yet, whereas Jay's position on the SBVT is clear.

Posted by: Tim at August 26, 2004 11:38 AM | Permalink

Tim: I think there is no question that the SwiftVets were unwisely ignored as a news story, and they weren't given much creedence, or respect, by journalists.

And I think you--but not only you--are trying to make them look more innocent by asking: what about this lapse by the press, and that bit of bias from the press, and the way they were dismissed here, and ridiculed over there. Journalists-- they're the ones who did something way, way wrong here.

This is your "message speak," I think.

Well, the press has a lot to answer for in this campaign, and maybe that does have something to do with the SwiftVets' decision to go for the full smear, and become a demagogic tool in the election. (The only one? NO.)

Of course, half the people here, in this thread, totally disagree with "smear" and "demagogic" as terms for the SwiftVets.

Big surprise, right?

And with that I am going to close this thread. Not because it got out of hand; actually, it was pretty calm and serious most of the time. But I'd like to move on to other things, like the Republican National Convention! My sense is that this debate could, like Vietnam, go on forever. But at a resting point, and "frozen" like this, the discussion may have some modest archival value.

We'll see if anyone points to it.

Thanks to everyone who participated. And if you have suggestions for stories, angles and ideas as I try to decipher the RNC, hit me up in the next post, introducing Sky Box. Cheers.


Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 26, 2004 11:43 AM | Permalink

From the Intro