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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Jim Russell and other witnesses of uncertain provenance appearing from out of the woodwork

Roughly this time yesterday, a Google News search on "Kerry 'Jim Russell'" turned up exactly two entries — and tonight as I write this post, that same search turns up 210.  This should give you some clue how eagerly the Kerry campaign has embraced Mr. Russell after meaty parts of his letter to the editor in the Telluride Daily Planet Sunday were reprinted in Monday's WaPo.

Most of the hits, however, are to identical reprints of wire service reports.  AP's offers this short blurb about Mr. Russell:

In a conference call with reporters arranged by aides to the Democratic presidential candidate, Navy swift boat officers Rich McCann, Jim Russell and Rich Baker said Kerry acted honorably and bravely and was well qualified to be the nation's commander in chief.

Knight-Ridder's version has only a little more:

On Monday, three veterans who served with Kerry denounced the ads in a conference call arranged by Kerry's campaign. All said they'd intended to stay out of the presidential race, but were incensed by the ads.

"When those ads came out, when they misrepresented what I knew to be a fact, I knew I had to say something," said former Navy Lt. Jim Russell, 60, of Telluride, Colo.

A version from the Chicago Tribute's newswire, republished elsewhere, offers more detail, some of it clearly wrong (bracketed portion mine):

Rich Baker of Pittsburgh, Rich McCann of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and Jim Russell of Telluride, Colo., said they voluntarily came forward because they were disturbed that some of the same men who honored Kerry for meritorious service, and later supported him for the Senate, were now attacking him in his run for the presidency.

Russell said he was in An Thoi [sic — that's the base, not where the action happened] on March 13, 1969, the day Army Special Forces Lt. James Rassmann was thrown from his boat and rescued by Kerry, who earned the Bronze Star for his actions.

"My recollection is that we were under fire off and on during the whole time this incident took place," Russell said. "My direct recollection is of seeing John Kerry bend over his boat and pick up the soldier out of the water, that (Kerry's) boat was by itself up river."

A later AP version offers quite a lot more about Mr. Russell, but then goes on to quote statements from him that would seem to directly impeach the assertions being made by the other vets who were not on Kerry's own boat who've nonetheless been produced by the Kerry campaign to support the claim that Kerry was under enemy fire when he plucked Rassmann from the water (boldface added):

A Colorado veteran who says he witnessed John Kerry's actions during a Vietnam firefight said Monday the presidential candidate deserves both the Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals he was awarded.

Jim Russell, now retired and living in the ski resort town of Telluride, said his boat was nearby, taking small arms fire on March, 13, 1969, as he watched Kerry pluck a crewman from the water upstream....

Russell said he kept quiet about his role in the fight for 35 years until he saw television ads attacking Kerry's war record and questioning his valor.

"When those ads came out and misrepresented what I knew to be a fact, I had to say something. I found him to be an aggressive, tough, and by-the-book kind of guy when he was in Vietnam," he said.

Russell said the casualty rate for boats going upriver during the war was 86 percent.

"You don't put in for a Purple Heart. It's the one medal you don't even want," Russell said during a telephone conference call set up by the Kerry campaign in response to allegations by veteran supporters of President Bush that Kerry exaggerated his military record.

Russell said Navy regulations at the time required troops to report injuries or face court-martial if the wounds got infected. "To say he should not be getting the Purple Hearts is just ridiculous," he said....

Russell said the only people who know for sure if they were under fire were in Kerry's boat, and they have supported Kerry's version of what happened that day.

"My direct recollection seeing John Kerry bend over his boat and pick up the soldier out of the water was that his boat was by itself, upriver," he said. "The only people that know if he was under fire were the people in that boat and the person in the water. Those are the people that you need to ask that question to, and I think they've already responded to it."

And Bloomberg.com provides another quote from the call that adds confusion (boldface added):

Jim Russell, who served on a separate gunboat during a mission with Kerry in Vietnam, disputed claims by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that there was no enemy fire when Kerry earned a Purple Heart and Silver Star for rescuing Jim Rassmann, who had fallen overboard. Rassmann also backs Kerry's story.

"We were under fire off and on while the incident took place,'' Russell, 60, said during a conference call organized by Kerry's campaign.  There were no other boats close enough to Kerry during the incident for the other veterans to be able to tell whether there were bullets flying, he told reporters.


None of the press reports at all bother to mention that just days ago, the Kerry campaign's universal talking point was that none of the SwiftVets can be believed about anything because none of them "served with John Kerry."   Then came the modified version, that none of the SwiftVets can be believed about anything because (with one exception, usually ignored by the press and always ignored by Kerry partisans), the SwiftVets weren't under Kerry's command on his boat.  This week, however, William Rood's memoir of the Silver Star action is the Kerry campaign's new gospel, even though he commanded a different boat.

On Monday in particular, however, with respect to the Bay Hap River/Rassmann rescue/Bronze Star action, it apparently struck no one in the press as odd that on back-to-back days, the Kerry campaign has trumpeted the Langhofer version ("a lot of firing going on, and it came from both sides of the river") and then the Russell version ("off and on fire," just from the "left beach") — even though both Mr. Langhofer and Mr. Russell on were on Lt. Droz' PCF 43, and neither of them were on Lt. Kerry's PCF 94. 

And on this particular Monday, it also struck no one in the press as odd that most previous witnesses, including Kerry supporters, have agreed that another Swift Boat (Chenoweth's PCF 23) was no more than a few yards and a few seconds away from rescuing Rassmann when Kerry did so — but now Kerry backer Mr. Russell says nobody except Rassmann and the people on Kerry's boat could tell if Kerry's boat was under fire. 

These changes in Kerry campaign tactics, and these conflicts among their witnesses, go entirely unnoticed and unprobed.  Ummm — hello?  In addition to three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, and a Bronze Star, did the US Navy also award Kerry an unlimited, transferable license to flip-flop?  In addition to his lucky hat from the CIA guy, is he also wearing, and slipping his witnesses under, Harry Potter's magic cloak of invisibility?


Of course, an extremely important predicate question to any of this discussion remains entirely  unanswered by the mainstream media outlets who've now bought into Mr. Russell's (and others') absolute credibility without blinking an eyelash or asking any qualifying questions:

Who is this Jim Russell fellow, and how much can he actually tell us that's meaningful about Sen. Kerry's combat record?

Kerry partisan Dr. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo is entirely satisfied: "It seems he was where he said he was. The Post mentions his account in this story today [Monday]. And he was on a conference call today arranged by the Kerry campaign."  Well yeah, Josh, but ... I'm pretty sure you did better sourcing than this when you got that PhD in History, didn't ya?

I wrote yesterday at some length about the peculiarities apparent just from the face of Mr. Russell's original letter to the editor, and my commenters promptly chimed in with several more.  I won't repeat those here, but suffice it to say, Mr. Russell's description of the events create ample reasons to wonder whether he knows much about Swift Boats.

Moreover, Jim Russell's name appears nowhere on the comprehensive, but admittedly not exhaustive, "Swift Boat Crew Directory" of the general website of Swiftee veterans, www.swiftboats.net, which includes all of the various Coastal Divisions that together were part of Coastal Squadron One; this website predated, and is entirely unconnected with, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth or the current SwiftVets vs. Kerry controversy.  Although he's identified by the uncritical media reports as a "Swift Boat officer," that's not the way he identified himself in his original letter to the editor, and it seems extremely unlikely that he ever commanded or helped command — or was part of a regular crew for — any Swift Boat.

Nor does Mr. Russell's name appear in the indices of either John O'Neill's Unfit for Combat, Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty, or Michael Kranish et al.'s John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best.

In his letter to the editor, Mr. Russell described himself as having been "assigned as Psychological Operation Officer for the Swift Boat group out of An Thoi, Vietnam, from January 1969 to October 1969. As such, I was on No. 43 boat, skippered by Don Droz who was later that year killed by enemy fire."  Even if we take the Knight-Ridder reference to him as a "Navy Lt." at face value, it leaves entirely unclear Mr. Russell's position in the chain of command, his superior officers, or his regular duties.  Indeed, from Mr. Russell's description, one cannot even conclude with confidence that he was based at An Thoi, or whether instead Coastal Division 11 was one of many units for whom he also simultaneously served as "Psychological Operations Officer," perhaps from a desk in Saigon.

So what, if anything, is Mr. Russell's basis for asserting to the national press on Monday that he found young Lt. Kerry to be an "aggressive, tough, and by-the-book kind of guy"?  Could he tell all that from watching Kerry pluck Rassmann from the river?  Was he intimately acquainted with Kerry's performance in and out of combat, and yet he somehow managed not to have his name mentioned by anyone on either side of the controversy until yesterday?

We can only guess.  Apparently, that's good enough for the Kerry campaign, Josh Marshall, and the entire mainstream media.


However, in chapter 5 at pp. 78-79, O'Neill's Unfit for Command (which I've finally laid hands upon, and just finished reading) includes this interesting passage, which to my knowledge has gotten no notice in either the mainstream media or the blogosphere:

In his Dam Doi operating report from February 20, 1969, Kerry recommended "psy-ops" (psychological operations) along the Dam Doi — a recommendation he lauds as a great achievement in his 1970 interview in the Harvard Crimson:  "One time Kerry was ordered to destroy a Viet Cong village but disobeyed orders and suggested that the Navy Command simply send in a Psychological Warefare team to befriend the villagers with food, hospital supplies, and better educational facilities."  Once again, Kerry promotes himself as an "antiwar warrior."

Surprisingly, the Navy adopted a psy-ops recommendation.  If the idea were indeed Kerry's, then it would have been the only such recommendation he made and the only one to be adopted.  At any rate, the program was an unmitigated disaster.  Many Swiftees, including John O'Neill, wondered who could have been so stupid as to recommend using our boats to travel slowly while playing psy-ops tapes over a loudspeaker, appealing in Vietnamese to the local population, in an area as hostile as the Dam Doi.  Many Swiftees and Mobile Riverine Sailors died or were wounded on these missions following the "Boston Strangler's" [Kerry's call-sign] recommendation.

One was Shelton White, a well-known film producer of underwater documentaries, who was wounded three times on the Dam Doi in a matter of minutes but returned to fight again.  White and many other sailors who signed the May 4, 2004, Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth letter opposing Kerry's presidential campaign did not realize even in 2004 that it was John Kerry who recommended this ill-conceived psy-ops operation for which they had paid with their blood.

And Brinkley's Tour of Duty (which I've just started reading, so I'm relying on its index for this discussion) also discusses the Swiftees' role in, and views on, psy-ops operations.  At page 202:

Frequently just as ineffective and perhaps even more absurd were the psychological operations (PsyOps) the United States mounted in Vietnam.  Concocted in 1954 by World War II Air Force officer turned advertising executive turned CIA agent Edward G. Lansdale, the initial U.S. PsyOps in Vietnam aimed at persuading the country's Catholics to move from North to South and back the Saigon government in the interest of their freedom to worship.  By 1965 the inevitable bureaucracy had grown up around PsyOps into the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office.  Set up by the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in Saigon, it deluged the entire country with anti-Communist propaganda leaflets, and air- and ship-borne pre-recorded loudspeaker appeals.  "The PsyOps tapes we were ordered to play on Swifts were ludicrous," Wade Sanders recalled.  "One was called 'The Ghost of the U-Minh Forest'!  The tape was supposed to be of VC ghosts who had been killed by the U.S. or ARVN in that mysterious region.  It was like a bad Halloween tape.  A Vietnamese voice instructing them to surrender was intermixed with moans and groans. We thought the VC who heard it must have had a hard time muffling their laughter.  So we ditched the tape and blasted out James Brown and the Stones instead."

Tour of Duty has a few other passing references that suggest that the playing of tapes and distribution of pre-assembled packages of materials may have been part of the Swiftees' duties going back into 1968 or earlier, but at least based on their indices, neither Brinkley's nor Kranish et al.'s books appear to discuss whether young Kerry was responsible for promoting PsyOps activities, or the presence of PsyOps officers, on Swift Boat missions. 

But note the date that O'Neill's book gives for Kerry's PsyOps recommendation, February 20, 1969, and the date of the only occasion that, so far at least, Mr. Russell claims to have had any first-hand exposure to Kerry, March 13, 1969.  Could Mr. Russell have been aboard PCF 43 on the day of the Bay Hap River action at least in part as the direct result of Kerry's recommendation?  Did they speak to one another?  Discuss PsyOps with one another?  Could Mr. Russell have considered Kerry a supporter in the midst of other Swiftees who were, it would seem, more than mildly skeptical about the PsyOps work they were being asked to do — work that seemed to increase greatly the risks they were taking without providing much, if any, compensating gain?

All this, of course, is my rank speculation — and I'd be the first to agree that it's not even well-informed speculation, given my own lack of military service.  My attempts to reach Mr. Russell by telephone have so far met with only busy signals, and I'd not be surprised if having been catapulted into this controversy, he's taken his phone off the hook.  (Or maybe he's on the phone right now with WaPo's crack reporters, who knows?)

I'm not trying to slime Mr. Russell, or suggest that he's making things up or shading his recollection to benefit the candidate he obviously favors in the upcoming election.  Indeed, the Bloomberg and second AP reports above suggest that — although the mainstream media completely missed it — Mr. Russell is quite effective in impeaching his own eyewitness testimony, not to mention that of other Kerry supporters!

The cattle-call presentation, en masse, of supposed eyewitnesses conducted by the Kerry campaign on Monday — without even minimal scrutinizing or vetting of those witnesses by the mainstream media covering the event — indeed serves Sen. Kerry's rather urgent need to staunch his campaign's bleeding from the hits he's taken from the SwiftVets. 

But it's a damned poor way of getting at the truth.


Update:  The New York Daily News quotes Mr. Russell in a way that suggests he wasn't claiming that the Swift Boats were under enemy fire when Kerry plucked Rassmann out of the water (elipsis by NYDN):

On the day Kerry pulled Green Beret Jim Rassman from a river after falling overboard, "We were under fire off and on all day. ... Anyone who says we weren't must have been on a different river," Russell said. "We were going up those rivers with an ongoing casualty rate of 86%."

Posted by Beldar at 12:20 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Jim Russell and other witnesses of uncertain provenance appearing from out of the woodwork and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) M. Simon made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 5:07:00 AM | Permalink

Kerry is having to put holes in his own boat to even have a shot at the enemy. No sign so far of any serious damage and Kerry's boat is taking on water faster and faster.

Remember when Vietnam was off limits?

Then came the "Winter Soldier" commercial and all he wants to talk about is Vietnam.

As the swifties roll out their campaign Kerry is having to give ground on every issue. I'm still betting that O'Neill has a few more bombs for Kerry to handle.


What is the War Hero Afraid of?
Form 180. Release ALL the records.

Video link

(2) M. Simon made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 5:28:12 AM | Permalink

Psychologically what happens when events make fools of some very important people? What ever it is we are watching a world view being destroyed before our very own eyes. And not only is observer status available. So is participant status.


What is the War Hero Afraid of?
Form 180. Release ALL the records.

Video link

(3) mike made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 6:10:38 AM | Permalink

How desperately sad to see the most powerful country in the world reduced to this level of political debate in the run up to choosing a president. I find it astonishing that intelligent and sophisticated bloggers should clog up their posts with constant nit-picking over these events which, in any case, have absolutely no bearing whatever on the abilities of the contenders to lead their country well. Partisan politics is inevitable in the American way of things I know, but surely people like Reynolds could accept the complexity of modern politics and post accordingly.
I'm keeping away from a number of blogs until 12th November.
Apart from anything else they are becoming tediously boring.

(4) Patrick R. Sullivan made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 8:59:09 AM | Permalink

I'm guessing Russell wasn't even there. He's got several details wrong in his letter:

"We were second in line while exiting the river..."

That's the same error as in the supposedly authoratative Bronze Star citation. They were definitely not exiting the river, but in the river (remember the supposed 5,000 meters of withering fire).

The boats were in two lines, three on the left bank and two on the right. And, the #43 boat was behind Kerry's #94, not behind the #3.

He also contradicted his new story with:

"...forever pictured in my mind since that day over 30 years ago...All the boats turning left and letting loose at the same time like a deadly, choreographed dance..."

Because he now says: "My direct recollection seeing John Kerry bend over his boat and pick up the soldier out of the water was that his boat was by itself, upriver,"

That's a dance Fred Astaire couldn't pull off.

(5) RiverRat made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 9:34:25 AM | Permalink

Is no one asking this guy for credentials? His stories are full of holes!

Boy, I hope this is another Al Hubbard!

(6) ter0 made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 10:24:34 AM | Permalink

Mike said:

I find it astonishing that intelligent and sophisticated bloggers should clog up their posts with constant nit-picking over these events which, in any case, have absolutely no bearing whatever on the abilities of the contenders to lead their country well.

Which reminded me of:

Ben Bradlee : You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a s**t. You guys are probably pretty tired, right? Well, you should be. Go on home, get a nice hot bath. Rest up... 15 minutes. Then get your asses back in gear. We're under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothing's riding on this except the, uh, first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys f**k up again, I'm going to get mad. Goodnight
All the President's Men

And this

Vietnam Boomerang
John Kerry's "war crimes" libel returns to haunt him.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

The issue here, as I have heard it raised, is was he present and active on duty in Alabama at the times he was supposed to be. . . . Just because you get an honorable discharge does not in fact answer that question.
--John Kerry, questioning President Bush's
military-service record, February 8, 2004.

A good rule in politics is that anyone who picks a fight ought to be prepared to finish it. But having first questioned Mr. Bush's war service, and then made Vietnam the core of his own campaign for President, Mr. Kerry now cries No mas! because other Vietnam vets are assailing his behavior before and after that war. And, by the way, Mr. Bush is supposedly honor bound to repudiate them. [read the rest]

Opinion Journal Link

But what really troubles me about JFKerry's appeal for voter's to trust him because he is trustworthy is this in today's Washington Post:

Kerry's Cambodia Whopper

By Joshua Muravchik
Tuesday, August 24, 2004; Page A17

Most of the debate between the former shipmates who swear by John Kerry and the group of other Swift boat veterans who are attacking his military record focuses on matters that few of us have the experience or the moral standing to judge. But one issue, having nothing to do with medals, wounds or bravery under fire, goes to the heart of Kerry's qualifications for the presidency and is therefore something that each of us must consider. That is Kerry's apparently fabricated claim that he fought in Cambodia.
Kerry has repeated his Cambodia tale throughout his adult life. He has claimed that the epiphany he had that Christmas of 1968 was about truthfulness. "One of the things that most struck me about Vietnam was how people were lied to," he explained in a subsequent interview. If -- as seems almost surely the case -- Kerry himself has lied about what he did in Vietnam, and has done so not merely to spice his biography but to influence national policy, then he is surely not the kind of man we want as our president.

WaPo Link

Yes it's nitpicking. It also matters, and should matter to the non-ABB crowd. If you're going to throw GWB overboard, you better know who is manning the controls and if that person's only claim is "I can do better, trust me" you better verify. If JFKerry can't do any better than this with the Main Stream Media fighting his battles for him, I sure don't see how we can afford to have him going toe to toe with the Iranians, et al.

[credit RealClearPolitics for most of the above links.]

(7) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 12:07:13 PM | Permalink


I think you can let go now. The medals accusations have pretty much collapsed. It's not just Russell. It's Rood, Thurlow's citations, his crewmates' (Landbert?) citations, and the witness that WaPO found, Langhofer. That's three new witnesses plus the offical documents in the last few days.

Today USA TOday published this:

Two of John Kerry's fellow swift boat commanders in Vietnam said Monday that they have been misrepresented by a group of veterans and supporters of President Bush who have attacked Kerry's war record. The men say they have tried unsuccessfully for two weeks to get the group to change its Web site to reflect their support for Kerry."

Kerry's "credentials have been questioned by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whose Web site shows a photo of Kerry with 19 officers from his division. The group said only one man in the picture, Skip Barker, supports Kerry. Rich McCann and Rich Baker are among four listed as 'neutral.'

"But McCann, 60, a consultant from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, said he told the group he was neutral about whether it used his picture. 'I was never neutral about (Kerry) as president,' he said. 'If the question is whether John Kerry is fit to be commander in chief, my answer is absolutely.'

"Baker, 61, now a baker by trade, says he was never contacted by the group, perhaps because he recently moved to Pittsburgh. Kerry is 'very well fit for command,' he said. 'He was one of the most courageous and aggressive swift boat captains in the division.' Both men say they voted for Bush in 2000 but won't again."

How much more do you need?

(8) ed made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 2:42:15 PM | Permalink


A few more problems with Russell's story.

1. If the craft are taking small arms fire why is Russell watching PCF94? Didn't PCF94 take off running down the canal for up to 3km? Didn't it take at least a 10-15 minutes to turn around and return? During this time there's nothing else to keep this guy's attention?

Isn't this guy shooting back with an M-16?

Isn't this guy keeping his head down so it didn't get shot since he's in an unarmored aluminum hulled boat?

2. Russell describes the SWIFT boats as "All boats, except the one hit, immediately wheeled toward the beach that most of the fire came from ". This isn't the correct tactic for SWIFT boats. The two most powerful weapons on a SWIFT boat are the twin turret-mounted .50 machine guns in the cupola and the aft .50/81mm mortar over/under weapon. If you point your bow at the enemy, you're masking the aft gun and losing at least 1/3rd to 1/2 of your firepower.

This is why the accepted tactic is to point the bow 45 degrees off axis. With the bow pointing to one side, all weapons can fire and the boat will have the minimum amount of hull vulnerable.

3. "(3) A few minutes later, John Kerry bending over his boat picking up one of the rangers that we were ferrying from out of the water."

A few minutes? Didn't he run his boat a few kilometers down the canal before turning around?

Aren't people supposedly still firing on Rassman? Including snipers?

Aren't people being picked up out of the water at this point, including Rassman?

Are they all being shot at?

Why doesn't Russell mention the other people being picked up? Didn't he notice this since the boat he's supposedly on, PCF 43, hadn't moved and was engaged in rescue operations.

Is there anyone else on the PCF 43 that could confirm Russell's presence? Or even existence?

(9) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 4:15:18 PM | Permalink

Russell and Langhofer are just the icing on the cake.

What destroyed the Swifties BS accusations is Thurlow's own BS citation which not once but 3 times talks of enemy fire and is witnessed by one of Thurlow's crewmates, Lambert.

(10) vnjagvet made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 4:25:29 PM | Permalink


No one's making you click. Have a good rest.


It's now 16-3 against rather than 16-1-2. Not a particularly significant improvement for the JFK gang.

I think a full disclosure of all the records instead of a selective disclosure on the Kerry website would help clarify things even more.

One question of you:

You do believe that the 16 should be fully and fairly heard to the same extent as the 3, don't you? By that I mean heard in reasoned discourse, not in shouting matches as have occurred on some news channels.


(11) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 4:33:03 PM | Permalink

Sure they should talk.

As for the numbers I don't know where you got them. I may have missed it so maybe you can link to the 16 first hand witnesses that said there was no enemy fire that day?

And it was never 1 for Kerry. Besides Kerry and Rassman there were also his crewmates and now the two new witnesses, both from another boat.

In any case I repeat that the official citation for Thurlow's Bronze Star mentions enemy fire 3 times and that the witness to that is Lambert, one of Thurlow's crewmates. That trumps all.

(12) Chris made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 4:33:42 PM | Permalink

"It's now 16-3 against rather than 16-1-2. Not a particularly significant improvement for the JFK gang."

Ah, there's the view of someone that really, truly doesn't get it.

(13) LazyMF made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 5:03:29 PM | Permalink


M. Simon's second post here sounded criptically like the comments I just finished reading on the webiste of North Korean News.

Maybe he's full of the Buche Ideal.

(14) vnjagvet made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 5:22:38 PM | Permalink


Just what is it that I don't get?

Here's the quote I was commenting on:

The group said only one man in the picture, Skip Barker, supports Kerry. Rich McCann and Rich Baker are among four listed as 'neutral.'

"But McCann, 60, a consultant from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, said he told the group he was neutral about whether it used his picture. 'I was never neutral about (Kerry) as president,' he said. 'If the question is whether John Kerry is fit to be commander in chief, my answer is absolutely.'

"Baker, 61, now a baker by trade, says he was never contacted by the group, perhaps because he recently moved to Pittsburgh. Kerry is 'very well fit for command,' he said. 'He was one of the most courageous and aggressive swift boat captains in the division.' Both men say they voted for Bush in 2000 but won't again."

While my numbers were off, (should have been Before this news: Of 19, 12 against, 2 dead, 1 for and 4 neutral; After this news: of the same 19, 12 against, 2 dead, 3 for and 2 neutral.), the point is the same. Picking up two of four neutrals from the fellow officers who (all apparently all now concede) "served" with Sen. Kerry adds, it seems to me not much to the issues surrounding his service raised by the 12.

Nothing in the article relating to those two men indicates they observed any of the incidents which are the subject of "Unfit For Command".

Unless you have something other than ridicule in your arsenal, I am unpersuaded by the post you directed at me. But I am open to reasoned discussion. Where did I go wrong?

(15) Al made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 5:40:12 PM | Permalink

The "1" was one _commander_ supporting Kerry. From the picture he, himself, used to show who is was serving with. Originally, only one on that picture supported him, three were 'not available', and 16 claimed Kerry was unfit for command.

Two of the people that were previously 'not available' have stood up and said Kerry was a model commander.

That makes it 16-3. http://www.swiftvets.com/index.php?topic=SwiftPhoto for the photo and text. Rood isn't in the picture - the list of commanders changed over time. Rood supports one of Kerry's versions of the Silver Star incident. (So, 16-4)

Lumping all the testimony from the people who served under Kerry is also a mistake. Each event is _separate_. For the Bronze Star: Del Sandusky from Kerry's boat (who is not a member of SBVFT, he supports Kerry) claims he can't say there was hostile fire when they were recovering Rasmussen. In Newsweek I think.

(16) Patrick R. Sullivan made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 5:48:05 PM | Permalink

Well, GT, here's your big chance to finally answer the question you've been ducking; how is it that with 5,000 meters of fire by hundreds of VC at five boats sitting around for an hour and a half, no one was hit with a bullet?

As a professional economist, what are the odds of that?

(17) dn made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 5:59:30 PM | Permalink

"Well, GT, here's your big chance to finally answer the question you've been ducking; how is it that with 5,000 meters of fire by hundreds of VC at five boats sitting around for an hour and a half, no one was hit with a bullet"

Who said there were "hundreds of VC" firing at the boat?

I must say that any credibility this site had evaporated with the extending quotations about psyops. The quote from Kerry is about making nice with the locals -- the village-based strategy that, IIRC, worked rather well. The "this is stupid" stuff is all about blaring messages from the Swift Boats. Apples and oranges.

(18) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 6:11:12 PM | Permalink

vinq, Al:

Then I misunderstood. You were not talking about the BS incident but the general support or not for Kerry. Sorry.

I really don't care about that and I don't see what there is to debate. It's their opinion and they are entitled to it.

All I'm focusing on is on the specific allegations, in this case the Bronze Star allegations. The ONLY issue in the BS debate is whether there was enemy fire or not. The rest makes no real difference.

Unfortunately for the Swifties Thurlow's BS citation confirms there was enemy fire and the witness to that citation is one of Thurlow's own crewmates. Thurlow never mentioned this and it came out when the Washington Post got a copy of the documents. This completely undermines Thurlow's and the Swiftie's allegation. His OWN documents contradict him.

(19) Polaris made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 6:15:22 PM | Permalink


In addition to Kerry not being able to explain how his boat had no bullet holes from *point* *blank* small arms fire, Navychief in the swiftvets site has come up with a hard and comprensive analysis of the after action (spot) report. He affirms my initial conclusions: Kerry wrote that report.

Far from being dead, it is looking more and more like Kerry flat out lied in his after action report which was the basis for his bronze star. More to the point, it directly contradicts the "no man left behind" story he made at the DNC on national television (unless you think that the schematics shown by the washingotn post are wrong).

(20) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 6:18:05 PM | Permalink

Sorry Polaris but Thurlow's own BS citation mentions enemy fire and the witness for that is one of Thurlow's crewmates.

(21) vnjagvet made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 6:35:22 PM | Permalink


Could you please provide a document site for the witness statement. I have read the spot report which is the only documentation I have seen backing both the Kerry and Thurlow Bronze Stars.

(22) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 6:41:23 PM | Permalink

GT, I'd also like to see your documentation please. There's been quite a lot in the press and the blogosphere about Thurlow's Bronze Star citation, which has included Thurlow's own disavowal of being under fire notwithstanding what the citation says. But your claim about a "witness" statement for the citation is new to me, and it definitely was not part of the WaPo story about Thurlow's Bronze Star, which I blogged about at some length several days ago.

(23) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 6:46:42 PM | Permalink

It's in the recommendation for the Bronze Star which you can find on Washington Post website (which is the paper that got the citation through a FOIA request). It explains what happened, makes clear that there was enemy fire all the time, and is signed by Elliot who now says there was no enemy fire. And it lists Lambert as an eyewitness.

(24) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 6:52:20 PM | Permalink


You must have missed it but it is in the Washington Post article.

Even if Kerry did write the March 13 after-action report, it seems unlikely that he would have been the source of the information about "enemy bullets" flying around Thurlow. The official witness to those events, according to Thurlow's medal recommendation form, was his own leading petty officer, Robert Lambert, who himself won a Bronze Star for "courage under fire" in going to Thurlow's rescue after he fell into the river. Lambert, who lives in California, declined to comment.

(25) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 6:55:11 PM | Permalink

Quick correction Beldar. You are talking about a different WaPo article. the one I am quoting is this one:


(26) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 7:03:16 PM | Permalink


(27) Norman Rogers made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 7:07:57 PM | Permalink

Well, gentlemen -- there you have it.

Two more guys popping out of the aluminum hulls to support John Kerry.

The problem for Kerry is that this isn't going to go away until these conflicting stories are resolved. And that's not going to happen until we at least have a full fledged news conference -- with more than just the liberal media involved.

Beldar, there really is a reason we have lawyers in this world -- and this is a good illustration. These "witnessess" need to be deposed -- and cross examined.

So far, the only reasonable explanation I've read is from the Swiftees camp. It seems the 3 boat was heavily damaaged and its rescue was time consuming. If indeed they sat still in the water for an hour and change, then there isn't a lot of room for Kerry to claim heroics -- no matter if someone saw muzzle flashes from the shore.

There could not have been a lot of hostile fire if the rescue was effected as described. There simply could not have been. They would have abandoned the 3 boat and skedaddled, once the crewmen were pulled aboard the other boats.

Of course, the Judicial Watch petition may occasion formal depositions...

(28) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 7:23:46 PM | Permalink

Thanks for the links, GT.

Elliott's signature, of course, adds nothing, for he clearly was not an eyewitness.

The report lists Lambert as an eyewitness, but doesn't have his signature, and as WaPo notes, he's refused to comment.

So this is a document in which someone unknown claims that Lambert (a member of Thurlow's crew) said they were under fire. We can't know more about whether Lambert actually said that unless and until someone shows up with something Lambert signed, or we can ask Lambert about it, or we find out who it was who wrote this report.

You may think I'm being picky — but these are basic evidentiary rules I use in court every day, and they were developed for very good reasons, GT.

(29) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 7:30:30 PM | Permalink


So much for your other post.

Let's summarize here. Leave aside the groiwng number of witnesses that back up Kerry.

We have Thurlow's citation that talks of enemy fire (and WTF did Thurlow think he was getting a BS if there was no enemy fire? )

We have the recommendation for that medal that also talks of enemy fire and lists Lambert as an eyewitness. AND it was signed by Elliot who claims now there was no enemy fire!

And we have the BS medal to Lambert which ALSO talks of enemy fire.

(30) Polaris made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 7:30:31 PM | Permalink


There is solid if circumstatial evidence that Kerry wrote that Spot Report. Since Lambert won't testify, he doesn't count.

That means it is Kerry's word against three of his fellow officers. WORSE Kerry has been inconsistant with his testimony (he changed his story since the DNC) while the Swiftvets have not. Even worse the PHYSICAL EVIDENCE (which as a physicist I pay great attention to) supports the Swiftvets.

Until I get more information, I have to say that Kerry looks like a liar.

(31) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 7:35:34 PM | Permalink

On the contrary Elliot's signature very much adds to this since he is 'signing off' on this. It was his responsibility to check on what he was signing.

There's not much more to debate here. Even if you decide to ignore the new witnesses every single piece of documentation supports Kerry.

(32) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 7:41:31 PM | Permalink

GT, with due respect (and, again, thanks for the links), there is quite a bit more to "debate" here — quite a few questions unanswered.

Elliott's signature is not a claim that he has eyewitness knowledge. You're trying to do to him, remotely, what Michael Kranish did to engineer his fabulous "retraction" story about Elliott — and it's a cheap trick that I see lawyers abuse every day. Elliott's not making a claim now that there was or wasn't enemy fire; he doesn't know because he wasn't there.

Again, with due respect, one can't just point to a document and shout "AHA! That proves it!" The documents you're pointing to are important, I'll agree, but they fall far short of resolving anything, and you're misrepresenting what they actually do show.

(33) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 7:41:39 PM | Permalink

No Polaris, there is no evidence at all of any kind that supports the idea that Kerry wrote up what is included in Thurlow's and Lambert's citations. That's just something that desperate people came up with so they can deny what is in front of their very eyes.

You are free to believe what you will. The facts remain the same. Every single piece of offical documentation and a growing number of witnesses including all those directly affected all corroborate Kerry's position.

(34) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 7:47:57 PM | Permalink


This is not a court of law and we are not about to cross examine witnesses. So we have to work with what we have.

The burden of proof is on the accuser, as it should be. And they are contradicted by all the people directly affected as well as by all the documents.

Could something new come up in the future? Yes, it is impossible to prove a negative.

If and when some new information comes along then we can debate it. Right now there is nothing more to debate simply becasue there is nothing the Swifties can offer to prove their point. They have nothing other than their recollections which are contradicted by others and by the documents of the time.

(35) Polaris made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 7:54:45 PM | Permalink


I have done communications analysis, and a naval chief who has done it longer than I (20+ years) confirmed what I suspected. If you look at the call numbers listed in the spot report and then correlate them to the manuevers of the PCFs as listed in the WaPo diagram, you immediately find that the spot report was written from the PoV of PCF-94, i.e. Kerry. Furthermore all three surviving OICs (other than Kerry) deny writing the spot report, and Kerry has not challenged ANY of them on this point. That is at least deductive proof that Kerry did write the report...and that means the citation and citation request is nothing more than Kerry's sworn statement.

When you look at the physical evidence, you find that Kerry's story (heavy fire for 5000 meters and heavy fire on all units) is simply not possible. The casualty and damage reports don't support it.

(36) Polaris made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 8:00:15 PM | Permalink


Heads up. This story may not be over. There is at least one source of unimpeachable physical evidence that may still be out there if it has survived. Communications logs. All communications were logged. If this is to be resolved, I suggest that this might be a fruitful area to examine.

(37) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 8:04:26 PM | Permalink


I don't care about spot reports. I don't know who wrote it and neither do you. Your speculation is just that.

The burden of proof is on the accusers. All they have are 35 year old recollections.

Against that you have other recollections, including two new ones over the weekend and ALL the official documents.

This is over. I'm sure the true believers will continue and soon it will turn out that Kerry wrote up every report in Vietnam.

(38) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 8:07:44 PM | Permalink

GT, your strategy is a clever one, but not an honorable one. You'd like to declare the matter closed and resolved before all the evidence that could be gathered, has been.

And your candidate is following exactly the same strategy, for exactly the same reasons.

You, and he, and his other supporters, continually fudge things, blur things, and overstate your case. You cherry-pick from some documents, ignore other documents and the inferences that can be drawn from them, ignore or slime the eyewitnesses whose testimony doesn't suit you, and worst of all, you try to justify stonewalling and coverup on the documents that Kerry's prevented from being released. It's a strategy that is profoundly opposed to developing all the relevant facts that the American public should have before reaching its final judgment on Kerry's war record.

Someone is desperate here, I would agree with you about that. Someone's desperate to shut down the inquiry process — and that in itself is a noteworthy fact.

(39) J Murphy made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 8:08:14 PM | Permalink


Mr. Rood said his own medal citation contained factual errors. He cautioned that relying on them was a mistake because they were written well after the event by people who weren't there.

Lyndon Johnson's Silver Star Citation says the airplane he was riding as an observer was attacked by Zeros. The crewmen denied any hostile fire was received.

Relying on one document really means you are unwilling to look at all the evidence.

(40) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 8:12:16 PM | Permalink


If new information comes along, say the call logs Polaris mentioned, I will certainly check it out.

But RIGHT NOW there is no new evidence. We have 35 year old recollections on the one hand and 35 year old recollections on the other PLUS the support of all the official documents INCLUDING the documents of some of the accusers. It's not just one document its ALL of them.

And this is for the BS. For the SS and the PH they don't even have direct eyewitnesses.

(41) Bostonian made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 8:16:39 PM | Permalink

Given Kerry's outrageous lies about Cambodia and about Vietnam War crimes, I'd have to say the burden of proof is on him.

Add to that his opportunistic flip-flopping on every subject under the sun.

As a private citizen, I see absolutely no reason to believe a word he says.

PS. It ain't over. When it's over, you'll know it's over.

(42) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 8:18:00 PM | Permalink

The burden of proof on the accused?

Why, that's so typical...of communist regimes.

(43) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 8:19:17 PM | Permalink

GT, lemme just ask you one direct question:

Do you think Kerry should sign Standard Form 180, yes or no? Explain your answer however you'd like to afterwards, but please begin your answer with a "yes" or a "no," sir.

(44) Polaris made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 8:22:37 PM | Permalink


I am a scientist. Human perceptions can be flawed. That is why the physical evidence should and must impeach 'eyewitness' testimony. The fact is that the damage and casualty reports (the physical evidence) call Kerry a liar. Until more physical evidence comes in to refute that, I stand by my statement. If Kerry's account were true, the boats should have had significant small arms damage and personelle casualties should have been severe. They weren't as a physical fact.

(45) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 8:29:16 PM | Permalink



I don't particularly care though but yes, he should do it.


Not at all. The fact that they were shot at doesn't mean they need to have hit them.

(46) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 8:36:51 PM | Permalink

Complete aside: Actually, putting the burden of proof on the accused isn't typical of communist countries. A good chunk of the "civilized" world continues to follow that exact pattern — it's the "civil law" tradition of countries like France and Mexico, as opposed to the "common law" tradition of countries like the US and Great Britain. What was characteristic of the communist countries, by contrast, was that absolutely nothing the accused could say could overcome the accusations against him, and his opportunity to do so was illusory.

And even common law countries like the US and Great Britain recognize "shifting" burdens of proof and reallocations of the burden of proof for certain matters, like affirmative defenses.

What American courts will not allow — and neither should the American public — is for a defendant to take the stand, assert his innocence, provide selected but incomplete documentary evidence in his possession (or within his control), and then clam up. Like a defendant who's taken the stand voluntarily (and waived his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination), Sen. Kerry's been the one to trumpet his war record. Okay, then let's get all the evidence to examine that claim, including the evidence Sen. Kerry obviously would rather we not see.

(47) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 8:38:38 PM | Permalink

GT, thanks for the straight answer. We've at last found something on which we can agree.

(48) Polaris made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 8:39:39 PM | Permalink


OH GOOD LORD! Have you ever fired an Assault Rifle?! The canal was only 75 yards wide and that is point blank range for an AK-47 even for a human target. Assuming that the boats were dead center (which they were not), that would imply that the shooter would have to miss a target the size of a swiftboat at a range of about 37 feet....and since the spot report and citation specifically states heavy fire on all units and you figure that it would take at least 10 minutes for PCF-94 to go 5000 meters and back, the odds of not being hit are so small as to be not worth mentioning. I will stake my professional reputation on it.

The physical evidence is plain: Kerry lied. I stand by that until more physical evidence can be shown that would impeach what I know now.

(49) GT made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 8:45:37 PM | Permalink

Whatever Polaris. Believe what you want.

(50) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 24, 2004 8:50:50 PM | Permalink

Bastard Sword has a long discussion of the records from the Bay Hap River/Bronze Star action in which he has some comments on the likelihood of the enemy combatants missing all the boats and all the Swiftees with their AK-47s. I get lost in the math pretty quickly, but I'm impressed (in much the same way my dog is impressed with my garage door opener).

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