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Saturday, August 21, 2004

WaPo's beginning to find the meat!

Washington Post staff writers Josh White and Brian Faler today bring us a front-page article entitled "Some Veterans Still Bitter at Talk of Crimes: Senator's Activism Made A Lasting Impression."  (Hat-tip to InstaPundit.)

Although the latter half of the article repeats — in case you've missed it — the sensational (and manifestly false) disclosure that "At the behest of the Nixon White House in 1971, O'Neill debated Kerry on television about the war" and other such references to the evil Republicans who must be manipulating the SwiftVets' leadership, most of the article is actually quite refreshing, and indeed something that hasn't been reported in the mainstream media.  For example:

William Ferris was confined to a bed in a military hospital, his severed sciatic nerve reminding him of the attack on his Navy Swift boat in a Vietnamese river. A shot from a recoilless rifle had pierced the boat's pilothouse and then Ferris's body, leaving him in constant agony.

But it was what appeared on Ferris's television that really pained him. John F. Kerry, a decorated fellow Swift boat driver, was testifying before Congress about atrocities in Vietnam, throwing his medals away, speaking at antiwar rallies. Ferris, who was trying to rehabilitate himself back to active duty, felt betrayed.
"I was livid," Ferris, 57, of Long Island, N.Y., said yesterday, recalling how his dislike for the presidential candidate began in the early 1970s. "I said to myself at the time, this is someone who is using his experience for his own purposes, and this was long before he ever ran for office. I thought he was using, actually manipulating, what he had done in Vietnam. Just like he's doing now."

Ferris is one of 250 Swift boat veterans who in May signed an open letter to the Massachusetts senator asking for full disclosure of his military records, specifically focusing on events during a four-month tour in Vietnam for which Kerry was awarded medals for bravery in combat. The veterans group — Swift Boat Veterans for Truth — has criticized Kerry for using his military experience as a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, arguing that the Democrat has exaggerated his experiences at war for political gain.

This statement may, or may not, be correct:

Unlike casual participants, the most committed members say they are driven by desire to expose Kerry as a fraud who doctored his record to win medals and an early release from Vietnam. But they are a minority in the larger group.

To the extent that it is correct, this assertion completely misses the dynamic of what's happening, even though that dynamic fairly drips from other quotes from vets whose first reason for being concerned about Sen. Kerry's candidacy arose from resentment and bitterness over his post-combat antiwar activism.

To anyone who's watched this controversy evolve, it's blindingly obvious that most members of the SwiftVets — whether "casual" members or its leadership — have only begun to learn the full details of Sen. Kerry's combat service and decorations fairly recently, as Candidate Kerry and his "Band of Brothers" have begun to trumpet them on a national stage.

Many of the veterans who took offense at Kerry being portrayed as a "war criminal" in his 1996 Senate re-election campaign, for example, and spoke out in his defense then, have only learned since the beginning of 2004 of the details behind that combat service and those decorations.  Ironically, in large part it's been the Kerry camp's own revelations that have changed the opinions of those who the WaPo now characterizes as the ring-leaders. 

Captain George Elliott, for example, had duly believed, based most probably on an after-action report that Kerry himself had authored, that Kerry fully merited the Silver Star for which Elliott had recommended him — until Elliott learned from Kerry hagiographer Douglas Brinkley's 2004 book that instead of charging ashore into a concentrated enemy force under heavy fire, Kerry had actually pursued and dispatched a single, wounded fleeing Viet Cong soldier.  The mainstream media, prompted by the Kerry camp, has insisted that Captain Elliott's changed opinion means he's untrustworthy and a liar, but the fact of the matter is that Captain Elliott is simply ahead of the mainstream media on the learning curve.

Americans who have looked carefully at the SwiftVets charges regarding Kerry's combat service and decorations are likewise far ahead of the mainstream media on that learning curve.  But today's WaPo article is encouraging to me because it begins to suggest that at least some members of the mainstream media are capable of looking beyond the Kerry camp's talking points.  Maybe they'll catch up to their own readers.  Let's hope so.

Posted by Beldar at 02:05 PM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to WaPo's beginning to find the meat! and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) M. Simon made the following comment | Aug 22, 2004 8:25:53 AM | Permalink

Check out this WaPo piece on the 13 March '69 action.

They have Alston as the gunner:
Wa Po scroll down

Also go here for more critique. Intermixed with WaPo critique:

Hello CQ


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

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