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Thursday, September 09, 2004

More about Captain George Elliott, from one who knows him personally

The first major attempt at character assassination of a SwiftVet by the mainstream media was directed at Captain George Elliott by Boston Globe reporter Michael Kranish on August 6th.  When I saw Kranish's article and Captain Elliott's two affidavits — pre- and post-smear — I knew almost to a certainty what Kranish had done, and how he did it.  Kranish used an old and at best marginally ethical lawyer trick that, ironically, only works on witnesses who are extremely conscientious about telling the truth.  Three of my first four SwiftVets posts (here, here, and here) explained why and how Kranish manufactured a bogus scoop by painting an honest man as being either a liar or a fool.

If there's a circle in hell for cruel and unethical journalists, Michael Kranish deserves to spend some serious time there someday.

Since being burned by Kranish, Captain Elliott has understandably stayed out of the public limelight.  But  John O'Neill, in various interviews, has pretty much confirmed that my inferences were accurate.

Now, as it happens, National Review Online contributing editor Michael Novak is a neighbor of Captain Elliott's, and he's written a bit about the man, and a bit about why Captain Elliott and other SwiftVets had occasion to revise their opinions of Sen. John Kerry:

One of the most important of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth turns out to be a neighbor of mine, and so I've been lucky enough to have a few chats with him this summer. Captain George Elliott is a graduate of Annapolis, his back is still straight, and he deeply loves and honors the United States Navy. I want to keep what we talk about off the record, so as to not mix friendship with work. But there is one point I've learned from him that is so important to the ongoing debate, especially on the Kerry side (that is, the Big Media side), that I asked his permission to present it in public.

In recent days, I've heard at least three Kerry-supporting journalists say that the story of the Swift Boat Vets is crumbling. That certainly surprised me, so I listened carefully. One of the three or four instances they glancingly cited concerned Captain Elliott's testimony on behalf of Kerry in the Senate campaign of 1996.

They have missed an absolutely crucial point. In 1996, Kerry was being accused by a journalist of having committed war crimes. Captain Elliott and others hated this charge with regard to anything that occurred under their command, and so, putting out of mind Kerry's use of the same charge in 1971 against them and their fellows in Vietnam, these good men were willing to go to Boston "to defend the honor of the U.S. Navy," this time in the person of John Kerry. Thus, Captain Elliott's support of Kerry in 1996 does not contradict the criticism he makes now. And he is far from backing down in his support for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. He is painfully truthful himself, and is scrupulous in choosing his words.

That much I quote from Captain Elliott. What comes next is my own.

Close followers of this debate will know that the paperwork describing the actions on which Kerry's Silver and Bronze Stars were originally based came from Lieutenant (j.g.) Kerry's reports, passed up until they came to Captain Elliott. The Navy system is based on the honor code.

Only when they read the accounts published in the campaign biographies by Douglas Brinkley and a team from the Boston Globe did Kerry's superiors and peers, including Captain Elliott, come to see how widely Kerry's perception and self-serving descriptions differed from reality. Beginning then, they started to reevaluate everything they had heard from him back then. The man presented in those books was not the man they knew, and the events were not the events they knew. In wartime, one must trust one's mates. After they saw those books, they saw what Kerry reported to them then in a new light.

I infer that Captain Elliott and others in 1969 took on trust some reports from Kerry, reports they can no longer consider as truthful as they thought them before.

I recommend Mr. Novak's entire column, which includes additional remarks about the SwiftVets vs. Kerry controversy and an eloquent placing into context of the latest casualty figures from Iraq.

Posted by Beldar at 02:15 AM in Law (2006 & earlier), Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink


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(1) jack risko made the following comment | Sep 9, 2004 11:29:33 AM | Permalink

Sir: I have a slightly different take on the unethical behavior of Kranish in his conversation with Elliott, based on Kranish's own biography of Kerry:

Unethical Entrapment in the Kranish Interview of Elliott, and Condoning It at the Boston Globe???

Filed under: General — Jack Risko @ 12:09 pm on 8/7/2004

When Michael Kranish interviewed George Elliott the other day, he knew from his own book that John Kerry shot the fleeing VC in the back. From Kranish et al (p. 102):

Kerry followed and fired, killing the man. “I don’t have a second question about that, and neither does anybody who was with me,” Kerry recalled of his decision to shoot. “He was running away with a live B-40, and I thought, poised to turn around and fire it.”

This is clearly true despite Kerry’s attempt – in the next sentences! – to deny the description he just gave:

Asked whether that meant Kerry shot the guerrilla in the back, Kerry said, “No, absolutely not. He was hurt. Other guys were shooting from back, side, back. There is not a scintilla of question in any person’s mind who was there [that] this guy was dangerous. He was a combatant, he had an armed weapon.”

So what happened in the Kranish interview of Elliott? Could Kranish have said to Elliott that he didn’t think at the time back in Vietnam that Kerry had shot the man in the back. No, perhaps Elliott said, I didn’t think so at the time. Do you know that Kerry has categorically denied shooting the man in the back, Kranish could have asked. Does that change your opinion, Mr. Elliott? And perhaps that is how this odd phrasing of Elliott’s came into being:

‘’I still don’t think he shot the guy in the back,” Elliott said.

Had it occurred, this questioning would have been completely unethical, since Kranish knew Kerry’s description of the incident, which is he shot a guy who was running away because he feared the guy would turn around and fire, i.e., Kerry shot the guy in the back, despite trying to fuzz it up later. Maybe Kranish didn’t do it this way, and maybe we’ll see a transcript of the conversation to find out what happened. We hope so. However, if it happened in the hypothetical way above, it is shoddy, unethical journalism and worse editing, intended solely to trip a man up, not to arrive at truth.

(2) Kevin P. McGarry made the following comment | Sep 23, 2004 3:01:54 PM | Permalink

I did not know Captain Elliott at the time of Vietnam. However, I served under him aboard the USS Samuel Gompers. As my CO, I had the unfortunate chance to come under his srcutiny during a "Captains Mast". The Captian treated me fairly and with real compassion. There is no doubt that Captian George Elliott is an honorable and upstanding Ex-Naval Officer. I would serve with and for him anytime. As far as I am concerned, his charector is impecable!

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