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Saturday, September 11, 2004

On 9/11/01 plus three, I worry about John Kerry's short memory

Shortly before last year's anniversary of the 9/11 attack, I wrote a post entitled "Debriedment," which is a fairly obscure medical term for an extremely painful process that severe burn victims undergo on their long paths toward healing.  This time last year, I was angry that on the second anniversary of 9/11, so many Americans seemed to be shushing their fellow citizens who were actively reminding them of the horrors of 9/11.

This morning I awoke suddenly, from a sound and much-needed sleep, at about the same time when, three years ago, the first plane hit the World Trade Center.  And I spent about an hour reviewing old news reports, blog entries, photographs and video clips, and so forth on the internet.  I tried to take stock, to see how I feel today about 9/11, and to compare that to how I've felt on the two previous anniversaries.

I concluded that for myself, at least, what's faded — or perhaps "healed" — has been the element of shock and surprise.  My horror, and my anger and outrage and determination, have not.  I am satisfied with this, on a personal basis.  Three years ago, I vowed that I would not forget, ever; and three years hence, I have not forgotten.  Thus, on a personal basis as a simple citizen, have I marked this anniversary of our greatest national tragedy in my lifetime.

But my reaction to this year's anniversary is also very much influenced by the fact that this is a presidential election year.  And so I write today on the subjects of memory and judgment over a period of three years, and what inferences we can draw on those subjects with respect to one of our presidential candidates.

*******

A few weeks ago, I read Doug Brinkley's description in Tour of Duty (pp. 117-24) about the few days John Kerry spent, back in 1968 before his Swift Boats service began, in the SERE training course — survival, evasion, resistance, and escape — designed to help him appreciate, and to prepare him for, the prospect of being hunted behind enemy lines and then made a prisoner of war.  This training is brutal, and designedly so.  My best friend from college underwent the SERE training as an Air Force pilot, and he told me that the only thing which enabled him to get through it without breaking, without cracking up and going catatonic, was the knowledge that it was, indeed, training and that he wasn't really a prisoner of war.  It was a very convincing bit of play-acting; but he knew he wasn't going to be maimed or executed, and one way or another, pass or fail, he knew it would end with him being free again.  For him, however, the training had its intended life-long effect.

As Brinkley describes it, Kerry's SERE training had a powerful effect on him.  It made as great an impression upon Kerry as military imagination and ingenuity could devise, short of actually handing him over to the North Vietnamese.  Here's part of what Brinkley relates about the training (at page 123; boldface mine):

A hood was placed over Kerry's head and he was ordered into a room for a private interview where the "big four" responses were name, rank, serial number, and, "I'm sorry, but my country will not allow me to tell you that."  The verbal drilling started in earnest and Kerry refused to speak.  After it was clear he wasn't going to cooperate, and once he had made the mistake of smirking again, he was punched in the face.  "I have never in all my life been hit as hard as that and for a moment I just glared straight ahead and tried to pull the senses back into their proper places," he wrote.  This went on for an hour with Kerry forced to do knee squats and push-ups.  "I started to do the push-ups but would not count them out loud," Kerry noted.  "We had been warned of this trick.  They make you count them and when you say ten or twelve or whatever push-up you are on they record your voice.  Later you hear a tape that asks the question: 'How many people's soldiers have you killed' and your voice answers on the tape 'ten' or 'twelve' or whatever number they chose to dub in.  Finally, again, I collapsed exhausted."

And yet:  Just under three years after his SERE training, in April 1971 John Kerry gave his infamous testimony to the  Senate Committee on Foreign Relations chaired by Sen. Fulbright.  And there — uncoerced, and indeed eagerly performing before TV cameras and the eyes of the world — Kerry gave testimony of a sort that he had to know would be seized upon and used in the mental torture of American POWs still in North Vietnamese hands:  Testimony of "war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."  Testimony vastly more damning and useful to the enemy than some numeral stripped out of context and dubbed into a phonied-up tape recording, because indeed Kerry's sworn and unforced testimony wouldn't have to be stripped out of context to be used by the enemy. 

And so it was used by the enemy.  As ex-POW Paul Galanti recounts in the second SwiftVets ad, John Kerry "gave the enemy for free what I and many of my comrades in North Vietnam, in the prison camps, took torture to avoid saying."  As ex-POW wounded-in-action Vietnam vet Joe Ponder said in that ad, "The accusations that John Kerry made against the veterans who served in Vietnam [were] just devastating.  And it hurt me more than any physical wounds I had."

*******

On September 11, 2001, America was punched in the face — a sucker punch harder than we'd ever been hit before in all our collective lives — harder even than Pearl Harbor, which at least had been directed at a military target, and which caused fewer American deaths.  As a country, we glared straight ahead and tried to pull the senses back in their proper places.

Three years after 9/11/01, it is clear to every American, and to the world, that our President hasn't forgotten that punch in the face, or what it meant.  It transformed him and his presidency, and has guided his every judgment and decision thereafter as our Commander in Chief.

But from his personal history between 1968 and 1971, I have serious doubts that Sen. Kerry has comparable powers of memory and judgment.

Posted by Beldar at 05:52 PM in Current Affairs, Global War on Terror, SwiftVets | Permalink

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Comments

(1) Charles made the following comment | Sep 11, 2004 7:14:58 PM | Permalink

An awesome Blog and this post is so True.

America CANNOT SURVIVE a Kerry Presidency.

(2) Dan S made the following comment | Sep 11, 2004 9:38:51 PM | Permalink

I had similar thoughts on reading that SERE section, Beldar.

He actually showed some real sense in getting to the pole (though why he didn't "kill" that guy who he says passed within touching range is beyond me!), but not so much that he saw what was coming beyond that.

But that training never seems to have connected for him. He never grasped viscerally the why of it. I really don't think he imagined the half of what the POWs went through. Either that or he felt they somehow deserved it. It's really hard to imagine how his refined mind works. (sarcasm alert!)

(3) Rachelins made the following comment | Sep 11, 2004 10:27:53 PM | Permalink

I downloaded "The New Soldier: John Kerry and the VVAW" and found the story of a Mrs. Virginia Warner. (www.wintersoldier.com) She is the mother of Jim Warner, who is part of the "Stolen Valor" movie/video (?) As I read her letter I wondered what was happening to her son (who was still a POW). I googled and found the account that he was confronted by his captors and shown his mother's testimony as well as John Kerry's. I also didn't know about the SERE training that Kerry went through. He must have known what he was doing to those POW's. Obviously, Mrs. Warner was taken in by the Wintersoldiers and the Anti-Vietnam talk and her sole purpose was trying to get her son back - but John Kerry, as a Naval offier, should have known better. What makes anyone think his judgment is any better today?

(4) Sue Bob made the following comment | Sep 11, 2004 10:54:21 PM | Permalink

I am convinced that John Kerry is totally bereft of the ability to empathize with others. He simply cannot see other individuals because his vast ambition is in the way.

Even before I knew he was supposed to be a war hero I read this about him: link

He is so blinded by ambition (and fear of losing the ultimate prize) that he is wholly incapable of even reacting in a situation which could have actually given him Hero credentials.

(5) Rachelins made the following comment | Sep 11, 2004 11:14:36 PM | Permalink

I just stumbled across a column by Robert Kagan in the Washington Post 8/1/04 in which explains
"The Kerry Doctrine." I think this is how Kerry really feels. He is a true isolationist, following in the footsteps of Jimmy Carter. This is why he had Carter back at the convention for the first time since he lost so badly. Read this column. It is truly scary that Kerry is in the running to be our President! link.

(6) Polaris made the following comment | Sep 11, 2004 11:32:40 PM | Permalink

Beldar and everyone,

Worry about a possible Kerry presidency...a LOT.

I just go this off the AP wire:

link

If this is what I think it is (a sucessful DPRK nuclear test), then we are looking at a second Korean War. Do you really trust Kerry to make the right decision?

-Polaris

(7) Ms Cat made the following comment | Sep 11, 2004 11:35:28 PM | Permalink

Thank you for writing this post!

John Kerry has proven over and over that what he lacks in integrity and trustworthiness, he more than makes up for in ambition and ego.

There is no possible way that he could have NOT known how his words and actions would be used by the North Vietnamese.

I sincerely hope that "what goes around, comes around" proves true... and that when it does, it bites him where it will hurt the most and the longest. And that still won't be enough.

(8) Davod made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 4:54:29 AM | Permalink

I wonder about everything that is written about Kerry, especially if it comes from his biographer. I cannot believe he forgot his training so quickly that he would put the POWs in jeopardy by his rantings.

Did Kerry really attend the SERE training. Do we have witnesses.

SERE training has been written about in the past. Any chance of a plagarism check?

(9) Ronald Proby made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 9:50:24 AM | Permalink

So much of the political support that dangerously self-absorbed, Louis XIV type, 'entitled' pols like Kerry know they can count on would dissappear over night with two simple mods to the rules: 1) term limits for Congress and 2) a line item veto for the Whitehouse. If the Muslims are stupid enough to attack the US mainland again Uncle Sam might just get enough honest men in Congress to pass these mods. We were close in 94-96.

(10) Beldar made the following comment | Sep 12, 2004 2:43:51 PM | Permalink

A sharp-eyed emailer pointed out to me that Joe Ponder was identified in the SwiftVets ad as wounded in action, rather than an ex-POW, so I've made that change in my original post.

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