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Saturday, October 16, 2004

Koppel vs. O'Neill: Nightline goes to Vietnam

I'm late in blogging about ABC News' "Nightline" segment this week on Kerry's Silver Star.  Despite helpful heads-ups from several emailers, I missed all but the tail end of the broadcast — Koppel's verbal firefight with John O'Neill — because I was watching the Astros lose.  However, I've read more than a dozen blog posts from both left- and right-leaning blogs — including Captain's Quarters, Tom Maguire, INDC Journal, Wizbang!, Patterico, PrestoPundit, Demosophia, Watcher of Weasels, Andrew Sullivan, Kevin Drum, Josh Marshall, and Linkmeister —  and the ABC News websight's version and John O'Neill's statement on the SwiftVets' website.  (If someone has a link to the full video somewhere, I'd appreciate a link.)

I don't fault, but rather commend, ABC News for attempting to do some original investigative journalism "on the scene."  But at least two initial points about that need to be emphasized. 

  • Most importantly, while ABC News invested a great deal of time and money going to Vietnam, they've failed to exhaust, plumb, or even scratch the surface of trying to do any investigative reporting here in the United States.  It's not only that they've failed to interview pro-SwiftVets eyewitnesses, but also that they've also failed to interview pro-Kerry eyewitnesses — and no one, from either side of the debate, can seriously defend their failure to do that.  Indeed, they failed to review, summarize, or even reference what others have reported — including, notably, the eyewitness account given by their fellow mainstream media source, Chicago Tribune editor William B. Rood — and that's simply inexcusably sloppy.
  • Next, ABC News made only passing and oblique references to the fact that their reporting from Vietnam was done at the pleasure of, through cooperation with, and subject to deliberately injected bias from, the Vietnamese government — indeed, with a "watcher" on the scene from that government who had the power to reward or retaliate against the individuals whom they interviewed.  John O'Neill's protests to Ted Koppel that ABC News' interviews took place in a "closed society" were way too mild.  The totalitarian government of Vietnam has a direct stake in the outcome of the upcoming U.S. presidential election:  Not only was John Kerry, their candidate of choice, the leading U.S. critic of America's participation in the war among all U.S. combat veterans, but he also has been, as a senator, the leading proponent of normalization and increased trade ties with Vietnam in the post-war era.  The North Vietnamese (with guidance from, and in cooperation with, the KGB) were incredibly clever at exploiting American anti-war sentiment — they got America out of Vietnam by using useful fools like John Kerry in the first place.  It's unfortunately not metaphoric to describe ABC News' interviewees — the supposedly disinterested peasants described so enthusiastically by Koppel — as "testifying at gunpoint."  That doesn't necessarily mean they were lying, but any remotely fairminded journalistic effort should have carefully considered that situation — and should have reported clearly on the bias it very likely injected into their efforts.

That noted, my main reaction to the ABC News reporting is one of continuing, mouth-foaming frustration.  ABC News made only the most clumsy efforts at doing what every lawyer is required to do for every single witness who testifies in court, and what every reporter should likewise do before reporting a purported witness' story:  laying a foundation to show personal knowledge.  ABC News' apparent standard:  If the government minder let them talk to someone who appeared to be ethnically Vietnamese and was within range of their cameras and microphones, then each such person's claim to have personal knowledge was accepted as gospel.  Yes, of course it's difficult — it requires persistence — to separately qualify each such witness.  But the facts that the events occurred long ago, that they took place during combat, that there are language barriers, that there is a government watcher present — all these factors counsel more careful qualification of the purported eyewitnesses, not less.

By every previous account — except the abbreviated ones in Kerry's Silver Star citation — there were two separate locations involved.  In the ABC News website version, there's but a single, fleeting reference to that critical fact.  At the initial, main ambush location, the Swift Boats offloaded dozens and dozens of Ruff Puff infantry to chase down and kill the enemy who were present, and the Swift Boats themselves expended an enormous amount of lethal ordnance.  That's where the enemy KIAs — other than Kerry's single prey — were reported.  It's extremely doubtful that even at that location, the American and South Vietnamese forces faced a numerically superior enemy or overwhelming incoming fire.  But unless every American eyewitness is lying through his teeth, at the second location — the only location where Kerry did anything arguably more valorous than what every man jack aboard every one of the (undecorated) officers and crew of the Swift Boats did — there were fewer enemy soldiers and considerably less enemy fire.  How many fewer enemy and how much less fire?  The ABC News reporting shed essentially no light on that subject because either through sloppy reporting or willful conflation, it didn't make the critical distinctions necessary to draw meaningful conclusions.

Andrew Sullivan calls this an "excellent reporting job."  Mr. Sullivan, other than the fact that it was done in a far-off country, can you point to a single aspect of this reporting that was "excellent," or even minimally competent?

Time-lines.  Maps and diagrams.  Lists of individual witnesses, thoroughly annotated to show their opportunities to observe, their qualifications to appreciate what was happening, and their possible biases.  Physical evidence (or reports thereof, like boat damage reports, ordnance expenditures).  If you're going to make any credible effort to "pierce the fog of war," that's how you have to go about it.  Compare, for example, the care and detail that's gone into reconstructions of what happened at Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963 — not just in the years since, but in the days after.  Compare, for that matter, the kind of investigation that Hollywood writers dream up for any average episode of "Dragnet" or "CSI: Miami" or "Law and Order."  By any serious or responsible standard — journalistic standards, much less courtroom standards — this bit of reporting was a shallow, ridiculous joke of an effort. 

It makes me nauseous to think that an American presidential election might be influenced by such ham-handed hackery.  Any principled and half-competent cub reporter, any first-year law student, any backcountry magistrate, would be ashamed to turn in such an effort.

Posted by Beldar at 02:34 AM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Koppel vs. O'Neill: Nightline goes to Vietnam and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» The tragedy of the MSM from Politicalities

Tracked on Oct 16, 2004 3:59:05 AM

» Nightline attacks the Swiftvets from Media Lies

Tracked on Oct 16, 2004 8:08:21 PM

» BILL DYER VS. TED KOPPEL -- from PRESTOPUNDIT -- "It's a team sport, baby!"

Tracked on Oct 17, 2004 12:47:36 AM


(1) ronb made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 4:04:54 AM | Permalink

Could you please comment on the conclusions which ABC drew?

They seem to have come up with two gotchas:

a) The person Kerry shot was not a "teenager in a loincloth" and

b) There was heavy enemy fire.

Even if we assume these witnesses were present at the second incident, to what extent do you think this account contradicts the swiftvets' claims?

(2) Roundguy made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 4:17:02 AM | Permalink

This is neither here nor there, but in reading the transcripted version (I don't watch TV much) there was something that stood out to me. In earlier accounts of Kerry's heroics that day in Vietnam, it has been fairly well established that Kerry, after beaching his craft, chased someone into the jungle and shot him. He then recovered an unspent rocket round.

Reading the account given by the locals, and knowing how Kerry "heroicly" accomplished his citations, it seems plausible, if not accurate to conclude that the man Kerry "courageously chased", was in all likelihood dead. Kerry picked up the unused rocket and said he killed the guy running away.

There is nothing in Kerry's life that can convince me he ever, not once, took someone else's life. Even in combat. I've read all I can get my hands on about his Vietnam service and find nothing but a Walter Mitty biding his time to get out as quickly and unscathed as possible. I could go on for a lot longer on this topic but I'll cut it short for Beldar's bandwidth.

(3) Voice of Reason made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 4:22:51 AM | Permalink

I don't think the Silver Star allegations are anywhere near the most serious raised by the Swift Boat Vets anyway. I agree with this Washington Times Op-Ed that the story of his first Purple Heart is far more compelling... and more easily investigated, too, if the media would do its job.

(4) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 5:28:07 AM | Permalink

Ronb, the "loincloth/teenager" point is an absolute red herring. As O'Neill tried to point out (when Koppel wasn't talking over him), that description did not originate with the SwiftVets. It came directly, word-for-word, from the Boston Globe's reporting during Kerry 1996 re-election campaign, as repeated during the Globe's 2003 series of articles on Kerry's candidacy and in the Kranish biography. The SwiftVets have never argued that what the enemy soldier was wearing, or his age, is material. Nor for that matter have they seriously faulted Kerry if he shot the guy in the back as he was fleeing.

Moreover, the Swift Vets have never denied that there was significant enemy fire in the first ambush site — although one can seriously doubt that it was "overwhelming" given the combined firepower of three Swift Boats and the several dozen Ruff Puffs they offloaded. Remember, although essentially unarmored, each Swift Boat packed a punch: Twin .50-caliber machine guns in the top turret, an M-60 machine gun on the bow, a combined .50-caliber/81-mm mortar (equivalent to a 5-inch naval gun) on the stern, plus other small arms (M-16s) from the rest of the crew. They also had overwhelming air support available by radio. The VC's typical ambush tactic was to use a command-detonated mine and plink off a few RPGs at the boats, then to either beat feet or drop down into their spider-hole/tunnel systems to get the hell out of Dodge. Per Rood's account, the change in tactics that day was to respond to the ambush not by running, but by turning, fighting, and dumping the infantry ashore to pursue. The strategy was agreed upon among all three Swift Boat skippers, and although Kerry was the Officer in Tactical Command among them, nothing he personally did at the first ambush site was any braver or more valorous than what any of the other Swift Boat officers and crew did.

My point is that as best I can tell, the ABC News report added nothing of any value on the question of how many VC were at the second ambush site, where even by previous pro-Kerry accounts, there were fewer enemy and less incoming fire. Re-read Rood's account, and ask yourself whether the Navy guys like him would have stormed ashore at the second site in the face of numerically superior odds and overwhelming enemy fire. Look for any references, for example, to being "pinned down by enemy fire," or having to take cover; you won't find them. The second site was a side-show; Kerry chased down one guy, who was already wounded. There's nothing wrong with that — it was consistent with his duty, albeit a questionable decision for him, as a skipper, to leave his own boat to do so, but let's give him full benefit of the doubt on that score (as Captain Elliott did at the time).

Still, nothing in the ABC News reporting, as best I understand it, refutes the specific allegation of the SwiftVets, which is (and has always been) that chasing down and killing a single wounded soldier isn't Silver Star-type heroism. Rood, who shot nobody on his own short trip ashore, also got a Bronze Star for the day. The American advisor with the Ruff Puffs, who faced more enemy and heavier fire at the first ambush site, got a lower-level medal. The late Don Droz (killed in a later action), whose Swift Boat stayed at the first ambush site, got no medal at all.

(5) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 5:53:52 AM | Permalink

Voice, I tend to agree with you that of all the medals in dispute, the Silver Star involves the biggest and most subjective judgment call. He almost certainly benefited from Adm. Zumwalt's understandable eagerness to pin some medals on some Navy chests — "impact awards" for purposes of morale and PR — as part of Operation SEALORDS. Adm. Zumwalt has in fact been quoted as saying that he wanted to award Kerry with the Navy Cross but didn't have discretion to do so on his own; but remember that Zumwalt was acting on the basis of an after-action report that conflated the two sites and made it appear as if Kerry'd led a shore assault against a numerically superior enemy in the face of overwhelming fire. Kerry and all the Swiftees deserved an "attaboy-well done!" Perhaps, as O'Neill said last night, some medal recognition — something less than a Silver Star — was appropriate.

The mainstream media, though, doesn't seem to be capable of distinguishing, as you have, between the SwiftVets' various claims.

  • The first PH was absolutely unjustified — trivial injury, no showing by anyone (including Kerry's supporters) that Kerry's wounds were the result of enemy action, a missing paper trail, positive testimony by Kerry's CO that he'd refused to put Kerry in for the medal.
  • The third PH and the Bronze Star are in a middle category. There was a mine detonation under another boat; there may or may not have been other incoming enemy fire, depending on which eyewitness accounts you credit; Kerry had a trivial butt wound that certainly wasn't caused by enemy action, and a bruised arm that arguably was. If there wasn't incoming enemy fire, then he was at more risk when he rescued Licorice the Unlucky Hamster; if there was incoming enemy fire, then he was at the same risk as everyone else who didn't get a Bronze Star, without having performed the heroic rescue efforts for PCF 3 and its crew for which Thurlow was awarded his Bronze Star.
  • The Silver Star represents Kerry's arguably most valorous action, but is still questionable.
  • And the SwiftVets haven't challenged the second PH at all.

But the mainstream media persists in trying to treat the SwiftVets' allegations as having equally challenged all five of Kerry's medals. Thus you still see the NYT arguing about the shrapnel in Kerry's leg (2nd PH) as if it refuted the SwiftVets' allegations, and Nick Kristof unable to keep straight the Bronze and Silver Star allegations.

I would bet a thousand dollars that without notes, Ted Koppel couldn't name Kerry's medals and the dates of the action for which he received them. Yet he's convinced that he's "debunked" the SwiftVets' claims. It's unexcusably shallow and shoddy — it's lazy, disingenuous, and explicable only by partisan bias.

(6) ncoic6 made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 7:21:38 AM | Permalink


O'Neill at Swift Boat site has posted a letter following his appearance on Nightline in which he states (among other things) that this was the "third" time that ABC/Nightline had done a piece on the Kerry/Silver Star controversy. I know that an earlier piece was done on June 24, 2004 (in which Alston claimed that he was the tub gunner on PCF 94 in that action.) Do you know when the other ABC/Nightline report took place?

(7) Todd made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 8:47:07 AM | Permalink

Excellent points, Bill. I thought the whole report was shockingly one-sided and that no one who wasn't familiar with the controversy could understand exactly what the point of the report was, other than that, as my cousin Vinny would say, "Everything that guy [John O'Neill] said is B.S."

But there's a segment of the Loony Left that doesn't know anything much about the Swift Vets, but is gleeful at any purported debunking. Here's an example from the personal blog of Will Carroll, a baseball writer who's been spending a lot of time blogging about politics but who really should stick to his day job:


Scroll down to see the post entitled "Raw." His comments are in the second paragraph, which for some reason I couldn't cut and paste here. Will's comments seem to me to be pretty typical of liberals on this issue.

(8) Bruce Kesler made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 8:57:48 AM | Permalink

Déjà Vu All Over Again!: Anti-Kerry Swiftees Again Called Upon to Defend Kerry
ABC’s Nightline Targets O’Neill to Answer For Kerry and his Biographers
By Bruce Kesler

Kerry’s Silver Star citation refers to his brave action against a “superior force”. However, Kerry is quoted by friendly biographer Douglas Brinkley as saying he chased and killed one lone VC. John O’Neill’s “Unfit For Command”, based on Brinkley’s “Tour of Duty”, questions the Silver Star. Nightline’s VC say there were 20 VC, who ran leaving the one VC with the B-40 rocket launcher. There were 3 swift boats, with a combined 50 or so Americans and PF’s. Either way, 50 vs 20 or vs 1, O’Neill is correct to question the Silver Star. Nightline should have had Kerry or Brinkley on show to answer for the Silver Star discrepancy, not O’Neill.

In 1996, during Senator John Kerry’s senatorial campaign, Admiral Zumwalt, along with Captain Adrian Lonsdale and Captain George Elliott who are now active members of the anti-Kerry Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, defended John Kerry. A newsman had attacked Kerry for a war crime in shooting a Viet Cong in the back in the incident involved in Kerry’s Silver Star.

Zumwalt, Lonsdale and Elliott did not support Kerry’s politics, but were outraged at the Navy and America being smeared. As Elliott made clear in his remarks at the Boston Navy Yard, “I am not here to support Senator Kerry; I am here to support Lt. Kerry.” They said it was not a war crime, but a defensible act in war. Today, in the anti-Kerry Swiftees’ “Unfit For Command”, Kerry’s dispatching of that VC is not treated as outside of the rules of war.

Immediately after the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth ran their first TV ad, which included George Elliott, the Swiftees’ charges were reported by those supporting Kerry for president as undercut by Elliott having defended Kerry in 1996. Elliott was actually defending the U.S. Navy and America against war crimes charges rather than supporting Kerry’s politics.

On October 14, 2004, ABC’s Nightline featured interviews with Vietnamese who say they witnessed the incident on February 28, 1969 for which John Kerry was awarded the Silver Star. These Vietnamese say that a group of about 20 Viet Cong shot at Kerry’s and other’s boats in the two phases of the incident that day. Fire was returned. The VC ran. The Vietnamese on Nightline say they did not see how their compatriot, with the B-40 rocket launcher, was killed in the second phase of the encounter. This is the VC whom according to all American accounts Kerry killed.

Nightline’s Ted Koppel then argued with John O’Neill regarding the Nightline report. O’Neill is the leading spokesman for Swift Boat Veterans For Truth and co-author of “Unfit For Command”.

Koppel focused on why O’Neill’s description of the Silver Star event differed from that of Nightline’s Vietnamese. In effect, O’Neill was being held accountable for John Kerry’s and his friendly biographers’ account of the incident.

One of Nightline’s Vietnamese said of the B-40 bearer “He wore a black pajama. He was strong. He was big and strong. He was about 26 or 27.” In “Unfit For Command”, O’Neill describes him as “a young Viet Cong in a loincloth” and in the next paragraph as a “teenage enemy”.

O’Neill’s section of “Unfit For Command” about the Silver Star incident comes from an article by Michael Kranish in the Boston Globe (June 16, 2003) based on Kranish’s interviews with Kerry and others at the scene, the Silver Star citation quoted in Douglas Brinkley’s “Tour of Duty” written in cooperation with John Kerry, and from statements made by Kerry crewmembers on an earlier ABC Nightline program (June 24, 2004). Kranish wrote about the incident, “Out of the bush appeared a teenager in a loin cloth, clutching a grenade launcher,” the description that O’Neill repeated in “Unfit For Command”.

This incident was the second part of an encounter that began shortly before. The three swift boats were carrying several U.S. Army advisors and about 30 South Vietnamese Popular Forces (PF) troops. When fired upon from the shore, the boats charged the shore, firing. Another swift boat beached first, and its advisor and PF’s chased the VC. According to Kerry crewmate Michael Madeiros diary upon which much of the Brinkley “Tour of Duty” on this episode is based, one VC was killed by fire from another swift boat. The PF’s and Army advisors fanned out, and as the advisors’ later Army award certificates state killed about 6-10 or more VC.

Meanwhile, Kerry’s boat proceeded upriver about 200 yards according to Madeiros-Brinkley, 800 yards according to Kerry’s Silver Star citation. According to Madeiros-Brnkley, a rocket was fired near the boat from the shore. Kerry’s boat again beached. According to Brinkley’s account, and Kranish’s, only the one VC described above was sighted, and dispatched. According to both friendly Kerry biographers, Brinkley and Kranish, the VC was wounded before Kerry’s boat hit the shore and he was fleeing when killed by Kerry. None of the Vietnamese in the Nightline report say they witnessed the killing of their comrade.

Kerry’s Silver Star citation says “the PCF [swift boat] gunners captured many enemy weapons in the first part of this incident. O’Neill writes that “the citation simply ignores the presence of the soldiers and advisors who actually ‘captured the many enemy weapons’ and routed the Viet Cong.” In the second part of the incident, following the killing of the one VC by Kerry, according to Brinkley Kerry’s crew found “everything from VC flags to American-made 20-mm shell casings [i.e., empty of explosive, but usable for booby-traps and other hostile purposes] and sewing machines of potentially nefarious intent.” The larger war material capture was in the first phase of that day’s incident, by the South Vietnamese PF’s.

O’Neill writes: “Commander George Elliott, who wrote up the initial draft of Kerry’s Silver Star citation, confirms that neither he nor anyone else in the Silver Star process that he knows realized before 1996 that Kerry was facing a single, wounded Viet Cong fleeing in a loincloth….Commander Elliott indicates that a Silver Star recommendation would not have been made by him had he been aware of the actual facts.”

According to Nightline’s Vietnamese, in the second phase of the incident: “She was only a couple hundred yards away when a swift boat turned and approached the shore, she said, adding that the boat was unleashing a barrage of gunfire as it approached.” This VC continues, “we ran.”

In short, Nightline’s Vietnamese witness supports the O’Neill contention, and kerry’s, that when Kerry went ashore, Kerry was just chasing the one wounded VC, whom Kerry killed.

So, what are we to conclude from this Nightline story, and Ted Koppel’s inviting John O’Neill to answer for it, and Ted Koppel’s arguing with O’Neill.

Almost every time O’Neill tried to raise the documented citations from the source material, as above, Koppel kept speaking over him to shut O’Neill down.

If Koppel wanted the source of any variance from the Vietnamese in accounts of Kerry’s involvement, Koppel should have invited and grilled John Kerry, Douglas Brinkley, Michael Kranish, or Mike Madeiros.

ABC Nightline’s Ted Koppel, it seems clear, wanted to embarrass John O’Neill and the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth. The ABC news article released before the Nightline show aired quoted O’Neill as saying in an August 2004 interview: “In the Silver Star incident, John Kerry’s citation reflects that he charged into a numerically superior force, and into intense fire. But the actual facts are that there was a single kid there who had fired a rocket, who popped up, and John Kerry with his gunboat, with or without a number of troops, depending on who you talk to, plopped in front of the kid. The kid was wounded in the legs by machine gun fire, and as he ran off, John Kerry jumped off the boat and shot the kid in the back.”

As O’Neill was finally able to wedge in on Nightline, quoting Kerry in “Tour of Duty”: “I could not help wondering what would have happened if, instead of one Viet Cong with the B-40, what if there had been three, five, or ten? He knew the answer of course.” Yet, Koppel kept insisting that the Nightline report somehow established there was a “superior force” of VC that Kerry charged. As quoted above, that force of about 20, already decimated by at least half by the first landing force, had already run away.

O’Neill asked why Koppel took the word of some unverified Vietnamese, in one of the most closed and authoritarian communist countries, over the reports of John Kerry, his biographers, and both the pro-Kerry and anti-Kerry swift boat veterans. Koppel did not respond.

Ted Koppel said to O’Neill that, “the citation for the Silver Star, itself, which talks precisely about a superior enemy force. You’re the one who raised questions about the superior enemy force.” O’Neill wasn’t given the chance to respond. But, as seen above, there were three swift boats, containing their crews, totaling about 18, plus three US Army advisors and about 30 South Vietnamese PF’s, against at most 20 Viet Cong at the start of the incident. That’s hardly a superior force.

As seen above, it was not O’Neill who should be embarrassed, or harassed by Ted Koppel. If anyone might be, and that is doubtful, it would be John Kerry and his friendly biographers. Basically, O’Neill’s narrative, based as it is on Kerry’s accounts, got closer to the truth than Kerry’s biographers, and certainly than Koppel’s Nightline or Koppel’s view that Nightline’s report was most valid.

At most, and subject to the suspect validity of the Vietnamese witnesses Koppel relies upon, Nightline may have added some “fog of war” to the incident. Ted Koppel’s treatment of the Nightline report and of John O’Neill, actually, should most embarrass ABC’s Nightline and Ted Koppel. Indeed, Koppel showed no intimacy with the source material on the incident he tried to lay at O’Neill’s doorstep.

Once again, one must wonder at what the mainstream media is trying to accomplish, the truth or the election. It’s, also, ironic, that the Swiftees are again called upon to defend Kerry.

(9) Carol Johnson made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 9:06:49 AM | Permalink


I agree with everything said in your excellent post...and want to add something of my own.

Once again, the "left" has show its utter contempt for our HONORABLE Vietnam Veterans, in favor of sympathy to the other side. John Kerry and his like have done this for over 30 years and believe me they haven't changed! In addition, I do NOT allow some so-called "news" organization to substitute their judgement for mine. This arrogance is beyond belief!!

As far as its being sloppy reporting, yes...but there is something far more sinister here. If we ever needed a reminder of what is at stake in this election, this is it.

It should tell you sommething, that I am more suspicious of the Democratic party and their sympathizers than I am of the French, German and Russian governments combined! At least, hopefully, we now know where they stand.

Thank you.

(10) Kalle (kafir forever) made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 10:26:13 AM | Permalink

I can add that having visited Vietnam earlier this year I have observed that the country is still a (failing) totalitarian dictatorship (it felt worse than the Eastern Europe countries I visited in the early 80s) with relentless anti-American propaganda all over the place.

Many people there will do anything for a Westerner's money. Anything. Even for a couple of dollars. Including lying and cheating.

That ABC should promote trust in the statement of unknown people who live in a dictatorship while ignoring reputable eyewitnesses available in the USA is in character with past Old Media behaviour towards the Soviet Union. To the Old Media, a communist's word is worth much more than an American's word (probably because they imagine that poor communists have no interest in lying, since they're such wonderfully selfless tools of the material forces of history).

(11) Linkmeister made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 12:23:47 PM | Permalink

You got any evidence that Kerry is Vietnam's "candidate of choice" other than your own assumptions?

(12) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 1:03:07 PM | Permalink

Linkmeister, it's an assumption, based on the history of the regime, its past ties to Kerry, his past antiwar protesting, his later work for normalization of diplomatic and commercial relations (which I generally applaud as being likely to enourage openness and commerce that in turn are eventually likely to lead to a less repressive regime and ultimately, one hopes, to democracy), and my conversations with three or four Vietnamese refugees who fled among the boat people and now live in Houston. (Houston has a very large and admirable community of such refugees, and they tend to be very opinionated on the subject of Sen. Kerry; I don't much trust polls, but the polling I've seen suggests that my own unscientific sampling is consistent with the widespread, albeit not monolithic, views of those Vietnamese-Americans.)

Although an assumption, I think mine is reasonable one. I wonder — do you have any evidence to the contrary, or a contrary logical argument from other facts?

I hasten to add that whether Sen. Kerry is or isn't the preferred candidate of the Vietnamese government, or the Syrian, Iranian, and North Korean governments — yes, those are assumptions too — isn't a particularly good reason in and of itself to vote against him. See, for example, my post from last March entitled "The reign in Spain; why a 'vote for Kerry' isn't a 'vote for bin Laden'; and why I'm glad Dubya didn't get into Texas Law School." The decision isn't one the American public can, or should, "outsource."

(13) perfectsense made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 2:54:54 PM | Permalink

1. Linkmeister: Kerry's picture proudly hangs in the Vietnamese war museum.

2. Another glaring issue the ABC Nightline whiz kids ignored: why has Kerry's citation for this silver star been reissued twice (for a total of three citations) and why does the citation's wording keep changing to make Kerry more heroic?

(14) Neo made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 3:45:30 PM | Permalink

I read the ABC New story about this. I think it out early in the day of the nightly broadcast, which I missed (as usual). It was mentioned in the online story that a Swiftboat vet with a camera man had come to Vietnam six months before ABC. Unfortunately it did not identify who that was. Some have assumed it was one of O’Neill's Swift Vets for Truth, but my first thought was that it was one of Kerry's buddies looking for campaign footage.
Has this item been clarified in any way ?

(15) Linkmeister made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 5:14:59 PM | Permalink

"Kerry's picture proudly hangs in the Vietnamese war museum."

Prove it. Show me a picture of it on a wall in that museum.

(16) Linkmeister made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 5:18:01 PM | Permalink

"it's an assumption." So you can't prove it. If I tell you that GWB's no doubt the preferred candidate for the Saudis and possibly OBL himself, since bin Laden couldn't have asked for a strategy from an American president more likely to turn the Islamic world against the US (his desired goal), would you believe that?

I doubt it.

(17) Neo made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 7:06:36 PM | Permalink

Linkmeister: you ask for it, you got it.

Vietnam veteran Bill Lupetti took this photograph of a display at a Ho Chi Minh City museum honoring war protesters.

(18) Fresh Air made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 7:45:37 PM | Permalink


Let's not forget Nightline interviewed Kerry supporter David Alston months earlier when he fraudulently claimed to have witnessed the Silver Star event. As anyone reading Captain's Quarters or Byron York knows, that was a physical impossibility since he was convalescing in the hospital at the time. Nightline is 0 for 2.

(19) antimedia made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 8:53:42 PM | Permalink

Linkmeister writes. ""it's an assumption." So you can't prove it. If I tell you that GWB's no doubt the preferred candidate for the Saudis and possibly OBL himself, since bin Laden couldn't have asked for a strategy from an American president more likely to turn the Islamic world against the US (his desired goal), would you believe that?

I doubt it."

Yes, and there would be a very good reason for that. Because it's not a reasonable assumption.

Beldar's assumption is reasonable because 1) Kerry is considered a war hero by the Vietnamese government (see the picture referenced above), 2) Kerry was instrumental in getting relations with the Vietnamese normalized, which they desparately needed for their failing economy, 3) Kerry has the full support of the US Communist Party (see their website - they didn't even bother to field a candidate in this election)

OTOH, your proposition requires that the Islamic world be "turned against the US" by President Bush's actions. 9/11 is but one of a multitude of prima facie cases that disprove the assumption. Need I cite the litany of American dead, beginning in 1972? Leon Klinghoffer, Charles Stinson, Locherbie, Lebanon, Khofer Towers, the USS Cole, etc., etc., etc.

(20) HH made the following comment | Oct 16, 2004 9:23:35 PM | Permalink


(21) Karl made the following comment | Oct 17, 2004 1:59:16 AM | Permalink

In my own blog, I just posted an extended comment on this piece. One thought had to do with the the similarities and differences between lawyers qualifying witnesses and journalists qualifying sources.

Similarities: Both need to do this. Both presumably learn how to do this during their training. Both use the same, or at least very similar techniques to do this.

Difference: Lawyers apparently qualify witnesses as a matter of course, and can't imagine anyone presenting a witness without first qualifying him or her. Journalists seem to be able to get away with not qualifying sources.

I bet one reason for the difference is that a lawyer who puts an unqualified witness on the stand will find that witnesses qualifications (or lack thereof) being carefully and thoroughly examined by opposing counsel. Who is the opposing counsel for a reporter?

Nowadays, it appears to be bloggers. Before bloggers, it appears there was none, and journalists were able to become lazy.

Now they're having to do the hard things they learned about in journalism school, and not surprisingly, many don't appreciate that.

(22) perfectsense made the following comment | Oct 17, 2004 2:42:03 AM | Permalink


I appreciate your comments. The Swiftboats have about 60 eyewitness affidavits backing up their story. Yet 99.9999% of the front page stories of the MSM are not supported by even one affidavit. In fact, many major stories attacking Bush and Republicans are based on unnamed sources (see CBS phony memos). Nevertheless, the MSM dismisses the Swiftboat story as “unsubstantiated” and runs wild with completely unsupported stories attacking Bush. Then the MSM crown themselves as "professionals."

(23) drjohn made the following comment | Oct 17, 2004 10:35:24 AM | Permalink

Letter I sent to Nightline on 10-15-04

Mr. Koppel

it was interesting watching you attempt to dismiss John O'Neill. I heard you say that the after action reports and the Navy citations support the assertion that there was a "numerically superior force" that Kerry faced on 28 Feb 1969.

In fact, the first version of the Silver Star citation makes no mention of a "numerically superior force." Neither does the second. It is only in the third version of the citation in which the enemy force miraculously expands. That the citations were twice re-written is itself an anomaly- which Nightline for some reason (wink, wink) saw as not important to report. It would be of considerable interest to know how the enemy force grew over time, as the third citation was re-issued (that's right, RE-issued, in 1985). They had to be re-issued for an undisclosed reason, which some assert was a less-than-honorable discharge.

You also made reference to the after-action reports of 28 Feb 1969 supporting the numerically superior force.

The Spot Report for 28 Feb 1969 reads this way-


There is no mention of a "numerically superior force." It was written in 1969 immedately after the incident. Where exactly did you get your information? It is incorrect. Neither the Spot Report nor the first two versions of the Silver Star citations make any mention of a "numerically superior force." Only in reports written, or rewritten, much later do any of these interesting little facts appear.

The after-action report on Kerry's own website reads: 28 FEB 1969 Bay Hap River
Three PCFs were traveling up the Bay Hap River with 70 South Vietnamese Militia investigating an area where the boats were ambushed the previous night. During the patrol, the boats came under heavy fire from the shore. Kerry, serving as the Officer in Tactical Command of the mission, ordered the units to turn toward the fire and beach. As the boats approached shore, more than 20 Viet Cong troops stood up and ran. They were quickly overrun when the Marines troops reached the shore. While the Militia searched the area, PCFs 23 and 94 left to investigate another site where an Army advisor reported gunshots. Returning from the site, a B-40 rocket exploded close to PCF94, blowing out one of the windows. Kerry again ordered the units to turn into the fire and charge the ambush site. PCF 94 landed in the center of ambush and a man jumped up holding a B-40 rocket launcher and started to run. The forward M-60 gunner on PCF94 wounded him in the leg as Kerry jumped off the boat and chased him inland behind a hooch and shot him. Marines swept the area, and received fire from snipers and small arms that was suppressed with the assistance of mortars and gunfire from the swiftboats. The landing parties found vast stores of rice, ammunition and clothing. The boats were fired on one additional time as they were heading back down the river. The site of the second ambush was believed to be a major Viet Cong supply point. Kerry received the Silver Star for this operation.

Again, no mention of any "numerically superior force." You specifically said that the after action reports support your claim of numerical superiority. It does NOT. You lied, Mr. Koppel.

To suggest that the Communists of Vietnam do not have an agenda is patently absurd. John Kerry was the best friend the Vietnamese Communists ever had, and it is why his picture hangs today in the Hall of Heroes in Ho Chi Minh City, something you clearly did not want O'Neill to make known.

You broadcast an essentially false report. You accepted the word of the Vietnamese over that of the decorated Swift Boat vets and even that of John Kerry himself. You have omitted critical details that change entirely the perspective. It was totally dishonest.


(24) T R Black made the following comment | Oct 20, 2004 3:46:56 PM | Permalink


All this eloquent commentary over what? Militarists? Every thinking person knows that the term military hero is an oxymoron. These are the worst citizens. They ignorantly perpetuate the war paradigm. All this talk regarding such ignoble individuals seems wasted. If you put that much thought and effort into removing lobbyists and religionists from this country, it might have a chance of surviving. Else, the fiddling Neros will watch Ameriroma burn. What a shame.

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