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Tuesday, October 05, 2004

SwiftVets update

Dean Esmay has an extended, original interview with prominent SwiftVets member Van Odell that's an ambitious and noteworthy effort.  The post includes a terrific detailed photograph of a Swift Boat in which Mr. Odell can be seen in the twin .50-caliber gun tub.  Dean does a good job of giving contextual information about Mr. Odell — as a typical SwiftVet — that the mainstream media has essentially ignored in their efforts to paint all the SwiftVets as cranks and kooks with partisan political axes to grind.  Especially when credibility is an issue, such information — "placing the witness," lawyers sometimes call it — is awfully important, and in Mr. Odell's case, the antidote for mainstream media distortion is, quite simply, more detailed information. 

If an opportunity arises and time permits between now and the election, I'd love to try something similar to what Dean's done, perhaps with a slightly different focus — the kind of detailed, moment-by-moment analysis of the Bay Hap River action on 13Mar69 out of which Kerry was awarded his Bronze Star and third Purple Heart — in the way that a lawyer probes multiple witnesses' recollections to try to determine whether and where they actually conflict.  My expectation is that while I might hope for some cooperation from various SwiftVets like Mr. Odell, or perhaps unalligned witnesses, I'm unlike to get any cooperation from, for example, Mr. Sandusky or other members of Sen. Kerry's "Band of Brothers."

Although several of my commenters have linked and discussed it on other posts, I've been remiss in not previously linking Thomas Lipscomb's October 1st article in the Chicago Sun-Times which examines the probability that young Lt. Kerry was the author of the after-action report from the 13Mar69 events.  The SwiftVets and their supporters have long argued that by process of exclusion, Kerry was the most likely source of the report, and have pointed to it as an example of Kerry "gaming the system," conflating or confusing facts about other boats' and skippers' actions, and inflating his own actions in order to justify the Bronze Star he was eventually awarded.  Mr. Lipscomb's article expands on those arguments and adds the results of detailed analysis of cryptic records from that day that's been done by a Navy communications expert, Chief Petty Officer Troy Jenkins, who, along with others participating the SwiftVets' forums, has been very active in gathering, cross-checking, and dissecting those reports.  The level of detail in this sort of analysis, unfortunately, will cause some readers to declare MEGO (mine eyes glazeth over).  And once again, as so often before with respect to the entire SwiftVets vs. Kerry controversy, I find myself frustrated at not being able to compel a detailed response from the Kerry partisans, many of whose working strategy is simply to throw up their hands and refuse to "go behind" Kerry's medal citations.

TimesWatch.org has a terrific article contrasting the ways in which the New York Times has consistently ignored, misrepresented, and dismissed the SwiftVets' allegations, while relentlessly fanning the flames of the "Bush AWOL" charges.

Way back on September 4th, as I was beginning to read Michael Kranish et al.'s John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best, I posted my amazed reaction to this paragraph from page xxvi in the book's Introduction:

Do these actions reflect the conflicts of a powerful intellect, of a man who appreciates nuance in policy and deeds but sometimes has trouble translating it to a mass audience? Do his statements and votes on military force reflect the natural caution of a man who was severely wounded in combat, who watched men under his command die, who lost five of his best friends in a war that ended in U.S. withdrawal? ...

I've been remiss in failing to follow up on this, but having long since finished the book (and re-read the portions on Kerry's Vietnam service many times), I can confirm that whoever at the Boston Globe wrote this paragraph clearly had read a lot of Kerry's campaign rhetoric, but hadn't read either their own book or the 2003 news articles from which it was largely compiled.  Kerry was never "severely wounded in combat."  There's no record anywhere that he ever "watched men under his command die."  (Kerry did help recover the body of a RuffPuff soldier whom he'd transported into combat, and he watched as another South Vietnamese soldier, whose name he didn't even know and whose wounds he didn't see inflicted, expired in a field hospital.)  I can't disprove the assertion that Kerry "lost five of his best friends," other than to say that there aren't five such names named in either the Kranish book or in Brinkley's Tour of Duty.  The Kranish book (at page 108) names only three — "Yale classmate Richard Pershing and St. Paul's classmate Peter W. Johnson," plus Swiftee skipper Don Droz.  The other two "best friends" may be known to Kerry, but if so he either didn't share their names with his biographers or else they didn't bother to write about them.  Indeed, on that same page, the Kranish book notes that "all of his crewmates survived their tour in Vietnam."  (Kerry crewman Tommy Belodeau passed away many years later, but his life was not "lost in [the] war.)

I'm working on what's likely to be a long post summarizing the results of my "debunked" challenge from September 25th.  My thanks in advance to the many, many readers who've commented on that post.

Finally, the SwiftVets have formally combined their efforts with the ex-POWs who've been involved in the Stolen Honor documentary — free excerpts and a $5 pay-per-view version of which are online, and well worth an investment of your time and/or money.   Both organizations have retained their websites at the same URLs, but the SwiftVets organization has been renamed "Swift Vets and POWs for Truth."

Posted by Beldar at 07:10 PM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to SwiftVets update and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) Tom Poole made the following comment | Oct 5, 2004 9:55:59 PM | Permalink

I was disappointed because Cheney didn't demand that Kerry sign a Form 180 and release all his Navy records. He clearly was the senior in this relatively meaningless debate and had several opportunities to say something like, "After all the effort expended on airing the President's records, it now seems reasonable for Senator Kerry also to sign a Form 180 and release all the records the Navy says he has not yet shared with us."

(2) kimsch made the following comment | Oct 5, 2004 11:43:38 PM | Permalink

Bill, that's the Chicago SUN TIMES, not the Times-Herald. We just have two main papers in Chicago, The Sun Times and the Tribune. Once upon a time we had the Daily News too, but that one bit the dust years ago.

(3) Dianna made the following comment | Oct 5, 2004 11:49:04 PM | Permalink


The only slack I've ever been willing to cut Kerry has to do with the death of close friends. I respect how Kerry's grief for even one friend might have influenced his views on Vietnam.

I do wonder, now, if his views might have been influenced by the feeling that, essentially, someone's life - someone he knew personally - wasn't worth the effort.

As I said, it's the only slack I will grant him. But it's a point I will make, and I would be careful not to denigrate it.

(4) David Blue made the following comment | Oct 6, 2004 11:15:16 AM | Permalink

Thank you Beldar for doing this. It must be a lot of work for you.

(5) James made the following comment | Oct 6, 2004 7:22:34 PM | Permalink

Beldar...isn't "MEGO" a phenomenon common to penetrating and understanding a first class fraud?

(6) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 7, 2004 10:24:24 AM | Permalink

Kimsch, thanks for the catch. I knew better, just blew it. Error corrected in original post.

(7) kimsch made the following comment | Oct 7, 2004 1:40:13 PM | Permalink

Thanks Bill!

(8) John E. Taylor made the following comment | Oct 8, 2004 10:24:33 AM | Permalink

A deceased friend of mine, a Presbyterian elder, was fond of saying "There's no use chasing the varmints up the tree if you're not going to shoot 'em down."

Now, the SwiftVets have done magnificent work chasing the varmint up the tree, and I'm aghast that the media is not shooting him down.

If General Eisenhower had caught a junior offier hobnobbing with high ranking Nazi officials, I have no doubt the General would have had him shot.

Former Corporal of Marines

(9) Nomorelies made the following comment | Oct 11, 2004 11:00:21 AM | Permalink

Did Meadows actually read the book? Her review reads like the work of a political hack from the DNC.

(10) Frank Wallace made the following comment | Oct 12, 2004 4:09:22 PM | Permalink

It should be obvious to everyone that Kerry hasn't signed, and won't sign, form 180 because there is incriminating evidence in the Navy records. The very fact that there was such a long period of time after he left active duty and the end of his reserve requirement before his "Honorable Discharge" was issued (makes all of his assertions suspect. My suspicion is that because of his despicable activities after his return from Viet Nam, including his meeting with the Viet Cong representatives in Paris, he was given a discharge which was less than honorable, e.g."For the Good of the Service" and that he was later able to persuade his buddy Clinton, while President, to change his discharge to "honorable".

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