John Kerry and Vietnam

Man… listening to these conservative talk radio shows, they make some pretty strong accusations against John Kerry. Yesterday I was reminded of Kerry’s brave acts during his tour of duty in Vietnam. It was said that he saved a lot of his fellow veterans lives - but if that’s true and he had his heart in the right place how come only two (and I heard recently that it may be down to just one) of those twenty men have come forward in support of Kerry? Why would such a small number endorse Kerry? Also, there’s a group of about 200 veterans who are “familiar” with Kerry’s tour of duty that say he left Vietnam once he had “enough footage” (he taped himself while in Vietnam) that’s when he left the war. They also say that Kerry was reckless, among other things, and that his purple hearts were won because of things like a small scratch on his arm. Is there any creedance to any of these claims? Help me out here… I want to vote for Kerry, personally, and yes, I know on the flip side George Bush didn’t really serve the country in any past war… I just want something to refute the claims above aside from that.

Maybe this might help; they seem to be quite apolitical, and they assess some of what has been said, and, as importantly, by whom.

Conservative talk radio is probably not the best source for unbiased facts, you know?

That surprised me, since I seemed to recall coverage during the DNC implying something different. So I looked, and sure enough

I imagine that there must be some way to add qualifiers to the statement that only one or two of Kerry’s crewmates support him so that it’s a true statement, but I’m not sure offhand how that could be done.

I can explain this difference in the numbers of Kerry supporters among those who served with him. There are two groups of servicemen who are in play here:

  1. Those that served under Kerry. This group remains mostly loyal to him. Many of them were on stage with him at the convention. 13 sounds correct. A couple of these guys, IIRC, have denounced Kerry though.

  2. Fellow swift boat commanders. This groups is largely against Kerry. A book is coming out that is very critical of him. This is where the “only 2 of 20” stat comes from. All but two of the swift boat commanders who served with Kerry have denounced him.

Actually, from what I understand, every member of Kerry’s own crew supports his candidacy.

And as for the other swift boat captains, that’s all old grudges and politics. Kerry was a maverick captain of his own boat, beaching it against standing orders, going back into fire, arguing against the open-fire policy which was killing civilians as well as enemy personell. None of them liked him for this while he was there. And they really didn’t like his peace, puppy dogs and pretty flowers politics when he got home. It’s a 30-year old grudge held by men who served alongside him, but never really with him.

And to say only 2 out of 20 of them support him is a tad inaccurate, since many of the 20 are dead (3 or 4, I think) and therefore can’t give an opinion. So 2 out of 17 or 16 would be more accurate.

Close, but not quite. IIRC four won’t come out for him, but won’t denounce him either. They don’t want to be in this mess, and I can’t say I blame them for that.

Two are dead, so their support either way cannot be deduced.

Twelve have now signed the letter against Kerry. That leaves only one fellow officer, Skip Barber, still supporting him.

And they’re certainly entitled to take Kerry’s entire record into account, as a veteran, war protester, and Senator, when they make their decision to support him or not. It’s the same record we all have to evaluate.

Were the 13 people on stage peopel who served directly under Kerry’s command, or were they just people who served on Swift Boats?

All under his command, on 2 different boats, including the guy whose life Kerry saved by returning under fire to pick him up and who introduced Cleland (I don’t know why he felt compelled to point out that he’d “volunteered” to be there - could a regular peruser of RW blogs say why?) Rev. Alston’s speech earlier in the convention was impressive too, but you’d have had to be watching C-SPAN to know.

I think those that served with Kerry on the boat are a better judge of his character than those who commanded other boats. Like any other workplace situation, some people will like you and some will not. I think it’s more important that he volunteered to put himself in harm’s way when it would have been easy not to given his wealth and connections. Although his wounds were minor, that’s more than likely just his good fortune. Who knows if his wounds had been inflicted an inch or so one way or another if he would have been more seriously hurt? Perhaps his Purple Hearts are for wounds more minor than most, but he still had the courage to put himself in harm’s way when he didn’t have to.

It’s always baffling to me how the Bush supporters even dare talk about Kerry’s military record. Kerry put a dozen men on the podium that knew him well and supported him. Bush can’t even find one person who remembers him showing up in Alabama for the National Guard.

Just out of curiosity, Mr. Moto, all things being equal, would you put more stock in the opinions of men who served under a particular man, or that man’s counterparts in other units (in this case, other swift boat commanders)?

Not true.

All things are not equal.

Sometimes, the men serving under an officer don’t know the whole picture. That was certainly the case with a captain I had on one of my ships. He seemed an effective leader, and our ship passed every inspection with flying colors. We all genuinely liked the guy, and would go into battle anywhere in the world with him.

If you asked any of us, we’d all have thought he was on a fast track for an admiral’s flag. But his next assignment was a dead-end billet in the Pentagon, a real slap in the face for a senior captain. He retired from the Navy after that tour.

There’s an attitude in the military that really serious reprimands and dressing-downs are never done in front of the subordinates of the officer or noncomissioned officer being disciplined. They will continue to see a good leader, so their confidence in battle never wavers.

OK, one witness. Put him on the podium in New York. But I’m not convinced that his memory is reliable. If Bush had really reported, surely others would have remembered, too.

Good point in general. In Kerry’s specific case, though, the Fitness Reports that Kerry’s superiors wrote about him were uniformly glowing, above and beyond the call of duty.

BobLibDem, that full article details a large number of others in that unit who don’t remember Bush at all. The one **Mr. Moto ** refers to explains that Bush spent almost all of his time hanging out in his office with him, as if that were his assigned duty.

Just thought I’d point out, from that same link, what the anti-Kerry swift boat vets group’s star witness, the one who says Kerry lied about his first wound in spite of the fact that he never actually saw it, said then:

That was his assigned duty.

The plane George W. Bush flew was not used by the Alabama Air National Guard unit that Bush transferred to, and he didn’t have enough time left in service to get qualified on a new plane.

When he reported for duty, he was told to keep his skills current by reading safety manuals and doing other administrative tasks.

It certainly wasn’t demanding or arduous duty on these weekends, but the testimony of Lt. Col. Calhoun indicates that Bush did indeed perform it.

Bush has never claimed to be any kind of war hero, so I’m wondering why this is a big deal for the Democrats myself.

It’s isn’t a “big deal” on its own merits, taken in isolation. Avoiding Vietnam was a cottage industry at the time, and those who did it aren’t generally stigmatized for it.

It’s a topic because of what it reveals about Bush’s maturity, his willingness to send others to die in an optional war when he wasn’t willing to send himself. It’s a topic also because of the stream of indirect and even direct accusations of unpatriotism and even treason against Democrats and liberals from that same faction that still supports Bush loyally.
If sitting in an office was his assigned duty, it would certainly help to support that with any documentation at all, or any recollections of it by anyone else. Even Bush hasn’t said anything in that kind of detail. But his own CO, Col Turnipseed, the guy who would have assigned that duty, doesn’t remember ever seeing Bush and even reported as much in his Fitness Report. His pay records don’t credit him with showing up, either - wouldn’t he have cared about that just a little? It was his beer money, after all.

There’s also the problem that John Calhoun, the one Mr. Moto refers to, is contradicted by other sources, including Bush’s own service record.

But it’s fun to watch. You get a Bush supporter started on Kerry’s war record: “I heard on the radio that he wasn’t a real war hero. He didn’t volunteer and he wasn’t in real combat and his fellow officers didn’t like him and he faked all those medals he got and…” and then they pause as they remember reality “… of course, I’m not saying it’s important for a candidate to have served in combat or anything or that people should decide how to vote based on someone’s Vietnam service.”

I think the important thing to remember is that the “Swift Boat Veterans For Truth” gang is nothing more than a 21st century revival of an old Republican anti-Kerry group, originally formed by Nixon to derail Kerry when he was rallying support against the Vietnam war.

Trusting them for objective information about Kerry’s performance in the war, or anything else about Kerry, makes as much sense as asking Michael Moore to objectively review George W. Bush’s term of office.