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Friday, August 06, 2004

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Kerry story gets more bizarre by the minute

When the hullabaloo broke out yesterday over the Swiftvets' accusations about Kerry's Vietnam service, I decried the development of 527 orgs and the negative influence they will have on campaigns. But the story is out now, and now we have to deal with it. John Kerry had to know this was coming when he consciously decided to emphaisize his service in Vietname, a strange decision given his anti-war stance in 1971.

So here we are, dealing with this troubling story. And now one of the Swiftvets is retracting part of what he has testified to in a sworn affadavit. What's even stranger is this same vet appears in the ad, yet now he's claiming, with regard to his signed affadavit, "I knew it was wrong . . . In a hurry I signed it and faxed it back. That was a mistake." He has not retracted what he said in the ad.

This entire sorry affair is going to come down to people's recollections of events that took place 35 years ago, but there are bits and pieces that you can put together from the statements of both sides.

The Swiftvets claim that, during an incident which earned him the Silver Star, Kerry shot an unarmed teenager in the back. Kerry's crewmates claim he saved their lives by killing an armed enemy. When questioned about it last year, Kerry had this to say, ' "I don't have a second's question" about killing the Viet Cong. ''He was running away with a live B-40, and, I thought, poised to turn around and fire it." So Kerry admits that he shot the guy in the back. (If he was "poised to turn around", then he had to have his back to them.) Yet Kerry then denies that he shot him in the back, 'Asked whether that meant that he had shot the guerrilla in the back, Kerry said, ' "No, absolutely not," adding that the enemy had been running to a hut for cover, where he could have destroyed Kerry's boat and killed the crew.'

Personally I have no problem with shooting an enemy in the back. As Kerry says, he was running for cover so he could fire on them. Only an idiot is going to wait for the enemy to turn around and aim his weapon before taking him out. But why does Kerry feel it necessary to deny he shot the guy in the back when he obviously did and admits it? Is he just incapable of telling the truth? Is he afraid people will think less of him?

There are more serious discrepancies in the story for which Kerry received the Bronze Star. According to the Swiftvets one mine exploded under a boat left of Kerry's and then Kerry hightailed it out of there, only to return to rescue Rasmussen, who had fallen off the boat due to its sudden acceleration. There was no enemy fire, and the only casualties or damage to any boats or personnel were caused by the single mine.

According to Kerry,s citation, two mines exploded, the second under Kerry's boat, throwing Kerry into the wheel house and Rasmussen off the boat completely, and they were under fire from the shore during the entire episode.

Either someone is lying, or the two groups are talking about two completely separate incidents.

In any case, I expect the next few days (if not weeks) will be quite contentious. It's hard to argue with the recollections of 200 men against the 9 on Kerry's boat, but one wonders, if these incidents are true, why his shipmates are so adamant about his valor. Someone is obviously not telling the truth. And now one of Kerry's shipmates has spoken out against him. (Scroll down the page or search for "Gardner".)

Castle Argghhh! has the Swiftvets' response to DNC lawyers' attempts to kill the ad. Their response is pretty devastating.