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In a new interview published Sunday in the New York Times, John Kerry reopens the debate over his Vietnam service, producing for reporter Kate Zernike what he claims is new evidence. The new evidence John Kerry appears to consist primarily of the personal journals that he wrote in Vietnam, plus his “home movies” and the still photographs he took during the war. For John Kerry, this is an old pattern.
Mr. Kerry also provided Douglas Brinkley access to his Vietnam journals, correspondence, personal movies, and private photographs to assist Mr. Brinkley in writing the senator’s 2004 campaign hagiography, Tour of Duty. Yet Mr. Kerry refuses to provide open access to these materials for public scrutiny or to archive them in a public-accessible depository for independent examination. By providing only selective access to materials, Mr. Kerry continues to argue his private reality of his war experience, dodging an open debate on the issues and evidence.
Clearly Mr. Kerry wants to maintain that he was a hero in Vietnam and that he was wrongly maligned by his opponents such as the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth and the book John O’Neill and I wrote, Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry. In the interview with the Times, Mr. Kerry repeats his claim that his swift boat took a special operations force secretly into Cambodia. On March 27, 1986, on the floor of the U.S. Senate, John Kerry claimed that President Nixon ordered him into Cambodia on that mission during Christmas 1968. Now Kerry shows reporter Zernike a private journal log from 1969 with an entry: “February 12: 0800 run to Cambodia.”
Now he is reduced to simply arguing that he was in or near Cambodia at one time or another. Gone is the defense that the incident happened during Christmas 1968, even though Mr. Kerry claimed that the memory of the incursion was “seared – seared – in me.” Unmentioned is the discrepancy that Richard Nixon was not president until January 20, 1969. Forgotten altogether is the story Mr. Brinkley recorded from Kerry’s journals that on Christmas Eve 1968 Kerry was at Sa Dec, some 50-miles from Cambodia.
Mr. Kerry offers a photograph of himself celebrating with buddies, supposedly on St. Patrick’s Day in Vietnam. The Times highlights, with a circle, a patch of white on Kerry’s barely visible arm which Kerry offers as evidence that he was injured in the March 1969 incident for which he was awarded his third Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
Then we have a photo supposedly showing Mr. Kerry’s back, with the future senator dressed in what appears to be Army infantryman’s gear, carrying what might be an M16 rifle, standing over the apparently dead body of a fully dressed Vietnamese man. This is presented as proof that Mr. Kerry shot and killed a real Vietnamese combatant to win the Silver Star, not a fleeing teenager in a loincloth. Yet, how does Mr. Kerry propose to prove this photo was not also staged, as were so many of his “home movies” during Vietnam?
Once more we are entertained by Mr. Kerry’s often repeated story of the famous hat he supposedly received from the special ops guys on the fabled mission to Cambodia. We don’t know that Kerry didn’t get the hat from an Army-Navy store of the period any more than we know whether it was Mr. Kerry’s own or someone else’s medals that Mr. Kerry threw away during the protest theater of Dewey Canyon III. Or was it ribbons that Kerry threw back? Ribbons or medals?
If Mr. Kerry is going to release his private Vietnam memorabilia to friendly reporters, maybe he ought to sign Standard Form 180 so as to release his full military record to the general public. Instead, Mr. Kerry signed Standard Form 180 as a private release to three reporters on the Boston Globe, the Associated Press, and Los Angeles Times. Maybe Mr. Kerry could also show the public his discharge papers, proving once and for all that he was not given a less than honorable discharge for his anti-war protests.
Importantly, Mr. Kerry did not apologize via Ms. Zarnike for his 1971 testimony to the Senator Fulbright’s committee in which he maligned the record of all Vietnam vets by falsely accusing them of war crimes “committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.” Mr. Kerry also did not deny that while he was yet a Naval Reserve officer he met with the enemy in Paris, specifically with Madame Binh, the chief negotiator of the Viet Cong.
Finally, Ms. Zernike repeats the Kerry campaign fabrication that Mr. O’Neill was recruited by the Nixon administration to debate John Kerry on “The Dick Cavett Show” in 1971. The person who actually recruited Mr. O’Neill for that appearance was Bruce Kesler, the founder of Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace. Mr. Kesler is more than happy to give an affidavit or deposition on that point today, should the senator wish to push the defense of his Vietnam War private reality in more than the newspapers.
Mr. Corsi is the author, with John O’Neill, of “Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry.”