Saturday, September 18, 2004

NYT wings Swift Vet story...

The New York Times ran an op-ed piece today in which Nicholas Kristof puts the claims of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth under token “scrutiny,” then summarily dismisses them as “smears.” Not only did Kristof not do his homework, apparently he cheated off of Team Kerry’s notes. Captain Ed, who has been all over this story from the beginning, gives Kristof a failing grade, and points to some of the many problems in the article. There are a number left to address. Let’s look at two of them. Kristof writes,
Did Mr. Kerry get his first Purple Heart for a self-inflicted wound? That's the accusation of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who say that the injury came (unintentionally) from a grenade that Mr. Kerry himself fired at Viet Cong. In fact, nobody knows where the shrapnel came from, and it's possible that the critics are right. It's not certain that the Viet Cong were returning fire. But the only other American on the boat in a position to see anything, Bill Zaldonis (who says he voted for Mr. Bush in 2000) told me, "He was hurt, and I don't think it was self-inflicted."
Kristof completely ignores the testimony of Rear Adm. William Schachte (USN Ret.). Schachte was Kerry’s commanding officer and the one who devised the strategy employed on these missions. He says went on every one of these missions and was on the boat that night with Kerry. Schachte is adamant that they received no enemy fire and that Kerry’s injury was self-inflicted.

Kristof also ignores other statements made by Zaldonis:

Zaldonis and Runyon both said they were too busy to notice how Kerry was hit.

I assume they fired back," Zaldonis said. "If you can picture me holding an M-60 machine gun and firing it — what do I see? Nothing. If they were firing at us, it was hard for me to tell."

In addition, Kristof fails to mention that there was “no report of hostile fire that day (as would be required [for a Purple Heart]), nor do the records at Cam Ranh Bay [where Kerry was stationed] reveal such hostile fire. No other records reflect hostile fire.”

In fact, the only one who claims there was enemy fire that night is John Kerry, who describes the event as his “most frightening night” in Vietnam and said he was "scared s---less". Yet Kerry’s version of events is contradicted by his own war journal, in which, nine days after the incident, he wrote that he and his crew were feeling cocky because they “haven’t been shot at” yet.

Returning to Kristof’s piece:
Did Mr. Kerry deserve his second and third Purple Hearts? There's not much dispute that the second was merited. As for the third one, the Swift Boat Veterans' claim that he received it for a minor injury he got while blowing up food supplies to keep them from the enemy. But documents and witness accounts show that he received a shrapnel wound when South Vietnamese troops blew up rice stores, and an injured arm in a mine explosion later that day.
I don’t know what documents and witness accounts Kristof is referring to, but the Swifties have on their side published accounts that quote both Kerry and a pro-Kerry witness as supporting the Swift Vet version. John O’Neill, author of “Unfit for Command,” sites these sources chapter and verse:

[F]irst of all, in the morning, before any of the incident occurred, Kerry threw a grenade into a sampan full of rice and he got a tiny amount of rice and shrapnel in his fanny. How do I know this? First of all, Thurlow heard the grenade and was aware of the incident. He was ashore with Kerry that morning of March 13. Second, I go to Kerry’s own book Tour of Duty, pages 313-317, where he relates from his journal “I got a small piece of grenade in my ass from the rice bin explosion” and then on page 317, the doctor removed the rice and shrapnel. So, I know from Kerry’s own mouth that he did this. Finally, I go to the Kranish book and in the Kranish book, I think it is page 105, but people could look, that at Michael Kranish’s autobiography of Kerry (John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best). Kranish quotes Rassmann as seeing the rice bin explosion where Kerry threw his grenade in and ended up with a small amount of rice in his fanny.

The next thing I have are the records that prove that, in fact, it was rice and shrapnel removed from Kerry’s fanny and, finally, I have the physical impossibility of getting rice and shrapnel from a watermine explosion.

Why does Kristof fail to mention of any of this competing evidence? Why does he fail to mention that other Swift Vet claims have been corroborated? It’s hard to believe that all of this managed to escape his attention in his search for the “truth.”

So many in the media are unwilling to fairly present the evidence the Swift Vets have amassed. They are portrayed as a “shadowy” group that is irresponsibly spewing unsubstantiated smears. The truth is they’ve done quite a good job of documenting their claims. While Team Kerry has been back tracking, changing their stories, and admitting to falsehoods, the Swifties have calmly and credibly stood by their accounts. If you haven’t read the book “Unfit for Command,” be sure to check out the four free chapters available online. Also, read David Limbaugh’s extensive interview with John O’Neill. Each of these will give a sense of the quality of evidence and the credibility of the Swift Vet claims.

Update: Oh, my. Much more on this at Just One Minute, Patterico, and Beldar.

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