So let’s go to the scoreboard again, the one we toted on Monday. Every crewman on Kerry’s boat says they were under hostile fire. Rassmann, the man whose life was saved, says there was hostile fire too. And now, three different crewmen from two other boats have also come forward to describe hostile fire. Let’s make sure we recall who they are. You won’t hear about them on cable:...
1. Wayne Langhofer, PCF-43 (skipper: Dan Droz). Reported by the Washington Post, 8/22/04.
2. Jim Russell, PCF-43 (skipper: Dan Droz). Reported by the Associated Press, 8/23/04.
3. Robert Lambert, PCF-51 (skipper: Larry Thurlow). Reported by the Mail Tribune, 8/26/04.
These men join Kerry’s entire crew and Rassmann in saying there was enemy fire. Meanwhile, Newsweek’s John Barry reported yesterday that Lambert’s Bronze Star citation describes “small-arms and automatic weapons fire from the river banks.” There was no chance that this account could have come from Kerry, he said.
Nor is this the only incident in which Kerry has received recent support. On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune’s William Rood wrote a front-page essay supporting Kerry’s account of the Silver Star incident, in which Kerry saved the lives of his crew. Aside from Kerry himself, Rood is the only surviving officer who witnessed the events of that day. Rood complained that the Swift Boat Vets were “armed with stories I know to be untrue.” He twice mentioned John O’Neill by name, directly contradicting his accounts of this incident. (In today’s New York Times, the widow of that day’s third officer also supports Kerry’s view. More below.)Now about that one holdout:
All Kerry’s crewmates admired his leadership. Except for one hold-out—Steve Gardner:What do the other crew member have to say about Gardner?
BRINKLEY (3/9/04): Every sailor who served under Lieutenant John Kerry on Swift boats PCF-44 and PCF-94 have gushed about his poise under enemy fire. They tell stories of his rescuing a Green Beret from drowning, killing a Viet Cong sniper, and saving 42 Vietnamese civilians from starvation. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway they claim that in combat Kerry exemplified “grace under pressure.” But PCF-44 Gunner’s Mate Stephen M. Gardner—in a long telephone interview from his home in Clover, South Carolina—has a starkly different memory. “Kerry was chickenshit,” he insists. “Whenever a firefight started he always pulled up stakes and got the hell out of Dodge.”
(According to Brinkley, Gardner “was nicknamed ‘The Wild Man’ by his crewmates for his hair-trigger penchant for firing M-60s into the mangrove thicket.”) No, Brinkley’s view can’t be taken as gospel. But as pundits watch Gardner’s rants on TV, can they avoid a sense of unease with this man whose accounts they’ve helped peddle?Somerby then comments on how Gardner rolled Deborah Norville:
But on last night’s program, Norville displayed almost no knowledge of any part of the Swift Boat affair. And Gardner, of course, took total advantage. “Were you anywhere close to Cambodia?” His answer was absurdly disingenuous:And furthermore:
GARDNER (continuing directly): Well, let’s clarify what you just said. John Kerry has already admitted that he was not in Cambodia when he was—on Christmas of 1968. He was setting in the city of Sa Dec, which is a small town fifty-some miles from the Cambodian border. Now that’s in his words, from his diary.
And yes, that is in Kerry’s diary. Kerry spent the evening of December 24 in Sa Dec, as Brinkley notes in Tour of Duty (page 219), quoting Kerry’s journal. But as Gardner knows—though Norville does not—Brinkley spends the ten previous pages describing the rest of that “memorable” day. Were they anywhere close to Cambodia? The answer to Norville’s question was quite simple—yes:
BRINKLEY (page 209): Christmas Eve, 1968, turned out to be memorable for the men of PCF-44 though not in the jingle-bells sense folks were enjoying back home. The only concession to the holiday spirit was that morning’s rare breakfast of scrambled eggs, after which the crew headed their Swift north [from Sa Dec] up the Co Chien river to its junction with the My Tho only miles from the Cambodian border.
For the next ten pages, Brinkley—quoting from Kerry’s journal—describes the firefights the crew engaged in that day. For Wasser, the combat this day was life-changing (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/26/04)—and yes, these events took place “at a bend just as they were approaching the Cambodian border” (page 214). Were they anywhere near the Cambodian border? The answer was simple—yes, they were. And Gardner, who was on the boat that day, knew they hadn’t just sat in Sa Dec. But knowing that Norville was unprepared, he played the grinning blonde for a fool. But then, as we’ve noted all week long, this is the nightly pattern on cable. Swift Boat Vets make misleading, false or irrelevant statements. Millionaire hosts gaze off sweetly off into air.Of course, there is the testimony of the other living officer, Rood. And finally there is word from the third officer who was present but never made it out of Vietnam, Daniel Droz.
JUDITH DROZ KEYES (8/27/04): On Feb. 28, 1969, my husband was the commander of one of three Swift boats traveling the Dong Cung in Vietnam to carry troops and supplies upriver [Silver Star incident]. The events of that day, and what happened almost two weeks later on another Swift boat patrol [Bronze Star incident], have become a source of controversy in the presidential campaign, with a group of veterans saying that John Kerry did not deserve the medals he won for what he did then. I know my husband thought otherwise.Like I've said before, truth tends to accumulate evidence over time while lies tend to fall apart. I'm glad that at least some folks in the media have been doing their job to bring the truth out. When this all started, it was all he-said/they-said. But one by one independent witnesses have come forward in support of Kerry's version of the events. Meanwhile, IIRC, every one of the SBVT folks has been demonstrated to be already in the Republican camp before they came out with their versions.
“I know my husband thought otherwise,” she says, referring to O’Neill’s nasty accounts of the Bronze and Silver Star events. She describes a letter she received from her husband, and personal conversations they had two weeks before his death.
Yes, Daniel Droz died in Vietnam. And last Sunday, O’Neill went on This Week and lied about Droz, right in Stephanopoulos’ face. But can your “press corps” smell a dissembler? Stephanopoulos gazed into air as O’Neill lied about the honored dead.
And furthermore, their whole premise is bogus. Does it really make sense for Kerry to volunteer for in-country duty just to fabricate tales in order to pick up a few medals so he could go back and start a political career iv the VVAW? That's really what SBVT are asking the world to believe. If you are going to propose an alternate history it should at least be plausible and this is definitely not.
Now can we get back to some issues? Like poor judgement that will most likely kill 1000 of our servicemen before the elections are held. Or embarrassing predictions about how many jobs a tax cut would create. Or a prescription drug bill that primarily benefits pharmaceutical companies. Or a completely irresponsible management of the country's finances by reducing revenues and expanding spending. Or a shifting of the tax burden away from people for whom money is only a way to keep score and towards people who have to work two jobs to pay the bills. Or to the watering down of real scientific input to regulations and decision-making. Or to a major rollback of environmental regulation and enforcement. Or to a lapse of enforcement of existing regulations in our financial markets. Or convenient paralysis in an energy crisis that allowed friendly corporations to practically steal from consumers.