Monday, May 24, 2004

So who do you believe?

Not too long ago, I was struck by an editorial: Jack Kelly's story Kerry's Free Pass in the May 9th Pittsburgh Post Gazette, which discussed a group of veterans "including 19 of the 23 officers who served in Kerry's swift boat squadron" which "endorses nobody at all for president", but feels that John Kerry is "unfit to be commander in chief".

Like many of us, I really know very little about Kerry, so I read the article quite closely. Kelly described at length certain "doubts" about whether Kerry's first Purple Heart was deserved, and goes on to remark: "It is remarkable that so many of Kerry's peers and superiors have such a low opinion of their former shipmate."

This was an opinion piece, not a news story, but I more or less respect the PG as a news source, and in spite of the author's clear bias the story seemed to have important information: that many vets who apparently knew Kerry well don't want him as president.
Unusually for me, I decided to research this organization, called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. I found a bboard on their web site, I posed a few questions, which I'm summarizing below:

1) If your group is nonpartisan, as you claim, why wait until May to make your case?

2) Kerry's web site is packed with military records - which specifically do you feel are missing, and what would it show if they were there?

3) You want Americans to "hear the truth about his service and about his charges about war crimes", but your letter and website give no details about what this "truth" is. What exactly makes Kerry "unfit"?

The claim your group makes is that his old comrades in arms by and large do not support him. I would definitely like to hear from those that knew Kerry and have something concrete to say about his service record and/or leadership skills. What was it exactly in your personal interactions with Kerry 40 years ago that makes you believe he is unfit to be president?

There were no answers to most of these questions, but one reply was this:

You both misconstrue the member class and mis-state their goal, probably intentionally, but I could be wrong.

While a few might qualify, this gathering of Swift Vets isn't limited, as you imply, to those having had direct contact with Kerry during his Vietnam/post-Vietnam activity. His direct "comrade-in-arms" number in the thousands (the Swifties), and his extended "comrade-in-arms" number in the MILLIONS (the Vietnam Veterans). This IS a gathering of those who are more than familiar with Kerry and what he was about in his disgraceful, politically opportunistic smear upon the honor of ALL Vietnam veterans, the Swifties in particular. That KNOWLEDGE was no secret to those of us who experienced it, and will NEVER be forgotten. Nor will it be diminished by disingenous, mitigating, self-serving apologetics from that same lying mouth.

A triumph for Google, the web, and concerned citizenry! Now that I know that "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" is no more composed of John Kerry's "former shipmates", than the New Jersey is populated by my former housemates, with only a few minutes of time invested. The disturbing thing is - why didn't the newspaper do this for me? You can check the articles I've cited to see I'm not exaggerating - Jack Kelley doesn't ever lie, exactly, but surely if he says that a man served on the same boat as John Kerry, I'm expected to infer he means "and at the same time"? If I was editing a technical paper I'd surely call the author on nonsense like that - is it fair for a paper to publish material this blatently and deliberately misleading?

BTW I did send in a letter to the editor, and no, it didn't get published...but to be fair, they published another rant of mine fairly recently.

Three weeks later (now that is) there's a nice section on the organization in the Disinfopedia, which looks like a wonderful resource for those who like to check their facts.