Saturday, August 28, 2004

To summarize,
Unfit for Command is amazing in the charges it brings. This isn't a caustic, vitriol filled ad hominem attack. O'Neill has the sworn statements of 254 swift vets, the research of journalists and biographers, most of whom would hardly be called anti-Kerry hacks, and Kerry's own words.

Most of the charges here, if false, would be easy to disprove if Kerry would simply file Standard Form 180. Kerry has selectively released parts of his military record, but not everything. If he'd file this form, which allows the Navy to release all information regarding Kerry, all of this could be settled.

Why won't Kerry sign the form? Bush gave unrestricted access to his National Guard records when faced with mounting public pressure at the merest, unsubstantiated charge that he was derelict in his duty. Kerry has 254 fellow swift vets saying he's a fraud and a fake. Why won't he follow Bush's lead and release his records?
Chapter Ten, Unfit for Command,
summarizes Kerry's activities, as well as the activities of Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth, their open letter to John Kerry, and their request that he stop using the photo of Kerry and the nineteen other officers at An Thoi in his campaign (eleven of those officers asked Kerry to stop using it, two are dead, four didn't want to get involved, one doesn't support Kerry, but didn't have the opportunity to sign the letter, and the other one supports Kerry)
Chapter Nine, Kerry's Communist Honors,
describes Kerry's photo's placement in the Vietnamese Communist War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. His photo hangs in an area labeled, "The World Supports Vietnam in its Resistance." The main point of contention is why his photo is there.

The picture was taken when Kerry visited Vietnam in 1993 as a Senator. Kerry had been instrumental in normalizing relations with Vietnam, and in working through the issue of whether POW's were still being held by the Vietnamese.

The debate is: Is Kerry's photo there because of his work as a Senator, or because of his anti-war activities in the early 70's?

This is the weakest chapter.
Chapter Eight, Kerry's Antiwar Secrets,
goes through a list of charges of anti-war activities that Kerry would like to leave hidden. These charges include: Being present at a VVAW where a resolution was debated (and defeated), moving to assissinate key pro-war Senators; Kerry's (much publicized) throwing away of his medals; Kerry's writing the official book of the Winter Soldiers Investigation, The New Solider, a book that Kerry refuses to reprint, and one that is being bought up like mad to keep it out of circulation; Kerry's admission in 1971 that he had personally engaged in war crimes; Kerry's continued contact with VVAW leader Al Hubbard, even after he was revealed to be a fraud; Kerry's actual resignation timeline from the VVAW (he claims he resigned before the assassination discussion); Kerry's status as a Naval Reservist, meaning that his anti-war activities in 1971 may have been in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The last charge, as well as the convenient disappearance of The New Soldier, are the more compelling charges in this chapter.
Chapter Seven, Meeting with the Enemy,
recounts how Kerry may have met with representatives of North Vietnam while in Paris, as well as engaging in various other potentially treasonous activities while with the VVAW.

Chapter seven isn't a particularly strong chapter, relying most on supposition and redacted FBI surveillance reports. Basically, the VVAW was connected to various communist groups, and its leader, Al Hubbard, was revealed to be a fraud. He had claimed to be an airforce captain, but was, in fact, a staff-sargeant who never saw duty in Vietnam.

However, to the specific charge of collusion with the North Vietnamese, Kerry, in his testimony to the Fulbright Committee, said,
"I have been to Paris. I have talked with both delegations at the peace talks, that is to say the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government."
At the time, Kerry would have been in the Naval Reserve. Though not on active duty, he would have been receiving pay, and would have to report for training duty periodically. One would think that the Uniform Code of Military Justice would have provisions against Reservists from meddling in the peace talks.
Chapter Six, A Testimony of Lies,
moves into Kerry's post-war activities as spokesman for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). It discusses his involvement with the Winter Soldiers Investigation and his testimony before the Senate's Fulbright Committee (transcripthere).

The Winter Soldiers Investigation has been so thoroughly discredited, it's a joke. People who never served in Vietnam, who were never in the military at all, testified to atrocities that they had somehow witnessed. Even friendly, anti-war journalists ripped them apart. It would seem self-evident, then, that if Kerry's testimony to the Fulbright Committee was based on this investigation, then Kerry's testimony would also be wrought with errors. Lies, really. Kerry impugned the character of everyone in Vietnam, including his crewmates, whom he knew had never engaged in the activities he claimed they had.

The most moving section of this book is in this chapter, which discusses how Kerry's activities affected the POW's in Vietnam. Kerry's testimony was played for them, and they were tortured until the agreed with it. One soldier was shown testimony that his own mother had given at Winter Soldiers.
Chapter Five, More Fraudulent Medals,
is probably the most discussed chapter in the media right now, so I'll gloss over it. Basically, it's a summary of how Kerry got his other two Purple Hearts, as well as his Bronze and Silver Stars. This stuff has been widely covered, so I won't go into it.

However, what really caught my attention was this quote from Lt. Peck, who, as I said before, served with Kerry in An Thoi:
"Kerry was erratic. He hardly ever did what he was supposed to do. His command decisions put us in more peril then he should have. But mostly he just ran. When John Kerry looked out the bow of the boat and he saw tracer fire coming after him, he'd turn and run. That isn't what he was supposed to do. His job was to face into the fire, to quarter the boat so we could apply our twin .50-caliber machine guns on the enemy. That was our job in the canal, to stand our ground and suppress the enemy fire. All Kerry wanted to do was turn and 'get out of Dodge' at the first sign of trouble. When he should have been fighting, calling in air support, he was hightailing it. That's always been my bone of contention with Kerry -- his decision-making capabilities, that's what takes him out of contention as far as I'm concerned."
Basically, Kerry's a coward.
Chapter Four, War Crimes,
discusses Kerry's involvement in war crimes, as well as the fiction that Kerry stood up to his superiors about war crimes they were supposedly condoning (briefly, the protests to his superiors never happened, according to witnesses who were there when these protests were supposed to have occured).

The first incident involved a sampan and the discovery that they had killed a child when they opened fire on what they thought was VC. In Kerry's account, they had meant to fire warning shots, but in the confusion, they killed some civilians. An accident, and a result of the Navy's free-fire zone policy, as Kerry claims.

Steve Gardner, who served on Kerry's swift boat (note, critics, there is a Kerry crewmate who disputes Kerry's accounts), says that during the incident, Kerry was hiding out in the pilothouse watching radar. Why he didn't detect the sampan is unclear, but what's more curious is why Kerry didn't come out of the pilothouse until it was all over. Gardner says he believed someone on the sampan produced a weapon, so he opened fire. Kerry was no where to be seen.

Whoever's account you believe, there is one undeniable fact, there was no after-action report filed that discussed the death of the child. And, if you believe Kerry's account, why did he have his gunner, who's manning twin .50 caliber guns, fire the warning shots? The swift boat had smaller guns, ones less likely to wipe out a whole boat.
Chapter Three, The Purple Heart Hunter,
discusses three major accounts in the Kerry narrative: Kerry's first Purple Heart, his brief transfer to a unit in An Thoi, and his infamous "Christmas in Cambodia" story.

The "Christmas in Cambodia" story has been covered extensively at Powerline, Instapundit, etc., so I won't go into it, other than to say that even the Kerry campaign has back-tracked on it.

Kerry's first Purple Heart is laid out in three versions: Kerry's account; the Boston Globe account (for the book, John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best); and what the Swiftees say really happened. The crucial difference is that Kerry claims to have been hit by enemies on shore; the book claims he was hit by shrapnel from a grenade that Kerry himself had launched. The wound was so superficial, and since it was self-inflicted, Kerry's commander told him he wasn't going to get a Purple Heart for it, and to get out of his office.

How Kerry received one mystifies those who were there.

Kerry was briefly placed in a unit in An Thoi, and so annoyed his fellow officers with his belly-aching and whining that he was transferred out in a week.
Chapter Two, The Reluctant Warrior,
lays out the charge that Kerry wasn't as heroic in his volunteerism, and that he was a strident anti-war "whiner" in the days of his assignment in Vietnam.

The chapter starts out with a disection of his volunteering for duty in the Navy and how courageous this was. O'Neill reminds the reader first that Kerry sought a student deferrment so he could study in Paris. When this was denied, he enlisted in the Naval Reserve. O'Neill:
"Sailors could get into combat, but the risk of being assigned combat duty was less likely because North Vietnamese and Viet Cong didn't have battleships, submarines, or aircraft carriers.

"The top choice was the Navy Reserves where the duty commitment was shorter and a larger proportion of the period could be served stateside on inactive duty."
Basically, Kerry, believing he was going to be drafted, enlists in the Naval Reserves to avoid duty in the Army.

The chapter then goes on to discuss Kerry's first tour of duty. The Kerry campaign has said that Kerry spent two tours of duty in Vietnam. O'Neill sinks that claim by pointing out that Kerry's first tour of duty was on the USS Gridley, which spent, at most, five weeks off the Gulf of Tonkin. The rest of the time, he was either on the coast of Long Beach, CA or near Australia.

The chapter concludes by discussing Kerry's decision to volunteer for swift boat duty. Now, the swift boat was a dangerous place to be as they cruised up and down the Mekong Delta -- no one disputes that. However, at the time Kerry volunteered, no swift boat was engaged in that kind of action. They were being used for coastal patrol -- for stopping and inspecting ships off shore. They didn't see much combat. It wasn't until after Kerry was assigned to a swift boat that the mission changed. O'Neill produces a quote from Kerry himself (from his contribution to the book The Vietnam Experience) admitting that "the boats had very little to do with the war."

Actually, this chapter reminded me of the Caine Mutiny (the book, anyway, I haven't seen the film), where the protagonist enlists in the Navy specifically to avoid certain death in the infantry, only to find himself aboard a destroyer-minesweeper in the thick of battle.
Chapter One, Debating Kerry,
is O'Neill's account of his Dick Cavett show interview with Kerry in 1971. The chapter doesn't lay out any specific charge, other than Kerry's team seems to think that the debate was a Kerry success when, according to every other sentient being in the galaxy, Kerry was reduced to non-sensical blather when asked direct questions, like, "What atrocities did you actually witness?"

The other thing mentioned, which I found interesting, was that Kerry seemed to have no idea what a "free-fire zone" is. This part was edifying to me, as I've heard the term before, I've just never seen an actual definition. According to O'Neill, a free-fire zone was an area in which, if the enemy was spotted, the Officer in Charge (OinC) could command his men to open fire without seeking permission from HQ. It did not mean that everyone could open fire at anytime at everything. Instead, it gave discretion to the OinC to decide if the situation warranted fire.

Kerry seems to believe that a free-fire zone was an open invitation to indiscriminate destruction. O'Neill recounts a firefight Kerry was involved in which lends credence to this account.
I was finally able to acquire
a copy of Unfit for Command. (Side note -- I see that it's ranked number 1 on Amazon.com right now, and that there are currently 1,151 reviews. Also note this comment from Amazon:
Important note from Amazon.com: We've decided to suspend our normal customer review policies and rules for this title. For example, we usually prohibit ad hominem attacks. That policy in particular seems to be incompatible with presidential election year politics. Therefore, short of obscenities, reviews on this book are now a free-for-all. We take no responsibility for the following discussion. Aren't presidential election years great? Have fun!
Fun.)

Anyway, I finally got my copy yesterday and I've already finished it (it's only 185 pages). One word: Devastating. To give a better idea of the charges laid forth in the book, I'll give chapter summaries in my subsequent posts.

Friday, August 27, 2004

I have to hand it to the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG) sent them a letter asking Paul Hamm to surrender his gold in the men's all-around to South Korean Yang Tae-Young. The U.S.O.C. refused to deliver the letter. It told FIG to, basically, screw off:
"The USOC finds this request to be improper, outrageous and so far beyond the bounds of what is acceptable that it refuses to transmit the letter to Mr. Hamm."
Apparently, above the salutation in the letter, the author, FIG President Bruno Grandi, wrote "FAIRPLAY."

Yeah, whatever. The judges screwed up in the scoring of the competition. The rules in gymnastics (as I understand them) require that any scoring disputes be submitted before the next rotation. So, it was up to the South Koreans to notice that they had been unfairly scored. Once the rotation has occurred, that's it. The score is final. The South Koreans registered no protests until well after the competition was over and the medals had been awarded.

Responsibility with this rests on the judges who unfairly scored. One could argue that the South Korean team needs to share responsibilty for not paying attention to their scores, but that seems like buck passing.

FIG is just trying to pass the pressure on to Paul Hamm, the one person who has no connection with any of the scoring irregularities.

Imagine a Super Bowl where a referee calls a penalty on a play that scored a touchdown. The TD would be nullified. Turns out that the team with the penalty loses by less than a TD. Now, let's say that the next day's analysis of the play finds that no penalty occurred, that the TD should have stood. Should the winning team have to surrender its Super Bowl rings and trophy?
Damn this roller coaster economy.
Bush says all is good, Kerry says we are in misery. They're both right.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

"I will judge, dammit."
Jonah is on a roll lately:
If reading books and articles, talking to experts — including veterans — and making arguments built on facts and logic is always insufficient compared to the experience of being shot at — or taking a walking tour of a Middle Eastern city — then we must have compulsory military conscription for everybody — men, women, Quakers, Amish, gays, and invalids included (and then find ways to rotate them through combat). That's the only way to ensure that everyone maintains their rights.
Compulsory service itself is a violation of rights, but I see his point. I want to say more, but don't have time. Please read the whole thing.
Math is a wonderful thing.
It's getting geeky over at the Volokh Conspiracy. Yes, yes, pot calling the kettle black, blah blah. Shut it. Besides, I say John Derbyshire over at NRO is the math geek king, at least among those who don't normally do math for a living, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Ouch is right.
The ever-blogging Instapundit has been all over the Kerry-Swift Vet issue, and now he has re-produced an open letter to Kerry from some Vietnam veterans (which appears to have originally come from the Bush/Cheney campaign site). I've said before (many have said before) that no one would be talking about this had Kerry not made his Vietnam service the key qualification for the Presidency. If that's the case, there would be thousands of others that could make the same claim.
What right indeed?
Jonah:
These 527s are the inevitable consequence of the fact that Americans who don%27t have the opportunity to appear on television or write columns for newspapers want to have a voice in politics. They're also the result of the fact that very rich people - like George Soros - can always find a way to be heard. Campaign-finance "reform" holds that only "legitimate" voices can be heard in a democracy, which should be repugnant to the crowd that usually waxes pious about First Amendment rights.

Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is surely as dishonest as anything the Swift Vets can be alleged to have made up. Why not try to ban Moore from making movies?

The notion that, politically or legally, only some people have the "right" to say something during an election runs completely counter to the core intent of the First Amendment. But, hey, what right do I have to say that?
This is what happens when too many people believe that our rights are given to us by government, that believe government (Constitutionally) has the power to do whatever it wills. Both of the major parties support the are big first amendment supporters when it suits their interests yet kick it in the pants when expedient. First Kerry calls for banning the Swift Vet book and ads, and Bush trumps him by calling for a ban on all such activities by 527s. Argh! Are we living in America or what?

UPDATE: Somewhat related and almost as appalling:
The oddest thing happened on Hannity & Colmes Monday night. A Democratic strategist, Mary Anne Marsh, was giving it to President Bush, as you might have expected. But here's what you might not have expected: She said, "Bush betrayed this country about why we went to war in Iraq" — so far, so good (or rather, so far, so normal) — "just like he betrayed them when he didn't fight in Vietnam." Say what? Bush betrayed his country because he served in the Guard, not in Vietnam itself? Are you kidding?

No, she was not kidding — she repeated her charge, that Bush had "betrayed his country." Okay — so must have every eligible man who did not serve in Vietnam. All traitors. Including Bill Clinton, of course, and many others Mary Anne Marsh must admire. That is the criterion: If you were eligible and did not serve in Vietnam, you "betrayed your country."

This is what it has come to. Ladies and gentlemen, sometimes I pause and ask myself whether I'm too hard on the Democratic party. Am I just too partisan? I don't think so. I think there is a deep sickness within that party, and we saw a shocking manifestation on Hannity & Colmes.

And, incidentally, wasn't it extreme right-wing nationalists who, once upon a time, cried "Treason!" whenever someone didn't go to war? And now it's nice Democratic consultants. Used to be, liberal Democrats defended men who didn't go to Vietnam — even praised them, held them out as the "real heroes"! That's certainly the way it was when I was growing up, in Ann Arbor.

History is weird. America is weird. This presidential campaign is beyond-weird.
Yes.
Nooooooooooo!
ABC is thinking about dumping Monday Night Football:
In recent years, though, the struggling Disney-owned network has been losing about $150 million annually on "Monday Night Football." ABC pays the National Football League $550 million a year for the rights to air the Monday matchups, but advertising revenue doesn't come close to covering the costs.

Now, with Disney executives under pressure to prove to Wall Street that they can reverse the fortunes of the fourth-place network and turn a profit by next year, they must decide whether the benefits of "Monday Night Football" outweigh the financial losses.
Surely a sign The End is near. Perhaps we can have a bake sale or a car wash to make up the difference.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The Terminator lives!
A company called Cyberdyne is making robot suits, which is, of course, the first step in building a master race of robots that will destroy humanity. I'm not kidding. Okay, maybe I'm kidding a bit, at least about the destruction of humanity thing. Now, instead of "HAL3", if the inventor had called the suit a "T1000", that'd be a different story.
I don't know a thing
about gymnastics. Being a 6 1/2 foot Swede makes things like flips and inverted pikes difficult. I have, though, been watching the Olympics gymnastics with great interest. There's great skill and determination in action. Especially when they screw up, but recover and give great performances (e.g., Paul Hamm's horrible vault in the men's all-around, yet his gold medal clinching performances on parallel bars and high bar).

I was one of the people booing last night when the Russian, Alexei Nemov, was given a ridiculously low score by the judges. What the hell? The guy had six amazing releases -- by far the most challenging of the routines.

What was particularly amazing was the intensity of the booing. For 10 minutes, the crowd booed, until the judges raised Nemov's score -- which still only put him in fifth place, ultimately.

Paul Hamm deserved to medal, so did the Italian, Igor Cassina. But Nemov deserved the gold.
Under Construction

Monday, August 23, 2004

Ten Suggestions for a Sensitive War on Terror
Someone just sent this to me, which is credited to one Joe Mariani:
10. Stop calling it a "war." Rename it to the "Protest Against Terror." Protests always get people's attention and let them know that what you're protesting against is wrong.

9. Use softer bullets. Metal bullets hurt the terrorists, and that makes them hate us more.

8. Perhaps President Kerry can invite Osama bin Laden to the White House for a "cuddling party" with Kerry/Edwards. Nothing makes friends faster than a good cuddle.

7. Only go to war if the French and the UN say it's okay. Everyone knows how skillful the French are at dealing with other nations, and the UN has proven time and again its efficacy in dealing with terrorists.

6. Pull the troops out of Iraq within six months, but stay the course and even send more troops. If you have to ask, it's too nuanced for you.

5. Gently but firmly remind the terrorists that he was in Vietnam for four months thirty-five years ago. They won't dare pull anything then.

4. Ensure government owned and operated health care for all Americans, paid for with higher taxes. Terrorists won't bother to attack if they know all Americans have health care; it won't do any good then.

3. Stop eating pork and cover the women. Don't let them read or vote. That will show the terrorists that we understand them and appreciate their culture.

2. Don't call them "terrorists." They feel bad enough about our bullying, abusive foreign policy as it is. Call them "armed peace demonstrators." They'll feel more... peaceful.

1. Don't send soldiers; send social workers. All they really need is love and understanding.
Left off the list, "Send Al Franken in his Stuart Smalley persona to help the armed peace demonstrators believe that, doggoneit, people like them."
That's what I should have said.
I commented on the Michael Moore/Bill O'Reilly debate-thing (not really an interview, more like a back-and-forth) before, but forget that. This is better:
Michael Moore recently asked Bill O'Reilly if he would sacrifice his son for Falluja. A clever rhetorical device, but it's the wrong question: this war is about Des Moines, not Falluja. . . .

No, I would not sacrifice myself, my parents would not sacrifice me, and President Bush would not sacrifice a single marine or soldier simply for Falluja. Rather, that symbolic city is but one step toward a free and democratic Iraq, which is one step closer to a more safe and secure America.