Swift Vets and POWs for "Truth" v. The Truth
[Formerly Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth" v. The Truth]

 

Acknowledgements


Home Page Kerry Purple Heart 1 Kerry Bronze Star Kerry and Cambodia
Bush campaign and SBV Kerry Purple Heart 3 Kerry Silver Star Kerry - Other War Related
Who's behind SBV? Other Lies or B.S. SBV v. SBV Who served "with" Kerry? 
Appendix A: Republicans saved by Kerry  Appendix B: The Double-Standards Game
Appendix C: GOP Attack Dogs Inc.  Appendix D: The "He-Said, She-Said" Game

JOHN KERRY AND CAMBODIA

 

SUMMARY FACTS
(For detailed proof, scroll down or click here)

  • SBV claims that Kerry could not have been inside Cambodia on Christmas Eve of 1968 as Kerry claims. However, there is no evidence validating their assertion. Kerry was known to be very close to the Cambodian border on Christmas Eve of 1968 and he was independently reported to have been inside Cambodia in January and February of 1969. No one can prove that he was NOT across the Cambodian border on Christmas night in 1968. Two of his own crewmates confirm they were near the Cambodia border on Christmas eve 1968. Navy records and calculations suggest Kerry's boat could have very well been inside Cambodia on that night. There is additional evidence to suggest that SBV's claims are false. Indeed, SBV member John O'Neill showed himself to be a liar extraordinaire since he had stated to then-President Richard Nixon that he was "in Cambodia" himself, in a swift boat, even though he keeps claiming today that he was never in Cambodia!

  • Even though SBV claims that three of Kerry's crewmen disagree that they were inside Cambodia, only one crewman (Steve Gardner) has stated a disagreement publicly - and his recollection contradicts that of another crewmate of Kerry's as well as the documented history.
  • SBV's claim that Kerry's own diary shows he was 55 miles from the Cambodian border on Christmas Eve 1968 selectively omits the part that refers to Kerry having been at or near the Cambodian border the same day - thus, falsely impugning Kerry as a liar.
  • SBV's claims that Kerry would have been court-martialed if he had indeed been inside Cambodia is also false. The military record shows that inadvertent or intentional incursions into Cambodia back then, with no court-martials and sometimes with awards - were not unusual . 

 

DETAILED FACTS

1. SBV claim on Kerry's presence (or lack thereof) inside Cambodia

1A. SBV claim on Kerry being 55 miles from the Cambodian border per his own "diary"

2. SBV claim that Kerry could not have been inside Cambodia because no swift boats would have been able to get inside Cambodia

3. SBV claim on Kerry's " crewmates' " position on Cambodia

4. SBV claim that Kerry would have been court-martialed if he had indeed been inside Cambodia

 

1. SBV CLAIM ON KERRY'S PRESENCE (OR LACK THEREOF) INSIDE CAMBODIA

[Fox News report, via Campaign Desk]: A new book called "Unfit for Command" (search) raises questions about Kerry's claims that he was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve 1968 at a time when the U.S. government was insisting that there was no American military presence in that country.

[SBV, via Kevin Drum]: All the living commanders in Kerry’s chain of command . . . deny that Kerry was ever ordered to Cambodia.

[Media Matters]: The Regnery book Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, co-authored by O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi, states that "Kerry was never in Cambodia during Christmas 1968, or at all during the Vietnam War. In reality, during Christmas 1968, he was more than fifty miles away from Cambodia." On the August 10 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, O'Neill stated that it "is a total and complete lie" that John Kerry was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day of 1968 and sourced Douglas Brinkley's book Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War as evidence that on Christmas Eve Kerry was "55 miles" from Cambodia in Sa Dec writing a letter "about how he had visions of sugar plums in his head, literally."

[Balta paraphrasing SBV]: Having read this excerpt of the book by the Swift Boat people who might have known Kerry, here is a brief summary of the group's argument. First, Kerry has said repeatedly that he was in Cambodia for Christmas, 1968, and that this was an example of a war crime on the part of the U.S. - violation of the territory of a soverign country. He attacked Reagan with that memory in the 80's. It was also discussed in a Kerry Documentary book that came out earlier this year. Supposedly, Kerry even has a souvenir from his trip there.
However, according to the book, there are several reasons to question this story. First and foremost, the Swift boat people's suggest that there were obstacles in the way to prevent border crossings. Secondly, at the time, Kerry's boat was supposedly stationned/on patrol up to a city called Sa Dec, 55 miles from the Cambodian Border. And Third; the records of many of the officers that commanded the Swift Boats say that there weren't troops heading across the Cambodian border at the time, and Mr. Kerry would in fact have been punished for going there. These elements combine to suggest that Kerry has been lying about his voyage into Cambodia for Christmas, 1968. If you want more details, read the excerpt cited above.

FACT
Just because the U.S. Government did not announce a formal military presence in Cambodia during the Vietnam-era does not mean there were no American military personnel inside Cambodia at that time. It's not as if Nixon and Johnson were the pinnacles of truth! Moreover, do you want a believe a bunch of demonstrated liars? Especially when past news articles have reported Kerry being in Cambodia?
The bottomline is that Kerry was known to be very close to the Cambodian border on Christmas Eve of 1968 and he was independently reported to have been inside Cambodia in January and February of 1969. No one can prove that he was NOT across the Cambodian border on Christmas night in 1968. Two of his own crewmates confirm they were near the Cambodia border on Christmas eve 1968. Navy records and calculations suggest Kerry's boat could have very well been inside Cambodia on that night. Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that SBV, as usual, is lying. 

REFERENCES
Thomas Lang, Campaign Desk:

As Fox sees it, that 36-year-old government denial casts doubt on Kerry's stated remembrances. But given the mudded history of Vietnam, an official government stance should hardly translate into certain fact -- especially now that it's known that the U.S. government conducted numerous secret operations throughout Cambodia during the Vietnam War as early as 1967 (as PBS's "Frontline," among myriad others, has reported).

John Gonzales, Dallas Observer (bold text is eRiposte emphasis):

In 1986, Kerry made a speech on the Senate floor urging then-President Ronald Reagan not to allow the United States to aid the Nicaraguan Contras, likening it to the slippery slope that daunted American forces in Vietnam. "Mr. President, I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians and have the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia."

The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth point to that speech as an example of what they allege became Kerry's pattern of behavior following the war – to distort and twist the facts to suit his purposes.
...
There were, of course, covert operations that the government has since acknowledged – operations that sent American soldiers to illegally infiltrate Cambodia and other neighboring countries. The problem, SBVT contends, is that Kerry wasn't part of any of them.
...
Jim Wasser disagrees. He was a radarman who was second in command under Kerry on PCF-44 and is now affiliated with his campaign as part of Veterans for Kerry. Wasser, who now lives in Illinois, says that it would be unusual for an enlisted gunner's mate to specifically know the boat's position at any given time.

"I had to go on [Fox News show] Hannity & Colmes with him, and even though he's wrong, and I truly believe that, he's my brother, and veterans should never say anything about each other," Wasser says of Gardner. "[Swift Boat Veterans for Truth] say they're about the truth; that's a falsehood.

"On Christmas in 1968, we were close [to Cambodia]. I don't know exactly where we were. I didn't have the chart. It was easy to get turned around with all the rivers around there. But I'll say this: We were the farthest inland that night. I know that for sure."

Maria L. La Ganga and Stephen Braun, Los Angeles Times (bold text is eRiposte emphasis):

But two of Kerry's crewmates — Wasser and Zaladonis — both told The Times the boat was in the vicinity of the Cambodian border and even fought an engagement with a Viet Cong sampan on Christmas Eve day.

"We patrolled a river on the border," Zaladonis said last week. "Unless I'm out of my mind or mistaken, that river was part of the border."

There are no after-action reports that pinpoint where Kerry's boat was in late December 1968. But a file from Navy archives in Washington obtained by The Times provides support for both sides.

An entry in a monthly summary of engagements for December 1968 reports that on Christmas Eve, "PCF-44 fired on junk on beach. Results: 1 sampan destroyed."

The entry was made by then-Capt. Roy Hoffmann, the overall commander of Swift boats and now one of Kerry's most vocal critics. There is no written location for the engagement, but it contains a coordinate used by the military to plot locations. The coordinate points to an area about 40 to 50 miles south of the Cambodian border, near an island called Sa Dec.

The entry also notes that the incident took place about 7 a.m., which would have given Kerry's boat another 12 hours to make it to the Cambodian border by nightfall. At a cruising speed of 23 knots, the boat could have covered the distance in about two hours.

This would be consistent with the contention of Kerry spokesman Michael Meehan that Kerry was in Sa Dec but reached the Cambodian border later the same day.

Atrios (Eschaton):

From Frontline
By 1967, the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong were operating along Cambodia's border with South Vietnam, with Sihanouk's approval. The United States and South Vietnam responded with cross-border operations, which Sihanouk publicly protested.

Atrios (Eschaton):

New York Times:

12/13/67:
..Government sources acknowledged that the Administration was considering giving field commanders in South Vietnam authority for "hot pursuit" into the country."
...The present interpretation of the policy of self-defense generally bars hot pursuit, but in practice American commanders have engaged in it on occasion during the heat of battle."
12/12/67:
...a plan to this effect, allowing for follow-up by American forces, was "under active consideration..." ..."the decision to move into Cambodia was all but made."
11/16/68:
Since last July Cambodia has been holding eleven American crewmen from an Army river supply vessel that strayed inadvertently into Cambodian territory.
...Cambodia has finally recognized the two-sided nature of the border incidents and has asked the International Control Commission to investigate the Communist incursions that provoked allied attacks across the border."

1/22/68:

Cambodia said today that equipment was abandoned on the battlefield by the "American-South Vietnamese" force that, Cambodia maintains, crossed into her territory Thursday....
...He said that the abandoned items included red scarves worn by paratroop commandos, a United States officer's helmet, weapons, and radio sets.
Cambodia regularly charged that forces attacked targets, military and civilian, in their territory throughout this time period. I'll leave it to contemporary scholars to unravel the truth/lack of truth of those claims. But, it's quite clear that at this time the US was in possession of quite a bit of intelligence about North Vietnamese troop positions and strongholds in Cambodia which would have been difficult to derive without some cross-border surveillance.

Kevin Drum, Political Animal:

In 1979 Kerry wrote a letter to the Boston Herald in which he said, "I remember spending Christmas Eve of 1968 five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas."

In 1986 Kerry gave a speech in the Senate in which he said he spent Christmas Day of 1968 "sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia."

In 1992, an AP story about missing POWs filled in further details: "One of the missions, which Kerry, at the time, was ordered not to discuss, involved taking CIA operatives into Cambodia to search for enemy enclaves."

In 2000, US News & World Report ran a brief piece that said Kerry "made his first forays into Cambodia during the Vietnam War as a Navy lieutenant on clandestine missions to deliver weapons to anticommunist forces."

In 2003, the Washington Post ran a story about Kerry in which he explained that he carries around an old hat in his briefcase:

"My good luck hat," Kerry said, happy to see it. "Given to me by a CIA guy as we went in for a special mission in Cambodia."

Now, it's not immediately clear to me why any of this is "pure fantasy." Kerry certainly operated in the area of the Cambodian border in late 1968, Americans were definitely making border incursions at the time, and the CIA certainly had a lot of people in Vietnam in 1968. That doesn't mean Kerry's story is true, but it's certainly plausible.

The serious evidence against Kerry seems to consist of two things. First, the Swift Vets group claims that "All the living commanders in Kerry’s chain of command . . . deny that Kerry was ever ordered to Cambodia." Second, both Douglas Brinkley's biography of Kerry and Kerry's war journal mention only that he was near the Cambodian border on Christmas Eve, not across it. (Although the journal entry ends with a sarcastic message to his superiors: "Merry Christmas from the most inland Market Time unit" — at a minimum a reference to being right on top of the Cambodian border. Then: "You hope that they'll court marshal you or something because that would make sense" — possibly a reference to crossing the border.)

Conclusions? Beats me. Kerry has mentioned this story several times, so it's not a slip of the tongue. And it's plausible on its surface. Contrariwise, the evidence against him is pretty thin: not much more than the fact that no one else has verified it — and keep in mind that the Swift Vets guys are not exactly disinterested witnesses in this matter. What's more, since there is exactly zero in the way of documentary evidence one way or the other, it seems unlikely that this little teapot-sized tempest will ever be conclusively resolved. Which, I suppose, suits Kerry's detractors just fine.

eRiposte comments: Unlike Kevin's conclusions ("beats me"), it is plainly obvious that there is sufficient evidence over a long time now that Kerry has been in Cambodia. Also, if Kerry was a few miles across the Cambodian border he could very well have been at the border or outside the border on the same day!

Kevin Drum (Political Animal):

KERRY IN CAMBODIA....Instapundit links today to a piece in the Telegraph that quotes John Kerry biographer Douglas Brinkley about the "Christmas in Cambodia" kerfuffle:

"On Christmas Eve he was near Cambodia; he was around 50 miles from the Cambodian border. There's no indictment of Kerry to be made, but he was mistaken about Christmas in Cambodia," said Douglas Brinkley, who has unique access to the candidate's wartime journals.

....He said: "Kerry went into Cambodian waters three or four times in January and February 1969 on clandestine missions. He had a run dropping off US Navy Seals, Green Berets and CIA guys." The missions were not armed attacks on Cambodia, said Mr Brinkley, who did not include the clandestine missions in his wartime biography of Mr Kerry, Tour of Duty.

"He was a ferry master, a drop-off guy, but it was dangerous as hell. Kerry carries a hat he was given by one CIA operative. In a part of his journals which I didn't use he writes about discussions with CIA guys he was dropping off."

So let me get this straight. Kerry did go to Cambodia — even though that was supposedly impossible, he did take CIA guys in — even though that was supposedly absurd, and he did get a hat from one of them — even though that was supposedly a sign of mental instability. The extent of Kerry's malfeasance is that instead of doing it in December, he actually did it in January and February.

Considering that he's mentioned this story only twice, most recently 18 years ago, and it turns out that his only crime is to have tarted it up with a bit of holiday pathos, I think I'll pass on following it any further down the Swift Vets rabbit hole. But thanks to everyone who displayed their deep unseriousness about this election by participating in this smear. It will be remembered.

Also see DailyKos for more.

Balta:

First, I am going to deal with the easiest question in this; is it possible that Mr. Kerry could have been in Cambodia given his other whereabouts around that time. The answer to that is simply yes; it is possible. The only way it would have been impossible is if a.) he had put in for supplies or fuel at a location so far away from Cambodia where he could not have reached it given the fuel or the time or b.) his location could firmly be documented to be somewhere else on that day.

The first question is answered simply yes; these swift boats carried supplies and fuel to run about 400 miles, and could travel at speeds up to 20-25 knots. If Kerry had been at the location they suggest he was based at, he could have reached Cambodia in a roughly short trip, operated there for quite some time, and returned, without having to worry about fuel or food status in the least. Secondly, and this is the first time we are going to hit upon this problem which will come up repeatedly; there are no documents that say exactly where Mr. Kerry's boat was at the time. If there were, the Swift Boat vets would have had them; they have basically as much access as Kerry does (even more if you assume Bush support). If those documents existed that proved conclusively that Kerry refueled in Saigon at 3:00 a.m. on Christmas morning, we'd have seen them by now.

Therefore, it is not totally impossible that Kerry's boat was in Cambodia that night.
...
The Swift group alleges that there were significant obstacles to a boat crossing into Cambodia. Specifically, they allege that there were signs, boats, and even a landing craft in the way that would have stopped any boat from crossing the border.

But wait 1 second, let's think about the nature of the Mekong River in this area. If the Mekong were like the Mississippi around St. Louis, it would be easy to block off in this manner - there would be 1 channel and you'd just have to block it with 1 boat and a few signs. However, the Mekong is not like the Mississippi, in fact its actually far worse than even the Mississippi delta...In fact, there are a large number of channels, with marshes, swampland, oxbow lakes, islands, and almost every other marine feature you could imagine in between them.
...
Now, this does suggest a major problem with the Swift boat people's story; they say that there was an LCU (Landing Craft Utility) in the way that blocked the border. But wait just a second, given the large number of variable channels, islands, marshes, and different paths one could take across the Cambodian Border, how exactly would a single LCU be able to actually block the border? Short answer - it couldn't. You would need dozens of them. The swift Boats were small, floated light, and could go in shallow water - they could go through a huge number of channels without trouble. This passage in the book is designed to appeal to people who think of rivers like the Mississippi - 1 giant stream easy to block, when in reality this area would have more water-based paths through it than I can count. The maps prove that.

More likely, either there wasn't really an LCU there, or the U.S. really wasn't interested in blocking off the border completely...Besides, given the sheer number of VC troops in the area of the delta at this time, an LCU sitting there would probably have been committing suicide.
...
The Swifty people also say that at the time there were other boats, PBR's which were assigned the area near Cambodia. This part I can confirm - the U.S. operated dozens of PBR's in the Mekong. However, given the fairly limited supply of PBR's, it is hard for me to say that their list of duties would have consisted of sitting next to the border to make sure no Americans crossed it.
...
Does that mean that there were never boats that sat on the border waiting for the enemy? Of course not. But I really have trouble believing that it was standard U.S. policy to leave these boats sitting ducks on the border without having them moving around a lot. In particular, I can cite this report from the U.S. navy...
it seems as though PBR units were often overstretched - for all the canals and miles of waterways in the Mekong, there were simply not enough of them to monitor every canal. So even this suggests that there were plenty of ways through if a boat was ordered to get around them, and on top of that, it is even harder to believe that there were ever PBR's permanently stationned on or even near the border. It is far more likely that they were used as patrol craft.
...
Unfortunately I cannot prove this beyond a reasonable doubt, as I do not have the duty records for every single boat at my disposal. But at the same time, the only source they cite for it is the commanding officers at the time - they do not cite documents either. They cite 1 person, the commander of the smaller boats alleged to be assigned the area closer to the border. However, as with another point which I will discuss more in a moment, many of the operations dealing with Cambodia actually were operations where people had reason and even orders to lie. Is this man telling the truth? I cannot say, I am not him. But I can tell you that others dealing with Cambodia did not tell the truth about these matters.
...
This leaves 1 remaining point - the people interviewed who say that there were standing orders not to go into Cambodia. If they cannot be questionned, then Kerry would be the one lying.

Fortunately for Mr. Kerry, there is good reason to question the statements by many of the people who said the U.S. was not involved in Cambodia. Specifically, there is a huge track record during the Vietnam conflict of the U.S. putting troops into bordering nations where they were not supposed to be, and then denying it up and down the ranks.
...
In fact, there is 1 more perfect example of something which was supposed to remain a secret from the American public with regards to Cambodia. In 1970, the U.S. and the ARVN launched a full-out offensive across the Cambodian border, supposedly aimed at VC strongholds. They attempted to do this in complete secrecy. But this time, the secrecy failed, and a short time after the invasion was launched the story got out. You might have heard of what happened in the U.S. when that story broke. Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young did a classic song about the results among the people. And Congress got so pissed that they rescinded the Gulf of Tonkin resolution over the invasion.
...
it is clear that there were U.S. forces openly fighting in both Laos and Cambodia in 1969. Christmas 1968 is in fact very close to 1969. This suggests that its at least possible that the U.S. was operating in Cambodia in Christmas, 1968.

Equally valuable is this report of Cambodian leader Sihanouk from 1967, who in at least 1 press conference criticized the fact that U.S. forces were crossing the Cambodian Border.
...
So in the end, where have I built myself back to? Given every piece of information I have seen, it is entirely possible that Mr. Kerry was in Cambodia on Christmas, 1968.

Steve Gilliard (via Hesiod):

The Swift Boat folks are trying to say that John Kerry is lying about being in Cambodia on Christmas, 1968. The odds are he is telling the truth.

Why?

Because of the history of SOG, the Study and Observations Group, really a small, black ops unit created independently of the Special Operations structure, but drawing people from their units.

Members of the Riverine Force often faced serious danger in combat, often working with Navy SEALS, Special Forces, and MACV-SOG.

...
So what exactly was Kerry doing in vietnam?

The SEALORDS Campaign
As U.S. forces prepared the South Vietnamese military to assume complete responsibility for the war, they also worked to keep pressure on the enemy. In fact, from 1968 to 1971, the allies exploited the Communists' staggering battlefield losses during the Tet attacks by pushing the enemy's large main force units out to the border areas, extending the government's presence into Viet Cong strongholds, and consolidating control over population centers.

The Navy in particular spearheaded a drive in the Mekong Delta to isolate and destroy the weakened Communist forces. The SEALORDS (Southeast Asia Lake, Ocean, River, and Delta Strategy) program was a determined effort by U.S. Navy, South Vietnamese Navy, and allied ground forces to cut enemy supply lines from Cambodia and disrupt operations at his base areas deep in the delta. It was developed by Vice Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., appointed COMNAVFORV in September 1968.

When Admiral Zumwalt launched SEALORDS in October 1968 with the blessing of the new COMUSMACV, General Creighton Abrams, allied naval forces in South Vietnam were at peak strength. The U.S. Navy's Coastal Surveillance Force operated 81 Swift boats, 24 Coast Guard WPBs, and 39 other vessels.
...
In the first phase of the SEALORDS campaign allied forces established patrol "barriers," often using electronic sensor devices, along the waterways paralleling the Cambodian border. In early November 1968, PBRs and riverine assault craft opened two canals between the Gulf of Siam at Rach Gia and the Bassac River at Long Xuyen. South Vietnamese paramilitary ground troops helped naval patrol units secure the transportation routes in this operational area, soon named Search Turn. Later in the month, Swift boats, PBRs, riverine assault craft, and Vietnamese naval vessels penetrated the Giang Thanh-Vinh Te canal system and established patrols along the waterway from Ha Tien on the gulf to Chau Doc on the upper Bassac. As a symbol of the Vietnamese contribution to the combined effort, the allied command changed the name of this operation from Foul Deck to Tran Hung Dao I. Then in December U.S. naval forces pushed up the Vam Co Dong and Vam Co Tay Rivers west of Saigon, against heavy enemy opposition, to cut infiltration routes from the "Parrot's Beak" area of Cambodia. The Giant Slingshot operation, so named for the configuration of the two rivers, severely hampered Communist resupply in the region near the capital and in the Plain of Reeds. Completing the first phase of the SEALORDS program, in January 1969 PBRs, assault support patrol boats (ASPB), and other river craft established patrol sectors along canals westward from the Vam Co Tay to the Mekong River in Operation Barrier Reef. Thus, by early 1969 a patrolled waterway interdiction barrier extended almost uninterrupted from Tay Ninh northwest of Saigon to the Gulf of Siam.

...the main mission of SOG was to do illegal cross border operations. The Camboidans complained frequently about violations of their borders by US planes and troops and boats.

Here's a simple tautology: SOG teams often infiltrated Cambodia using water borne craft, sometimes sampans, sometimes, Swift Boats and PBR's. Often, teams would be dropped by helicopter, and then make their way back to a Swift Boat or PBR.
...
So it's hardly like Kerry is saying he flew missions to rescue POW's or some of the horseshit stories fakers tell.

Just looking at maps and the evidence, I think Kerry is likely to be telling the truth and this is yet another shameful lie told by people with no dignity or honor.

Media Matters:

While O'Neill cited page 219 of Brinkley's book to substantiate his claim that Kerry was not near Cambodia on Christmas Eve of 1968, as Kaplan pointed out, O'Neill "chose to ignore the 10 preceding pages" in which Brinkley described Kerry's activities from earlier that day, which did in fact take place near the Cambodian border. From page 209 of Tour of Duty:

Christmas Eve, 1968, turned out to be memorable for the men of PCF-44. ... [A]fter [breakfast] the crew headed their Swift north up the Co Chien River to its junction with the My Tho only miles from the Cambodian border. ... Lieutenant Kerry ... patrolled the watery borderline between Cambodia and Vietnam.

Fred Kaplan (Slate) via Hesiod:

But now some anti-Kerry veterans are saying he was never in Cambodia. John O'Neill, who has been dogging Kerry more than 30 years, told Matt Drudge that the senator's Christmas-in-Cambodia stories "are complete lies." As evidence, he cites Kerry's own wartime diary, as quoted in Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War. That book—according to Drudge's account of it—places Kerry in Sa Dec, 50 miles away from Cambodia, on Christmas Eve, and seemingly at peace. "Visions of sugarplums really do dance through your head," Kerry wrote in his diary that night, "and you think of stockings and snow and roast chestnuts and fires with birch logs and all that is good and warm and real."

That passage is on Page 219 of Brinkley's book. But O'Neill, Drudge, and the other sneerers choose to ignore the 10 preceding pages—the opening pages of a chapter called "Death in the Delta." On Christmas Eve 1968, Brinkley writes, Kerry and his crew:

headed their Swift north by the Cho Chien River to its junction with the My Tho only miles from the Cambodian border. … Kerry began reading up on Cambodia's history in a book he had borrowed from the floating barracks in An Thoi. … He even read about a 1959 Pentagon study titled "Psychological Observations: Cambodia," which … state[d] that Cambodians "cannot be counted on to act in any positive way for the benefit of U.S. aims and policies." [Italics added.]

Brinkley also quotes from Kerry's diary: "It was early morning, not yet light. Ours was the only movement on the river, patrolling near the Cambodian line." [Italics added.] Brinkley continues: "At a bend just as they were approaching the Cambodian border, two [U.S. river-patrol boats] met the Swift." Then, again from Kerry's diary: "Suddenly, there is an explosion and a mortar lands on the bank near all three boats." The next few pages detail a ferocious firefight, one part of which involved (as his diary noted) "the ridiculous waste of being shot at by your own allies."
...
Did Kerry cross the border or just go up to it? We may never know for sure. Not much paperwork exists for covert operations (officially, U.S. forces weren't in Cambodia). Nor is it likely that a canny Swift-boat skipper (and Kerry was nothing if not canny) would jot down thoughts about such covert operations in a diary on a boat that might be captured by the enemy.

The circumstances at least suggest that Kerry was indeed involved in a "black" mission, even if he had never explicitly made that claim.

eRiposte comments: Here we are trying to deconstruct what possibly happened decades ago, when people often cannot recall what happened a week ago. It is one thing to demand accuracy of a Presidential candidate; it is another thing altogether for a band of liars with their myriad enablers and apologists on the Right to insinuate and allege fraud and lies when the pox is really on their house. 

1A. SBV CLAIM ON KERRY BEING 55 MILES FROM THE CAMBODIAN BORDER PER HIS OWN "DIARY" 

[via Daily Howler]: 

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.
...

O’NEILL (8/10/04): This is a total and complete lie. If John Kerry can prove that he was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day of 1968, he should go down and sue me tomorrow morning. It's a lie he's told over and over and over again. It libels everybody that commanded him. It's the typical prototype sort of war crime charge that John Kerry makes that is a lie. John Kerry was at Sa Dec. He was at Sa Dec from a letter to his parents, according to—
BUCHANAN: How far is Sa Dec from Cambodia?
O'NEILL: Fifty-five miles—55 miles, Pat. And he was writing a letter, according to his book, Tour of Duty, about how he had visions of sugar plums in his head, literally. That's in the book Tour of Duty, from which Cambodia disappears. It's a terrible libel and a lie.

FACT
Gardner and O'Neill, as usual, mislead viewers by omission and lie about Kerry. As has been shown above, Kerry was known to be very close to the Cambodian border on that very day and could have been inside Cambodia that night.

REFERENCES
Daily Howler:

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.

Pitiful, isn’t it? 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.
...
O’Neill played Buchanan for a fool with that answer. In Tour of Duty, Kerry writes that letter to his parents after a full day of firefights near the Cambodian border. But you know O’Neill! He wanted voters to think that Kerry lounged the day away in Sa Dec. And so he pissed right in Pat’s leathery face. And Pat was quite happy to let him.

Should the press be concerned by this endless dissembling? Should the press be concerned when Swift Boat Vets sign affidavits about events they didn’t witness? When Swift Boat Vets appear in ads discussing matters without first-hand knowledge? When O’Neill goes on This Week and blatantly lies? Should the press be concerned by the latest hoax—by an assault on another election?

 

2. SBV CLAIM THAT KERRY COULD NOT HAVE BEEN INSIDE CAMBODIA BECAUSE NO SWIFT BOATS WOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO GET INSIDE CAMBODIA

[via Media Matters]: O'Neill now claims that Kerry was lying about being in Cambodia during the Vietnam War because no one was allowed into Cambodia:

From Unfit for Command: Kerry was never in Cambodia during Christmas 1968, or at all during the Vietnam War. ... Areas closer than 55 miles from the Cambodian border in the area of the Mekong River were patrolled by PBRs, a small river patrol craft, and not by Swift Boats. Preventing border crossings was considered so important at the time that an LCU (a large, mechanized landing craft) and several PBRs were stationed to ensure that no one could cross the border. [pp. 47-48]

O'Neill on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos: How do I know he's [Kerry] not in Cambodia? I was on the same river, George. I was there two months after him. Our patrol area ran to Sedek, it was 50 miles from Cambodia. There isn't any watery border. The Mekong River's like the Mississippi. There were gunboats stationed right up there to stop people from coming. And our boats didn't go north of, only slightly north of Sedek. So it was a made-up story. [8/22]

FACT
As shown above these statements are utterly false. Indeed, O'Neill showed himself to be a liar extraordinaire since he had stated to then-President Richard Nixon that he was "in Cambodia" himself, in a swift boat!

REFERENCES
Media Matters:

As CNN congressional correspondent Joe Johns reported on the August 24 edition of CNN's NewsNight with Aaron Brown, "O'Neill said no one could cross the border by river, and he claimed in an audiotape that his publicist played to CNN that he himself had never been to Cambodia either. But in 1971, O'Neill said precisely the opposite to then-President Richard Nixon." CNN then aired the audiotape of O'Neill telling Nixon that he was, in fact, in Cambodia during the Vietnam War:

O'NEILL: I was in Cambodia, sir. I worked along the border on the water.

NIXON: In a swift boat?

O'NEILL: Yes, sir.

Although there was no response from O'Neill on CNN (O'Neill had "not returned CNN's calls," according to Johns), O'Neill was confronted on the issue by Alan Colmes, co-host of FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes. The Cambodia issue was first raised on the program by co-host Sean Hannity, who attempted to dismiss it by asking O'Neill, "[D]o you want to even respond to this attack against you so they [the Kerry campaign] can distract from him [Kerry] never answering a question about the discrepancies in his life?" and then asserting that O'Neill's contradicting comments were "consistent statements." However, Colmes refused to let O'Neill -- who attempted to dismiss his lie by saying "I was talking in a conversation" -- off the hook for his false claim.

The Left Coaster (via reader PT) (bold text is eRiposte emphasis):

[quoting transcript of Newsnight with Aaron Brown]:

BROWN: And just quickly on the O'Neill thing, just for my edification here, Mr. O'Neill's publicist played for you a tape where Mr. O'Neill says what again?

JOHNS: Well, he says in the tape essentially that he did not go to Cambodia, plain and simple. He says that a couple times in fact in this little short interview that was played for me on the phone. Now, of course, as you listen to that conversation with Richard Nixon, he says something completely different or, at least, that's what it sounds like -- Aaron.

BROWN: It does. Thank you, Joe Johns in Philadelphia tonight.

3. SBV CLAIM ON KERRY'S " CREWMATES' " POSITION ON CAMBODIA 

["Unfit for Command" extract, via Balta]: At least three of the five crewmen on Kerry’s PCF 44 boat—Bill Zaldonis, Steven Hatch, and Steve Gardner—deny that they or their boat were ever in Cambodia. The remaining two crewmen declined to be interviewed for this book. Gardner, in particular, will never forget those days in late December when he was wounded on PCF 44, not in Cambodia, but many miles away in Vietnam.

FACT
Gardner's claim is different from Kerry's and that of at least one other Kerry crewmate. The majority of Kerry's crewmates have not challenged Kerry's position. In fact, Zaldonis and Hatch in fact support Kerry for President -- even though Zaldonis was very angry with Kerry's anti-war activities at one time. Additionally, as discussed above, there is ample evidence Kerry's boat was inside Cambodia.

REFERENCES
John Gonzales, Dallas Observer (bold text is eRiposte emphasis):

Jim Wasser disagrees. He was a radarman who was second in command under Kerry on PCF-44 and is now affiliated with his campaign as part of Veterans for Kerry. Wasser, who now lives in Illinois, says that it would be unusual for an enlisted gunner's mate to specifically know the boat's position at any given time.

"I had to go on [Fox News show] Hannity & Colmes with him, and even though he's wrong, and I truly believe that, he's my brother, and veterans should never say anything about each other," Wasser says of Gardner. "[Swift Boat Veterans for Truth] say they're about the truth; that's a falsehood.

"On Christmas in 1968, we were close [to Cambodia]. I don't know exactly where we were. I didn't have the chart. It was easy to get turned around with all the rivers around there. But I'll say this: We were the farthest inland that night. I know that for sure."

eRiposte: There is no evidence that either Bill Zaladonis or Steven Hatch support Gardner's or SBV's view. In fact, both of these people support Kerry for President even though Zaldonis was very angry with Kerry's anti-war activities at one time.

4. SBV CLAIM THAT KERRY WOULD HAVE BEEN COURT-MARTIALED IF HE HAD INDEED BEEN INSIDE CAMBODIA

[Seattle Times, via Gropinator]: The book "Unfit for Command," put out by members of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, contends "all the living commanders in Kerry's chain of command ... indicate that Kerry would have been seriously disciplined or court-martialed had he gone" to Cambodia.

FACT
False. Operations inside Cambodia, sometimes inadvertent, sometimes intentional, were actually not unusual back then - and that too without court-martials and sometimes with awards.

REFERENCES
Gropinator:

Reporters unfamiliar with the history of the brown-water Navy seem to have bit hard on this story, even though it's widely known that enterprising boat captains regularly took the fight to the enemy and into Cambodia. The best example of this involves the Zumwalts. Admiral Elmo "Bud" Zumwalt was the top Navy commander in Viet Nam, in charge of the entire brown-water Navy. Until his appointment to the top job in the Navy, Chief of Naval Operations, the nature of Viet Namese operations were his, from the ground-up. For example, Sea Float, the U.S. floating naval base, was his idea, the base used to control the Viet Cong stronghold in the Ca Mau Peninsula, next to Cambodia.

Zumwalt's son Lt. Elmo Zumwalt III was a swift boat captain under his dad's command. (The story of the Zumwalts was highly publicized in the mid-80s following the publication of My Father, My Son, their joint biography that included the tragic story of Zumwalt III's struggle with cancer presumably caused by the Agent Orange that Zumwalt II ordered to destroy the cover used by the enemy.

Of his action in 1969, Zumwalt III says,

I knew we were a few hundred yards inside Cambodia. I also knew that just by crossing into Cambodia I was in violation of direct orders. But I disobeyed the orders because I knew the VC and the North Vietnamese were infiltrating along this particular river.... - p84

I knew other U.S. boats had ventured into before so I wasn't the first one to do it. It was one of the best ways to stage an ambush because the enemy didn't expect us there. - p 85
Zumwalt's boat went on to successfully interdict a large shipment of weapons. Zumwalt II says,

When someone disobeys orders the way Elmo did when he ventured into Cambodia, but also succeeds in his mission, you don't know whether to give him a medal or court-martial. Technically, his violation should have been reported up the chain of command, but at the operating level we realized it was done with some frequency both by our boats and aviators. No serious thought was given to court-martialing Elmo, and personally, I was not the least bit angry with him. If truth be known, I was proud of him, but I didn't show my pride as much as I wanted to because my job was to enforce the rules of engagement...

I kidded him that in every naval officer's career there came a time when as a matter of conscience, you had to disobey orders and stand up for your beliefs.

"The trouble with you Elmo," I said, "is that you do that about three times a week."

Later, when Geoff Martin's commendation request for Elmo came to my desk, and I learned the details of the ambush, I was not the least surprised by what Elmo had done. I thought he demonstrated his courage and selflessness, qualities I had seen in him since he had been a very small boy, and which always made me proud of him.

Normally, I would have made the decision on what commendation to award, but I couldn't in this case, so I forwarded the request to fleet command. They reported back and awarded Elmo the Bronze Star for bravery. I think it was one of those times when the fact that Elmo was my son worked against him. In my judgment, his actions warranted the Silver Star, but I think the brass felt that a Silver Star would be perceived as favoritism. - p90-91

One can only stand in awe at the low opinion the Swift Boat Liars for Bush have of the press. In one of the most widely circulated such stories, the soon-to-be CNO's son won the Bronze Star for action in Cambodia. This is a huge lie they are feeding, and they're sure the press is incompetent enough to buy it.

Seattle Times, via Gropinator:

"Swift Boat crews regularly operated along the Cambodian border from Ha Tien on the Gulf of Thailand to the rivers of the Mekong south and west of Saigon," Michael Meehan, a senior adviser in the Kerry campaign, said Friday. "Boats often received fire from enemy taking sanctuary across the border. Kerry's was not the only United States riverboat to respond, inadvertently or responsibly, across the border."

"Many times he was on or near the Cambodian border and on one occasion crossed into Cambodia at the request of members of a special operations group operating out of Ha Tien" on the Gulf of Thailand, Meehan said in his statement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hit Counter