Apocalypse Kerry = Operation Sealords
Claremont Institute
Apocalypse Kerry = Operation Sealords
Thu Aug 19, 2004 23:56

Apocalypse Kerry

By John H. Hinderaker and Scott W. Johnson
Posted August 18, 2004

A version of this article appeared in the August 18, 2004 edition of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

John Kerry took the floor of the United States Senate on March 27, 1986, and delivered a dramatic oration indicting the foreign policy of the Reagan Administration. As is his habit, Kerry drew on his Vietnam war experience in explaining his opposition to the policy.

"I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia," he said. "I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and having the President of the United States telling the American people that I was not there."

To emphasize the importance of this incident to his subsequent political development, Kerry asserted: "I have that memory which is seared—seared —in me, that says to me, before we send another generation into harm's way we have a responsibility in the U.S. Senate to go the last step, to make the best effort possible to avoid that kind of conflict."

The story of his 1968 Christmas in Cambodia is one that Kerry has told on many occasions over the years. He invoked the story in 1979 in the course of his review of the movie "Apocalypse Now" for the Boston Herald. Most recently, Kerry told the story—with remarkable embellishments involving a CIA man who gave him his "lucky hat"—last year on separate occasions to reporters Laura Blumenfeld of the Washington Post and Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe.

Certain elements of Kerry's Christmas in Cambodia story were incredible on their face. Kerry attributed responsibility for his illegal 1968 mission to Richard Nixon, despite the fact that Lyndon Johnson was president at the time. The Khmer Rouge who allegedly shot at Kerry during his "secret" mission did not take the field until 1972.

Moreover, there is no record that Swift boats—the type of boat under Kerry's command—were ever used for secret missions in Cambodia. Their size and noise make them unlikely candidates for such missions in any event. Indeed, the authorized biographer of Kerry's Vietnam service—historian Douglas Brinkley in his book Tour of Duty—omits any mention of such a covert cross-border mission to Cambodia at any time during Kerry's service.

Over the past few weeks, the Christmas in Cambodia tale, a keystone of John Kerry's Vietnam autobiography, has been revealed to be fraudulent. On Christmas 1968, Kerry was docked at Sa Dec, 50 miles from Cambodia in an area from which the Cambodian border was in fact inaccessible.

Last week, after the falsity of Kerry's account became public, the Kerry campaign issued a statement "correcting" the story. According to the Kerry campaign, the mission referred to took place in January 1969 when Kerry "inadvertently or responsibly" crossed the border into Cambodia. However, three of Kerry's Swift boat crewmates have denied entering Cambodia at any time, and no one has corroborated Kerry's claim.

The suggestion that Kerry may have "inadvertently" strayed into Cambodia—leaving aside whether that was even possible—constitutes a complete retreat from the point of Kerry's original story: that he lost his faith in government because the President lied about having sent American troops into Cambodia. And, of course, it contradicts his story about ferrying a CIA man to Cambodia.

Given the attention lavished on President Bush's service in the Air National Guard earlier this year, we thought that newspapers such as the Washington Post and the New York Times would want to devote comparable attention to John Kerry's Christmas in Cambodia story. We also thought they would want to consider what the falsity of Kerry's story might have to tell us about the uses to which Kerry is putting his Vietnam service in the current presidential campaign.

To date, however, we have been wrong. Neither the influential mainstream newspapers nor the broadcast television networks have reported the meltdown of Kerry's Christmas in Cambodia story. Only readers of Internet weblogs such as ours have stayed on top of the exposure of Kerry's tall tale. Or on the Kerry campaign's lame efforts to resurrect a version of the story that contradicts what Kerry has said for the past 25 years, but allows Kerry to continue using his Vietnam experiences, real and imagined, for his own political purposes.

Whatever the reason—and we have our suspicions—when it comes to scrutiny of Senator Kerry's veracity, the mainstream media are saluting, but they are decidedly not reporting for duty.

Based on Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness, this is a controversial addition to the multitude of Vietnam war movies in existence. We follow Captain Willard on his mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade Green Beret who has set himself up as a God among a local tribe. Notes taken by Coppola's wife have recently been used to create "Hearts Of Darkness" - a fascinating and revealing account of the making of this movie

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Swift Boats Kerry Apocalypse Now.

In the new affidavit, Elliott says: "I do not claim to have personal knowledge as to how Kerry shot the wounded and fleeing Viet Cong." And USA Today reports that in an interview this year, Elliott said: "I don't know how anyone would have taken the risks he took in combat just for the glory of running for office."


Researcher Kerry: Operation Sealords in the rivers of Vietnam

USATODAY.com - Kerry has historic tale to tell
... It describes his role as a 25-year-old lieutenant in the ill-advised Operation Sealords
in the rivers of Vietnam, how he was wounded three times and honored ...

Not your typical campaign book: Tour of Duty revisits John Kerry's experience as a son of privilege fighting in Vietnam.

Kerry has historic tale to tell
By Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY
If the Democratic presidential race were judged by literary standards, John Kerry would not be lagging in the polls.

The Massachusetts senator is treated heroically in historian Douglas Brinkley's book, Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War (William Morrow, $25.95). Of the new books by or about the candidates, it's the most dramatic and revealing.

Not a typical campaign book, it deals with how a son of privilege enlisted in the Navy because it was his duty despite misgivings about the Vietnam War.

It describes his role as a 25-year-old lieutenant in the ill-advised Operation Sealords in the rivers of Vietnam, how he was wounded three times and honored for valor.

He emerged as an anti-war activist who asked a Senate committee in 1971: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

Brinkley, who succeeded his mentor, the late Stephen Ambrose, as director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans, says he isn't sure if the book will help Kerry's campaign. "There are still a lot of moral ambiguities about Vietnam," he says, which is why he finds it more interesting than the heroics of World War II chronicled by Ambrose in best sellers such as Band of Brothers.

Kerry gave Brinkley access to more than 1,000 pages of previously private diaries and letters from Vietnam that document his growing disillusionment with the war he was fighting.

Kerry saved them, intending to write a memoir. Instead, he gave them to Brinkley, who says, "I think he found them too painful to revisit himself."

Kenneth L. Vardon APFN@apfn.org
USN 1956 - 1969

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