- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2004

Vietnam has become an unexpected battleground in the race for the presidency, but the war records of the likely opponents have been dealt with quite differently.

Members of the Fourth Estate scrutinized, speculated about and misreported the service record of President Bush after Democratic operatives accused him of being “AWOL.” However, the radical activism of Sen. John Kerry after he returned home has received far less attention than it deserves.

On April 23, 1971, before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Mr. Kerry accused U.S. soldiers of war crimes. He recounted that his brothers in arms “raped … randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan … and generally ravaged the countryside.”

The press has not pressed Mr. Kerry to explain those charges. A case in point was his interview with CNN’s Judy Woodruff last Thursday. Near the end of the conversation, she raised the issue, asking: “It’s been reported that, well you’re aware of this, Vietnam veterans upset with the fact that when you came back from the war … you were accusing American troops of war crimes.”

Mr. Kerry responded with a falsehood followed by a quick shift, “I was accusing American leaders of abandoning the troops. And if you read what I said, it is very clearly an indictment of leadership … I’ve always fought for the soldiers.”

Even if Mrs. Woodruff had not read Mr. Kerry’s testimony — and it is widely available — surely she or her producer had seen the day’s work of the most widely-read political columnist in Washington, her CNN co-worker Robert Novak. In his Thursday column, “Kerry and Hanoi Jane,” Mr. Novak repeated Mr. Kerry’s statements to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and also pointed out that Mr. Kerry was the New England representative to an executive committee meeting of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, at which plans were made to sponsor “war crimes testimony” at the United Nations. A follow-up question beckoned.

Instead, Mrs. Woodruff gave Mr. Kerry a pass. She did not challenge his statement. She failed to ask a single follow-up question about his atrocious accusations. Instead, she teed up a series of softballs for him regarding his primary opponent, Sen. John Edwards. Mrs. Woodruff allowed Mr. Kerry to rewrite history, unrebutted.

Mr. Kerry must answer for his statements to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His accusations against his fellow Americans are the most serious charges one can make. If he no longer believes that his brothers in arms committed atrocities, he should explain why he changed his mind and issue a statement exonerating them.

When Mr. Kerry is next on CNN, they should complete the truncated questioning. We will be tuning in to CNN. But we won’t be holding our breath.