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TYRRELL: An imposter’s complaint

Public adulation and higher office elude one war-record embellisher

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Here we are in the afterglow of another Memorial Day. The flags and the bunting are being put away. The memories endure for another year of our honored dead, of the brave wounded, of the veterans - some grizzled, some still youthful - all deserving their country's gratitude. Then there are the imposters, who often from zilch have created military honors, whole careers, records of heroism and splendid triumphs. What wretches.

One is Joseph Brian Cryer, 45, who claimed to be a U.S. Navy SEAL and boasted online of his "77 confirmed kills" during a glorious operation in Libya in 1986. A genuine SEAL, Don Shipley, exposed Mr. Cryer as an imposter. Mr. Shipley has taken it upon himself to expose frauds and veterans who engaud their war records. It must be a full-time occupation. This kind of thing happens surprisingly often, and very much in public. A best-selling historian was suspended for a year from his college teaching position for bragging to his students of his Vietnam War feats, and, oh yes, he claimed exploits on the football field, too. Both claims were fabrications. Now with SEAL Team 6's exploits in snagging Osama bin Laden, SEALS are turning up everywhere.

Mr. Cryer admitted his hoax to the Washington Examiner, explaining that he had confected the story as "a coping mechanism" because of some grievance he had against the Navy. He did serve in the Navy in the 1980s, but as a seaman, not as a SEAL. I thought a "coping mechanism" was a euphemism for drowning one's problems in booze or some other addiction. Now a coping mechanism is a lie. Well, it did not help Mr. Cryer.

Actually, in Mr. Cryer's case, his embellishments are somewhat understandable. He was running for office. He was a candidate for city council in Ocean City, Md., in 2006. He was just doing what a lot of successful politicians do. They run claiming achievements that are completely fictional, and those who are caught often win office anyway.

Remember Richard Blumenthal, the attorney general of Connecticut? He ran for the Senate claiming, "We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam." That was a lie, but the Honorable Sen. Blumenthal repeated it in various forms throughout his campaign. In truth, he received no fewer than five military deferments and finally a sweet job in the Marine Reserve. He also lied about his athletic career. Contrary to his claim, he never was captain of the Harvard swimming team or even swam on the team. The voters elected him nonetheless.

How many other whoppers had this fraud told pursuant to becoming a member of the U.S. Senate in 2010? I would suggest his record abounds with them. However, so do the records of countless other politicians. There is Jimmy Carter claiming to be a nuclear engineer. There is Sen. Jean-Francois Kerry, launching his campaign for the presidency as a war hero despite his taped appearance before Congress denouncing the war and alleging that his comrades had committed war crimes. There is Al Gore getting ensnared in a thicket of petty lies, beginning with his campaigns for the Senate, continuing with his campaigns for the presidency and culminating with his present campaign in which he serves as the world's chief proponent and exploiter of global warming. It has made him millions. And forget not the Clintons. They are the longest-running con act in American history, with Bill conning his draft board and Hillary creating her visit to a Marine recruiter - or was it an Army recruiter?

So I can understand if Joseph Brian Cryer feels a little abused. Had he won his campaign for city council, he would be on his way to greatness. He could have been a Joe Biden. Maybe from the city council he would have sought the governorship, possibly the U.S. Senate. By then he would have received a Purple Heart, possibly the Medal of Honor. He had his whole life before him until the spoiler Mr. Shipley struck. Mr. Shipley has denied the masses another hero. How many more politicians' lives will Mr. Shipley destroy?

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His new book is "After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery" (Thomas Nelson, 2010).

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