- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

John Kerry’s strategy of making his military service a centerpiece of his presidential campaign is under fire with the release of “Unfit for Command,” which arrives in bookstores this week.

The book accuses the Democratic nominee of lying about what he saw as a Navy officer during his four months of combat in Vietnam, inflating his own record to garner enough Purple Hearts to go home early and later joining an anti-war group that discussed plans for assassinating members of the U.S. Congress.

“‘Unfit for Command’ is a shocking indictment of a politician who slandered his fellow veterans, danced on the edge of treason, and has shamelessly exaggerated his own war service for political ends,” proclaims the dust jacket for the book, written by John E. O’Neill and Jerome R. Corsi and published by Regnery.

Mr. O’Neill was the officer who succeeded Mr. Kerry as commander of PCF-94. It was aboard that Navy “swift boat” that Mr. Kerry patrolled the Mekong River in 1968 and 1969.

The Kerry campaign dismissed the book as angry political rhetoric from a group that is funded heavily by some supporters of President Bush’s re-election campaign.

The Kerry campaign did not respond to several phone calls and e-mails made to its Washington headquarters to ask about the book’s accusations.

Asked about the charges contained in the book and whether they would damage Mr. Kerry’s campaign, spokesman Chad Clanton e-mailed an Associated Press story in which one of the book’s co-authors — Mr. Corsi — apologized for disparaging comments about Catholics, Muslims and the pope he posted on an Internet message board.

Mr. Kerry has repeatedly invoked his Vietnam War experience as a reason why American voters should trust him to fight the war on terror.

The final night of last month’s Democratic National Convention featured a film highlighting Mr. Kerry’s naval service.

The senator’s “band of brothers” — a group of Vietnam veterans who served with Mr. Kerry and who campaign for him across the country — then appeared on the convention stage. Mr. Kerry was introduced by Jim Rassmann, who as a lieutenant in the Army’s Green Berets was rescued by Mr. Kerry during a 1969 firefight in Vietnam.

During his speech accepting his party’s nomination, Mr. Kerry made seven references to his four months of combat experience and just one reference to his 20 years of service in the Senate.

“As president, I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in war,” he told cheering delegates, later adding: “I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as president.”

The new book, based on interviews with veterans and FBI records on Mr. Kerry’s postwar activities, levels several charges against the Democratic nominee.

The veterans charge that Mr. Kerry’s three Purple Hearts — his ticket home to a desk job in New York, eight months before the scheduled end of the standard 12-month tour of duty in Vietnam — were awarded “for minor injuries, easily treated with Band-Aids, not requiring a single hour of hospitalization.”

The book also accuses Mr. Kerry of filing false accounts of battle action and inflating his own heroism in official reports. The authors accuse him of carrying a home movie camera back to the scene of action to film “exaggerated” versions of his role in firefights.

The book also highlights Mr. Kerry’s actions as national spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Mr. Kerry attended one meeting of the group during which members discussed killing U.S. officials who favored the war. Mr. Kerry says he quit the organization shortly after that meeting.

Since excerpts of the book were posted on the DrudgeReport (www.drudgereport.com) last week, the Internet has exploded with mostly unflattering messages in chat rooms and Web sites about Mr. Kerry’s service in Vietnam. A Google search for “Kerry,” “Vietnam” and “unfit” turned up 27,900 matches yesterday afternoon.

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