- The Washington Times - Friday, August 20, 2004

Contrary to the polite, watered-down dismissals of many of the Beltway pundits, there is simply no way to chalk up the opposing stories of John Kerry and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as mutually honest differences of opinion.

I have now read the book “Unfit for Command,” and am here to tell you its multitudinous allegations against Mr. Kerry are breathtaking. You cannot read this book without concluding its co-authors, John O’Neill and Jerome Corsi — and the scores of Vietnam veterans they cite by name throughout the book — are making specific indictments against Mr. Kerry that cannot be rationalized away.

John O’Neill doesn’t timidly suggest Mr. Kerry might have lied occasionally or exaggerated in Vietnam and afterward during his antiwar crusade. Rather he paints an unmistakable picture of Mr. Kerry as a ruthless, self-promoting egomaniac who systematically placed his own interests above his fellow soldiers and who was obsessively involved in building his resume at all costs during the entirety of his short tour in Vietnam.

Mr. O’Neill depicts Mr. Kerry — with mountains of documented evidence — as a pathological, unconscionable liar whose penchant for dishonesty in Vietnam was only exceeded by his brutal, unmitigated slander of his fellow soldiers when he rushed stateside to lobby against them, their superiors and the entire military establishment.

You can certainly say John O’Neill and the some 250 Swiftees supporting his position are lying. Or you can say John Kerry was lying about Vietnam and continues to do so today. But you cannot honestly say both groups may be telling the truth. That choice is simply not open to us, as anyone who reads the book will be forced to admit.

You can also dismiss these charges out of hand by accepting the propaganda of Kerry supporters, whose primary tactic has been to discredit the Swiftees as paid Republican mouthpieces who “did not serve on the same boat as John Kerry.”

But John O’Neill himself denies he’s a Republican and says many in his group are Democrats. Let the investigative reporters of the partisan media run that down if they dare.

And to suggest the Swiftees had to have been on the same boat is flagrantly specious, as the boats traveled in close proximity to one another, affording the Swiftees firsthand knowledge of the events they describe. In one case, Mr. O’Neill charges Mr. Kerry with taking credit for the heroics actually performed by members of another Swift Boat. You can see how you need not be on Mr. Kerry’s boat to testify to that one.

In evaluating the respective disputants’ credibility we should note neither Mr. Kerry nor his defenders have even tried to refute the great majority of the book’s factual assertions. They tried with the “Christmas in Cambodia” incident and dug themselves a far deeper hole, and they’re still digging.

They haven’t been willing to debate Mr. O’Neill. Instead, they have shouted him down. Just review the transcript of Mr. O’Neill’s appearance on CNN’s “Crossfire,” where James Carville and Lanny Davis ceaselessly berated him and literally wouldn’t let him speak.

And Chris Matthews, though he allowed Mr. O’Neill to speak between interruptions, couldn’t seem to get past his perception Mr. Kerry had to be a hero because the Navy, as an institution, bestowed multiple awards on him.

But if Chris had read the book, he would have understood that one of its premises is that Mr. Kerry often circumvented those who had actual knowledge of events and duped his superiors into giving him honors by falsifying reports and presumably recommending himself for these awards when his superiors refused to do so.

Mr. Kerry could clear up much of this by releasing all his medical and military records, but so far he has been quite selective with their release. We need to know, for example, if he filed false reports, such as claiming certain self-inflicted wounds were a result of enemy fire.

But what’s even more damning to John Kerry’s credibility is his unsubstantiated defamation of his fellow servicemen in his opportunistic Senate testimony and elsewhere upon his return from Vietnam. Mr. Kerry not only indicted his fellow soldiers as war criminals, but the entire command structure of the U.S. military as directing these types of activities.

Yet Mr. Kerry has never been able to produce specific names and dates of those who committed these actions, nor any real proof of systematic, much less top-down orchestrated atrocities. Mr. Kerry has never apologized for these slanders.

If a tenth of the Swiftees’ claims are true, we should shudder at the prospect of a Kerry presidency. Where are the media?

David Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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